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More Open Water (May 2013)

June 5, 2013

Natural healing techniques such as stretching, icing, massage, and rest are great ways to get the body to heal, but sometimes natural just isn’t enough.  As I read through the results of my MRI, it was clear that ice cubes weren’t going to heal my knee injury.  My meniscus tear was going to require surgery.  Fortunately, the surgery isn’t going to be nearly as involved as my ACL replacement eight years ago, and I’ll be back to light running within a few weeks of the procedure.  I consider that a bit of good news.  Also, since timing isn’t crucial to the success of the surgery, I can schedule it around my upcoming travel plans.  That’s allowed me to finish the spring swimming season in Arizona.

Open Water Swim #2 – My biggest challenge for this race turned out to be a familiar nemesis, work travel.  It wasn’t so much the lack of training throughout the week, but more the late-night arrival back into town the night before the race.  Nonetheless, I was just glad to be in the open water and enjoying the atmosphere of a race.  But right as the race started, I could immediately feel my lack of sleep.  I tried to start fast and get in the slipstream of the leaders, but they slowly slipped away.  I tried to push harder, but all I got was the reminder of the importance of a good night of sleep.  I found a little bit of rhythm as the race went on, but couldn’t make up for the slow start.  In the end, I still managed to finish 4th out of 82 swimmers, which I guess is a solid enough result with all thing considered.

Splash (& Dash) #3 – After another few days of traveling for work, I made it back in town for this event, but wasn’t expecting much in the way of results.  Somehow, I was way off on that expectation.  Perhaps all the “tapering” I’d been doing had something to do with it, but this turned out to be my best open water race so far.  I did my usual hard-as-I-can warm-up, felt good, and felt I was ready for a fast start.  I knew at least a couple of fast guys were in the field (a pro triathlete and a former all-American swimmer), so I had to be ready to go right away.  My hard warm-up paid off and I was in the slipstream of the pro from the start.  He was leading the race and I was holding on hoping to stay in his slipstream for as long as I could.  We rounded the second buoy and I was still hanging on.  I’m sure my heart rate was near redline, but I looked back and saw that we had gapped the rest of the field.  Encouraging, but how long could I hold on?  The race was two laps of 750m, so when I felt the pro pull off and let me go after the first lap, I was confused for a second or two.  Then I realized we had enough distance on the rest of the field, and he just wanted to ride in my slipstream.  No problem, I’ll enjoy the status of being the race leader.  I looked up to sight the next buoy and saw a kayak … the lead kayak.  89 swimmers and I was leading the race?  This has never happened before.  What a great feeling.  Sure, I knew the pro could just hang back there and outsprint me at the end, but for the moment it was me behind the lead kayak.  It was best to just enjoy the moment.  In the end, the pro let me come out of the water first, but the real victory was my time.  My best time previously for a 1500m open water was 21:07.  I thought perhaps someday I could go under 21 minutes, but that would take a special day.  Apparently, this day was extra special because I finished in 20:09!  Is 20 minutes my new barrier to overcome?  That sounds suspiciously like a 5k record that I was recently chasing.

Open Water Swim #3 – The series finale.  I decided to race the 3000m distance because that was the earliest race of the day and I was leaving town as soon as I finished the race, so it made the most sense.  It made the most sense until the race started and I realized I wasn’t feeling my best that day.  Struggling through a shorter race would have been bearable, but struggling through a 45-minute race is rough.  And speaking of rough, early morning winds were kicking up some generous waves, which is usually entertaining because it adds to the strategies of the race.  But it makes for a harder race and certainly affects race times.  This was not going to be a PR sort of day.  Again I was plagued with a slow start, so I spent most of the race making up for that, managing to move up a few places as the race progressed.  In the end, the day turned out good enough for me.  I took 3rd out of 46 swimmers, which was good enough to get me the series win in the Open Male category.

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