I’m in the states for a business trip, so I arranged an early arrival so I could take part in the Big Deuce, a two-mile swim in Jordan Lake, near Morrison, NC. The lake is huge, and North Carolina has turned the entire area into a recreation area. There are many boat launches and lots of places to camp. The lake is incredibly pretty and the water is fabulous.
The swim start was at Vista Point, one of the many camping areas on the lake. The swim was early enough that we didn’t have to pay six bucks for entry, which is good, considering the almost $50 entry. (I had to pay ten bucks for a one-time USAT license. More on this later.)
I got there early, probably too early, but that’s a function of my wanting to make sure I didn’t miss the swim. I had plenty of time to rest and wait. I picked up my swim cap and t-shirt, got numbered (lucky #96), and returned to the car. I realized then that I didn’t get my timer, so I marched back and got it. Doh!
The water was incredibly warm, I think someone said 84 degrees. I took a few yards of practice, warm-up, goggle-check. All was good. The race brief was, well, brief. I knew I was at a triathlete OW swim when the race director said, ‘If you need a rest, you can hang on to any of the kayaks or surfboards out there. Just take a break, and when you’re ready, start the swim again.’ Uh, what?
The course was a triangular out-and-back. We had a running start, but from about knee-deep water. So that was interesting. I intended on doing that dolphining thing that Fran Crippen (RIP) teaches on his DVD.
That didn’t quite work. I realized right before the start that I was in the front of the line, so I backed up. When the horn sounded, I waited, urging the racers on. Well, for about 10 seconds I did that. I just couldn’t stand there. I was off! We had to swim directly to the first buoy, turn left (the only left on the course), and head for the far buoy on the left. It was a crowded start, but I managed to make space for myself and head to the buoy fairly straight. We were headed directly east, and this being 7:20 in the morning, we had to sight directly into the sun.
At this point I was able to just follow the leaders, but after the turn it started to thin out. And on this first straightaway I began wondering, as I do and have done during all my OW swims, what the hell was I thinking? My shoulders hurt and I couldn’t swim straight. How the hell did I expect to swim a 10K in September?
But by the first far turn buoy, I was stretched and no longer whining. I still couldn’t swim straight, but I was not out there swimming alone, like in Cyprus. There were others out there, including some who swim as crooked and zig-zaggy as I do. I followed one guy along the return course to finish the first mile, and I was gaining on him, based on the size of his swim cap. After what seemed like a long stretch, I finally realized that what I was chasing was not a guy in front of me, but a white buoy, unrelated to this swim, with colors matching the swim caps we wore. I passed this buoy and realized that I was off course for the 1-mile turn buoy. Dammit.
The turn went fine, although for a full 200-or so yards it felt like I kept going left from the line. I really wanted to stop, stand up where I was, and see if I were in the middle of turn buoy two and the mile turn buoy. I felt like I was swimming straight, but can’t be sure. When I get back to the states, and start swimming OW more often, I’m going to get one of Rob D’s GPS watches, and start checking my navigation IQ on the computer.
And going into mile 2 is when I started to feel good. This is the same thing that happened in Cyprus. Now I was cooking with gas! I felt like I could swim another 3-4 laps. On this lap I intended on swimming better navigationally. The course had two yellow sight buoys a little more than half-way down the course. On the first lap, I realized how these were placed, so I aimed to the left of the left sight buoy. After passing the yellow buoy, I had a beam on turn one. I swam next to another guy for a while. What is it about these triathletes? This guy swam by with a pull buoy between his legs. Yes, I’m serious. Coming into turn one, I came from the left, feeling like I had to continually correct to the right.
After buoy turn 2, I hoofed it straight for the finish buoy. I avoided the white fake buoy, aiming for a little to the left of the left yellow sight buoy. Coming into the final turn buoy I had another swimmer directly on my left, anywhere from a meter to three on my right and left. This poor guy had worse navigational IQ than I did. On my right, about 10 meters away was another swimmer; turns out later that this is the pull buoy guy.
Coming into the final turn, I put on the gas. I beat both these guys to the turn, or at least I thought I had. The guy on my right was clearly 10 meters off and with me breathing every right, I should have spotted him, but all of a sudden he’s next to me right after the buoy. Did he cut to the right of the buoy? He might have, seeing how he was swimming with a pull buoy!
No matter. I sprinted to the finish. I couldn’t keep up with these guys though, and they both beat me to the finish, pull-buoy guy proudly running up the beach with his swimming implement in his hand. I came in at 1:04:16. Four minutes over my goal. #26 out of 50 men. #6 of 12 in the 40-44 age group. #1 of 3 in the 44-years old age group. (I made that age group up.)
I hung out at the beach for a while, in and out of the water. I went to the picnic tables where we registered, and got myself some flat soda and peanut butter bread. Lamest after-race food ever! I washed my feet and headed to the car.