Yesterday was the 1.2 mile Catfish Crawl open water swim down in South Bay. A gorgeous sunny day with perfect upper-60's water temp. A great opportunity to get another 70.3 swim distance in and work out the kinks before Miami. I love making mistakes in practice races like these... infinitely better than on race day!
The first error: This was my very first time to forget my swim goggles. Seriously, I am going to an open water swim and I forget my goggles. You know when you hear the announcer occasionally saying, "attention everyone, we have an athlete in need... if anyone has an extra pair of goggles could you bring them up to the front?" And you're thinking, what a dumb-ass to forget her goggles. Yep, I was that athlete, hanging my head in shame. Never again.
I was hoping to see some friends finish their 2.4 mi swim (they started 2 hours earlier than me), so I was lollygagging around the start. I met Mary Tanner (who rocked the 2.4 and then got back in for the 1.2!), watched a couple of my tri club pals finish, and then Molly emerged from the lake with a big PR! It's so fun to finally meet blogger buddies in person.
(if you read Molly's blog you've already seen this pic; I'd wanted to include Mary but alas, she had already dashed off, remarkably full of energy after swimming almost 4 miles!)
Which led to my next error: Apparently I was more interested in meeting blogger friends than racing, because I got into the lake to warm up and realized 5 minutes before start that I'd forgot my timing chip. WTF?? I never do stuff like this. Bolted out of the water, ran up to my bag, grabbed my chip, put it on the ankle, jumped back in the water and had a 1-minute warm-up before the start. Thankfully it was a small race; I could never have pulled that off at the tris I've done.
I had a couple goals for this swim; speed was not one of them. I'm quite sure I'm not in any better swim shape than I was at Honu -- where I logged a glacier-like :51 swim time -- so today was all about 4 things:
1: The swim start. Grade: A
As a middle of the pack swimmer, I need to get comfortable starting in the middle of the pack. That's what I did yesterday -- middle on the left -- and managed to hang with everyone without getting kicked or feeling claustrophobic or panicky. Folks were pretty congenial which helped.
2. Drafting. B-
I've never actually tried to draft in a race, so today I wanted to find some feet. I found myself swimming at the same pace as another woman, but every time I hung on she would slow down or do a breaststroke kick. I'm not entirely sure how she knew I was back there -- I never touched her -- but clearly she didn't want me tagging along. Fine then. So I give myself an A for effort and for realizing that swimming in someone else's bubbles wasn't scary and totally doable; I won't get kicked in the face. Points off for totally forgetting to find more feet... I did find a pair once more, and kept losing them because I was swimming off track and they weren't. So maybe that's more of a sighting issue than drafting... which brings me to...
3. Sighting. Grade: D
Ok, maybe it wasn't that bad. When I know where I'm going, I'm pretty good at swimming in a straight line. On the outbound stretch you can see that I'm totally on the straight and narrow... we were swimming away from the sun and I could see the buoys. On the return... well, see for yourself:
Red line is from my Garmin, blue line was the actual straight line between buoys. I never saw that third red buoy... I was sighting from the second red buoy out to the yellow one in the distance. You can see I was roughly on pace for that one, but I was swimming in light chop into the sun and it was really hard to see, hence the slight zigzag. I realized when I passed a woman on a paddleboard with her back to me that something might be off... since I was thinking more about my form (goal #4) than drafting (#2) I didn't realize that I was VERY far from the pack and sighting against the wrong target. Ha. Ok, hard right turn over to that red buoy (that thankfully I hadn't passed yet) and back on track to the yellow buoy.
I felt pretty bad for the poor girls drafting off of me :-) They learned a good lesson from me: sight for yourself and don't depend on others!
4: Form: Grade: B
I discovered in the pool earlier this week that I go faster when I pull/push through the ENTIRE stroke instead of just focusing on front quadrant. Lots going on here... I'm still training my body to do the "over the barrel" early vertical forearm, and now I also need to concentrate on what's happening when my other hand moves out of my sight. It's all well and good to practice this in a pool when I'm not also worried about sighting and drafting... quite another during an open water race. Part of what took me so off course is that I felt myself slowing down, and it occurred to me that I should really focus on my stroke finish so I could keep up my pace. So my head was down, and I just stopped paying attention to where I was going or who was around me. So... this one's tough to grade. When I paid attention to form, I swam well. But I also swam off course. And when I focused on other stuff -- sighting, drafting -- I wasn't paying any attention to how I was swimming.
So I suppose I could give myself A's in all of these goals independently; what tripped me up was trying to combine them. Holding good form while knowing where I'm going and staying in the pack... a lot of balls to juggle. It will just take practice! I'm always a tiny bit astonished when I meet someone who only trains for races in a pool; it's such a different world when you're out in a lake or the ocean with other people and no lane lines. Once I get my form down in the pool it will be one less thing to remember, but still...
Regardless, I emerged from the water in 42 minutes, which is 9 minutes sooner than Honu. What really slowed me down at Honu was wearing a 2 piece that let water fill up my shorts -- it was like a parachute! And of course I'm faster in a wetsuit. But Miami will likely not be wetsuit-legal so I still have more work to do. Would like to get sub-40 sans wetsuit for Miami.
Overall a good swim day with good lessons learned. Finished the afternoon with a 50-mile bike ride which was actually a lousy ride. Not because of the course (thanks Molly for mapping it out!) but I was cranky, tired, and wanting to get off my bike. I suspect it was the heat -- mid-80s, when I'm accustomed to riding in mid-6os! -- no additional electrolytes, and probably insufficient calories. Also... for some reason new routes seem interminably long! I can do 55 on a regular route with no problem, but give me a new 50 mile route and I'm thinking, geez, when is this ride going to END??? Ha. Does this happen to anyone else?
Ok, one more ride and run to finish out this rather big bike-focus week. Just realized I've already done 100 miles on the bike (20 more than my biggest week this year), which could account for why I was tired yesterday and wanted to Get. Off. This. (*&(*&#@. Bike. Now. by mile 45. Ha. (ya think??)