So I had an opportunity to go out to Oneida Lake last night and do an open water 800 meter swim. I guess it is approximately the swim that I will have to complete for the race… so this was an excellent chance to try things out! And to really find out if I was going to sink or swim (literally).
The swim started a 6, and I was rushing to get there after work in time. I pulled into the parking lot right at six, jumped out of my car and grabbed my wetsuit. When I got there, a lot of people were still drifting in, and I ended up hanging around for a bit – so I was bummed that I rushed so much because I forgot to grab my watch to try and time myself.
When the lifeguards pointed out the course that we would swim, I was thinking that the buoys looked like they were pretty far out in the lake, but it still seemed manageable. So as we started off, and as I got in the water, the first thing that I noticed was that I was so much more buoyant with the wetsuit. It was fantastic! The next thing I noticed was that the waves really were not bad, all things considered. Oneida Lake can get some major wave action going, I hope that on race day the winds are calm and things are not too crazy…
As we swam, I could not believe how shallow the Lake was, I think you can really stop and could touch the ground at any given time during the swim if you had to (of course I believe this either would give you a time penalty or disqualify you… but it’s good to know if there was a panic or emergency, you could stop). The other thing that is kind of a bummer is the amount of weeds, which really is kinda freaky when you are wearing goggles… every time I put my face into the water, the weeds were right there. Some even hit your face.
The first problem I ran into was my goggles fogging up, I hope that by using my new pair of goggles on race day, that I avoid this issue. The anti-fog on my goggles that I have been wearing in the pool worked great for the first 2-3 swims and has since worn off… I stopped at one point to get some water into my goggles so stop the fog, and things were pretty good after that.
Overall, the buoys seemed like they were miles apart when we actually swam, and I ended up doing the breast stroke for a lot of the 800 meters. I mixed in the free-crawl throughout and even ended up doing some swimming on my back at different points. Since I had started out near the front of the pack of swimmers – I kept waiting for other swimmers to catch up or pass me since I was not doing the free-crawl, but as I neared the second buoy, I realized that only 1 person had passed me. I looked back a couple of times and saw lots of splashing but nobody was really gaining on me which surprised me. As I got halfway back to shore, I really started focusing on getting back and was doing more free-crawl swimming. As I came out of the water, it turns out that someone was timing us and I finished right around 15 minutes 30 seconds! I couldn’t believe it! I thought for sure that I would have been about 20 minutes… that was the fastest that I have ever swum the 800 meters even when I’m in the pool without the waves, weeds and other distractions. The exciting thing was I really did not try to push myself, I was just trying to make sure I finished. So there is the potential to complete the swim even faster on race day… although I think it will be wise for me to just focus on finishing the race with enough energy to get on my bike and get going….
The other thing I need to figure out is the zebra mussels. When I stopped to adjust my goggles and de-fog, I touched the bottom of the lake with my foot, and in the process I sliced the side of my left foot open from my big toe past the ball of my foot. I also cut open 2 of my toes on them. I’m wondering if I can get away with wearing socks to protect my feet or if that will feel weird swimming in them.
Also, I picked up some good information about the race from the first-aid lifeguard. She told me that 700 people had signed up for the race so far, and that the swim waves were broken down into groups of 150… I was glad to hear that only 700 people were participating. The race was going to max out at 1500.
Overall, I’m just getting really excited about this race. And I’m glad I swam out in the lake at least once, because I know I’m going to be nervous on race day, and now I have some knowledge of what to expect and got to practice with 75 people before I have to face the 700 people on race day…