The gun goes off. A moment of sadness sweeps through me as I realize there isn’t going to be a howitzer cannon announcing the start of the race.
I watch the people ahead of me in deeper water dive in and start to swim. Waiting a moment to get clear space ahead of me, I take a few more steps deeper into the water.
A deep breath.
And I’m swimming.
The water is cool, but feels warm in my wetsuit.
Breath, stroke, stroke. Breath, stroke, stroke. Breath, sight, stroke, stroke.
Repeat on other side. That’s my warm up routine when I’m cold and start swimming. Breath every stroke on the right side for 3 breaths. On the third breath, sight and switch sides. It keeps me swimming fairly straight and gives my cold body enough oxygen to warm up.
Someone bumps into my feet and veers off to the side. Someone else swims diagonally in front of me and I don’t notice till I’ve punched them in the kidney on a stroke. The beginning of a race can be brutal. Everyone bunched up. Going out strong on pent up adrenaline.
I make it to the first buoy. It feels too soon, but I’m only about 1/9 of the way there. The pack is starting to open up. The fast swimmers have pulled ahead and the slow swimmers are behind. Of course that means I’m in the middle of the larger mid speed group.
During a sight, I notice some one else going diagonal. This is not the last time I will see this person or have them try to run me over. They are fast, but without proper sighting, they will end up swimming twice as far. And I’ll still be out of the water ahead of them!
I’m starting to feel a little light headed from breathing every other stroke. I’m starting to warm up. Switching up my breathing to every 3rd stroke while sighting every 3rd or 4th breath means a more streamlined and straight swim. I’ll make up some time and hopefully find someone to draft off of.
Hitting the first turn buoy, some one cuts me off at the corner. I have to pause a second to get around the giant float, but I notice they are a tiny bit faster then me. As they take off, I push a harder to get on their feet. Drafting is legal in swimming. I can go a little faster while using less effort.
Breath, stroke, stroke, stroke. Breath, stroke, stroke, stroke. Breath, sight, stroke, stroke, stroke.
Around the second turn buoy. A small part of my brain acknowledges that I’m more then halfway through the swim and headed back to the beach. It then goes on to ponder how I’m doing on my time. The rest of my brain is too busy focusing on breathing and moving my arms and feet.
The guy in front of me pauses and I move past him. On an extended sight, I notice a very large group of people behind me. There’s a decent size group in front of me moving off a bit to the right. The buoys appear to form a little bit of an angle here. If I cut the corner (not illegal! As long as all the buoys stay to my right.) I can make up some more time.
A few minutes later, I notice there’s not many people around me. They’ve all been sighting on the next buoy. I’ve been sighting on the one after that.
The rest of the pack in front of me finally starts veering towards the buoy I’m sighting on. We’re close to the beach and I get enveloped in them. One person moves up next to me on the right. Another on the left. I’m sandwiched and they are pulling me into the beach. I’m double drafting and cruising along!
The person on my left stands up WAY too early. He’s about chest deep and starts to walk. The other person and I leave them behind and continue towards the beach. The person on my right also stands up to early, about waist deep. They, too, are left behind.
A hand brushes sand. My legs curl up underneath me and I squat for a second in the water, making sure I get a good calf stretch in before standing up. Many people rush standing and end up falling over in the water when their legs won’t support them after a hard swim.
I stand up and reach for my goggles and cap. I can hear a few people on the shore call my name as I run up the beach and onto the grass.
The clock on the beach says :47.
47 minutes. for 1.2 miles. Of swimming. Personal best!
I’m running across the grass now. Reaching behind myself, I grab the strap attached to the zipper and pull open my suit. Using the towel on top of my gear, I quickly dry my hair and face, then strip out of my wetsuit. A water bottle squirt to rinse the lake water out of my mouth and I’m feeling pretty good.
Socks and bike shoes go on next. I’m feeling pretty warmed up and the air isn’t as cold as when we started, so I forgo the bike shirt and gloves. Helmet and sun glasses go on next followed by my Garmin watch. A spare Chocolate Mint Gu with some more water and a salt tab get me ready for the bike.