I completed my first 25k swim last Saturday, June 18, in Noblesville, Indiana in 7 hours and 19 minutes at the 2011 United States Masters Swimming (USMS) 25k National Championships
, placing 2nd in my age group. I wore my Garmin Forerunner 310XT under my swim cap to measure my actual distance, which was 16.6 miles in the Morse Reservoir. The "time" below is off because I started the watch well before the race. Look at the "moving time," which was very close to my official time. Noblesville and the Morse crew were terrific hosts, and we're glad to have had the opportunity to return after last year's Open Water 10k National Championship.
Friday night after checking in, we headed to the race site for check-in, body marking (I was swimmer #36), dinner and a race meeting. We took a brief boat tour of the course aboard a pontoon. My awesome paddlers, Noah, Ann and Carol took photos and paid attention to all the points for sighting. The 70 competitors were numbered in order of their seed times, and that was how we entered the water on Saturday to be counted. Dick Sidner, race director, showed us a course map and said after the first yellow buoy (which was to be kept on our right shoulder), the race was like the Indy 500--we would be making left turns all day.
Saturday morning we woke up at 4:30 a.m. to rain showers. I had a quick breakfast of a hard boiled egg, plain oatmeal, and half an English muffin with peanut butter. I also started drinking my apple juice mixed with Maxim
for energy. We arrived at the course at 6 a.m. in the middle of a storm. Everyone was milling around and very anxious for the storm to pass, and get the swim underway. The decision was made to move up the start time from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. I went back to the car and got another two hours of sleep in the front seat during the downpour. Some swimmers were asleep on the beach under the tent, others had found spots in the carpeted club house, sat talking at tables, or retreated to rest in vehicles. At 8 a.m., swimmers and officials started moving around and preparing for their long day on or in the water. While my paddling crew was removing water out of our tandem kayak with the bilge pump, I settled on a red Michigan Masters swim cap, orange goggles (vs. metallic since it was overcast) and gave my nutrition bag to my paddlers. Noah applied one more layer of BullFrog Water Armor sunblock to my shoulders and face and I was ready to go. The 70 kayaks accompanying their solo swimmers slipped quietly into the Reservoir and paddled past the first buoy, where they would try to pick-up their swimmer once the pack spread out. We entered the water in number order and everyone said their last minute "good luck's." The gun was fired at 9:07:26 a.m. and the water temperature was between 73 and 75 degrees.
Solo swimmers swam 5 loops of the 5k course. Relay swimmers and solo 5k swimmers began at 9:47 a.m. My first 5k felt really good and I took it nice and easy, trying to breathe every three strokes and not drift too far from my kayak. Noah and Carol paddled alongside me for my first lap, sharing paddling, photography, and feeding duties--oh, and keeping me entertained with their facial expressions. My first 5k was 1:24.37. I alternated very brief feedings between the apple juice mixed with Maxim and some Gatorade. Noah or Carol would signal that it was time for a feeding (like at SeaWorld) and toss in my water bottle ahead of me, which I swam to head-up water polo style, took a swig and launched it back at the boat, with the utmost caution, not to splash my crew of course.
When I swam through the finishing chute after the first 5k, my paddlers hustled to the beach, to switch crew members. Carol hopped out and Ann got in the front of kayak. They caught up to me before the first yellow buoy in lightning speed. I was impressed and told them that they were fast! The second 5k felt better than the first and the sun was beginning to peak out from the clouds. The only thing that was irritating me was my left hip flexor. I had to rely on a breaststroke kick every so many minutes to stretch it out. I could feel when it was going bad and did a quick kick to put it back in its place. The water felt good and I only ran into a little floating debris from the storm. I think I ate a few Jelly Belly Sport Beans on this lap. I caught up to Denise Brown from Michigan when I recognized her stroke just ahead of me. My 2nd 5k split was 1:24.35, two seconds faster than the first 5k. I saw the time of day displayed on the large red digital clock resting on the finishing chute dock and calculated my first 10k as I made the turn for the 3rd 5k. This time, Noah got out for a break, and Carol replaced him in the back.
Shortly after the kayak caught up to me past the first buoy, my arms began to feel like lead pipes. Then I started thinking that instead of being done after 10k like last year, I had three more 5k's to go. I think that's when I started veering away from my kayak and raising my head to ask them to come closer to me. I thought I was going point to point and they were drifiting away from me. Then I realized I was getting cranky and needed more carbohydrates if I was going to push through this mental phase and get that second wind. I told myself to keep my head down and not say another word, or I would say something I regreted. At that point, I'm glad I had pre-warned my paddlers that at some point, I would be going through this mental battle of Morse Reservoir and pre-apologized for anything I said grumpily. So I felt lousy and at the next feeding, Carol asked if I wanted a Peter Rabbit Fruit Snack
. I said yes and she tossed it in after my water bottle. In a matter of 0.75 seconds, my head dropped and spirit was crushed when I saw my squeezable Peter Rabbit feeding disappear into the abyss. I thought I was going to cry as I looked up and and said quietly, "Those don't float." Carol then looked sorry and said she was so used to throwing everything else in the water, that she got carried away. Too funny. Thanks to Peter Rabbit, we had others on board. That snapped me out of it, and after that feeding, my turnover and spirit increased together. Thanks to Carol and Ann, who gave me a few extra feedings of carbs on that lap, instead of waiting for feeds every 30 minutes. My split on the third 5k was 1:27:23, which surprised me because it felt much slower.
The fourth 5k was a little sunnier, and I started out feeling like I had a second wind. My paddlers made the quick switch and Ann got out and Carol hopped in with Noah. I felt terrific and finally caught up to a few other swimmers. At one point, I rollled onto my back for a feeding and screamed in pain. The arthritis in my back didn't agree with flipping over, so I quickly rolled back to my stomach to feed while swimming breaststroke with one arm. As I got closer to the last half mile of the fourth 5k, the winds picked up and the waves were rolling into my kayak and onto the paddlers. I was wondering where they came from but had to swim harder to get to the finish area. As I approached the finishing turn buoy, one of the pontoons was blocking the chute because his anchor wouldn't hold the boat and the pontoon was drifting. I treaded for a few seconds and then found a path through the finish chute to start the final lap. My fourth 5k split was 1:30:27 and I was proud to have kept up the fight, in the 25 knot winds.
I made the final turn and expected to see Ann and Noah catch up to me for the final loop. I headed back into the waves and just past the first yellow buoy, I saw a new face in the kayak! Barb, Noah's mom, came to see us and hopped in to paddle the final 5k with him. I was glad to see her and the change of paddlers kept my mind fresh, wondering what was going to happen next. As we made that first turn by the water slide house, the official's pontoon had trouble staying still. The official later told me that he was telling the boat pilot that they needed to get of my way and not mess with the swimmers who have been in the water for six hours at that point. They were trying everything they could and I'm grateful for their tremendous water support and efforts they displayed. I made it around the pontoon without hitting it but came awfully close to the rear. Right around that point, the winds were pushing my kayak into my right arm, so Barb and Noah switched to paddle on my left side until we got to the narrower part of the Morse Reservoir. I was heading back on the fifth and final 5k when I saw the kayak with a giant helium fish shaped balloon tied to the back and Noah told me to catch the fish. A few hundred strokes later, when I turned to breathe towards the kayak, I saw Noah holding a 3-4 inch bluegill and making a swimming motion with it. I didn't know where he got it, but I screamed and asked if I had ran him over. Noah and Barb just laughed and he said it was floating. I picked up the pace heading into the final few buoys and finished the fifth 5k with a split time of 1:31.59.
I took a few more cool down strokes and then tried to kneel on the bottom to thank my paddlers. I saw Ann holding a neon orange sign that said, "Way to Go, JD!" and Carol was taking pictures. I didn't try to stand for a few minutes and when I did, I fell into the kayak. My final time was 7:19:01, placing me 2nd in my age group and 23rd overall out of the 66 swimmers who started the race. I enjoyed the giant sugar cookie, and fruit/pasta first from my lunch bag after the race. Thank you, Noblesville, Race Director Dick Sidner, the terrific volunteers, hometown swimmers, and my paddlers for being excellent hosts and friends.
I didn't sleep well that night as I had trouble keeping my shoulders comfortable. We enjoyed a morning 2,000m active recovery loosen swim at the Forst Park Aquatic Center, a little breakfast and talking to friends. Hope to do it again at the next 25k in three years.