open water swims continue to be a bit of a mystery to me: no set distance, varying conditions, sometimes with a wetsuit, sometimes without. it’s hard to measure progress because even if the course was set up within a few meters of the “true” distance (hint: it’s not), everyone’s likely drifting at least some off of the buoy line.
when i raced eagleman earlier this season, i felt like i was swimming in circles out on the course, and yet i emerged from water, looked at the clock, and was happy with my time. at the general smallwood race, i felt like i was dominating the course, but was bummed with what i saw on my watch upon exit. at Rev3 knoxville? i pressed lap instead of start on my watch when the horn went off so had no clue how i did until i stopped by the timing tent after.
in order to get a better handle on what "good" open water swimming feels like, my coach suggested a swim-only event, and i chose the 36th annual chris green cable lake swim. i may have been cheating a little bit at the time though, since a cable swim is as close to standardized OWS as you can find. you see, they place a cable with buoys strung between two permanent wooden pylons drilled into the lake pool – 440 yards to the inch, to be exact. in fact, it’s the only time the USMS folks allows OWS results to be eligible for national records.
and records did fall. a total of SIX between the 1-mile and 2-miles swims, including a current UVA swimmer who just came back from the US Olympic Trials and – perhaps much more amazingly – a 90-year old man who set the record for oldest AND fastest in the 90-94 division. he did the 2-mile cable swim in 1:33.
as for my personal records, ehrm.... let's just say it was a learning experience. i was pretty sure i was going to kill it since sighting was at a minimum and i was drafting like a madwoman for the first 440 yds. however, i was quickly dropped by my oh-so-much faster heat and then swam in no man's land for the rest of the race. came out with a 26:35 -- nothing to be ashamed of, but nothing to write home about either. maybe i was just bummed i didn’t get to bike and run after?
although since USMS doesn’t force early aging on its participants like USAT, i got to race as a 24-year-old and got my second place medal. but it was a great day at the lake and i got plenty of compliments on my Rev3 shimmer suit so i’ll chalk it up to a win. the training day also included a warm-up nearly as long as the race itself and a leisurely cool down – since i drove all the way to an OWS-friendly area, i was definitely going to take full advantage. after the race, i skipped on down to charlottesville and spent the rest of the weekend enjoying Hoo-ville... very quickly UVA jumped to the top of my short-list of prospective grad programs. i have ALWAYS loved both the town and campus -- highly recommend as a place to visit if you're ever passing through!