Lake Meridan 2.4 Mile Swim Race 2011

Post race at Lake Meridian.

Last night I hit up the Friday Night Swim Race at Lake Meridian. It was a great event. Pretty low-key with a nice BBQ after (just like Hagg Lake, swimmers know how to do it right).

This event was fun since about a dozen VO2 Multisport athletes (my team) also raced, with many of doing Ironman CDA next week. This was a great race prep session.

My goal was to finish in 1:05. Logic being I did a 1:09 at Hagg Lake and during that race:

  • I sighted very poorly
  • I wore an older wetsuit (that is slower and leaks water)
  • I have had a few extra weeks of training, with lots of open water sessions
  • Know it’s possible for me to swim faster (my last Ironman swim was 1:01)

Well, that didn’t happen, I finished in 1:10.

I’m still happy with the time as the true goal is to make it out of the swim at CDA in around 70 minutes without being super tired. I am confident I can achieve that goal (especially with the massive drafting that happens with 2000 swimmers in an Ironman). However I was really expecting to swim faster so I’ll need to reflect on what I can improve.

Here’s how it all went down:

  • Pre-race: I ended up getting to the race site early. Good idea as there was epic traffic for folks getting there from Seattle (Kent, WA is about 25 miles south of the city). Several athletes got there just minutes before the start.
  • Warm-up: Swam about 5 minutes. The water was not too cold (probably mid 60’s).
  • Course: Two clockwise loops of a large rectangular route. They had multicolored buoy’s (orange, yellow and green). The yellow buoys were furthest away and also the toughest to see. If it wasn’t for the setting sun, signting wouldn’t have been an issue. Definitely a good race for mirrorized goggles to eliminate glare.
  • Start: The field wasn’t that big, I guesstimate 80 people in a deep water start.
  • 1/4 mile: I start at the front and cruise to the first buoy, with some jostling around with others. Nothing violent like an Ironman start, folks were pretty civil.
  • 1/2 mile: Doing a good job drafting. it’s tough to see the buoy’s with the sun directly in line with them. I just follow the feet in front of me and stay relaxed.
  • 1 .2 mile: Rounding a few more buoy’s and complete the first lap, I lose the draft and from here on out pretty must swim alone, with the occasional pass-by that I draft from. Sighting is going pretty well. Feeling good.
  • 1.5 mile: I notice someone drafting behind me for a few hundred yards, I round a buoy and get really disoriented and end up pointing in the wrong direction towards the wrong buoy. Before I go far the person behind me point me in the right direction (thanks David!) and I continue on my way.
  • 1.6 mile: I start feeling cramps in my right calf and also in my right ribs and back! This rarely happens for me. I end up swimming with my right foot flexed from here on out to keep the cramps from coming on full strength.
  • 2.4 mile: I come onto shore and run across the timing mat. Seeing the time, 1:10 I almost don’t believe it. Seems way too slow given my past times and I didn’t feel like I was swimming slow compared to Hagg Lake.

Full results posted here.

Pre-Rae Glamour Shot

Lessons learned:

  • Hydrate well during the day for a night race. I have no doubt this was the cause for my cramps.
  • Fight to stay in the draft, it’s worth a little extra energy early to save a lot later.
  • Swim more. I’ve been swimming for less than 3 months after a 7 year hiatus. I can’t expect to return to my old form without putting in some time.
  • Strength work. After IMCDA I definitely need to put in some more swim-strength specific work with paddles, stretch cords and pull ups along with core work. My aerobic fitness felt fine during the race but arms sure were tired.

One week to Ironman!

Hagg Lake Open Water Swim 2011 Race Report

Swimmers 'warming up' at Hagg Lake.

Yesterday, I played hooky from the World Domination Summit to visit Hagg Lake for an open water swim race. The place was awesome. It’s a big lake in the middle of pretty epic farm country and rolling hills less than 1 hour west of Portland. The roads near the lake are smooth, with big shoulders and not a lot of traffic. I saw a TON of triathletes with fancy bikes and wheels using the parking lots around the lake as staging areas for a long day of training.

The swim featured a few events. 1/2 mile, 1.2 mile (2000 meters) and 2.4 mile (4000 meters and Ironman swim distance). A lot of people did both the 1/2 and the 1.2 mile races. A few did all three. I was contemplating it but in the end just did the 2.4 miler as a test run leading up to Ironman CDA. Even though my knee is still not totally healed, I am going to toe the line at CDA and at least do the swim portion. Maybe more if it heals fast enough.

The 2.4 mile race was the last to go. We started at 10:30am, which was nice not to be half-asleep when the race started. My goal for the swim was to have a solid day of training at hit expected IM pace or faster. I thought a sub 65 minute time would be nice (my last two Ironman swims were right around 60 minutes, but I’m not in that kind of shape yet). My new super hero outfit didn’t arrive in time so I used an old costume (from Quintana Roo).

Waiting to get in the water for the start. There was no beach so we all started from the water.

The course was two ginormous loops (1.2 miles each) around a rhomboidal course (really…it definitely wasn’t a rectangle, don’t know why they didn’t make it a rectangle). It was all left turns and counter-clockwise in direction which suits me fine as I breath on my left so navigating would be easier.

Here’s how it went down

  • 1 hour before swim start: a large number of people are milling about while wearing their wetsuits. I assume they are racing the 1.2 mile event and think nothing of it. I don’t know how big the field is…maybe a 150 or so in the 2.4 mile race? I’m guessing.
  • 50 minutes before swim start: there are still quite a few people wearing wetsuits, but the 1.2 mile event already started and we have a crazy long time before the 2.4 mile start! I guess they just like the way they look in neoprene. I’m half-asleep in the grass listening to my iPod.
  • 30 minutes before swim start: contemplate putting on my wetsuit, as most of the other racers are doing warm ups. I quickly squash the idea and go back to napping.
  • 20 minutes before start: boy, people really take their warm up seriously! Some people are swimming like a mile before the race even starts! I find swimming in cold water as a means of warming a complete oxymoron. The first 500 meters of the race will be my warm up. I go back to napping.
  • 15 minutes before start: I put on my wetsuit.
  • 5 minutes before start: I get in the water. It’s brown near the shore and dark emerald-green elsewhere. Not clear at all, but super clean otherwise. There are almost no waves and temps are not bad at all. It felt like 62 degrees. The sun starts shining!
  • Start: I pretty much start in the front, and 100 people pass me in the first 100 meters. People are sprinting like they are going for an Olympic 100 meter gold medal. Typical.
  • 200 meters: a girl motors by me WITHOUT A WETSUIT! I can’t believe it. She’s the only person I saw without a wetsuit out there. There was a non-wetsuit division for awards but most folks were sane and wore some neoprene.
  • 500 meters: We pass the second buoy and turn hard left. I start passing a crap-load of people who went out way too hard.
  • 800 meters: By this time there are only a couple of people near me and drafting is really tough. The water is so dark and can’t really see their feet to stay close and we keep drifting apart.
  • 1000 meters: By now we are on the far side of the course and the waves are kicking it. Gentle rollers really. Nothing too bad but definitely need to kick harder and work at it to get a clear breath in. Notice I tend to swimming slightly askew. In fact, for the whole race I tended to veer to the right a little between buoys instead of swimming a straight line.
  • 1200 meters: Hit some random piece of wood floating in the water. A branch or something. No big deal.
  • 1400 meters: Realize I’m swimming at a complete tangent from where I should be swimming to. Damn, this is gonna be a long swim.
  • 2000 meters (first loop done): Settle into a rhythm.
  • 2500 meters: my goggle fills up a tiny bit each time I pick my head up to sight. That sucks.
  • 3000 meters: Feel like my wetsuit is waterlogged and bogging me down a little. Arms feel fine. A bit tired but not too bad. Not cold at all.
  • 3500 meters: Clearly see the finish line and attempt to push hard the last 500 meters, but my arms really only have 1 gear at this point, so I stick with it. I’m pretty much swimming alone. In fact, for the entire race I only drafted about 10% of the time (most of it in the first 500 meters).
  • 4000 meters & FINISH:  Get out of the water and run across the little finish line. Felt pretty good. A little whoosy as is normal after swimming hard. Didn’t feel totally dead though. Within a few minutes I felt totally fine.
  • MY TIME = 69 minutes (I don’t know how many seconds, the results aren’t posted online yet). I think I was like 12/25 in my 30-39 age group. Scanning the results that were posted after the race, a sub-hour finish time in the 4000 meter race would be a very respectable time, and would place you well in most age groups.

For reference, the overall men’s winner was a teenager who swam 50 minutes flat (fast!) and the women’s winner did something like 56-57 minutes.

A couple of things that I learned for my next swim race (I’m doing another 2.4 mile race in a couple of weeks).

  1. Make sure goggles have good suction. Mine were too lose to start and filled up a little.
  2. Get a better fitting wetsuit. Done! My TYR Hurricane C5 suite arrived today!
  3. Work on sighting. This includes practicing not sighting too often. I sight every 12 strokes or so. Each time I look up it slows me down, so I need to train to sight less, but more accurately. I also veer slightly to the right as I swim over long distances, not sure why but need to fix it.
  4. Work on drafting. You save a ton of energy drafting. With a small field, it’s tough to hang on a set of legs (unlike Ironman where there are a couple thousand feet to draft from!). However, there is probably some better strategy for drafting in small races that I can employ.

Post race, they had an awesome BBQ, with all swimmers getting free burgers (and veggie burgers) and other food items to go long with the post-race awards ceremony.The sun was shining and everyone was happy.

I highly recommend this race. There were a ton of people there who seemed to be doing their first open water race, and a lot of triathletes prepping for summer race season. The scenery is amazing too. Next year, I’m going to take my bike and follow-up the swim with some riding in the country roads and hills.