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).
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).
- Make sure goggles have good suction. Mine were too lose to start and filled up a little.
- Get a better fitting wetsuit. Done! My TYR Hurricane C5 suite arrived today!
- 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.
- 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.