I'm not sure how to start writing about this 10k swim. I could start with when I first started swimming, or why I'm still swimming, let alone swimming crazy distances in open water today. Guess I'll start with how I got into swimming.
My parents used to take us (me and my sister) to the beach almost every summer until we finished high school. And it was usually Myrtle Beach. Well, they took me when I was 1 year old, I guess I loved the ocean then, and I still love the water now. I have always loved the water, was always the kid who never wanted to get out of the pool. My mom put me in swim lessons when I was 5, I believe, until I was 12. So I learned pretty good technique in those young years. She wanted to make sure we knew how to swim, because she didn't know how to very well. She quit swim lessons when she was pretty young, due to some kid jumping on her, which caused her to stay underwater longer than she would have liked. So, my grandma never made her go back. She can swim, can survive in the water if she needed to, but she was set on making sure we knew how to swim, so that at anytime in our lives, whether it was at a pool party or the ocean, we could survive and swim in deep water.
When I was in elementary school, I remember I wanted to join the swim team in the community, but I guess it started before my school let out at 3:30 (we have 7 elementary schools in my hometown, so who knows). Maybe it was too expensive, too. But...the summer of me going into 5th grade, my parents decided to get a pool, probably after me and my sister nagging them. We would always swim in our neighbor pools, and loved it. When we got that pool, I was in it just about every day out of my summer vacation until I moved away to college.
So I didn't join swim team until I was 13, starting in 8th grade. I won't go into detail here, but I swam all 4 yrs of high school, wanting to quit in the first year, but then we got a new coach the 2nd year, and all was good :) I got recruited for a division 3 school, Mount Union. I do regret not swimming in college, but was too nervous that I wouldn't do well with the amount of training. Plus, I probably wouldn't be in the program I'm in now, nor would I have met some of the awesome people I have, if I went to Mt. Union.
Anyways, I first started noticing I was better at longer distances when a friend would beat me in the 50 yd backstroke leg of the 200 yd medley relay, but I would beat her 100 yd backstroke time. Then my coach started putting me in the 200 and 500 yd free more, but more towards the end of HS (I was a shy kid, didn't talk much, so maybe that's why she didn't figure it out? I didn't know it either, and it's not like I was super fast at those distances when she put me in them, but decent).
On to today...well I swam the 5k last year, and felt like I could do more. I have been...exposed? Yes, that's the word I'd like to use here, exposed to ultraunners, lol. I knew I wanted to do what they did. But there's a problem...my body isn't ready for it, and I'm not sure it ever will be. So I'm taking the distance thing to what I'm better at: swimming! (and a half ironman in 2 weeks!). So me thinking a 10k would be alright to do seemed ok considering some of my friends marathon and ultramarathon distances....Sure, it's a lot of stress on the shoulders, but mine actually feel pretty good right now, and it's non-impact.
So, I woke up at 3:30am, and left by 4:10am to make it to Halfmoon Lake at 5:10, 1 hour before the 10k started. (I like to be at races early, to make sure I have everything on, and I'm there on time). We started a bit late because half the people (including myself...oops) didn't know what wave they were in lol. The send off was pretty much a ,"Ok....go!" And we were off.
I started out fast, but not too fast because I remember from last year a lot of people went out too fast, then I passed them. Good to maintain a nice steady pace at first. Plus, we were going to be swimming, SWIMMING 6.2 miles, no need to speed off. I remember seeing the first aid station and thinking, "Wow, I must be swimming pretty fast!" Aid stations were about every mile. The fast swimmers were too far ahead for me to catch up, then it was me, and 2 other swimmers, and everyone else. (This is how it always is, I never can quite keep up!). I thought these 2 swimmers were females. One would pass the other, for a good mile, mile and a half. Eventually, I passed them both up. And I noticed they were males-sweet! I passed some men!
I knew I was in the last lake because I had practiced this before with Dan Bellinger, who so graciously kayaked alongside me while I swam the course! But something was wrong-the kayaker (they had many along the course) was yelling at me and pointing-oops I almost swam the wrong direction! It was kinda confusing with the way in, and the way out buoys at the 5k mark. That's ok, didn't take off too much time. Then, I noticed the halfway mark, I was halfway there! I got up, walked out onto the beach, grabbed some water and heed and gel from the volunteers, as well as my special needs bag. I placed some Herbalife 24 Prolong that I've been using (kinda reminds me of Heed) in there, a power bar, and a clif bar. I sucked down some fluids, and tried to eat the clif bar, but was wasting too much time. I chewed and chewed, but couldn't chew fast enough. I just watched a woman pass me at the halfway mark. I don't even think she took a gel. That's when I decided I was taking too much time, asked for another gel, and hopped back in the water.
The Return Trip:
Well, I thought the clock said 1:28 at the halfway mark, but then when I jumped back in the water, I couldn't remember the time, so I just tried swimming as fast as I could at a steady pace. The sun was out, and it made it harder to site to the next buoy. I almost swam the wrong way again, because of the sun. I need to make sure I have shaded goggles next time! About halfway to the finish, I noticed everything tightening up, especially my hip flexors (from kicking). So I made my catch phase (the underwater part of the freestyle swim stroke before you pull) faster. That seemed to help, because I still felt strong. I didn't even feel that weak towards the end, like I did the first time I swam this course a few weeks earler. About the last mile, I thought I was almost done at every buoy, lol, the sun got real bad and made it very hard to site.
So, I just focused on making it to the next buoy. And then the one after that. And after that one....until, the finish! Wooo I started swimming as fast as possible (which wasn't very vast, because I was too tight!) And then I got up where I could stand, walked across the finish line, got my water bottle for finishing, and the race director congratulated me. Then I caught my bearings, got some food, and noticed the time said 2:56. I had swam the 10k in under 3 hours!
I wasn't sure if I would swim in just over 3 hours, or under, with tapering. I had swam it in 3:12 4 weeks ago, so seeing the 2:56 was a great feeling. And when the results were posted, I smiled pretty big, because I actually swam the thing in 2:50:56! Woooo!!
There were times I felt like stopping, times when I wanted to do breaststroke instead of freestyle. But I didn't. I just kept telling myself, "Just keep swimming..." lol, and I thought back to my ultrarunner and triathlete friends, none of them would quit running when it gets tough, so I'm not going to quit swimming. Also, I knew I had to believe in myself, believe I could get a great time, so I kept swimming on.
It was nice having a friend from HS there with me swimming as well. It was her first 5k and open water race! She did very well, considering she's a sprinter.
Thank you to all who helped me train and get here!
What's next? Yeah...I'll probably swim more 10k's :)