How was it?
Fun. Freaky. Chill. Not as bad as I thought it would be. I was so nervous about this race I didn’t fall asleep until midnight the night before– and had to be up at 5:15 AM to drive out to packet pick-up and the start.
This race was absolutely so different than triathlons I cannot tell you. Let’s be honest, there’s a tiny “gear geek” (there’s another word for it that isn’t as nice, but you get the picture) factor with some triathletes that just annoys the ever-loving crap out of me. When my husband started racing ultras, it was a lot of guys in baggy shorts who put on a pair of shoes and ran. Obviously, it’s slightly different for the pros and whatnot, but it is still mostly like that in ultrarunning. Now, there weren’t any “pros” (HAHA! Could you imagine open water swimming pros? Somebody give Michael Phelps a call!) at this event, but people kept it casual -swimsuit, goggles, cap. No dynamic warmups, no speed suits, etc. I could get used to racing at this pace…but I digress.
The main point of this race for me, other than because you should if you can and you should always support races that support kids with cancer, was to continue to dispel open water swimming fears and prepare for some longer distance swimming (Alcatraz anyone?). But it was much more educational than that because:
- I had no idea where I was going, other than the description on the website reading, “The 5k will swim south and east through the heavily forested Pinckney Recreation Area, passing through five lakes along the way. Scattered cottages are the only signs of civilization.” As if the cardinal directions were gonna help this poor gal. Seriously, if I don’t have Google Maps, I can’t find my house.
- I had no idea how long it would take me. Maybe an hour? Maybe two? That’s a lot of swimming under/over.
- I had no idea what the swimming would be like. Lake monsters?
So…all those things probably conspired against sleeping on Saturday night, although I did spend a lot of time thinking about paint colors for the new house and not about all those legitimate fears.
For the 5k, they bussed us to the old U of M “Fresh Air” camp site, the future home of NorthStar Reach, which will be part of the Newman’s camps for kids with life-threatening illnesses. At the former children’s camp site, the swim was a mass start, which was predictably annoying, but people spread out within a few hundred meters. The first lake actually had homes on it, and going into the first channel, there was a bridge made of a huge steel tunnel. Swimming through that was kind of freaky but not as freaky as blooms of seaweed that would pop right into your line of sight unpredictably in the channel. That crap freaks me out (perceived lake monsters/regular fish), but I realized by about the fourth time that happened that it just meant it was so shallow I could stand up. Which I did once at what I was told was the halfway point, but the girl who told me that said that only what she had heard. Which was another freaky part because I had no idea when to turn on the speed, since I had no idea how far I had gone or how much farther I had to go. It was kind of laughable, but I tried not to laugh because I didn’t want to swallow too much lake water.
Finally, we got to a point where I saw bright yellow buoys instead of orange buoys and I assumed that meant we were close to the end. I was dragging a little, but my main concern was how tight my calves were getting. I didn’t want to end up with a charley horse cramp in my leg, for if you have never had one in the water, you have no idea how painful it is not to be able to put weight against it and stretch it out. I was in a particularly deep part of the lake, so I wouldn’t have been able to stand up. Once I reached the first yellow buoy, I decided to just go for it and swim as fast as I could to get it over with and get to shallower water in case I did cramp up. I didn’t drink any water or take in any food during this race, as I can’t imagine eating or drinking while I am swimming. Perhaps that would have been a good idea.
Anyhow, I was pleased with the result. The weather was perfect, the lakes were calm, and I finished in 1:23.27. Not too shabby, I thought, and good enough for first in my age group. Most importantly, I faced my fears head on again, and was reminded that those fears are really, really, really tiny compared to having cancer or having a kid with cancer. If you have the opportunity or ability, please consider donating to Northstar Reach camp. It’s the only camp of its kind in Michigan, and one of only 2 in the whole Midwestern US. They still have a long way to go to restore the camp, but it will have a really beautiful location.