Monday, April 02, 2007

Lone Star Half: The Swim

I was feeling all saucey from a good masters swim workout, but they say, he whom the gods would humble, they first raise up. Let me explain.

No, that would take too long. Let me sum up.

My swim TOTALLY sucks.

I have done a half-iron, open water swim before, but that was last year. I have exceeded that distance this year, but that was in the pool. Sunday, at the Lone Star Half, was the first time back in the open water, and it was a shock to the system. In an homage to my buddy Bolder in Boulder, here are the basics:


This is the first race in which I have not been forced to grab a kayak in order to quell my panic, reaquire my breathing and steady my nerves before continuing. I developed a mental game plan to keep me patient and controlled before I got into the water, and I was able to keep my mind together. I swam well within myself, averaging a 138 HR and could have kept going if necessary when I finished. Given the conditions, I am well pleased with that.


The swim course at Buffalo Springs was nice and comfy--a lake in which the course roughly paralleled the banks, from which one was never so far that you couldn't just turn for shore if things went wrong.

Lone Star, not so much. The swim course took us out into the middle of a HUGE body of impenetrably murky salt water. If you got in trouble, it was about 500 meters between life guards and easily 800 to 1000 meters to shore. If you don't belong here, you might not come back.

Seeing that before the race kind of freaked me out, because I have never really felt that I belonged here. That combined with a breathless feeling on my practice swim had me worried. So, I literally told myself, "You are not here to race. This is a long training day. You've got all day to complete this swim." It kept me from freaking out, but I did take all day. Slower than my last HIM swim, albeit in more difficult conditions and with inadequate open water practice.


Two things.

First, I got socked in the jaw during the swim. Well, actually I socked myself in the jaw before the swim. My hand slipped loose and I clocked myself while trying to get that tiny condom-sized swim cap over my freakishly huge head. My jaw still hurts today.

Second, I pull to the right and the course turns to the left. Ok, I more than pull to the right. I am an aquatic Forest Gump on crystal meth.

It could be just my usual unbalanced stroke. It could be a strength deficit that remains on my right side as a result of the disc injury. Whatever. Before the first left hand turn, I EASILY swam 100 extra meters by continuing to pull wide to the right. It continued on the back stretch of the course, easily adding another 150+ meters to my day.

The worst portion was before the last left hand turn for shore. There was a pronounced chop, and I was conciously trying to pull to the left. I'd swim 10 strokes, then try to sight, but the bouy disappeared. It was nowhere near where I expected to see it.

I had swum 90 degrees to the right, A COMPLETE QUARTER TURN, or if you're counting 180 DEGREES OPPOSITE of where I was trying to go.


I'll try again. 1 . . .2 .. . . 3. . . etc.


One more time . . . . 1 . .. 2 . .. 3 . . etc.

**Insert invented Martian expletives here**



And who should be there at the spectator ropes immediately when I drag my corpse from the bay??? MisheleK, swim star and Ironman veteran from Houston Racing and Triathlon Club. Were any tri-chicas watching when I was blazing downwind at 27 mph on the bike? Noooooooo. Only when I'm waddling from the water like a neoprene covered disaster victim.

Oh, the humiliation.


DUDE, mix in some once a week open water practice with the tri club and more masters swim classes. This is not rocket science.


Bolder said...

i'm late to the April Fools party, but early for the swim report.

this was a great race for you to swim... you'll process this into your experience for Ironman.

it's all good dude!

p.s. thanks for the homage. not because it's flattering, but, because i love to walk around my place saying 'homage'

Sarah said...

Congrats on your finish! I was out there yesterday too, and I think I saw you a couple times (recognize you from photos posted here), but the first time I wasn't sure, and the second time I was starting to fall apart on the run course.

So congrats. :)

21stCenturyMom said...

You didn't drown! So that's good and now you are wiser about this open water stuff. That is way more important fodder for the bank of IM than just the distance or a time.

Laurie said...

trying to get that tiny condom-sized swim cap over my freakishly huge head

I so didn't need that image in my head.

Great swim report. Can't wait for the next installments.

Nytro said...

i'll make this short because benny is hovering over my shoulder and bugging me that he hasn't read your report yet so... MOVE!

but i will say this: best swim race report to start the season EVAH.

bunnygirl said...

Congrats, regardless. It's not like it's easy to practice open water swimming in Houston. This isn't Austin, you know. :-)

Iron Benny said...

All swimming aside, nice race time. Even better race report. Just how did you manage to punch yourself though? I mean, I've bit my own tongue before, I've even poked my own eye, but punch myself? Never. You are an interesting man Greyhound, an interesting man. Make sure when the tri chicas see your self inflicted black eye that you have a plausible, yet, applaudable story. I recommend something that involves a gang, an old lady, and a purse. Good luck with that.

P.S. Nytro just reminded me about the time I bit a fork and broke my tooth, twice. So yea, don't feel too bad.

SkiRough said...

Greyhound, I love how you use the word "saucey" to describe the feeling after a good masters swim. :) Completely perfectly replicates how I feel after a good bike. (my weakness).

Wendy said...

Brilliant swim report, Greyhound. Brilliant!

Brent Buckner said...

You kept your HR in check and pushed along. Good stuff.

And now you have more info about required sighting frequency....

mishele k said...

Ah, you didn't look nearly as bad as you thought you did. Dude, everyone looks like they've been ingesting dog doo when they come out of the swim. It was just nice to see a friendly face tearing up the course.

As for the open water swim, I suggest we hit up Twin Lakes this summer so you can SO own Lake Mineolasotawaulkeeapolis or whatever it's called come September.

Nice report. Go Greyhound!

TriBoomer said...


Don't sweat doing a Mr. Magoo on the swim. Everyone, at one time or another, gets off course. The real lesson of your character is that you pulled yourself together and had a good -- no, make that better than good --- bike and run. Your next chance to excel is just around the corner in Wildflower.

Stay tuned...

tri-mama said...

Managing the mental battle is half the war- raise that standard in your favor-straight lines will come in time. I swam with my eyes closed in the pool or with really dark goggles to work on my form and I took up bilateral breathing with a pull buoy to balance my strength. My little secret weapon for WF? I've learned to bilateral swim. Drops minutes from your overall time. SSSSShhhhhhhh, don't tell anyone.