This weekend was my first wetsuit race! I managed to practice in it twice, but this was going to be my first experience wearing it for a race. Of course, it was just a swim, not a triathlon, so I still haven’t experienced the joys of trying to get out of the wetsuit in transition.
A few weeks back, Kristin mentioned the Fort Ritchie Swimfest to me. It is a race put on by Racine Sports, a great local triathlon company. It’s actually three races – 750m, 1500m, and 2250m. As you can probably guess, that means either one, two, or three loops of the course.
I opted for the 1500m. That’s the distance I will be swimming for my Oly at the end of September, plus when it comes to triathlon, I’m a fan of training farther than the distance I will be going during competition, so this was a good warmup for my sprint season. If I can do 1500m, I can certainly do less than that, right?
I’m also doing a triathlon at this very location later this summer. It will just be a sprint, but I can now say that I’ve done the swim course. (At least I think it’s the same course. The lake isn’t that big.)
We were allowed a 10 minute warmup before the race started, which was awesome. The water was cold – 66 degrees, I think, and I swim in a sleeveless wetsuit because the sleeves just make me claustrophobic. So I needed time to get in and get used to the water. It definitely helped that it was a cool morning, so the difference in the air and water temperatures wasn’t as dramatic. I forced myself in and just bobbed around, got my face in, made sure I was comfortable in the water. I was not going to let the panic win.
I had all sorts of preparations in my head. On the way to the race, I listened to a triathlon playlist I made the night before. It included music from Glee, the Frozen soundtrack, and upon Laura’s recommendation, the theme from Pirates of the Caribbean. I think the last one may be my new pre-race motivator. Why did I need to listen to this music? I wanted stuff I could sing in my head to keep me out of my head.
And it worked!
I was definitely one of the slowest swimmers, and I was well aware of it. But I didn’t care. I wasn’t here for a race, I was here to just swim. I worried that if I tried to push too hard, I would up my heartrate and set off a panic attack. I’m going to have to figure that one out at some point for racing, but for now, I’ll settle for slow and steady. I thought about keeping my body long and lean and rotating as I swam.
I do need to work on sighting though. Got a little off track in a few places, and that’s pretty clear from my Garmin results. (Side note – brand new Garmin! Killed my last one, opted to upgrade.) I know the Garmin data isn’t perfect (I didn’t get THAT close to the shore), but I know the first turn was way off. It’s give and take though – I swam to the outside and did more distance, but was also out of the pack.
The race was a water start, one loop, get out of the water, run (or in my case, walk) down the beach, down the pier, and jump back in for the second loop. It was good to be able to mentally break it up, and when they told me my time at the end of the first loop, I was shocked. I was thinking that I would swim this thing in about 45 minutes, and I finished loop one in just under 17. I’m guessing it was the added buoyancy of the wetsuit, but maybe I am slowly getting stronger. I took my time getting to the start of the second loop. Didn’t want to fall, and I wanted to grab a sip of water (which was awesome).
When I got back in, I did consider pushing and seeing what sort of time I could end up with. But I decided that I wasn’t going to mess with a good thing. I was feeling good, I wasn’t freaking out, and I wanted to keep it that way. Besides, I wasn’t treating this as a race. It was just a fun organized practice.
I finished the race in 35:27. I was one of the very last finishers, but I didn’t care. I finished feeling great and I made it through the race without freaking out. It was a victory on all counts.