This time last year, I could maybe string 10 lengths of freestyle together. I would then stop at the side of the pool gasping for air like a stranded fish (see what I did there?) The swim leg of my triathlons was a suck it up and get through it to the bike and run and then start enjoying it.
I decided last fall to learn how to freestyle without drowning and to sign up for some ‘events.’ I know they are races but lets face it, Im in it for the fun and the challenge.
When I got into StS in February, I was stoked, this was going to be the highlight of my swim year. I set to with a training plan once I had nailed swimming without drowning part.
This year, I have swum almost 400 miles in lake and pool so far (I miss the lake :() I swam a 2.5 miler in May in 50F water, it was literally mind numbing! I swam the Horsetooth 10K in August. It was a good build up.
We arrived in Chattanooga on Thursday evening after what we’ll call an eventful travel schedule. United, you are testing my patience to the limit lately. We spent Friday snooping around town and went out the Lost Sea caves for something different. Its essentially a cool under ground lake preceded by a 1/2 mile walk around another cave. I can not believe they stock the lake with trout?!? We found a barbecue place on the way back and ate waaay too much. Anyhoo, a race back to Chatty for packet pickup and a pasta dinner. We got given a Mustang at the airport in Atlanta and Mrs Alt had way too much fun and left a huge carbon footprint in Tennessee (sorry Tennessee’ans)
StS is pretty small, normally 50 or so entries, this year the computers screwed up and let almost 100 of us in so it was pretty packed in the Outdoor Chattanooga building for the packet pickup and race meeting. They have a fantastic group of folks putting events together throughout the year, from swimming to kayaking to biking to running.
With the weather being unseasonably stormy Kara (director) announced the ‘electrical activity’ plans. If lightening was seen or thunder heard we had to get out and wait for 15 minutes for the all clear. Not good! The forecast was not great either, warm and muggy with a good chance of storms! Fingers crossed!
With Mrs Alt’s back and No.1 son ensconced in school I had asked for a kayaker. Meet Dan! He is a cyclist and a runner, but not a swimmer, but was happy to spend a few hours paddling in the river and periodically throwing bottles of Nuun laced Cytomax at me. No cramps at all this time!
Its a point to point swim so the plan was for us all to drive to the finish and jump on buses to the start. With Mrs Alt on dry land we did not need to ride the bus, sweet! That meant we got another hour in bed. None of this get up at 4am nonsense, groggy and miserable. The race started at 9am, how civilized! I had time for a shower and a half decent breakfast!
Once the buses arrived we got marked up in the light rain and I then proceeded to lather on the vaseline. During Horsetooth, I got really sore under my arms, I did not want that happening again. Others were layering on sun screen, what? Have you looked up? One lady was covered head to toe in zinc oxide, did they know something I didnt?
We helped get the boats in and then we then lined up on the slip way in number order to be checked into the river. At this point the sun came out, we took so long to get organized that all my vaseline was starting to melt, I could feel it dribbling down my back. I grabbed the jar from Mrs Alt and packed more under my arms.
Then we were in the water and lined up behind some underwater rope that I never felt. At this point I was looking for some evidence of the current. The night before they were predicting 24,000 cfs being released upstream. Some math wiz reckoned that about 30,000 cfs equated to about a mile per hour extra speed. I beg to differ, while waiting at the start, treading water it was no effort to hold position at all.
Then we were off, all I could remember was that Dan was in a red kyak, with a yellow balloon attached at the back or was it a blue kayak with a green balloon? With the usual turmoil at the start of a swim race I figured he would find me eventually. It was a red kayak and a yellow balloon, I grew to hate that balloon over the next 4 1/2 hours :)
We’re off! Im in that pack on the right somewhere.
Regular readers will know that my training did not quite go according to plan this summer, work and a stinking cold lost me almost three weeks. I was hoping to have swum 18,000 yards before the race so I would know how I would feel. I got to a max of 15,000. So, rather than push early on, I decided to play it safe. I was not competing with anyone but myself, I just wanted to finish!
Dan found me after about 20mins and we carried on down the river. We had chatted the night before and I explained that I wanted him to keep me just behind him in the boat i.e. just behind his back. That way, if I strayed too close I was not going to be in the way of his paddling stroke. I think he mis-heard me and thought I wanted to be behind the kayak, literally. For the first couple of miles all I could see and was focussed on, was keeping that damned yellow balloon (that was dragging the water) in sight. I could not find a rhythm, I was all over the place and not comfortable at all. We stopped and had a bit of a chat, he repositioned himself and I started to enjoy it more. I found a rhythm, I was able to push a little harder or slow it down, nice.
Damn, taking total immersion to new depths!
When we did stop for food I tried to see if we were drifting down the river or not? Barely, even Dan noted the lack of current. At these times I would also spot folks ahead of me. I tussled back and forth with one guy but finally left him. My one bit of competitiveness the whole ‘race’ :)
At the half way point they had a big orange buoy, we stopped on the half hour and we were a good 1/2 mile past it. Not where I wanted to be in terms of distance but OK. Next stop, a girl came up behind us with her swimmer in tow and wanted to know how far we had come?
'6.8 miles' says Dan
'la la la la … I cant heard you … la la la la' says I.
Damn! I don’t want to know how much further it is. That’s just going to bug the crap out of me!
And it did!
Just over 3 miles, so in the pool I swim about 9 strokes per length and it 70 ish lengths to a mile. So if I count about 700 strokes thats easily a mile. 1… 2 … 3 …
Up to that point, I had been lost in my thoughts, just keep swimming, just keep the arms turning. Now I was counting, was that 350 or 450? Bugger?
Then we hit some head winds, not much but enough to cause some chop. Suddenly, you are having to, what feels like, punch through the water to make progress. It was a lot of extra effort and annoying as hell! But I pushed on, feeling it a little in my shoulders. Nothing bad, just an ache, been here before, keep going.
Dan starting pulling ahead again! No, slow down, not this again. But as I turned my head, I saw someone I recognised on the shore.
'Heeeey! Look at you!'
'Are you OK?'
'Im great, so great to see you'
That was awesome, it just lifts your spirits so high to see someone you love supporting you. I remember seeing her at the second lap of the run at Boulder 70.3. I had blisters, I was hurting, I was miserable but I dragged my ass around for another 6.5 miles just to see her again!
Next food stop I looked downstream and could see an orange blob.
'Is that the finish?'
'I think so!'
In another 20 mins, I slapped that buoy, I was done. I had finished! I could see Mrs Alt was screaming at me every time I turned my head as I swam up. Some lady had decided to race me the last 100yds. I didn’t care. I wasn’t here to race. I was here to finish and to achieve another goal.
I sat in the water for a few minutes to take it all in. 4:47! I wanted sub 4:30 but what the heck, I’d finished. I had just swum 10 freakin’ miles with not much current to speak of!
I dragged myself out of the water and lay on the bank for a while. Got a big hug and a wet kiss from the missus. She is fantastic, she has followed me all over the place. Put up with me falling over the dog at 4:30am trying to quietly get out the door to swim and waking her up. She has let me race home from some event so I can get to the lake for a few laps. I can not wait for her to join me on one of these adventures. We swam together in England down our local river and it was awesome. I almost have her convinced to go on a swim vacation, yep, they have those. Best friends for life!
The after party was great, lots of fresh made food, water, I drank so much water and some beer. Lots of really friendly folks, a real family atmosphere. I thanked Dan and his girlfriend (she ran the medical side of things) and we left for the hotel. Chilled out and then went to the Chattanooga Choo Choo Station Restaurant for steaks and some singing entertainment by the staff.
Overall, an excellent event, really well put together and above all fun. Im glad I got ‘in’ back in February and really glad I finished. There are not that many folks in the world that can say they have swum 10 miles but I’m proud to be one of them!
Swim the Suck write up coming …
I went to the pool today with Mrs Alt for the easiest and the toughest mile ever. I took it easy, my triceps thought not. My shoulders were fine but I am sore in my triceps, not too bad but they hurt some when I pushed it, a good hurt though :)
I have just worked out that if I am to hit my final goal of the year, 500 miles swimming! I need to average just over 15 miles a week from now until New Years Eve. I have a feeling Im going to be knocking on the pool door on Christmas Day wanting to get a couple of miles in.
I would throw in the towel now, haha, get it. I have achieved what I set out to do in swimming this year; a 10K and then a 10miler. But my mother has scoffed at the idea of me swimming 500 miles in a year, she thinks its impossible. Gauntlet duly thrown! I have to prove her wrong. Plus I need a goal to carry me up to the end of the year.
Some folks will be pleased to hear that my temporary insanity is wearing off and running will be figuring back in my routine from this week. No Couch to 5K for me, nosiree! I have stopped before, for 2 months, ran a 5K, put up with the agony of DOMs for 3 days and got back into another 5 and another until it didnt hurt any more.
I want to build a base this winter but I want to get off the roads and hit the trails. Gotta give my hip a break. There is a 25K cross country race in May next year that I have my eye on. There will also be some crazy ass swimming cos Im hooked people!