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Pacific Open Water Challenge - SwimOther

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Long Beach, California
United States
International City Racing
68F / 20C
Total Time = 25m 16s
Overall Rank = 17/66
Age Group = Men 50-54
Age Group Rank = 1/9
Event warmup:

Not as much as I usually do, only a little stretching and about 100 yards of swimming.
  • 25m 16s
  • 1760 yards
  • 01m 26s / 100 yards

The Pacific Open Water Challenge consists of several swimming and running events plus a swimming and running event, the aquathon.

I had been planning on doing the aquathon, which consists of a half mile swim and a 5K run, but I've hardly run at all over the past three weeks due to an Achilles tendon injury, that just doesn't seem to want to clear up. I waited until the last day for on-line registration to commit to a particular race in the hopes that I could still do the aquathon. But with the injury still keeping my runs down to 2 to 3 miles once or twice a week, it didn't seem smart to make it worse by racing on it, so I needed to pick a swimming race. The 5K Run was certianly out of the question. The swim events to choose from are half mile, mile and 5K (yes, 3.1 miles) ocean swims. I decided on the one mile because I thought I could hold a nice fast pace for that distance, but also, I had just done a half mile swim at the Redondo Beach Tri and the 5K distance seemed more than a little intimidating.

The race started and we ran down the hard packed sand and into the almost wave-less water. It was pretty shallow so I was able to do the high-stepping run much further than usual before diving in to swim. We were packed in as tight as any triathlon start, all the way to the first orange buoy, almost 100 yards out. Turning left, I was now swimming east and parallel to the beach on the swim circuit, which made a big rectangle, such that you finish back where you started. As the swimmers separated out a bit, I found myself too far to the inside of the rectangle and cut to the left to make sure I passed the first white buoy (the turning buoy for the half mile swim) on the left. The water seemed to have just enough light chop and the occasional swell to make sighting forward a hit or miss proposition. It often took three or four attempts for me to get a fix on the next buoy, and by then I was off course again. My tendency to zig-zag along the course seemed as bad as ever, as I went from way inside the course to way out side of it, and back. By the time I arrived at the next orange buoy for my first right turn I had caught up with and passed several of my many teenage competitors. I now made my way out to sea chasing a few more and trying to keep an eye on the third orange buoy, which should be the half way mark. As I rounded it I pressed the split button on my watch and took a quick glance, and saw 13:07. I was hoping for something about 12:30 or 40, so I could be sure to finish under 26 minutes. I thought to myself that perhaps I am swimming fast enough, now I just need to swim in a straighter line. This turned out to be easier in the second half of the race, since now I was heading west, back toward the pier. And that pier was much easier to sight off of than the buoys. Now I was closing in on the next pack of three swimmers. I was only going a little faster then they were, so I was almost to the fourth orange buoy by the time I'd passed two of them and was just behind the third. Once around the buoy, it was a straight shot to the beach, passing the last orange buoy (which was also the first) about half way there. That last guy proved to be harder to pass than I had hoped. I had rounded the fourth orange buoy wide so I would be to the outside of the course rectangle and with the idea of sighting off him to the side so my momentum wouldn't suffer from forward sighting. Somehow I've come to expect that everyone swims in a straighter line than I do, so until I could pass this guy I wanted be able to let him keep me on course. I was also thinking that it couldn't be much more than 200 yards to shore along that last side of the rectangle so put my head down and picked up the pace. Over the next fifty yards we got closer and closer together. I took a quick look forward to confirm that it was he who was veering off course, not me. Next thing I know he's right up next to me and we are banging forearms on each stroke. He had been breathing away from me until then and now switched sides to see whom he was bumping into. I don't think he even knew I was there. As we're swimming face to face, just a few feet apart, I can see that he's an old duffer just like me. Now I know I have to beat him. What if he's the third place finisher in my AG who bumps me out of the running for hardware? I decided my best option was to surge away now and try to hold the lead the rest of the way in. But he responded to my faster pace stroke for stroke. As we passed the final buoy with about 100 yards to go he was still there, and I was getting concerned as to how much longer I could keep going at this speed. Finally, about 30 yards from the shore he dropped back. Now I was really worried that I would run out of gas before I could get to the shallow water, and he'd slip by me, so I kept the effort up especially since I knew I was slowing down. I sighted the finish line one last time, and then gave it everything I had until my hands started hitting the sandy bottom of the shallows. As I rose up out of the water and began high-step running the last few yards to land I wanted to look back, but I was afraid if I glanced over my right shoulder, he'd run past me on the left so I just kept eyes front and sprinted the last short stretch to the finish.

As it turns out, I finished 10 seconds ahead of my close competitor, who turned out to be the winner in the next older AG, so not the metal threat I'd feared. Also, my time of 25:16 was good for first place in my AG, Male 50-54. My second half split of 12:09 tells me that not only was I really puttin' the hammer down on those last 200 yards, but the almost one minute improvement over my first half split indicates that it really pays to swim in a straight line. In the interests of full disclosure though, my 17th place over all finish only included three people ahead of me over the age of 19, one of whom was 65. Out of the rest, seven were under 15 with one of those only 10!

What would you do differently?:

Swim in a straight line. Easier said than done.
Post race
Warm down:

Some stretching and walking.

What limited your ability to perform faster:

Occasional choppy water and swells made sighting more trouble than it should have been in a protected harbor like this.

Event comments:

It's good to see open water events like this in the local area. Especially since they were augmented with a 5K run and an aquathon to offer more variety. Maybe some day they will expand the races by adding a second, longer aquathon. Like maybe a one mile swim/10K run. I'd like that. And maybe a 10K swim too. Not for me, but for the real ocean swimmers. Well, maybe for me too, some day...

Last updated: 2007-07-02 12:00 AM
00:25:16 | 1760 yards | 01m 26s / 100yards
Age Group: 1/9
Overall: 17/66
Performance: Good
First half mile split was 13:07 by my watch. Second half mile split was 12:09, also by my watch.
Suit: Xterra Vector Pro2
Course: One mile rectangle.
Start type: Run Plus:
Water temp: 68F / 20C Current: Low
200M Perf. Good Remainder: Good
Breathing: Good Drafting:
Waves: Navigation: Average
Rounding: Good
Post race
Weight change: %
Overall: Good
Mental exertion [1-5] 4
Physical exertion [1-5] 5
Good race? Yes
Course challenge Just right
Organized? Yes
Events on-time? Yes
Lots of volunteers? Yes
Plenty of drinks?
Post race activities: Average
Race evaluation [1-5] 4

2007-07-02 9:49 PM

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Redondo Beach, CA
Subject: Pacific Open Water Challenge
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