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Dwight Crum Pier-To-Pier 2 Mile Swim - Swim

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Hermosa Beach to Manhattan Beach, California
United States
International Surf Festival
Total Time = 47m 37s
Overall Rank = 148/930
Age Group = M50-54
Age Group Rank = 13/91
Pre-race routine:

The best way to start this story is to go back one week to my last pier-to-pier training swim. I was fortunate to settle into a fast pace with another swimmer who was going just a little too fast for me. So I fell in behind him and tried to draft off him. Every five minutes or so I would feel like I could go faster so I would come out from behind him and try to pass. Each time I failed and returned to swimming in his draft zone just barely behind him. Finally at the last buoy it looked like he was going to cut too close to the end of the Manhattan Beach Pier for my comfort, so I swam out and made a wider turn than he did. To my surprise, I was still feeling pretty strong and was actually able to move ahead of him for once and wound up reaching the beach some thirty seconds ahead of him. This was my first real experience drafting in an ocean swim. I was feeling a little guilty for having let him do all the work and tiring himself out, then surging ahead of him for a grand finish. So I went up to him and thanked him for giving me a ride. I told him I've never been in a situation where I could draft off someone for more than a minute or so, and this experience was a real eye-opener as to the benefits of drafting under ideal conditions. He told me that in the up coming Pier-to-Pier race that if I wanted to draft, then I should go out as fast as possible to the end of the Hermosa Beach Pier so I would be with the faster swimmers so I would be sure to catch a good draft. He pointed out that even if you can't stay with the first swimmer you draft off of, all the swimmers for the next 50 to 100 yards behind you are also faster than you, and you can just latch onto the next one to go by. If you have to, you can continue going from swimmer to swimmer until you get one that is just the right speed to be able to keep yourself in their draft zone. So that would be my plan. Go out fast and draft.

My goal was to improve my last year's time of 58:10 to 55:00. I was hoping the drafting plan would get me there. I had gone as fast as 56:32 in practice, so the 55:00 seemed to be a reasonable goal. Secretly, I hoped to go closer to 54:00.
Event warmup:

I warmed up with some stretching and about 200 yards of swimming, and then looked for a spot in the starting line. Last year I was near the front and in the middle. That swim start was a completely insane almost panicked frenzy of swimmers jammed up against each other, fast ones swimming over the slow ones, big fish eating the little fish. This year I lined up on the inside position on the north side of the starting line. Well, I thought it was the starting line because lots of swimmers dressed just like me were standing in a line. Then the voice on the bullhorn told us to back up about fifteen yards to the real starting line. This resulted in everyone getting squeezed together. Now I was packed into a mass of wet men, I couldn't see the ocean, or much of anything else, and the guy in front of me, well, his hairy back was making my chest itch. Yuck. Now I'm thinking there is little chance of making a fast start out to the end of the Hermosa Pier, as surely I will be boxed in by this mass of swimmers such that I won't be up with the faster draft candidates when the crowd thins out. My plan may be sunk before I've even started. But regardless of my current assessment, I was determined to focus on doing the best I could.
  • 47m 37s
  • 3520 yards
  • 01m 21s / 100 yards

When the race started the crowd moved as one. We had no choice other than to be trampled. But within a few strides a large group of people broke to the right and ran down the beach and into the surf inside the course buoy-line. Oh-my-gawd! They're cutting the course already! But this served to thin out the ranks nicely and I charged into the water with plenty of room to get up some good speed. Even by the time I was swimming through the breakers I had no one slamming into me. Once past the breakers there was a wide-open alleyway straight ahead and I knew the plan was back on the table. I was practically sprinting up that open space in no time at all. I changed my breathing from side to side keeping an eye out for trouble. To the south I could see the sardine-like crunch of last year going on as expected. Soon though, that mass started moving closer to the line of buoys on the north and I needed to keep the pace fast so they wouldn't swamp me when they closed up the gap. I wasn't too far from the end of the pier when other swimmers began pressing in on me as we all tried to curve north and round the end of the pier without going any extra distance.

As I passed the Hermosa Pier, it was still pretty crowded so there was no real good way to maneuver left or right to hook onto the swimmers I saw going by just out of my reach. Fortunately a couple hundred yards further along, I noticed two guys moving past me on my left. I fell in right behind them and started to draft. These guys just kept on swimming side-by-side not more than a couple feet apart. The pace seemed good for me, and we were slowly moving past other swimmers, but it was still early in the race. After a while I was just focusing on holding my form; kicking just enough to keep my legs up and my body as flat as possible on the surface, keeping my head down, my elbows high, and stretching out and rotating to my side with each stroke. I was also realizing that I had no idea how fast I was going. Next I was thinking I might be going too slowly to swim the 55 minute goal I had set. Maybe it was time to ditch these guys and move up to catch the draft of a faster swimmer. But thinking back a week and remembering that my draft mentor had said if possible, you want to draft off a big guy because his bigger draft will make it easier for you to swim. Potentially you can keep up with someone 20% faster than you. Well, these two guys weren't any bigger than me, but they were still swimming side-by-side. Maybe they were creating a draft like a guy twice as big as me. Maybe I'll just stay put for a while longer and see how I feel about moving up later on.

By the half way point there was now someone drafting off me. I could feel fingers touching my feet, sometime with every stroke. It was really annoying, so I tried to stop doing it to my draft buddies. I also wondered if anyone was drafting off the person behind me. I tried to glance back as I breathed, but couldn't tell if we had some kind of conga line of drafting going on. But I did see his light blue swim cap, so my drafter was a guy. That's the way it went for most of the rest of the distance to the Manhattan Beach Pier; me drafting off the two side-by-side swimmers and at least one guy drafting off me.

I'm pretty bad at swimming in a straight line, and my need to frequently sight for orientation slows me down, but now I just needed to barely lift my eyes above the water line to sight on the guys in front of me, and then if a little off to the left or right, make a quick, minor course adjustment. And these two were swimming in a remarkably straight line.

As we approached the last buoy before the Manhattan Pier, the pace seemed to quicken. Every so often I was dropping behind, then refocusing my efforts to catch up again. The guy behind me stayed right on my feet for a while, but soon moved beside us as though he was going to pass. Now that he wasn't drafting anymore he was having trouble pulling away from us, and soon started swimming right along side me and behind one of my draft buddies. The four of us swam this way for about a hundred yards when I noticed a couple other swimmers moving up on our left and another on our right. We were pretty close to the pier by then and I was thinking these were probably some faster swimmers who got caught in the crush and were just now catching up with us. Or, had they been quietly drafting off the guy behind me and were now making their move? Who knows, but now the guy next to me had jumped ship to draft off one of these faster swimmers and they were pulling away. I was doing all I could to stay on the feet of the side-by-side swimmers, but they were really pushing the pace. As I slid behind by about one body length and was about to surge back up to their feet, some guy off to the left started cutting over toward us. We were less than fifty yards from the end of the pier and he was apparently trying to cut it as close as possible. Unfortunately for me he plowed right into me, with one of his arm strokes hitting me in the back. It was like getting punched in the spine, and caused me to suddenly arch my back in pain, which began to trigger a spasm of a cramp in my right hamstring. I instinctively reacted to that in some way that kept the ham from cramping all the way but caused my calf to seize up. A split second later I was treading water, had lost my momentum and my draft position. I glanced up at the pier. From this vantage point so close to the pilings, the scene is almost surreal. It's amazing how huge the pier looks towering over you, that you almost want to just stop and gaze at it. But it's also a sobering reminder that the race is almost finished, so off I went. I think I may have had a burst of adrenaline, because I sprinted right after the guy who crashed into me and was touching his feet as we reached the pier. I couldn't hold the pace, and he was getting dangerously close to where the swells were hitting the pilings, so I swam a little wider to round the end of the pier to its north side.

Now there was another swimmer coming up on my right. There were less than two minutes left to swim, and I was determined not to let anyone else pass me. The final race was on. We swam side-by-side most of the way in. The feeling of the swells helping me along toward the shore was encouraging. I was swimming all out, mainly with my arms, but kicking a little to try to loosen up my cramped calf, and hoping to catch a wave and body surf right up to the sand. But I was still too far out for the first wave I tried to catch, and that guy was still right next to me. I was in better position for the next wave and it seemed like I was going to catch it, but I was just barely behind the sweet spot and even though I got pulled along by it, I was soon left behind. Now I was too far into shore to catch the next wave so I just made one last sprint, extending my arm down into the water as far as I could with each stroke trying to gauge where the swallow water was. When I touched sand I did about three or four more strokes, stood up and stared trying to run. My legs were pretty wobbly, but then I stepped in a ditch and collapsed forward into the water. I got back up as best I could and ran out of the surf and up the beach favoring my right calf, which was still almost too tight to run at all. I crossed the finish line completely exhausted. But not too exhausted to forget to stop my watch so I'd get my time. My lats immediately started to painfully tighten up as I walked down the chute. Someone was talking to me, but I wasn't paying any attention to them. Then they put a popsicle stick in my hand as I kept on walking. I turned around and looked behind me to see whom it was that I'd raced in to the finish with. I wasn't expecting to recognize him, but I did. Turns out it was a guy who had been in my Masters swim group up until a couple months ago. It was Scott, the guy who was a whole league better than anyone else in the group. I was genuinely stunned to see him behind me. And now I was asking myself, how fast did I do this swim anyway? I looked down at my watch and saw 47:36.7... I though, no way! Then I looked at the popsicle stick and saw that my place was 148th. I stared back at my watch again in disbelief. Yes, it really did show 47:36. Now, I'm not the last person to tell you that I'm a good swimmer. I might even be the first person to tell you that I'm a good swimmer, mainly because I continue to surprise myself that I just keep improving. So, yes I'm a good swimmer, especially for my Age Group division. But I'm not that good! I'm not 47:36 good! Wow, drafting really does make a difference!

My official time on the website was 47:37.41 for 148th place. A nice improvement over last year's 58:10 for 212th place.

What would you do differently?:

Everything that was under my control went as planned or better. Most of the things outside of my control went much better than expected, like the start for instance. Not having to fight my way through the crowd of swimmers packed in together was completely unexpected and allowed me to get off to the fast start I had planned. There was really no way to avoid the guy toward the end who punched me in the back. The conditions at the time were not crowded, so I wasn't expecting him to plow right over me. He could have easily avoided swimming across me to get where he was headed.
Post race
Warm down:

My warm-down consisted of a little walking around and a lot of stretching. My lats were so tight I couldn't bend from side-to-side. I spent quite a bit of time right after the race stretching them out and continued working on loosening them up for the rest of the day. Still had a little soreness the next morning. I also put in a lot of time massaging the cramp out of my right calf. Normally I jog the 2 miles back to the Hermosa Pier along the beach after the race each year. However, this year I'm just getting over a series of running injuries so I had planned to walk back, but the calf cramp made that seem un-wise, so I got a ride back with a friend.

What limited your ability to perform faster:

I can say that there wasn't anything that limited my ability to perform faster, other than the above mentioned collision near the end of the race.

Event comments:

This is my third year doing this race. It's a huge event in the South Bay community, as a part of the three day International Surf Festival. Each year about 2/3 of my Masters swim group focuses on this as their big race of the year, and for some it is the only race they do. It's a lot of fun and always a bit humbling for a triathlete to compete against "real" swimmers.

Last updated: 2007-08-12 12:00 AM
00:47:37 | 3520 yards | 01m 21s / 100yards
Age Group: 13/91
Overall: 148/930
Performance: Good
Suit: No wetsuits allowed
Course: The race starts on the beach next to the first lifeguard stand south of the Hermosa Beach Pier. You run to the water, swim to the end of the pier and turn right to go north to the next pier up the coast, the Manhattan Beach Pier. You swim just past the end of the Manhattan Beach Pier, turn right and head in to shore. When you come out of the water you run about 25 yards or so to the finish line on the beach.
Start type: Run Plus:
Water temp: 70F / 21C Current: Medium
200M Perf. Good Remainder: Good
Breathing: Good Drafting: Good
Waves: Below average Navigation: Average
Rounding: Good
Post race
Weight change: %
Overall: Good
Mental exertion [1-5] 5
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] 5

2007-08-12 7:59 PM

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Redondo Beach, CA
Subject: Dwight Crum Pier-To-Pier 2 Mile Swim

2007-09-25 3:53 PM
in reply to: #922961

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Subject: RE: Dwight Crum Pier-To-Pier 2 Mile Swim
Sorry for the late response, but damn!!!!  awesome swm, and an incredible improvement over last year!
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