Friday, May 17, 2013

Centennial Lake Swim Race Report

I suck at open water swimming.

I don’t mean that I’m a super-slow swimmer. What I mean is that, compared to how I swim in the pool, I’m relatively slow in open water. People who I am faster than in pool races routinely beat the stuffing out of me in open water, which is bad news for somebody who does triathlons in…open water.

Rather than continue to just whine about this, I decided that the only way to improve was to spend more time in open water, and to spend more time racing in open water, because I know I lack focus on speed once I get into a lake, river, or bay. Luckily, there are quite a few open water races in the DC area in the late spring/early summer, and I’ve been able to work a couple into my training plan. Last Sunday, there was a one mile race at Centennial Lake in Ellicott City, MD, which happens to be the site of the Columbia Triathlon. Since Jason lives a few miles away and is going to be making his triathlon debut there this Sunday (side note: Wish him luck! He’s been training hard.), it was a good chance for him to check out the course in advance of race day. Off to the lake we went.

After checking in, we had some time to sit around and review the course. And take pictures that, unlike the official race photos, wouldn’t make me look like Jabba the Hut’s sister.

Eventually, we got called to the start, lined up in pre-assigned waves of 3 athletes each, and were sent off at 15 second intervals. I was in a wave with a very fast woman who I’ve seen at other races, and had no delusions of keeping up with her as she sped off towards the first buoy.

The water was somewhere between 65 and 68 F on race day, which was not warm, but not too cold with the sun overhead. Speaking of the sun – sighting and staying on course is a beast when the sun is in your eyes. I’ve finally ordered polarized goggles that purportedly make this less of an issue, but they hadn’t arrived before this race, so I wasted a lot of energy and mental focus staying on course. We finally turned back towards shore…and I found myself swimming into some pretty strong winds that may or may not have led me off course AGAIN. Though I definitely swam extra distance by not swimming a straight course, I felt strong in my stroke and thought I’d see a 26 or 27 on the clock.

(As promised, the photo that makes me look like Jabba the Hut’s sister.)

Not so much. Yes, I didn’t leave at 00:00 because of the wave setup, but still. My official time was 31:52, which is slower than I swam 1.2 miles before biking 56 and running a half marathon just a few weeks earlier. Definitely a little disappointing, until I found out the fastest woman, who is, yes, fast, finished in just under 26 minutes. The conditions (wind) might have played a part, and perhaps the course was set just a little long.

While I moped over my time, I waited for Jason to come out.

Once he did, he exclaimed that this was SO MUCH FUN and he couldn’t wait until he got to do this again. That kind of put an end to my moping.

As did the discovery later that day that I won my age group.


  1. A win is a win! Nice swimming, Victoria!

  2. Logging laps in the pool is great when it comes to practicing technique and building endurance, but swimming in the open water is so different. Every time I sight--either practicing in the pool before an event or during a race itself--I am rudely reminded how taxing it is. I'm tired just thinking about it.

  3. Sharing your love of triathlon/swimming with others + a first place AG. I'd say that's enough reason to be happy! And the time can just be used as motivation, right? I know you put in enough time at the pool for sure!

  4. if you're jabba the hut's sister, I'm pretty sure we are twins. I am also jealous of all those bitches whose arms got really small after college swimming ended. mine just lost all muscle tone. bleh.

  5. Nice swimming! I admire your dedication to seeking out open water swim practice. I always intend to, but never do :)

  6. If you want a pic of jabba the hut's sister you should if asked me for a pic of kiwi .

    Nice job on the AG win!

    1. THe more experiences from a race you can replicate in practice the more prepared you will be! So stick with it and practice makes perfect from a Coach's standpoint :) If you have any questions about sighting or drills to do for open water swim season. Please stop by

    2. You really need some swim lessons to get it below that 30 min mark...

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  8. How DO race photos manage to catch everyone at their least flattering angle (speaking from personal experience...) I swear if I want to feel uber-shitty about myself, all I have to do is look at any race photo of myself after 2012.

    I see no resemblance to Jabba in your pics though. If you had to be anyone's sister I'd go for Princess Leia.

    Congrats on the AG win - sounds like tough conditions. The slightest hint of a current and I would just drown :P


  9. Congrats on the race to the both of you