Race Report: Harborfest Half Iron Swim

Image: WaveOne Swimming

Image: WaveOne Swimming

The Quick & Dirty:

HarborFest 2016 Half Iron Swim

WaveOne Swimming, National Harbor, MD, Maryland

Sunny, Water Temp 82* F

Total Time = 48m 44s (2:19/100 yd)

Overall Rank = F 26/55

Age Group = F 35-39

Age Group Rank = 3/12

HarborFest 2016 Half Iron Swim (that’s 2112 for my fellow yardage peeps) is over, and I’m calling it a success.  Obviously, any time you get to the start and finish lines happy and healthy is a good day, but delving further in is what I’m all about, so here we go.

Pre-Race & Warm Up

I split my time on Saturday evening checking over the course map, packing up my bag, and watching Olympic coverage.  Casa de Youldon is #TeamUSA and #TeamGB, so we had lots of cheering to do.

I slept fitfully and got out of bed for good around 5am. I drank a cup of tea and about 2/3 of a bottle of nuun, and decided to take a quick shower to try to help wake myself up. I also wanted to braid my hair when it was wet, with that it would stay put better.  Usually I wear a bun under my cap, but since this was supposed to be triathlon practice, that means rocking the helmet-friendly french braid.  I’ve never been one to skip a meal, but this particular race morning I was having some nerves.  This swim was going to be less than an hour, so technically I could have done it fully fasted, but again, I wanted to test out nutrition.  I went with a chocolate Rip Van Wafel and about 3/4 of a banana.  Tasty, and, as I would discover, it sat fine during the race.  My other pre-race intake consisted of Bonine and GinGin chewy ginger candy.  Note to self: this stuff is phenomenal.  I'd never been to National Harbor before, so J and I headed out around 6:30 so we would have time to fill up the car, do the drive, and find the place.  It was an uneventful ride in.

They had both done some mega bike mileage the day before, and were running after this.  Hardcore much?

They had both done some mega bike mileage the day before, and were running after this.  Hardcore much?

There was no warm up for this race, so once we arrived I stood in line, got body marked, met internet friends Megan and Liz, sunscreened up, and waited around until they called the 1.2 milers down to the dock.  I shudder to think what my headspace would have been if I hadn’t had the chance to meet these ladies.  I noticed as we stood on the dock that the Potomac didn’t smell super fresh, but didn’t really dwell on it.  More on that later.  About half an hour before go time I had half a pack of Honey Stinger chews.  This wasn’t needed for the swim, but again was more about testing nutrition for Reston.

My race plan, which I had come up with while I stared at the ceiling the night before, was to take the first quarter super easy, second quarter easy, third quarter medium, and last quarter hard.  I don’t think I ever really managed to swim “hard” but I did build in pace through the entire swim, so I’m pleased with how everything went.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.  I had a moment of anxiety when it was time to jump off the dock, as it seemed so much higher than I was expecting. Someone behind me said, "you're okay," and I suddenly realized I was holding up the swimmers behind me. I jumped in, and suddenly I was fine.  I was in the water, and this was my happy place.  It did seem to be a bit low, as you could see a fair amount of beach (shore?) off to the right.  The current felt strong, as I was being swept up to the front of the start line. Megan and I were both trying to kick back, since we did not want to be right in the front line.  Suddenly Kayak-Man was counting down "3, 2, 1" and we were off!

Look how pretty!  such a gorgeous day for a swim

Look how pretty!  such a gorgeous day for a swim

SWIM:

  • 1.2 miles, 48:44 (2:19/100 yd)

I started out with Tarzan stroke for the first little bit, not wanting to get kicked in the face.  Just a couple strokes in, I decided it was better to just swim, and stuck my face down.  After my swim in Lake Anna, I knew I wouldn’t be able to see beneath me, so it wasn’t a surprise that I was basically blind.  No worries, and onward we go!  I did sight often that first leg, probably every 3 strokes or so, to make sure I was keeping an eye on those around me, and heading in the right direction.  While there was a bit of contact, I probably only caught a couple light arms and feet...no punches or hard kicks. As I got to the first buoy I was feeling more comfortable with the number of people around, and was getting the hang of how to peak for the buoy as I swam along. Understandably, the buoys were the most congested part of the whole race. There were a couple where I swam right on top of them and got pushed into them even more by a swimmer cutting across. No big deal though...just breathe to the other side and keep going!

The last straight away finishing the first loop was quite weedy, which was gross. It would go into my mouth, wrap around my neck, and slide over my arms in a super creepy way. So gross! As I headed down the last straight away, I could see people cheering on the dock, and even saw J in his red shirt.  I could tell he had no idea where I was, as he was looking the other way.

Suddenly I was halfway done and on the second loop.  I considered taking a look at my watch, but figured I should just keep on keeping on. The swim to the first buoy on the second lap seemed to take forever. Maybe the current changed? It was at this point that I realized I wasn't having any contact with people anymore. Maybe the occasional person, but nothing like lap one. I moved it up a gear, into my "medium" swimming tempo. It was at this point that I actually started to wonder if I was swimming super slow or something.  Where was everyone?  J told me after the fact that we all spread out a fair amount, with people taking different lines.  Onward I went, and then I was in the last quarter, and fighting a bit more current. I felt like I was going nowhere for a bit there. Sighting was a bit tough too, as sometimes I lost sight of the orange buoy. The glare off the water was a bit much for me.  At last I was on the final stretch, searching for the green buoys marking the finish line. It was weedy again, with slimy bits clinging to my arms and going down my top.  Gross!  Get out of there!  There was also this one dude that was really intent on swimming quite splashily right near me, so I put on a bit of speed and moved away from him. Then there were the finish buoys, and just like that I was finished.  I called out my number and hauled myself up the ladder onto the dock. All done!

They had set up a shower on the dock, so I rinsed off the super gross and stinky Potomac as best as I could.  The white parts of my kit were brown.  I grabbed a water and hung out on the dock for a little bit.  I chatted with Megan and Liz for a few minutes, then J and I packed it in, leaving them to their running.

Overall Event Comments:

This event was well run, and I would do more by them again. I'm especially interested to try out some of their Wednesday evening or Sunday morning swims, where you pay a fee to come swim with others on a marked course.

Goals & Race Post Mortem:

My goals for this race were to Enjoy, Sight, and I had some goal times knocking around in my head.  I absolutely enjoyed myself and stayed positive, I sighted well, and came in at 48:44.

So….those goal times.  I have to admit that for no apparent reason I was really thinking I’d come in closer to 45.  I saw 48:44 on my watch as I climbed out of the river, and was immediately a bit disappointed.  But hey, I was faster than 50:00, so I passed my O.W.L. in Harborfest.

My limiters this race were my swim technique and minimal OWS experience.  I think another round of lessons to refresh my technique would be a good idea, and finding a good Masters group would probably be beneficial as well.  I would have loved some tinted goggled, as the sun was just awful. I also think I was riding with my head a little high, so I would have wanted to focus on body position more. From a pace perspective, I could have pushed harder for sure, but I wanted to pace more like for a triathlon rather than a standalone swim race. Not bad at all for a first time OWS race.  Now that I have a baseline, I’m looking forward to improving my swim times.  Success, baby!

Much Love and Props to J for the unending support.  Also top notch skills in photography, as this is in fact me.

Much Love and Props to J for the unending support.  Also top notch skills in photography, as this is in fact me.