Luray Swim Fest 2018 - Race Report

Swim Fest was amazing, and I absolutely recommend it.  Since it wasn't really a race, more a training day, let's get the goal stuff out of the way first, shall we?

  • Outstanding –  < :50
  • Exceeds Expectations – :56
  • Acceptable – 1:02
  • Poor -  > 1:02
  • Dreadful – DNF for nonmedical reasons
  • Troll – vomiting (or worse) in the water
yes, you did have to run out of the water between loops.&nbsp; Yes, it sucked.

yes, you did have to run out of the water between loops.  Yes, it sucked.

My official finishing time for the 2250m swim was 1:02:23.  Rounding down, that gives me a grade of Acceptable.  For someone who has scarcely swum once a week since April, and even less over the fall and winter, Acceptable is exactly what I deserve.  What I'm actually most proud of it how I paced myself.  The course is three loops, and I had each loop within 90 second of each other!

My other goals were to be calm and have fun, and I nailed both of those, too.  I plunged right in, zero anxiety, and just swam.  As for the fun...yes, totally.  A day with friends, a swim, and a burger.  Basically a dream day, no?

Liz picked me up at o'dark-thirty, picked up Emily at o'dark-forty-five, and then we were off for Luray.  Having the sun come up behind us was neat, and seeing the mist roll over Shenandoah is always beautiful.  Once we got to the race site, we set up our home base on the top of a hill, with a great view of the lake.  Emily had never swum open water before, and was signed up for the 750m, and Liz was signed up for all 3 distances, so they were first in the water.  Since the 2250m didn't start for a few hours, I wandered over to the Team Z tent for a little bit, said hi to Caroline, and then wandered around a little more.

I practiced some pre-race nutrition, just to make sure everything was going to sit well.  I started getting some nasty burps about midway through my swim, but I think that has more to do with me swallowing air than my nutrition.  I had the breakfast of champions (Pop Tarts) as we headed out of Northern Virginia, a pouch of Skratch chews and a bottle of the Sport Hydration about 90 minutes before, and a VFuel gel with some more water right as we were heading in.  Way too many calories for a typical one hour swim, but this was more about testing, and i'm pleased with how it went.  I've tested similar before long bike rides, and I'm feeling really confident about how my stomach will handle this amount of calories at these intervals for Williamsburg.  Oh!  And I had my Skratch Hyper Hydration first thing in the morning, and the Wellness as we were riding back home.  This combo is quickly becoming my "must do" before outdoor events.  Obviously its a huge amount of sodium, so unless you're like me and have had this much stipulated by a doctor, I don't recommend it.  I'm not a Skratch ambassador or anything, although I'm starting to think I should apply to be.  I've simply found that the products sit well in my stomach, and have the necessary sodium for me to manage my POTS symptoms.

This event is fantastic for beginners, I have to say.  There are tons of SUPs and kayaks, and because it is a loop course, you're never really far from shore.  Far being a relative term, of course.  Swag for the race included a medal and a super soft race shirt.  I am loving the trend of my most recent races having these soft shirts.  They get so much more use than the stiffer ones.  You could also pay to upgrade to a big beach towel if you wanted, which came in loads of colors.

Achievement Unlocked - Peak Dorkiness

Achievement Unlocked - Peak Dorkiness

So, final thoughts...

Do Luray Swim Fest!  Do it with friends or family.  Make sure to get custard at Spelunkers on the way home.  Revel in the free race pictures.  That is all.  #swimlove

Race Expectations: Luray Swim Fest 2018

Technically Luray Swim Fest is billed as a race, but I'm treating it like a super fun training day, with a medal at the end.  After an effort to ride bikes with Liz was thwarted by rain, she mentioned Luray Swim Fest.  I had originally been planning to do Washington's Crossing again this year, since I really enjoyed it in 2017, but the weather wasn't looking too promising.  Instead, I signed up for the 2250m event at Luray, and I'm really happy about that choice.  

Me at Washington's crossing 2017, where you swim across the potomac river.&nbsp; With bonus image of the elusive J in the bottom right corner!

Me at Washington's crossing 2017, where you swim across the potomac river.  With bonus image of the elusive J in the bottom right corner!

Goal setting is always really hard for me.  For some reason, I have these expectations in my head that I am significantly faster than I actually am, resulting in ridiculous goals that can't possibly be met.  Not so for this race!  I've barely been in the pool since Reston Tri back in September, and even since April I've only managed about one swim a week.  Expectations are low.  Still, I want to put things down on paper, so here we go: 

Be Calm 

I've only had one instance in open water where I panicked, but seeing as I have very little pool time in the last six months, and this being my first OWS of the season, I'm making it a goal to relax and be calm

Have Fun!

In addition to this being a bit of a girl's day out with friends, this event also has a Team Z presence.  I want to spend some time at the tent, and try to stop being such an outsider.

Goal Times – bringing back the Hogwarts O.W.L. system of scoring myself

  • Outstanding –  < :50
  • Exceeds Expectations – :56
  • Acceptable – 1:02
  • Poor -  > 1:02
  • Dreadful – DNF for nonmedical reasons
  • Troll – vomiting (or worse) in the water

I want to really swim, and finish strong.  I want to finish feeling good enough that I can run out of the lake and across the finish.  I've done some distances pretty similar to this before, but nothing exact.  So....automatic PR, I guess.  

Who else is swimming this weekend?

A Goggle Quest

I’ve had some goggle drama lately.  I’ve mentioned to a couple people that finding the perfect pair of goggles seems tougher than finding a bra that fits.  It is hard to find shops that carry a wide range of goggles in house, so online shopping seems to be the way to go.  That has led to plenty of orders, exchanges, returns, and missed opportunities.  I’m now pretty much right back where I started, but I learned an important lesson along the way.

I’m not really sure when I started wearing Speedo Vanquishers.  My guess is that they were the goggle that was available from REI that I liked the best when I signed up for my first mini tri back in 2004.  A pair seems to have hung out in my swim bag ever since.  I’ve never had problems with leaking, and until I started swimming earnestly this past year, I had no specific issues that I could point to with these goggles.  Around the time my workouts neared the 1-hour mark, the problems began.  Removing the goggles would be painful; it felt like I was digging glass out of my skin.  Goggles marks?  Yeah, they lasted at least until lunchtime.  Visibility was also a problem, since the tint wasn’t conducive to outdoor conditions.  With Reston and open water on my mind, I decided to try some different options.

Spoiler Alert - I wound up with mirrored Vanquishers

Spoiler Alert - I wound up with mirrored Vanquishers

ROKA Sports has been adorning the faces of many ladies I look up to on social media, so I decided to give them a go.  (Well done, ROKA – your social media game is on point and your marketing strategy worked on me!)  I’ve written before about how sad I was that the R1 didn’t fit my face.  I had an exchange with Kecia on Instagram, and she mentioned that the R1 didn’t fit her, but the X1 did.  Sadly, my face didn’t agree, and I had leaking with the X1 even more than the R1.  Both of these styles have a flexible uni-body nose bridge, which doesn’t seem to be a good match for me.  My next step was going to be the F1.  In addition to having multiple nose bridges, it looks to be a dead ringer for the Vanquisher, but hopefully with more comfort plus the excellent optics and clarity that ROKA seems to be so good at.  However, I ran into some issues.

I’m spoiled.  I’m coddled by the likes of Zappos and Amazon Prime, and the idea of paying for shipping and returns is something I’m not really down with.  ROKA is only sold directly from their website or through SwimOutlet.  At least, near as I can tell.  Please correct me if I’m wrong!  While ROKA has free shipping on large orders, my goggles weren’t big enough.  And although I have a deep love for SwimOutlet’s grab bags, their return policy leaves much to be desired.  Pay for return shipping?  Or forfeit a portion of my cost so that they provide me with a return label?  Really?  No.  So while I’m sure one day I'll have a bigger purchase to piggyback the goggles on, this time I was back to Amazon.

I should mention that this was all playing out during the Olympics.  As it turns out, not only does the local pool become quite crowded with new swimmers during the Olympics, but goggles sell out, too.  After reading several positive reviews of MP Michael Phelps goggles as having excellent visibility in open water, I wanted to try a pair out.  Sold out!  Even simple items like TYR Sockets and other standard goggles were selling like hotcakes.  I started to feel like I was running out of time.  My pool was scheduled for maintenance and would be closed starting from August 27th, and I wanted to have at least a couple swims in the new goggles before race day. 

It all seems so silly now, but at the time, it felt very much like I was in an episode of 24.  Time was ticking by, and without the new goggles, my race would surely be a failure!  This is bearing in mind that I’d already done Harbor Fest with my old Vanquishers, and while the sun was a bit bright, I had successfully finished.  I ended up with a new pair of Speedo Vanquishers.  This new pair is mirrored, with magenta trim.  They don’t leak, and they are excellent in bright light.  I’m pretty sure that means I’m going to have an overcast race day.  With all this manufactured drama, I want to highlight to myself what the takeaways of this experience are.  Mainly, that I need an adjustable nose bridge.  Also, that just because all the people in my phone are wearing a goggle doesn’t mean squat.  At the end of the day, my swim at Reston is going to turn out well because I’ve put in a lot of work at the pool this last year, not because of what gear I pick for race day.

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. &nbsp;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! &nbsp;such a gorgeous day for a swim

Look how pretty!  such a gorgeous day for a 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 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. &nbsp;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.

Race Expectations: HarborFest Half Iron Swim

August snuck up on me, and just like that, it’s a race weekend!  This Sunday is HarborFest, and the event offers 750m, 1.2 mile, 2.4 mile, and 5k options.  It is billed as being perfect for triathletes looking to experience an open water environment without having cycling or running after.  After my swim at Lake Anna, this is a natural next step, no?  My race come September in Reston has a 1500m swim, so I picked the Half Iron 1.2 mile option, figuring in this case that more was better.  Perhaps it’s because I’m hoping this race will just give me experience, but I don’t feel too nervous yet.  We’ll see what happens race morning, though. 

Seems fitting with the Rio Opening ceremonies tonight to look back and remember the time J and I spectated the Women's 1oK swim at the London games. &nbsp;Photo by J

Seems fitting with the Rio Opening ceremonies tonight to look back and remember the time J and I spectated the Women's 1oK swim at the London games.  Photo by J

Setting goals this season in general has been tough.  I don’t want too much pressure, and I don’t know my abilities or the events well enough to even have reasonable expectations.  That being said, I don't want to go into this with nothing.  I mean, I’m not Haley Anderson or anything, but swimming is currently my strongest of the three disciplines.  According to WaveOne Swimming, HarborFest is an opportunity to “challenge yourself, invigorate your dedications to swimming, and unlock your undiscovered potential.”  Those all sounds like good things, right?  So... goals…I has them:

  • Enjoy! 
    • Swimming in open water is hard to do around here, so I want to make sure I appreciate every single second I’m out there in the water.  That means keeping a positive attitude.  This also means controlling my imagination, and not letting panicky thoughts ruin my day.
  • Sight!
    • By the end of the race I want to have a feeling of what it is like to sight for buoys.
  • Goal Times – so I guess I have to admit that I have some times in my head, even though they are based on my pool swims.  I have no idea if they are realistic, but better to write down a goal and miss making it than pretend I don’t have these numbers jockeying around in my head.
    • Outstanding –  < 40:00
    • Exceeds Expectations – 42:00
    • Acceptable – 47:00
  • Why yes, my goal system is based on the Hogwarts O.W.L. grading system.  So nice of you to notice!  With that in mind, I also have a few markers that can be considered Failing Grades.  Don’t forget, though…if you get a Poor O.W.L. you can repeat. #ravenclawsome
    • Poor -  > 50:00
    • Dreadful – DNF for nonmedical reasons
    • Troll – vomiting on a fellow swimmer

I guess it’s pretty obvious by now that I’m trying to take an easygoing approach to this race.  I'm not tapering at all.  Although, to be quite honest, I haven't been as consistent with my training of late, so my volume has been lower than usual.  Even still, I head into this race with purpose.  I want to experience a pack of swimmers.  I expect to have a full contact swim, a gear malfunction, and a mouth full of water.  I want to swim, not just survive.  I want to get out of the river knowing that 5 weeks from now I’ll be able to do the same thing followed by a bike and run.  Best part about this?  First time at a new race distance means an automatic PR!

Who else is racing this weekend?  Do you ever do standalone open water events?