Today I competed in my first ever open water swim race! I would be lying if I didn’t confess that I was really nervous. I am obviously used to racing as a college swimmer but open water is a whole different story! You don’t have your own designated lane with protective lane lines that guide you to each side of the pool and prevent contact from other swimmers. Open water racing demands a completely different skill set. For one, you have to be able to “sight” landmarks or buoys to make sure you are on course. You also have to be prepared to handle swimmers trying to grab you or plow you over especially in the beginning when everyone is in the starting pack. Adapting to the changing environment is also pinnacle. Sudden waves, sun that blocks your sight, and various debris in the water that you have to swim through all create small obstacles that you have to react to. Pool racing seems pretty docile in comparison 😉 orderly lanes, zero contact between competitors, and an unchanging and controlled pool environment. I have a whole new appreciation for all of those things!
The race I did is called Boulder Bare Bones. It is a 1 mile loop course with three different distance options: 1 mile, 2 miles, and 3 miles. Naturally training for my 19 mile marathon swim, I felt compelled to race the 3 mile course. The swimmers were broken into two starting waves: fast start and casual start. Fast start beginning at 7:50 and casual starters at 7:55. I opted for the fast start since I wanted to push myself to get out there and see if I could hang with the “big dogs.” Swimmers were able to compete in a wetsuit or non-wetsuit category. Since my P2P swim will be without a wetsuit I wore my regular Speedo endurance suit. The water temperature was at least 70 degrees so a wetsuit would have made me overheated anyway (my P2P water temp will be between 60-70).
At 7:45 I was treading water by the start buoy waiting for a countdown to the start. Finally over a megaphone 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, GO was announced. I quickly put my head down and started to sprint toward the first reference buoy half way to the first corner. The corner buoys were triangles which made them easier to see. The beginning of the race was definitely crowded and I felt swimmers crash into me occasionally but I was ready to hold my own and not let anyone swim over me or push me. The sun was glaring right over the water and made seeing where I was going difficult at the beginning. I followed the splashing feet in front of me for a few minutes while I tried to sight the first corner buoy. By the second corner I was in the lead pack of swimmers which was far less crowded. The sun was then behind me versus shining directly in my face so sighting became 10x easier. Swimmers doing the 3 mile course were all in yellow caps versus pink for 2 miles and green for 1 mile. This made it a lot easier to decipher what sort of pace I needed to maintain. On the first long stretch between corner buoy 2 and 3 I saw a yellow capped male swimmer that I decided to pace with. I got into a solid pace and became increasingly more comfortable and confident with each passing stroke.
By the third lap the swimmers had thinned out with many of the 1 and 2 milers out of the water already. I was extremely happy to FINALLY be rid of the various drafting swimmers who had been touching my feet and occasionally grabbing my calf as they followed behind me to make their swimming significantly easier. It turns out that as much as feet-touchers annoy me in pool swimming, drafters and feet touchers in open water racing annoy me ten fold! The swimmer rage was real for a couple moments as I would have to sprint or quickly change direction momentarily to lose drafters. In any case, as I turned corners on my last loop I was able to see how close yellow caps were to me behind me. I kept pace with the swimmer I found during the first lap and couldn’t see any women in yellow caps in front of me or very close behind me. I deciphered that I was in the lead female swimming position closely behind the lead male swimmers. With the thought of potential victory helping me through muscle soreness, I picked up my pace on my last loop closing the gap between me and the swimmer directly in front of me. I came in only 8 seconds behind the male swimmer in front of me who was the 2nd male, 3 miler overall to finish but the 1st male, 3 mile swimmer in a non-wetsuit to finish.
Exiting the water I felt so proud and great! I was so nervous for my first ever open water race and was delighted to finish 1st for women, 2nd overall (men and women) for non-wetsuit, and 3rd overall just 8 seconds behind the man who finished 2nd. I finished with a time of 1:14:50.4. My goal time was 1:15:00, a pace of 25 minutes per mile for all three miles. I was ecstatic to go just under that goal time! The event was sponsored by a few companies/organizations including BRL Sports Nutrition and as the female winner of the 3 mile race I got an awesome package of BRL goodies! BRL is one of Paige Christies sponsors for her 120 mile, 8 bridges swim so I was extra excited to see BRL at Boulder Bare Bones!
A very special shoutout goes to my amazing father! He forfeited his traditional breakfast in bed from me on Father’s Day to come watch me race and cheer me on! He has always supported me in all of my academic and athletic pursuits and it was a special moment to finish and see him on the shore ready to give me my first high five! I didn’t know this while I was swimming but on my last leg of my third loop from the fourth buoy to the finish, my dad was jogging along the beach with me as I sprinted toward the finish. Winning was a fun gift to give my amazing dad on Father’s Day ❤