Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Jim McDonnell 1 & 2 Mile Lake Swims

I honestly wasn't excited about waking up super early and doing this swim.  I was glad the rain had held off, but still wasn't feeling like swimming back-to-back events, especially with a break between them.  I had to park about a half mile down the road, and immediately John from swim camp.  We made the trek to the lake entrance together and settled into the long registration line.
I was already a sweaty mess when I finally got to the Team Z tents after standing in that long registration line and then another line for the port-o-johns.  Getting a wetsuit on in those circumstances is HARD WORK.  Luckily a few of my teammates and my childhood friend, Allison, were there to offer support and assistance.  Once it was on, everyone said it was time to walk over to the start area.  I will say that I was pretty frazzled going into that first event, not having a moment to myself since I arrived at the lake.  In all the bustle, I had forgotten to put on my tri-slide and sunblock, and was worried about that.  I hadn't really had a minute to catch my breath and think about my game plan. 
I suddenly found myself standing in the start line hoping that my timing chip was going to stay on, since I didn't have time to find a safety pin to secure it.  Finally after announcements and the national anthem they started moving people into the water.  I was in the 10th wave and getting impatient as we slowly made our way up for our turn to walk over the timing mats.  The water temperature was 68 degrees which felt fine on the wetsuit but provided a bit of a sting as I dove in with my bare face and arms.  I was immediately uncomfortable in the wetsuit and with my goggles but was able to make some quick adjustments as they counted us off.  Ready - Set - Go!  We were off and I thought to myself, just take it easy, get your head in the game and find your rhythm.  I avoided people the best I could and made my way into the first cove and around the buoy.  I glanced at my watch when it buzzed for the first 500 yard split and was shocked to see less than 10 minutes - WHAT??
I didn't to put too much thought into what was probably a fluke for a split, but I also didn't want to slow down.  I really tried to focus on the stroke techniques that I learned from swim camp the week before.  Remembering to keep my head down and follow through on my stroke underwater kept my mind occupied.  And then the next split showed another sub-10 minutes.  Holy crap!  As I was on the long stretch heading back to the start area I felt somebody swim into me.  I looked up and it was Allison!  What are the odds?!  I think she started to say something to me, but I was so excited about my time, I didn't want to waste a minute.  I kept going and not only was I able to keep up that pace, but I somehow got myself negative splits!  This is literally faster than I normal swim a mile in a pool.  I'll take it!  I waited for Allison who I knew was only a minute or so behind me, and the two of us had a laugh about running into each other and walked back over to the Team Z area.  Time to sit around and wait for the next event.
During the break, my body kept cramping up.  I went to adjust my wetsuit and my hand froze in a claw position.  Everytime I moved my hands, they would cramp up.  And I was dizzy, not as bad as I have felt in the past after a hard swim, but definitely dizzy.  I didn't have my ear plugs (still in the bag I took to swim camp) and I hadn't taken any ginger pills.  I mentally put both of those items on the "do not forget" list for bay swim.  My teammate offered me some food, and I took it, and had already had a bunch of water.  Not sure what to think of this other than to make sure I have some salt tabs with me for the bay.  But this is weird after only a single mile.  And I still had 2 miles to go?
I really had zero desire to swim 2 more laps around that lake, but it was time to start making our way over to the start area again.  I did remember to put some body glide on my neck and apply sunblock.  what I did not remember was that our swim coach had recommended that we practice nutrition by stuffing a gel packet into our wetsuit.  During bay swim we will be on our own for nutrition, and 3+ hours is a long time on the water.  I guess that will be a game-day situation.  Anyway, there we were back in line for the second event, and I ran into a few others from swim camp - Brian, Tom and Susan, and I think a couple of them will be at the Chesapeake Bay swim also.  More familiar faces!
I still had some cramping, especially in my left hand, but I tried to ignore it as I settled in to the first of two loops for the 2-miler.  Allison wasn't doing this event and instead walked along the edge of the lake cheering.  I followed her until the turn around the first buoy and even tried to wave once.  The next section to the end of the lake felt longer this time and I started feeling the wetsuit on my neck, despite the body glide.  Ouch, ouch, ouch, with every stroke.  Nothing I could do about that now. 
At the first split, I could tell that I was slowing down, but I was still going faster than my original predictions for this event.  For comparison purposes, the practice swim I did in Luray last month was 2:43 /100yd and just over a mile and pretty similar conditions (or dare I say this lake was even a little rougher than the condensed course of the practice swim).  I was blowing this pace away today!   And I was passing people.  A lot of people.  It really helped that everyone separated out pretty well and I didn't have to worry about getting kicked or swum over.
Finishing up that first loop was a good feeling and I just had to go around one more time.  One more time swimming into the cove.  One more time with the long stretch to the far end of the lake, which I am pretty sure felt longer and longer each time (though the map shows me turning in the same spot each time... huh).  One more long straight shot back to the drain, and one final time around the drain and I was on my way to the finish line. I was still passing people.  I felt good, though I was a little concerned with how I would feel when I stood up, given how dizzy I felt after the one more event, and I knew my body was already reacting.
I was so freaking happy to be out of the lake!  To my surprise, I didn't have any issues standing out or walking over the timing mats.  Allison was there taking pictures, so I met up with her and we walked back over to our area.  Time for that wetsuit to come off!  The cramping had eased up, though now my arms were shaking, likely a result of muscle overuse.  I didn't feel too dizzy either.  Phew, though I'm still going to make a point of making provisions for bay swim (ear plugs, ginger pills, salt tabs).  I sat around with Allison and Kim for a little bit and we helped take down the Team Z tent.  Taper time!  Only one more long swim before the bay.

Time for brunch!  These ladies, Daz, Sweeney and his friend, Dave, met us for brunch.  Then after a shower at Joann's house, a few of us went to a winery and out to dinner.  I was exhausted by the end of the day and was happy to crash in my bed.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

swim camp!

I'll tell you what. I had to dig deep and put on my big girl panties for this one. My first solo vacation...if you can call a weekend full of activity and swim training a "vacation".  I found out about the camp by signing up for a swim event that Paula invited me to do in early June.  The organization, Wave One Swimming, had the info on the website when I went to sign up for the Washington Crossing event.  I sent an email to a few people to see if there was any other interest, but it didn't really fit into anybody's schedule or plans.  Except... I was still intrigued and the timing was right.  I sent an email through the contact form on the website, and while I never got any response, I went ahead and signed up!  Once I get an idea in my head, I have to act on it, so I did.  This is very much out of my comfort zone and I was proud of myself for even getting this far.

I arrived at "the Cottage" around 3pm on Thursday and was the first to check-in.  I sat out on the back deck overlooking the ocean until more people arrived.  First there was Andi who flew in from NY, and then Jillian, from NC, who had found me on facebook through the event website a few weeks prior.  Immediately Andi said she was going to go for a swim.  Both Jillian and I seemed to want to swim, but were going to wait for the group that was going later.  Instead, we hung around the house and met the others as they started trickling in.  Eventually the group migrated over to the hotel bar while we waited on dinner and further instruction.
The schedule posted to the website... I still have no idea what 'Hands Across the Ocean" is??
This schedule, which played into my decision to sign up for the camp, was almost immediately thrown out the window.  We had an email from the head coach, Denis, earlier on Thursday saying there was no agenda for day one; no time frame for introductions, no orientation, and no optional swim.  I started kicking myself for not swimming earlier with Andi.
Yep..that's $9 glasses of wine in plastic cups.. yikes!
I was extremely disappointed the optional swim was canceled.  I mean... I was there to SWIM!  That was literally the primary goal.  And not for nothing but this was not a cheap weekend, and the price per swim just went up about $27.  With no other set activities for the day, Jillian and I headed back to the bar, got in a couple mile walk on the beach and explored some of the local nightlife.  When we made it back to the house, we realized we had missed group introductions -- oops!  But.. nobody had told us what time anything was happening!  At this point, I was seriously questioning my decision to sign up and crossing my fingers things would get better.

That's me to the left of the girl (Jillian) in the pink shirt, across from the brick wall.
Friday morning started with yoga, as promised, though not on the beach because somebody had objected to that (and I later learned that there were a couple folks whose opinions mattered more than others).  Yoga was awesome though, probably one of my favorite yoga classes that I've ever taken (granted, there haven't been too many).

We all changed into our swim stuff and met at the house for some classroom-style swim instruction.  I was a little shocked the emphasis seemed to be mostly on how to win races versus acknowledging and working towards individual goals, but there were definitely some very good tips and advice that came out of this discussion.  Finally it was time to go to the bay and get in the water!
The first swim of camp started with a series of open water drills.  I know drills are super helpful, and I found meaning in all of them (and I am definitely glad we had them!), but I was starting to get a little antsy to actually SWIM.  My biggest goal for this camp was to get in as much open water swimming for distance as I could.  As we set out on the actual swimming portion of this workout, I was pleased that I was keeping up with the middle of the pack... at least up until somebody swam into me and knocked off my goggles.  I fell behind as I had to stop and adjust.  Still, we got a swim in, so I was happy.  I think I did about 1500 yards this swim really trying to focus on the techniques we practiced in the drills.

We headed back to the house for lunch and free time.  It seemed most people were content to sit around, but Jillian and I decided to go on a beach walk.  We got in another 2 miles which made me happy - neither of us are the type that enjoy sitting around doing nothing, so it was good to get out and get in another activity.  Swim camp was improving.
Next up was the first ocean swim.  I have done a few ocean swims, most recently the Tiki Swim in San Diego, and did OK, but I am really not a fan.  I took the coaches' suggestion to wear fins for this swim, and watched as most of the group took off.  I was very hesitant to get in and was grateful there were a few others hanging back also, because now we were kind of on our own; not without a coach, but without the comfort of a huge group.
Jennifer and me...what are the odds?!
I got in and made my way through the waves, though I was still super uncomfortable with being in the middle of the ocean.  The wind was crazy and we were all definitely getting tossed around.  I'm not sure you could call what I was doing "swimming" but I was in there and I was moving along.  I looked up and saw Jennifer right next to me and we managed to stick together the entire time.  Having someone around you makes all the difference in the world.  Denis, who was on a surf board and came to tell us we looked good but were too far out, so we started making our way back.  Finally after about 800 yards, Jennifer and I decided we'd had enough and "swam" back into shore.  Not a long swim, but in the ocean, so success.
The shower felt so good after a day of activity!  Andi, Jillian and I decided to walk into "town" and relax with a couple ciders as a reward for our hard work.  We stopped at a grocery store to stock up on wine and water (the tap water in the house was DISGUSTING) and headed back to see what the deal was for dinner...cause still no itinerary.  When we got back, people were just sitting around, and we were starving, so we ended up turning around and going out for pizza.  We returned to the house to find we missed the analysis of the swim videos that were taken of all of us earlier - d'oh!  Luckily, Denis agreed to show us our videos anyway, and I will say that it was hugely beneficial to see myself swimming and have little things pointed out to me.  I am doing better with keeping my head down, but really need to work on keeping my arms straight through the entire stroke (versus curling in on the bottom half).  Friday was decent.

Saturday morning, we moved yoga to the beach due to popular demand and it was great, despite sand getting everywhere (literally, EVERYWHERE).  Again, I really enjoyed the yoga session and think it was a great complement to the swimming.  Then we all packed up to head to our Stand Up Paddle board lesson. 
I'm not entirely sure how I feel about our paddle board excursion.  I loved the idea of SUP as cross-training and working on balance, and I loved being out on the water doing something different.  However, one of our guides was a huge jerk who kind of ruined part of the experience.  He constantly yelled and berated everyone for not going fast enough, not listening to instruction, not being able to read the currents well (he was literally heard saying "you must not be a very good swimmer if you can't read these currents better").  I can't stand up or kneel on the board for too long at a time because my feet and knees start to hurt/cramp, so I have to rotate.  In order to switch, you have to stop paddling for a second, which I got yelled at for.  I was told not to even bother standing up if I couldn't balance.  Umm... a) I can balance, and b) isn't this a learning experience anyway?!  Overall though, I think it was a good experience and would do it again; maybe at a different outfitter.
As it was already lunchtime and we still didn't have any kind of itinerary, a few of us were concerned we weren't going to get in 2 swims this day, but we were assured we would!  Unfortunately, we were told both of them were going to be in the ocean.  I know that getting more ocean swim experience is the only way I will get more comfortable with it, but this was not my goal for this weekend.  Nor was it advertised that this would be an ocean swim focused weekend; I would not have signed up for that.  This partially feeds into the idea that the weekend's activities seemed to cater around a few swimmers' who had a prior relationship with Denis.  Luckily, there were a few of us that felt this way, and our amazing yoga instructor (and swim coach), Leslie, agreed to divide the group and take some of us to the bay.
Can't say enough good things about this group!
Jennifer, Andi, me, Jillian, Leslie and Jay
The individualized instruction and support of this small group was absolutely amazing and was my favorite part of camp thus far.  Leslie was on the paddle board and was able to notice little things that we each were doing.  We took a few breaks during the swim for feedback and were able to apply what we learned immediately.  Apparently I don't kick.. ever!  Leslie also provided some additional drills that were specific to what I needed to work on to improve my stroke.  We swam a little over a mile during this workout.  Great workout!  I am so thankful for Leslie's willingness to break apart from the main group and provide more personalized swim sessions to those of us that wanted it.  She really listened to our needs and worked with Denis to help make the activities beneficial for everyone.  The individualized instruction we got was invaluable.
We had about an hour before the next ocean swim was supposed to start, but Jillian and I didn't want to wait.  There isn't much you can do in an hour, and we'd rather have that break to chill out a bit before dinner.  Leslie agreed to take out a group in the ocean earlier, so we jumped at the opportunity.  It ended up only being the 3 of us, but I felt a little better today!  I won't say it was easy, but I swam a half mile and did OK.  Then, we paused to check in with what we wanted to accomplish, and Jillian surprised us with her sneaky little plan... a suggestion to swim the half mile back against the current... WHAT??  I agreed, and while I considered quitting a couple times, I made it!  I felt incredible that I had met that challenge... Super pleased with that workout!
We found Jennifer as we started getting out of the water.  Nobody was there for the "official" second swim of the day, so Jillian offered to get back in with her, but I was spent after that against-current swim.  The group finally showed up and Denis offered a relay idea, practicing entry and exit with the waves, but I was done, both physically and mentally.  Jillian and I headed back for showers and a little wine before the team dinner. We all stopped for ice cream and then had a restorative yoga class to end the day.  I loved this day!


Unfortunately, swim camp ended on kind of a sour note for me.  We gathered at 7:30 for the final swim of the weekend.  In the beginning of his talk, Denis suggested that maybe we could divide into a couple groups again, based on our goals for the morning.  We were going to the ocean and had the option of swimming against the current, with the current, or both.  But when we got down to the beach, and a few of us said that we wanted to swim with the current, he had changed his mind and said that we were only going out as one group and we had no choice but to swim against the current with everybody else.  He actually got a little snippy about it.  Conditions looked even worse this morning than the previous couple days and I was nervous...and pissed that this was our only option.   I really wish there had been more options to accommodate a wider range of individual goals; not everybody was there to master ocean swims and win races...and certainly not everybody felt comfortable with the single workout presented to us.
Andi decided not to get in because it looked too dangerous.  Jennifer, Jay and I held back as the rest of the group started off.  I wanted to get in, even though I knew I wouldn't go long.  Jennifer and I agreed to try to swim to the next hotel.  We made our way into the waves and went straight into survival mode.  I'm not sure if experiences like this do more to make me more comfortable, or do more to make me never want to swim in the ocean again.  Denis did stay back with us and tried to encourage us, but I have a mental block when it comes to ocean swimming.  I also felt that because I was so hesitant with ocean swims, Denis assumed I was a novice swimmer and treated me as such.  I am a decent swimmer; not that I need to prove myself to anybody, but want my coaching to be commiserate with my ability and experience. Also.. It's hard for me to think about technique when I am struggling for survival.

About 7 minutes in, Jennifer grabbed my attention and said she was considering calling it and going in.  I said I was going to try 3 more minutes to make an even 10, and she agreed, but less than a minute later I said eff-it and we made our way to shore.  We hadn't even made it halfway down our own hotel!  Jay got out with us, and the 3 of us stood around talking about what an awful experience that was.  I didn't want to end camp on that note and suggested that maybe the 3 of us go over to the bay.  Without a coach, we wouldn't venture far, but at least it would be something that more resembles swimming.  As I was letting Leslie know what we wanted to do, a lifeguard called Jennifer and Jay over and reiterated what we already knew, that we had no business being in the ocean in those conditions, especially trying to swim against the current.  We walked over to the bay and did a short workout.  The bay also had a strong current so we got practice swimming against that.  Glad we got in that short bay swim, but overall I was disappointed with how the morning went.

I returned to my room and took a shower, packed and started loading up my car.  Then I noticed the final yoga class starting; of course since I wasn't with the big group and there was no itinerary, I had no idea, so I missed that. Bummer!


I have really mixed feelings about swim camp. Leslie helped make this a positive experience after a rocky start.  And I will forever be thankful for the group of women I met, especially Jillian, Andi and Jennifer.  We challenged each other and gave tough love when it was due, but most of all we encouraged and supported each other.  I really enjoyed both our swim sessions and my down time with this group.  If not for Leslie and these ladies, I probably would have hated swim camp!

I should add that nobody at this camp was UN-supportive.  In fact, they were all very nice.  I enjoyed my conversations with Brian, Janet, Anita, Tom, Susan.... it just so happened that they weren't part of the little sub-group that had formed and I clicked so well with.

At the end of the day, I am super thankful for the experience, and I do think that I gained a lot.  I met some great people.  I got some ocean swim exposure.  I challenged myself.  I got some great feedback on my technique and some drills I can continue to practice.  And most importantly, no time in open water is bad time for my immediate goals (bay swim!).

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Mother's Day 4-Miler

Sarah and I bought a race package through =PR= running this year, and this is one of the races we decided to do as part of that.  I had mixed feelings as my schedule started filling up.  The two sunday prior were the North Face 10K and the Nanticoke River Swim, the weekend after is swim camp, and then the next 2 weekends are another open water practice race and the bay swim.  That's literally every single Sunday booked for awhile.  But, we had already signed up for this and I'd already bailed on the St. Patrick's Day 5K we were supposed to do, so I sucked it up.
I arrived at the park pretty early and got a good parking spot, or so I thought.  It was a half mile walk to the start line area to grab my bib number and t-shirt, a half mile walk back to the car to drop off the shirt and text Sarah, and then another half mile walk back to the start area.  Geez!
I'd told Sarah that I'd meet her and Dave at the 12-13 min/mile pace sign that they'd set up.  Interesting that it was the slowest category they had??  Sarah and Dave arrived and after a potty stop and a "before" picture, we were ready to go.  It didn't seem like a large event, but given that it was a mother's day targeted race, I expected that there would be slower folks, including all the kids and strollers (ugh.. I hate stroller races!).
We started and Sarah immediately moved up to stick with the faster runners.  Dave and I were together for a hot second before all the strollers started weaving in and out and we got separated.  I knew that the first half mile or so was a long uphill.  I was jogging and considered walking the hill, but somehow - not sure why - I decided to keep jogging.  I made it up the hill and turned the corner and soon was at the first mile marker.  Wow, I'd run a whole mile!  It's been awhile since I've done that.

I kept on jogging, albeit slowly, but jogging.  I wasn't sure how long I would keep that up and didn't eliminate the possibility of walking in my mind.  I made my way to the second mile marker and soon after the only water stop on the course.  I did stop and walk to grab my cup and drink the water, but got right back into my jog.  I still wasn't sure how far I'd jog or even if that was my goal, but I stayed with it.
When I got to the 3rd mile marker without taking a walk break (other than the water stop), I decided I wanted to see if I could make it the whole 4 miles.  I mean it was only one more mile now!  Of course, no sooner did I create this goal for myself than we rounded a corner and there was another long uphill.  I wasn't prepared to give up though so I plugged along and the reward for making it up that hill was the final downhill stretch back to the park. 

Towards the bottom of the hill, I heard a pidder padder coming up behind me and a second later, Dave appeared.  Just 0.15 miles to go, although that final stretch was another uphill.  I wasn't about to start walking now so I chugged along and crossed the finish line where Sarah was waiting for us.  I was so proud of myself - 4 miles without a walk break?!  I can't even remember the last time I did that!
We grabbed some water, took our "after" photo, and headed to brunch.  Not a bad way to start the day!

Monday, May 8, 2017

Nanticoke River Swim [a big fat DNF]

What a stupid awful day.

Saturday evening, I drove to Andrea's house close to Annapolis (and promptly decided that I will be staying over as her guest the night before the bay swim also, considering how close she is) and we went out for dinner and to watch the Caps/Pens game.  She happens to be a die hard Penguins fan so I felt extra happy we pulled out a Caps win (even though I doubt we'll win the series). 
We were both up and ready to go at the previously agreed upon time of 5:50am for a quick stop for some iced tea for me, and the 2 hour drive past Cambridge (the Choptank looked a little choppy as we passed!) to some small town in the middle of nowhere along the Nanticoke river.  The swim wasn't scheduled to start until 10, but there was a triathlon event also and they recommended getting there by 8 before they started shutting down roads.  It was a little annoying to have so much extra time on our hands, and we used that time to scope out the water.
Cold, windy and choppy...not my favorite combination
Sure enough, just like we saw on the Choptank, there were whitecaps out there in the river.  Andrea's friend, Keith, who is also her swim coach, reiterated some advice to her, to make a game time decision and if the swim isn't benefitting anything (i.e. not helping with swim training), no point pushing out the distance.  Hmm.. except the point is to see if I can do 3 miles, my longest open water swim ever.  Of course I'm gonna do the whole thing, even if it's not my best time.
You can kinda see the whitecaps out there at the end of the jetty -
most of the course is off to the right of the jetty.
I overheard some rumblings about whether they would cancel the swim, but the announcer came on the loud speaker and told us that despite the small watercraft advisory, the swim was going to go on as schedule, "so if you signed up to swim 3 miles, prepare to swim 3 miles."   I can only imagine that was his best attempt at a joke.  Not funny.
It was really cold, only in the 50's, and we decided to put on our wetsuits early to keep warm.  I pulled out all my gear and was super excited to see that my assigned swim cap was the exact same color as the white caps out on the water.  This was later proven to be as disastrous as I'd expected when a jet ski zoomed by me about a foot and a half away from my head, narrowly missing me.  The water looked like it was getting worse.  We watched the kids race start, and seriously couldn't believe they were letting children in that water, even if they were staying in the sheltered area between the jettys.
Seriously, why would they give us WHITE swim caps???  Fluorescent Pink?  Neon Green?
As we started lining up to head into the water, the one thing I was extremely grateful for was that we were done after the swim and weren't going to have to jump on a bike in that freezing weather and 18mph winds.  The water temperature was actually pretty decent, even if not the 72 degrees that was told to us.  The countdown of 3-2-1 and we were off.  Getting out to the end of the jetty to make the right turn up north in the river was the first challenge.  I broke it up in my head, just get to the end of the jetty.  Then, just get yourself to that first buoy.  Andrea later told me that Keith had made a comment after seeing me slightly ahead of them that I was looking pretty good.  I had thought the same thing with my first couple 500yd splits just over 10 min which was my goal, despite the swells and the current.  I thought, OK, no biggie, I would be able to do this loop twice and get in 3 miles. Annoying and challenging, but doable.
My face in this photo says it all -- what were we getting ourselves into?!
Then I rounded that first buoy and the world changed.  The swells grew and tossed me around.  I could no longer swim freestyle, and breastroke is not an option for me, as the wetsuit holds my body in a position that kills my back.  I tried some side stroke.  I tried some back stroke.  I was getting tossed everywhere and it was taking every ounce of strength that I had to keep my head above water.  This was dangerous.  OK, I told myself, one loop was all I was going to do.  This must be what Keith was talking about when he said "if it's not helping".  This was not helping my swim training at all.

I couldn't see the second buoy.  I had to wait until the waves were just right so that I could see in the distance where I was supposed to swim.  I finally spotted the buoy and realized I was nowhere on course.  At various times, I was the exact same distance from that buoy but always at a different direction.  I was not making any progress.  That's when I felt my timing chip start falling off.  I grabbed the strap but the chip was gone.  That's also about the time the jet ski came close to running me down.  It made me a little nervous that I was out there in the middle of nowhere, no chip, no road ID (long story; the new one is in the mail), and clearly hard to see.  I just had to get to that buoy!  After that, I figured we'd be with the current and it would be OK.  But I had to get to the buoy!

There was one, maybe two, other swimmers around me.  A guy on a jet ski, who had already pulled another swimer, came by and asked if I as OK.  I hesitated but said yes, I was OK, even though I made no effort of any further forward progress.  I was bobbing up and down trying to get my bearings.  Then the jet ski went to the other swimmer.  That swimmer was smart enough to say no, and she was taken with the jet ski.  I kind of kicked myself for not getting on the jet ski myself, but now there was no more room.  I "swam" a little more, didn't get any closer to that dang buoy, and told myself if another jet ski came around, I would take it. 
Those first couple splits are fine... and then it all went downhill, fast.
It took awhile but finally another jet ski did come over to me.  I said I needed a ride and they threw me the buoy.  I tried to get on the jet ski, but it was never steady and with my wetsuit on, I just couldn't get up there.  So I held onto the buoy and decided to let it drag me behind.  What I didn't count on was the water spewing out of the jet ski engine right in my face.  I couldn't breath at all.  That's fine, I thought, we'd get to the rescue boat soon enough, and at least I wasn't still on my own out there.  Wrong, it was taking forever and I'm pretty sure the jet ski almost flipped a few times (Andrea said she saw one actually flip while trying to pull a swimmer).  I asked if I could reposition myself.  I held onto the seat and curled my body around the back edge of the jet ski.  The other rescued swimmer held my arm with dear life as we sped along.  This was easily the most uncomfortable jet ski ride I've ever been on. 

We finally got to the rescue boat and I let go of the handle.  I still had my ear plugs on so I couldn't hear anything people were saying.  The jet ski sped away and I rolled right off the back of the boat.  W.T.F.  I looked up at the rescue boat and they were waving me over.  I put my foot on a ledge and 2 people lifted me up onto the boat.  I started shivering right away, but heard "Jen!"  I looked around at the other couple swimmers who had been rescued before me, and one of them was another Team Z'er - what are the odds?!  I had done the open water practice swim with Donna the week before, knew she was going to be there and had even chatted a bit before the start.  She did the bay swim last year and the first thing she said to me was "don't worry, the bay is nothing like this!"   I'm not sure it did much to ease my current feeling, but it was good to hear. 
Turns out we should have minded the posted signs!
The boat rescuers wrapped us in foil blankets but it did very little to keep us warm as we were soaking wet in the strong winds and chilly air temperatures.  The one guy kept saying over and over that conditions were horrible and he couldn't believe they let us get in this water.  He said that after that 2nd buoy, the current was more in our favor in one direction (east/west), but not the other (north/south) and they'd watched countless people get swept from the 2nd buoy back to the 1st buoy rather than the end of the loop!  Kinda glad I didn't try to stick it out.  The boat was rocking around like crazy and I was thankful I'd taken ginger pills or I would have been seasick for sure.  We had a couple more people get loaded on, and even though we were full, we had to wait for all of the swimmers to pass, just in case.  There was only one other boat out there!  A couple times we noticed swimmers waving their arms for help and had to send in fire & rescue or a jet ski.  I kept watching for Andrea and Keith, knowing their plan was to stay together, but I never saw them.  It was so cold!  Finally when there were only 3 swimmers remaining, and enough jet skis still on the water to cover them, the rescue boat headed for land.

I have never seen my feet as blue as they were when we pulled into to dock.  It hurt to try to stand and climb out, but I was so happy to be back.  I hobbled over to where we'd stored our stuff, wrapped myself in my towel and got out of my wetsuit and swimsuit (yep, right there in the middle of the crowds - there was no way I was keeping anything wet against my skin).  I put on my sweats and t-shirt, socks and shoes.  Kinda better but still freezing.  I noticed Andrea's wetsuit was with her things so I knew she was back, and I set out to find her.  She had only completed one lap but said that Keith was still out there (one of those final 3 swimmers we knew about), so we stood there and cheered them in.  I was still SO COLD.  My bones were shivering inside my body.
Back on land and dry, but still freezing!
Keith was the last swimmer out of the water after doing the entire 3 miles!  He started shivering right away, and after a couple minutes of trying to warm him up, he was taken to the ambulance.  I knew we weren't going to leave until we knew how Keith was doing, but I was too cold to stand outside in the wind anymore.  Andrea gave me her keys and I walked the half mile to sit in the car.  I didn't have any cell phone reception... I was worried that Andrea thought I was anxious to leave and had wanted to tell her to take her time and make sure Keith was ok.  She was simultaneously trying to make sure I was OK cause I hadn't looked so good.  My body was slowly warming up, though I was told later that I probably should have let somebody look at me for hypothermia symptoms after sitting on the boat for so long.

Luckily, Keith was OK once he got warmed up, and eventually we were all on our way to lunch.  As we drove over the Nanticoke bridge, we both started shouting "F-You Nanticoke" as Andrea threw up her 2 middle fingers -- we sure hoped the passing cars weren't confused!  Food was good but I could not wait to get home, take a shower, and climb into clean clothes.  We got back to Andrea's about 2 hours later, hugged goodbye and both said "I wish we could say it was a good time, but... it wasn't!"  What a horrible fucking day!

Friday, May 5, 2017

North Face Endurance 10K

For the 2nd weekend day in a row, my alarm clock went off at 5:20am.  They day before I had to wake up early to drive down to Luray for a practice open water swim as part of the bay swim training.  I haven't had a weekend like this with back-to-back early workout days since Ironman training!
Me, Lacey and Jessie before getting on the shuttles!
I made the drive out to Loudoun County and met up with Lacey, Jessie and Mindy before catching the shuttles to our various races.  Lacey and I were doing the 10K and Jessie and Mindy were doing the half marathon, which started in a different location, but we would all end up at the same finish line.  Between the shuttle ride, picking up my packet and shirt, dropping off my bag at bag check, and using the bathrooms, we didn't have much time to get bored before lining up for the start.  Lacey was wave #3 and I was wave #5 but they seemed pretty relaxed about the whole thing so I went ahead and started with Lacey.
Lacey, Mindy and me
Of course, Lacey and I only stayed together for about a quarter of a mile as we ran through the grass around the field.  This was the same course as the North Face Marathon Relay that I did last year, but luckily not *quite* as muddy.  I jogged the entire field portion, a little less than a mile, before giving myself a walk break.  I did my normal run when I can, walk when I need/want to routine as I went through the golf course, onto the wide path and crossed a couple bridges. 

When I got into the trail section, I saw the leaders returning from the out and back course.  I decided to jog until I saw Lacey.  This was mostly single track, so everyone was running single file, and it was a little hard to run past everyone going the other direction.  Everyone was so freaking nice, cheering me on, giving me high-fives.  It was to the point that I thought maybe they felt sorry for me being so far in the back.  I glanced around and was happy to see that there was a steady stream of people behind me also. Phew.  Then I saw Lacey, gave her a high five, and rewarded myself with another walk break. 
Lacey and I finished the 10K!
The sections back in the woods were really nice and scenic.  A girl passed me about halfway through the run, and I managed to keep up with her for the second half of the race.  We leap frogged each other and it was nice to have the motivation to keep going.  I was in the last mile or so when the lead half marathon runner passed me.  Luckily we were back on the wide trail by then and he was able to pass easily.  Back through the golf course, and I was almost done!  I started running just before the 6 mile marker and jogged my way into the finish, thankful I hadn't decided to sign up for a longer distance race as I had been tempted to when Mindy and Jessie sent out the link.
Mindy and Jessie after the half marathon finish!
I got some water, met up with Lacey and got my bag.  We walked around for a little while before Lacey had to head out to make it up to Philly for work.  I hung around for awhile and cheered in the half marathoners, waiting for Jessie and Mindy.  Then it was off to Joann's house for a shower and a day of lounging around on her back deck.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

preparing for the bay swim

By the time I actually got into the bay swim in the 4th (and final) round of the lottery, I was already 4 weeks into the training plan.  The plan called for 4500 that week but I could barely swim 3000 (hadn't really been in a pool for about a year, and not consistently since ironman training).  I made myself a modified plan that gave me a build up to the mileage, still making sure I got in 3 workouts of 7000 before the event.  So far, I've only missed one!
Literally, the idea of swimming more than 3000 yards during a single swim workout has been mind-blowing.  The monotony of swimming back and forth, back and forth, back and forth... it would make anybody want to scream in absolute boredom!

That's my brother and JJ in the top, and Seamus on the bottom.. no photo op with my SIL, Jessi
I did my longest workout ever of 5000 yards before driving down to the outer banks to hang out with my brother and his family for the weekend.  I was so freaking proud of myself. I mean, FIVE THOUSAND YARDS!!!
Me, Paula, Cindy, Joann and Anjelika.. one of the few shots of all 5 of us!
Then I headed down to Fort Lauderdale for a girls trip and let's be honest.  It's amazing that I even made it to the pool.  This is the one that I missed, but I did get in a decent workout, swimming long course at the swimming hall of fame. 
And then I did 6000.  I did it twice.  And then once more. 
And then this happened.  7000 yards.  LONGEST. SWIM. EVER. It really sucked, mostly mind-numbing swimming back and forth for that long.  Holy goggle eyes!!  It's a little daunting to think I have to swim this distance in the pool two more times before the bay swim.....
I did my first practice open water swim of the season this past weekend down in Luray.  First time in a wetsuit since October 2015, and wow was that a struggle!!  I'm not sure what happened the first loop (course set up in 150m loops) - my goggles were leaking, I was uncomfortable in my wetsuit, I couldn't get my breath to even out. I stopped and switched goggles, adjusted the wetsuit, and was fine after that....but slow!  Makes me a little nervous.

There are 3 more open water swims on my calendar leading up to the big day.  3 miles in a river that is similar the Choptank (think Eagleman.. Ironman Maryland) just a bit past Cambridge in Salisbury on the eastern shore.  Then there is another 3 miles in Reston over Memorial Day weekend, broken up into 2 events, a 1mi and then a 2mi swim back to back.  Finally, the week before the Bay Swim, I'll be swimming across the Potomac for one more practice.  Oh and I signed up for a 3 day swim camp in North Carolina later this month - so excited!