Enter Big Shoulders open water swim race. Big Shoulders because that’s the city where it takes place. Starting from the Ohio Street Beach, the course takes you out into Lake Michigan on a triangle. One leg of the triangle brings you back towards the sea wall with the backdrop of the Chicago skyline. I’m not sure anything could be more architecturally beautiful.
We headed down to the city early and found ourselves at Ohio Street Beach before 7 am. Swimmers sat on the wall with caps and goggles. Not many had wetsuits. Initial reports from those brave enough to get in said the water was cold. How could this be? A week ago it was 78 degrees. But enter the remnants of Hurricane Gustav with 24 hours of steady rain and you get a drop of about 10 degrees.
But I was prepared with my full sleeved wetsuit. Note that when you show up for an open water swim race, a real swim, a swimmers swim, a swim sponsored by a masters swim team – wearing your wetsuit sends you straight from tri cool kid to total swim dork. Such a dork that they actually have a separate category for you – 2.5K swim dork division (ps – entry into this division requires wetsuit).
I knew I had to warm up. I had to be prepared. I was determined to overcome this swim. Last year I attempted the 5K with no wetsuit and ended up going for a very long rescue boat ride after getting too cold. It’s back there in the blog archives. Have a read. This year there would be no boat. I am doing this and doing it well. Wetsuit on, I walked into the water and confirmed – after about two steps – it was cold. Swam a few strokes then could feel it – impending cold water freak out. OH COME ON! Liz, you can stand in this water. Put your face in and swim. You are doing this. You did not pay a $50 entry fee for a boat ride today. You will get through this swim.
I stand at the start line and look around. Already there are hundreds of swimmers in the water – those that chose the 5K swim. Making that choice was my husband. Actually when you train for Ironman you don’t really get a choice between 2.5 and 5K. You go to the distance. For the record, he wore his wetsuit too.
The announcer told my wave to get in the water and swim to the start buoy. I’m ok – I’m warmed up and ready to go and……..oh no. It’s cold. Goggles are filling with water. Empty them. NOW. Here it comes again – cold water freakout. I can’t believe it. I’ve been a triathlete for how many years? But I am human. And sometimes weak. I start swimming away from the start. Two minutes to go. Liz swim your ass back to the buoy. Goggles are full again. Stand, empty them. Swim back. Swim away. Swim towards. You have 30 seconds Liz. Now or never to start this swim. So I start swimming towards the start line and hit it just as the start goes off.
I’m on my way.
After getting over myself I feel quite good. I am with the front pack – nevermind they have no wetsuits – to the first buoy then start making some moves. Along the second leg of the triangle I keep pace with another woman and then at the final turn buoy I pick it up back to the finish line. I hit my goal - and I haven't done that in a long time. My goal was to break 40 minutes and to win the female wetsuit division. Both accomplished! All in all it felt good to be racing again. It felt good to get nervous, even a little scared. There's something to be said about experiencing feelings and situations you cannot practice when you train.
Here I am after the race with Beth. I believe this is Beth’s first year back at swimming after a too long hiatus. Several years ago she went to the swimming Olympic trials representing Puerto Rico. We usually swim in the same lane at masters and I can attest that she is still darn fast.
Check out the race t-shirt. Only in Chicago. Someone on my masters team liked it so much he wanted to buy an extra shirt. Someone else on our team felt this shirt was forcing an agenda on him. Oddly enough we all get along just fine in the circle swimming world of a pool lane. Throw in a little politics and all of a sudden swimmers are splitting the lane even though we're swimming at the same speed.
At least masters doesn’t start up again until after the election. For the sake of our lanes, that is probably a good thing.
Boss doesn't care which side you are on - his vote is just to swim!