20110723

Little Uno Big Deuce

Little Uno Big Deuce is a one or two mile swim at Jordan Lake, and is part of  the Triangle Open Water Mile Swim Series in Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area. It is also my first open water event and my first two-miler.

Leading up to it, I've been uneasy about my ability to swim two miles continuously in murky water, no black line, and no end in sight. My fear is later confirmed that open water swimming is almost a different animal than pool swim.  But what I didn't account for was the new experience that I was about to engage and the excitement of it.

Arriving at Jordan Lake a little after 6 a.m., the sun has just risen above the horizon. An hour later, I found myself lining up at knee-high water with the rest of the big deuce (two mile) group, waiting for the big moment to come. My race strategy is to copy the people in front of me. They run, I run. They start to drop into the water and swim. I do the same. And the rest of my plan is summed up in two words: keep swimming.

I know I have to sight often because my arms crossover a lot. With no black line at the bottom to guide me, I have to pay a lot more attention to my own body and feel the water. Sometimes I succeeded; sometimes I failed. There were times when I looked up and saw the buoy in front of me; but there were even more times when I lost sight of the buoy, despite my effort in trying to do what I thought I should.

The two-mile course consists of two laps of a triangular course, plus some distance from the shore to the first point of the triangle. Within ten minutes, the pack had already gone way ahead of me and I found myself swimming mostly alone, with a couple swimmers here and there. At the end of the first mile, many of the one-milers, who started the race ten minutes after we did, had caught up with me. Inexperienced, I followed a couple one-milers beside me going towards the shore while I should make a 110-degree turn at the last buoy to embark on my second lap. Eventually, I reckoned my grievous mistake and returned to do my second lap. Now with no other swimmers in sight, I almost felt like crying.

Well, I didn't. I just kept swimming and tried not to think about how stupid I was. The lake was choppier than before and I learned that I had to go with the water, not fight it. I still steered off course quite a bit but the second lap was surprisingly enjoyable. I just hoped that I would make the two-hour cut-off and they didn't have to pull me out of the water.

As I ran back onto the beach, people were still hanging out. And even though I was pretty convinced that I was the last one out there, I wasn't. Very close, though. At the end, I am thrilled that I finished something I wasn't sure I'd be able to, and am even more psyched about getting back to the shop and getting out there again in the future.

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