Sunday, June 7, 2009

Playa del Run 1 Mile Ocean Swim Report



Playa del Run One Mile Ocean Swim
Huntington Beach
1st, Age Group
12th Overall
FULL RESULTS

This morning I headed down to Bolsa Chica state beach for the Playa del Run one mile ocean swim race. I considered the aquathlon (swim 1k/run 5k) however I needed a solid benchmark for my open water swimming, and I had a long-ish run planned for later in the day. So just swimming for today! with only two weeks to go until Ironman Coeur d'Alene Idaho, I was anxious to see where my swim fitness was this late in the game.

At the start I lined up with about 25 other folks approximately one mile south of the finish line. It would be a running beach start, with a swim of around 150 meters offshore to the first buoy. There were 5 buoys we would pass on our swim north before turning east to the beach finish line.

I looked around and noticed there were several fit-looking guys and gals who were in full body race-suits, not wetsuits. I figured they were probably better candidates to follow and draft behind rather than the other fit-looking folks in top-of-the-line wetsuits (whom I judged to be triathletes like me and thus probably inferior swimmers). After the race I would find out that the "purists" racing sans-wetsuit included former Stanford swim team members and Olympic trials qualifiers.

After the airhorn signaled the start, we ran down to the water, dolphin-dove through the surf (hoping to avoid stingrays) and we were off. I managed to stay with the leaders through the first 200 yards or so, part of my strategy to get on some fast feet. However I could not find a rhythm right away and the group of leaders (sans wetsuits) left me in their wake.

After around 1000 meters of soul-searching (why do I suck? why didn't I train more? what pace am I swimming?), and poor navigating leaving me around 50 feet too far out from the buoy line (costing me precious time) I finally found a solid rhythm and was able to increase my pace and finish the last 500 meters feeling very strong. When I hit the last buoy before making the 90 degree turn to the shore, I actually double-checked that there wasn't another buoy because I felt so fresh and it felt too early.

During the final ~200 meters to the finish I felt very strong but again screwed up my sighting and found myself drifting too far north of the finish line. I have to stop this habit of swimming bonus meters...not cool! The kicker was right when I was only 50 meters from the beach, the rip kept pulling me out. I was swimming in place for what seemed like forever. I finally took a wave in far enough that allowed me to get my feet on the ground and again dolphin dive towards the beach. I hobbled up the shore through the finish line in around 20 minutes of actual swim time, according to my Official Timekeeper.

My new BlueSeventy Helix wetsuit worked flawlessly! By far the fastest and most flexible wetsuit I have ever worn (I have owned 4 triathlon wetsuits since 1999: QRs and Orcas). It is remarkably easy to put on and take off as well, yet fits me perfectly. The old adage about a wetsuit being uncomfortable or even painful on dry land to swim fast just doesn't apply here. How much faster am I with this wetsuit? A lot. Every other wetsuit I have worn has severely restricted my shoulder flexibility. Zero restriction here. Hard to believe, but true! I am in love with this suit.

After I heard my swim time was only 20 minutes and change, I realized the course was a bit short. I spoke with the uber-swimmer leaders who all agreed the swim was 100, maybe 200 meters short. So as far as benchmarking for Ironman Coeur d'Alene, I will look at this as 23 minutes, conservatively. That would be equal to a 58 minute split for the Ironman which would be a bit on the fast side for me historically but about right...

I have several more open water swims planned for this summer and fall to prepare me for Ironman and Ironman 70.3 World Championships. The Playa del Run Aquathlon had a fantastic turnout! I plan on entering at least one this summer as well as part of my training program. Looks like a blast.

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