After a year of exile, I once again claimed a spot in the Great Chesapeake Bay Swim, the annual aquatic trek from Sandy Point State Park to Kent Island. I was really excited for the race this year because of my enforced absence last year, and the nerves kind of kicked in a bit the day before.
Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t really interested in helping me out. I’m a serious pansy when it comes to hot weather, and hot weather combined with really warm water temperatures in the bay (78 degrees! Holy crap!) combined to make the day a huge challenge for me. The first problem came when I failed to keep water with me during the wait for the first wave to start. I’d already sent my bag (with my water) off to the other side of the bay, so there I sat for at least 30 minutes in the heat, waiting for the first wave to get started. Then, after crossing the timing mats, the wait for the second wave dragged on and on… I was dehydrated before even getting in the water. The first 2.5 miles were terrible. I felt weak and listless and had no energy.
Due to the really warm water and the long wait on shore, I stopped for water at both aid boats on the course this year. That’s a huge change, since I usually trek on through without stopping at any. Around mile 2, the current really seemed to kick in, and a lot of swimmers were fighting to avoid getting swept under the southern span. I did my share of diagonal swimming until about halfway through mile three. I think the tide was turning at that point and bringing in some cooler water from the south. The water never got anywhere close to cold, but the temperature seemed to ease up from ghastly hot to somewhat warm, with a few fabulously cool spots that made me want to stop and tread water for a while.
By the time I reached mile four, the energy gel I’d tucked in my suit and the water I’d gotten at the aid boats had kicked in, and along with the cooler water, I was able to put in a bit more of a push. By the time I got to the turn out from the bridges, I was actually feeling somewhat strong and was able to sprint in to the finish ahead of another swimmer. I wasn’t happy with my time, but I’m glad I finished (the first goal of any open water swim), and that I was able to finish relatively strong. I also managed to place second in my age group and finish in the top 15 overall for women, so it really could have been a lot worse.
So, lessons learned for next year…and here’s hoping for water temperatures in the 60s!
My first open water race of the 2011 season came in the form of the Potomac Sharkfest, the inaugural Sharkfest race in the DC area. This race is a 3k swim across the Potomac, starting in Maryland and following the 301 bridge to Virginia. The organizers are the same ones responsible for the Alcatraz Sharkfest, a hugely popular “escape from Alcatraz” swim in the San Francisco Bay, and their experience with open water races seemed to hold them in good stead.
Inaugural races usually have their share of challenges, for the organizers as well as the athletes. In this case, any issues the organizers may have had were relatively transparent to the swimmers. We met in a designated parking area and took a school bus to the other side of the river for the start – our bags were transported back to the finish for us.
The course was a straight shot across the river. The water was is the low 70s, with almost zero chop, and the ebb tide made for an easy crossing. The only concern we swimmers had was the preponderance of crab pots dotting the river. Thankfully, I didn’t have too much trouble avoiding them, and the big river boat the organizers thoughtfully parked near the finish line made for easy navigation.
A few observations on this race – the organizers and volunteers were friendly, cheerful, and helpful. They had someone walking through the crowd, picking up bags for transport to the finish, so that the swimmers wouldn’t have to lug them to the collection point. There was a bit of flotsam collected in the water near the start, and I think I saw a kayaker cleaning it out so we wouldn’t have to swim through it. There were no bouys to mark the course, but the bridge and the riverboat were enough to keep almost everyone on course (you know there’s always one or two who can’t swim straight to save their life…).
This was a really good race, especially for a first time event. The course was long enough to be a bit of a challenge if you wanted it to be, but simple enough to be accessible to swimmers who are not as strong. The atmosphere was laid back, the organizers competent, and the venue provided a nice place to relax after you finish. There were only about 80 swimmers this year (although that’s pretty significant for an inaugural event), but I expect that next year it will pick up considerably. I highly recommend this race – give it a go before it becomes so popular they start a lottery!
the property of matter by which it retains its state of rest or its velocity along a straight line so long as it is not acted upon by an external force.
It takes serious effort to break through the inertia that sets in when you get sidetracked from your usual training schedule. In my case, my matter (read: ass) retained its state of rest or (lack of) velocity on the couch so long as it was not acted upon by an airplane taking me on yet another 10-hour flight for work.
I’ve had a rather long stretch of hardly training BJJ, and only this past week was I able to break through that state of rest and make it out to train a whole two times. Gasp. Don’t pull a hammy, Grappledunk. Surprisingly, I didn’t feel quite as out of synch as I expected to. My timing was a bit off, my technique not quite right, but all in all, not as bad as I was afraid of. I was allowed to keep my belt, at least.
The best part is that there are new girls training, one of whom just got blue, and several of whom want to compete. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I am just too broken and too busy with the rest of my life to ever compete well, so I just train for the pure enjoyment of it. But I’m excited whenever a new girl wants to give competition a shot. I regretted not competing as a white belt, and I’ve been trying to encourage them to go for it.
It’s strange to me to be the one giving advice and encouragement to the new white belts. I clearly remember my first class and how horribly clueless I felt. And as bad as that first class was, it only got harder when I tried to roll the first time and realized that all I knew how to do with any skill was the doormat position (i.e., flat out on the mat with some big dude walking all over me). Since that day, BJJ has been a series of ups and downs, and frequently it feels like the downs outnumber the ups. It’s easy to get lost in the day to day frustrations of trying to figure out this complex sport and forget where you started out.
So the inertia is broken, and partly because I’m seeing BJJ with the eyes of the new girl again – and then I realize exactly how far it is I’ve come. And I want to keep going.
People tell me how crazy I am when I explain about open water swimming. “Ew” is a common response. So I come back with, “no, it really is a lot cleaner than you think. Really!”
Then the shitweasels of Westchester County make a dirty liar out of me and decide to pretend it never happened. Thank the sewage gods it happened after my race in the Hudson…but I hope the geniuses who did it get the opportunity to swim in their own feces someday soon. Maybe they’ll have second thoughts about hiding something like that from the public next time.
*Grappledunk slinks off to check shot record*
I’m reposting Garrett Weber Gale’s recent blog to remind myself that even Olympic athletes have to work to get back into shape sometimes…
Garrett’s Blog: It Takes Hard Work
Getting back in shape can at times be an arduous task. All of us have probably had times in our life where we’ve let our fitness get away from us a little bit. The grind of getting back to that beautiful state our body was once in is generally harder than it was the first time around. However, try not to get too discouraged because when there’s a will there’s a way.
While I was in France my main focus was food and cooking. Working in a restaurant for five weeks kept me very busy, and tired. The truth is that I knew I needed to find a way to stay in shape. The best way to get back in shape is by not letting yourself get too far out of shape.
Due to my limited free time from working so much, I was on a tight schedule. My training consisted of about five days a week in the pool for between 30 minutes and an hour and 20 minutes. As I was training alone it was not the longest and most taxing training I’ve ever done.
On the other hand, I was able to work a lot on sprinting, my stroke, and also get some good aerobic work in there too.
Now that I’m back in Texas my face is once again on the grindstone. I know that over the years my bread and butter has been working hard. In terms of talent I’m not even close to being one of the most talented swimmers. In order to compensate for this I put myself in the hands of Eddie Reese and Kris Kubik and work my tail off for them. Training since I’ve been back has been pretty tough. I’m getting back into the swing of things a month late and that is sometimes frustrating. The important thing is for me to remember that the process of regaining all my fitness takes time and diligence. I will get there.
Generally I’m very happy with my fitness right now after training hard for three and a half weeks. Swimming has been great and being around the guys is truly refreshing. Like always I’m struggling a little bit in the weightroom. My entire life I’ve had an incredibly hard time getting stronger, even at 25 this battle remains. Experience has showed me that getting my legs fit usually takes the longest. To jump- start this a bit I’ve decided to run to practice several days a week. The run is only a mile and a half each way but I keep a pretty good pace and I think this will help me along the way.
Getting back to work has been a pleasure. Times get tough and there are rare instances where I think I’m getting nowhere, but I know that’s not true. The important thing is to monitor my progress, stay positive, be consistent in my training, and be patient. Oh and EAT Right too!
…and sometimes you don’t. But after weeks of feeling like I had zero BJJ skills and that I needed to turn in my purple belt for a slightly used white belt, I actually had a decent class last night. Instead of the usual Monday class in which we drill technique, followed by positional sparring, followed by a few rounds of rolling, we actually rolled timed rounds the entire class.
My first roll was mostly a warmup, and the second was a bit of a smash-fest, but by the third, I’d started to get a rhythm going and was actually transitioning well and pulling off techniques. However, I need to work on a few things. First, passing deep half. Why the hell is everyone going to deep half all of a sudden?? For crying out loud. I’m tired of doing the splits every time I want to pass someone’s guard. Second, not getting smashed flat when on the bottom. Still a problem for me, and the reason why I never get to deep half when I want to. For some reason, the mechanics of that particular position just aren’t clicking for me, and I think my timing is off somewhere.
Next up on the agenda is the 5.85 mile swim in NYC, so I’ll be focusing mostly on swimming for the next two weeks. I’m going to need some serious good luck for that one! As soon as I’m back in BJJ mode, though, I know what I need to drill…
Is it better to be interested in nothing at all and therefore do nothing well, or is it better to be interested in so many things you can’t possibly find time for all of them and therefore do none of them well? I don’t know, but I seem to fall into the second category. Between swimming, BJJ, Crossfit, writing (several projects), work (including travel), volunteering, prepping my world class chili recipe for competition, and getting ready to go back to school for my masters degree, lots of things have gone in the crapper in one way or another. No chili comments, please.
Swimming has to take some sort of precedence until the end of September – a race that’s almost 6 miles in the Hudson isn’t something for which you can half-ass your training. Work is work…has to be done. But at least the week-and-a-half long trip bordered by a 10 hour flight on each end has been rescheduled from just before my race to sometime later this year.
BJJ helps keep me sane, so that has to fit in somewhere as well. The rest of it I guess I’m going to have to shoehorn into my life somehow…until I actually start those grad school classes, at which point everything is going to have to shift again. Sigh. Did I mention I’m tired?
But with all that said, I also plan to start posting on my blog more frequently than once every five months or so. Starting…now!