The Nanticoke River Swim and Triathlon was held Sunday in a little place in southern Maryland called Bivalve. It was almost worth the trip to say I was in a place called Bivalve! I traveled down Saturday afternoon for packet pickup and to take a peek at the river where the three mile swim would be held. The water looked a bit choppy and rather murky, and the race organizers said there was a slight salinity due to it’s proximity to the ocean. Current, tide, and chop would all be a factor in this race.
The course was a triangle loop done twice – that was a last minute change. It was supposed to be one three mile circuit, but apparently last year (the first for this event) the buoys were too hard to see and everyone went off course. I applaud this change because, shorter course though it was, I still managed to have trouble finding the buoys. More on that later, though.
The morning of the race, I got there early, or so I thought. It turns out that triathletes are early birds. The walk from the parking lot to the check in area was a bit hairy, with bikes weaving and darting everywhere. I went to the body marking area, and the very nice but overly enthusiastic volunteer marked not only both my shoulders, but both my quads with my race number, and then put my age on my left calf. I can understand the logic of that for the triathletes, but I was swimming. In a wetsuit. Nobody was going to see my legs.
Sufficiently decorated, I settled in with my bottle of water and a banana to watch the kids triathlon, run to the port-a-pottie at fifteen minute intervals (partly nerves, partly worry that I’d put on my wetsuit and suddenly have to go), and worry about which buoys we were supposed to swim between at the start.
After the kids tri finished, we were able to get in the water to warm up a bit before the pre-race meeting. Details taken care of, we were herded over the timing mats and into the water for a partial water start. I say partial, because the water wasn’t very deep at that point, and I was able to get a good push off the bottom. Full in water starts are a bit more stressful, since you start swimming from zero- no momentum, arms and legs flailing all around you. I was well positioned and didn’t suffer too badly during the Cuisinart start; a couple of cracks to the head and a few tangled arms, but by the time I got to the first buoy to turn right and start our first loop, we were already spreading out a bit.
As I mentioned earlier, the course was a triangle; the first leg was parallel to the shore line, the second out into the middle of the river, and the third headed back toward shore. By the first 500 meters, I knew I was going to be in for a long swim. For the two weeks before the race, due to one reason or another, I hadn’t been able to train. I’d gotten in a couple of BJJ classes, but because I swim in the morning, and work had me coming in early those two weeks of employment hell, I was really behind in my yardage. I trained BJJ on Thursday and swam a sprint-focused masters workout on Saturday, so by Sunday, I was feeling the pain.
I focused on working myself into a solid pace on the first leg and tried to ignore the aching in my arms. By the second leg, my arms had gone numb, but I had acquired a hanger-on. I don’t know if it was a guy or a girl, due to the wetsuit factor, but for some reason, they were unable to swim a straight line. I had a good, solid bead on the third buoy, and every time I sighted, it was exactly where I thought it would be. However, every time I sighted, this person would be either pointed to the right of the buoy (away from me) or to the left of the buoy (on top of me and pissing me off). I was forced to throw a few elbows to get them to pay attention, but it didn’t do much good. By the time the third buoy came around, I was seriously irritated. Thankfully, I managed to pull off a sweet buoy turn and dropped him/her by a full bodylength.
The second loop came around quicker than I thought, which was good. The wind and waves were picking up, however, which was not. I tried to up my pace a bit to try to catch up to a group of swimmers I could see ahead of me. I was holding pretty steady with them and may have been gaining a little ground when I started having sighting issues. On the second leg, second loop, I would sight for the buoy, but it was nowhere to be seen. Since it was easy to spot on the first loop, this freaked me out a bit. Had I suddenly gone off course? Was I heading for the wrong buoy? What the hell? Where was I?? My speed fell off a bit because I was so focused on finding the little orange blip on the horizon and Not. Losing. It. Dammit.
By the third leg, the weather had definitely picked up. The rain hadn’t started yet, but the wind was here. The buoys were so far apart that between the higher waves were obscuring it. That, and the helpful kayaker would drift into my line of sight and block it out. It took me several full stops (and I never pull a full stop in a race!) to figure out what was going on. The last leg was depressingly slow and rather stressful. By the time I got to the last buoy and up to the jetty for the last sprint in to shore, I had a hard time swimming straight with a jetty on one side and a line of buoys on the other. I staggered up the beach and across the timing mat in 1 hour 13 minutes and 26 seconds. I finished third in my age group, fifth place woman, and twelfth place overall, men and women.
Honestly, not too bad, all things considered. I’m pleased that I felt like I wasn’t terribly drained at the end, but I wish I could have stayed on course a bit better. However, this won’t be a problem for the Bay Swim. If I lose sight of the bridge spans, I have bigger problems to worry about! All in all, I think it was an excellent event, especially for one only in its second year. I can’t speak for too well the triathlon part of it, but the swim seemed well organized, well supported (they had food/water boats at each buoy and support kayaks everywhere you looked), good post race food and drink, good DJ, and best of all, the event is a non-profit event to raise money for charity. Nice. I definitely recommend this race for anyone looking to tune up for the Bay Swim or just get a longer open water race under their belt.