Last weekend, I got the crap beaten out of me by a lake.
I’m not kidding, either. I went up to Hague, NY for the 2015 edition of the Lake George Open Water 10k last weekend, a race I did last year and essentially beat the crap out of myself beforehand. So, this year, armed with the memory of what *not* to do when traveling 8+ hours to a race, I arrived in Hague a day early, with plenty of time to rest and recover from the long drive. I relaxed, wandered around the area, and found this fabulous specimen at the side of the road.
I even spent a few minutes swimming in the tiny, roped off swimming area at the public beach where the event starts.
The lake was gorgeous, the water clear and calm and at an almost perfect temperature. None of the melt-your-face-off heat we’ve gotten from the Chesapeake Bay Swim lately, for instance. So, lulled into a sense of complacency, on the day of the race, I was expecting nothing but the same.
The 10k is conducted over four 2.5 kilometer loops, with a conveniently placed feeding raft at the turn buoy. As we made our way to the in-water start line, the lake demurely reflected our faces back at us. The starting horn sounded, and off we went. I felt good the first loop and even wondered if I might be going a bit slow, despite the fact that I was at the front of the pack. I decided to hold my pace and try to descend my effort each loop. I rounded the lap buoy, took a quick shot of UCAN at the feed raft, and headed out for the second loop.
Then, it felt like all hell broke loose. A nasty headwind kicked up suddenly on the outbound half of the course. The waves gradually increased to the point that I couldn’t tell the difference between the wake from nearby boats and wind-driven chop. Whitecaps smacked me in the face as I tried to sight. When I didn’t make an effort to swing my arms higher on recovery, they got stuffed by a wave halfway through the stroke. The second loop was challenging; the third and fourth got progressively worse, or my perception of it was worse as I got more tired. The outbound half of the loops seemed to take forever, while the return trip was much faster, but even with the tailwind on the return, the constant pummeling from the chop took its toll. Where the water was more shallow, the wave action was kicking up the sediment and clouding up the water.
I also lost the other competitors and spent most of the last three loops swimming by myself, with no concept of where any of the other swimmers were in relation to me. Thankfully I managed to stay on course this year – lesson learned on that one – but I also wonder if I would have gone a bit faster with someone nearby.
I exited the water almost exactly a minute slower than 2014. I’m not sure what that means for my performance, since I don’t remember any sort of serious wave action in the previous year’s race, but then, I could have conveniently forgotten that little detail. But on the other hand, I think I really rocked the run up the beach to the finish this time. I didn’t trip and fall on my face or lurch sideways like a socialite at 3 am, which I have been known to do in the past, so I felt pretty badass for that.
If I can manage a similarly graceful exit on the 10 miler, chances are I will have had a good race. Only a month left – maybe I should start doing some finish line repeats.