Nanticoke Swim & Tri 2013

Third year in a row competing in this open water race.  Third year the conditions were completely different from the year before.

Can I just sum up this race in one sentence?  It was nuts.

Do you want more detail than that?  I thought you might!  Settle in for a long read, cause there are stories kids.  (PS- I stole this picture of some of us crazy swimmers from Eileen, and the rest of the pictures are from my drive down.  I was too cold to worry about pictures otherwise!)

I signed up for the 3 mile swim, just like the previous two years.  I watched the water temperature and the predicted weather as far in advance as I could, just like the previous two years.  This year I even swim 2.66 miles the weekend before in open water in my wetsuit to get used to the thing!  The water temp was about 63 degrees, and while I wasn't happy to get in water that cold, I was proud of myself for sticking to my guns and training!  Because all of this ultimately ends up with the Bay Swim in June.
Oh good morning sunshine!
But you can't plan the weather!  It was going to be sunny and high of 61 on race day.  And the water temperature wasn't promising, but at least the sun would help!  And then it was cloudy and windy all morning.  With no end to the clouds in sight.  I still managed to get in the water and warm-up (figure of speech) some, but it took some convincing from Reg, haha.
My sunny drive down was all lies.
There was a small craft advisory in the Nanticoke River that morning, to which I say- I'm a small craft!  And the tide and current and wind and waves were adding up to nasty conditions.  They even had trouble getting the far buoy to stay where it should to mark our course.  Eventually a boat stayed anchored out there with the buoy attached to it to keep it in place.  To try to help us out, the race directors sent the triathletes first, since they were swimming out and back in the somewhat-more-protected jetty.  We watched them all yelp as they got in the water and it didn't make us feel any better.
Oh hey Bay Bridge...
There are two different open water races, a 2 mile and a 3 mile.  The 3 milers simply do one more loop around a large triangle, while the 2 milers head back in.  The race director explained that there would be no penalty if the 3 milers completed one loop and decided they had had enough and headed back in- he said we would be counted for the 2 mile race, instead of being considered "did not finish" for the 3 mile race.  He said they thought the stronger swimmers would be fine with the time restrictions, but that if anyone hadn't completed the first lap of the triangle in a certain time, we would be told to head back in.  And he also said that if we were all sent out, and conditions got worse, they would tell us to head in at the 2 mile mark regardless.  Soooo, with some doubts, we were told to enter the water.
...we shall meet again in June.
Again there were yelps and curses, and my teeth were chattering, despite wearing a full body wetsuit.  I felt terrible for the people in sleeveless wetsuits, and I couldn't understand how there were a couple swimmers without wetsuits at all.  The water was 59 degrees according to the NOAA website, and that might have even been on the generous side.  So we all kind of looked at each other like "are we really going to do this?" and then the horn blew, and we all dove forward, so yep!  We were all crazy.

I stuck with Reg.  He's a beast in open water and I just wanted to keep him in my sights.  We headed down the jetty, turned right around the rocks and bam.  Wave upon wave hit us.  We were swimming with the current, but when the wind is directing the water against you, it doesn't matter much.  I couldn't find a rhythm to try to work with the waves, and we were just being thrown around.  I couldn't see over the waves enough to see the buoy we were currently headed for, so again, I kept Reg and some other swimmers in my sights and figured I was at least moving forward with a pack, and if that pack got lost, we were at least lost together.  I know, terrible plan.  But you gotta figure if you're swimming with 4 other people, if we all sight every 10 strokes, one of us is looking every other stroke, and eventually we'll get there!  It's strategic, but it also helped me feel less helpless in the crazy conditions.

We rounded the first buoy, and we were now going to be pushed out wide by the current, but the waves would be pushing us in the right direction?  I have no idea how I got to this next buoy.  It was the one attached to the boat, and I thought that would make things easier to sight.  Instead, I discovered at one point that what I thought was the white boat in the distance (and what I was aiming for), was a guys white cap maybe 30 feet in front of me.  There go my sighting skills.  I think the current took me out wide, because I ended up coming at the boat at a weird angle- one I shouldn't have been.  Though come to think of it, every time I looked up in those last 100 yards, the boat was facing a different direction (thanks awesome conditions!), so maybe I was coming in correctly and I just thought I had been pushed out wide??  Who knows at this point.

So I'm now on the last leg of the triangle, headed back to the first buoy at the end of the jetty.  I'm thinking this isn't great, but it also isn't terrible.  I can do another lap of this.  Hell, we're all in the same conditions out here.  So I'm sighting this tall sailboat which is in the harbor just right of the jetty, and I'm making sure I'm not going too far off course, and I finally reach that buoy to turn around.  And there's a girl treading water there, talking to the guard on a surfboard.  She looks confused, but turns into the jetty towards the finish.  I turn to the guard and say "are we supposed to head in?" and he says "yeah".  I realize maybe he thinks I'm asking if we can head in, not do we have to, so I ask again, "do the 3 milers head in?" and again he says yeah.  And once again, I wonder if he thinks I'm asking if we can, not do we have to, and I also think I see some people wearing white caps (3 milers- 2 milers were wearing green caps) around this buoy headed out for another lap, so for a third time I say "do we have to head in, or can the 3 milers keep going?" and he says "the head lifeguard told me to send everyone in".  You know buddy, you could have said something like this earlier, or maybe as soon as I got to the buoy you could have said "they called the race, you have to go back to the beach", but noooo.  So now I realize that I just let this girl head in ahead of me, and I wasted 30 seconds questioning this lifeguard and what if she was the 3rd girl and I got bumped to 4th and lost getting an overall award and so I just kick it into high gear and try to chase her down!  Well, I didn't overtake her, which made me feel a little better, since she was clearly fast, but also made me feel worthless if I had just let her get ahead of me that easily when she was right next to me at the last buoy.

I run out of the water, make sure I hear my timing chip beep, and stop to look around.  There she is, sitting down, and there are only a couple guys in wetsuits standing there.  "Were you the first girl?!" I ask her, and she looks around, and goes "I guess".  I congratulate her but secretly think, woot, that means I'm second if she's right!  I turn around to see the guy who got second last year (beat me in the 3 mile by about 10 minutes) storming out of the water, and Reg almost right behind him.  I can only assume this means I was right, I did see white-capped swimmers beyond the buoy, and they had started their next lap but were told to turn around and come back in so how in the world are they going to score this race??  So I ask Reg "did you all start to go around again and then get turned back in?" and he goes "no, they just told us to come in."  And it dawns on me that I must have done well.  I honestly hadn't considered the possibility, and I know that sounds dumb, but for how little I could see, and how far off course I felt the whole time, I had just figured that meant bad things.

So I chatted with our swimmers as they came out of the water, chatted with the people on the team who had done the tri instead of the swim, and when I went over to the results and saw my name 5th overall I was in shock!  I just still had no idea!  And I was the second female, which I was so proud of.  But I still acknowledge this was a super weird year and it's going to be one of those *asterisk years where all the times are wacky and no one really counts it as an official anything.  But I guess I can do ok in adverse conditions.  Good to know...

Bring on the Bay :-)

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