This year's Deer Creek Open Water Marathon Swim took place on Saturday August 15th. That was over two weeks ago and I am just now getting around to writing up my race report and experience.
I have been looking forward to this year's swim ever since I finished the 5K last year. Jim Hubbard and his team did a great job of organizing this year's race, which attracted nearly double the swimmers as last year.
I spent all day Friday checking the weather forecast, hoping that the 30% chance of thunderstorms would magically drop to 0%. The forecast never changed, but that didn't stop me from sleeping with my fingers crossed Friday night.
Things were looking pretty good early Saturday morning. The weather was cool, but felt really nice and the water was perfect. I was surprised how many more people were registered this year than last. Jim Hubbard told me that there were over 50 swimmers this year. That compared to about 30 the year before.
After checking in and picking up my race cap, shirt and other goodies I headed down to the boat ramp to get my kayak ready. I had borrowed an inflatable double kayak from my sister-in-law and had to get it pumped up. Luckily, another swimmer and paddler had a similar kayak and they helped us get ours pumped up faster.
With the kayak ready to go, I got ready to get in the water. I stuffed my GPS between two caps so that I could take a look at the data and see a map of my swim after it was over. On previous swims I got a little chaffing on my neck and armpits. This time I was prepared with BodyGlide. With about 15 minutes before the race started I downed an energy gel and washed it down with some Gatorade. With everything ready to go, I made my way into the water. It's always kind of a shock getting into the water, but I quickly adjusted and swam around a little bit to get warmed up.
The swimmers all lined up at the starting line and the paddlers hung back a little bit to give us some room. I am always a little surprised at how fast people take off at the start. I wasn't at the back of the pack but I was nowhere near the front. I have been in other races where I got caught up in the excitement of the start and went out too fast only to regret it towards the end of the swim. I have learned that I need to force myself to relax at the start.
My first mile felt a little slow, but I was feeling great. I told my dad and brother, who were paddling for me, that I wanted to stop every half hour to get a drink or eat an energy gel. My dad signaled the first half hour, but I was feeling fine and kept going. My first stop was just after the marker at the end of the bay. I drank a little Gatorade and kept moving.
My next stop was at about two miles. I took another drink and headed into what would soon become the most challenging section of the course. The wind really started picking up and I found myself swimming head first into waves up to two feet high. Several times I turned to take a breath only to get a mouth full of water. I lost sight of my dad and brother and though that maybe their kayak had been overturned in the waves. After fighting through more waves for about a half an hour, I saw my dad and brother out of the corner of my eye.
I past a few other swimmers who were also struggling in the choppy water and made it to the turn around. I signaled to my dad and brother that I wanted a drink and an energy gel. My brother, Jake, ripped off the top of the gel and passed it to me. I choked down the gel and he passed me my bottle. Something about the combination of an energy gel and Gatorade while swimming made me a little sick. For a while I thought I might throw up. The waves definitely weren't helping. Next time I will water down my Gatorade a little and eat a little gel at a time instead of all at once.
This whole time I was thinking that after the turnaround it would be a breeze and I would be able to ride the waves, kind of like body surfing, all the way back to the bay. What I didn't realize was that the waves were actually coming at me more from the side and not straight on. The way back to the bay was just as much of a struggle as getting to the turn around.
By the time I got back to the bay, the waves had calmed down but I started seeing lightning when I would take a breath. And then the rain/hail started. It seemed to come out of nowhere. I actually kind of liked the feeling of the rain/hail hitting my back while I swam, I just felt bad for my dad and brother; they were soaked! I knew from swimming at Deer Creek a few weeks earlier that I had about two miles left to go and I decided to stretch out my stroke and pick it up. It felt great.
A little while after making the turn and the marker at the end of the bay, I saw flashing lights on a boat speeding towards us. At first I thought maybe they were on their way to help someone in the water but as they kept moving towards me and the group of swimmers around me, I knew that they were going to pull us out. Sure enough, my dad stopped me to tell me that they wanted everyone to get out and wait for a boat to pick us up. I was so close to the finish that I could almost see it! I decided that whatever the consequence would be, I was going to finish the race. I could see a swimmer ahead of me and they weren't stopping. I looked behind me and the swimmers weren't slowing down either. I pushed on and made it to the end of the course and through the finish buoys just as the boat with the flashing lights was pulling up the the boat ramp.
My arms were pretty tired, but other than that I felt great. I had just swam my longest consecutive open water swim. My wife, mom and brother-in-law were there to cheer for me when I got out of the water. My son was asleep in the car and my sister and my new nephew were also in the car trying to keep dry.
After last year's race I had some goals to do more training, get better at navigating and to do something about chaffing. I was able to accomplish all of these goals which helped me to finish the swim. According to the unofficial results, I finished in 3:11:15 which was almost 20 minutes faster than I was planning on.
I am already looking forward to trying the 10 mile swim next year...