Inaugural Slam the Dam Race Review

By all accounts, the inaugural Slam the Dam open water swim was a big success!  Kara Robertson and her team did an amazing job putting together a challenging, exciting and fun event that I have already added to my "must do" swims for 2011.

Race morning started early for my wife Sabrina and I.  After leaving our two boys with my family at the hotel, we headed over to Lake Mead.  With all we had to do that morning I was worried that we would be late to check in, but as it turned out we got to Sunset View Overlook with plenty of time to spare.  We were met by a staff of friendly volunteers who helped me to get checked in, get body marked and pick up my swag bag.  It was a warm and beautiful morning.

Beautiful morning at the start of the 8K Slam the Dam open water swim at Lake Mead.
We unloaded our kayak and got ready to go down to the shore for the start.  We had to hike with our kayak down a quarter mile trail from the parking lot to the water.  Thankfully the race staff and other volunteers had cleared the path of trash and other debris.

Sabrina and I before the start of the 8K.
I saw a few people from Utah in the staging area before the race including James Jonsson, Mark Belnap and Gordon Gridley.  Since Sabrina had never used the kayak we brought down, she wanted to put in early so she could get a feel for it.

I was itching to get into the water to see just how warm it was.  Reports were that the water temperature was near 78 degrees, and while I didn't take the temperature myself, it must have been right around there.  The water quality and clarity was pretty good and was pretty comparable to Deer Creek.

One of my few complaints I had was that there was no start buoy.  Swimmers were creeping further and further into the lake even after Kara called us back.

There was a lot of excitement and joking around among the swimmers leading up to the start.  At the sound of the horn, we all took off.  I asked Sabrina beforehand to let me know each half hour that passed so that I knew about where I was and could stop to feed if I needed to.  After only about 15 minutes into the swim I started getting a bad headache.  Sometimes I get headaches after a long swim, but have never had one during a swim.  It continued to get worse over the next 45 minutes or so and became painful and distracting enough that I considered ending my swim.  I suspected that it might be due to my cap and goggles so I took my cap off and Sabrina handed me her goggles.  Her goggles drove me crazy and after only about 50 yards I had to trade them back for my own.  Sabrina had adjusted them so that they were a little more loose and that took a lot of pressure off my head.  After wasting 15 minutes or so messing with caps and goggles, I finally started swimming again and the headache never came back.

Early in the swim (before adjusting my goggles and cap) there was another swimmer drafting behind me who kept tapping my feet.  I was already in a pretty foul mood because of the headache, so each time he tapped my foot I kicked a little harder at him to try to let him know that it was bothering me.  The guy either didn't get that he was bugging me or didn't care because he didn't stop.  I have no problem with drafting and I can understand drafting as a strategy if you are a competitive swimmer and are trying to place in the race, but we had already been left behind by the faster swimmers and were towards the back of the group.  I honestly don't mind if someone wants to draft on me, but if they are going to swim that close they ought to at least swim off to the side (where you get more benefit from drafting anyway) and be considerate enough to not constantly tap my feet.  Anyway...the swimmer took off when I stopped to feed and fix my cap and goggles and I was pretty much alone for most of the rest of the swim.

I stuck to the same feeding plan that I used at Deer Creek which was to take a Gatorade Prime every half hour or so.  I had also mixed a bottle of half water and half Gatorade that I sipped every now and then.

The views from the water were beautiful and I wished that I had more time to explore and swim around the small islands and other features of the shoreline.  There were small, spiky twigs floating around in the water that scratched a little as they passed over my back or I swam over the top of them.  I found out later in the race where they came from...

Beautiful Lake Mead and one of the many buoys that marked the 2010 Slam the Dam 8K course.
Although the buoys were spaced fairly far apart for the first half of the race, the course was well marked and I had no problem figuring out where I was supposed to go.

Because I wasted so much time fixing my goggles and cap at the start of the swim, I was worried that I was going to miss the cutoff time for the 8K.  I was shooting for a time of 2:30 and the cutoff time was 2:45.  I started picking up my pace and pushing a little harder.  With more than half a mile to go, Sabrina confirmed my fears and told me I was at 2:28.  I knew I was going to have to push harder to make the cutoff time.

As I neared the beach I suddenly found myself swimming through huge bushes of what can best be described as tumbleweed.  The branches had little thorns on them and, although it didn't hurt, I was covered with scratches at the end.  The twigs that I had swam through earlier had to have come from one of these bushes.  After wading through the mud, I crossed the finish line.  According to the results, I missed the cutoff by 18 seconds.

The nice thing about the Grand Slam distance was the it was broken up into two races: 8K and 1.2 miles.  I had about 15 minutes to get something to eat and drink and check in with my family before starting the 1.2 mile swim.

Sabrina was also entered in the 1.2 mile swim.  Since it was going to be her longest open water swim, I decided to stay with her the whole way.  It was nice to take it easy and just enjoy a swim with my wife.  The only incident was that one swimmer was swimming on the wrong side of the buoys after the turnaround and we collided head on.

Despite the goggle and cap induced headache at the start of the swim and a finish time that was much slower than I had anticipated, I had a lot of fun and really enjoyed the day.  I was glad to have my family come down to support me and watch our two little boys so Sabrina and I could both swim.

Hats off to Kara and her team for putting together a memorable event that I am looking forward to doing again in 2011.

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