Slam the Dam Race Report

On the 8K course at Slam the Dam.

I had a great time in Las Vegas this past weekend.  In addition to swimming in the second annual Slam the Dam open water swim, I got to meet and hang out with a bunch of great swimmers, paddlers and volunteers.

Sabrina and I drove into town in the late afternoon and checked into our hotel.  After checking in, we picked up friend and fellow Utah swimmer, Rachel, and headed to Settebello to meet up with some of the other Utah swimmers.  There were eight of us total including Sabrina, myself, Heidi and Steve Linton, Rachel Wagner, Karl Christen and his wife Charlene, and Gary Bethers.  We had a great time and a delicious meal.  Thanks to Heidi and Steve for getting dinner organized!  I wish I would have taken a picture of the dinner group...next time.

We stayed in a pretty cool hotel on Lake Las Vegas that was only 15 minutes away from the 8K starting point and it allowed us to sleep in a little longer on Saturday morning than we did last year.  We left the hotel at about 5:00am and drove to the 8K start to drop off our kayak and other gear and then drove to the finish at Boulder Beach to park our car and catch the shuttle back to the starting point.  It was pretty crowded at Boulder Beach and we had to wait for a few loads of swimmers and kayakers to take the shuttle before we got a turn.  During that time, the wind picked up and it started to rain a little bit.  We heard word from a paddler that the swim may be cancelled or delayed if there was lightning.  Things calmed down quite a bit by the time we got on the shuttle.  On our shuttle were fellow Utahns Scott and Rachelle Kunz, Brandon Slaugh and James Hochstrasser.

Me and Robert Baker before the 8K start.  (Photo by Robert Baker)
We were running a little late and had to rush to get checked in and get everything ready to go.  Kara Robertson, one of the race directors, made the announcement that the weather might get rough and that people were welcome to switch to the Super Slam event (2.4 mile + 1.2 mile) if they chose to.  As far as I could tell, everyone chose to take their chances and swim the 8K.  While getting ready, I ran into Robert Baker who I have got to know a little bit through Facebook and email.  It was good to finally meet him and get a picture with him.  He was one of the many great volunteers out on the water.  I also met up with Goody and was happy to see him and his dad there.

It's a bit of a walk / hike down to the race start and it took us a while to navigate the patch carrying our kayak.  I wish I would have taken a picture of the train of kayaks picking their way down the rocky and sandy trail.  Even though the race start was postponed 10 minutes because of the weather, I still had to scramble to get into the water in time.  I helped Sabrina get the kayak ready and then swam to the starting line.  Just a few seconds later, the countdown started and we were off.

The water was really warm (about 79 degrees) and pretty clear.  I was passed right away by a bunch of swimmers, but figured I would probably catch some of them further down the course.  My strategy at the start of a race is to not let the adrenaline take over and to force myself to stay calm and relax.
Best looking paddler on the lake!
I had asked Sabrina before the start to stay a little ahead and to the left of me and that I wanted to take my first feed at about 45 minutes to an hour.  We should have worked out some sign language because I couldn't hear her yelling at me when it was time to stop.  I kept looking for the first turn buoy, which was at the 2 mile mark, but I never saw it.  By the time I stopped to see where we were at, Sabrina told me we had been going for an hour and a half.  That news picked up my spirits quite a bit because I didn't think we were that far along.  I took a feed of gel / water mix and some watered down Gatorade before taking off again.

I felt great energy-wise and got into a good rhythm.  After a while the muscle pain in my right clavicle, that I thought I was done with, came back and my confidence took a bit of a dip.  It wasn't hurting nearly as bad as last year, it was just annoying.  After about 45 more minutes, Sabrina waved the paddle and I stopped for my last feed and also took some ibuprofen.  I could see a few swimmers just ahead of me and I picked it up a little to try to catch up.  The ibuprofen seemed to help and the pain died down to where it wasn't bothering me anymore.

Me and Mark Belnap after the 8K.
After what seemed like forever, I saw the buoys marking the final stretch and my spirits lifted again.  I was gaining on a couple people ahead of me and I just put my head down and swam.  As we entered the finish chute, I caught one swimmer and tapped his feet (accidentally).  I was surprised to see that it was Mark Belnap, another Utah swimmer.  He and I have been finishing pretty close to each other the past couple years at Deer Creek and last year at Slam the Dam.  We swam side by side for a while and then I took an erroneous turn to the right and he went past me.  I saw the ground below me and I stood up and started running, only to find that I was not inside the finish chute.  I laughed at my mistake and ran back into the chute and to the finish.  Mark and I had a good laugh about finishing so close together again.  My 8K time was 2:37:06.  This was a little slower than I had hoped, but still under 30 minute miles.

Brandon Slaugh, James Hochstrasser and I before the 1.2 mile swim.

I took another hit of gel / water, Gatorade and ibuprofen and then went to watch Goody finish.  I also found Rachel and talked to her for a bit before the 1.2 mile race started.  I got quite a few compliments on my flower suit from spectators, paddlers and swimmers.  I talked to Brandon Slaugh and JamesHochstrasser briefly as we were getting ready for the 1.2 mile start and then met up with Goody again.

Rachel Wagner and I before the start of the 1.2 mile swim.
One of these things is not like the others...
It was a crowded start and Goody and I were about in the middle of the pack.  We let the faster swimmers go ahead before diving in.  My arms and shoulders had tightened up quite a bit and they felt like rocks in the water.  It took me about 1/4 mile for them to loosen back up.  If we had just swam a straight 10K I'm sure I wouldn't have had that problem.

There were four large, round buoys marking the course.  When I got to what I thought was the third, someone started yelling at me.  I stopped to see what was going on and, to my surprise, saw Robert Baker in a kayak telling me that this was the turn around!  I had another good laugh at myself and then turned around and headed back.  I had plenty of energy, but my arms were tired.  I tried to push it on the final stretch, and finished fairly with a time of 35:25 for a total time of 3:12:32.
Post race with Goody.
I talked to a few people after the race and got some post-race food with Goody.  Mallory Mead was there and I wanted to get my picture taken with her and talk to her about her swims, but was too shy to ask.  I would have liked to talk to Kara for a minute also before leaving, but she looked pretty busy.  We got our kayak and gear loaded up and headed home.

The second annual Slam the Dam swim was better than the first.  There were 265 swimmers from 17 states and 4 countries!  I thought it was well organized and that the volunteers were very friendly and helpful.  There was a bit of a snag at the start of the 8K with the weather, but I thought Kara handled it very well.  I've become kind of a race t-shirt connoisseur, and this year's shirt was much cooler than last years.  This race has become a tradition for me.  It is so much fun to meet up with the other Utah swimmers for dinner the night before and then swim together the next day.  I'm looking forward to next year!

Best support paddler, coach and cheerleader on the lake!
 Thanks to my wife Sabrina for doing such a great job paddling for me.  I couldn't have done it without you!


Sabrina said...

You did a great job swimming this year. I loved to paddle for you and get to have a weekend alone with you. Even the 14 hours in the car were great!!!

Mallory Mead said...

I wished you would have introduced yourself.....I would have been happy to get a photo with you! Maybe next time.

Mallory Mead

Josh said...

Ha ha! Thanks Mallory! Next year for sure I will introduce myself. Great swim!

Rachel Wagner. said...

I'm so amazed at your 10k. Great job! I appreciate you and Sabrina staying to cheer me on. With the choppy water it was a huge challenge but finishing was so exhilarating! I look forward to next year.