Another year, another Great Salt Lake Open Water Swim race in the books.
This year was a little more chaotic and stressful than last year because there was a big thunderstorm forecast to hit the lake right at the time when the 8 mile swimmers would still be in the water. The water level this year was also extremely low. Because of both of these things, we had to modify BOTH the 1 mile course and the 8 mile course.
I wanted to swim the 1 mile this year so that I can get the Mini Triple Crown award. I wasn't able to swim it the day of the race, so I met Gordon and Chad at the marina on Friday afternoon to get my time.
I had a strategy that I was going to try to follow; basically split the 1 mile up into four sections and try to swim each one faster than the one before. The first leg was actually the hardest because I had to swim against the wind to get to the turnaround. I ended up getting a good amount of water in my mouth, but I brushed it off and kept going. Even though I was sighting, I was getting off course on my way to the green turnaround buoy.
Once I made the turn, I increased my effort and had some assistance from the wind. I was able to settle into a pace that felt pretty good. At my next marker, I picked up my kick and stroke rate again. When I got to the last buoy, I tried to kick it up another notch and was swimming pretty hard into the marina.
I finished with a time of 23:05, and I was pretty happy with it. I was shooting for under 23 minutes and got pretty close. On a calm day, I think I could get under 23.
"8 Mile" Swim
After my 1 mile swim, we met with Dave Shearer, the GSL Harbormaster. He was concerned about the weather and we wanted to talk to him before we met with all the 8 mile swimmers for dinner. He showed us the radar and actually called another weather expert while we were there. Everyone was in agreement that it was not a good idea to swim from Antelope to Black Rock this year. The swimmers and paddlers would likely face strong winds, rain, and lightning and none of us wanted to put anyone at risk. Dave told us that if there was lightning, that they wouldn't be able to send out rescue boats.
Gordon presented an alternate course, which would basically be swimming laps of the 1 mile course near the marina, and Dave was in agreement. This way we could still hold the swim and not have to cancel it.
There ended up being quite a few positives about changing the course:
1) We were able to start the swim MUCH earlier than normal.
2) Race directors and spectators could watch the entire swim from the observation deck.
3) Swimmers were able to finish much earlier in the day, and did not have to face afternoon winds.
4) In case of an emergency, it would be much faster to get to the swimmers and paddlers
5) For competitive swimmers, it is much easier to keep an eye on your competition.
6) There was not long car ride over the the island, not hauling kayaks to the water, and no transporting swimmers back to the marina from Black Rock.
7) The tour buses got to see the swim in action.
There were also some negatives with changing the course.
1) Swimming laps near the marina, instead of point to point from Antelope Island to Black Rock, takes a lot of the adventure out of the long swim.
2) The distance ended up only being 10K. We could fix this by adding another lap.
3) It was dark when they started (although there are flashing lights on the buoys marking the course)
4) A lot of swimmers finished the swim shivering. There are typically some cooler spots out towards the east end of the loop. Combined with starting and finishing earlier in the day when the air temp is not as warm.
I'm sure some of the swimmers were disappointed that we had to make the course change and that the distance ended up being shorter than they planned for. In the end, we did the best we could under the circumstances.
I think this is a good alternative plan, with a few modifications, if we run into bad weather again. I think we will be making this the default backup plan.
1 Mile Swim
The 1 mile swim went off without a hitch. I really liked the course this year and had a lot of past swimmers tell me that they did too.
This race was so much fun to watch this year because we could see the whole thing from the marina. I love seeing people's reactions at the finish. It's always either "Yuck, the salt is terrible!" or "That was awesome!".
It seems to be a race for people trying new things and I really love their adventurousness.
My coach and my lane-mate from Fairmont both came down to swim and it was fun to watch them.
All in all, I think it turned out well. Now to start getting ready for the Bear Lake Monster Swim!
Thanks as always to all of our swimmers, paddlers, volunteers and sponsors! A special thanks to Dave Shearer and Utah State Parks for helping us work out the course changes this year.
2015 GSLOW Results