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Boulder Reservoir Open Water Swim

One of the reasons that I like triathlons, is because I’m more competitive when you combine the three events than I am at each sport individually. Nonetheless, I know that competing in each of the individual sports will help me improve as a triathlete. So, swimming in that masters’ swim meet, cycling in that local time trial series, or running in that 10K will reap benefits down the road.

With that in mind, I signed up for the Boulder Reservoir Open Water Swim. While I debated between the 1.2 and 2.4 mile distance, I decided to challenge myself with the longer distance. Now, 2.4 miles equates to 4224 yards. Based on my pool workouts, I know that I’m swimming around a 1:20 pace per 100 yards in practice. However, I tend to watch the clock closely and push myself to maintain that pace on longer distances. With no clock and no rest on the turns, my pace will probably lag over the course of the race, so I’m looking a 1:25-1:30 pace as a goal. This will put me across the finish line between just under an hour or close to one hour and four minutes.

In order to make my goal time, there are several key items that I’ll need to focus on. First, I’ll want a strong yet conservative start. Don’t sprint to the first buoy. Especially at high altitude, I don’t want to go anaerobic early and spend the rest of the race struggling to recover. Next, I’ll need to stay focused on the ultimate goal. If the start doesn’t go quite the way I want, don’t worry about it. Whether I do or don’t have someone to draft off of, it doesn’t matter. My goal time is within reach if I swim my race. Surge from buoy to buoy to help maintain the pace. Finally, hydrate!  While it is a swim, it’s still an hour plus worth of exertion. I’ll need to be well hydrated beforehand.

How did I do?  Well, I missed my goal time. I swam a 1:06:44 which equates to a 1:35 pace per hundred. Still, I didn’t feel like I had a “bad” race. While the race course seemed pretty straight forward, we were swimming into the rising sun. Now, generally I feel like my sighting ability is a strength, but I honestly struggled a bit. While I was picking up or seeing the hunter orange buoys well, I couldn’t see the lime green buoys until I was right on top of them.

Then, as I was finishing my first loop, I had trouble finding the buoy that sent us off on our second loop. I ended up following the 1.2 mile swimmers towards the finish a ways before just heading back out into the sun. With the sun rising higher in the sky, it was easier to navigate on the second loop.

I finished 15th out of 76 swimmers, and was the third fastest swimmer without a wetsuit. On the other hand, three 50 plus year olds kicked my butt, and I had to sprint out of the water to beat another one. Age is just a number.

Lessons learned? Obviously, navigation is important. Everyone had to deal with the sun, and some swimmers handled it better than I did. Course knowledge is important. If I went back this weekend and completed the same swim again, I’d be more comfortable and confident with the course, and I’d probably swim faster.

While they didn’t have an official warm-up period, I could have gotten in the water sooner to get acclimated.  My arms were cold and numb during the first portion of the race. It’s so much easier to feel the water and be cognizant of you pull once you’ve gotten used to the water.

Finally, to race these longer distances, I’d want to integrate some longer intervals into my training. Sets where I’m doing 3 x 500s instead of 10 x 100s. I’ve probably improved my time in the 100 more over the summer than in the 1500.

Written by Chris B.

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