On Sunday I had the pleasure in competing in the Dwight Crum Pier to Pier race from Hermosa Pier to Manhattan Pier. Although I don’t generally compete in such short events, it is a very popular local event ( I was swimmer 1047 meaning that there were OVER 1,000 people swimming!) and I was itching to get some racing in. It was my first race since my shoulder injury, and all things considered, I am happy about my performance.
At the race I was accompanied by my husband Morgan (we dubbed him the “Sherpa” since he was in charge of walking the two miles between the start and the finish with our stuff) my training partner Alex, his partner Steve, and their guest for the weekend Elijah. Surprise! Surprise! I also managed to pick up Darren Miller (who is in town from Pennsylvania preparing for a Catalina Crossing on Tuesday) and Jen Shumacher (my swim twin down in Irvine) who were not swimming but came to watch. The whole race made me feel like I’ve been living in Los Angeles for years, not months, as every 2 minutes I’d run into someone I knew, either through coaching, training, or observing with the Catalina Channel Swimming Federation. The whole thing made SoCal seem like a small place!
I took this opportunity to try out a few new things. I decided to wear a racing suit (shown here from FINIS ) instead of my usual tank-style with thin straps variety. Since this was a “sprint”race for me, I was willing to chance the constriction of the suit, particularly in my shoulders in favor of the speed gains.
I also decided to try out a new trick that Dawn Heckman told me about: to wear a flotation device on my goggles in case they got knocked off. The night before, I ran up to Morgan and said “Morgan, find me a flotation device for my goggles!” and then ran away to make other preparations. Here is what he jerry-rigged for me out of an empty travel shampoo bottle and a rubber band. It caught the attention of a few of my competitors, that all seemed to think it was a good idea when I explained it to them. It was a little odd looking, for sure, but it did the trick in the last minute of the race when I got hit by a wave from behind (this was for sure, an amateurish mistake on my part…….never turn your back to the ocean!) and my goggles went with. Now these are currently my last pair of goggles until I get some in the mail, so I was frantically searching for them in the foam. Alas, there they popped up on the surface, bobbing aroud for me to grab on my way out up to the finish line. As I ran through the finish gate I saw Morgan on the sidelines and I yelled “It worked!”
I also took a chance that I probably shouldn’t have taken. Since the water was warm (70 degrees) and the air was cold (50ish and windy) I opted out of warming up because I didn’t want to start shivering before the start. Instead I jumped around to get my heart rate up and stretched. There are tradeoffs here, and looking back, I think I would have been better off to go ahead and get in. Sometimes I take as long as 4k to begin to warm up, so 0k warmup + 3K race obviously equals miserary.
Going in to the race, I had a major tactical disadvantage. The race start was split into two heats: men in the first and women+wetsuit swimmers in the second heat. There were a few women in the first heat with the men, and they earned the spot due to finishing in the top ten women from 2010. I however, did not swim in 2010, so I was stuck in the second heat, which left five minutes after the men’s heat. I spent the entire race swimming an obstacle course around the slower men, whereas the women in the first heat had the opportunity to draft off of the faster men. I was the first woman out of the water from the second heat, and other than a woman in a wetsuit that spent the majority of the race drafting off of me, I saw my last “yellow cap” (or swimmer from heat two) about 5 minutes after the start.
So for the race play by play:
The men took off, and the women moved forward to the starting gate. I took a position just left of the main pack of women who were lining up just right of the course buoy line. I find that the outside position is less crowded and less physical than the “prime” position. As we were waiting for the start the lifeguard comes up to me and whispers “you’ve got an advantage, there is a rip current in front of you.” Now most of you have heard the term rip current before only in a negative context (they are a major cause of drownings at the beach because they move out, and people struggle against them trying to come back in until the get tired) but for an ocean swimmer trying to get out past the wave break as fast as possible, they are preferable. I have learned a little bit about rip currents since moving out here and tried to identify the rip she was talking about, but I couldn’t see it. I also couldn’t feel it once the race started, so I suspect that it was gone by the time we started, but who knows. What I do know is that the gun went off, and I ran down to the beach, noting that other people were much better runners than I. In my defense, I was holding back because the last thing I wanted to do was to start my race by face planting in the sand in front of hundreds of eager racers and being trampled to death. I once did a trail run in Indiana the first weekend of December on an icy day, and the race organizers warned us to be careful at the start because it was the only portion on pavement and was also on a hill. Guess who was the first and only person to fall on their bum? I successfully made it to the water without incident and was greeted by a fantastic 70 degree ocean and turbulent waters (my favorite kind!) I made it through the wave break quickly and was thankful for the in and out practice I’ve been putting in at my bootcamp. It was a good 300 meters to the pier, and before I got there I had already begun to overtake some men from the first heat. As I had planned, I found myself swimming with plenty of space between me and my competitors, and when I breathed to my right I could see a main pack forming of 10-15 women duking it out. Experience counts!
I rounded the pier without incident, and this was the last time I saw the main pack of women. For the rest of the race I found myself swerving in and out and around men and being followed by a woman in a wetsuit. About 1/3 of the way into the race I noticed my caps were slipping off. I was wearing my normal silicone cap with the latex race cap on top. I had originally planned to wear the race cap only but I could tell that it didn’t fit right and was hoping that if it came off I would still be wearing my silicone cap underneath. No dice as the race cap pulled the silicone cap off with it. I tried continuing on without stopping, but the caps (being held on by my goggle straps) were filling with water and acting as a parachute on the back of my head. They were pulling on my goggle straps, causing the goggle gaskets to dig into my eyes and causing me a lot of pain. A little over halfway I decided to stop, take my goggles and caps off, and put them all back on. At this time the woman in the wetsuit pulled ahead of me. I lost about 30 seconds-1 minute fumbling with my cap and goggles and then started up again. Within 5 minutes I once again overtook the woman in the wetsuit, this time leaving her behind.
The winds were up and the course was rough. I kept my stroke rate high and had little trouble. I did swallow more sea water than usual and started to feel a little sick to my stomach, but certainly nothing to be worried about. If anything I just felt out of shape. But as Morgan said “if you are out of shape then I am a shapeless blob!”
As I rounded Manhattan Pier, I was in familiar territory. I swim around Manhattan Pier all the time! I swam in, watching behind me and speeding up to catch swells, and found myself swimming in during a lull. I was a bit disappointed that I wouldn’t have the opportunity to body surf, but the next set rolled in just as I was standing up to run in and though I tried to duck under the wave that was carrying competitors over my head, I caught the some of it and thats when my goggles flipped off. Once the wave rolled back out I grabbed my goggles and ran to the finish gate.
I was the first “yellow cap” out of the water and finished 1st in my age group, 4th amongst women, and 28th Overall. Not too bad, especially since two miles is really too short for me to get going. Alex finished first overall, and when asked, he couldn’t tell me how many titles this makes for him! To be honest I was exhausted for the rest of the day. I had a major dehydration-induced headache, and my lats and hamstrings were sore and my shoulders were tight from the suit. I got home and decided to lay down for a short nap that lasted 3 hours, and bummed around the house for the rest of the day.
Ultimately, while this race hurt a lot, I would do it again in heartbeat, if for no other reason than its a great swimmer social event! Besides, every race is a learning experience!