I don't think I have ever been so nervous before a race. Looking out at the water and seeing the buoys that we had to swim around only made matters worse. It looked like a much bigger circle than 500 meters. Also, I am used to road races where there are people of all shapes and sizes. There were not many people with an overabundance of body fat at this race-it was a little intimidating. I tried to act like I knew what I was doing and just followed everyone else....got my number, set up my running stuff neatly in the "alley" next to the water, got in line to get my number on my arms...I did go out for a short warm-up run which not many seemed to do, but I was too nervous to just stand around.
Then a few people starting getting their wet suits on, so I followed by doing the same. They just had them up to their waist and were letting the top part hang down, so, of course, I was doing the same. Now mind you, I only practiced in this wet suit once. Well, this guy next to me, asked me to help him with his snagged zipper-which was going up his back. So, as I'm helping him unsnag I casually ask him if the zipper is supposed to be in the back. His reply "that's how most people wear them." Ooops! Not only was my wet suit on backwards, I had practiced with it on backwards. So, as I am taking off the wet suit to put it on the right way I explain that this is my first open water swim (as if he didn't know). His reply "I hope you don't have a panic attack out there." Thanks for that vote of confidence buddy! Another guy near us thought I was taking the wet suit off because I decided to swim without it-I had to explain to him also, that no, I was still planning on swimming with the wet suit on. I was just an idiot and had to put it on the RIGHT way. I wasn't off to the greatest start on this new adventure.
Well, the race director announces that the Tempe Fire Department (on a pontoon boat) and all the lifeguards (in kayaks) were all there so we could enter the water if we wanted. A bunch of people enter so I put my wet suit on the rest of the way-with some help from a spectator with that zipper in the back. (I hope if I ever see these people in my life again, that they don't remember me.) Had a little trouble getting my goggles on with the cap over my hair-I had never practiced with a cap on-but I finally managed.
Now, I had read some things online that if you have never done an open swim, you should get in the water before the race to ward off a panic attack at the start. So, heeding the advice of some unknown person online, I get in the water. It was definitely dirtier than Lake Erie-a nice shade of green. Didn't feel too bad with the wet suit on-a balmy 70 degrees or so. I'm not so sure how those people without wetsuits did it, but there were quite a few. I talked with a girl out in the water who adviced to stay in the back-she told me at the last race she had gotten hit during the first lap in the water-luckily we were only doing one lap for this race. As I am trying to get used to the water and the fact that I would soon be swimming far away from the bank something hits my hand-I didn't freak too much, but it did definitely got my heart rate going. Luckily it was only a ziploc bag, because I think if it had been a fish-alive or dead-I would have packed my stuff up and headed home.
The race starts and there was a mad rush. I tried to stay somewhat in the back but there was still quite a bit of pushing and hitting. Not on purpose, but just everyone trying to get themselves moving. I made it swimming somewhat of an awkward style freestyle. Many thoughts were going through my head as I swimming. WHAT AM I DOING OUT HERE? was the most prevelant one. Also, Dory's tune from Little Nemo was going through my head-" Just keep swimming...Just keep swimming..." I was also evaluating how competitive I am in sports, and is this really a good thing when I stick myself willingly out in the water when I'm really not so sure I adequately prepared to swim a 500 meter in open water.
As these thoughts are going through my head and I can see the finish buoy-still probably a good 150 meters away-I here this girl say "Is it OK if I hang on for a little bit?" Immediately, I think "NO WAY! You have got to be kidding. Do not touch me. We will both drown out here." As these thoughts are running through my head I hear a voice say "yeah. It's OK." Here, she was talking to one of the lifeguards in the kayaks. What a relief to me!
I don't know if I have ever been so happy to get out of the water before. Much relief that I had made it and now on to something that is second nature to me-the run. I'm not sure exactly how long it took me to swim the 500-sometime between 13:15 and 13:40. I wore my watch, but forgot to look at it when I got out of the water. After getting out of the wetsuit, slipping some shorts on, and getting my shoes on I started running at 15 minutes. I was shocked at how many people I passed during the run. I wasn't running with any great blazing speed-I think a little over 22 minutes for the 5k. These people were definitely much better swimmers than runnners-lucky for me. We had to run two loops and the overall leader passed me during my first loop-he was moving pretty fast.
You can view the results at http://www.4peaksracing.com/results.php I was 69th overall. Is it a good time? I have no idea. Did I have fun? Depends on your definition of fun. Will I do it again? Still not sure...but I'll probably be risking drowning again. After all...I have to see if I can improve my time.