One of the workouts in Ironman training that I get most nervous about is the long open water swim. In the past I’ve knocked out a 4000 m swim at Ironman training camp. With a June camp in Canmore this year we just didn’t have the right conditions for a long open water swim. This long swim workout was still on my to do list!
I had hoped to get a nice long swim done at Gyro Beach in Kelowna a few weeks ago. Unfortunately I put the swim off until the very last day of our trip and when I went down to the beach it was like this:
It was so windy and the lake was so rough! It definitely wasn’t a safe day to be swimming there.
To get a long open water swim in I signed up for Grizzly Mountain Events Canmore Open Water Swim race. The swim takes place at Quarry Lake and has both 1500 m and 3000 m distance options. The weather had been somewhat crummy in the days leading up to the race…cool, rainy, thunderstorms…and there was a heavy rainfall warning in effect for race day. I was worried that it was going to be an extra wet and cold swim.
On race morning it rained off and on during our drive to Canmore. The low clouds over the lake definitely made things feel slightly ominous. The volunteers at packet pick up were cheerful and friendly though and said the water would feel lovely! 🙂
My friend Tara and I wiggled into our wetsuits. I fretted over whether I should wear a shirt underneath but finally decided to go with just a tri kit underneath. I wore two silicone swim caps for a bit of extra warmth.
I got in the water for a warm up swim. While it felt chilly to start with, as I spent more time in the water it felt more and more comfortable.
After a pre-race meeting it was go time! The men got a two minute head start over the women. The 1500 m swimmers would go for three laps around the lake and 3000 m swimmers would go for six laps.
I focused on sighting the buoys and and swimming the best line I could. There was minimal contact over the course of the swim so this was my opportunity to just be comfortable swimming in a different environment from the pool.
I tried to swim as steadily as possible and wound up clocking each lap in around 11 – 12 minutes each. While it was a bit dizzying to get out of the lake, run around the beach and jump back in for each lap, it was a great way to get cheers from the spectators.
While I’m definitely not a front of the pack swimmer I have seen a pretty good amount of improvement in the water, both in the pool and in open water this year. If I focus on sighting and swimming as strong and effectively as possible I believe I’ll be well set up for a good swim in Boulder in less than three weeks.
Race registration included chip timing, a race shirt and a finisher medal. There were plenty of post race treats to nosh on including muffins, fruit, granola bars and Grizzly Paw soda. There were some great draw prizes, although it was done by a ticket draw and I’m not sure how or when we were supposed to get tickets.
I’m glad I didn’t give into my fear and did the 3000 m open water swim. I felt strong in the water and it was a great day of prep for my upcoming Ironman…in less than three weeks! As it turned out the rain held out until after the race was over, and it wasn’t nearly as cold as I had feared.
Have you done an open water swim race before? How did it go for you?