The registration form asked for a seed time from a 1650 yd/1500 m pool swim. Obviously I haven't done one of those in a while, but with the help of Victoria, I guesstimated my time. I didn't want to just double my time from the swim portion of my tri (750 m) because I figured that it would be significantly slower than my pool time. When I got the seeding for Sunday's race and was near the top, I realized that most people must have guessed at their open water time, rather than using a pool time. I was pretty sure I was going to get passed - a lot.
Sunday morning I made the easy drive up to Centennial Lake. Since the race didn't start until 8:45, I didn't have to leave my apartment until 7. It almost felt like sleeping in. :) I had heard that this lake is where the Columbia Tri is held, and it was obvious as soon as I got to the parking lot that the lake and surrounding park are a mecca for triathletes. The lot was packed with cars with bike racks and people unloading their bikes, and the path down to the pavilion was packed with runners.
This was a small race (60 swimmers) so I was able to get my packet and be body marked in about 3 minutes. I was lucky number 13! Then I had plenty of time to warm up/check out the course and lake. The water felt much better than Mountain Lake in Culpeper (turns out it was 82) and, like that lake, I could see absolutely nothing in the water. Fortunately, that doesn't bother me in non-ocean situations because the only thing that freaks me out is sharks. I suppose that if I swam in Florida I would also be worried about alligators, but that wasn't a concern here!
The race used a time trial start, which meant that 2 people started every 15 seconds. I wasn't familiar with this type of wave system, but it was nice because there was no jostling or fighting for position at the beginning. The woman I started with had pulled ahead before we got to the first buoy and I knew that my suspicions about being seeded too high were probably correct. The course went out to the buoy you can see in the picture above and then we swam in a large triangle in the larger portion of the lake before coming back between that buoy and the island (on the right) and then straight in to the finish.
I settled into a decent rhythm early on and tried to sight on a semi-regular basis to make sure I was staying in a somewhat straight line. I got passed by a number of people early on, along the first side of the triangle. Other than that I felt like I was more or less out there on my own. When I started on the third side I had been alone for a while and made it my goal not to get passed anymore. Unfortunately, one more guy passed me in the middle of that side and then as I got back towards the last turn buoy I noticed that there was someone 10-15 yards behind me. At that point I was very determined not to be passed another time and tried to pick up the pace. I didn't pull away, but did manage to stay ahead of him to the finish. Since he started behind me I'm sure he actually beat my gun time, but I got the satisfaction of crossing the line first! (you can kind of see his head/splashes in the photos below)
Apparently I have better running form when barefoot!
My final time was 28:12. I had been hoping to be in the high 26-low 27 range, though I really had no basis for that goal and I couldn't tell you why or how I came up with it. This time is pretty much in line with my 750m meter time/pace from the tri (13:52) so I can't be disappointed.
I ended up second in my age group and walked away with a sweet ribbon that reminded me of summer league swim meets! Small races are the best. The winner was actually the woman who had started with me. She only ended up about a minute ahead of me which I think is pretty good considering that she pulled away so early on.
This race was a lot of fun and I can see myself signing up again next year. I did learn that a mile in open water feels longer than I was expecting. The 5k in a few weeks should be interesting. I have no worry that I won't be able to finish it, but I will definitely have to slow down my pace. Also, I'm guessing that my shoulders aren't going to be all that happy with me by the end!