Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Double Roughwater... Or, I Can't Believe That Crazy RD Let Us Swim Today

I woke up at 1:30AM because it was raining so hard I thought the drops might actually penetrate our rooftop. This continued for hours while I just tossed and turned and wondered if the race was going to be cancelled this morning. Eventually I got up and started brewing the coffee.

Scott came downstairs and asked if I even wanted to load up and bother going into town... he was sure the race would not be held. I considered that option, given that it would be kind of a pain in the you know what to take Moana everything down there just to be told, "Duh." and then have to turn around and just come home. But then I was like, You know what? If they actually do hold the race and I didn't show up I would be even more disappointed then if it was cancelled. So we packed up and got in the car.

Text messages flew while we were driving into town (I was not driving so don't get on me for this) and back and forth with Nalani and Jennifer... I wonder if they're going to hold the race?? Jennifer got to the beach first and sent the text, "It's ON!"

Holy cow. Seriously? Cool.

I arrived and took one look at the beach though and thought the RD was nutso. Seriously, it was pouring, and visibility was like 15ft. And I'm not talking about water visibility. I mean, you couldn't see anything b/c it was like we were in a cloud. This sort of poses a problem when you're out in the ocean swimming for buoys that you cannot see. But then again, maybe not so much of a problem b/c there aren't too many buoys in this swim to see anyway. There's a windsock about 250 meters out, another triangle buoy they place about 400M past that, and then you just swim along the Waikiki coastline for like forever 2300M until you get to the permanent Ala Wai channel buoy. Turn around and navigate your way back to the big triangle buoy and then turn in to the finish. This map gives you an idea- except the finish isn't where this finish is- instead you do a 180 at that far buoy and swim back.
Anyway, needless to say individual escorts are absolutely required since the swimmers can't see that far ahead to get to that buoy, but today, even the escorts couldn't see. It was like the blind leading the blind. Perfect. Adds to the adventure, right?

So I put on both my swim caps and stood around chatting with some friends. Looking around, I felt like this was the Who's Who of fast female Oahu swimmers. Not sure where all the fast men were? There were a few, but I think most of 'em wimped out and stayed home due to the rain. But not these women. I could only think of one super fast gal who didn't show up today (my athlete Karen, who is on the mainland). All the other typical players were there with their game faces on. We've all raced each other lots of times for years and years (racing on an island is like that)... based on past experience with these gals I guessed I would be 7th or 8th today if I had a decent swim. I knew for sure that 6 of them were just flat out faster than me. I also knew that I had to be on my game to get back to the beach before my long time age group rival, Jana... she is fiercely competitive... as am I sometimes. :)

So then out of the blue the race director yelled "GOOOOO!" and we all looked at each other and were like, are we supposed to start swimming now? I don't think anyone even had their goggles on? Love little races like this! Ha! I put my goggles on and ran into the water.

Not a whole lot to report about the swim itself. I got out to the first turn buoy right next to Jana, found Scott on his surfboard, and then just started plugging away. I was singing Beyonce in my head "Oooh boy you're lookin' like you like what you see won't you come over and check on it I'm a let you walk up on it ladies let 'em check up on it watch it while he check up on it..." Nice, no? That's about the extent of it for the first 45 minutes. Then I was like, man, I need a new song in my head.

The water was choppy and ugly but not as bad as we've faced in training so it was fine. You know, there is something completely freakin' awesome about a race when you are 100% confident that you have done the training and are ready to put in a good effort.

It rained off and on during the swim but I didn't pay much attention to that. I did not like being near the channel buoy though in this weather. You might wonder why rain is such a big deal during an ocean swim? It's not the rain- it's the run off from the land caused by the heavy rains. Makes the water just nasty nasty nasty anywhere near a channel that comes from land (which was our turn-around point). The water just got more and more and more brown and I made a conscious effort to keep my mouth closed- but that's just weird. Have you ever tried to swim with your mouth totally closed? Anyway, I specifically remember thinking that Lake Erie in Cleveland was probably cleaner. Yuck.

I was feeling a bit nauseous at this point- likely from swallowing too much of this nastiness- and I considered telling Scott I was going to skip the GU I had instructed him to give me after the turn around. But then I thought that if I happened to end up in a mano-a-mano battle at the end of the race I didn't want to be bonking so I was smart and stuffed down that GU. Yuck. But I did it.

Anyway, swimmers get pretty spread out during this race (without buoys this happens) so pretty much all I saw the whole time was Scott and his surfboard. I didn't know where any of the other gals were but I made an assumption they were swimming strongly so I kept up my best effort all the way back. Coming home I felt solid but that didn't mean I wasn't desperately hoping to see that final orange buoy. The biggest issue was that I was cold and my arms were both numb. It was like that buoy was never going to come. I kept looking up to see if I could spot it but only ever saw vast open ocean ahead of me so I tried really hard to just swim and stop looking. Just swim Michelle. Swim like it's never going to end. Just swim.

Eventually of course I got a glimpse of it. AH!! THE BUOY!! LIKE A BRIGHT SHINING BEACON IN THE MIDDLE OF THE OCEAN... Phew.

I made the final turn and had like 650M into a very strong head-current to get to shore. I took a couple of very long breaths looking behind me to see if anyone was close. I wanted to know if I was going to have to duke it out with Jana anyone? I saw someone back there but the gap was at least 50M so I knew that my place was my place at this point so I just put it on cruise control and swam in. At one point, I kid you not, I was swimming (hard) and absolutely going backwards. I knew enough to chill out and be patient and wait for the wave that was about to come pick me up and thrust me forward, but still, that was depressing to see myself actually moving backwards. I vowed not to look at the bottom anymore.

OK, ready for the best part of the whole race? I swam right up until I could touch the bottom and then as I stood up I heard Moana yell "MAMA!!!!!" Oh my this was so cool! She had been right on shore (in the rain) with my soaking wet friend Lynne who was watching her and they were waiting for us to come in. Absolutely awesome! I ran over to Moana with a huge smile and picked her up and then ran back over to get Scott (who had just dropped his surfboard in the sand) and all three of us crossed the line together. I hope somebody got a picture of that because it was one of my most favorite race finishes ever.

Afterward. The happy family! Thanks to Kim for this shot!

Poor Moana. She kept pleading, "Mama hold you... mama hold you..." (Meaning Mama hold me- she doesn't quite get all the pronouns yet) and man I tried but my arms were just cramping up. Sorry Moana. Mommy cannot hold you right now. Mommy's arms are tired.

Then I started shivering pretty much uncontrollably so I went back to the car and turned on the heat and changed into my fleece. Then I brought out the airpot of hot coffee I had brewed at 5:30AM and brought it out to share with my other hardcore swimmer friends.

So, wanna guess where I placed? 7th OA (12th including men- where were the men? Melting b/c of the rain? Wah wah?), 1st age group. Guess who that was 50M behind me at the final buoy? My awesome rival. Perfect. I won my age group by 45 seconds! My time (2:07) was my slowest ever and 9 minutes longer than last year, but everyone was a good bit slower than last year b/c the currents were way stronger than they've been in previous years. This is why I do not stress about swim times in races. You just never know how long it is going to take based on conditions or whatever. Last year was picture perfect. This year, well, notsomuch. But I am happier with my performance this year b/c I felt stronger and pushed more. Then again, last year at this time I was pregnant (I have not forgotten) so wasn't actually able to push hard...

Couple of other notes. Um, Nalani kicked ass today. I knew she was swimming well based on what she has been doing in the pool so I was anxious to see how she would stack up against these other super fast women. Nalani established herself as one of the fastest female swimmers on the island today coming in 3rd OA (6th including men). Nalani did not swim as a kid. Nope. She started swimming as an adult and for years could not swim in the same lane as me. Then she caught up. Then she started pushing me. Then she left me in the dust. She is proof positive that the swim can be learned and that smart hard work in the water actually works. Huge congrats to her! I could not be more proud. My other athlete, Jennifer also did very well coming in right behind Jana in 9th. I'm actually kind of convinced that I just took a better line than she did there at the end b/c she has amazing endurance so I totally thought she was going to get me. 

All in all a super wet fun day. I'm so glad that race director threw caution to the wind and let us race today. I do think that if this was the ever popular (over-crowded) regular Roughwater Swim that they might have been more cautious and called it due to weather, but that since this was just a small group of 41 pretty hardcore swimmers with individual escorts, they let it happen. Love it.

Next up? Finish that bottle of wine. :)


Molly said...

Totally amazing, Michelle!!! Congratulations on winning your AG and toughing it out on an epic day.

Did you have to dodge much in the way of stuff floating around in the water? That was the hardest part OW swimming in Jamaica during/after the hurricane - huge logs everywhere!

Beth said...

WOW!! What a rough swim and if it was dirtier than Lake Erie?? UGH!!! I'm convinced you can swim in anything now. And also, Nalani is my hero - not a swimmer growing up and look how far she has come?!?! :)

cherelli said...

Oh man - what an amazing swim!! Crazy, crazy islanders is all I can say. But way to go Michelle, great way to end the year; love the family pic post-race too :)

Anonymous said...

LOVE it Michelle, congrats on your race!! That water sounds disgusting - similar to Tempe Town Lake with a current. Bleh! Enjoy your wine :)

Anonymous said...

Wow, fantastic! And totally cool when the coachee passes the coach :-) Let's work on that! I'm glad you shared Nalani's swim background... definitely gives me hope.

(And I'll be sending you that swim video when I get to Orlando; mom's agreed to be my videographer. Would love to get an underwater view, but that's a bit pricey. Maybe in a month or so...)

Angela and David said...

Enjoy your off season! It's about time. That swim sounds epic and so cool that Moana was cheering you on as you finished.

Regina said...

Be careful what you wish for! I think you mentioned in a previous post about like the rougher water swims...well, you got it!

Congrats on the AG win and OA placement. It always feels good to beat a rival no matter what place you come in, as long as you are ahead.

Hope that wine was good!

Charisa said...

That sounds crazy!! Congrats - you are such an awesome swimmer!

Lizzie said...

LOVE the finish line story. I'd seen that pic on FB yesterday, but it made me smile even more knowing the story behind it.

Running and living said...

Congrats Michelle. And congrats to Nalani as well...she must have a great coach! Would be great if you did a post on what it takes to become a strong swimmer:)
Love that pic with the 3 of you!

Big Daddy Diesel said...

Congrats on taking your AG and 7th overall, there is something special about bad weather races, they make you feel just a little more proud for finishing