Sunday, July 25, 2010

Catfish Crawl Report

I signed up for the Catfish Crawl out at UVAS reservoir on a whim earlier in the week. I knew I wanted to finish off this week with a 2.0 mile swim and I was pretty sure if I just made plans to meet people for a casual OWS, like I normally do, that I'd end up blowing it off while I wouldn't blow off a race I paid for.

This turned out to be really smart on my part as I had a lot of trouble convincing myself to get out of bed this morning and I definitely would have skipped something free.

I showed up at the race around 6:50 when the lines were short. The people doing the 2.0 mile race got gold caps and I was successful at resisting the urge to also sign up for the 1.0 mile race. (It would have tired me out to much given that I'm about to start tapering for Vineman Full Aquabike next Sat.)

The pre-race atmosphere was interesting. There was a clear gap between the swimmers and the endurance athletes. Half the people had t-shirts and jackets advertising their Masters swim program or some swim race they'd done while the other half were sporting jackets that said things like Ironman Couer d'Alene Finisher. On top of that, USA Productions is probably the most disorganized of any race organization I've ever experienced and so pretty much nothing was happening the way their email and website said it would. This included being able to park in the parking lot that they said would be for "transition" (good), not having the dry clothes bag or changing area they promised (bad) and having changed a lot of the waves and their start times (indifferent-they all do that).

I ran into a lot of SVTC peeps and we hung out and caught up.

I did the 2.0 mile race in the wetsuit category. The purpose of doing this event was to practice swimming a long distance in a race situation. So it was a training exercise but training at racing, not training at swimming. This meant I was practicing pacing and trying to finish as fast as possible. I was worried that the two miles would take me as long as my 2.25 practices due to starting in a big blog of people and getting off course (I'm not good at sighting) and all the sorts of things that happen in races that don't happen in practices. My goal was to finish as close to 1:15 as possible, since that would be the same pace as doing 2.4 in 1:30, which is my ultimate goal. I didn't have a lot of faith I could do it, but I was going to try.

I started out okay. I tried to draft off people in the beginning but it was hard to find someone going at my pace. I probably went out a bit fast too. Plus, the course was very hard to follow. (And not just for the sighting challenged, like me.) I just did the best I could and mostly followed people hoping they could see the buoys when I couldn't.

At one point, I was so far off course that a boat started coming towards me to correct me. I figured it out before he got there and got back into the group and by now swimmers were thin on the ground. There were still a few behind me, but I was trailing more than I wanted to. I was a bit mad at myself for getting into this position after a strong start.

I decided to do something I rarely do when swimming, but do all the time in biking. I picked someone in front of me and worked to catch them. Then I drafted off them a while to rest before I went after the next person ahead of us.

I leapfrogged her too and was rounding the turning point buoy when my right calf started cramping up. I could not get it to stop and I was grabbing it and trying to stretch it out while not also drowning when the two people I worked so hard to pass both rounded the buoy. At this point I went from mad to STEAMED!

I figured that I'd passed them once so I could pass them again and I took off after them. That actually worked to calm my calf more than trying to stretch out my leg! I was able to pass each of them again and then I was able to catch up to a small pack of people. I was so happy to be swimming in a group for a change.

I kept up with the pack for a while but we all ended up pretty spread out and it was hard to know if I was keeping pace or losing ground. I decided that I must have more endurance base than at least a few of them, so I should start pushing the pace and hope for the best. I figured I didn't have to bike or run after so I could afford to push hard and even end up exhausted, if need be.

This involved more kicking than I normally do and, sure enough, as I was approaching the finish chute, my left calf started cramping up. I ignored it this time and just kept swimming and it settled down. I felt really, really slow coming down the final stretch though. I don't know if I was actually slower, but it seemed like the finish line wouldn't get any closer no matter how much time had passed.

I had a good feeling though that I was making good time overall. I ran up over the timing mats, smiled for BrightRoom Photography when they asked and looked at my watch. It said 1:15:52! I was so, so very happy that such a crappy swim with some extra mileage and two leg cramps had still come in so close to my goal time. Also, I wasn't exhausted. Hungry, yes. Too exhausted to jump on a bike, if I had to? No.

However, I went to look at my watch later and now it said 1:21. It also said I went 6.5 miles. (Um, no.) But it was stopped and not running. I don't know what happened and now I was worried I read it wrong before and I hadn't finished as fast as I thought I had.

So later on, when they posted the official results and my official time was 1:14:53.8, I was ecstatic. Of course, I came in 5/6 in my age group. But I don't care because being able to do 2.4 miles in 1:30 should put me right in the middle of my age group at Ironman Arizona and that should set me up quite well for both the bike and the run. That's why 2.4 in 1:30 is my goal, in fact.

If I have another good swim at Vineman, followed by a good bike, I will feel much, much better about IMAZ and my ability to get through it. I am pretty sure I can build up my mileage again in running between now and then if I all I have to do with the bike and swim is maintain my current level of fitness.

Bottom line: life is looking good right now.
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