Last summer was my third time swimming the 2.5K event at the Lake George Open Water Swim. Finally after three years I managed to break and hour!
The Lake George swim is one of my favorite races. The lake itself is so beautiful! It is surrounded by pine strewed mountains and wrapped in so much history, with battles fought in the French and Indian War and the American Revolution. At 32.2 miles long, and up to 3 miles wide and 187 feet deep it is a massive lake!
Its size can make swimming a challenge. The larger the body of water the more susceptible to weather. I have swum in the lake with swells big enough that my recover stroke never made out of the water and I had to skip a breath because I turned into a wave. This year was the calmest I have seen it.
My training last summer was sub par to say the least. I should have gotten to the pool to do sprint work, but never did. Some weeks I was lucky to get a single training swim in at Round Lake. I did strength training for my land work outs so I knew I would at least be strong enough for the event. My friends and I also managed a couple 2 hour long swims so the endurance was there, but I was not sure about technique and speed.
The day of the race I got up early to make a big breakfast of oatmeal and a cup of tea. My friend picked me up and off we went! Two hours and two pit stops later I was getting my number marked on my arm and calf and doing last minute carb loading in the form of Lays Potato chips and Lofthouse sugar cookies!
After our safety briefing we lined up in order of hour bib assignments so we could get checked in before entering the water. Instead of marching in line I went to the front so no one would have to wait behind me on my walk to the lake. As I always do I waded in as far as I could comfortably walk with my poles and then I flung them to shore and squatted into the water. From there I crawled through the chilly shallow water.
We huddled at the start line waiting for the gun to go off. With a large group of people swimmers often choose to start swimming a short time after the beginning, or stay to the outside to let the rush of people pass first. I have done this before and it is a waste of time and ultimately a waste of energy. I find more people choose to delay their start in this event than those who choose to get out right away. Cutting across swimmers in the middle of the course if you started outside means you swim a longer distance and you end up in the line of other swimmers- something you intended to avoid by delaying your start and being on the outside. I am more than happy to join in whatever melee might occur at the beginning of a swim race. Getting grabbed or kicked does not phase me. I know this lack of fear helped reduce my time in the water. Starting on the inside and having so few waves I was able to stay close to the course and had no issues hugging the buoys.
Getting into my rhythm always take a minute. I get a rush of adrenaline at the start of the race, want to get out ahead of everyone, and maintain my my position as close to the course as possible. The last thing I want to do is get stuck behind someone who does not know how to swim in a straight line. Eventually I find my pace breathing every third stroke and sighting every second or third breath. I get into this perfect zone where I am able to focus on my mantra “one, two, three” for counting my strokes while also being conscious of my form. At some point either before or after the turnaround, my mantra shifted from 1, 2, 3, to “free, Danny, Topper.” I have no idea who Danny Topper is or why he needed to be freed, but that is what was in my head and try as I might I could not switch it to anything else.
One person blew past me at the start of the turn around and then I came up behind a lady who was pretty much going my pace. I let myself slow down so I could draft behind her because for whatever reason I started to doubt I would have the juice to finish. When I passed the second to last buoy I came to my senses. I decided to free Danny Topper and sprint the rest of the way.
As I rounded the final buoy and turned in to the finish the water got more shallow. I never understand the people who stand up at the end of the race to wade through the water. At all my previous events I have been able to outswim the walkers. When it is too shallow for a proper stroke I claw my hands into the sand and pull myself through the water. Eventually it becomes too shallow for clawing and I switch to crawling on all fours. At this time in my life my scamper game is on point and I manage to sprint to the finish line.
Patrick was there at the finish to hug me, pass me my sticks, and congratulate me on officially finishing in under an hour.