This morning I left the house at 0700 to meet up with the good folks from Cambridge Multi-Sport (Motto: SWIM. BIKE. RUN. PARTY.) who had organized a practice open water swim very close to the Eagleman Half Ironman course in the Choptank River on Maryland's lovely eastern shore. At 0745 I drove through Cambridge, passed the park which holds the Eagleman transition area, and parked next to the other cars that had pulled off the road in the appointed place next to the southern shore of the Choptank.
We got out of our cars, introduced ourselves, and I was able to start putting a few faces together with the names of folks I had seen on the CMS email list and other local triathlete email lists. Everyone was as welcoming and friendly as could be! Triathletes often seem to be a pretty laid-back bunch when they don't have their race faces on. I had seen some photos of a few of the folks in a feature article in a local newspaper the day before, so that made it easier recognizing them.
We worked our way into our wetsuits (except for one intrepid woman who had been on swim teams since 6 years of age, and seemed accustomed to swimming in just a regular swimsuit in cold conditions). Jude Apple introduced himself and gave us directions on the 0.9-mile course they had set up, complete with kayak, jetski, and boat support. It was almost exactly like the Eagleman swim, except a little shorter, our wave had only about 20 friendly people in it, and there was no race-day hubbub and nerves. We waded out on the nice sandy bottom and started our swim.
I took to the water, in the back of the pack as always. It was chilly, probably about 68 degrees, close to the air temperature. Fortunately there was no wind and the water was quiet. And as always, the pack quickly pulled away from me and I swam along on my own. I felt much more relaxed than on race day and was fairly comfortable in the water, despite having cold arms in my old cheapie Body Glove wetsuit. My breathing was still fairly fast from exertion, but it never got into the red zone, and I was able to alternate between freestyle and breast stroke fairly easily. The brackish water, while somewhat salty, didn't taste bad or bother me, and it was quite clear compared to Centennial Lake which I swam in for the Columbia Triathlon. I had no problem putting my face in the water for 10 freestyle strokes or so, but I didn't push myself hard to keep going longer than that. I wanted to stay relaxed and comfortable in the water and have a Good Swim in the books.
I only went out to the second buoy, instead of following the pack all the way out, and probably only swam 700 or 800 yards, but that was enough to get a good feel for the conditions and a reasonable swim without wearing myself out. I was also having a little problem with a pulled muscle near my left hip, which I hope will be gone in another few days.
My major problem, typical for open water swims, was keeping a straight line in my swimming and correctly sighting landmarks. I have to learn to pick out a tall landmark like a tall tree or radio tower at the head of each turn and use that as I'm going along, instead of trying to get up high enough in the water to spot the buoy each time.
I got out of the water feeling pretty good, which is exactly, precisely what I needed. Some of the folks were going on to bike or run workouts, but I just said my goodbyes and thanked everyone before I went over to check out the transition area a little more closely, and then headed home for the day. I'll do my final long hard swim, bike, and run workouts before the race in the next few days, but for today I just wanted it to end on a positive note.
As long as we don't have high winds and waves on race day, my prediction after today's good experience is that my swim for Eagleman will be slow and steady, and while it may feel long and tiring, I'll FINISH it and go on to complete the half Ironman course in two weeks and GET MY MEDAL!
Thank you again, all you great folks from Cambridge Multi-Sports, for setting up this marvelous training day and helping me along the way toward reaching my goal.