Despite my best efforts, the 2010 open-water season is now over! Like Rob, my original plan was relatively modest compared to the end result (though it seemed ambitious at the time). At first, I aimed to run the gauntlet of USMS open-water national championship series – North Carolina, California, Colorado, Virginia, and Indiana – and finish off the season at Big Shoulders in Chicago.
As the year wore on, I found excuses – one by one – to add more events. For the Nike Swim Miami, it was an excuse to visit an old college roommate. For the Cascade Lakes Festival, I got to meet up with my parents and visit my grandmother. For Madison, the drive from Chicago was too short to pass up. Ditto for Diamond Lake. For Little Red Lighthouse, it was a chance to try an NYC Swim race before applying to MIMS. For Swim the Suck, it was a chance to try a true marathon swim and extend my season into October.
And now here we are, 17 races (in 12 states) and 57.4 racing miles (92.4K) later. True to the blog’s title, all races took place in freshwater lakes, with three exceptions:
- Nike Swim Miami (Atlantic Ocean)
- Little Red Lighthouse Swim (Hudson River)
- Swim the Suck (Tennessee River)
How to even begin to sum up this experience? With a list, of course!
Best Event Organization
All the races I attended this summer were actually pretty well organized. Some stood above the rest. The finalists:
- NYC Swim – Little Red Lighthouse Swim. Point-to-point 10K in one of the most heavily trafficked waterways in the world. Pulled off a last minute course change without a hitch.
- Central Oregon Masters – Cascade Lakes Swim Series & Festival. Five races over three days, each with a different course layout.
- NASTI – 10K Masters Nationals at Morse Reservoir. Pre-race boat tours of the course, numerous and helpful volunteers, beautiful post-race lunch spread.
Tough call, but the winner is… NASTI.
Most Interesting Course
Point-to-points will always have an advantage in this category over looped courses. The finalists:
- Little Red Lighthouse Swim – Hudson River from 79th Street to Dyckman, passing under the George Washington Bridge
- Swim the Suck – 10 miles into the Tennessee River Gorge (the “grand canyon” of Tennessee)
The winner: Toss-up, but we’ll go with Little Red Lighthouse. Famous landmarks that double as navigation aids and progress markers!
Most Challenging Conditions
Big Shoulders. 63 degrees and stormy as hell!
Most Competitive Field
Nike Swim Miami by a long shot – 5 current USA Open-Water National Team members, a Brazilian open-water Olympian, the defending Junior Pan Pacs Open Water champion, plus some crazy-fast Masters swimmers.
Among Masters events: probably the Noblesville 10K.
Central Oregon Masters (Cascade Lakes Festival). Food and fun for the whole family! Really good food, too.
Nike Swim Miami. After I finished my 10K I was looking around for something to eat. Because I was hungry. Because, you know, I had just swum a 10K. I saw a big basket of bananas at the “hospitality” stand, and asked if I could have one.
hospitality lady: “No, those are for the swimmers.”
me: “I am a swimmer. I just swam a 10K.”
lady: “Well, you have to wait until everyone is finished.”
me: “Are you joking?”
Most Beautiful Venue
Elk Lake (Cascade Lakes Festival).
Worst Logistical Decision
Madison Open-Water Swim – Having 208 wetsuited swimmers start ahead of 91 non-wetsuited swimmers in the 2.4-mile race. Because the fastest swimmers in this race usually don’t wear wetsuits, this means a few people trying to pass a lot of people.
Best Performance (personally)
Probably the 5K at Elk Lake. Among single-race events, a toss-up between Little Red Lighthouse and the Del Valle 1.5 mile.
Worst Performance (personally)
I’ve mentioned Swim the Suck, though there were extenuating circumstances (not to mention the 2+ hours before I bonked). But I’ll have to go with the Chris Greene Lake Cable Swim. Not realizing the “big guns” usually enroll in the first heat for the cooler water, I went in the 2nd heat and found myself dragging the pack for 2 miles. And it showed – a slow 1:21/100m pace.
Overall Favorite Event
Cascade Lakes Festival. But that’s not really fair – they had three days to impress! Among single-day events: Swim the Suck.
NOTE: To find my race reports for these events, go to the Results page and click on the relevant “event name” link.