Lake Erie a no-go

I’m usually not one to back down from a race. So, my decision to scratch yesterday’s 2-mile Lake Erie Open-Water Swim was not without regrets.

I had some chores to take care of down in Columbus before the renters move in to our house. I figured, instead of returning the same way I came (through Indianapolis), I’d swing through Cleveland and reward my hard work with the Lake Erie swim, which is part of the GLOWS series.

I made it up to Cleveland Friday evening, but soon after checking into the hotel I opened my laptop and read some disturbing news: A “swim advisory” at Edgewater State Park – the beach just west of downtown Cleveland where the swim would take place. Elevated E. coli levels, apparently.

Now, Cleveland has cleaned up its act in recent decades – recall the 1969 Cuyahoga River Fire – but this was not what I wanted to hear. On top of the Friday swim advisory, there was also a large thunderstorm making its way through town at that very moment. Meaning even worse water quality the next morning.

82 people showed up to swim Saturday morning (of 99 registered), but I was not among them. I was already on my way back to Chicago. Did I make a mountain of a molehill? Perhaps. Yesterday’s E. coli reading (reported today) came out at 63 CFU, well below the state threshold of 235. So it was probably safe to swim.

No doubt, I’ve unknowingly exposed myself to much worse water-borne dangers than Lake Erie had to offer that morning. But that’s the way it goes – under uncertain conditions, I made a decision. Thankfully, there’s still plenty of racing left on my summer schedule.

Race Report: USMS 10K Championship (Noblesville, IN)

RESULTS posted here.

The final USMS Open-Water Championship of the year – a 10K at Morse Reservoir in Noblesville, Indiana – was impeccably organized, highly competitive, and set in a gorgeous location. In short, everything a successful open-water event should be.

But Dick Sidner and NASTI went above and beyond. From the boat tours of the course, the loaded goody bags, the detailed pre-race briefing, the generous sponsor gifts, to the efficient hydration/feeding procedures, the friendly and encouraging volunteers, the large shade tent, the delicious post-race lunch – all the details were just right. One expects a certain amount of fly-by-the-seat-of-pants organizing at open-water events, but this one was smooth from start to finish – a gold standard for all future hosts of the 10K Championship.

It was both the most enjoyable and most painful open-water event I’ve ever participated in.

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Race Report: USMS 2-mile Cable Championship (Charlottesville, VA)

RESULTS posted here (PDF).

The 2-mile Cable Champs at Chris Greene Lake was another “surgical strike.” Fly in one evening, swim the next morning, fly out the same evening. It’s not my favorite way to do things – I would have loved to check out UVA and Monticello, for instance – but my budget (time, financial, and marital!) dictated that I get back to Chicago in time for dinner.

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MIMS Memories

Before it becomes stale news, I wanted to note several fascinating, inspiring, “water-level” accounts of the recent Manhattan Island Marathon Swim. The 28.5-mile circumnavigation of Manhattan is one of the generally-accepted crowning achievements of open-water marathon swimming (along with the Catalina and English Channels), and is the only race among the three.

Race Report: USMS 6K Open-Water Champs (Windsor, CO)

Results posted here.

The third USMS Open-Water Championship of the season – this time, for 6K – was held in a man-made lake in Windsor, CO (near Fort Collins). It’s one of only two races on my schedule in which I’m truly “flying solo” – that is, not an excuse to take a semi-vacation with the wife (Charlotte, Noblesville, Madison), to see family (California, Oregon) or friends (Miami), or take a dip in my local lake (Big Shoulders).

So, though it was my first time visiting Colorado (excluding airports), I didn’t stick around to sightsee: I flew in Friday afternoon, raced the next morning, and flew back the Columbus the same evening in time for a late dinner and episode of ‘Mad Men.’

Continue reading “Race Report: USMS 6K Open-Water Champs (Windsor, CO)”

A balancing act

Between May 29 and August 1 this summer, I have 6 races. Actually, 11 if you include events with multiple races – but the point is, I have to be ready to swim fast on 6 occasions in 9 weeks.

These races are, in many cases, quite physically grueling: a 6K this weekend (at 4800′ elevation) in Colorado, a 10K next month in Indiana, and a total of 11K over 5 races (also at elevation) in Oregon at the end of July. So, while I need to be “ready to swim fast” in all instances, I also can’t afford to moderate my training much, or I risk losing conditioning. If anything, my training volume in the past year (~15,000-25,000 yards/week) is actually insufficient to race a 10K (though it’s sufficient to finish a 10K).

In club/age-group swimming, we trained right through mid-season meets, tapering only in January (for short-course championships) and August (for long-course championships). The most we got mid-season (usually for a “travel” meet) was a couple days of below-average volume. During the high school dual meet season, we had meets almost every Friday between late February and early May. Did Coach give us Friday mornings off? Nope.

In mid-season dual meets, though, our competitors were also training hard, so “peak performance” was neither expected nor necessary.┬áThis summer, because I’m doing primarily USMS national championship races, the competition is actually pretty strong. In all cases, I will be racing against at least a few swimmers faster than me – and even more who, if I’m fatigued, won’t hesitate to smoke me.

Another difference is the actual events involved. It’s one thing to race a 100 Back (my high school specialty) at the end of a tough week of training. However terrible you feel, it’s over after a minute or so. It’s another thing entirely to race a 10K fatigued. I wouldn’t call it suicidal, but it’s probably a bad idea.

So, how do I train hard enough to race a 10K, but leave myself sufficiently rested to swim fast in the other races?

Stay tuned…