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Written by John Bullard, Richmond, VA
On Memorial Day Weekend this year I found myself standing in wave “M” of the 2008 Jim McDonnell Lake Swim. Fortunately, I was entered in the 1 mile swim rather than the 2 mile swim – since this was my very first open water race.
I was feeling surprisingly relaxed and eager to swim. I attribute this to the friendly atmosphere and generally positive vibe that seemed to be hovering over the lake. The event was very well run, and the friendly Reston Masters Swimmers went about there jobs of handing out packets and “body-marking” with noticeable pleasure. Within minutes my wave was in and “off to the races”. I enjoyed the swim and had no trouble locating the well placed course buoys. The course was around the perimeter of a large part of the lake and along the shore line keeping the buoys to the left and the shore line to the right. This layout was easy to follow and made for a great first-time open water event.
The swimmers all seemed to be there to enjoy themselves, creating a nice atmosphere. A pool for warming up and cooling down was available. Both wet-suit and non-wet suit divisions were offered — I opted for the wet suit as the water temp was about 63 degrees. There was plenty of food and drink offered to the swimmers when they finished the race and, of course, a nice T-shirt.
I definitely plan on competing in this race next year. If driving up to Lake Audubon the morning of the swim, my tip for travelers would be to plan on bailing off 95 North somewhere south of the Beltway to avoid the Holiday traffic snarl (there are a couple of alternate routes to Reston when you get up near and past Fredericksburg). I opted to go up the day before and stay in a nearby hotel (info on their web site). I arrived at the race site early on race day for packet pick-up — which was good because parking at the lake gets a bit crowded as the morning advances. It was nice to have my vehicle close by. The 1 mile race started at 8 am and the 2 mile at 9 am. It was fun to finish my race and then relax and eat while watching the 2 mile event. I highly recommend this event, especially for anyone with limited open water experience.