St. Croix Coral Reef Inaugural Two-Mile Swim

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Written by Susan Kasimer of McLean, VA and Sport Fair

At 6:45 AM sharp, the alarm went off and, like last year, I practically hit the ceiling.  I was relieved to have been able to get up and out of bed. Many times, I have slept through an alarm — not a good thing.

My dad, seeing as he could use fins during the race, also signed up and joined me for the race
weekend.  And as usual, I had two goals for the race — to not only finish but to wear the best suit.

After a breakfast of peanut butter sandwiches and Gatorade (a winning combination), my dad and I went to the location where we would get our numbers marked and meet the taxis to take us to the start.  We were supposed to have started from the beach at the Buccaneer (the resort that hosts the race each year), but Hurricane Omar came through a few days before we arrived.  St. Croix really got a bad hit; so many boats were ruined in the storm that not enough were available to supervise the original courses.

We were taken two miles east to our race start at Pull Point.  When we got out of the taxis, we were instructed to take our caps, goggles, timing chips, and shoes with us (the rest of our items were taxied back to the  Buccaneer).  We walked through almost a quarter-mile of muddy sludge before we got to the beach, where we left our sandals in a giant pile, where they would be taken to the race finish. It reminded me of that game we all played at Bar or Bat Mitzvahs where everyone threw their shoes into a pile and we all raced to find our pair and put them on.  This beach was more rocks than sand.  These were not the friendly, smooth types of rocks.  They were sharp and jagged, and not pleasant to walk on with bare feet.

The race began shortly after everyone “ow”ed their way to the race start. The water was a murky turquoise, not clear turquoise as usual, due to the storm.  The water temperature was at least 82 degrees-about average for that part of the Caribbean.  I was definitely in the first half of the pack as the race began.  I encountered some strong currents getting to the first orange buoy about ¾ miles away, where we joined up with the five-mile swimmers.  I found the next buoy, about the same distance away, next to a boat, which made the sighting a lot easier.

Now that we were swimming in deeper water, I expected to see all the fun sights from last year — stingrays, turtles, starfish, regular fish, and coral. I saw maybe two fish, but the rest was all a turquoise blur.  I felt bad for the swimmers who were new to the race, as they missed out on the best part of this race — actually seeing the bottom!

After what felt like an eon, I passed the boat and second orange buoy.  This was the point where I started feeling awfully tired.  Although this was obviously easier than the five-miler, in reality I had hardly trained two days a week, if it was a good week.  I tried not to think about how tired I was, and instead focused on the final buoy, a yellow one, about 500 yards from the beach finish.  The waves were about three feet and I had a little trouble seeing it, but luckily it was next to a two-masted ship.  The water did not clear up at any point, but the sun was getting fierce, to the point where I could really feel the heat whenever I lifted my head to see where I was.

Exhausted, I came within the required 10 feet of the yellow buoy and stopped to get my bearings.  Two other swimmers lifted their heads next to me as we concurred on where to go from there. I turned to my left so I was heading straight toward the beach.  This was where I realized I could use the dwindling energy I had left to place as well as I was able to.  I saw a handful of swimmers around me and I slowly gained my lead even though I couldn’t move much faster.  I concentrated on the orange buoys and flags that marked the finish and as my fingers scraped the sand, I tried to stand up — the key term here being “tried.”  I think I was successful the second time I attempted standing, and hurried my way up the beach, remembering to smile for the lady taking the race pictures.

I was greeted by my dad and a guy with a cup of Powerade.  The taste from the salt water was so awful that I gulped the entire cup, probably spilling at least half of it down my suit.  I accepted another cup, this time without spilling any on the shoes of Powerade Boy.  The worst part was that I was so tired that I didn’t pay attention to see if Powerade Boy was cute!

The air temperature must have been at least 80, but as always after a long swim, I was freezing and glad I brought my parka, which was there when I finished, unlike last year where it took a lot longer to arrive.  During a lull between finishers, my dad and I were able to get a great picture taken, which prompted other couples, parent/child combos and groups to get their pictures taken as well.  We watched a lot of the participants finish and I made sure to get a chocolate milk, the ultimate post-exercise food, from the bar.

And as for my goals?  I watched everyone finish — which means that I finished — and my suit was definitely the cutest of all the women’s suits.  There were some interesting male suits, but I consider that another category altogether.  When results for the 2-mile were posted, I went over to take a look, out of curiosity.  What I saw then was utterly amazing — I won the women’s two-mile!!  My dad, as he expected, had won the fin category for the men’s two-mile!  Quite a day for the Kasimers!

I cried as I headed back to my room — after everything I had been through, I managed to win the women’s race!  And as this was the inaugural swim, I now held the record!  I won a Coral Reef Swim mug and a certificate for a free hook bracelet (a style unique, I believe, to the US Virgin Islands) at a local jeweler.

After I dropped off my suitcases at the plane that was going to bring me to St. Thomas (the second half of my vacation), I led my dad to the jeweler (I stayed in downtown after the race last year), where we turned in our gift certificates.  They had a variety especially for the top finishers of the race, where the end of the hook was a fish tail.  I barely took it off during the rest of my vacation.  Winning not only the race but the bracelet as well was the icing on top of the cake — chocolate fudge icing, of course.

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