Guest Post: Elizabeth Cohen, 5280 1-mile swim race report

Event: 5280 One-Mile Swim
Place: Wake Forest, NC
Date: April 18, 2009 8:30 a.m.

Today, I swam in the inaugural Triangle Open Water Swim race in Beaver Dam/Falls Lake, North Carolina. The Triangle Open Water Swim Series is starting off this year with three, one-mile lake swims in the Raleigh area. Today’s swim took place in combination with a triathlon.lake

I signed up for this swim in order to get some early season (aka: cold water) practice in and help to prepare for the Great Chesapeake Bay Swim that I will be competing in in just a couple months. I’m glad I had this opportunity to swim in a safe, controlled open water environment this time of year because the weather in Richmond has not been very cooperative in allowing early-season swims.

Thirty or 40 swimmers entered the race. This was actually quite nice and not too overwhelming. The race was run very well. I received two emails over the week and a half leading up to the race with updates on the event and current water temperatures. I always appreciate pre-race emails, especially for races I don’t know much about; it reassures me that the race is still on track to take place.

The members of the race management team, FS Series, were very friendly at check-in. I received a soft brown t-shirt and goodie bag filled with Hammer gels. There was a pre-race open water swim clinic one hour before the swim started. The race director went over the course and shared open-water swimming tips. He even got in the water and demonstrated some open-water swimming techniques such as dolphining, sighting, and drafting. It was quite windy and chilly — my car said it was about 45 degrees! So I spent some of the morning walking around in my new neoprene swim cap. Neoprene sure does block the wind. No one wanted to take off our sweats and get ready for the swim, but we were actually much warmer once we put on our (wind blocking) wetsuits.

The other swimmers and I headed down to the beach area for the start of the race. I attempted a little warm up, but my arms were so cold in the water, I decided just to stand in about waist deep and wait for the start of the race. I think the water was about 61 degrees. I had a sleeveless wetsuit on and was “comfortable” for the most part except for my arms. This was also my first race wearing a neoprene cap under my race cap, and I think it really helped keep my body from being too cold.

The race and course were pretty standard. There was a mass shallow water start, which was a little congested at the beginning, but not too bad. The crowd thinned out around the first buoy. Once we all got in our own grooves, I was in the back of a little pack of three. While I didn’t like being behind other people, I could only see a handful of people ahead of us, so I knew I was somewhere in the front. I drafted off my little group for a while, but about half way through I think I got used to the cold and had a little surge of energy. I was able to pull ahead of one of the people in my little group and hold that spot till the end. Even though it was a lake, there did seem to be a little current and chop, especially on the last leg of the course. I had to keep re-angling to get to the beach. The finish was out of the water. The swimmers in the triathlon started about 30 minutes ahead of us, so I think they were all long gone and on their bikes when we came in. I swam up the beach as far as I could, then ran over the sand and up the start of the path towards transition to cross the timing mat.

During the triathlon, the first place swimmer must not have looked at the course very closely, because he accidentally turned at a buoy that he wasn’t supposed to turn at and he headed to the finish. All the people on shore and in the support boats tried to get his attention to tell him he needed to go further down the lake and around one more buoy, but he must have thought people were cheering him on, because he kept swimming and made it all the way to shore before someone got a chance to explain to him that there was one more buoy. He had to swim back out and go around another buoy that was a little past the finish line and turn and come back to shore. I think he still finished as one of the top swimmers in the triathlon, but what a shame. I am sure he definitely learned his lesson to always know the course and study it as much as possible before the race.

elizI think the top three males and females received a mug and a gift certificate to a local triathlon store. I ended up as the fourth place overall female and first in my age group, but only after you take out the two people in my age group that placed top three. I am very happy with my results. I received a first place mug for the 25-29 female age group. The mug (along with the race t-shirt and cap) all had the Triangle Open Water Swim series logo on them. I liked the fact we had our own logo shirt and awards and didn’t just get the same favors as the triathletes.

The race and awards were all over by around 10 a.m. So I hit the road and was back in Richmond by 1 p.m. — a quick and successful 24-hour road trip.

One other thought about the lake: It was quite brown. I’m not sure whether that was from recent rain, or it’s always like that. It didn’t seem really gross, just really brown. I couldn’t really see my hand if it was stretched out all the way in front of my face, and it was hard to see people swimming around me. But the water didn’t smell like boat oil. I think I may have even seen a sign that motor boats aren’t normally allowed in the lake.

I am definitely going to keep the August swim on my potential race list for the summer. Maybe they will even spice it up a little and offer a two-mile option. I know that would make my friends and me a little more likely to make the drive down. That’s a hint for the race director, in case he happens to read this. 😉

Overall, this race was a great start to my season!


One response to “Guest Post: Elizabeth Cohen, 5280 1-mile swim race report

  1. Hi
    What was your time? I enjoyed the read and wish I could get over to do a few swims in the US. I am in sunny south africa getting ready for the midmar mile race series in a month or so time. Google it and see how we put things on in thios part of the world. still a field of 40 would be nice for a change.


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