If you want to skip the synopsis, you can go directly to the 2009 Race Report:
The event: 1- and 2- Mile lake swim at Chris Greene Lake outside Charlottesville, VA. Chris Greene regularly serves as the USMS National 2-mile Cable Swim Championship (this year, it’s in Lake Placid) but even in a non-championship year, should you set a national record, it counts.
The Course: The setting is a small lake in a public park, so this is one open water race where you don’t have to worry about extraneous conditions like wind or waves affecting your swim. The course is a precisely measured 440 yards, marked by a rope stretched between posts and floated by small buoys. (The header photo for this blog is from the Cable Swim.) You swim down one side of the rope and back on the other (which means an about-face turn at each end)—2 complete loops for the 1-mile swim and 4 for the 2-mile. Waves of ten, seeded by 1650 time, are sent off in 30-second intervals. The finish is at the same end as the start, between two inflatable buoys.
USMS sanctioned event? Yes, so you’ll need a US masters swimming license to participate.
Wetsuit legal? No
Qualifying time/swim required? No, but you do have to be able to complete the 1 mile within an hour or the 2 mile within 2 hours. You seed yourself in your race entry form by entering your 1650 time.
Novice-friendly? Yes. A sheltered lake setting, small wave starts, comfortable water temperature and relatively easy sighting, this is a great swim for first-timers, but year after year it also attracts seasoned veterans at the top of their form as well.
What you have to contend with: The water can be quite warm, though this year it was a perfect temperature. Other than that, about all you have to worry about is the occasional floating weed and the possibility of a rope burn from getting too close to the cable. You might also want to keep in mind that the hard-core swimmers treat CGL like a sustained sprint; if your 2 mile time is in the 55-plus-minute category, expect to be lapped.
How we trained: Allison had to miss CGL this year due to schedule conflict. Since the Bay swim I’ve been focusing more on shorter distance, 3000-4000 meter workouts with more emphasis on shorter, speed-focused sets. But it’s only been a month since the Bay, and the week immediately after was really just recovery for me, so what I’m saying is that I’ve really only had a couple of weeks with this speed focus. And speed, of course, is a relative term, but the point is that I’m trying to go faster.
Nice features: Even in a championship year, this is an extremely well run and very friendly, low-key event. Chris Greene Lake features a pleasant sandy beach, plenty of parking, and a bath house with running water (including cold-water outdoor shower). Good post-race food and friendly people too.
2009 top finishers: Just so you know.
In the 1 mile race, the overall winner was 19-year-old Abigail Nunn with an age group record time of 20:02.38. The men’s winner was 18-year-old Luke Robbins in a time of 21:46.62.
In the 2 mile race, having put in a good warmup with the 1-mile, Abigail Nunn came back to be the overall winner again, and broke a 12-year-old age group record (and set a new CGL women’s record) with a time of 40:39.67. The first place male finisher was Chris Stevenson, yet again breaking his own age-group record to finish in 41:03.05.
Web site: CableSwim.org.
2009 conditions included pleasantly cool water and a lightly overcast day that quickly turned sunny, but not oppressively hot. There were about 100 swimmers registered for the 2 mile race, and 63 for the 1 mile (which was first), with some of those swimmers registered for both.
Although it is possible that you, our reading public, are all agog for the moment-by-moment details of my particular swim, I suspect that what you’d really like to know is information you might generalize to your own swims. So here goes:
1) Preparation: I didn’t eat enough. Chris Greene Lake is pretty much a sprint, but instead of keeping that in mind (sprint=energy demand) I let myself get lulled by the relatively undemanding distance into being very unfocused about eating the whole week. It’s not like you need to stuff yourself, but the week before a 2-mile sprint race is not the week to be saying, “oops, forgot to eat dinner again.” Race day is too late to make up for this, and yet I didn’t really eat enough on race day either, and when my blood sugar crashes, it really crashes, and I am thereafter useless. Everyone seems to have a different eating strategy, but I think the key is to have a strategy. And practice it in training, and stick to it come race day. I’ve decided that part of my future strategy will need to be planning out my eating for the week before so it’s not something I keep forgetting to get around to.
2) Pacing: I am good at maintaining a steady pace over a distance. What I realized Saturday is that I’m not so good at estimating what that pace is. Amy (a fellow member of what I am here and now officially dubbing our Local Cohort) set a goal pace and checked her splits at every 1/4 mile turn, which was smart! Why can I never remember these things in the middle of a race? I am almost positive I went out too fast, and if I’d taken my splits I’m pretty sure they would have shown me doing the second mile slower than the first. That second mile really hurt, too, and I had to resort to the desperate maneuver of doing a Gu Roctane (which I’d stuffed in my suit before the race in anticipation of the coming to unfortunate fruition of #1 above, “Preparation: I didn’t eat enough”) with 3/4 mile to go just to make it to the end with any shred of decent speed left in me. And what did I learn from all this? That I will be focusing in my training more on “feeling” my pace—what level of effort translates to what kind of time? What level of effort can I sustain in a nonstop swim? Also that I will try to remember to set a goal pace and check my splits to see if I’m on track.
3) Sighting: Someone told me last year that the “cable” is not actually straight, that it curves a bit, and after 2 years of wobbling around trying to follow it, I have decided in the future just to sight along the rope without trying to stay right on it. On the “out” leg I was always finding myself ten feet off from it and trying to correct for that, and on the “in” leg I was always blundering into the rope. (John, another of our Local Cohort, got some rather nasty rope abrasions).
4) So what, I still had fun: even though I was clawing my way to the finish and my arms kept begging me to just stop already. My goal for 2009 was to go faster than 2008, and I did by more than a minute. That wasn’t as much faster as I wanted to go (see “Pacing”), but it was faster.
4) 1650 to open water: It’s very hard, possibly impossible, to guess how your pool time will translate to open water time, but CGL gives you the best setup for comparison, because it’s a measured course with no external factors like current to affect your time. A browse of the seed and finish times suggests this very broad formula to translate from your 1650 pool time to the CGL 2-miler: double the 1650 and add 5-10 minutes.