In preparation for the upcoming Chesapeake Bay Swim and with the help of Doug Saar from Swim4Purpose, we’ve made two trips to Lake Linganore in Frederick County to get some open water training. Our last session before the Bay Swim will be Tuesday June 5th, just 5 days out of the race.
We first made a trip out there May 24th and surprisingly needed no wet suits. Water temperature was cool, but tolerable. We made it out again May 29 and this time the water was warmer. Of course, the water on the Bay will always be cooler, but indications are that we are set for some great temperatures and I can hold fast with my commitment to swim the Bay without a wet suit this year.
Last year was my first outing, and I had no idea how I would place, knew nothing about the conditions or the course, and had never done an open water swim, despite having been a professional swimmer. I had always been in a controlled environment, same length pool, same temperature, clear water, lane lines, walls, etc. With open water there are so many variables to consider that no swim on the same course is ever the same. It stands to reason that times from one year can’t relate to the times of another year. All that taken into account, I swam last year’s event with a swim suit. It seems that about 95%+ do it so.
So, the lake is very calm. My first outing there last year was surreal. It was like a postcard picture looking out on the lake. Smooth like a sheet of glass reflecting the landscape surrounding it. The benefit of the lake swims is that there are certain elements of it that get us closer to the open water conditions to expect at the Bay swim. The only things missing are the current and waves, and the 650+ swimmers battling it out with you.
Yet, the water is murky, there’s some occasional debris here and there (mostly twigs and leaves), but no snakes (yet). Plus the fact that you’re swimming continuously so these elements of the swim are a little practice for the Bay. Tough when we live so inland. If we were closer to the ocean we’d be doing practice swims out at sea.
It’s tough when all my training consists of roughly 80 minutes of swimming Mon-Fri. I used to do 6+ hours a day when preparing for the Olympics, 7 days a week. So, I have to be realistic with my conditioning and realize that obviously I am a lot older and out of shape compared to where I was 12 years ago. Especially since I took a 10 year hiatus and only started swimming again about two years ago.
But these lake swims are a treat, and they are tough. It’s a bit eery when you’re in the middle of the lake by yourself (Doug and I swim at different paces) surrounded by nothing but the forest around you, and a lot of water. Not the place to have an injury or have an accident. However, despite that, you find an inner peace while you’re swimming hard that is hard to find anywhere else.
Last Tuesday’s swim I tried to swim the distance of the Bay swim (4.4 miles). Doug and I had mapped out the distance using Google Maps and other tools. I tried to swim it as I would the race itself. I was pretty happy with the swim and the overall performance and condition of how I finished. I was a little sore for some 2-3 days, but recovered fine.
Our next swim on June 5th will be the final test before the race. I’m aiming to do a 5k all out and should be under an hour. That would be a little over a mile short of the bay distance, but a great primer for the June 10th swim. I am really looking forward to it this year. This year’s race will host a strong field of swimmers returning, including the winner from two years ago, a Stanford bound swimmer/triathlete who’s a member of the national team. I like!
Plus, I finally get to shave off this ridiculous beard I’ve been growing since late February. Damn thing is itchy as hell. If I could grow a thick beard it would be one thing, but my beard grows like a young teenager’s, spaced out and sparse. I’m afraid my brother got the better Viking beard genes.
Best of luck to everyone. I hope to follow up with a posting within a fews days of the race, so stay tuned.
Also, a big thanks to Doug for the help and access to the lake so we can get some practice swims in. And on that note, a huge congrats to Doug for this being his 20th Bay Swim!! La hostia!