Thursday, August 11, 2011

Horsetooth 10k Swim

The Horsetooth 10k swim started in 1999 as a fundraising for Partners, and is now a Team Fort Collins event. The course covers the length of Horsetooth Reservoir in Fort Collins, Colorado. Swimmers (and paddlers) start at the north end and swim to South Bay swim beach. Water temperatures over the years have ranged from 55-70 degrees. NO WETSUITS are allowed. The cutoff time is five hours. Read more about the previous swims here http://www.horsetoothswim.com/Race-Details/10K-details.html

I have watched a few swims over the years while running in the foothills. I never thought I would participate due to lack of swim training because I’ve always prioritized Ironman training and I hate cold water more then anything – although I do like swims with no wetsuits.


The idea of participating this year popped into my mind three weeks before Ironman Lake Placid. On a Sunday evening I felt like swimming. With no plan or intentions of swimming anything but easy, I swam 40x100s on the 1:30, easily holding 1:25 pace. After taking November through March off of swimming and then maintaining about one swim per week leading up to Ironman, I felt pretty strong.

The day after IM Lake Placid was the deadline to sign up, and I had a strong non-wetsuit 2.4-mile swim during my Ironman (56:40). I decided, since swimming is my sport, I need to do more swimming events – so I signed up. Given our recent hot summer weather and a full reservoir, we were sure to have warm water temperatures.
On race morning, the water was 72 degrees – the warmest water they’ve ever had for the event. Along with no wind and clear blue skies, conditions were perfect. Normally, 72 degrees is freezing for me, and I would never swim in water that temperature without a wetsuit. Upon first plunge, the water felt great, and I was never cold.

The group – 90 swimmers in all – started out faster then I wanted to start. My competitive instincts kicked in, and I stayed within the group – I did not want to get too far behind. Never having done a 10k swim, I didn’t want to start too fast, either. We had to swim about a half a mile to find our kayakers, which was more difficult than I thought.

My kayak was the only one with balloons attached. Unfortunately, the balloons were low I still had trouble locating them. That slowed me down some. It was strange treading water trying to find my kayak, surrounding by other kayaks weaving in and out trying not to hit you with their paddles. Thoughts of the movie Titanic flashed in my head – the scene when they go overboard and are in the water dodging icebergs.

Once we met up, it was weird not being able to chat, like you do when you run or bike with someone. After about 1.5 miles into the swim, I was off my three-hour pace. I was anxious to pick it up, but decided to be patient and wait till the three-mile marker. Once we were halfway done, I wanted to see how many people I would pass in the second half. I know for sure I passed five other swimmers, and since we were so spread out along the length of the reservoir, it was hard to tell how many others I may have passed. At the five-mile marker, I knew I was going to finish in under three hours – now it was a matter of just how far under three hours I could be.
I finished in 2:50.44, 10th out of 36 female swimmers. I feel pretty good about my accomplishment, and I’m excited to train for my next open-water, non-triathlon competition.

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