When Barbara initially sent me the information about Kingdom Swim, I thought… sure… it’ll give me something to do. In retrospect, I wish I had prepared better, but what a great first experience for a long swim.
The long silde show tells the story of the swim better than words can, but I’ll try to walk through my thoughts about the swim. My first 10-mile swim was as easy, and as hard, as I thought it would be… and with that…
The start was not an intense thrashing start, which makes sense… what’s the point of sprinting? However, my friend Bill and I did run into the water just to make sure we could get some smooth water as soon as possible. Post race, Bill said to me the last thing he remembers is hearing, "Bill, you’re WINNING!" With his long legs, he was high stepping much better than I was, so I figured I’d let him know that at least at some point in the race, one of us was in the lead.
Around the first buoy, very smooth, and still in the pack. Didn’t seem like any problems, and all I was thinking about was stretching, staying smooth, and not working at all. About three quarters of a mile into the race, I saw my kayaker, Rachel, coming toward me with a smile on her face… at least someone was positive at this point. I also noticed I had picked up a couple trailers. Now I understand drafting, but since this was the first time I’ve ever attempted a really long swim, I wanted to just zone out, swim all alone, and focus on feeling my stroke. After a little while, Rachel told me to just stop and let someone else take the lead. It was good advice. While the small pack was forming, we had stuck to our fueling routine that we set up, and I grabbed some Gu and drink very early into the swim. From what Rachel told me afterwards, we had fueled 3 times before anyone around us had… which I think was a good idea for me.
I’m not sure where we were when I noticed we were all alone again. Some of the buoys were close, about one-half mile apart, while others were one-and-a-half miles apart. Those were the tough ones mentally, but I remember seeing Canada and knowing we were making progress.
Around mile 4 or 5, Rachel said, "there’s a woman catching us," to which I remember replying, "gonna have to let her go, I’ve gotta relax." I guess knowing at half way if you’re going to be able to "pick up the pace" or not is something you really have to consider, and I kept reminding myself that I knew I’d have to fight the competitive instincts of a "race" so that I could complete the "swim." I didn’t feel good enough at 5 miles to imagine picking a fight with someone… again, knowing what was to come.
The toughest part of the race was between buoys 6 and 7. Buoy 6 is at mile 6.5, which means you’re on the final stretch. The problem is, buoy 7 is at mile 9… which means there’s a two-and-a-half-mile stretch between buoy 6 and buoy 7. Rachel could barely see the next buoy. From my vantage point, it would be another 20 or 30 minutes before I could see it as well… and another hour or so of swimming before I would get there.
Communicating became an art, and it was at about this point where I felt a real rhythm hit me… very comfortable. I decided to let Rachel know just how I felt… but rather than stopping to talk, each time I turned to take a breath, I spoke the following words: "I… can… hold… this… pace… for… the… rest… of… the… race… but… I… can’t… go… any… faster." Sure, it was funny at the time, but with the roughest part of the swim still to come, I wasn’t ready to make a charge.
It was probably at mile 8 that my right arm started to hurt. That was about the only real pain I felt the entire swim. I think I was focusing on the catch for so long that my right bicep was getting sore. Rachel noticed I was slowing a bit as well… she told me later she could tell because she had to stop paddling. That seems pretty slow.
I think the last thing I asked her before we got to buoy 7 was, "is anyone catching us?" The shake of the head NO was about the most welcome news I heard all day. I knew I was a respectable 3rd and could really enjoy this last mile (which I calculated in my head was going to be around 25 minutes ’til I was done… seemed like the longest 25 minutes too).
Closing in on buoy 8, I noticed that Kermit, Barbara’s husband and kayaker, had come up along the other side. It was great to see another friendly face and I could really start to take in what we just did.
When the finishing buoy came close, I tried to think about everything that just happened. Even though I’d been swimming for just over 4 hours, I couldn’t remember much of what had just happened. I’d taken something like 10,000 strokes, 8 or 9 shots of Gu (which was getting a bit old toward the end), squirting a shot of two of water in my mouth and throwing the bottle (string attached) back at Rachel and that pain in the right arm. It was all gone, and the only thing left was to slowly relax and take in the event.
It’s incredible how fun the start and the finish are, when they’re a mere fraction of the event. I guess that’s what makes it so much fun… so much is ahead at the start, and you’ve had to work for so long to get to the finish… it’s simply worth it.
The people at the event completely respect all the swimmers and kayakers, and it’s a fun event of major proportions. From the parade through the streets of Newport, to the pasta dinner, meeting new friends, and spending a beautiful day in a great place. The "race" is completely secondary to the "swim."
Hours after the swim, I questioned if I’d be doing this again… Sunday came without the slightest ill effects of what took place the day before. Nothing was sore, and I wasn’t very tired. I kinda like that. Looks like a sign-up for the 2011 Kingdom swim will be in the works soon.