Thursday, July 11, 2013

Kingdom Swim 2013

Kingdom Swim 10 Miler 2013 

M route around the lake, up the left side, down the right side.
Race reports are an interesting thing. I think they started as a report on the race for other people considering the race, but now they have morphed and seem to serve a purpose that is part education, part vanity, and part remembrance for the athlete. The education part is not just the race itself, but particularly in long races, how did you actually get it done, how did you pace yourself, what did you use for calories, did that saltstick thingy everyone talks about work? The vanity is obvious, "Hey everyone look what I did." The remembrance is similar to the education, you can look back and say. "Oh yeah, THAT's what I did there."

This was my 5th time doing the Kingdom Swim Ten Miler in Newport, VT. I have done it every year they have had it, and really enjoy it.

Anyone who goes to New England in the summer will tell you how beautiful it is and I am no different. This is a lovely race in a lovely little town and in a beautiful lake for the swim. I recommend it highly.

The race has distances from 100 and 400 yards for the kiddos to 6 miles and ten miles for adults. This year, the ten miler was slated to be the US Masters Swimming ten mile nationals. Due to some changes in sanctioning that nobody likes, that part didn't work out. The Kingdom Swim was the newly formed World Open Water Swim Association's ten mile world championship.

Newport is a lovely little town and the night before the swim was the Aquafest parade. The only swim I know of where the athletes walk in a parade the day before. We grouped up with our state flags, put on viking hats and off we went. It's a solid 7 block long parade, quite nice. Leading our group in the parade was Memphre, the legendary monster that lives in the lake. Though I didn't have them with me this year, in years past my kids have walked with me in the parade, it's a grand time. <My wife and kids were vacationing on the Delaware beaches while I was at this swim.

Immediately after the parade is the carbo dinner right on the water, a pretty good meal as far as carbo meals go. This is also where you meet your volunteer escort kayaker if you hadn't done so already. This race uses escort kayakers for the 3, 6, and 10 mile versions of the race. My kayaker this year was Pam, a veteran kayaker who paddles the lake often. We discussed feeding strategy and staying on course in the wind and we were set. I went back to the hotel to mix my nutrition for the following day.

All my Supplies
I use a similar solution for open water swims as I do for triathlon. Maltodextrin mixed into full strength gatorade with a separate bottle of water. The way this is done is that the two bottles are tied to a rope of 20 feet or so. That way the kayaker can hand or throw me the bottle and then just pull it back in when I am done. My calorie intake is 1.3 cals / lb / hour in the first 3 hours and then 2.0 for the rest of the way. It comes out this way because in the first three hours I feed every 30 minutes and every 20 thereafter. This solution has worked relatively well for me. I have used half strength gatorade in the past and seemed much thicker, maybe some of the additives in the gatorade make the maltodextrin thinner in solution - or maybe it is in my head. But I prefer the full strength. I take in 8 ounces per stop and the math all works out. Though I may consider going to a slightly higher concentration so that I need maybe 6 ounces of mix and then chase with water.

Having that done,I made some channel grease. Channel grease is a 50/50 mix of vaseline and lanolin. While it took me time to find, lanolin is available at your neighborhood pharmacy in 2 oz tubes with the breast feeding supplies. I showed it to my wife and she said "Oh yeah, I remember this stuff." There HAS to be a less expensive way to buy lanolin btw. But for the purposes it worked well, lasted much longer than the vaseline usually does.

Channel grease ready, calories ready, other things set up. Time for bed.

Got down to the race start in the morning and get everything packed up in the kayak with Pam, put in sunscreen, put on channel grease and ready to go.

I suppose this is as good of a time as any to mention that I am due for surgery this month on two herniated discs in my back. Yes, the excuse paragraph. Actually they don't bother me much in open water swims. Sitting, lying down, walking, pool swimming, running, cycling - almost anything else but open water swimming. So I put off surgery until after the swim so I could keep my streak of 5 straight times going. But since pool training hurts, naturally my mileage wasn't what it had been in the past. I also put on a fair chunk of pounds, but out here in the cool water, it shouldn't slow me down much.

When we set off for this race, I always intentionally start at the back; my biggest fear is going out too fast in these and crapping out. So I intentionally make myself wait. I made my way in slowly and started swimming. As another pacing device I usually swim the first mile breathing every third stroke. Similar idea, you can only swim so fast when breathing every third stroke. Actually I tried that for a bit and found that I couldn't, so i went to a 2/2/3 rhythm. Still holding back.

We headed west across the lake for the first mile and tried to find our kayakers. I didn't see mine at all until after the first turn buoy, it's hard for them to see us in the crowd of 75 swimming and pick out who is whom. After the turn I looked up and my kayaker Pam was right in front of me, looking the other way. I got her attention and we were off, her on my right so I could see her when I breathed.

In the race we proceeded North up the west side of the lake. Feeding every 30 minutes was fine. Though one change from previous years was that I didn't drink any extra water unless I felt I needed it. In past years I drank gatorade and watrer at every feeding, but that also meant I needed to pee at every feeding. I can pee while treading water just fine but can't go while swimming so it costs me about 90 seconds for every pee!

After the 2nd feeding I asked Pam to let me know if we were passing or being passed at feeds. Turns out I was passing people the rest of the day.
Headed out to the First Turn Buoy

Also around this time I started feeling some soreness in my chest and arms, muscular soreness basically just like I was pushing hard. The thing was, I wasn't pushing hard, so I was a little put off by that. but it was still early and told myself not to worry about it.

Made the turn across the lake and stayed with the 2/2/3 breathing rhythm. This is always a question for me, when to switch breathing rate, in 2012 I had cramped badly in about 8 miles so I was hesitant and played it conservative here.

I am on the far right and had just passed the two swimmers behind me
On the trip across the lake, I was watching two swimmers who were close together and it seemed like I took forever to get past them, but eventually I did pass them for good though it seems like it took a full mile to get past them.

As we hit the 2.5 hour feed, I was pretty much halfway through, at the far end of the lake. Here I also took some excedrin, the caffeine is helpful and so is the pain relief. I usually use non-aspirin version of excedrin but I had run short on time and i had the regular one. Aspirin is an NSAID and like the other NSAIDS can slow down your kidney function so I avoid those in races. Since this wasn't a terribly hot race I felt relatively safe in using it.

Made that turn and finally changed to 2-stroke breathing to the right, I figured I'd be picking off some swimmers, though I didn't actually really pick up the pace, I just let the somewhat higher turnover take care of that, once again didn't want the repeat of last year.

At 3 hours I ate my kit kat, a little delicious bonus calorie source. Man that was delicious and hit the spot. Very soon thereafter we went past an island and now the full waves from the west side of the lake were hitting us from the right. So I switched to breathing left. Interestingly enough, while my speeds are pretty close on either side, when breathing right I have a little smoother faster turnover and breathing left I have a longer, slower turnover stroke.

At that point in the race, I think it is a 2.5 or 3 mile straight stretch, no turns no nothing just straight heading for a turn buoy you can't even see. You can see it on the map as the long stretch down the east side of the lake. A mind breaking part of the race. People who don't do endurance races will ask, "what do you think about?" I happen to remember that at this point, I was counting strokes. I would breathe normally for 120 strokes and then look up to see if I was catching anyone. Thankfully, I usually was.

Right in this part of the swim I had my second bout of food wanting to come up. I think the first was at 2 miles or so. This was simply an exertion thing, right after the feeding I needed to keep form getting ahead of myself and it would be OK. This is kinda similar to half iron bike nutrition where for me it always seems I am on the edge of my stomach getting backed up.

So I held my pace solid but no heroic through that section. Also on my mind at the time was last year's episode of hamstring cramps that I thought would take me out of the race. My hamstring had cramped up and when I bent forward to try and stretch it out, both quads cramped. Think about how you would go about stretching your hamstring out in the middle of the water with nothing to grab onto, it's pretty difficult. So last year I couldn't stretch the cramps at all and just had to suck it up and wait them out.

Not wanting to repeat that, as I said, I held my pace. Kept breathing left. Somewhere in here I also went to feeding every 20 minutes, 21 minutes actually. Also in here my kayaker Pam was having some difficulty keeping her line. While the swimmer is deaf and blind, the kayaker does get blown by the wind while the swimmer doesn't. So while it is happening I wonder if I am losing my direction or the kayak is. Most of the time it is just me, but in the case of a side wind, it can be both of us. The only difference in swimming was that rather than being 10 feet or so from the kayak, I was 10 or 15 yards away and it got further with every breath.

FINALLY, I made the left turn for home. From there I think it is a solid mile. By my reckoning I was 100 yards behind the nearest kayaks at that point. I went back to breathing right, so my rhythm improved, my feedings had been good and I was smelling the barn so I laid the hammer down, that was good. But as these things tend to go, that last mile was the longest mile in the race. My effort was redlining the whole way, on the rivet as it were, and blowing by people lef and right. Some of them were actually from the 6 mile swim, so I SHOULD have been blowing by them, but a good number were ten milers and I improved several places in the last mile.

All except for the last one, as I made it to the last buoy, which I think is 75 or so yards offshore, I could see another guy had just turned the corner. I figured I had him. Turned and of course I was still hammering away. I thought I saw him breathe left, so I figured I'd pass him on the right and I'd be past him before he realized I was there. Well, maybe I was mistaken but for whatever reason he saw me and he turned it on as well, so after ten miles it was a sprint for the last 50 yards. As we got close to the end I figured, "I can get him on the run in if I don't cramp up!"

It's hard to look good with a hamstring cramp
As soon as I stood, I cramped up in my hamstring :-). So I missed another place by 8 seconds as I waddled across the line.

Final time 4:47

In the end I was happy, not my best showing there but not my worst and ten minutes faster than last year. I'll be back next year if it is within my power to do it. And I recommend this race or one of the shorter ones for anyone to do. Lovely race.

My results show I was the 14th male, same as last year and 2nd in my age group, 2 better than last year. So I am happy. Not sure how many men did it, but there were 75 total swimmers in the ten miler.

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