This race was important to me because it had an Iron-distance component and I really wanted to get an idea of how I stacked up in that regard. So having a swim that was 2.4 miles (or 4000 meters) was important to me. I have been working hard and concentrating mainly on this swim for the last 2 months and I think that it paid off in the confidence I had, which was to be needed before even the midpoint in the race.
The Tulsa Swim had 5 possible combinations: a 500 meter swim (sprint); a 2000 meter half iron swim (1.2 miles); a 4000 meter full iron swim (2.4 miles); a short doubler (the 500m + 2000m swim); and a long doubler (the 500m + 4000m swim). I chose the longest possible course to attempt my very first open water event with, quite possibly because I lost my mind. But anyway, I was hitting the pool regularly n trying to swim betwen 500 and 1000 meters at least 3 times a week. About a month ago, I came in off a short training run and hit the pool for 2000 meters with only a short break between the two. That day, I swam the last 500 meters even while my legs and feet were cramping. It was intense, but didn't hold a candle to things to come.
The weekend prior to the race, I managed to get out and just get a feel for the lake with the Race director, Danny Gassaway. The water was warm and the lake was low enough that in some places, I had to keep my strokes shallow or I'd drag bottom. But the real question came up when the day before the race, the area experienced some storms. That, to me, made the lake a complete unknown again. Would it cool off the lake and if so, how much? How would it affect the water levels. And to boot, where the practice swim the air temps were in the mid 80s, now the air temps were expected to drop into the high 50s and be maybe in the high 60s at swim time.
Race day came and I was up by 5 getting ready for the long day. I had to get things together and make sure I didn't leave key pieces of equipment just like any other race. Always looking to improve on what I've done before, I found a new breakfast that really did wonders to my energy levels the thursday before the race. I agonized over the options, but after discussing it with a helpful friend, I decided that I would go ahead and break the rule for not changing something on race day and I went with a breakfast of granola with fresh banana and strawberries sliced up in it. I also had a Vespa nutritional supplament to even out my metabolism for the long race. Then grabbed my gear and started out on my drive to Lake Heyburn, where the event was to be held. I was as prepared as I could be, I thought. On the drive in, I thanked God for helping me get where I was and asked for his favor on today's race, as it was going to be a long day. Coming over the last hill before decending to Sheppard's Point, where the race would start, I was greeted by the beautiful sight of fog over the lake.
The air was cool (low 70s) when I arrived. My friend Ken TZ Childress was already there, helping out with packets and timing chips. In short order, I got my chip strapped on my leg and got my number marked on both of my arms and I headed down to the beach. A water start was called for due to the lake levels being so low and I didn't realize it until I got down there, but they had dropped another foot from where they were last week! So much for an increased depth! After the briefing, I headed out into the water expecting the water to be cool but the water was warm! At least for the most part. There were a few cold currents running through it, however. The first race, the 500 meter was pretty much what I expected. 22 minutes and 23 seconds. I didn't want to put everything out in it because I still had my long swim coming up, and it was, indeed, slower than the pool by about 5 minutes. Part of that was coming up to the beach to stop time. It felt really good, though.
They had to switch timing chips for the second race and it almost took too long, so I was still swimming out to the buoy for the start when the gun went off. The long course was 4 laps around the buoys and the first lap I felt great and quickly hit my stride, so to speak. The second lap went almost as good as the first, but near the end of the second lap, my left calf started cramping. I am glad that I had done a practice swim where my legs were cramped up a few weeks ago because it really gave me the peace of mind to keep going. I figured as long as it was just the one leg, I'd manage it. Occasionally, the cramp would release and I'd be able to swim normally for a while before it would start cramping again.
Just before I rounded the start buoy for the 3rd time and started my 4th and final lap, my other leg started cramping as well. At that point, I almost decided it was enough, but you'd have been proud of me, I didn't stop of give up. I kept on going. Every so often, one of both of the cramps would loosen up and I could kick through it, but most of that last lap was just my arms pulling me along. The hardest part was trying to get out of the lake. When I tried to stand up, both calves cramped up so tight they locked. I actually thought I'd have to crawl across the finish line and actually started to and prayed hard while I did. Then one of them released and I was able to stand and almost immediately started to lose my balance, so it looked like I was running out of the water. I had to laugh at myself over that, even though it hurt -- a lot. I learned a lot about myself yesterday and God was with me. I finished the 2.4 miles in 2 hours 53 minutes and 46 seconds. My legs and arms are very sore today, but I slept so well last night!