Jim McDonnell Lake Swim – Find Your Feet

Fifteen years ago I was a swimmer. During high school I swam and played water polo during the school year spending countless hours in the pool before and after school. In the summers I played more water polo in the mornings and evenings, and taught swimming lessons by day. I was a permanent prune. I dabbled in masters swimming in college, but largely took a break from chlorine.


Flash-forward to 2014. Despite my swimming background, I wasn’t swimming well and it was frustrating. I turned in a sub-par swim performance at Ironman Maryland for a variety of reasons and have been trying to find my stroke ever since.


2015. New year, new coach. From 700 miles away our coach has both Jon and I swimming better than ever … and she’s never even seen us swim. Crazy, right?! She writes seriously hard workouts that are all over the place in terms of variety – paddles, bouys, fins, band, barf-inducing fast and lat-killing, long slogs. I’d been turning in some solid times in the pool and was anxious to see what I could do during a standalone swim.


The Jim McDonnell Lake Swim is held every Memorial Day weekend and offers 1 and 2 mile race options in a beautiful location. Our triathlon team typically has the event on the race calendar so this year while Jon went off to tackle some hills at Mountains of Misery, I stayed home to give the swim a shot.


Race Plan:
I needed a way to gauge my effort in the water since I often swim too easily. I would treat this like a 10k effort on the road since I figured I’d be swimming for about an hour – roughly the same amount of time it would take me to run a 10k – and we all know how much a 10k on land hurts. I would go out hard for a few hundred meters and then try to find some feet to hang onto. My coach’s advice: Do NOT get comfortable.


I was in the fifth wave as determined by the time I entered for a 1650 prior to the race. Each wave entered the water and then someone yelled “Go”. We were off. I put my head down and settled into a rhythm, swimming harder than I normally would, but making sure I saved something for the second loop of the race. A half mile in I was passed by a man swimming just slightly faster than me – those were my feet! I latched on to those feet and defended them as my own for the next mile. I was able to swim effortlessly at a pace slightly faster than one I could sustain on my own. Perfect! Every time I drifted out of #619’s (yes, I was that close) slipstream, I was reminded how much energy I was saving by drafting and surged back into place. With about a half mile to go things got a little dicey and I had to forge on alone. I was hurting. I wanted to take a break or at least to swim some backstroke, but with my coach’s words in my head, I kept pushing. Lungs on fire. 300 meters to go. Suffering, as it should be.


I crossed the timing mat in 53:49. SOLID. 5th in my age group, 39/128 for wetsuit swimmers, 25/120 women and 77/294 overall. I ended up swimming 2.2 miles, but am thrilled with my time. Obviously I swam harder than I would during an Ironman, but this bodes well for what I’m capable of come October!


Next up: Half Iron Aquabike (my first ever!) at Challenge Atlantic City.



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