The 7km race today went very well. Full sun, just enough breeze to keep the air pleasant, but no surface chop. The water temp was perfect. I was a little concerned for the first km that I might get uncomfortably chilled at our group’s pace but I was fine as the sun rose higher in the air.
There were gentle swells from the right hind quarter and a current that would shove us all left after we cleared the island’s landmark shore. The three of us, me and my two swimmers, made a plan to stick together to the end of that certain landmark at about 1.5 km for warming up and dialing in the focus. Then Baha would decide if he would go his own way.
I was in total non-racing mode, though I realized a few local top swimmers in my age group recognized me and were expecting me offer some competition. For just a moment after the start of the race I wondered how the front of the group was shaping out and where I might have placed myself, but it was easy to turn my focus on pacing my swimmers and giving them a live screen demo of the technique they were working to apply during this swim.
We had eaten a good Turkish breakfast a comfortable two hours before, got the necessary toilet breaks, watered up, lotioned up (I did double) and vasolened up at last while ferrying over to the island. In the end I nor Serdar, the swimmer I accompanied, stopped for water. I just kept peeing everything out anyway.
I was expecting our swim to take 4 hours (based on my swimmer’s own self estimates)but when we got to where I guessed to be the halfway point we were on track for 3! We had favorable water, and I think the companionship helped too.
As we passed the tip of the island’s last landmark those swells shoved us to the left however. After a couple attempts to reset our course I realized that it would take a lot more strength and speed than my friend had to cut an angle across it so we could end up riding those swells to the finish. Since we would be protected from overdrift by the peninsula now paralleling us on the left I decided to let us just go ‘straight’ for the least exhausting path.
I had a few options for how to sync my pace to my companions.
1. very slow tempo. I kept my length and counted 60 strokes to calc the tempo I needed to hold (1.5 sec per stroke or slower). I tried this for a while, which essentially became Slide and Glide drill for me, but it was actually tiring to re-accelerate on each stroke for uninterrupted periods of time. I was learning more dimensions of energy conservation. I could feel that I was wired to be more efficient at higher speeds. I was feeling some tiredness from such a mild pace- I realized it was challenging me on the other side of my range. And in the swells of the sea SLIDEandGLIDE really tests the balance and direction skills. Definitely a notch more challenging than in the pool.
2. Shorten the stroke. But my neuromuscular system has tremendous resistance to shortening the stroke, unless compelled by high tempos. I couldn’t do this at this pace.
3. Stop to navigate, survey the race and enjoy the view, then cruise back at regular pace to my companion. I liked this the most but for the first half of the race he would stop and look for me wondering if something was wrong with his navigation when I moved out of sight behind him (not for fear but for sticking together). I did this a bit more on the second half when he was getting tired and not worried about our navigation anymore,
4. Breast and backstroke. Backtstroke would have been fine but the increased salt water pouring into my sinuses on bkstroke was a little too unpleasant. Breaststroke was my choice and it felt so wonderful to do full body symmetrical glides under water- the rush of water beside the ears and the challenge of keeping an even flow of water above and below my lengthened balance body was a thrill when done over bottomless deep blue. But I was conservative with how much I did bc doing breaststroke beside a crawlstroke swimmer reinforces the realization that he was much slower than me. I wanted him to be assured that I was genuinely pleased to accompany him and not be somewhere else.
At around 1 hr 50 I noticed that my friend’s energy was dropping though not his resolve nor peacefulness. The realization that we were on a much faster pace (at controlled effort level) than we expected was exciting for both of us even if he was slowing down a bit. It was harder for me to hold pace down now and to steer as straight- I felt as if my body held straight and firm better at higher speeds- maybe like how it is easier to balance a bike when it goes a little faster. Even the little muscle knots under my left scapula and tension in the left shoulder felt better at higher tempo. So I had to keep concentrating on powering the stroke from the core rotation.
There are challenges for skill on both ends of our stroke rate and stroke length ranges! Throw some swells in there to rock the body and we get an interesting practice set.
The finish was in view and closing quickly it seemed during the last kilometer. Swimmers from the tail of the pack that had been spread wide across the course were now converging on the giant Turkish flag and the exit ladder beneath it. We did it in just under 3 hrs!
Before the race my two swimmers assured me they were pleased and grateful for all they had learned in the previous three days, and felt ready to apply focus points to this event. But once in the water and each left to his private thoughts and experience of the moment I was not sure what they would rely upon the most if anything. I didn’t know them that well yet. Race excitement can boggle the brain. But fortunately, long races like this offer lots of time for the body and brain to settle down and be prompted to start thinking of how to make this thing easier to accomplish.
Plus, I noted to our group on the ferry that we, in contrast to all the little friendly groups of swimmers riding over on the ferry, were a bit strange in how calm, even sleepy we seemed to be, as if we were just getting ready to slip in for another practice, not some race of a distance none of us had yet tested ourselves on this year. By this I knew they had caught the peaceful confidence of TI. We were in the State Of The Art.
Baha did end up going his own way after we passed the end of the island, and when he showed up at the finish a little later than Serdar and I (I was just a little worried, cuz I did not know where to look for him in all that water) he showed me on his fancy Garmin watch that he added another 900 meters to his swim by cutting way back right across the swells, like we had not been able to do.
The only casualty of the day was a gash on my big toe from some sharp barnacled rock I shoved against while standing in our preferred water start spot. I could feel a slight burning sensation as I swam and the drag from the flap of skin hanging off the bottom of my toe, but of course I couldn’t see any bleeding in the water. (glad there are no sharks here to come follow my trail!) But after I got out after the race I was proud of my little bloody wound when I walked on the deck- a little like a road rash I wore with honor after a spill in a sprint tro many moons ago. I still think sport related scars are fun.
Yes. State Of The Art. This is the kind of attitude we instilled in our camp and demonstrated today in our swim.
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