A couple days before the 10k event, we took the kids to see Finding Dory. Yep, her mantra was fresh in my mind. And seriously….a 10k in the water is a LONG way to swim. And it takes way more prep than I had originally thought. Aside from the ridiculously long workouts, part of that prep was requiring someone to kayak or SUP along side me for almost 4 hours on race day. Justin, husband of the year, stepped up to the challenge and agreed to do it. Ok…it was more like you’re-my-only-option-will-you-do-it-please-don’t-say-no. Neither of us had done anything like this before, so we were kinda winging it and hoping for the best. We rented a kayak and practiced…
The week of the event we had heavy storms in the area and weather was not nice to us on race day. The morning was cold and windy but it appeared the thunderstorms would hold off until later in the afternoon.
The race director took precautionary measures and due to the threatening weather and water conditions he shortened the swim course. The distance would remain the same but instead of the 10k swimmers doing 2 long loops, we would instead do 6 shorter loops. Just so ya know…this is what a summer day in NY can look like. The race director was wearing a long sleeve wet suit, a swim parka, and a beanie hat!! Whaaaaat?
The condensed course made it easier to patrol and allowed for quicker response times to get swimmers out of the water in case of lightening. Also, there were strong winds out of the east contributing to a fierce current so shorter swim increments against the current would, in the end, be more beneficial to the swimmers and break up the time we were having to swim against it. We arrived on the beach, assessed the ocean, and started prepping for the day.
Justin and I were worried about him being able to stay anywhere close to me for the swim. The swells were at least 4 feet and it would be too dangerous for him to get close to me in the kayak. So we strategized about where he would go and how we would manage. As we were prepping for the start…Justin talking to other kayakers, and I lubing up for the wetsuit…thinking we have plenty of time…I happen to notice the strap on my goggles was torn. (Ummm!!! No wonder my left eye was leaking during my Eagleman Half Ironman! The elastic nose piece was literally hanging by a thread) So I wandered off to find some scissors to repair it. And while I was gone I guess that’s when the race volunteers were directed to get into the water. Before I knew it, Justin was gone and the race briefing had started. As the race director was giving instructions to swimmers, you could see the kayakers behind him trying to get into the water. One by one…the volunteers would send a poor kayaker into the break, trying to get them out without flipping over. But every single boat flipped. Again and again. With “oooohs” and “aaaaahhhhhs” from the swimmers with each tumble. I didn’t see Justin the first time he flipped (too busy fixing goggles) but I eventually saw him out on the course and he looked okay (although I did notice he was missing his RayBans). So now my goggles are fixed. I’m looking for the 10k group – they’re at the start line – and then I see Justin’s kayak upside down out in the ocean, floating away in that strong current towards the end of the course, and I don’t see Justin. A friend reassures me that the guys are helping to flip it over and make sure he’s safe, but the kayak is heavy. He says don’t worry about it…to go line up. So I do, I go to the start line with the other 10k swimmers. But as they are doing the countdown to start the race I realize that oh crap…all my nutrition/food was out on that kayak with Justin. If he’s in trouble, I need a plan B.
So while I’m freaking out about what to do, here’s what had just happened to Justin that I was completely (and thankfully) unaware of…
- Upon flipping over the first time, Justin lost his sunglasses in the ocean.
- Justin and the others got tangled up in the rope that was used to attached my water bottles to the boat. They wrapped around the bottom and top of the kayak as it flipped. Oops
- Waves were hitting him so hard that the metal hook on his lanyard broke. Luckily, my coach had suggested to bring a waterproof case that floats. After it broke off, the case floated right up next to him and he was able to rescue it. It contained his cell phone and our car key!! He didn’t even know it had broken loose.
- At this point the kayak was full of water and was so heavy that Justin and the other guys had a hard time flipping it over so they rode the current down and to shore. This is when I spotted Justin swimming towards the beach pulling the upside down kayak behind him….just seconds before the start of the race.
- A couple of the more experienced kayakers were able to remain in the ocean, but most of the patrol volunteers were laying down on SUPs or surf boards and riding the course by paddling with their arms.
So back to “plan B”. Justin and I had decided that if he wasn’t able to stay out in the water I would wear my orange open water swim floatie to be more visible and he would keep a watchful eye on me from the shore. But as I was at the start line, watching Justin wrestle the kayak back to shore I realized he had all my nutrition with him. CRAP! So I sprinted the half mile down the beach to Justin and grabbed my gel and water bottles of Tailwind. And then sprinted back. The race had started and I was over here doing a nice little mile warm up run on the beach. SMH. I threw my gel into my swim buoy, tossed the water bottles to the volunteer at the start line and asked her to get them out to the turnaround float. I crossed the start line, and into the ocean I went.
My Tailwind did eventually make it out to the turnaround point but not until half way through the race. The swells were big, but heading out to the east with the current behind me it was manageable. I could literally ride the wave at times…dare I say it was fun! But after the turnaround, coming back was extremely difficult and at times felt like a damn aqua treadmill. The first lap (.5 miles out and .5 back) took me 12 minutes there and 22 minutes back. Swimming against the current SUCKED and eventually I started feeling sea sick. In general it’s just a really long time to be in the ocean. I’m not a strong open water swimmer (compared to pool swimming) and I’m so much slower in these conditions. So many experienced and strong OW swimmers were out there that day and I was in awe of them, their form and ability to cut through the water. As I was being tossed around, treading water and trying not to drink the whole damn ocean. Swim goals! Eventually, I passed the turnaround point for the 6th and final time and headed to the finish line.
Ok, so let’s talk about Justin for a second. He is seriously the best sherpa ever!! This guy puts up with a lot from me. He’s not into this whole swim bike run thing but he makes time in the family schedule to allow me to get it done. He hauls equipment and kids around so I can do my thing. He even willingly (if only slightly begrudgingly) agrees to kayak by my side for 6.2 miles in the ocean when he’d much rather be sitting in the sand with a cold beer. Even when his flight was delayed and only got a couple hours of sleep he didn’t complain once. Not even after clocking almost 12 miles in steps that day. He’s a good man. He supports my “me” things even though they make no sense to him.