Open Water

Race Report: North Shore Swim Series--2.3 Miles, Ehukai Beach Park to Waimea Bay

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This is the clearest water I've ever been in, and the longest continuous time and distance I've ever spent in the ocean. It was amazing. Most of the open water swimming I've done, and ALL of the open water races I've done have been in fresh water. Lakes and rivers are great, especially in Colorado, but generally the visibility under fresh water is murky from mud and sand. The North Shore of Hawaii is nothing like that. Instead of popping my head up to look for buoys or other swim caps, I was just looking under water at feet (when I wasn't looking down at fish and reef and scuba divers!) As a first-time ocean racer, this was an incredible event. 

We met at Waimea Bay around 7:45am to get body markings and to drop our bags. Then we were bussed to Ehukai Beach Park for the start. The wind was pretty intense, and Ehukai Beach had huge waves. Buoys were set every 300 meters or so, with SUPs and various helpers. After working to get to the start buoys (diving under the waves) we were set and only had to tread water for 4 minutes or so. The horn went off right at 9am (which seemed like a late start time to me), and we were off. There were probably around 300 people all in. 

After the swim :)

After the swim :)

I stuck closely with the group I was with (4 of us in all). It was actually pretty easy to stick together, even though I thought it would be impossible. We swam at around a 1:45/100 yard pace. The current and wind were definitely in our favor, though I had a hard time getting pushed forward and then sort of sucked back. I felt like I was working harder than the others in my group, but I got into a good rhythm. The highlights were swimming over schools of fish and several scuba divers. 

We arrived at Waimea Bay in around 70 minutes. The exit from the water was easy and fun. We rinsed off and had fresh fruit before heading back to our bungalows. Overall, this was a really well-run event and I'd love to do it again. For someone not used to saltwater swimming, the most surprising part of the entire experience was how numb my tongue got from the water! 

Race Report: Parker 2.4 Mile Open Water Swim

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First of all, I didn't race this: I just did it. This was my first open water swim at this distance, and while I knew I could do it, I wasn't interested in speed. But also, the weather was a bit nuts. I woke at 4:45am to drive from Loveland to Parker. I arrived at 6:15am and made my way to the beach. The last 10 miles or so of the drive were incredibly foggy. It was my first time to Parker, so I didn't really know where I was going: luckily the directions were very easy to follow (it's right off I25). 

When I arrived at check-in, people were just standing around, clearly worried about the visibility. Race director Lance Panigutti got on the loud-speaker and assured everyone that we WOULD be swimming, even if that meant going in lots of small circles instead of the planned 1.2-mile loop. At that point we couldn't even see the first buoy in the water, and he admitted that they had gotten turned around in the boat just trying to place the second buoy. 

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After a delay of 30 minutes, Lance announced that we were going to start at 7:35am: the fog had lifted a bit, but was settling back in. They had managed to set the planned course: an out and back counter-clockwise 1.2-mile loop. The water temperature was 72-degrees, and the air temperature was 56-degrees, so it felt better being in the water than standing on shore. I felt warmed up at the start, and wasn't at all nervous--I was just there to try the distance. I didn't taper in any way for this event, so I had been doing plenty of swimming, biking, and running all week. By the time I got to the middle of the course, I had to pop my head up and stop swimming a few times. Others around me also stopped swimming, realizing we could no longer see any buoys. Some people started yelling for the folks on the SUPs to get directions. The fog was very heavy again. As long as you weren't trying for a specific time, it was pretty funny. 

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By the time I started the second loop of the 1.2-mile course, things were much clearer. It's amazing how much faster you can go when you can see where you're going! The last 1K yards were great: I could see, the water was amazing, and the sun was coming out. I'm getting ready for a trip to Hawaii next week, and am signed up to do an ocean swim at a similar length, so I'm glad I know what it feels like. 

Parker (Rueter-Hess Reservoir) is beautiful, and this water is the cleanest I've been in. I'd definitely do this event again, hopefully with visibility for the entire swim!

Race Report: Boulder Peak 2018

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For the past two years, as soon as this race is over, I tell myself: don't sign up for this race next year--it's too hot. But then the scorching heat is replaced by the cool Boulder weather we love, and I only think, That's such an epic race, I have to do it again! So I'm writing this here, to remind myself: it's an epic race, and it's almost always the hottest week of the year. Here are my details:

The morning before the race I did a shake-out open-water swim with no wetsuit. It was the first time in a long time that I had gone that far without a wetsuit. And honestly, it felt great. More range of motion, nice and cool, and I oddly felt faster. I swam around 1,200 yards, and decided I'd try a race without a wetsuit. (This is where most people opt for a speed suit, but I don't have one). What I didn't take into account was, I was alone in a calm lake on my rehearsal swim....that's very different from race morning chaos. (I have been swimming with the open-water crew at Horsetooth for the past several weeks, but always in a wetsuit). I learned my lesson. And that lesson is, the wetsuit is my friend: take the wetsuit. It just cuts down on so much fatigue. As I was swimming in only my tri suit, I kept feeling like I was having a panic attack. It wasn't a complete disaster, but my pace was 1:46/100 yards where I was hoping for 1:38 or faster. I tried to put it behind me as I entered T1 and remembered I didn't have to strip a wetsuit. T1 = 2:33 

This year they did the waves by gender, which was different from last year. First, the elites, then all of the men (youngest to oldest), and then the women. At first, being in wave 10 had me worried I wouldn't begin until 8am: they said they were going to leave 5 minutes between waves, but only ended up leaving 2 minutes. I started right around 7:25am. 

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I'm still earning my street-cred as a cyclist in Colorado, and I've been doing a LOT of climbing. I don't have a tri bike because I honestly can't rationalize it. I think of myself as a swimmer, a biker, and a runner, but only mediocre at the actual triathlon. Nonetheless, I honestly think the road bike is a better choice for this race. I passed A TON of tri bikes on the way up Olde Stage, and really for the entire first 8-miles of the race. (I still can't believe that some people unclip and walk up this not-at-all-enormous hill). There's actually no better feeling than whizzing by someone on a crazy-expensive tri bike and aero helmet as a roadie. After the Olde Stage climb, there's a 35 mph speed zone. But...it's really just for safety. The rest of the course is rolling and fast. I made myself eat two gels on the bike, and my entire bottle of water. The heat was getting intense even on the bike. My pace was 18.1 mph for a 1 hour 24 minute split. 

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T2 = 1:37  The run at Boulder Reservoir is almost entirely exposed. I'm a huge fan of the crushed gravel, but this is a brutal course. Almost everyone I saw was stopping at each mile for water. I stopped at most aid stations myself. It was too hot to risk serious dehydration. I actually felt really good for the entire run. I think I could have pushed harder and probably come away with at least a 7:45 pace, but I played it safe and was satisfied with a 7:55 pace for a 48-minute split. 12th out of 27 in my category (but with the second fastest run), 45th woman out of 200. 

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Overall, this is a great race. The heat is always a factor. I would love to race this course in late-September or October. My time last year was right around the 3-hour mark, and this year it was 2:49, so I'm stoked that I trimmed it down, despite the swim. I don't know if I'll race this again (I probably will). The Withoutlimits crew is so great. Everything about the race organization is always awesome. And there's nothing better than a slip-n-slide finish!

Race Report: Lory Xterra Trail Tri

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Get out of your comfort zone: you'll almost definitely find something you didn't know you'd love. I did the Without Limits triathlon series last year, and I loved the atmosphere of those races: laid back, locally owned/run, open to anyone, but still with legit competition and serious athletes. This year I decided to try one of their races that DIDN'T take place at the Boulder Reservoir. I found Lory Xterra. 

The swim for the race was pretty simple: an out and back around a series of buoys (right around 1,000 yards). The reservoir was nice and calm, and the race location is situated so that the swim course is pretty secluded (and beautiful). The water temperature was 68-degrees. Race organization was really well planned out from start to finish. The first 3 waves of the swim left with only 2 minutes between them. Then they took a 15-minute break, and the remaining 5 waves left with 7-minutes between. I was in wave 4, so right after the break. They've developed this system so that the rest of the course is never too congested. In my opinion, it's pretty genius. 

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My only complaint about preparing for this race was that I found out a week before that no CX bikes are allowed on an Xterra course. That's not explicit on the website. It also wasn't listed at all in the race announcement email. I purchased a Specialized Diverge last October, so I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to race with my new bike. I'm hugely grateful that I posted "Lory Xterra practice ride" as the title for a workout on Strava. A friend saw it and told me to check the status of CX bikes. I contacted Race Director, Lance Panigutti, and sure enough: mountain bikes only. So...I had to rent a bike. Not a huge deal, really, but with a little more notice I would have planned differently. I'm mostly grateful that I got this information at all, and didn't show up on race-day with my CX bike! The course is for sure doable on a CX/gravel bike, but easier on a MTB...much easier.

I picked up a Santa Cruz Pivot Switchblade from University bikes. This bike was insane. Way more bike than I'm used to, but super fun. If I had a spare $7,000, I would totally buy it. This bike made everything on the course fun and easy. I still need some practice with my confidence, though. On the first loop, I got passed several times, but everyone was super nice. By the second loop, things were spaced out pretty well. Overall, the bike was my weakness, but by the end of the 12+ miles, I felt like I was finally holding my own. 

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Early this year, I decided to do as much of my running as possible NOT on pavement, so I've really gotten familiar with this course and the other local trail systems. I still can't believe that so many people who do triathlons, but especially trail triathlons, dread the run. There were SO many people walking and giving up. This run course is AWESOME. Pretty much straight up for 2.3 miles, and then down. The overall elevation gain is right around 600-feet, and all within the first half of the (5-mile) run. The views of Horsetooth and the entire area are amazing. And the trail is so nice: single-track, switchbacks, packed dirt, and some fun rock areas. In other words, everything you should love on a trail run. It's pretty exposed, so I was thankful that we had a lot of cloud cover. (The weather was really perfect: 60s and mostly cloudy). I seriously love this run. And the fact that I got to pass everyone who had killed me on the bike! 

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Overall, I recommend this race, especially if you're new to triathlon or new to Xterra, or just love off-road. This is a well-organized race in a beautiful setting. 

 

Do It: Open Water

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Until I moved to Colorado, the only open water "swimming" I did in my lifetime consisted of dips in lakes and rivers, and occasional trips to the ocean. Always a source of refreshment, rarely a source of endurance. When I worked summers on a ranch in Montana, the snow would melt and feed a fast-moving creek that eventually ran into the Yellowstone River. On scorching July afternoons, everyone would line up on a bridge over the creek and try to work up the courage to jump in. Instant pins-and-needles cold. You'd get just enough time submerged to desperately want to feel the heat of the sun again. 

In Colorado, though, open-water is sport. Last June, my first triathlon was a sprint: on the first Saturday in June. I rented a wetsuit a few times in May to test things out. Each of my trials lasted no more than 10 minutes. The first time I went in, the water was 48-degrees. I instantly thought of the creek in Montana. On race day, the water was reported to be 60-degrees, but I think that was an exaggeration: it still very literally took my breath away. 

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After that first race, I purchased my own wetsuit, and swam many, many more times: I joined an open-water club. By the time I got to my final triathlon in September, I felt like an old pro. My favorite open water swims were early mornings at Carter Lake even before the fishing boats were out. The water was calm and cool and quiet. This year the local lakes are already reporting in at 67-degrees. These days, in general, I'm less afraid of the cold and more intimidated by the heat. I dipped my toes in with my pup the other day, and it was far warmer than pins-and-needles. The pup is just barely a year old: we adopted him last August, and he was too small to really get in the water then. Last week, though, he was VERY excited to splash and play. I'm looking forward to taking him to some early-morning swims. I'm looking forward to spending even more time in Colorado's beautiful water.