Thursday evening, I headed to La Jolla Shores for the first TCSD aquathlon of 2008. It was cold, rainy and stormy, absolutely unheard of in these parts at this time of the year. I almost bagged it but decided to at least drive down and check it out. Upon arrival, I was impressed by the large crowd of people amassing by the lifeguard tower. Like a sheep being led to slaughter, I was hooked.
I signed up and got a temporary chip. Timing mats and everything. These things are so official! I heard the water was 69--also unheard of for this time of year. I tested it with my toe; the rumor was true. No wetsuit for me! Yippee! I hate my wetsuit--swimming without one is so freeing; plus it makes for a wicked fast transition.
I went in for a warm-up to test the water. The waves were 6-feet tall--ridiculous for the Shores! It was kind of unnerving--these massive walls of water roaring towards me. I took a deep breath, and dove underneath, only to emerge to find another huge dome of water cresting over me. I took a deep breath, and dove underneath, popped up on the other side, then repeated. By the time I got out past the breakers, I was huffing and puffing. That was a workout in itself! I quickly body-surfed back in and lined up for the start.
Unfortunately, one disadvantage to not wearing a wetsuit is freezing your ass off when you get out of the water. I did the whole body shiver, teeth chattering, goosebumps, everything--for several minutes until the whistle blew. We were off! Albeit, a little conservatively because of the giant waves. I took my time and hung out in the back, giving myself plenty of room to pick my way through the swells.
--a perfect storm--negotiating the waves
Once out past the breakers, the water was very choppy but swimming without a wetsuit set me a little deeper in the water, allowing myself to get better leverage. I felt very comfortable and only swallowed a little water. I got jostled, kicked and elbowed a ton! Remembering my swim tactics from IMAZ, I jostled, kicked and elbowed right back. Only to be met with more violent jostles, kicks and elbows. Guess we're upping the ante! Hey, don't I know you? Don't pretend you don't know me! I know where you live! Guess we San Diegans like it rough and tough in the open water, no matter who you are. That swim had more full-body contact than my Ironman swim!
Swimming with the current, I negotiated the 1000 meters with ease. Soon I had hit the 3rd buoy and was headed towards shore. I swam wide strokes, exaggerating the roll on my breathing side to look over my shoulder. I didn't want a sneak attack from a nasty wave from behind. I was very conservative, having wiped out pretty badly on the boogie board last Sunday and even ducked under a wave once or twice. Up on shore, my watch read 17:25--way fast for a "conservative" 1000 with lots of waves. Must have been a wicked strong current.
Transition was great. I took 2 seconds to throw my googles and cap on my towel and was off for a barefoot beach run on the packed sand where the water meets the turf--my favorite. Also my first of the season. The shod athletes, poor souls, were condemned to run the upper part of the beach, a narrow strip of deep sand, where an occassional wave drenched them anyway. Their futile attempts to keep their sucks dry were dashed by several rogue waves roaring up to the wall at high tide.
I skitted over the sand and flew down the beach, making up for last time. After the first mile, I settled into a nice rhythm. It always takes me a mile to warm up. My feet floated over the surface, barely touching the sand. On my second lap, I could feel blisters forming on my big toes, my ankles felt week and wobbly and my calves started aching. I convinced myself I was not running on glass--this was barefoot beach running. I have to get my body used to it again. It's wonderful to do short stints of barefoot running on soft surfaces once in awhile to toughen up your feet and ligaments. It also feels wonderful; very freeing.
I passed another couple of guys towards the end. Volunteers cheered our names. I heard footsteps quickening behind me, honing in for the final chase. I had been running pretty much all out for the last 3 miles. Did I have a kick left in me? I didn't think I did. But at the sound of those footsteps, somewhere from deep inside, I pulled it out. My steps quickenend and all of a sudden, I was sprinting. All out. And it felt so good. I bounded over the finish line with a big smile on my face (~23 minute 5K). I was ready to chat with old friends, meet new ones, and enjoy the huge spread of food laid out on picnic tables, before the tide came and washed it away.
--the final kick