Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Run For the Hills

Who: The Great Barrington Land Conservancy
What: The 3rd Annual Run For the Hills
When: Sunday, Oct 6, 2013
Where: Simon's Rock College in Great Barrington MA
Why: It's Becoming Something of a tradition now

The course was back to the loop from two years ago. Last years out and back course is out and my PR with it.
I enjoy being able to pick my own race in a run like this. After half a mile there were four guys spread out in front of me. Everyone else had disappeared from sight. Blue shirt, red shirt, white shirt, grey shirt. Four guys and a pretty wide age range, I thought.
The first mile nothing changed, there were some hills. The course takes a right turn onto a dirt road. The four guys were still there in the same order, maybe a little more spread out. I closed a little on an uphill. On the way down I heard two sets of feet right behind me. At the end of the dirt road the course takes another right turn and starts up a beastly hill. This is also the 2 mile mark.
By this time blue shirt had pulled away. The two sets of feet behind me turned out to be two women. One of them pulled ahead.
But then we came to the aforementioned beastly hill. I ran down white shirt and red shirt and I caught up to the woman who had just pulled ahead of me. (I can't remember her shirt color. It was light maybe pink?)
We raced for the next half a mile or more. Eventually I pulled away. By then the finish was almost in sight. I never lost track of grey shirt. He finished right ahead of me.
After the race we had a second breakfast before I got ready to head over to sunday masters swimming.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Accross Newport Harbor

So this was a short straight swim and I'd like to keep my write up the same way. We came out to Newport for the swim and made a weekend out of it.
The swim is 1500 meters in a more or less straight line across Newport Harbor from Perotti Park to King Park. You can actually see the whole course from the starting line. Maybe two or three buoys to help us keep in line. The start was off of a dock and the water was deep enough for an actual diving entry.
I lined up near the back because I wasn't wearing a wetsuit. I don't mean the race directors did it that way. I mean I had to keep my warm up clothes on until the last minute so when it came time to line up I had to strip, stuff my warm-ups into a bag and toss it in with the rest of the swimmers' bags. Most everyone else could just walk down to the dock.
There were a handful of other people without wetsuits.
I went for the diving start. I was prepared for the curglaff (it's a real word and one the ows community can get some use out of) after a minute of swimming at a slightly faster turnover than usual I settled into my rhythm and felt pretty great. I overtook a lot of swimmers in the first few minutes because I had started at the back.
Several times I found some other swimmers on my left pushing me further to the right than I wanted to go. Was it the same swimmer multiple times? Was I pulling left? I don't know. Everyone looks the same in neoprene. I do drift to the left sometimes.
There were dock and anchored boats to the left. We passed the last boats on the left with around 500 yards to go. The bottom also came into view around then. Water was a little cloudy so I first caught site of the harbor bottom when it was maybe 7 or 8 feet down.
So the whole final stretch once we were past the last of the anchored boats was very shallow. And it got shallower. Then it got mucky and slimy. I was trying to sprint into shore but I was also trying hard not to swallow any water. After all the slime and muck the beach finish was a bit rocky and I had to run up on shore very carefully.
After meeting my family and picking up my bag I went to check my finish time. To my surprise I was listed as #1 in my age group.

Pro: There was a sponsored afterparty that included free food and beer for the swimmers.
Con: there was no shower or rinse station at the finish. Considering how mucky the finish is I hope they can set something up next time.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Under the George Washington Bridge

I drove into Manhattan on the Henry Hudson at a little before 6 am. There was only a hint of light in the sky and  I got a look at the GW bridge all lit up as I drove by. I actually thought that it looked majestic. There is something wonderful about seeing a dramatic landmark (watermark?) that you are about to swim under.
I arrived, parked, and got checked in. I had a while to wait because I was going out in wave 8 out of 10. Near the end of my second open water season I can show up to a larger event like LRL and I actually know a few people there. I had time to catch up and show off my scar from Lake Willoughby.
When it came time to line up I had to strip my warm-up clothes off quickly and head to the front of my line. Within the wave we were lined up by number.
When our start time came around we jumped off the end of the pier, got a short countdown and then we set off swimming. A few people disappeared behind me and a few others pulled ahead until I lost track of them. I got an occasional glimpse of another swimmer when sighting but was otherwise on my own.
The water had felt jarringly cold when I first jumped in but by the time my wave had spaced itself out I felt comfortable. I went on feeling comfortable the whole time I was in the water.
The last two waves went out after we did and had the fastest swimmers. Each of those waves seemed to overtake me in a pack. I was swimming along with nobody else around. Then suddenly there were other swimmers all around me and then just as suddenly they were gone off ahead. At this point I hadn't passed anybody so having whole groups just blow past me like that was something of a downer.
I tried very hard not to sight off the bridge because I knew it would be discouraging. I settled into my rhythm and swam. I was actually getting close to the bridge when I finally started overtaking some other groups.
It was exactly like the fast waves flying by but in reverse. I was all by myself then there were a bunch of other swimmers all in a pack and then I was past them. This happened two or maybe three times before I got to the bridge. I always worry a little about my fear of heights when crossing under a bridge but it didn't bother me at all. My first ever real live look at the Little Red Lighthouse itself was from the water, swimming by.
Continuing north past the bridge I started to overtake some more swimmers. I knew the finish was still about a mile away but I also knew with the current we were just flying along. I felt fantastic.
It seemed like there were two or even three waves passing each other. The last mile was the busiest. I knew to watch for the boats anchored to our right and then a dock. A sharp right turn at the dock would bring us into the finish.
Navigating it was easy, but the finish itself was a crowded mess. I suppose it shows how well the wave starts were timed because it seemed like everyone was finishing at once. There was a mat rolled out on the boat launch that was the finish. But it was weighed down with sand bags and we couldn't see them through the cloudy water. So there was a lot of staggering and stumbling and tripping over each other as we exited the water.
I stumbled out, got my timing chip removed, and got in line for the hose down. They might have been called showers. I saw several people from my starting wave around me. Which goes to show that I wasn't really alone all that time when I thought there was no one else around.
I hung around for the award ceremony, while eating the provided food. (I took second in my age group. Something I was not expecting) and then I took the shuttle back to the starting line. I walked back to the garage where I had parked my car, then kept walking around the corner to the nearest pizza place. Where I got a slice of real New York pizza.