Welland MSO Open Water Swim race report

After yesterday’s epic 101k loop of the Muskoka half-iron course I felt like I could use a day to recover. So I packed my speedos and headed down to Welland for the Under the Four Bridges MSO Open Water Provincial Championship race. Well at least I got to sleep in a bit, since it was an 11:30 start.

Because last week’s outer ear infection hasn’t completely cleared up yet, I brought an ear plug for the right side. On the drive down I tried a test fit, but I couldn’t make a seal. Heating it up on the windshield heater vent worked surprisingly well—not unlike what I imagine a hot ear waxing might feel like.

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I got there just in time for the start of the 10k race.

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Someone was actually crazy enough to attempt the entire race doing butterfly.

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I picked up my race package, and packaged my other package into my butter speedo. It’s getting close to retirement for this one. I do feel slightly awkward around little kids. The hot pink swim cap didn’t help either (second pink cap in a row)!

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We boarded the bus for the pre-race meeting, then were driven to the start 3km out. I was surprised to hear that there is no drafting or contact allowed.

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The entrance into the canal.

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As I was setting my auto lap settings on my GPS, I overheard someone asking if a stroke timer would be allowed in the race. It clicks or beeps every 1.3 seconds so that the swimmer could keep steady. The official radio’d the question in and it was okay’d. I asked him if GPSes would be allowed, and he “doubted” it. 

I’m sure I could have made an argument that it’s not really an aid during the race, particularly if I hadn’t set the auto lap. But there’s really no harm in just swimming for the sake of swimming. Someone involved with the event said the third bridge we went under was about 1 km away from the finish, so I’d just pull a split off that. Watches were still allowed, so why not?

My race was pretty good. A little slow, but good. I wasn’t there to sprint, I just wanted to finish relatively strongly. I passed a few people in the beginning and then for the next hour I was all alone. I passed time by switching from my usual bilateral breathing to a different count (I’m not sure what it’s called, but it’s three strokes breathing every second stroke, then five strokes without breathing). It was fun to play around a bit and see how my body would respond. I played around with head positioning, twisting my mouth. It was just relaxed and fun. 

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Under the second bridge I made a mental note that I was around 34 minutes, and I hit the third bridge at exactly 40 minutes. If the third bridge was 1k from the finish that would have meant that I was on track for a 1 hour finish (at 2:00/100m). I used that info to calculate the approximate distance I was from the finish, so at 52 minutes I knew that I was exactly 400m away. It looked a little bit further, but I picked up my pace anyway. 

When I finshed the race I checked my watch and saw that I finished in 1:09. Where did the extra nine minutes come from? A quick gmap-pedometer revealed that the bridge was actually 1.2 k from the finish. That sprint that I thought was 400m from the finish was actually more like 700m. It makes sense why I ran out of steam earlier than I would have liked.

Here you can see the marks on the front of my shoulders from my stubble rubbing it. I forgot to bring vaseline to prevent that. What you probably can’t see in this picture is the irritation from the level #1 armpit trim. Mental note for next time—that’s too short!

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I was still a little disappointed with a finish of 2:20/100m. I know I’ve never done that distance before, and I’m really happy about that, but I was hoping to get under 2:00. That’s a big difference. Last weekend I was swimming at 2:00 naked, so I should have been able to keep in that range. So I’m really not sure why. Plus without the GPS track I can’t see how bad my navigation was (although it was a very easy course to sight, being right in the canal). At least it’s a good prep for next weekend’s 3.8k L.O.S.T. race.

About ten minutes after I finished my swim there were reports of thunder on the other end. They ended up pulling everyone in, then the wind picked up and it started pouring. If you can’t tell, hot pink was the theme for the day. Here I am hanging out with Ken, who was first place in my class and the overall winner of the 3k race.

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I think about half the 10k racers finished, but none of the 5k swimmers were able to before being pulled. Standing in front of me in the last picture was a woman who was pulled from the 10k when she was only 500m from the finish. 

Here’s Ken accepting his award…

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…and me in second place with my medal!

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This is where I leave out the fact that there were only two competitors in my class, which really is too bad. The distances might be a little longer than most triathlons, but it’s a really nice, laid back event. There’s no pushing and shoving at the start (in fact contact is not allowed at all), the course is well marked, the water is warm, and you’re pretty much guaranteed to go home with hardware (if you care for it). I’ll definitely be coming back next year.