I just got back from competing in my first 3K and I’m buzzing with excitement. It was So. Much. Fun.
I woke up very early and was rewarded with a beautiful sunrise, which felt like a lucky sign. Then I drove for nearly two hours, listening to my audiobook and trying not to get too nervous. The parking at Nepean Sailing Club was already jam-packed when I arrived and I was stressing about time. Since I was coming from out of town, I didn’t pick up my race pack last night and had to fit it into a half-hour window this morning.
I joined a long line of other swimmers only to get to the front and discover it was the line for people who had already picked up their race packets. So I rushed to the correct location for race packet pick-up with minutes to spare and then returned to the original line, which was now much longer, to get my chip.
When I had everything I needed, I took a few pictures with my nearly-dead phone, turned it off, and put it in my bag with all my other possessions and loaded it on the truck that would ferry it to the Britania Sailing Club, where the race would finish.
Now it was just me in my bathing suit and cap, which made me feel a lot calmer, even though I was surrounded by people who seemed to have a much better idea of what they were doing. I was in the last group (#4 Orange Caps) and so I got to watch the rest of the groups go in to see how it was done. The first group—the elite swimmers (who were nearly all under the age of 20), started in the water. After that, groups funneled down the dock, touched the starting pad at the end of the dock with their foot, and then jumped into the water and went.
I kept to the back of group #4. The groups were organized based on the time we expected to complete the race. I said 1:30, but when I did my practice 3K on Wednesday, it took me 1:32, so I figured I might be even slower than the slowest swimmers. Plus, I didn’t want to be squeezed into a big pack.
I jumped in and started swimming, surprised by how murky and green the water was. So different from the lake! But that was pretty much the last time I thought very much about the water. I started swimming at a strong, steady pace that I kept up for the whole 3K. There were a couple of times when I felt too close to other swimmers, but most of the time, I found my window and swam through it, keeping my sights on a swimmer in front of me.
Soon, I realized I was passing swimmers, and that gave me a bolt of adrenaline. Then, I saw a yellow cap go by and then a few more yellow caps (yellow caps were group #3), which gave me an even bigger shot of motivation. I was swimming well!
After a while, I stopped passing anyone and no one passed me; I was swimming at a steady pace with a couple of other swimmers who were swimming at the same speed. I felt good. I was kind of amazed by how good I felt; I kept feeling surprised that I could just keep going, keep working hard, and not be dying for it to end or to take a break.
The course was mostly very easy to follow, which was a good thing once I was no longer in a big pack. There were sailboats anchored along one side (with sailers cheering us on) and buoys, kayakers, and SUPers on the other. There were distance markers, but I only noticed them twice; once at 14,000 meters to go and, what seemed like mere minutes later, 600.
My only point of confusion came as the 1.5K swim course joined up with our course and suddenly there were a lot more swimmers and the course seemed to triple in size. I could no longer be sure I was on the right track and I had to stop a few times to get my bearings. Whereas until this point everyone seemed to be flowing in a steady, efficient stream, now there were swimmers and buoys every which way.
I was nearing the finish, though, and once I spotted the exit point, I picked up my pace and gave it my all. I barreled to the end where I then had to climb up a steep ladder, which was slightly daunting on my wobbly legs. But, I did it! And I can’t describe the elation I felt (am still feeling) at having accomplished it.
In the end, I swam it in 1:13, which may not be fast by most measures, but is freaking supersonic for me (as I write this it occurs to me that the river current may have been in my favor, but I’m going to pretend I was just awesome). Whatever the case, I felt good and strong and am pretty dang proud of myself.