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The sea was angry, the race was FUN!

19 June 2022

The red flags were up, the sea was "sporty" with the waves breaking big and strong, but the with Virginia Beach Lifeguard Association running today's "Jack King" One Mile ocean race, all of the 200+ swimmers felt safe to venture out into the rocking and rolling surf.

My brother and I continued our "athletic bro" weekend, after his Olympic distance triathlon and my pool meet yesterday, riding beach cruisers down to 24th Street to check in and pickup our caps and timing chips, then back up to the race start at 40th street. It was a straight swim down the shore, with the hotels on our right hand side. The big question everyone was talking about before the race was how far from shore to swim. The waves were breaking both fairly far and very close to the beach, so there didn't seem to be a clear consensus:

  • Swim too close and you risked both getting pummeled and pushed aground

  • Getting out further should offer clearer water, but at the cost of swimming out and then back in again

The start was an in-water start, with not much control over whether swimmers were actually behind the starting line. I think I was compliant, but saw a number of swimmers easily 25 meters or more ahead. The one positive about a big ocean start and not much adherence to the start line was the lack of an opening gun scrum. The big downside, though, was that it was next to impossible to find a pack and definitely impossible to sight the leaders. I wish they had done a "run into the water" start like I used to experience when racing in California ocean swims, but they do things differently out east.

I opted to try to swim away from the shore, but ft was hard to get out of the rough, an I felt like I swam much of the race with my body angled 45 degrees away from the shore, trying to battle against the surge that wanted to push me into the sand. It was a wonderfully bouncy swim. As hard as it is to sight other swimmers and to really race in choppy seas, I love the way your whole body has to be engaged, your mind has to be active. It was an exceptionally fun race, especially at the end riding the surf into the steep beach run and finish line.

My GPS line explains why I ended up clocking 1,789 meters on my watch, about 180 meters longer than what a mile truly is, but I was stoked with my 26:41 time, which put me just under a 1:30/100M pace. Each numerical marker on the picture is 500 meters. Interestingly, the most pleasant part of the race, aside from the last surf into the shore at the finish, was between the 1000 and 1500 meter mark, when I did manage to get out far enough from the initial wave breakpoints to swim in just rolling, but not crashing water. That's also where I added distance, though, so in hindsight, it wasn't worth it.

With a whole whack of teenaged swimmers there, I didn't know what to expect in terms of placing, but was happy to have come in 22nd overall .., and to only have had 3 teenaged girls beat me!

All in all, a very fun weekend of racing, family and fun.


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