I knew this day would come some day and I am glad to say it was a swim only event and not a triathlon that I got my first DNF on. Saturday the Georgia Games organization was hosting an open water swim race with 1k, 3k and 5k distances, they were hosting it at a lake I frequently swim a mile at with a group every other weekend. While I know I can swim two miles non-stop in the pool, I have only recently gotten comfortable with a mile in the open water so I figured I would sign up for the 1k race. Also, I knew I had my first 10k the day afterwards so I figured this would be challenging up doable and leave some energy for the following days 10k race. Of course nothing went as expected and I was not able to complete the race, getting my first DNF in a race.
I figure my mistakes were numerous. I woke up Saturday morning at six and I at my normal fueling breakfast, for a race happening within an hour or so. I wanted to get there early and register, then go down the road and pick up my 10k race packet before the event started at 11A.M. I got down there and registered and back with plenty of time for the start of my race. I wolfed down a cliff bar and went and did some laps in the shallows, just to warm up. I never warm up when I do open water swims, but I figured it was worth trying and I had some time to kill. An hour later my event was supposed to start so I took a gel fifteen minutes before the eleven start time. I then waited and waited as they held back the start to let more of the 3k swimmers finish. We did not line up to start our swim til nearly twenty minutes after eleven.
As soon as the race started I could immediately tell something was wrong. My stomach felt empty and I felt week. I pushed through this feeling as I always get some jitters from the start of a swimming race. A few seconds of swimming I tried to calm myself down and just swim like I always do with a group open water swim. Then I got kicked and took in a ton of water. I spat it out and just tried to continue. Then the second bad thing started to happen, shortness of breath. Every breath I took felt like I could not get oxygen and resulted in having to eventually stop to spit out phlegm. Every time I got back into my stroke I only managed shallow limited breaths. I pushed on making it to the turn around point, but spending allot of time floating and trying to set things back in order so I could finish. Things worsened on the way back to shore as the sky grew darker and the water became super choppy. With my already compromised breathing and the non-stop start and stops, I was taking in allot of water. Just short of three to four hundred meters from the shore I called for the boat and ended the ordeal. My first DNF and at a distance I usually swim in open water easily. I knew I had a 10k to run on Sunday and I was going to need to not wear myself out too much more, so it was time to just accept that it was not my day.
Looking back now, I see where I messed a few things up. Eating breakfast at six did not help. If I was racing within three hours it would have been fine. A cliff bar as the only other food before the race started just was not enough. I needed to have another meal at around nine or so and then a cliff bar at ten. I know for me this strategy works as it is often what I have practiced for other events. But jut a breakfast and later a cliff bar, not enough fuel for me for the time I started my swim. Additionally, the delayed start time and the planned gel did not correlate very well either, but this was out of my control.
I am not sure if the early swim practice had any effect or detriment and I might play around with this further in my open water practices. I will say that it was overcast and the water was and surrounding air was colder than usual. I had to keep moving after my warm up to keep warm and not get chilled. Was this a factor, I have no clue. I just know that I had to pull out of a race in a distance I am usually fairly comfortable swimming. With only two and a half months left before my first olympic/international distance triathlon, and its mile ocean swim I need to continue to prepare. Most importantly I need to put this experience behind me, chalk it up as a learning experience and move on. Take aways – for me nutrition is important, I cave when belly is empty. Also, just have to accept that some days things just don’t work out. Time to get back to the pool and open water and continue to prepare for October. Til next time.
- Swimming and nausea (sharoncrabill.wordpress.com)
- Triathlon Training: Open Water Swim (healthy-assets.com)
- One Chaotic Weekend (chatterdoesfitness.wordpress.com)
- Open Water Swim Advice for Beginners (iowatribob.com)