This evening I participated in my first "Splash & Dash" and only my second open water swim. I hesitate to say I competed, since I finished 100-somethingth out of 200-some-odd. It was a 750 meter swim around a small lake (that is part of Pure Austin gym), then three 1 kilometer run laps around the lake. I didn't drown, I wasn't the last one out of the water, I got more open-water swimming experience, and my time of 34:45 gives me a target to try and surpass next time I do it (the event is held monthly during the summer), so it was a success.
I left the office about a quarter to 5, anticipating some traffic in getting across town to the event. There was even more traffic than I expected, and there was no place to park once I got there, so it was almost 5:30 by the time I got registered. I went down to the shore and set up my towel and running shoes in a free space up the rocky path a little bit from the water. I ran into my friend MG, who told me I should move my stuff closer to the shore on a little unclaimed patch near her gear. It was a good call, as walking between my original spot and the new spot was not easy on my bare feet. Slightly frazzled in a big crowd of people, I got into the water for the 6:00 floating start.
The field of 200-plus people was divided into two waves by gender, so there were a lot guys in the water, and it took a few seconds after the go signal before I had enough room to move. I started out swimming freestyle, but I wasn't kicking properly. My kick isn't great anyway, but I was doing something a little closer to a breast stroke kick than a freestyle kick. For whatever reason, I just didn't feel comfortable kicking properly, at least partially because I was trying not to kick the people behind me. After maybe 250 meters, I was feeling out of breath, another problem I've had with my swimming. I took off my nose clip (another thing I've been working on) and swam breast stroke for a while. The rest of the way, I only really did a few freestyle strokes at a time, and otherwise alternated between breast and back strokes. Somewhere about 600 meters in, a line of really fast women (who had started 4 minutes later) buzzed past me. A little closer to the end, I was doing the back stroke and a woman more or less slapped me in the face as she passed me (doing freestyle). I thought my swim wasn't too terrible when I saw that MG had only gotten out of the water about 15 seconds ahead of me. My swim time was a little over 17 minutes, about what I expected, and at least nobody had completed the course at that point (the winner's total time was a little over 20 minutes).
I dried my feet off as much as I could in 5 seconds, put my shoes on, and headed up the little hill to the track. For the first few hundred meters, my calves were cramping up, and it was kind of painful. I was kind of amazed that even with the cramps, my watch had me at a 8:45 pace, which felt even slower since everyone else was running by much faster. The kinks started to work themselves out by a half mile in, and I was able to pick the pace up slightly to finish the first mile in 8:38. I managed to pick it up a little more for the second mile for an 8:10, and had enough gas to go even faster for the last little bit to the finish. Once I caught my breath, I dried off, and made for the burgers and cookies.
One tip I used, that I wish I could remember where I saw it to give proper credit, was to put some powder in my shoes to absorb some water. I also put some vaseline near the arches, where I'm still recovering from nasty blisters I got during the Lake Travis Tri. My shoes were still soaked in the end, but my feet held up pretty well, so maybe those tips did the trick.