GSLOW 2013

A few weeks ago I posted a blog about how I was taking a slower approach to training this year compared to last year.  I had been feeling pretty good with my decision and my pain levels have decreased considerably but I still wanted to participate in the Great Salt Lake Open Water Swim like I did last year.

Open water swimming is such a big part of both my physical and social life that the idea (even suggested by my doctor) was too painful.  I talked to Gordon and Josh about and they agreed I could take it slow and there wouldn’t be a strict time limit.  (some races have an hour and I knew unless the water was perfect that would be tough).

I was really hoping to get more training in before the race, at least in the pool but between my treatments and new job I could barely make it to the gym let alone the pool and/or open water. I was being trained this week so I couldn’t make the clinic or other swims at GSL either so I was going to the swim fairly green and untrained.  (Oddly enough I wasn’t that nervous maybe partly because I’ve done it once before and I hadn’t built it up in my mind (see my post When Goals Make You Nuts before last years race!)).  In fact, yesterday it hardly even felt like a pre-race day at all.  (I did get nerves but nothing like before.

Anyway, this morning came and I brought cupcakes to the race and headed out to the lake.  This year was a little different because most of my friends from Utah Open Water either weren’t participating or were doing the 8 miler which started and ended at different times than my race.  I missed seeing the familiar faces but grateful to see some of my dear friends.  My friend Etsuko was first to catch my eye and she was positive and happy like usual (although I knew she felt as unprepared and as nervous as me!).

Looking confident before the race
Looking confident before the race
Etsuko sporting the new SLOW swimsuits and a smile
Etsuko sporting the new SLOW swimsuits and a smile

This year the race started in a different way.  Instead of going down the marina to the start buoys we had to climb over rocks and swim out to the start.  Jim said he thought it was really a mile and a 1/4 but Gordon said he measured and was sure so I trust him.  It felt longer maybe because of more of a swim to get the start line?  It wasn’t my favorite way to start the race especially when the opening whistle didn’t wait for  Etsuko and I to get there. Oh well!

Off we went and I felt pretty good at first.  In fact, a woman swimming with Etsuko and I cancelled her swim about 15 minutes in because the salty water was too much for her.  It is an experience.   (Listen/read the account made of the lake, water and race on NPR’s All Things Considered here)

I got more water in my nose and mouth than I would have liked and that is a huge detriment at the GSL.  People think it is the same as the ocean.  It is NOTHING like the ocean.  I think they say it is 5 times saltier than the ocean and it feels.  My friend Kate calls it ‘going for a quick pickle’. Your whole body reacts and let’s just say that after being in it for an hour and a half every tender part of my body feels tender still! Thank goodness I have found great goggles although I needed to put more anti-fog because I could not see the finish line at all.

One of my problems with the race was I kept veering to the right and wasting energy and as I would try to go to the left it didn’t seem to help much.  Finally I resorted to long stretches of breaststroke and I’m not great breastroker.  (Will need to work on that for future races).  It was the only way I felt I could see my targets.  The current was giving me tons of grief.  (the current in the GSL can be as strong as an ocean and it was powerful today!).

I say this every time I swim but it is true- part of the thrill of racing or open water swimming is that I don’t think I can do it.  Not before the race; although that is true.  I’m talking in the race I felt like I couldn’t do it a hundred times.  Today was especially rough because I was so far behind everyone (my lack of training did show but I was proud of myself) and I couldn’t see anything to sight- partly because of my goggles but also there just wasn’t a ton to look at and the finish line is always such a mirage.

Strange thing this year is it was so shallow I walked a large section of the end.  It was so shallow I couldn’t even breaststroke it home.  That’s why the video looks a little strange.

A neat thing this year is Talkin Sports crew at KUTV 2 entered a reporter in the race and is doing a 2 day piece today and tomorrow.  I’m not sure why but they picked me to interview when I finished (maybe I was last or maybe I was crying because I really didn’t think I was going to make it.  When I saw Etsuko at the finish line I lost it!).  Anyway, he interviewed me and I’m excited to see it air tomorrow at 10:30 (it is a 2 part bit with my part airing tomorrow).

This video is kind of long so feel free to zoom it up to about 2:20.  The interview is on there and my emotional finish.  (I will post a link to the published interview once it airs if they post it on the website)

After the race Etsuko, her lovely family and I went to my place showered and had a quick and tasty lunch of hotdogs, potato salad, watermelon and cupcakes.

Here are some more photos of the day.

Etsuko and I at finish line!
Etsuko and I at finish line!
Now that is goggle eyes!
Now that is goggle eyes!
Proud finisher
Proud finisher
Being interviewed
Being interviewed
Tasty post-race lunch
Tasty post-race lunch with Etsuko’s family
All of my medals (center one that says GSLOW in black that is this years)
All of my medals (center one that says GSLOW in black that is this years)

It was very meaningful to me and the fact that I finished with such simple training gives me more confidence than ever before.  I knew just me, alone can do it!  I don’t need some big regiment to finish (although it would have helped not going to lie).  I think my performance will only go up from here because of the mental boost this swim has given me.  GO SLOW!


4 thoughts on “GSLOW 2013

  1. Thank you, Rachel! It is a great honor to be able to call you friend and to be able to swim with you. I knew you would finish the race! I had no doubt about that. But it wasn’t an easy swim for me, either. For the beginning part of the race…well, the race started before we even got to the starting buoy…I couldn’t put my face into the water and breathe out. So I had to stop after each two strokes until I finally got my breathing under control. It was hard but it was all worth it. Now look at us, we both added another shiny sea monkey medal to our collections!

    1. Thanks Etsuko. I really do love you. Its amazing how close a friendship I feel after such a short time period. To have shared this tough experience together is such a bond that only 34 other people know and get!
      Thanks for your faith in me. It was a rough race. My arm is still hurting because of that darn current. I know what you mean about having to stop a lot. There is nothing to sight at the GSL so that makes it really hard.
      As for the medal I think if my house was on fire and I had time to grab one thing it would be my medals. They are as valuable to me as an Olympic Gold Medal.

      1. Btw I can’t believe you were afraid of water and lasted through that first swim we did last year with the 8 ft swells! That’s guts!

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