So the Half Ironman swim wasn't anywhere near as challenging as I expected, although I doubt many others who did it would agree. I just trained really well for it and the conditions were easier than most open water swims I've done. Three days later I swam a 4500 in the pool, the longest swim I've done since last year, to see how things felt, and then I went looking for a 2.4 mile open water swim to end the season. And I found one--right back in Tahoe.
As part of the Lake Tahoe Marathon weekend (which has a crazy variety of events that one could do), the South Shore Open Water Swim had a variety of distances, including the 2.4 mile as the longest. It was low key enough to be fun and without pressure, but hard enough to bring out a group of fairly strong swimmers (who had, on average, well over ironman participant paces).
We started at around 8:30, swimming out from shore, and then turning north for a long leg into Nevada. The lake was calm, clear, and the bottom was in sight. It still strikes me how different Tahoe is, compared to swimming in the bay, where we can see just about nothing. Watching the bottom as I swam north, it just disappeared, turning into a deep bright blue split with sunrise caustics. I didn't notice it at first and was quite startled to see the depth just open up.
Turning back, we came back over shallower water, and the wind picked up, making the last five minutes or so quite choppy. Later swimmers took on a lot more chop. I finished in 1:21:06, near the faster end of what I expected. The fastest swimmer was just over an hour, and I was 10/17 in this distance. Mild calf cramping was the only thing off, but that's not surprising, since I wasn't really training for this distance.
Things that went well:
- I kept a consistent effort, and nothing got very tired.
- Concentrating on form on the way back was useful, it's easy to get tired and sloppy with this here.
- No cold shock. The warm up and ongoing acclimation really help with this.
Things to improve:
- I could have pushed harder, I'd need more experience to understand pacing at this distance.
- Losing sight of the bottom caught me off guard psychologically, but it was awesome.
- Sighting coming back was sloppy. Sunrise.
- The lake goes from shallow to deep quite dramatically. And it's very deep. Check out some of the bathymetry images online.
- The water, even though it's not at all warm, was a lot warmer than the beach sand at the start.
- There's all kinds of scattered random junk on the bottom of the lake. Humans.
Also of note, this was the first timed open water timed swim I've done. I went in just to cover the distance, but adding the competitive element, especially outside of a triathlon, certainly changed how I went about the swim.