Swim

Journey to a 10k Part 3: The Big Day

By OceanFirst on 9/22/16

This is the final part of a three part series by our Swim School Director Lauren Pacheco about her quest to complete a 10k open water swim. In case you missed it, read the first part and second part of the series. 

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So now that I had the racing experience under my belt, it was time to start getting serious about upping the yardage.  I have never done a marathon, but I imagine the prep is about the same.  So I started increasing my yardage and amount of practices that I attended.  I went from swimming 3 or 4 times a week to 6, and I went from 1-hour practices to mixing in some 2 ½ hour practices.  I also was very fortunate to have made some friends on the team that had done the 10k before and what they learned from experience and passed on was invaluable.  I was advised to start eating every half hour at practice to get used to having food in my stomach while swimming which was a very strange process for me and took some time to get used to.  I was going to have to eat during my swim to maintain my energy levels, and I had to turn in a feeding schedule to the race as a first-time entry. During practice, I would try different solid foods, energy gels, drinks and bars to determine what worked best for me.  I also had an awesome coach that would plan a particular spot in practice to stop me and help me practice eating and drinking in the deep end.13901397_10104223090729223_8341592531536656302_n-(1).jpg

The weekend of my race was a crazy one because I was helping crew my boyfriend's 6th Leadville 100 mountain bike race the day before mine (where he ended up finishing in the top 20, go Scott!).  Right after he finished, I was in the car heading back down to Boulder to pick up Kathryn and head to Fort Collins for the pre-race dinner and briefing.  After dinner, clarification on the course and what was expected and seeing more than a few faces that I hadn’t seen in years (including one of my coaches from middle school) Kathryn and I checked into the hotel. We packed bags with food and pre-mixed water bottles with various levels and combinations of Nuun in them and went over the plan for the next morning including my feeding schedule.  We had to be on the bus at Horsetooth Reservoir with our kayak packed on the transport vehicle before 5 am and the race started at 6 am.

The first part of the race was solo swimming into a cove around a buoy and back out to where the large fleet of support watercrafts were waiting for us.  It was a little scary swimming and hoping that Kathryn would be able to find me amongst the 85 over swimmers in the water and I couldn’t look for her because the boats were to the east of us and the sun was rising so everyone looked the same to me… a shadow wearing a hat in a kayak.

After swimming through almost all of the boats, I finally looked over while breathing and saw Kathryn, which was a huge relief.  The plan was for Kathryn to stay on my left side so I could see her when I was breathing because my left shoulder had been bothering me all summer and I didn’t want to primarily breathe on that shoulder so it could rest a bit.  I quickly had to change that plan because that meant that she was on the east side of me, and I couldn’t see anything but a shadow of her.  It was important to see her because she would be communicating with me through hand gestures and smile of encouragement throughout the entire race and if I couldn’t see her, this was going to be a long race. We got into a good rhythm of communication.  The plan was to let me know when I had been swimming for about 25 minutes, so I could get prepared to approach the boat and tread water.  14055088_10104223090419843_7565155449063673499_n.jpg

Even though it was Kathryn’s first time paddling next to me, handing me food and water, all while avoiding hitting me or other swimmers with the boat, she did a fantastic job.  Feeding was a bit tricky because I wasn't allowed to touch the boat at any time in the swim and as the race went on I was getting more and more tired. Kathryn would have to hand me things already opened, and I would lay on my back like an otter and try to gulp down the gels and waters as fast as I could so I wouldn't lose too much time.  About kilometer 7 I started hitting the proverbial wall hard, and I could feel it, so I asked Kathryn for two gel packets and the caffeine, carb and electrolyte drink mix that we made the night before.  I am glad that I had a feeding plan and stuck to it because if I hadn’t started eating in the first half hour, I would have been struggling much earlier.  

I didn't have a strategy for this race, and my goals were simply to not to die and finish under 3 hours.  So I approached the race in the only way I knew how: slow and steady.  When Kathryn told me that I was halfway, I looked at my watch and realized that I needed to pick it up if I wanted to finish under 3 hours and started to go faster. By kilometer 9 my shoulders were killing me and my calf had cramped, but when we went around the last bend and we could see the finish, I was able to push through it and swim the last and longest 500 meters.  I was able to finish in 2 hours 58 minutes, and I won my age group!  It was extremely hard, and yes, I will probably do it again next year.  :) 

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Friday, 30 Sep | post by Kathryn

I couldn't be more proud of my friend Lauren! She did such an amazing job and her willpower is inspiring ! So glad I could be a part of your race day!


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