I ran with Reston Runners for many years. Many of our runs started from Lake Audubon, a beautiful lake (and I think the biggest) in leafy Reston. People used to talk about swimming in this lake at Reston Triathlon and how it was kinda gross. I wasn’t a swimmer back then, but I swore I would never swim in that lake. This morning I swam in Lake Audubon. Funny how things change.
I’m signed up for Reston Triathlon in September, so when my training buddy Annette mentioned there was a swim in the lake – the Jim McDonnell lake swim – I jumped at the chance to test the waters, so to speak. The 1 mile lake swim is actually a practice swim; the following day there are 1 mile and 2 mile races. I only felt the need for a 1 mile practice; plus, my husband is racing a triathlon tomorrow so doing the Sunday event wasn’t an option.
The event started with a “clinic” which I found a little disappointing because I think of a clinic as a hands-on event where you get to practice, and so had assumed we’d be in the water. This “clinic” was really a “talk” from swimmers. Helpful though I’m sure it was, I soon fell asleep. It was hot and I was wearing a wetsuit. Since the water was 80 degrees I didn’t plan to wear the wetsuit for the 1 mile swim, but thought I’d wear it for the clinic. That was before I realized I’d be wearing it sitting in the grass. So I never wore it for the swim, but got some practice removing it, which is always a bonus.
Starts for the 1 mile swim were in waves. I was in wave #3. Chalk markings on the ground indicated where each wave should stand. For some reason the organizers decided to test our number-to-alphabet knowledge by using letters for the chalk markings. Easy enough to work out that 3 = C, but it gets a bit harder further down the alphabet, and there were a lot of waves!
We had to wear the swim cap provided. This is not usually a problem for me. Then again, I’m not usually given a child’s cap. This thing was dinky. I swear I don’t have a big head, but when I tried to put it on the first time, it “pinged” off. Got it on the second time but it was skin tight and I still didn’t have most of my hair in it. Once I got all my hair tucked in I had to put my bib number in it too. I thought it was a joke when the guy at check-in told me to put my number in my cap, but apparently that’s what you do. So with all my hair and a folded piece of paper in my cap, I felt like my brain was being squeezed.
Each wave started pretty rapidly after the other, which was good because the waves were very small – maybe 15 – 20 people in each one. I only got whacked in the head and bumped once at the start, so it really wasn’t much of a race simulation, but I guess there were a lot of novice open-water swimmers and the organizers didn’t want people getting too freaked out. We set off around the lake and instantly my miniature cap started sliding up my forehead. When it felt as if it was going to fall off I rolled onto my back and pulled it down. But it instantly started sliding back up. I pulled it down again. The next time it slid up I swam with my right arm while I used the left to yank it down, trying not to lose too much time. Good thing we do one-arm drills in swim practice…
I didn’t have any problems sighting, and 1 mile went by very quickly. Soon we were swimming around the drain (which I thankfully did not get sucked into, despite my fears) and heading to the dock. I swam around a boat, went to put my foot down, and smacked my knee on a rock along the shoreline. I said a bad word and limped out of the water, pulling off my cap which was mostly off my head, and thrusting the bib at a volunteer. My knee was bruising already and I was very annoyed with the whole cap issue. My friend and super-runner/triathlete Aaron Church had to take the brunt of my annoyance as he asked “how did you do?” as soon as I came up the ramp. Sorry, Aaron!
I have no idea how long the swim took because I forgot to start my watch. The good thing is that I didn’t feel tired at all (clearly not working hard enough!) so I know I can swim harder in an actual race.
And now I know why people complained about swimming in Lake Audubon. My swimsuit smells like the swamp monster wore it.