Sunday, August 23, 2015

Another race report: Swim to the Moon 5K

Are you tired of race reports yet? This one, I promise, is something different. It was the Swim to the Moon 5K, a swim through five lakes. I have been wanting to do this race for years and I finally entered. Until today, my longest open-water swim was a little less than two miles, so this was a huge step up for me. I had to indicate my predicted time on the entry, but I had no idea. I guessed 2 hours, which put me in the last wave of swimmers. The swim was from the Northstar Reach camp to Halfmoon Beach.

There was also a 10K swim, which started at Halfmoon Beach, went to our starting point, and then returned to Halfmoon Beach. My husband, who generously was my one-man support crew and cheering section, said that people had come from all over the country for that race. We got to see them stop for their special-needs bags (only necessary for the 10K), then dive back in to swim back. They had started so early that many had glow sticks tied to their suits in the back. That would have been scary to me. 

As it was, I felt a little tightness in the pit of my stomach as we pulled into the park. I hadn't felt consciously scared, but there are always the race-day jitters. Body making, though, seemed to counteract it. As soon as someone writes all over me with a permanent marker, I suddenly feel ready to kick butt.

I wasn't totally sure that I could swim 5K, but I figured as long as I kept the pace reasonable and just kept swimming, I would be fine. I was relieved to find out this morning that there were two swim-up aid stations on the course, with water, sports drink, and GU. I thought I was going to have to swim for twoish hours without anything to drink. 
I started with the last wave because of my predicted time. The cutoff time was three hours, so there was a bigger range of abilities in my wave than in the others. The people who opted to wear wetsuits or use "Safer Swimmer" buoys also had to start in our wave.

The beginning was challenging with so many bodies in the water. I got (and gave) lots of body-checks. It's not easy to see who is around when you're swimming, and everyone is aiming for the same general path, so things get tight. I was happier when the crowd thinned out a bit.

Other than that, it was great. The water was about 78-80 degrees, a very comfortable temperature.  I found a good pace that I maintained throughout, and other than stopping at the two aid stations (once for just water and once for water and a GU pack), I kept going fairly steadily. The water was beautiful, and there were some cool sections where we had to swim through a tunnel and through the channels that connected the lakes. Once I got to Halfmoon Lake, the largest lake, I had about a mile to go. There were some small waves on this lake, which made it a little harder to stay on course and to breathe properly. I also had some foot cramps on and off. I was able to make them go away by switching to breaststroke for a little while. I also used breaststroke when I needed to figure out where the next buoy was. 

When I past the second mile marker and realized I only had a little over a mile to go, I pushed the pace. The cramps got a little worse, and then, when I was 100 feet from the beach, my whole right foot and calf cramped so much that I had to stop and flip over on my back, letting the people I had passed pass me by. I actually thought I was going to get pulled out by a lifeguard if I didn't get it together, so I tried to slow my breathing and relax, and it finally passed. I wasn't going to get that far and not finish! I was able to swim the rest of the way in and collect my medal -- this race made the late entrants go without medals on race day, not the late finishers. I finished in 2:05:53, which put me near the back of the pack -- the cutoff time was 3 hours -- but I was happy with what I had done. 

Since I hadn't gotten to get that medal picture on race day last time around, I had Jesse take a lot of pictures of me with this one. This was a really great medal, too. 

When I got home, I also wanted a picture with my new t-shirt and the medal. You can tell I got a lot of sun during this race. 

One more for my basement medal rack. I had to rearrange things to give this one an honorary middle position.

I also added a new sticker to my car. I am guessing there are less people who have done a 5K swim than who have done a marathon, even though I think a marathon would be much more difficult for me.

I loved this race, and plan to do it again next year. In the meantime, I want to get faster so that I can start with the middle wave instead of having to fight it out with the big pack at the end. I really felt great after I finished, though I can feel that my back muscles will be a little sore tomorrow.


  1. I'm. In. Awe.

    I'm not a swimmer, at all, and the very idea of swimming three miles is daunting. We used to have a pool; I could barely do half a dozen laps!

    Really proud of you!

  2. What a great story.

    Told my husband (the swimmer) the concept of the race.

    He was immediately having me calculate to see how many laps that was (218?).

    He wondered if you were in bare feet and if so what was on the bottom of the lakes as you were entering and exiting?

    He said to be proud of your time and the fact that you did it.

    He is not a lake swimmer. So he thought you were very brave.

    (Our middle swims in a lake regularly and he is a little freaked by the snakes and makes her wear the water shoes with toes to protect her from the turtles. She does not swim on the sides by the snakes or the turtles.)

    1. Husband asks -

      What was the average time of first and second wave swimmers please?

      What was the visibility in the water? Murky water? Clear water? (He is a little freaked out by that not being able to see thing too.)

    2. I looked at times you linked, but we could not tell time lines between waves.

      And husband wonders if you alternate sides for breathing with crawl stroke? We are assuming you do. But he wanted to ask.

    3. I was in bare feet -- I didn't see anyone in any kind of shoes. There was a sand beach and a kind of squishy mud bottom the few times my feet touched the ground during the swim. I didn't see any fish -- probably too many people in the water scaring them away. I don't know exactly what the cutoffs for the times between waves were, but I did ask a couple people in the wave before me and they had estimated 1:45 for their swim. My coach was in the first wave and finished in 1:33. It seemed like everyone who predicted 2 hours + was in my wave. They started the waves three minutes apart, but I did pass a couple of people who had on green caps from the wave before me -- either they had been overly optimistic or they had trouble.

      I do alternate breathing -- I breathe every third stroke. In open water I also mix in some times where I breathe in front so I can look ahead. When I get tired, I tend to breathe more on my right. I did use breast stroke when I needed to get up higher to see the next buoy but tried to do most of my sighting in the crawl.

  3. I do feel really proud of finishing -- it's not something many people would do, and I really enjoyed it.

  4. Wow Jen! I'm in total awe. Looks like a great event and how cool to do something that you've been thinking of doing for years. I can barely dog paddle but love the idea of swimming outdoors like that. Cannot even comprehend being able to sim that far, wow again! Congratulations :)


"Count your calories, work out when you can, and try to be good to yourself. All the rest is bulls**t." -- Jillian Michaels at BlogHer '07