As we lined up that morning, I felt really calm, and thought to myself: "I can do this, this is what I do. I'm a swimmer. I can hold my own amongst these other swimmers and I have done the training." The other swimmers were friendly and of all ages. I'd already met up with Merry and met her friend Steve, they were both swimming assisted. The long course group started first. Once in the water, I didn't get kicked or hit! It reminded me of swimming in a lane with 5 or 6 high school kids when I used to work out with the swim team. I took it easy, for this was my warmup. We rounded the first buoy and I felt a little high-heart beat, so tried to take it easy. Soon I got into my pace and mostly cruised the rest of the way. All the way out of Maho, I was swimming next to Mr. Yellow Fins, who later turned out to be John Holden probably. It helped to have someone to swim beside for I didn't have to sight so often. It is an odd sensation, for one is just beneath the surface and can't really see what is going on, such as how many swimmers are ahead or behind. Suddenly someone will just come up from behind. And you can't really see the scenery as you go except for underwater. A few times I did a couple of breaststroke kicks to see ahead and behind, but got right back to the freestyle.
We rounded the point and started into Cinnamon Bay, and I lost Mr. Yellow Fins. Saw the orange bouys to go between, and saw the water boat but didn't need water then. As I started out of Cinnamon Bay, I saw the notch in the hill to sight on: good thing, because the bouys were few and far between. A guy and 2 girls came swimming up beside me and we all swam along together almost into Trunk Bay. They were good swimmers. Found out later they were the winners from the previous 2 years. They swam pretty close to Trunk Cay whereas I stayed well away from it, and then I lost them. Turned out I passed them and they were behind me the rest of the way.
There was a lot of current at Trunk Cay, felt like I was standing still even though I was swimming hard. Even leaving Trunk I felt some current but that was replaced by a little chop but not too bad. I saw some of the underwater snorkel trail markers. Never saw the 2nd water boat but didn't want to stop then anyway. I was on kind of a swimmers high by this time, cruising along, feeling my arms working, willing them to keep pushing, enjoying the bouyancy from the salt water, seeing some coral and fish. My arms felt like big wings or fins.
I was alone by now, not seeing any bouys, but sighting on the point of Thatch Cay as directed. This was a long leg. I saw Peter Bay on the left and almost thought it was Hawksnest and began to get excited, but realized it wasn't over yet. The bouys around the next point at Peace Hill were way out from the rocks, and it seemed like forever until I came to the bouy for turning left. Thank goodness for the kayakers pointing the way. I rounded into Hawksnest and saw the bouys ahead. I felt like slacking off but remembered my book which said that fatigue is a sign to work harder. Plus I thought, "I didn't spend all this money to fly down here and slack off now." I had seen some heads behind me but didn't really know where we all were in the race. I had an idea, though, that not a whole lot were ahead of us.
Made the last turn through that gate and headed right toward the finish. That part is a blur, seemed to take me forever to get to shore. I stumbled trying to run out of the water. I didn't know my time or place until later, though the 2 girls I'd passed came over and said I must have won the age group. They were so nice, we all congratulated each other. Martha and Becky were there taking pictures, hauling my stuff, cheering me on. I was grateful to have my good friends there.
The Friends group put on a great picnic and awards party over at Oppenheimer Beach just next door. We talked to Merry and John, had some Virgin Islands Pale Ale and hamburgers. I won a lovely original fish painting with plaque saying 3rd overall women's long course solo, a restaurant gift certificate, and a bag full of Hawaiian Tropic stuff. Then I got to meet Watergrrl, or Kendra! And her husband. Turns out they live on St. Thomas and have swum in the 5 mi. race in St. Croix. She is so cute and nice. She and her husband each won 1st overall in the intermediate solo!
I feel happy to have set a goal, followed through with the training, and finished the event. I feel that I did well and have joined the ranks of open water swimmers. I've come out on the other side. It was a good challenge. I'm not sure what I'll train for in the future, if anything. This was an approx. 3.5 mi race and my time was 1 hour 38 min. This swimming distance is equal to about a 14 mi. run or a half marathon. I'd like to swim in some more races, but those St John waters have spoiled me. Dirty rivers and lakes in TN? Yuck. So I'll keep up my pool training, do probably 3 days a week, 3000 to 3500 yds. each time.
I'll put up some more photos from our trip soon, then end this blog.