Chattanooga Rat Race - recap
Just got home from the Rat Race this past weekend. What a swim!
For beginner OWS-ers, this is a downstream swim, 4.5 and 2.4 options. The current will vary by year, depending on how much is released from the damn upstream. This year, they said it was 13,000 cps, and that made the current "negligible" and that we'd all have to swim for real this year. Apparently, in the past, they'd had much higher flows.
Perfect weather, 64 degrees (F) at the start, water was a touch warmer than the air, so easy to get in. No wind, lots of sun, yay for the day.
This was my second "long" OWS event, the first being two years ago (navigation gave me 12k from a 10k planned route that year). The weekend before, on what was my last training swim, I "accidentally" swam 3:20 minutes during what was a 2:30 planned swim for 5.2 miles. Yay, I knew the distance wasn't going to be a problem. BUT, at the same time, I wasn't prepared for that much time on my shoulders at that point in the summer. Took quite a number of days to feel recovered, and ended up starting out the RR at about 85-90% recovery.
RR was intended to be an early swim effort, not an "A" event. So, that's good.
I forgot my garmin watch at home....so, I don't have the satisfaction of being able to see the actual track I swam. Likely it would have been very curvy, because navigation isn't necessarily my strength. OTOH, it was a good practice for swimming completely by internal monitoring.
They said that there would be water bottles on the kayaks we could access, and that they'd resupply from the motor boats. No personal escorts for the swimmers, though.
My experience overall was very positive. The start was in-water, just off the boat ramp. The ramp was chewed up to give traction for launching boats, and the "ouch ouch ramp" was difficult to walk down to get to the water. The bus that took our morning bags left well before the start, too, so we were all standing around barefoot..... no one went in the porta potties that were there after that, that's for sure!
The start was confused, of course, but no where near as a mash up as you see in large triathlon in-water starts. I did manage to get hit in the face, though, by another swimmer who had a VERY wide stroke and arm recovery. Knocked my goggles off, and I thought I'd have a bruise at the end, but didn't...luckily. I made sure to swim away from him.
The bulk of the swim was uneventful. Sighting went only.......... ok for me. They used one large orange buoy near the beginning, but the rest of the course was marked with the green river channel markers. These were SUPER difficult to see from water level...they were dark green, not fluorescent green. I didn't see any kayaks along the route (they were supposed to be on our left shoulders as we swam) until we got past the point where the 2.4 race began. I never felt unsafe or worried, and I never got off course --- I tracked the shoreline. So, I likely swam a bit more curvy of a path than the super winners did, but I also didn't get run over by boats. So, that's good. Men had bright green caps, and women had bright pink ones. So, even though I couldn't see the channel markers, I could see pink and green "dots" up ahead, and used those to help me stay in line.
I chased some folks down....and held one dude off near the end. He seemed to be magnetically drawn to me, and I got tired of getting border-line groped. It wasn't ever aggressive, but there was one too many times of me saying in my mind that I didn't know him well enough for his hand to be where it was. Turns out, if you engage your kick, it helps in swimming away from people.
Here's what I find particularly interesting about my experience. As I swam..... I was working to breathe regularly, use a nice rhythm.... find a nice forever pace. I also did my best to listen for the "mosquitos" that indicate fast moving water craft, as well as the whistles that the kayakers carried to tell us if we were wandering off course. Since I couldn't see kayaks, I kept wondering why I thought I was hearing whistles..... and hearing someone call my name. My practice swim had the same thing happen.... and I'd stop and ask, "what?" only to be told.... "wasn't us, keep swimming." I also would get startled every now and then by ..... I don't know...... things..... in the water. Maybe they were big fish. Maybe they were bird shadows. Maybe.... I don't know what they were. Sunlight playing with the water?
Is this a common occurrence? To think you're seeing/hearing things as you swim on longer events?
The water was greenish, clear enough that I could see "fuzzily" to my wrist as I stroked, but generally pretty murky. It didn't smell bad, nor taste terrible....not that I DRANK it...but, if it got into my mouth, it wasn't nasty.
I did nearly swim in to one kayak, who's paddler had to stiff arm me on the head to prevent a collision. He did exactly what he was supposed to do, and I apologized. It also turns out that swimming, navigating, and peeing in the water don't all work together. Two of the three, and you're fine, though.
After a not so graceful beaching of myself at the end, the volunteers helped me stand up without falling over, and I was out of the water. The volunteers were fabulous, especially at the end in helping all the swimmers stand and exit the water. I almost swam face first into the sand, the water was so stirred up I couldn't see the bottom come up to meet me. My hand hit bottom on one stroke, and the other it was very shallow.
My final time was 1:56:08 and change for a downstream swim.....MUCH faster than I thought I'd go, but .... yeah, current is great -- when you're swimming with it!
I recommend this event to others.... Chattanooga is a really cool town...... and the people were super nice.