A couple of weeks ago I swam my first 5k race. The race was Swim the Bridge at Saylorville lake near Granger. If you're familiar with that area you probably know the “mile long” bridge. We swam under that. It's very dirty and sort of smelly, but it's the biggest lake for 100 miles. It's what we've got.
People seem pretty impressed by a 5k swim, but it didn't seem like that big of a deal to me. In high school we used to swim 1200 yard warm-ups then do our workout then another 1200 yard cool-down. I'm pretty sure we did well over 5k every day. Sometimes more than once per day. I suppose all that experience swimming came in handy. I'm very comfortable in the water and know I can swim all day so there's no anxiety, even when I'm (sort of) far from land.
I haven't done much open water swimming though so that was new. In a pool you can stare at the black line at the bottom and not have to look up and see where you are. It's very easy. In open water, especially Iowa water, you can't even see your hand in front of your face. In order to see where you are and where you're going (and you have to, it's pretty much impossible to swim in a straight line without constant correction) you have to break stride (stroke?) and look up. It's even harder for me since, without my glasses, I can't see very well. Several times I couldn't see the next buoy and had to look for other swimmers in my vicinity to guess what direction to go. It gets doubly hard when you're told to turn at the first orange buoy and you're colorblind. Yeah, I couldn't tell the difference between the orange, red, and green buoys. For the most part it didn't matter, but once I did have to ask a saftey boater which way to go.
Several races (1.2 mile, 2.4 mile and 5k) all started at once so there was a bit of a scrum from the beginning. Lots of groping and getting groped going on. I didn't mind much as, again, I'm comfortable in the water, but I can see how it could be annoying. After the first 1.2 mile lap, when about half the racers finished their race, things got settled out and I was pretty much alone after that.
The first lap I did front crawl, but the second and third I did breaststroke. Breaststroke is much easier for me both because I can see where I'm going and it was what I raced from the ages of 8 to 16. I can swim breaststroke faster than a lot of people can swim front crawl and very efficiently too.
Afterwards I talked to a few people I knew and a few I didn't. A common sentiment was, “How could you get back in and go out for that last lap?” That was a little mystifying to me. Why wouldn't I? I signed up for 5k, I'm going to swim 5k. I never thought I wouldn't be able to do it.
Anyway, it was pretty fun and I think I'll do it again next year.