Saturday, May 31, 2008

Woods, Weather, and Water (by Special Guest Blogger Nicole)

Saturday, circa 5 PM

So...bona-fide L.A. chick Nicole here. Thanks to Clara and Mallory for letting me come along with them and even grab a blog space.

I got in Thursday morning on a red-eye from Long Beach (as a result of the aforementioned confusion of a.m. and p.m.). Two iced mochas and a trip to the zoo later and I was all set. Well, until I passed out in the back seat of the car while Clara and Mallory got lost and frustrated trying to drive to the swim. Sorry about that, guys.

Which brings me to last night. Now, I have plenty of outdoorsy experience with backpacking and camping and stuff, but I was legitimately freaked out by the overgrown dirt roads and backwoods, especially at night. But I'm okay now. I am amused at the comparison between that little incident and when Clara's and my friend Rachel got freaked out driving through the streets of Brooklyn at night during our Spring Break road trip. But I guess that's just City Mouse/Country Mouse in a nutshell for you.

The swim was really great--well, what we made of it was. The river crossing was cancelled due to rough chop, high winds, and impending bad weather. So, the official race was relocated to a nearby lake. While I wouldn't have minded just doing that, the course was short, shallow, and calm, and decidedly not what C&M came to do. The race organizers off-handedly suggested that if we could find kayakers who would brave the conditions, we could go out and back in the river and they couldn't stop us, but that we wouldn't be officially with the race because of liability. After a little bit of trouble finding Mallory a kayaker--and a warning from the kayaker (and park ranger) with the awesome name of Radar about the frigid 68 degree water, we set off in the river. *

The 5-mile swim was more than double the longest time I'd been in the water and significantly farther than I'd swum in one go previously--the old record was the Long Beach Grand Prix 5K, which took me just over an hour. Well, I survived and had an absolute blast. You know, I think I could get used to this long swim thing.

It was quite choppy on the way out, but other than that, there was none of the thunder and hail they were worried about. I understand why they needed to cancel it, because many of the swimmers and kayakers were not as experienced, but the three of us (and the three other
intrepid souls that came with us) were fine.

The nice thing about wind and chop is that, though it works against you on the way out,
it works with you on the way back. That might explain why it took us an hour
and a half to go the 2.5 miles on the way out, and probably like 50 minutes or so to come back in.

When we got back in, most of the people from the lake swim were already finished and seemed excited that we actually swam in the river. Certainly a stark contrast from the discouragement and concern we encountered before the start.

Well, that's pretty much it from the swim front. We're back in D.C. now, but the drive was something interesting. The weather that we were concerned would hit the swim definitely hit us in the car. Thunder, Lightning, hail, and rain that probably counted as a flash flood--everything short of the threatened tornado. Now that we're back, I think it's time for a nap!

* Note from Clara: As a point of comparison, the conditions for the Potomac on Saturday were: 17-20 knot winds, 3-4 foot waves, and a water temp of 68 degrees Fahrenheit. In the Boston Light Swim, Mallory and I faced 25-30 knot winds, 5-6 foot waves, and a water temp of 60 degrees. Not only that, but we had swum into the wind for all 8.2 miles of the swim, as opposed to the 2.5 miles against and 2.5 miles with the wind on Saturday. So the point here is that we knew what we were getting ourselves into, and we knew we could handle it, even while the race coordinators tried to convince us that we would die in the attempt.

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