I did my first open water non-triathlon swim race 2 weeks ago in Kamakura. It is called "Roughwaters Swim" due to the usual large wake coming in from the south. I think the long 5 kilometer distance of the event also implies that it is rough for some people. For most of us ironmen doing the event (Jay, Mika, etc.), there was little doubt that we could complete the course without incident. (An ironman swim course is 3.8k followed by some 10 hours of grueling bike and run.)
It turned out to be a mild day with little wake, although it was very hot espescially inside my full body wetsuit. As it was my first outdoor swim race, I had little expectation for the top tier as I had reckoned the competition would be stronger than a typical triathlon. (I finished 60th out of 195 triathletes in the Murakami swim last month). So I was quite surprised to see my name of the top of the list, #7 overall and #1 in my age group. My time was 1:28:30, which was a faster pace than my 1:17 swim in ironman last year for the 3.8k distance.
The course started from the beach and I raced ahead of the group, confident in my porpoising ability. I stayed in the lead for a good 150 meters as noone could match my dolphin tactics. After 150 meters, finally some decent swimmers caught me and whizzed by. I tried to draft off the fast guys for a few strokes. At the last buoy, I felt pretty good, made the 180 degree turn, and headed back to Kamakura beach. I noticed that I was swimming comfortably without much breast stroke, a change from my previous races. At the beach I saw Jaynie cheering. In between gambares she indicated that her boyfriend Jerome was in front of me and Jay was behind, while Mika was still missing in action. I ran thru the start gate and entered the water again. I focused on a couple of swimmers that I recognized, and drafted off of them most of the 2nd loop. After that the race was pretty much a blur. I actually took one water break at the raft parked in the middle of the course. I did not go 100% until the last loop given my inexperience in open water swims. I also felt a little worried about the heat as it was about 25 degrees, the temperature borderline for wetsuit usage. I need to get a sleeveless wetsuit one of these days.
After Jay and Mika came in, we relaxed on the beach and watched Omar do his 3k swim, which was his first time also. He is fast but had a problem with his wetsuit top, and fell off the leaders after the first lap. We than ran 10k thru the hills of Kamakura and had a couple of beers on the beach to round up a perfect day. Thanks to Jaynie for her support and pics. Mika maido domo for signing me up at the last minute.