Big Gulp


Wow, did I really sign up for this?  What looked so simple at the online sign up page now appeared daunting as I walked a half mile from my parked car to the Stevens Creek Reservoir early yesterday morning to take part in the NorCal Open Water Swim.  My mouth agape, I stared pointedly at a series of 6 big, orange buoys stationed at various points around the reservoir.   These days, I’m never fazed by a several mile run (because it’s always around a meandering route, with all but the next short section obscured by hills, trees, or buildings) or a lengthy swim set (done in a lap pool, so my next bit is always exactly 25 yards long).

This swim was different, however.  Set against a backdrop of tree covered hills, the reservoir was was serene, flat, and seemed to extend forever.  And I was supposed to swim buoy to buoy (to buoy to buoy to buoy …).  From a bird’s eye view, the 1 mile course looked roughly like this.

open water swim course

When I arrived, the 2 mile race was already underway.  Those folks swam the above course twice, and one guy actually made a point of doing the butterfly stroke the entire distance.  A few minutes before my race started, I waded into the clear cool water, which felt to be in the low 70’s, pond weeds gently wrapping around my feet.  I regretted not wearing tinted goggles as I squinted to make out the distant orange buoys in the bright sunlight.  The starting line was actually several yards out from shore (“floating start”) so I tried to stay calm and afloat in the last few minutes.  Soon enough, the whistle blew and we were off.

Rather than swimming point to point, I zigged and zagged my way around the reservoir.  This underscored the need for future work on straightening out my stroke and improving sighting.

zig zag

Somehow I managed to hit all 6 buoys, and exited the water in 53’51”, slow for a mile swim but a bit faster if you take into account the additional distance due to my crooked course.

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