My First Waikiki Roughwater Swim


Can hardly tell I have pre-big-open-ocean swim jitters! John Bender photo.

Labor Day weekend was full of pain for me, but it was also full of joy.

Relaxing after Saturday’s training with Try Fitness Hawaii.

The Ride: Joy.
On Saturday I joined my TryFitness Hawaii Na Wahine Festival training group for our 2-3 hour workout. It was primarily a ride around the route of the event, through Kahala. Then we’d transition to a run around Triangle Park where we set up. I was excused from the run because I was in the 20k the next day. I put it all out there on the road, doing the circuit three times. Have I mentioned how much I love to ride my bike? Joy.

The Run: Pain.
The Runners HI 20k out at Kalaeloa was very hard. I didn’t mind the three laps around the same loop, and admiring the brand-spanking-new FBI building in the northeast corner (what a fortress!). It was watching the fast and fearless pass me two times. When John and I passed the chute for my third lap, people were already turning in to finish. I tried not to think about it.

Hurting. Smiling. Accomplished a 20k. John Bender photo.

Two things I took from this run: It’s time to Galloway. For the next two Honolulu Marathon Readiness series runs, and for the marathon itself, I’m going to do the Galloway Method. There was a woman in the 20k who did it and eventually she became a speck in the distance. Given the problems of my right leg, I cannot sustain a run longer than nine miles without taking a break. That’s why the shorter triathlons will be ideal for me next year. As I sit here on Tuesday, two days after that run, my right ankle is still a bit stiff and whiny. And there’s this weird redness. You do not want to see this. Sure, I’ll Instagram a photo of joint fluid extracted from my knee, but you do not want to see my ankle. I’m glad I’m in physical therapy. The PTs said they don’t want to discourage me from my athletic pursuits, but help me find a way to succeed. I really appreciate that!

Kristin, Paula, Sonya, Yvette. Kristin and Yvette are training for Ironman Kona. This was a good workout for them. As you can see, I’m like, “PHEW!” John Bender photo.

The Swim: Better than expected.
Here are my stats at Garmin.com. This was my first Waikiki Roughwater Swim. It’s held each Labor Day. About a thousand people sign up, and waves of 200 are released in the water at a time. I was in the fourth wave. I was with three of my TryFitness teammates, and we were going to try to stay together. Of course I lost sight of Sonya, Yvette, and Allison before we even got to the first buoy. Whether it’s an ocean start or a beach start, an open-water swim competition is a furious scrum of arms, legs, waves, rocks and coral. I have learned to hang back a little bit and let the violence occur before me. Eventually the swimmers thin out.

After more than six competitive swims, I’m figuring out a graceful exit strategy. John Bender photo.

I got around the first buoy and I didn’t see any of my friends. You don’t really want to stop at a buoy as it’s quite the ¬†bottleneck. I figured I was alone again and that’s how it had been for me when I did the four North Shore Swim Series events. I would try to follow the plan of swimming inside more to avoid the current. About 40 minutes into the swim I saw two yellow swim caps in the distance so I swam to see if I could catch them. It was Sonya and Yvette! I was so happy. We three stayed together until we got to the orange buoy, where it got crowded again and we lost sight of each other.

Coach Joe spots me approaching the finish and gives me a shout out! John Bender photo.

I really let Sonya be our sighter. I relied on her, I kept an eye out for her, and Yvette and I completed a triangle of swimmers quite separate from the rest of the field, and well inside the yellow buoys marking the way to that last orange buoy that we would need to swim around to its right. When it was time to head for that buoy, we took a sharp south-western turn toward it. When we got to it, we had been in the water 1:40 according to my Garmin 910xt. That was pretty darn good. I had a feeling we swam a bit more than the 2.44 miles of the course. When I got home and uploaded the stats, I saw that we had done 2.88 miles. But we finished within a respectable time frame, so I am very pleased with my first Waikiki Rough Water Swim. Personal record, FTW.

Coach Joe finished an hour before I did, but he stuck around to cheer his masters swimmers in. Mahalo, Coach! John Bender photo.

I always try to keep a little in the bank for the finish, and yesterday I had plenty of energy to finish strong. John said it was the strongest he had ever seen me finish. It is always awesome to finish to hear friends cheering, and to my right was Coach Joe Lileikis, who is my masters swim coach at The Oahu Club (join us!) shouting and yelling me through. He had finished an hour before me. I cannot tell you enough how fantastic it is to have him as a coach.

Waikiki Roughwater Swim wave A launches. The fasties. The elites. John Bender photo.

Ocean Swimming.
When I am swimming in an open-ocean event, I do think of the worst-case scenarios. The day before our swim a diver out at Yokahama Bay got a scare from a tiger shark he described as being as broad as a refrigerator. When you’re swimming alone, or you can’t see any other swimmers around you, you feel vulnerable. You wonder if you’ll finish. You wonder if you’ll get attacked and they never find you or they only find pieces of you.

If you look closely, you can spot Sonya, Yvette, Allison, and me. John Bender photo.

So that’s why it’s nice to be swimming with a couple of friends. I figure there’s security in numbers. Plus, apparently, people don’t taste good.

Next? The Try Fitness Hawaii Na Wahine Festival on Sunday, Sept. 16, 2012. I’m doing the sprint triathlon: a 500-meter ocean swim, a 12-mile bike ride, and a 5k run. Because of the run, I won’t place. Last year I did the swim and spin and finished first in my age group. It’s tempting to do that again, but I figure because I want to do triathlons, I shouldn’t let myself off the hook.

My strong finish. You have no idea how happy I am at this point. Well, maybe you do! John Bender photo.

Are you intrigued? Do you look at my pictures and say, “If she can do it, why can’t I do it?” Because that was me. I used to watch people do events and think that. I am very competitive. Sure, it’s really my own personal goals and improving myself that motivates me, but I take side-ways glances at the competition and wish I could slam them. It’s true. But I gotta be gracious and happy for those who get to stand on the podium.

What good is their win, if I didn’t do my best?

4 thoughts on “My First Waikiki Roughwater Swim

  1. Pingback: My First Waikiki Roughwater Swim

  2. I loved reading your recount of the waikiki swim. I’m coming to hawaii to swim it this year so i’m very excited. I just finished the Miami 5k swim and will do the pensacola bridge 5k swim also. But nothing like the open ocean swims to really get the adrenaline going. are you going to do it again this year?

  3. I certainly am. I can’t stand swim starts, but the middles are OK, and the finishes are the best. Good Luck!

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