|Santa Cruz Wharf for the Annual Roughwater Swim Photo credit: Josh Mader|
Arriving at the start line, the 3 minute flag was already flying off the start boat. I decided to get into the water and get my face wet to avoid having to swim with my head out of the water for the first 50 yards of the race. That turned out to be a bad call. It wasn't really the 3 minute flag, which I found out when I got out of the water and back to the line and the megaphone announced 5 minutes remained until the start of the race. But at least I verified the water temp, a murky, chilly 56 at best. I tried to calm down, focus on my sight line, and get my head in the game.
Once the starter went off, the start itself was predictably crazy. I had chosen a bad start location and wound up far left, alternately swimming over and around people in an attempt to get to the right of the pack and closer in to the Pier. After about 3 minutes of rerouting, I was in the right spot and in a groove. Despite being cold, I was holding a solid pace, and found a fellow team member immediately on my right. He and I threw down for the remainder of the race, keeping up a breakneck pace and trying to make up some of the losses we incurred by starting in the wrong spot. It was nice to have someone there to keep me honest, and moving, despite the discomfort. Once we rounded the end of the pier their was a swell coming from the point which kept pushing us towards the Pier but we were able to hold the line with minimal effort and finish strong.
When the results were posted and I found myself 4th woman overall, I immediately noted that I had placed behind two O club swimmers who I routinely beat in the open water and was reminded, once again, of the value of selecting the correct position at the start. Selecting an advantageous position on the beach made the difference of a minute, which was all that stood between me and winning the race outright. That and a fast suit, which I also had not taken advantage of. Despite being slightly annoyed with myself about those two deficiencies, I was first in my age group, and my time 20:22 was solid for a one mile open water race in that temperature water. Next year however, I will take a position further in towards the pier and I will definitely be wearing my fast suit. ~ Liz Dane.