Swim Miami 2011

This entry is part 19 of 18 in the series Race Club Diaries

Swim MiamiThe annual Swim Miami was held on April 9, 2011 in a new location at the Miami Yacht Club on Watson Island and Gary Sr, Richard and I were 3 of over 800 athletes to explore the waters that morning and enjoy one of South Florida’s premier open water swims.

The original Swim Miami began in 1989 by Jimmy Woodman, founder of Active.com, in conjunction with Florida Sports Magazine and continued successfully through 1998. In 2005, Miami Sports International, a subsidiary of Swim Gym Aquatics, led by four-year University of Florida swimmer Jonathan Strauss, restarted the event.

Miami Sports International helped to develop open-water swimming as an Olympic sport and now promote many other open water events.

Originally staged at the Miami Rowing Club in Key Biscayne, 2005 was also the year I participated for the first time in the Swim Miami while training in the Florida Keys with the Race Club. Swim Miami currently consists of four swims: a ten-kilometer swim, a four-kilometer swim, the traditional Miami Mile, and an eight hundred meter sprint race. Considering our current weekly training, all three of us decided to participate in the Miami Mile.

The new location was advertised to consist of clearer water and a more beautiful backdrop. Where the latter certainly lived up to its promise, I didn’t find the clearer water as I could barely see my fingertips when entering my hand out in front to take another stroke. Adverse conditions are part of open water swimming and a factor one can’t influence. Although we didn’t have great visibility, we did have a very calm bay and almost no current.

All of the races began, by entering the water on the north side of the dock, where the timing chip was first registered. The course for the mile was almost a straight swim, heading out east for about 800 meters, making a tight right turn around the buoy and back west towards the beach for the final 800 meters, finishing on the south side of the dock.

The three of us knew that we were not in condition to compete with the top athletes in the race and decided on a conservative race strategy. Our initial plan was to move all the way to the left side of the pack for the start to get out of any tackling and other hassle coming with a mass start in open water swimming. Gary was the only of the three of us who had done the swim before and thus had a reference time that he wanted to improve up on. As for Richard and I, our plan was to enjoy the swim and have a good race without hurting our bodies too much.

Having a good race strategy in open water swimming is as important as spotting is to help you swim in a straight line or knowing how to turn around the buoys. Being all the way on the left of the pack, we found ourselves in clear water and as I saw a group of 3 swimmers take off, I immediately picked it up and cut a straight line to catch up. Richard took my lead and started dragging off my legs, as did Gary who was just little behind Richard. This small leading group was composed of strong swimmers and they started off with a strong pace. After I found their feet, the group decided to switch to the next gear and elevate their rhythm. Once again, I decided to go with them even though I was already starting to hurt. Richard and Gary decided to keep going on their own pace which allowed me to pull away with that leading group.

Half way through the race, after rounding the turn buoy, I started to have more and more difficulty holding the pace of the small leading group and had to let them go. Gary and Richard kept a close race behind me stroke by stroke and even fought for the best position at the turn buoy, with Richard pulling away from Gary on the last part of the race.

I’m happy to report that all three of us made it back to shore, finished the race and actually won our respective age groups! More important though, we all had a great time participating in the Miami Mile and being part of the excitement of open water swimming at the Miami Yacht Club that Saturday morning.