Before this morning’s race, I compared last year’s roster to this year’s, trying to see who I’d have to beat so that I could finally at least place in this year’s Cap2K. It is totally stupid that it matters to me: the entire swim is just a mass of anonymous swim caps and flailing arms, so you have no idea who is in front of you in the water or behind you. You just swim as hard as you can. But his name was Marty Richardson, and he’d beaten me by 5 seconds last year, and I was going to beat him this year.
It’s important to note that I’m talking about age-group competition: I am measuring myself against other swimmers my general age and gender. The actual winners of the race–generally 19-20 year olds–are out of the water, dry, and texting by the time I get out a quarter hour after them. This year I bumped up to the 60-64 men’s group. Yea!? My thinking is that you just have to be persistent. Eventually, no one is left to beat.
It’s a five minute walk down Redbud Isle after the briefing before you either jump in and swim the 350 yards out to the starting line, or get on a shuttle barge to take you out. I’m a confirmed shuttle barge man–I decided years ago, at the race’s finish, that I couldn’t have swum another yard, and was entirely grateful for not having added on another 350 at the beginning.
The water was “noticeably” colder this year. That means I noticed when I jumped off the barge that I could not inhale to breathe. Fortunately, I was in the water at precisely the five-minute warning horn, and had time to swim a few strokes and get my breathing under control. Also different this year, there was a strong current. But the current was pushing the mass of swimmers past the starting line, everyone out there just treading water, trying to breathe. I saw what was happening, and backstroked hard to stay behind the line, but found myself alone with only one other grumpy old lady who was yelling “stay behind the line, folks!” No one seemed to care, but they had at least 50 yards on us at the start. I am sure that Marty Richardson was in there, taking a 50 yard head start on me.
The swim itself was not hard. The Cap2K is perhaps the hardest thing I do physically each year, but not bad this time, thanks to that current carrying us all along, together. It takes a while to get your breathing and stroke under control, but from then on you just keep going until it’s over. This year was unusual because I’d occasionally have swimmers randomly crossing in front of me at acute angles to everyone else. I couldn’t figure out why, but it did break up the terror, sort of like climbing El Capitan and watching someone else falling past you from above to their death. “Well, there’s something you don’t see every day.”
When I got home, my wife told me all about her garage sale. She told me about the tree limbs she’d cut back–that needed to be done, and she’s a trooper. When she paused to inhale, I said “the swim was cool. I finally placed!” That is sort of hard for me to say, because “I placed” means “I did not win,” but the Cap2K is in it’s own category for me. I will never do better than simply completing this thing that I am not particularly good at. I just need to do it.
“How did that happen?” This took me a second to process, because as much as I like praise, I do not like to brag. “Normally, there are all these really old people finishing way before you–like forever before you ever show up. Was there some mistake?” She spent the rest of the day occasionally popping in, just to tell me how proud of me she was, but I would just smile and say “too late! You can’t un-say those words. You’re the star of my story about the swim, now!,” which she already knew and dreaded when she heard me typing away.
And at the awards ceremony, when they called my name, right after they called Marty Richardson, I knew I’d be back next year. The current had carried both Marty and I along together, still separated by those same 5 seconds, pulling us all along in the right direction.
UPDATE: The results are in, folks, and there’s good news and there’s bad news! First, I beat that bastard Marty Richardson by almost 2 minutes! And I swam the course, thanks to that current, at my fastest time ever, 7 minutes faster than last year. The bad news is that the guy who finished first absolutely creamed me, finishing 6 minutes in front of me and 14th overall, which is amazing.
- Men 60-64
- 1 Randy Rogers M 60 0:24:27.38
- 2 George Schools M 60 0:30:34.24
- 3 Marty Richardson M 62 0:32:20.10
- Dwight Munk M 61 0:32:53.41
- Paul Scripko M 62 0:41:38.71 0:42:11.69 Stephen Julian M 63 0:42:11.69 M