2012 Fat Salmon 3.2 Race Report

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Sometime in June (I think), when the registration opened for the 2012 Fat Salmon Open Water Swim, someone posted a link on the West Sound Triathlon Club’s Facebook page. I have wanted to do the Fat Salmon for the last couple of years but haven’t done it because it is always on the same weekend as the Seafair Sprint Triathlon which has been my personal test of fitness for the last couple of years. Seafair was my first triathlon and I love to go every year possible and lower my time and see where I am. I hadn’t signed up for Seafair yet but I was considering doing the race again this year because it would be during my two week “break” after my half iron in Ocean Shores. So, what to do this year? Well, I just decided to sign up for both! Saturday would be Fat Salmon and Sunday would be Seafair. I knew it could possibly keep me from lowering my Seafair time again this year but I was OK with that.

Now, the logistics of being over in Seattle (a 90 minute drive) for two consecutive days for early morning races was going to be an issue. However, my buddy Daniel stepped up and offered to let me stay at his house on the night between the races so that worked out quite well! Thanks, Daniel!

Saturday, July 21, 2012:

Early morning as expected! I had everything pretty much packed up the night before to make it easier but I still had to get up super early to make the 4:50 ferry to Seattle. There were a bunch of other people from the West Sound Tri Club on the ferry that morning, so I headed up to the passenger cabin to complain about how early it was with them.

This race is unique to any other race that I have done because of the race logistics. You start the morning by going to Madison Park, where the swim ends, for check-in and a pre-race safety meeting. Then, you have to make the trek down to the start of the race (to Denny Blaine Park for the 1.2 mile and to a boat launch below the I-90 bridge for the 3.2 mile). The race provides no shuttles or any type of transportation. They simply ask those that are driving to raise their hands and then everyone carpools together and then those that got rides down drive people back to their cars after the race. It seems to work out for them just fine every year. Very interesting.

I had worked out the carpooling situation ahead of time with Daniel, so we were all set to go.

I arrived at Madison Park shortly after the check-in opened and I had basically no line at check-in. Check-in opened around 6:15 and I was there by 6:30 or so with a decent parking spot near the park. I checked in and sat with the West Sound Tri Club for a while and waited for the safety meeting. Soon, Daniel and his buddies showed up and we made our final plans to carpool in my truck down to the race start and then head back to the start to get my truck in Daniel’s friend’s boat on the lake after we finished.

After the pre-race safety brief (uneventful and pretty typical stuff), we stuffed ourselves in the truck and drove down to the race start below the I-90 bridge. The only thing I would say that was interesting about the pre-race meeting was how strict they seem to be about the 2 hour time cutoff for the 3.2 mile race. They talk about pulling people out of the water or asking them to switch to the 1.2 mile if they think they can’t make it in 2 hours. This is a pretty strict time cutoff when you compare it to an Ironman which has a 2:20 time cutoff for only 2.4 miles. Obviously, this is a SWIM race!

Anyway, we made it down to the race start went across the timing mat to activate our chips and then into the water we went. The water wasn’t terribly cold for a full wetsuit (somewhere in the 60s). However, Daniel opted for no wetsuit and was cold by the end of the long swim.

I want to say that there were 300 or 400 swimmers in the 3.2 mile race so it wasn’t anything like an Ironman mass start but it was more swimmers than I was used to starting off with so it was probably a good thing for me. I found someone that I could draft behind for a while and settled in.
Again, I was using my tempo trainer during the race and I had it set at 1.03. I wasn’t sure if I was allowed to use it during this event because it was USMS sanctioned so I asked the race director and she basically said that, unless I planned to make the top 3 overall, I would be fine to use it because she couldn’t find a rule against it. I am pretty sure it is not legal in USMS events but I wasn’t planning to win anything so I used it. Shoot me.

I was only able to draft off of the first guy for about 10 minutes before some crazy, massive guy without a wetsuit literally swam right over the top of both of us from the side. It seemed to really mess with the guy in front of me and he stopped for a while.

After that, I swam by myself for about 2 miles! I couldn’t find anyone that I could get a good draft on. I did keep getting some taps on my toes so I think someone latched on for a while.

There were buoys every half mile but I missed one at some point. So, I came to a buoy and took a look at my watch. It said somewhere just over 1 hour. Hmmm….what an unfortunate time for my watch to say. Why? Because, if I was going fast (maybe there was a current in my favor), this would be a good time for 2.5 miles. If I was going slow (maybe a current against me), then this would be a possible time for 2 miles. Unfortunately, I assumed it was 2.5 miles and kept going….it wasn’t…it was 2 miles. Ouch.

Anyway, just after that 2 mile point, I latched on to another swimmer and was able to stick with him all the way until about 500 yards from the finish where I turned it up a bit and passed him.
My final time was 1:38:59, which is about 10 minutes slower than I was expecting so I was a bit disappointed at first. However, when I got out, I talked to Rich (West Sound Tri Club President and a fantastic swimmer) and he said he was disappointed with his time and didn’t have a good day. Then, he found out he came in 2nd overall! Turns out that all of the times were a bit slow this year so there must have been a current or something that was slowing everyone down.

Overall, I felt good the entire swim and felt like I put in a good effort and I am happy with my time for my first open water swim race and my longest open water swim ever. I have to thank Total Immersion for the confidence and ability to swim long distances without issues. I feel like I could swim much longer than 3.2 miles. Next year, I may just go do the 11 mile race down in Portland. We shall see.

I do highly recommend this race. It is well done and fun. You have the choice of 3.2 miles or 1.2 miles but the 3.2 mile is a ton of fun. If you are building up to an Ironman, this is not an bad event.

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