Swim Lake George – Open Water Weekend

It’s about time, or rather, long past time, for me to put up a race report for the Lake George Open Water races from earlier this summer.

Lake George has long held a special place in my heart. As a child, I traveled there with my family, camping on one of the many islands that dot the landscape of the lake. I remembered the water as frigid, dipping in only when I was wearing my stepfather’s over-sized scuba wetsuit and escaping as quickly as possible.

This time, I was back to swim without a wetsuit, for hours if necessary, as I competed in two days of races as a part of the Lake George Open Water Swim Weekend.

Held in the town of Hague, New York, I had decided to enter both the 10k distance, held on August 25th, and the 4-mile race to be held the following day.

The 10k was a loop, 4 times around a mile and a half course with a water stop along the way, a floating platform where swimmers were encouraged to leave bottles.

I opted for simplicity, Gatorade in bottles decorated with neon duct tape so I could spot them easily. And it was a great idea. My bottles stood out and I got in and out of the water stop with ease.

The water was pretty perfect. Warm, clear, and I enjoyed the start of the swim, easing my way in. (Unlike many, I never really “warm up” before a 10k since I figure I will have PLENTY of time and if I let my core temperature get down too much before I’m actually racing, it never quite gets back to where I need it to be.)

Every swim teaches me something. It sounds terribly cliche but it’s true. This time, I learned a few things.

First, don’t stay in a campground where people like to get their drink on the night before you have a big race.

Second, I was reminded of the importance of volunteers and how they can make, or break, a race. My second time around the loop, things started to get choppy. Windy and choppy, and I was feeling it. I could feel myself

That’s when a volunteer took it upon himself to yell at me about my navigation. And I mean YELL. Not kindly, either. Pointing, yelling, using some words that were, um, inappropriate and telling me that I was wildly off course, something that was, incidentally, not true.

I’ll be honest and say that at that moment, I almost dropped out. The water was getting rough, I was feeling tired, and now, I was fighting the urge to cry. By his actions, one volunteer took me out of my race head and it took me the rest of that lap, then another, to get back in it.

I want to be clear that it was not the race organizer’s fault, and when I told him about it, he was as troubled as I was since volunteer training had been explicit about not communicating with swimmers unless there was a safety concern. Should you choose to volunteer at an open water race, mind your manners and please listen carefully to race directions.

The third thing I learned in the 10k was a confirmation that multi-loop races are honestly, just not my thing. I need the change in scenery, the knowledge that the hill in the distance will finally become a part of my past, and that I won’t see it again and again on subsequent loops. I need the sense of accomplishment that comes with knowing I’ve covered territory.

As I started the third loop, the 2.5k swimmers started their race, and frankly, that was demoralizing. Already in the water for over an hour and a half, to see these spritely racers gallop past made the exhaustion feel more intense. I would recommend that shorter distance races always start before so that those of us having to pull out the long distance don’t get the added bonus of feeling slower than we already do. I am a distance swimmer, and that means I want to cover some ground, not feel like I am simply dragging my body through the water.

Suffice to say, I did, and I finished the race in 3:08:54, a time I wasn’t thrilled with but then, made myself remember that at least I was out there doing it! (And yeah, it was good enough for 2nd place woman in the 40-44 age group.)

The next morning, after another night of non-sleep due to more drunken revelers in the campground, I woke up excited for the 4-mile swim.

This time, it was to be a totally different experience. Point to point, the race started in Hague again, but ended on the beach at Rogers Rock Campground.

Even more exciting for me, the 4-mile was the first time BOTH of my favorite boys would be in the kayak to support me, my husband and my 11-year-old son. The perfect cheering section!

The weather was lovely, perhaps even nicer than the day before.

Unlike the rather barren loop course of the day before, this point-to-point course took us through some of the forested islands of the lake. And when I’m in the water for an extended period of time, it’s really nice to have something to look at!

The last bit was suitably challenging as the current pulled to the left while we were to land on a beach to the right.

With the help of my trusty kayak crew, I made it and finished the 4-miles in a time of 1:51:47, good enough for 3rd place woman overall.

I am definitely a fan of the multi-race weekend format, and I hope that next year, they add the 8-mile race a few of us are advocating for. Sadly, this is the end of my somewhat local open water season as the weather, and my wimpiness, mean it’s getting chilly around these parts!

But open water season, thankfully, continues in two weeks. ST. CROIX HERE I COME!