Race Report: William J. McCarthy Memorial Swim

Race Report: William J. McCarthy Memorial Swim

Getting ready to swim. (RunKarlaRun.com)

The William J. McCarthy Memorial Swim in Bristol, Rhode Island on Saturday, August 16 was my last open water swim before the Triathlon Valleyfield in Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, Quebec on Sunday, August 24.

Race Report: William J. McCarthy Memorial Swim

Swim shirt (RunKarlaRun.com)

The event was put on by the town of Bristol Parks and Recreation department to raise money to develop an aquatics program, including swim lessons for kids, and two proposed swimming pools, none of which the town currently has.

The William J. McCarthy Memorial Swim

The swim was a quarter-mile in open water at the Bristol Town Beach on Narragansett Bay. For my running friends, picture one lap around a 400-meter track. The event also included a 4 x 100 yard relay and a Fins & Floaties fun race for kids.

Registration was a bargain at $20 per swimmer, per event, or $10 for the kids race, and that included the event T-Shirt. It might be my favorite cotton shirt I’ve ever gotten at a race— incredibly soft in heather red. Best of all, they actually had my size.

My husband, Phil, loved the shirt so much he bought one for himself, albeit without the “I Swam” on the back.

Race Report: William J. McCarthy Memorial Swim

I swam (RunKarlaRun.com)

The event was a fun way to spend a Saturday morning at the beach, with music, bagels, pastries, coffee, a food truck serving breakfast and lunch wraps, a dunk tank, raffle and silent auction.

We bought a bunch of raffle tickets and won a restaurant gift certificate. My family also bid on and won two hotel stays in Bristol to support the cause. I’m a huge advocate of swimming as a sport and a life skill. I’d love to see kids everywhere have access to swim lessons in the safety of a swimming pool, especially in a community like Bristol that is surrounded by open water.

Race Report: William J. McCarthy Memorial Swim

Swimmers and the timer get ready in the water. (RunKarlaRun.com)

Rather than spending money on a timing company, organizers had a volunteer stand in the water clocking each swimmer by stopwatch and shouting out cap numbers to an official on shore who recorded each swimmer coming in. For safety, they took roll call before we entered the water and had us check in after the swim as well. A few kayakers patrolled the water as we swam.

The course was a rectangle around four buoys, with an in water start. About 24 swimmers in all braved the quarter-mile event. I loved how unintimidating and inclusive this event was. Swimmers ranged from fast competitors to recreational water lovers in two-piece suits. Upon seeing the field, Phil wished he’d brought his trunks and goggles so he could swim too. There was just a festive mood in the air.

Race Report: William J. McCarthy Memorial Swim

Swimmers are off! (RunKarlaRun.com)

Rhode Island is known as the “Sailing Capital of the World.” Nearby Newport was home to the America’s Cup for more than 50 years, the America’s Cup Hall of Fame is in Bristol, and boat-building businesses help make manufacturing the third largest industry in the state, behind health services (CVS Pharmacy is based in Little Rhody) and tourism.

What does that have to do with swimming? Well, Rhode Island is a popular sailing destination because of the prevailing southwest summertime winds, which can make for tough swimming conditions. Thankfully, the Bristol Town Beach is tucked into a quiet corner of the bay, where conditions are usually good for swimming.

Race Report: William J. McCarthy Memorial Swim

Swim success! (RunKarlaRun.com)

Karla’s Race

The William J. McCarthy Memorial Swim was my first swim-only event since I retired as a competitive swimmer at the age of 15.

As a kid I was a Chicago champion and frequent top 10 finisher at Illinois state meets. But health problems and physical ailments pushed me to retire as a teenager. I battled rotator cuff syndrome and developed a bone tumor in my leg. Thankfully, all those woes are behind me, and I’ve enjoyed getting back into swimming with my triathlon training.

Because I’m a better swimmer than I am a runner or cyclist, swimming is the leg that I train the least for triathlons. I’d love to tell you that I swim once a week year-round. I don’t. I find it hard to get to the pool during lap swim hours. I’ve done exactly six short swim workouts leading up to this triathlon, between a quarter-mile and mile.

Race Report: William J. McCarthy Memorial Swim

In the final stretch. (RunKarlaRun.com)

But I’ve made a better effort to at least get into open water. Three of those six workouts were open water swims. This race was my final one before my big race day in Quebec, where I’ll have to swim 750 meters or 820 yards, just under half a mile, in Saint Francis Bay of the Saint Lawrence River.

We lucked out with a beautiful day. Both the water and air temperatures were around 70 degrees. The current was noticeable but not unmanageable, though I could feel some swells and chop as I swam. Let’s just say I swallowed a lot of water on the two legs where I swam against the current, and floated nicely on the two legs that moved with the current.

My goal was to get in a steady-state swim—work hard, but not swim all-out. I’ve got to practice saving some gas for the bike and run, instead of racing full-out on the swim. And I’m happy to say that’s exactly what I did. When the horn sounded, I settled into a decent pace.

Race Report: William J. McCarthy Memorial Swim

Final stretch (far left) (RunKarlaRun.com)

At the first buoy, I got a foot cramp, which was annoying. So I had to switch to breaststroke for a few strokes to work it out. The front crawl’s flutter kick is not cramp friendly. But it’s easy to flex and stretch your feet during the breaststroke whip kick. While I was breast-stroking I saw one woman pass me. I’m not going to lie, the competitor in me thought, “Drats!”

As soon as I had the cramp under control, I resumed my front crawl, settling into a nice groove. As I rounded the final buoy, I caught up to two swimmers ahead of me and opened up my kick to push into the finish.

Race Report: William J. McCarthy Memorial Swim

High five! (RunKarlaRun.com)

The timer gave me a high-five. I finished second among women in 9:53. The first woman finished about a minute ahead of me. I was super happy with that!

The top three men and women won medals. It’s the second medal I’ve won as an adult for placing at a race. (The first was at the SHAPE Diva Dash obstacle run in Minnesota, where I finished 9th overall).

It makes me want to pull out my old childhood swimming medals and add them to my running race medal display.

How to make a race medal display

My display (Photo: RunKarlaRun.com)

For now, I have this beauty to add to the bunch.

Race Report: William J. McCarthy Memorial Swim

My medal

I also won a plush beach towel for finishing in the Top 3. Score!

Race Report: Open Water Swim in Rhode Island

Victory at an open water swim in Rhode Island. (RunKarlaRun.com)

The Takeaway
Race Report: William J. McCarthy Memorial Swim

Cinderella and Fred on the beach (RunKarlaRun.com)

I loved doing a swimming event, a nice change from running and triathlon. It reminded me how much I love the water, and how challenging it can be.

I’m already hoping I can swim this race again next year. I’m even plotting putting together a family relay, too.

How cute would a doggie swim be? I wish. Cinderella loves the beach, but hates the water. She cheered me on along with my mom’s Westie, Fred Astaire, my mom and husband.

I also want to add more open-water races to my schedule for next summer. Remind me to make that a goal for 2015!

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08 2014