The noob tried it: Swim to the Moon 5K race report

(By Colleen Stone, Epic Races)
 
I’m a runner. Do I know how to swim? Yes. Do I mostly swim with barely passable form at the Ann Arbor YMCA when I can’t run because of injury? You bet!
 
Swim to the Moon wasn’t on my calendar to participate in. It was on my calendar to work. As Epic Races’ marketing and social media wrangler, I’d planned to be on site to do some social media updates and help out however else I could. As I reviewed some plans with Eva Solomon, the CEO of Epic Races and race director for Swim to the Moon, she floated a proposal.
 
“You should do the event,” she said, with a straight face.
 
“I could do the 1.2 mile,” I said, knowing I’d not quite completed a full mile before.
 
“No, it’s not nearly as fun. Do the 5K.”
 
This is when I realized there is as much elasticity in the definition of words as there is in my swimsuit. Depending on your perspective, “fun” could mean “actually enjoyable” or “a certain torture.”
 
Because I am an idiot, I said I’d do it and prepared by swimming a full mile inside at the YMCA the day before.
 
Here are the ten things you learn as a total noob doing Swim to the Moon.
 
It takes all types
As I stood at the start area at North Star Reach, I was struck by the variation in ages, body types and levels of expertise. How cool to see a sport pulling in so many different people!
 
Rookies gonna rookie
 
I’ve put on goggles many times. So how is it that as soon as I put my face in the water at the start, my goggles filled with water? Ugh, rookie move to not put them on properly! No matter, I stood up, corrected them and continued on…toward buoys I could *sort of* see.
 
Seeing is believing: And not seeing is humbling

Know what I’ve always taken for granted while running? That I can see where I’m going! Turns out no one painted a line at the bottom of the lakes for us swimmers to follow (seriously, someone talk to the race director about that) and we’re supposed to look up every once in a while to sight buoys and verify we’re on track? Turns out I’m not so good at it, though I got better as I went.
 
Somehow having nearly-naked bodies bumping up against you isn’t weird
In no other context is this normal. People swam into me and over me. I slapped the feet and arms of some people I’ve probably waited in line behind at Trader Joe’s. It’s not weird. It’s open-water swimming!
 
Training in open water is a good idea if your event is in open water
 
See also: Sighting. Also, you may find taking breaths without swallowing water more challenging when the wind picks up and creates small waves.
 
Personal swim buoys rule
Since I knew it was more than a little foolhardy to attempt a swimming distance I’d never come close to completing, I swam with a personal swim buoy.
By some miracle, I never needed to use it, but it was great peace of mind to know that if my weird foot cramp worsened or I ended up in distress, I could hang on to it and be safe. One downside: While it was easy to forget I had it with me — a huge plus, since I thought it might chafe or drag in an annoying way — I did catch a glimpse of it every so often and think I had a pink-capped swimmer coming up on me!
 
What happens in the lakes, stays in the lakes…mostly

I was not fast enough to warrant a gold cap. But this is a fantastic example of a swimmer being one with nature!

Except for all of the little bits of organic matter that you’ll find plastered to your body upon peeling your wet bathing suit off. People probably would pay good money at fancy spas for this kind of body wrap treatment. Consider it a race perk!
 
The finish line arch is the Citgo Sign of swimming 
Anyone who’s run the Boston Marathon knows the feeling. You see the Citgo sign at about mile 24 and focus on it, knowing it means you’re nearing the finish. And the sign somehow gets further away from you with every step. That’s how it felt seeing the blue finish arch on the shore of Halfmoon Beach. A wind-driven cross-current had made it even more challenging for this noob to swim in a straight line and it seemed that with every stroke, I was going backwards. “Just take ten strokes and the next time you look up, it’ll be closer,” I’d tell myself. I’d be wrong.
 
Swim to the Moon turned me into Michael Phelps
Not the swimming part. (While I was happy with my 2:11:36 time given that I didn’t know what I was doing, it was super humbling to get absolutely schooled by such talented swimmers!) I’m talking about the eating part. Apparently, doing any kind of swimming event will make you want to eat ALL OF THE FOOD afterward. Thankfully, Epic Races knows how to put on a spread. Grilled cheese? Yes, please. Breakfast burrito? Don’t mind if I do! Peanut butter and granola rollups? Oh, two more can’t hurt. Plum? Well, I really ought to eat a healthy snack, so sure.
 
I will never do that again
 

That’s what I said when I got out of the water on wobbly legs. (What’s up with that?)
 
But I soon myself thinking about how I would actually train properly for next year. I mean, I’m an idiot, but I know what fun means.