Why Top 45?

These are the things that float to the top of my list of activities that I want to do for the year 2012 when I am 45 years old. The list is comprised of things that I have either never tried or have wanted to try and just didn't have the courage or time to do it. Follow along and watch my progress and feel free to comment or add words of encouragement to help keep me going for the next 365 days!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Highland Lakes Challenge

On Thursday morning, I swam in the 6th Annual, Tex Roberston, Highland Lakes Challenge.  The annual event is organized by former Olympian, Sandy Neilson-Bell, and her husband, Dr. Keith Bell.  Sandy was a triple gold medalist at the 1972 Olympics in Munich, Germany in the 100 meter freestyle.  She won three golds, one in the individual 100 free, one in the 4 x 100 free relay and one in the 4 x 100 meter medley relay.  My masters swim coach, Carolyn, is a swimmer on Sandy's master team, the Team Texas Masters and is basically responsible for getting me to put this event on my list for this year.  She will pay for this inspired me and made me believe that I could accomplish this, so lots of credit to her for believing in my abilities to complete this even if I doubted it from time to time.

The Challenge consists of 5 stages of swimming in Lake Buchanan, Inks Lake, Lake LBJ, Lake Marble Falls and Lake Travis.  Swimmers can swim in all five stages or just one stage, swimming distances ranging in length of 1 mile up to 4 miles depending on the course and the day.  I chose to swim in the Inks Lake stage because it was the best day to fit into my schedule and as it turns out, it was the right choice because the weather turned cold overnight between Thursday and Friday. Originally, I was going to do a 1 mile swim, however there were only 4 other swimmers other than myself and they were all going to do the great distance.  Since I didn't want to create any problems for the organizers (or disappoint Carolyn ; ) ), I opted to increase my distance from 1 mile to 3 miles.

This particular leg of the event began on the docks of Camp Longhorn, a summer camp that was started by Tex and Pat Robertson in 1939.  Coincidentally, I had been to Camp Longhorn years before when I was a nanny for a family whose children attended camp over the summers there.  It has grown significantly over the years and I got lost looking for the docks because it was so different from when I had been there before.

Camp Longhorn Lazy River
Overcast Pre-race sky
My Pre-race companion, Hank

It is fitting that the challenge is named after Tex Robertson as he is a former Olympian in Water Polo and former swimming coach for the University of Texas who is best known for inventing the flip turn and coaching Adolph Kiefer who was a world champion backstroker.  Flip turns are only permitted during the freestyle and backstroke races while, in butterfly and breaststroke, regulations require swimmers to touch the end of the pool with both hands before turning back for another length. 
Tex's Olympic bag
Tex Pool Dedication 
Tex Robertson's Medal Room

After meeting on the docks, we all climbed on a boat and Sandy drove us around a bend to begin the swim near a damn.  The water was fairly cold upon entry but since I typically get pretty hot during practice at the Y, I knew the temperature was not going to be an issue once I started the 3 mile trek.  We 'warmed' up a little before Sandy counted us down and we took off.  I was a little concerned early on because my left arm and shoulder were uncomfortable pretty quickly so I started alternating between freestyle and breaststroke to give other muscles a chance to kick in.  There was no choppiness for most of the swim and I am very grateful for that because the last time I did an open water swim, the small waves were hitting me to one side and I ended up getting really dizzy and nauseous that lasted most of the rest of the day after the swim.  The only regret I can think of was that I wish I had goggles that were shaded like sunglasses because the glare from the sun made it difficult to site the course.  Doing breaststroke did double duty, helping my muscles and helping me to site the course better.  I held my place in the middle of the pack for the entire 3 miles occasionally spotting Keith and Patty pretty far ahead and Bill and Paul a slight distance behind.  At one point, Sandy and Carolyn pulled up nearby in a boat to let me know I was pulling to the left and redirected me closer to shore.  As I got closer to the finish, the recognizable Camp Longhorn buildings helped to calm me down a bit as I knew that once I could spot them, I was coming to the end of the challenge.  The last 500-800 yards were pretty tough because the choppiness of the lake picked up considerably and luckily it was coming head-on instead of at an angle or to either side of my head.  When I saw the final buoy, I had enough energy to kick to the end to reach the dock and pull slightly ahead of Bill, as Carolyn told me after I finished. 

Carolyn said she felt like a proud momma for me and was impressed with my time.  I really didn't have any idea how I had done other than the time of 1 hour and 41 minutes because I had nothing to compare it to having never done a distance like this.  I was in the company of people who do this type of thing on a regular basis, Patty having just swam a 10 miler in Tennessee a couple of weekends ago for instance.  I am proud of the time and the fact that I pushed myself to do the entire 3 miles instead of the 1 mile but I am still recovering, several days later, and will play it by ear on whether or not I will do this event again. 

One final note, I was pretty surprised at how dirty my suit got, acting like a filter for the dirt floating around the top of the lake and was sure to take some Emergen-C to help prevent getting sick from the dirt and slime that I filtered through my nose while I raced.

Dirt filtered through my suit
 Tomorrow, I am running in the Run for the Water event downtown and will report on that early next week as well as do a recap of what is left on the list and how I hope to accomplish the rest before December 31!

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