On the weekend of Easter, I was so anxious because 3 consecutive days of thunderstorm weathered out my training plan, which I intended to push my endurance limit to see if I was ready for marathon swimming, as I had signed up for a marathon swimming race in July. The anxiety was gone after I knew that I could do 11 km in 2 consecutive days, with 1 of the days in high intensity, which means I could reasonably complete a marathon swimming race if speed isn’t an issue.
Also, from my past experience, my pre-race anxiety was so serious before big races (e.g. orienteering ranking races) that I usually slept badly the night before with horrible nightmares. However, this time I had successfully managed it the day before, mainly using the following methods:
- I had already did enough quality training – appropriate for 5 – 10 km distances, and the taper was done already. By eating and sleeping well on the last day before, I would be able to perform to my best in the race.
- I made my mind out of swimming, but focusing on my upcoming trip to Europe, trying to pack all my stuff into a carry on bag for air travel. I did shopping for a few hours to look for some useful items for my orienteering trip, and rewarded myself with a lot of my favourite food (including pasta, rice and buns – all containing a lot of carbohydrate). In the evening, I packed the things needed (including swim suit, goggles and tow float) for today and read the bulletins of my upcoming orienteering races in my trip to Europe using my limited knowledge of Swedish, until it was time to sleep.
I went to bed such that I had 9 hours of sleep, and I slept relatively well without nightmare, and already felt enough when the alarm went off. I then cooked my breakfast in a relatively small portion appropriate for exercising in 2 hours and drank plenty of water.
The race was scheduled to start at 08:00 and registration started at 07:00. I left my home in Mong Kok at 06:30 to leave plenty of time for travelling and registration, and to focus myself before the race. I took two different buses from Mong Kok to Deep Water Bay. The first bus I took was route 171, which is an express bus from Kowloon direct to Ocean Park in about 15 minutes, the gateway to the beautiful southern beaches in Hong Kong. I calmed myself down in that 15 minutes as the last moment to be alone before the big race. I messaged my new friend Robin Johnson, who is a marathon swimmer from Jersey (a region in Europe), saying “good morning” when I was arriving Ocean Park, and he replied that he was good as well, waiting for the first 6X bus on time. The second bus I took was route 73, which was a short journey of 2 minutes from Ocean Park to Deep Water Bay. The whole trip from my home in city centre to the beautiful Deep Water Bay only took about half an hour by public transport (when there is no traffic).
I am very grateful that we have an ocean swim-able all year round with different conditions – hot in the summer and a bit cold in the winter, calm in Deep Water Bay and rough in Stanley, and welcoming swim groups on weekends, also a training squad at the university that I am working in, in Hong Kong, all within 45 minutes from city accessible without owning a car. Hong Kong seems a perfect city to do open water swimming!
The weather was very good for open water swimming, with air temperature 26°C, water temperature 24°C, and wind about BF 3 – 4. The race started at 08:14. The course was water starting from VRC, then to a permanent buoy outside Hong Kong country club, then to another permanent buoy outside Ocean Park, then round Middle Island, rounding all 3 landmarks on port, and return to VRC, finishing at the ramp. The actual distance, as measured on Google satellite map, was about 4.5 km.
As I had studied the course before, I knew exactly where to aim at and went relatively well on the first 2 buoys. I started off at an intensity I believed to be sustainable for at least 3 km, and stayed mostly in a pack before rounding the second buoy. The sea was getting rougher as we swam outside the bay due to the wind. After rounding the second buoy, the course was to swim direct to Middle Island and round it until the channel between Middle Island and Hong Kong Island. The section between the second buoy and the Middle Island seemed forever to me.
In the latter half of the race, I couldn’t keep swimming straight and usually found myself swimming a bit off, nearly hitting the rock in a few occasions. I didn’t know if it was because I was too tired or because the ocean was too rough.
I completed the race in 1:44:54, just 6 seconds short of 1 hour and 45 minutes. Comparing to the 3.7 km Middle Island race I did November last year in 1:25:45, when I just started squad training, my speed was roughly the same. However, the whole field (all but one completed in both years) was slower than last year by around 3 to 7 minutes when compared with the result in 2018, probably because of the rough water today. And by comparing the time of the field who completed both the Middle Island race last year and today’s race, it seemed that I actually got improvement among the field.
My watch measured about 4.7 km today with visible zigzag in the latter part of the race. I set the watch to auto split every km, and my first 2 km (corresponding to the start until half way across the bay) was exceptionally fast, and the 3rd km (corresponding to the latter part of bay crossing where I felt forever, and the initial part rounding the Middle Island) was exceptionally slow.
Now I have already pushed my race distance further in the rough ocean, and I consider I executed this race near perfect, from the training, to the preparation, to the actual race. The main part which was not good enough was I couldn’t keep straight enough in the latter half of my race.
I will go for a trip to Europe in the following week to do orienteering races (including 4 world ranking events). After returning, my next target will be marathon swimming in July, which is about triple of today’s distance, and I definitely need to do more endurance training in the coming two months to make sure that I can complete it.