After my week of swimming in Croatia, I had a couple of days to wait for my flight back to Scotland. I had thought of swimming around the island of Prvic Luka, which would be around 5km or so. However, I had not figured on the local knowledge of the guides. Water polo girl had heard about a swim event down the coast at Split, and had convinced the Guernsey lifeguard to go. They had booked a hire car, but needed someone who could drive a manual to get behind the wheel. So of course I said yes.
Before I go any further, i just wanted to acknowledge a significant event for this blog. It has just reached 10,000 views, which is not bad for a blog about that niche hobby of open-water swimming. So thanks to all those who have looked at this blog over the last four years or so. I have enjoyed writing it, and it has been an amazing journey so far.
Back to Croatia. The event was to be held in Split as part of Statehood Day. There were two races on offer: a one km event, or the marathon 5km event. We decided we wanted to enter both races.
We left the island at 630am to get to the mainland where we picked up the car in Vodice. I jumped behind the wheel to drive the manual transmission, the first time I had driven a car on the mainland of Europe. Due to the excellent navigation of water polo girl we arrived at the pool in Split in plenty of time for the one km race. When we registered for the event, we told them we wanted to do both races. They were dubious as there was an hour between the races, but we said we would finish the one km race well within the hour. As we got organised, some of our NYC red tide fellow swimmers arrived to do the race as well as they had stayed the night before nearby.
As the Guernsey lifeguard and I entered the water I told her that we were using this as a warm up for the 5k race, so I was not planning to swim very fast. It was an in-water start and it was great to see so many teenagers from the local swimming club doing the race. They all looked so athletic and care-free. Water polo girl translated the race instructions: swim up to the first buoy, turn left and head back to the start line, turn left again to cross the finish line.
So off we went, and the water was soon a churn of arms and legs as the keen young swimmers powered away in their youthful fashion, leaving us behind. I soon settled into my swim pattern, and before I knew it had reached the half-way mark. Around we went, with Guernsey close by at all times, on my feet taking it easy. Across the finish line in an easy 18 minutes or so (I learnt later that I was third in my age group for which I received a nice medal). It was great to see our Big Apple cousins swim the event and to see the huge smiles on their faces as they realised that they were now international open-water swimmers.
We had over half an hour before the start of the 5k race, and it was getting hot out in the sun. My move to Scotland has not helped me to cope with hot sun, so I made sure I had fluids and a snack. I talked tactics with the lifeguard as this was her first 5km race. I felt slightly more experienced as this was my third swim race over the 5km distance, though I had done several training swims of at least that. I told her that my plan was to go out at the same pace as the 1km for the first two laps,and then try to swim faster on the last lap. I also told her that you have to be ready to adjust plans depending on what happens in the water.
Into the water we went, and I told the lifeguard to stay on my feet or hip to get a good draft. Of course if I was going too slow, she could pass me. It was not long before we were in clear water with a group just in front of us. As I had swum part of the course in the earlier race I knew the direction to go and what to expect. There was a hint of a breeze, but mostly it was quite flat with little chop. The biggest wash was created when five naval vessels cruised up the channel just off-shore.
The first lap soon was over, and I had slipped about 20 metres behind a group of three swimmers. I decided to try to catch them and get in their draft. Over a few hundred metres, we caught them and I stuck to the hip of the front swimmer who had a nice relaxed stroke. After two laps, I still felt strong and I had the noticed the lifeguard was right behind me and had got too distracted by the sight of powerful athletic locals in not. For the third lap I sensed that the group we had been with were starting to slow, and I also knew that after a week of swimming twice a day I would be strong. So I increased my pace with the aim of pulling away from this group. Over the next half lap we inched away, 2 metres, then 5, then 10, and at the turning point we were 20 metres in front of them.
Our next target was another group of two swimmers,who we quickly passed as we headed for home. Another group just in front was the next target and I concentrated on my technique to close the gap. About 400m from the finish line we past them as well. I looked over my shoulder and I was happy to see the lifeguard on my hip. She pulled up level with me and we went stroke for stroke as we powered towards the finish line.
We turned at the start line with only 30 metres to go. Part of me wanted to let the lifeguard beat me, but another part said no. I was half a length behind her and now it was time to start kicking, and not one of those slow two beat kicks. I brought in the six beat kick determined to beat her. The photo above shows the lifeguard in the red Wild West Swimmers cap, and me in the green Pier to Pub Inchmurrin cap.
So what happened. Well they say a picture paints a thousand words.
The best bit was to see the smile on the lifeguard’s face as she crossed the line for her first 5km race.
As we exited the water, the red tide folks were still there, (they took some of these great photos). We had finished, we felt strong the whole way, and my time was 96 minutes. We had swam away from other swimmers, and I honestly felt that I could have gone another 5km or so.
The presentation was held, and water polo girl was 2nd female overall, and the lifeguard was 3rd female overall. Huge effort from both of them. We left to drive home, not having time for the free bbq tuna steaks, and chatted about the race, until our back seat passenger nodded off, tired after her efforts in the water. So much for a relaxing day off.
So a huge thanks to the guides for talking me into doing these bonus races; thanks to the red tide gang for cheering us on, and swimming themselves. It really was a memorable way to finish off my swim week in Croatia.