Last Saturday, June 11th, I competed in the Death Valley Open Water Swim Meet 2015 hosted by the Clemson Aquatic Team at the East beach Clemson University Rowing Facility on Hartwell Lake in Clemson, SC.
While I don’t need a guide for pool events because I can see the black lines, I do need a guide in open water as I can barely see anything surrounding me, let alone other swimmers. Joe MacGregor, a former member of the Gardner-Webb University swim team who graduated the same year as I did, flew in from Florida to help guide me in this open water event. We used a three-meter long Lane Gainer resistance band as the tether, which was wrapped around our waists. Joe swam on my right. As the band stretches like a rubber band if I go too far to the left, I know to come back to the right. If I get too close to him that it would cause problems while swimming (swim wrestling anyone?) he would gently shove my right shoulder and I’ll go back toward the left.
Because open water swim just goes on for time immaterial without me having any idea of how much more is left of the course, it’s hard to properly pace myself, so at times I would start to slow down, but Joe would advise me to pick up the pace by swiping up on my back, or if I’m going too fast for that segment of the course he would swipe down on the back. Or if my legs are really starting to slow and I don’t notice, he shoved my thigh to let me know to pick up the kick again.
When we get to the point of the course where we need to make a turn, Joe would tug on the cable tether at 10 yards away, and I would prepare to make the arc for the turn toward the right.
So, this year, I did the 1K and Half K events back to back with less than 15 minutes between the two races. For the 1K, I came in 3rd place at 32 minutes and 35 seconds. For the Half K, I came in 4th place at 16 minutes and 28 seconds. Rankings are based on Age Group 19 And Over.
Last year, I also competed at this event for the first time but only did the Half K, which I finished in 4th also but at a time of 19 minutes and 39 seconds. So, I shaved 3 minutes and 11 seconds off last year’s time!
Stay tuned for my next race–the TRI! Ballantyne Indoor Triathlon on July 15th!
Cover Image Description: Patrick Vellia (right) and Joe MacGregor (left) coming out of the water after completing the 1K event at Death Valley Open Water Swim Meet 2016. The two are tethered together at the waist with a blue resistance band. —Image courtesy of the Clemson Aquatic Team’s “Death Valley Open Water 2016” photo album on Facebook, with permission.