So this year was shaping up to be a great year for the LOST Race. Two weeks out we were on pace for record registration (over 130 swimmers), Toronto was under a heat advisory, the Lake was over 70F/21C, I had just purchased some great new buoys for the course, Mike, Darren and Miguel had all the volunteers lined up (thanks to ALL the volunteers! Seriously.) and all the organizing under control. We even welcomed a couple of new groups to the on-water support, Derek Schrotter and his SUP crew from Port Credit and Wendy from the BurlOak Canoe Club were going to support us as well as Alex and his Martini Boat and Steven Cull and his Charterability Boat. Awesome.
But this is open water swimming… things don’t always go according to plan.
The regular LOSTies out there know that the Lake “rolled over” a week prior to the race. It went from around 70F to… 43F. Yikes. That is the biggest roll over I’ve ever seen in the 10 years I’ve been keeping records. But we still had a week to go. It could, and was forecast to roll back over, and be 60-65F by race day.
So we (me, Mike, Miguel, Darren, Alex, Dylan and few swimmers) quietly and patiently watched and waited.
But the Lake held touch. Sunday, Monday, Tuesday… still 45F… Wednesday, Thursday… still 44F… Friday I checked it at 9 am and it was 46F.
But I checked it at 3 pm… and it was 52F!!! Woo hoo, the roll was finally coming! Still had overnight for it to get to 60F or so and we’d be set.
But the group of us were still a bit panicked. We must have exchange a couple hundred emails that day. What was Plan B going to be? Well if it was 43F, like last weekend, it would have to be cancelled. Period. But maybe we could shorten it if it was 50-55F? So that became Plan B. And we made all the preparations for that. Hoping that the roll would still come and we wouldn’t have to use it.
I checked it at 6 pm and it was still 52F. I woke up at 4 am and checked it again… it was 50F. Crap. Well Plan B it was. At least it wasn’t a borderline temperature, made my decision easier. I’m pretty sure there wasn’t a soul there, even among the hard-core LOSTies, that could have swum 3.8 km in 50F (or would have wanted to). Not me, that’s for sure.
The good news is that the race actually went smoothly. And everyone had fun. Ultimately that’s all we really wanted.
We had Zack Chetrat, silver medalist from the Toronto Pan Am Games, Canadian Record holder in 200 fly and favorite for the Rio Olympics next year as our starter! We had Mayor Rob Burton come down and wish us luck… and tell us we’re crazy!
And we had a 500 m rectangular loop race and a double loop 1000 m race. Funny thing was, because we normally have volunteers and equipment at the start and the finish, but it was all at the finish this year, it actually made the race easier to conduct. And it was much better viewing too.
I know it sounds a bit like nepotism, but my son Dylan won the 500 m cleanly, although there were some fast swimmers in that race too! In the 1000 m, it was a great race. Former World Champion in the 25 km distance, Greg Streppel and Samer Yagmour, a seriously fast open water swimmer and former Varsity swimmer U of T put on a pretty good show. They both know how it’s done. Greg “let” Sam lead for the first loop and 1/4… then they switched… and Sam “let” Greg pull for a while… or did Greg just make his move? Around the last buoy and headed for home… Greg dropped him. Put about 20 m between them and came in for a very hard fought win. Well done everyone.
And the thing about cold water swimming is the perpetual question “is it easier to be fast and spend half the time in the water… or is it harder to be slower and be in the water a whole lot longer? Tough to say, but it is easy to say there were no easy swims on Saturday. Anyone who finished either of those distances in rough, 50F water did well. Very well. The Irish and the San Francisco swimmers have nothing on that race (nice to see San Francisco “Southender”, Jay Ligda, joined us for the race too!)
Oh and for the record… yes, there were still plenty of “bad ass” LOSTies out there who went “naked”.
Check the results here.
More pics here.
So for better or for worse, this will go down as “the cold year”. I’ve done lots of races over the years in lots of different sports. In 2003 I did my first Ironman at Lake Placid, it was the “wet year” (although there have been a couple there since too!), and a bunch of us LOSTies did Ironman Canada in 2011, “the hot year”, when the temperature got to 39C/102F. My buddy, Madhu, did the Marathon des Sables (7 day ultra marathon across the Sahara Desert) the year after Jeff Hunt and I did it, it was up to 55C the year Jeff and I did it… Madhu got the “wet year”, it was cold and raining for the bulk of his race… across the Sahara. Weird. Usually adverse weather sucks. Period. But in some perverse way these tough conditions really do make it more memorable. You can say you did it in the “cold year”. Some serious street cred there.
Or maybe I’m just rationalizing. But it was pretty impressive to watch, that’s for sure.
But that’s the thing with Mother Nature and with open water swimming in particular. She plays a big role. Even more so in open water swimming than in running or triathlon or most other sports. If you get crappy weather during a marathon or triathlon it might effect your time, but you can always just “walk it in” and finish it, unless it’s a hurricane or something. But in open water swimming you are much more exposed to the whims of the weather AND the water.
This was our biggest registration year by far. We had 135 people registered to swim 3.8 km. That makes it the largest-longest open water swim race in Canada. Note, there are longer races, but none with more people than what we had. Having said that, lots of people bailed. And I don’t blame them. Again, open water swimming is not like a running race, safety is much more of an issue. And it is much harder to swim in cold water than warm water. A lot harder. Both mentally and physically. There is no one there that had signed up for a 3.8 km race who couldn’t have swum a measly 500m or 1000m swim in 70F/21C… but its all different in cold water. Drop that temperature by 20 degrees and its a whole other ball game!
I was told there were a few people standing in line a bit confused and saying something like “really? It’s only going to be 500m or 1000m?” I assure you, there wasn’t a soul there that was wishing it was still 3.8 km… especially after the swim! In fact, I doubt very much if there was anyone there wishing it was even 1100m!
Oh, and as the winner of the 500m said when he got out: “It was cold, but I got used to it… but it was a lot rougher out there than it looked!”.
It was a tough swim no matter how you cut it.
So even after having to resort to Plan B, I was pretty happy to hear that everyone seemed to have a good time and got a “challenging” swim too! To steal a line from the Rolling Stones: “You can’t always get what you want… but if you try sometimes, you get what you need”…
All in all… I had a good time… hope you all did too… and I hope to see you all again next year too! Thanks.
PS. a few more pics below, just because it was hard to choose!