I first heard about this race from Jim (www.jumpingfish.net) months ago; he kept bragging about how this is one of his favorite races because the location is absolutely beautiful. A few weeks ago, a fellow swimmer posted the race registration on facebook. I was hesitant to go because it was on my birthday and I had lots of other trips this Fall; but then I figured, what better way to spend my birthday than on a beautiful beach?
Siesta Key is located near Sarasota (SW Florida), about a four-hour drive from Jacksonville. I learned that it is an especially unique location because the sand is actually made of quartz, thanks to a moving glacier thousands of years ago. The beautiful, white sandy beaches is what lands Siesta Key “Top 5 most beautiful beaches” almost every year. I drove down Friday morning with two other swimmers and had one of the busiest days ever: 4 hour drive, pit stop at Salt Springs, Amrit Yoga Institute/Ashram, I drove a boat, ate dinner under a tiki hut and watched the sun set from a sand bar.
Saturday morning we were up at 5am (yay, happy birthday, right?) and at the beach by 6:15. Everything was fantastically organized. The event was hosted by the Sarasota YMCA Sharks Masters Swimming and was sanctioned by both USA Swimming and U.S. Swimming Masters. Despite there being hundreds of people, lines were short and I was marked, had my ankle chip, cap, and shirt all before sunrise. 1k swimmers started close to check-in and 2.5k and 5k swimmers had to walk a bit to the start (beach walk during sunrise? ok!)
The 1k swimmers started first and a few were already heading to the finish line before my group even started. It was fun cheering them in as we heard the “30 seconds” warning for our start. The gun went off and everyone ran into the water. I’m still working on my starts; it’s definitely a weakness (as well as finishes). My goal, though, was to just swim and have fun. I’ve never swum this distance and didn’t know what to expect out of myself. I certainly haven’t trained much the last few weeks. Surprisingly, I felt great the entire time. Aside from the fact that I could feel small jelly stings/nemanocytes the entire race (and knowing that I’d end up with major sea lice.. which I did), it was an excellent race.
Side note: since this race was sanctioned by USA Swimming and USMS, there were an incredible number of “young fish” out there. The 2.5k swimmers started a few minutes after the 5k swimmers.. and by the time I hit the 3rd buoy, I already had some young 2.5k teenagers flying by me. I had another rush of them around the 1/2 point (1/2 way for me, finish for them). Holy fast children!
As I ran up the beach for my finish, the 2.5k swimmers plus two teammates who creamed me in the 5k were there, cheering. I had time to turn around to cheer for two others finishing closely behind me. I can’t repeat enough how excellent this race was! I guess my only complaint is the post-race food.. it was pretty lame :(
We grabbed our medals and stinky swim suits (ew.. why does the Gulf water smell like dead fish?) and headed home. My car riders and I stopped at the Ringling Brothers Museum/Grounds before heading home.
Additionally: My birthday weekend started with the most amazing meal/date night with my hunny at iii Forks complete with roses and gifts. It ended with dinner, football and friends. Our football/birthday dinner celebration was the perfect night until I got home just in time to watch FSU completely screw up their entire season.. but we’re not going to discuss that.. just my awesome birthday weekend :)