Race Report: Nite Moves

I haven’t been in the ocean much lately, so the water felt a touch brisk. The closest channel buoy said 57, but I’m guessing it was closer to 55. The overcast skies offered no solar relief. I opted for an in-water warm-up, which was a mistake. By the time I lined up at the start, my feet were numb.

leadbetter beach, santa barbara

Leadbetter Beach. Photo by Instagram user woooks

Oh, and I forgot to bring a cap. Mmm… brain freeze.

Beach-start, beach-finish races almost seem designed to punish me. Nite Moves is even more cleverly designed to punish me: the finish is a 70m trek uphill across a soft-sand beach. Here’s how it usually pans out:

After the mad dash into the water, I’m immediately behind like half the field. By the time I’m past the breakers, the leaders have 15-20m on me.

Then, I spend the next 5-7 minutes clawing my way through slower swimmers - at first much slower swimmers, then only somewhat slower swimmers. After I run the gauntlet I finally have some clear water - but am even further behind the leaders, who had clear water the whole time. Usually, it’s too far to make up during the remaining 500m.

At the finish, if I’m in any sort of close race, I will lose. Notice the two guys who placed 4th and 5th (6 and 3 seconds ahead of me, respectively). I beat both of them out of the water. And then they passed me running up the beach. At Nite Moves, I figure I need at least a 10-second lead out of the water to avoid getting passed on the beach.

I’m pleased to report I narrowly held off a pair of hard-charging 13-14 year old girls.

Results here. I was 6/115 in a mostly local field – though a “local field” in Santa Barbara typically includes some pretty decent swimmers. Mark W. was first. He’s not really in shape right now, but apparently still has enough to hold off the amateurs.

Beach starts and finishes have a long tradition in lifeguard competition… so perhaps I’m being overly literal, thinking an open water swimming event should test, you know, swimming. Not swimming-plus-a-beach-run. Is it too much to ask, to move the finish down to the high-tide line?

Afterward, I caught up with Mark and some other old friends over tacos, live music, and free-flowing, local craft beer. Beer makes everything better.

Another perfect Wednesday evening in paradise.