Okoboji 3.5 Mile Open Water Swim

With Ironman Wisconsin just around the corner, the Iron Hippie and I decided that the Okoboji 3.5 Mile Open Water Swim event last Saturday would be a great practice, training and allow us to gauge where our swim is at for race day.

Photo courtesy of L. Bierbaum

With the event being in Okoboji, I love that we can stay at Mom and Dad’s and have all of the amenities of home.  We arrived on Friday evening just in time for a home cooked meal.  After dinner, we unloaded our car, laid out our swim gear for morning and let the head hit the pillow.

The alarm clock went off at 5 am Saturday morning.  We ate breakfast, changed and then set out to drop off a car at Pikes Point State Park (the finish).  Since this is a point to point swim, we would need a vehicle to transport us back to the start (on the opposite side of the lake) to pick up the truck.

The sun is just starting to rise as we drop off a transport vehicle at Pike's Point State Park
The sun is just starting to rise as we drop off a transport vehicle at Pike’s Point State Park

We arrived at Gull Point State Park (the starting location) at about 6:30 am with just enough time to carry the kayak to the water, watch the sunrise over the water, check in at the registration table, get into our wetsuits and hear the race announcements before the start of the race.

Beautiful sunrise at Gull Point State Park
Photo courtesy of L. Bierbaum:  Getting my wetsuit on

Each swimmer needs to have their own kayak/canoe escort for this swim.  Some AMAZING friends (Allen and Lora) would be canoeing next to the Iron Hippie and my father would be kayaking next to me.  Our escorts were MUCH more nervous than we were 🙂

Photo courtesy of L. Bierbaum:  Kayaks lined up ready for “Go” time
Photo courtesy of L. Bierbaum: Allen and my father ready to escort us across the lake

We were not considering this to be a race, just an open water swim practice session.  When the horn blew, we hung back for a minute to allow all of the congestion in the water to sort itself out.  With 35 swimmers and their escorts, the water was a bit congested at the start.

Photo courtesy of L. Bierbaum

Once we got moving, I had little contact with others.  It was a perfect morning…there was no wind, a hazy sky, air temps in the upper 60s, water temps were in the low 70s, the water was smooth as glass…we couldn’t have asked for a better morning!!

I set out with the hope of completing this 3.5 mile swim between 2:00:00 and 2:15:00.  I stopped swimming a couple of times along the way…the first time was to chat with the Iron Hippie, Allen and Lora as we caught them and the second was to drink some water (not from the lake) and eat a few Honey Stinger Chews.Screen Shot 2014-08-05 at 7.47.56 AM

I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly the time passed and how clear the water was.  I could see the bottom of the lake for nearly the first full mile and the last half mile.  I had lots of thoughts throughout the swim, but they were all happy.  I kept thinking about how lucky I am to get the opportunity to swim across the lake and have my dad at my side.  I’m not sure he was as happy…this was his first time in a kayak and he wasn’t super comfortable.

When I approached the shore at Pike’s Point State Park, I was shocked when they announced my swim time…1:49:33!!  After looking at the Garmin results, it wasn’t as impressive as I thought since it was only 3.1 miles instead of the 3.5 miles that was advertised.  I didn’t even care…it was a PR for me, since this was the longest I’d ever swam at one time.  I finished 17th out of 35 participants and was very pleased to have passed the 2.4 mile mark sub 1:30:00 (this was my swim time at IMWI in 2011).  We are definitely ready for the IMWI swim!!

Photo courtesy of L. Bierbaum:  The Iron Hippie and I successfully finished our "race"
Photo courtesy of L. Bierbaum: The Iron Hippie and I successfully finished our “race”

What is the farthest you have swam?  Have you ever participated in an event that was short of the advertised distance?  If so, how did you feel about it?

22 thoughts on “Okoboji 3.5 Mile Open Water Swim

  1. Wow! That is so cool! I’ve only done pool swims, but hope to get some open water experience next summer.

    1. Growing up on Lake Okoboji, I’ve had a LOT of open water swim experience. I definitely prefer OWS to pool swimming. I hope you enjoy OWS also!! 😊

  2. Awesome race!! Glad to hear you were on thinking happy thoughts!! Wow that is a long time to swim!!! 2.4 miles is the longest I have ever gone! I was thinking about doing a Leadman race which is a longer swim/bike and shorter run and I thought man I would have to spend even more time in the pool that I already do. I think 4000 is plenty for me…maybe in OW?! How far did you swim to train for this? (or the longest?)

    1. Thanks Leslie!! The longest swim was 4700 yards, but we swam 3 days a week for 3000-3500 each for about a month leading up to the race with one 4700 the week of.

  3. WOW, you finished with a solid time. The Garmin can sometimes be off with OWS, so it may have been more around the 3.5 distance. This is the type of stuff I should probably be doing to get better at swimming period. That is quite the distance and I feel as though my arms would fall off before I finished (I’m a weenie when it comes to upper body strength). Do you lift any weights or do any kind of strength training to assist your swimming? My longest swim to date has been 1.5 miles. I recently discovered that swimming upstream in a river current is super challenging and helpful for me.

    1. Thanks Kristen!! It was incredibly fun!! I do strength training…one day a week is TRX (which I teach), one day a week is only core work and a 3rd day is strength at the gym with free weights and machines. I have been swimming in Lake Okoboji since I was an infant, so I developed the upper body swimming muscles at a young age 😉

  4. Nice job, Kecia! What an awesome job! 🙂 My sister does a 5k swim as a fundraiser for arthritis every fall, but the longest I ever swam was 1.7 miles on my birthday in December, and I took a few breaks.

    WOw, I am in awe 🙂

    1. Thanks Sandra!! It was so much fun…mostly because we didn’t consider it a race and had a beautiful morning. If you get the chance, you should consider training for and swimming this distance 🙂

  5. Congratulations on an awesome swim, a PR, and the confidence boost for your big race!! It looks like a gorgeous setting, and how great you had your dad beside you!
    This weekend my girlfriend swam a 5km race. They have a baby, so I watched the baby on shore and my husand and her hubby paddled beside!

    1. Thanks Abby!! It was a great swim and so peaceful. I’m lucky my dad is able and willing to paddle next to me 😊
      So awesome you were able to help your girlfriend out for her swim!! It so much fun to be involved in sport…even if it is spectating and supporting others!!

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