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By 11:48am Saturday morning, I will know something I don’t know right now. That knowledge will be a “yes” or “no” to the question, “will I actually finish this thing on time?”

The Beware of Barracuda 5k swim race is this Saturday at Eagle Rock Resort in Hazleton. It has a cutoff time of 2.5 hours.

I should make it, but it’s not a guarantee. I can’t drift off course, I can’t let wind and water conditions slow me down.

I should be more ready for this race. Yeah yeah yeah, I know, I’ve come a long way in 8 months, and I am not selling that short. Don’t get me wrong. But it is typical of me to underprepare for a lot of things in life, relying on the best-case scenario always playing out, so I can perform adequately.

In this case, I can probably beat the time. There are, however, many things I could have done earlier to guarantee that I would.

1. This is absolutely the most important: I have yet to get some swim coaching. After many discussions on beginnertriathlete.com, I am finally getting it through my thick skull that I will swim faster if I learn to swim from a real coach. I have many flaws in my technique. I am finally going to get that corrected, but not before Saturday.

2. Get more practice in the wetsuit. I took the suit to the pool on Wednesday, which I was not really able to do at the Y, due to the high heat. I swam MUCH faster with the suit, ranging from 10-20% speed increases. That’s enormous. The advice I am getting from those who know, is that this indicates I have a balance problem without it, and that should be priority one when getting coaching.

For now, if I can maintain pace with the wetsuit, I can definitely beat the cutoff. But long term, I need to correct these form problems. the trouble is, I still struggle to breath deeply while wearing the suit. I just have to relax and settle into a distance rhythm, and not try to sprint.

Fortunately, the format of the race is one where I have some flexibility. The course is a loop done 4 times. There are 3 opportunities to get out of the water and use the bathroom, rest, or even ditch the suit if I choose to. They will be timing each loop as splits, so I will have some sense of how I’m doing with pace.

This makes me much more comfortable for a couple of reasons. The first is that I can get feedback and have a clue. Picturing one long course, I’d have no idea how far I was in what time, without a Garmin 310XT watch (a mere $400). The other factor here is that if after 3 loops, I am doubtful I can make the cutoff time, I will drop out. Otherwise, I am being unfair to the volunteer staff, and I have no one coming along to act as an overtime volunteer for me.

Long term, I am on the path to better swimming, with my new pool arrangement, a plan for coaching, and some home resources. One day I’ll do that Bay Bridge swim where there’s no stopping in 4.4 miles. This event is a nice training stepping stone, and has lots of safeguards. I’m not shocked I’m going in undertrained, but that’s the last I let this happen. I have longer events on the horizon that a guy in my condition can’t just suffer through on will alone.

Countdown is on. 48 hours until I either push through, or sit on the lake beach cursing myself for jumping in over my head too soon. But honestly, would anyone expect me to do it any other way?

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