Jim McDonnell 1 Mile Lake Swim Race Report

This is my race report from today, my first swim only race. The pictures are from my mom’s mothers day gift. It’s an awesomedigital camera with like 12 MP and it a SLR camera. It makes mine look like crap.

This was an open water swim race at Lake Audobon in Reston Virginia put on by the Reston Masters Swim Team. There was a 1 mile swim and 2 mile swim and more then a few people did both. I would the say the crowd was 70% triathletes and 30% masters swimmers.

I had signed up for this race in April figuring it would be a good idea to have a long open water swim race under my belt before the half ironman. With my injury running is on the self for a while but I can still swim so I figured I would still do this race.  My main goals for this race where to get comfortable in open water swimming and work on my sighting.  


I woke up at 5:30 am and had a coffee, powerbar, and apple. The race was in Reston Virgina so it took about an hour to get over and the race started at 8 am so I wanted to get there by 7. My brother was doing this race also so the whole family went to the race.

We got to the race site at 6:45. The lake was right off of I believe Hunters Mill road which was one of the road I used to drive to work on last summer, I was really surprised Reston get sort of rural right off of one of the main roads. I think living back by this lake would be a great place to be.

We waited in line for about 5 mintues to pick up the packets. The race was chip timed which was nice but as a backup you also had a bid number like at a running race but for this you put the number under the swim cap and handed it to a volunteer at the finish. I thought that was funny, but it stayed dry.

We went down to the start area to see what the course looked like.

 The course followed the buoysand you stayed between them and the shore going with the arrows in a counterclockwise fashion. The last long leg had more markers then in the picture but was looking right into the sun. This is a lot more turns then the typical triathlon course so I was going to get to work on my sighting which was good.

From the schedule online the race started at 8am in waves of twenty. The prerace briefing and lineup was suppose to begin at 7:45. They weren’t allowing people to warmup in the lake but there was a community pool right next to the lake for use. My plan was to put the wet suit on at 7:30 and go warmup for about 10 minutes and get going.


Well right at 7:30 when I was getting ready to go warmup the race director decided to do the prerace meeting. It lasted for about 5 minutes and then they told everyone to line up in waves. We were standing around for about 20 minutes before the race started so I never got a chance to warmup.

Also I wore a red swim cap so it would be easy for my parents to spot me, which resulted in some good pictures.

Race Overview:

The water temperature was measured on Saturday at 64 F but once I got in it felt a lot warmer then that. They started everyone in waves of 20 based on estimated finish time which resulted in a lot less kicking then the traditional triathlon race.

 That is what my route looked like which isn’t the shortest route and clearly the sighting needs work. I am going to break my report into three parts; the dogleg (top part on the map) , out and back.

Race part 1: dogleg

It took me about 3 minutes to get comfortable in the water and get my breathing under control so I was towards the back of the wave. I was trying to find someones feet to draft off of but wasn’t able to which is something I also need to work on.

I started out on a wider but still good line until the first buoy and did a good job there. Going back into the dog leg is where I had some issues with my line. I went really wide and was not hugging the shore line. I looked up to sight and made an adjustment. I wound up overdoing it and swam right into someones side a couple of strokes later, a solid blow to the midsection. I readjusted again and wound up back towards the middle of the lake which required a readjust at the buoy.

Heading out towards the last buoy on the dogleg was uneventful but lots of corrections when sighting.

Race Part 2: Out 


During this part of the race I began to feel really comfortable and was able to draft off someone for a while which saved some energy. The problem was I took a wide turn on the last buoy of the dogleg which resulted in some corrections and extra distance.

After going through the first buoy on the way out I thought the buoy in the back left corner of the map was what I was heading towards but once I saw I was swimming away from most people I made more corrections and got to the turn around.

I was picking up the pace during this leg and feeling a lot more comfortable but lost a lot of time due to poor sighting.

Race part 3: Back 

Heading back was mostly in a straight line but was looking into the sun. I decided to sight less and work on making sure I was breathing every 3rd or th5th stroke. This made a big difference and I felt a lot smother. I did a much better job here and passed a lot of people. I didn’t have to do a whole lot of corrections and just felt very comfortable, I had found a good rhythm.

I made it around the last turn which was a drainage thing and headed to the finish. I got to end and didn’t feel tired or out of breath at all. I could have gone so much harder but I have no idea how to pace which a swim race which is what I wanted to learn.

Finish and Post Race:

Those are the finish picturesfor me and my brother, the clock is not right because of the wavers but he beat me by three minutes. From swimming with him in the pool I am faster but he beat here because he stayed a lot closer to the shore line and cut the corners really close. He said surfing helped him out alot with staying on course.

The official times where; Phillip: 28:12, Andrew 31:12

The results were broken up into 4 races, 1 mile wetsuit and non wetsuit and the same for the 2 mile swim.

For the 1 mile wetsuit Phillip was 50/191 and I was 82/191. Here’s the results.

Next was the awards. They were by age group, Phillip came in second and I came in third so we got some medals. There were only three people in our division so just by finishing I got an award, but it was still a podium finish which makes me 2 for 3 in podium finishes since I stared triathlon training. 

 gotta love that swim cap hair.

Recap and Lessons Learned:

It turned out to be a beautiful day and there was a decent sized crowd. We stayed until the start of the 2 mile swim and then left.

This was a very successful race for me. I was looking for something around 28-29 minutes but learned a lot of valuable lessons.

1) Doing a warmup of a few minutes would help me settle into a rhythm earlier.

2) I need to work on my sighting more but getting experience will help.

3) Work on Drafting more.

4) My stroke is much smoother and faster when breathing every 3rd or 5th stroke.

5) I need work on keeping my head down unless I am sighting. I spent a lot of time at the beginning with my head sort of up but not out of the water. This dropped my legs and caused a lot of drag.

6) I am about 1/3 of the way through the pack for a triathlon swim of this distance.


In summary I had a blast, I finished strong, I got an award, and was pain free in my ankle the entire race. I want to try and find a few more open water swims for June so I can more practice while I am sidelined from triathlons.

One response to “Jim McDonnell 1 Mile Lake Swim Race Report

  1. Looks awesome, Andrew!! congrats on a job well done…

    If i remember correctly, today is your first day of work…so I hope that you have a great day!!! 🙂

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