I swam in another open-water race last weekend, the annual Swim for Life in the Chester River on Maryland's Eastern Shore, an open-water swim that allows swimmers to choose among one-, two-, three-, four- and five-mile races.
But this column isn't about how I fared in the swim. (I think my time for two miles was a fairly quick 50 minutes, but results haven't been tallied yet.)
This column is about the rain.
When you register for a triathlon or open-water swim or run, you're hoping for glorious weather.
But Mother Nature doesn't always come through, and this year She was especially grumpy. The last two years, the weather was beautiful for the event -- warm and sunny, with water temperatures in the high 70s.
The swim begins and ends on a small beach at a marina, and then competitors chow down on homemade salads and barbecued chicken from the Chester River Association, one of the organizations the swim benefits.
I had signed up for five miles, having swum that distance last year in choppy water. I was hoping for calmer seas and staying on course this year. With my new prescription goggles, I would be able to see the buoys better and therefore follow a better path. Plus, race organizer Kathy Kirmayer had promised big, bright yellow buoys marking the turnaround points, much easier to see than the orange ones of the past.
I woke up at 6 a.m., and checked the Weather Channel app on my iPhone, only to find the entire Washington area map covered in rain, with bands of heavier storms all over the region.
But the race couldn't be postponed because of permits and other logistics. It was now or never.
So my boyfriend Tom and I drove for more than an hour to the Eastern Shore, in the rain, and joined dozens of other swimmers who had registered for the swim.
We stood in the rain, getting soaked and hoping the rain wouldn't turn into full-fledged thunderstorms.
Obviously, getting soaked doesn't matter when you're going to get wet anyway -- if you brought dry clothes for later. Some swimmers did not.
During our pre-race meeting, we were instructed to head immediately for shore if we saw lightning. Kayaks would come get us, but it would take a couple trips to collect everybody.
I'll concede I wasn't too thrilled with the idea of swimming for 2 1/2 hours, knowing that heavy rain and possibly storms were heading our way. Plus, the 25 kayakers would have to supervise 2 1/2 miles and about 200 swimmers. During my previous four- and five-mile races, I swam for a while without seeing any swimmers or kayakers. That can be a little scary in calm conditions, so imagine that in a storm. And the shore consisted of marsh grass and tall trees, not a great place to hang out during a storm.
Alas, we saw lightning around 8:45 a.m., postponing the race for a half hour.
Finally, Kirmayer decided to play it safe -- much to my relief -- and cancel the longer swims. Instead, we all swam one or two miles (I did two miles, while Tom won the one-mile race) after the lightning subsided.
The shorter races kept the race short and just as importantly, keeping the kayakers and boaters -- basically, our lifeguards -- concentrated within a one-mile radius.
This turned out to be an excellent decision (despite difficult post-race sorting out of results), as I discovered after the first half-mile of swimming.
The downpour had begun. Visibility was poor. I could see no other swimmers, no kayakers, no yellow buoy. I could see the trees on shore, though, which was something.
At last, the rain eased, I saw the buoy, turned around and headed back. With the current pushing us along with a light rain, the rest of the swim was fun.
Once again this year, I swam too wide and ended up in the middle of the river, with a kayaker guiding me back on course. That's not ideal if you want a good time. But with nobody but swimmers on the river, I didn't have to fear being run over by a boat.
And at least it was a warm rain.