Monday, July 2, 2012

Aaron Vaughn Memorial Frogman Swim

Every year, right after the kids get out of school for the summer, we head south to Florida for a hot summer vacation. This year, it worked out nicely that we flew in the day before the inaugural Aaron Vaughn Memorial Frogman Swim. Aaron Vaughn was a navy SEAL that was killed along with 29 others on August 6,2011 when his Chinook Helicopter was shot down in Afganastan. He left behind 2 very yonng children. While I never knew Aaron myself, or his parents, he spent his teenage years in my home town and attended my alma mater, Martin County High.  His parents created this event to celebrate the life of their son with all proceeds going directly to his children.

When I first heard of the open water ocean race I was excited because it presented an opportunity I never thought I would find. An opportunity for me to practice open water swimming in the ocean - which will be the first leg of my Ironman journey. Living in Canada I can swim in fresh water lakes until my heart's content but even when visiting my home town in Florida, open water swimming in the ocean was daugnting without support, and here I was given the opportunity to swim with complete race support in the ocean off the very beaches I grew up on! The race offered 3 distances: 200yards, 1km and 5km. While I waanted to swim the 5K, I am not trained for that distance yet so I registered for the  1km.

When we arrived at Jensen Beach the tears welled in my eyes for the first of many times that morning. Lining the entrance to the parking lot were many veterans presenting the US flag. Very moving moment. The parking lot was packed! We found a not too illegal spot to park and heading up to the pavilion to check in. Barry was also swimming his first ocean swim. Since we are on our family vacation and it was a very family friendly event, the 3 kids came along too. The event was very well organized with good flow through the registration tables of siging the waivers, picking up caps, swag bags and body marking.

I was soon coming over the dunes to another amazing sight, the flag bearing veterans had moved to the beach lining the shore of where we would race. The excitement was wonderful. There were over 200 swimmers and lots of spectators. I was expecting warm and flat water conditions but due to an off shore upwelling the water was cooler than expected and a little rougher a well. The visibility wasn't good at all either shattering my thought of swimming in clear ocean waters. I went for a quick swim and decided that while there were very few folks wearing wet suits, I wanted my security blanket. It was not fun pulling on my old sleeveless wet suit over my salty, wet skin but I managed to get it on ... And then sweat my butt off for 30 mins waiting for the start.

Me and Barry

At 9 am there was an opening ceremony that again brought tears to my eyes as Aaron's sister and father spoke. The turn out was far greater than they had expected and they were very grateful for everyone's support. After we pledged our allegance to a massive flag hanging from 2 firetrucks and sang the National Anthem the races began. They started with the 200 yard swim which Barry was participating in. I'm so proud of Barry overcoming his fear and trepidation for this particular morning swim. Later I found out he did it because Griffin was with us and he wanted to set the example. We are all very proud of Barry conquering that swim!


Next it was time for my race, the 1km. It was a beach start with about a 125 meter run/swim through the surf to the first buoy. I started on the outside but wish I had started more aggressive as it turns out I was one of the faster swimmers. There were about 90 of us and it really wasn't crowded - probably the easiest mass or wave start I've ever done. The course was out past the breaking surf and the water was not that choppy. The biggest difference between lake and ocean swimming is the salt. I tend to swallow some water every time I open water swim and this was no exception. However swallowing dirty fresh lake water is not as hard on your belly as swallowing very salty ocean water. The swim was very nice. I was a tad warm in my wet suit however I was grateful to be wearing it. The course was nice - swim out 50 meters, turn left and swim 450 meters, turn left and swim 50 meters then back 450 meters. Then of course the 150 meter swim/ run to the beach. My garmin registered the complete distance of 1.2km.

I finished with an official time of 22:42, 7/21 females, 24/87 overall.  I was incredibly happy with my swim and even more happy I had my first ocean swim under my belt!

This event was well organized and supported.  The sponsors had great swag - chicken biscuits and fruit from Chick-fil-a, free juice from Natalie's fresh juice, and snow cones to name a few!  I am so happy I had the opportunity to race in this inagural event and I hope I can say 10 years down the road that I have participated in every year since!  And to make it even sweeter it was for a good cause!

No comments:

Post a Comment