I Swam the Suck!

On Saturday, I participated in Swim the Suck, a 10-mile open water swim through the Tennessee River Gorge. Swimmers come from all over the world just to participate in Swim the Suck.  And to think, the race is only four years old. The event is limited to only 75 swimmers, and it sold out in 48 hours when registration opened on January 1. I made the decision to participate in the race in October 2012, so I knew how big of a deal it was.

Swim the Suck is part of RiverRocks, an annual Chattanooga event that brings amateur and world-class athletes to the city to participate in a variety of outdoor athletic events, including rock climbing, kayaking, trail running, and of course, swimming. The race was founded by Karah Nazor, who also established the Chattanooga Open Water Swimmers (COWS), a group that sponsors Swim the Suck. I joined the COWS in June 2012, and they inspired me to participate in the race.

Getting Ready

I began my long training in May, when the water was warm enough to swim without a wetsuit (wetsuits aren’t allowed in Swim the Suck), but I had been “training” since last October. Starting in May, I met up with a group of COWS every weekend I possibly could to participate in long group swims. This helped my body get used to the distance, the temperature of the water, and the currents in the Tennessee River.

As the race week approached, I found myself getting nervous, impatient, and anxious. By the time the event actually started (Friday night with race registration and dinner), I actually felt pretty calm. I knew that I could complete the race because I finished an 11-mile training swim a few weeks before. More than anything, I was just hoping for good weather and a good current on race day.

Race Day!

Saturday morning, the atmosphere was great. Race days are always fun, and athletes are such positive, uplifting people. The vibe at Swim the Suck was perfectly inspiring, and it motivated me to face this challenging race head on.  I just had to stay warm until we could actually get in the water.

Once in the water, I was much warmer. I was starting to get anxious again, until Karah gave me a high five on the starting rope. After race start, I would swim for 30 minutes straight, then take two-minute breaks for Gatorade and food, supplied by my awesome pilot, Kori Warriner. Because open water swimming is a dangerous sport, Swim the Suck requires all participants to have a pilot, a kayaker that keeps pace with you throughout the swim to ensure that you are safe and provide you with food and drink.

My mind was racing the entire time I was in the water. Thoughts ran from “Man, my shoulders hurt” to “I really hope I’m not dead last.”

My finishing time was 03:57:56. I was happy with this, especially with the current we had that day. I kept pace with the group I trained with and finished 30th out of 74 swimmers. I was proud of myself, and I’m pretty sure you can count me in again for next year. When you’re doing something you love with people you love, you can’t complain.

Swim the Suck is Awesome

In my opinion, Swim the Suck is one of the best races and outdoor events in Chattanooga. With Swim the Suck and the upcoming additions of the Ironman and a 100-mile trail race, Chattanooga is quickly becoming one of the best destinations in the Southeast for athletes. I hope Chattanoogans, whether they participate in these events or not, realize how lucky we are to have them in our backyard. Everyone can join in on the fun—if you’re not racing, volunteers are always needed to make these events successful.

Finally, I have to thank Karah Nazor for creating Swim the Suck. She has revolutionized the open water swimming community in Chattanooga, and she’s definitely changed my life. Here’s to next year!