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Open Water Swim at Sand Key

Open Water Swim at Swim Key

EnduraMan’s first Open Water Swim was at the beach of Sand Key, Florida. He swam the 1.2-mile course on Saturday, March 2, 2024. All swim race distances started at 8:30 AM. It was a point-to-point swim, so all swimmers finished at the same location.

This was a training race for my upcoming Olympic Triathlon. Here’s EnduraMan’s first open-water swimming race experience:

Sand Key Park

The Sand Key Park opens at 7 AM every day of the week. However, this park and all Pinellas County parks close on the following two days: the day after Thanksgiving and December 25. When I arrive a few minutes after 7 AM, the gates are open, and I drive into the park. Then, I drive along a paved road that encircles a wooded area with off-road trails. Entering the parking lot, I drive and park on the North end of the lot.

Many cars are arriving and parking at this location for the upcoming open-water swim at Sand Key. You are required to pay for parking. The price is $5, and you have two payment options. You can pay at the meter by entering your vehicle’s license plate number and swiping your Visa or Mastercard. Otherwise, you can pay for parking using the ParkMobile app on your smartphone.

Bathhouse and Showers

I use the central Sand Key bathhouse to change in and out of my wetsuit. I also test the plumbing in the restroom. It works well. After finishing my swim, I rinse off in the freshwater showers near the bathhouse.

Open Water Swim Start at Sand Key

The swimmers for the half-mile and 1.2-mile distances assembled at the finish area. At 8 AM, we started walking towards our respective starting points marked by inflated yellow buoys. I start my Garmin watch to measure the distance we walk. Hey, might as well record this walking workout.

In bare feet, wearing my Synergy wetsuit shortie and an official yellow swim cap with swim goggles, I walk South along the beach. During the walk, I talk with Mike. He’s in the 55-59 age group and swims the 1.2-mile distance, while I’m in the 50-54 age group.

I notice Mike’s half-gone, half-black toenail on his big toe as we walk. I ask him about it, and he says it’s from a recent Ironman race. Feeling warm, I remove my swim cap and goggles and extend my hand, “By the way, I’m Brian.”

He shakes my hand and says, “I’m Mike.”

“It’s an honor to meet you, Ironman Mike.”

After a twenty-five-minute walk, we arrive at the 1.2-mile Open Water Swim start. In the water is a large, inflated yellow buoy. I stop my Garmin watch and save the walk. Then, I select Open Water Swim in preparation for the race start.

With my swim cap and goggles on, I walk towards the water. At 8:30 a.m., a jetski stops by the yellow buoy and starts the race.

My First Open Water Swim Race

As I enter the water with a small group of swimmers, I start my Garmin watch. Walking into the cold water, the depth is less than waist-high as swimmers dive in and start swimming. With the air temperature several degrees warmer, the 65-degree F saltwater feels cold.

I expect the swim to start in deeper water by the yellow buoy. Halfway between the shore and the yellow buoy, I dive into the cold water and start swimming with the group. It takes a few minutes to warm up, and then I get into a comfortable swimming rhythm.

As I swim, I can clearly see the sandy bottom only a few feet down. The wind is calm, and the surface of the water is flat. For three-quarters of the race, it’s a pleasure to swim with no waves. For the first half, I swim at an easy and steady pace.

As I pass the yellow half-mile buoy, I swim at a faster, moderate pace. I’m breathing and swimming well, and it feels fun. A thought occurs to me: I’d like to come back for another open-water swim at Sand Key.

Approaching the 0.2-mile buoy, I accelerate my swimming pace. Finishing strong, I enter the final two yellow buoys and swim to the shore. Exiting the water, I tell Leo my racing number, 112, and get my first open-water swim medal.

Open Water Swim Sand Key Results

Upon exiting the water, I stopped my Garmin watch, and the time for my first open-water swim at Sand Key was 41:45. However, we must have started almost a minute late because my official time was 42:49.

In the 1.2-mile race, I placed 3rd in the 50-54 age group and 13th overall out of 32 swimmers.

Note: Prior to the race, I had cleaned my goggles and used an anti-fog solution. The lenses remained clear the entire race.

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