By PATTI SCOTT-BAIER
For The Union Democrat
Tuolumne County Aquatic Masters swimmer Susan White chose a great way to celebrate her 70th birthday. White swam three open water races totaling over five miles in just two days. That's a daunting challenge for swimmers half her age.
The Del Valle Open Water festival, on June 9-10, began with both a 5K, 3.1 mile and a 10K, 6.2 mile race. The longer events in the reservoir near Livermore were being offered for the first time. With open water races being held at the upcoming Olympics, the interest in open water racing both for masters and youth swimmers has seen a surge in interest.
With increased training over the past few months, White felt she was ready to tackle a longer distance race. She set her sites on the 5K at Del Valle as her new goal for the 2012 season.
White and open water partner, Laurie Perry, 58, joined just under 100
swimmers for the shorter 5K race at the deep water start. The
competitors ranged in age from 13-to-73. With calm, warm water of 73
degrees, the swimmers were racing in near perfect conditions. At the
starting horn, the swimmers swam clockwise around a rectangular course
marked by large tetrahedron buoys at each turn.
Smaller yellow buoys helped with navigation along the course. Both
women swam together through the first lap of the race. In the middle of
the second lap, White surged strongly ahead and finished on the beach
in 2:18:38.50. Perry crossed the line in 2:27:18.14. The extra training
practices paid off for White as she finished in first place in the
70-75 age division. Perry was fourth in the 55-59.
The following day began with the shortest race of the festival, the 3/4
mile swim. Over 240 swimmers ranging in age from 11-to-79 started in
waves in the sprint race. White was joined by teammates Mary Welsh, 57,
and Megan Mills, 42. The course again used the tetrahedrons as corner
markers for the slightly irregular triangular course. Smooth, calm
water prevailed throughout the race. Welsh exited the water first for
the team in 22:51.10. Mills finished in 30:27.05 and White was not far
behind in 33:41.95. White captured the silver medal in the 70-74 age
group. Welsh finished in fourth place just six seconds behind the
third-place finisher in the 55-59 division. Mills was ninth in the
40-44 age group.
To finish out her weekend swims, White lined up for the 2.5K swim. The
middle distance race proved to be the most popular of the weekend with
just over 300 swimmers participating. A wide range of ages were
represented in the race (12-79). White had a strong final swim around
the rectangular course. She finished in 1:10:34.80 to capture the
silver medal in the 70-74.
White admitted to being both excited and a bit tired after her trio of
swims. Her efforts are truly an inspiration to not only her fellow
Tuolumne Aquatic Masters teammates, but to all adults. She hopes to
encourage others to take the active, exercise path in life rather than
the sedentary option.
While her teammates participated at Del Valle, Christine Oliver, 49,
raced the one-mile at the Stevens Creek Reservoir in Cupertino. The
evening reservoir swim has become a popular event for area masters
swimmers and triathletes.
At the start, the wind had picked up, creating wavy conditions. Most of
the 300-plus participants wore wetsuits in the 70-degree water. Oliver
had a strong swim and finished in 30:21. Her time placed her first in
the 40-49 age division.
The open water season continues throughout the summer and fall. TCAM
swimmers will be traveling to swims including Donner Lake, Santa Cruz,
and Whiskey Lake in Redding. The team will also host their annual
Pinecrest swim at the end of August.