Having found my stroke, I settled into the rhythm of freestyle. I took a wide line around the swimmers, aiming for a point to the right of the first left turn buoy. I was breathing every second pull, and on my left, which was weird. Jeff had remarked that breathing on the left was an advantage when the buoys are always on your left, so maybe I incorporated that idea.
I would occasionally see a swimmer on my left, but never for long. I'm not so sure that I was swimming terribly straight, but I was moving. Time slipped by almost without notice. One buoy before the first turn, I passed my first blue swim cap. I'd made up the 4 minute stagger on somoene.
Around the turn, and I noticed that the water was pushing me towards shore. Maybe we'd been swimming into the wind, and the home trip would be easier? Some wheel in the back of my mind told me to go steady on this phase, then pick up the pace after the second turn, on the run back to the beach. I had to mentally preempt this idea, reminding myself that I wasn't here to race, no matter how small the swim was in the grand scheme of the day.
I actually made the second turn surprisingly close to the buoy, as there was nobody there. I got behind a pair of feet or two, but at this point anyone that close to me had to be slower than me, given my start (I never saw any swim cap beyond dark blue and light green, so I don't think anyone from a later start caught me.) At one point, I came in too close to the buoys, and got behind three swimmers abreast. Yuck. I kicked it out wide and went on my way.
Suddenly, I could see the bottom. I watched the rocks go by, and tried to at least use them to stay straight. I saw lone fish, who scurried off, annoyed by my presence.
I pondered doing some butterfly close to shore, to try to get a laugh from the people on shore. Beyond it being a bad idea for injury reasons (I'm not THAT coordinated), the rhythm of freestyle was so ingrained in me by that point that I knew I'd have a tough time switching up.
Suddenly, it was too shallow to swim.
As everyone else ran across the mats and into T1, I strolled leisurely along. I may have been coming out of the water with the big boys, but I truly was a minnow. I needed to stick to my pre-race strategy, and take my time in the transition.