The four-mile sand run seemed to be the easy part for the finely fit 24 athletes doing the Semana Nautica 5-mile biathlon at East Beach.
The finishing one-mile ocean swim, however, was a killer, as the competitors had to contend with wind, a swift current and choppy water conditions.
Semana Nautica veterans Ed Smith and Becky Glusac endured the challenging elements to claim the top honors on Sunday morning. Smith won the overall title in 53 minutes, 39 seconds and Glusac was the women’s champion (fourth overall) in a time of 56:36.
San Marcos High aquatics coach Brian “Chucky” Roth finished in second place (53:58), Scott Devore, the leader after the run, placed third (56:25) and Jon Ford came in fifth (57:55). The other competitors to reach the finish under an hour were: Mike Cage (6th in 59:01), Eric Anderson (7th in 59:25) and Stuart Sato (8th in 59:37).
Devore covered the four-mile run in 25:06 and kept the lead through three-quarters of the race.
Smith, who placed third in Saturday’s three-mile ocean swim, said he got disoriented in the choppy water and found himself taking a “detour,” swimming outside the course-marking buoys. His prowess as a waterman enabled him to close the gap and eventually pass Devore half way to the finish and hold off a strong charge from Roth.
“It was like bobbin like a cork in the ocean,” said Smith of the conditions. “That’s the thing with these conditions, it doesn’t matter which way you’re going, it doesn’t help. It’s good when it’s over.”
“Acutally just getting to the buoy at the start of the race seemed like the longest part; like you’re going nowhere, you can’t even get to the start because of the current,” she said. “Yeah, both ways you feel like you’re in a washing machine, just getting tossed around.”
Glusac also did Saturday’s three-mile swim in choppy water and was the fifth woman finisher.
Describing the feeling of swimming after completing the run, Glusac said her arms are numb and she feels like she’s going to sink. “Somehow they eventually come around when you’re about halfway through; you get your feeling back. It hurts a lot. You just try to keep going.”
Roth used a powerful stroke to close the gap on Smith.
“I was just fighting the water the entire time, but it was a good race,” said Roth, the Santa Barbara County Educator of the Year.