I woke up nice and early this morning to drive up to Santa Cruz for the annual Roughwater Swim. It’s about a 3 hour shot from my house and a really boring drive through miles and miles of farm fields. Luckily at the end of the big drive you’re rewarded with the wonderment that is the Monterey Bay. I got to the beach a little before 9:30 and was one of the first people to get signed in at the registration table. After getting my numbers written on and picking up a tshirt and timing chip I went and got situated on the big concrete steps between the beach and the street.
I decided to race in my Finis Hydrospeed 2 tights today and got those put on under a towel on the beach then marched off to the water to see what we were dealing with. The first thing I ran into was a water quality warning… uh oh… not what I wanted to be greeted by. The race director said it was because of some bacteria that eats decaying kelp, as long as it’s not poop related I guess I’m ok with it.
The water was plenty frosty today, they announced 59 degrees but I have a hard time believing it. At least on the right side of the pier it had to be closer to 57. It was colder than my swim last night anyways and we pegged that at 58. I took my time getting all the way wet and I was a little slow acclimating. Probably because I was a little tired… that seems to have an impact on how fast I can get used to the cold. Once I was comfortable in the water though I was golden. I didn’t really swim so much as I just floated on my back and relaxed and let my muscles soak in that cold water.
At about 10:45 we got our pre-race briefing and then did the march under the pier over to the start line. I was in the first heat with the other 18-39 year olds. The overall crowd at the start looked smaller than last year, but it was still pretty healthy… maybe 300ish. I made one last short dip into the water to keep cold before the race officially started. They had a boat offshore signaling to us with flags and then a siren to go.
We ran to the water and were advised to get about chest deep before we started diving or dolphining. I’m not so much for running so I was one of the last to get to the water but I started passing people pretty much right away. As we got going the first big decision was which way to go around a boat someone had parked right in the middle of the line our swim was taking. I swung right on the side closer to the pier, it seemed to be the shortest way to go about things and I’m pretty sure that was the right decision.
On the way down the pier I tried to not hang too overly close to it because there were tons of people fishing off of it. I wish they could have given it a break for like half an hour, but the fisherman were undaunted by a couple hundred swimmers crossing through their fishing area. Not too long before the tip of the pier I swam over what felt like fishing line and stopped dead in the water to untangle before I found a hook. I think it was just a big thin string of seaweed though… I guess I’m a little touchy about that kind of stuff from a previous fishing line encounter I had out at Avila beach a couple months ago. While I was stopped momentarily I got a big whiff of the sea lions living down below the pier… they stink… bad.
On the other side of the pier I started to try and pick up the pace and pick off people in front of me. I had been in a bit of a pack on the other side of the pier but it sort of disintegrated around that corner. I started to look for people to catch up to in front of me and hopped from person to person. This phase of the swim is where spending a lot of time in the ocean was coming in handy. I had people in front of me that were clearly faster than me but couldn’t hold a straight line. They were slaloming down the side of the pier while I was trying to take as direct of a line as possible to the yellow finish chute.
I managed to sneak past maybe 4 people that I was aware of and stroked all the way in until my hands hit the sand on the bottom. I got up and jogged it in and felt really good about my swim. I finished with a pretty respectable time for me and won 3rd place in my age group… last year I was 8th. I swam a 23:15 which is actually slower than last year, but I think maybe the course was a bit short last year because last year’s time was way too fast for me.
Overall another great swim in Santa Cruz, I really dig this event. Lots of swimmers, cold water and easy navigation. This was probably one of my best races all summer. Tomorrow I get to come out and go at it one more time in the 2 mile Cruz Cruise. In the meantime I’m kicking it in Monterey for the evening. I used to live here and it’s one of my favorite places to be. See you kids again tomorrow in the ocean!