So I was *supposed* to go to the LCM Meet in Fullerton today but I got a little sidetracked by some fun in the ocean :) On Saturday the plan was to drive down to Orange County with hopes of getting there early enough to swim in Laguna Beach with my friend Lynn. That didn’t quite happen… I went to a concert the night before and waking up at 4am just wasn’t happening. I still got out the door fairly early though and was down to Thousand Oaks (where the team I’m attached to is) around 9:30ish. I gave my coach a call and we went out to get some breakfast and catch up a bit since I hadn’t seen her in person since nationals in Atlanta and I’ve been swimming all over the place. She told me there was an event in Ventura on Sunday that a bunch of my teammates were going to. It was mainly a swim/run type thing but they were offering a 2.4 mile swim as well… I was pretty much sold at this point. I still went down to Orange County to have a mellow day next to my hotel pool and have dinner with some friends, but Sunday morning I was on my way back up the coast to get wet in Ventura!
When I got to the beach it was very California-Summer-Beach-Morning-tastic. A little chilly and totally gray. The waves weren’t looking too big but the water was definitely active out there. The buoys weren’t set up yet so I didn’t know where we were going, but best I could tell we were in for a bumpy ride. I registered there on the beach and got into my swimsuit and put on a rash guard. I was definitely in the minority as a non-wetsuit swimmer. There was one guy in jammers (hi Chris!), some dude in board shorts doing the 400m swim and Becky from my team was in a B70 Nero Comp which looks wetsuitly but as I can personally attest to has absolutely no warming properties! Everyone else was wrapped in neoprene. The water temps felt like they were around 60-62 which is about perfect for me, I was so stoked to be in water that wasn’t in the 80′s!
On the way down to the water to check things out I was greeted by something I really didn’t want to see, a dead seal. Depending on just how he died could have been a day ender for me. If he was freshly deceased with a big bite taken out of him my interest in an hour at sea was going to diminish greatly. After doing a quick visual autopsy I determined natural causes… no big bites which was quite the relief… although it didn’t really have a head which was somewhat concerning :o
I waded out in the water and cooled myself down in stages until I was comfortable with the water temperature. Eventually other people started to hop in as well. I got out for a while but was colder on the beach in the wind and ended up going back into the water to I guess warm up even though that’s kind of a non-sensical thing to say. I had a whole bunch of CVMM teammates out there today in the water which was really cool! I haven’t been in SoCal for a few months now and it had been a long time since I’d seen most of them.
Once all the buoys were in place it became pretty apparent what the course was going to be. We would go straight out to a buoy, hang a right and then round a buoy to the north and come back to round a buoy to the south then back to the middle. Those in the the 1.2 mile swim (the majority of the racers) would get out at this point, the rest of us in the 2.4 Iron Swim would do the loop one more time. Pretty simple on paper but a lot harder once you got into the choppy waters!
A little after 9 we got the go ahead to start and we all rushed into the ocean. I stayed in the very back of the pack to sneak in a couple pictures before I took off for real. Once I started actually swimming I worked my way up through a good number of people and did my best to not swim over or cut anybody off. It was hard though because we were really getting tossed around. On the way to the first turn buoy I caught a mouthful of seawater and almost yakked. That mixed with the motion of the ocean almost got me. I managed to hold it down and get back to my swim. As I came around the turn buoy it became very apparent to me that I wasn’t going to be seeing any of the other buoys for a while. All you really saw was peaks and valleys of salt water. I tried to swing a little wide with my line in search of smoother water but it just wasn’t out there.
On this long leg I had an experience I’ve never had before… I punched a jellyfish! I’ve never actually even seen a live one in the water before (I’m a lucky guy), so to jam my hand straight into a big orange one was a bit of a shock! Luckily I didn’t hit the business end of the jellyfish, I smacked him right in the dome. Disaster averted… but now every piece of kelp or debris I came across was a jellyfish in my head for the rest of the swim. I guess the upside to that is I ceased to think about sharks and other bigger marine life. A little while later in that first loop I had another first experience in an open water swim… my friend Julie stopped to wave and say hi to me. She was a little stressed out by the cold and the water conditions and apparently seeing me swim by was too exciting to let pass by without commemorating with a wave :)
That second loop didn’t get any shorter but it did get a lot lonelier. The majority of the swimmers exited the course at the 1.2 mile mark to go embark on a run. Only about 8 of us were signed up for the iron swim (I think all but one was on my team!) and 6 of us finished. I think two of them got seasick and pulled out early. I managed to hit another jellyfish on my way around, but I did see and dodge another one that looked way different from the other two. After the turn on the north end I picked up my own lifeguard on a paddleboard. I think every 2.4 miler got their own escort at some point in the last loop. Since I couldn’t really see the buoys so well I used the paddlers as nav points. I swam from one yellow shirted lifeguard to another to stay on track.
Going towards my last turn I saw two other swimmers going the other way… they turned out to be Heidi and Becky from my team, they took the first two finisher spots for the 2.4 miler and I think I was the 3rd person and first guy across the finish line. When they announced finishes I ended up in second, but the guy placed in first said “hey didn’t you beat me?” so I’m going to go ahead and say a number got crossed somewhere. It didn’t really matter though places 1-3 all won the same prize, an event sweatshirt, so it’s not like it cost me anything. It does make me a little suspect of my time though. They’re saying I came in around 1:18 which given the conditions is totally believable, but I may have been a little faster… I’m not sure… I have a bad habit of not actually looking at clocks when I finish open water races.
After the race a bunch of us went into town and had lunch and talked about the swim. Pretty much everyone was in agreement that that was one of the gnarliest swims any of us had done in an organized event. I’ve swam through bigger swells this year, but nothing quite as choppy and difficult to swim through. That being said, it was totally fun and I would do it again! This week I’m back to my normal grind and then I’m off to Santa Cruz for the weekend.