I was up bright and early this morning to get to Alamitos Bay in Long Beach (the same place as the Naples Island Swim) for a training swim of a TBD length. I had made plans to get out and swim with Beth who is going to be my kayaker on the 12.6 mile Distance Swim Challenge coming up in October. Beth is the local go to Kayaker for hire if you want to do a long distance swim, especially a Catalina Crossing… you can check out her website over at ikayak4u.com. This was our opportunity to meet each other in person after plenty of emails and feel each other out on the water in advance of the race.
I got to Long Beach a little bit early, but was probably a minute or two late getting to the dock because I spent a bunch of time at the car getting ready. I had to get into a suit and grease myself up a little bit. Since I was anticipating a pretty long swim I went with the Bag Balm today around my neck and armpits and then just some TriSlide on my legs where my suit would rub. I also filled up a water bottle with some Gatorade and packed an extra bottle along with some Gu packets into my bag I was bringing along for the swim. When I walked out to the dock Beth was waiting for me in the water ready to go. We talked a little bit about where we were going and how I wanted to do things. In pretty short order I realized I had no idea what I really wanted besides the boat to stay on my right since I very seldom breathe left. Since she’s the expert I let Beth dictate the feeding stops and she settled on a 25 minute interval which turned out to be pretty much perfect.
Somewhere around 7am I hopped into Alamitos Bay and it felt colder than it was a couple weeks ago for my Naples Island Swim race. We probably topped out around 60 degrees. I floated around for a few minutes soaking in the cold and chatting with Beth until the water temp was largely neutral for me. The initial plan was to swim around Naples Island (a little less than 3 miles) and then play it by ear from there. I was pretty stoked with this because even though I’ve raced here 3 times now I’ve never done a complete circumnavigation, I always do the 1 miler that goes through the canal as my annual open water how-am-I-doing swim.
Once I got down to business and started swimming I felt great. The water was perfect for me and having a kayaker there just for me was very glamorous. Very minimal sighting was required on my part even though I did it occasionally anyways out of habit. Swimming with Beth as my guide I settled into a really good rhythm and I was taking nice big long strokes. Beth took my stroke rate occasionally and I was cruising along at 50-52 pretty consistently through the whole swim. In comparing it to what I see from other swimmers that’s really low and I don’t know if that’s a good or a bad thing. I figure I don’t really need the heat generated from spinning the wheels faster since I don’t tend to get cold, and less strokes saves the shoulders from burning out. Either way once I fall into a pace on a long swim that’s pretty much what you’re getting out of me for the rest of the day.
Once we got half way around the island we ran into a gas spill from a boat. I didn’t even notice but Beth stopped me and asked if I wanted to charge through or have her call a lifeguard to give me a ride back to the beach to avoid swimming in it. I took a harder look at the water through my heavily mirrored and tinted goggles and noticed a definite technicolor sheen to the top of the water, but it was just a film. I decided to keep going and just not drink it… which I don’t really ever want to do with salt water anyways! I figured the beard would keep me safe … I just had to remember to not stand close to any open flames later just in case :)
Having a kayaker guide me around the island really let me dissolve into my swim. I didn’t have to think about it, just keep moving. I played a little internal radio and contemplated where my hands were going. We stopped for a feed just past the last bridge (2nd street) and Beth gave me a few options of how to continue since a second lap around the island wasn’t really on the menu seeing as we’d have to swim through that gas again. I could either stop at 3 miles, do a little loop that got us to 4, or stretch it out way down the beach over by where we started and make it around 5 miles. I opted for the 5 miler, I needed the mileage to get ready for my bigger swims.
At this point more people were awake and in the water and traffic control was a little more important. Beth kept me out of the path of various rowers and even helped stop a group of unescorted swimmers that weren’t paying too much attention from getting run over by a tiny row boat! I continued to feel good all the way down to mile 4 and was just happy. Close to our turn around point we had a feed and chatted a little bit. She let me know I was looking really good… strong and steady. It was good to hear that what I thought I was doing matched the reality of what was going on!
From there we did a slow curve to port and angled back toward the beach we originally launched from. We had a few different row boats get way up in our business but they kept just clear enough that I didn’t get smacked with a paddle or anything exciting like that. Upon arrival back at the beach there was a water polo tournament going on in the bay! Totally weird but very cool. A friend of mine had told me about it on Friday, but I didn’t realize they’d still be playing today. Once Beth dropped me off and paddled back across the bay I watched a little polo and soaked up the sun. When I made my way back towards the street and started to put some clothes on I realized I had left my car keys in her dry bag on the kayak! Oh crap! I didn’t know her phone number off the top of my head and needed to get some internet access and borrow a phone to make it happen. My first few attempts to get this accomplished failed… who knew there were still so many people out there with flip phones? Eventually I found a cop who was just hanging out on the street keeping an eye on things because they had closed the street down and he helped me out. He too was rocking a flip phone, but there was an internet connection in the cop car! Score! We pulled up Beth’s website and he let me borrow his phone to call her up. She shuttled my keys right back over and we both laughed about it pretty hard. I’m just glad she’s not telephonically elusive like I am because my phone and wallet were in the car and it was going to be a long day if I couldn’t get to either of them!
Once me and my keys were reunited I went back to the car and got into dry clothes and started to arrange swim number two! My friend Merritt who organized this year’s Naples Island Swim lives in Long Beach and wanted to go for a swim when she saw I’d be in town. We set it up for around 11:30 which gave me a little time to go find something to snack on and rehydrate.
We met up by the beach up towards the bridge at second street. Her plan was a swim across to the island and then to jam through the canal in the opposite direction of the Naples Island 1 Mile swim which she said was about 1.7 miles. This version was a little more death defying than the usual race just because it was the middle of a beautiful day and tons of people were out on the water. Kayaks, boats, paddlers, etc were all floating around out there. Waaay more sighting was involved on this swim than my morning excursion!
We were pretty clear on the way to the mouth of the canal but traffic picked up once we got in. We stuck to the left hand side of the canal but still had to dodge the occasional gondola or tourist kayaker. Those gondolas were pretty stealthy… a black boat hidden under a bridge is pretty much invisible until you almost swim straight into it. We stopped to regroup every couple bridges or whenever there was a turn mainly because Merritt was kicking my ass. I have a perfectly good excuse for this however… she’s substantially faster than I am :) After our swim we grabbed some lunch in town before I had to embark on the big drive home.
It’s almost not fair how good my weekend was… I got to spend a lot of time around people I like and a lot of time in or on the water! A definite win on all fronts!