I was up at o’dark thirty this morning to swim the La Jolla Cove Swim Club 10 Mile Relay as a solo swimmer. Check in started at 6am and the sun was yet to make an appearance at that point. The air was already nice and warm, but I was hearing murmurs about how the water was cold. It turned out to be 61 which is the same as yesterday’s Malibu swim and just where I like it. The water was nice and calm throughout the morning, but it definitely got more lively as the day went on.
I got my race numbers drawn on and picked up my goody bag then set up camp. I had my beach chair and a big bag of liquids and various gels and shotblock type things to keep me fueled during the race. While I was getting situated I ran into Dan from Indiana who I traded a few emails with recently. He swam a few of the same events as me this summer in the midwest but we hadn’t actually met face to face until this weekend. I got to talk to a few other people that recognized me from the blog or various corners of the internet, and then a little while later my long distance open water peer pressure buddy Bekah showed up. I’m the one that planted the seed about the 12.6 mile swim in October, and she’s the one that turned me onto this swim.
As the sun came up it was getting closer to go time. I got myself good and greased up since I was anticipating like 5 hours in salt water. I use Bag Balm on these longer races at the suggestion of my friend Laura, it’s worked out pretty well for me so far. They called all the solo swimmers (maybe 12 of us?) and lead off relay swimmers down to the beach to get briefed on how the whole thing was going to go down. Basically we had a skinny triangle course that we had to do 10 laps of. Between each lap we had to get the attention of a counter to take our number and mark off the lap. Since we would be unescorted for the swim you had to come out and climb the stairs up to the park to feed. I planned on getting out every 2 miles to drink and eat something. Around mile 5 I started to eat a Gu packet on while standing in the surf on the odd numbered laps to keep my energy up.
At about 7 they got everyone that was swimming that first mile ready on the beach and cut us loose. I let the bulk of the pack take off first. I had 10 miles to deal with and didn’t want to get caught up in a bunch of people sprinting out just 1 mile. Maybe 10-15 seconds after the start I got to work. I took off a little faster than I felt like I should have, but the rhythm was ok so I just went with it. I didn’t really have any issues with roughness or contact with other swimmers save one person that grabbed a handful of my butt on the way to the first buoy. Not exactly what I was looking for but way better than a punch to the head or a breaststroke kick to the ribcage right? The path down to the the first buoy was totally obscured by glare from the rising sun. I couldn’t see anything out there. I just latched on to the pack of swimmers ahead of me and let them do the work. This sighting problem on that leg persisted probably 3 laps for me. After that I just knew where it was and the sighting was toned down quite a bit.
At mile 2 I got out and hustled up the stairs to go hydrate. I wasn’t a fan of having to run up the stairs, but it was nice to remove yourself from the water temporarily. I ate a handful of Gu Chomps thingies and downed half a bottle of Gatorade before I took back off for the water. I took a peek at the race clock on the way down and I was decently ahead of my projection for where I figured I should be at that point. That kind of excited me a little bit to think I was even going a little fast! I started to reassess some goals for the swim. Originally I was thinking I could do it in 5 hours flat but now 4:45 was looking a lot more reasonable.
Through the middle of the race I got increasingly comfortable with the course and my stroke. My brain is usually pretty over active on long open water swims but this one provided lots of distraction. I was constantly getting coated in sea grass and having to figure out how to untangle myself. It kept sticking to my neck and armpits where I had applied the Bag Balm to keep from chaffing. Beyond that I could actually see fish on this swim! I know fish live in the ocean and whatnot but I’ve never seen one while doing an open water swim. The fish in the cove are pretty nonchalant about humans all up in their business. I saw various silver and blue fishes on the far end of the course, and bright orange Garibaldi signaled when I was almost back to the beach to start the next mile loop. Bekah said she even saw a little shark of some sort out there but I didn’t see anything that cool. I wanted to take some pictures of the fish while I was out there, but I’m pretty sure if I did anything not swim related while in the water I was going to cramp up and I wanted nothing to do with that!
At mile 6 I was all kinds of excited because my rough guesstimate 10k time for today totally blew my USMS 10k Champs time from Indiana out of the water! Back in July I figured I could knock out a 10k in 3 hours, but the hot water in Noblesville smoked me out and I came in around 3:23. Today I hit mile 6 around 2:40 which when you add in the other .2 miles would bring me in well under 3 hours. This proved my hypothesis that the colder the water and the more it’s moving the better I do :)
Each time coming into the beach was always interesting. As the day went on the surf and the swells got a little bigger, it was never “rough” but it got respectable, and it was hard to know what you were in for when you tried to land on the beach. Quite a few times I stopped just a little too short to put a foot down only to be tossed onto the beach by the next wave. Luckily I landed on my feet most of the time! At mile 8 I swam in too far and the ocean pushed me chest first through the sand. I kinda laughed to myself, stayed on my stomach and flashed my race number to the soloist counter.
Once I came back down the stairs from my feed at the end of mile 8 I was pretty stoked because I knew I was going to make it. Something really awful was going to have to happen to take me out of the game at this point. My arms were hurting and my shoulders were sore, but they weren’t going to give out in the next hour. Right before I got set to launch into mile 9 my friend Bekah floated down a wave to the beach. She was just about to embark on her last lap. We said a quick “hey what’s up” and then got back to finishing up this epically long swim. Mile 9 went down pretty smooth and I took a short break before taking on 10 to down a Gu packet I had stashed in my suit. The guy who was in charge of counting us came over and talked to me for a bit. He said I was looking really good out there and that I didn’t look cold at all. At this point I wasn’t cold and I wasn’t going to get cold, but interestingly I was much more sensitive to the changes in temperature out on the course. He asked me if I was a channel swimmer, and I had to smile and say no not yet sir but I’m working on it. I haven’t picked a channel or decided to swim one but I have a feeling one of these days it might have to happen :)
Mile ten was a weird mix of smiling because I was accomplishing the biggest swim of my life and hurting because I was finishing the biggest swim of my life! When I started this year’s open water season my biggest swim was a 5k (3.1 miles), now I’m up to 10 with plans for a 12.6er! It’s amazing how far out of hand this whole open water distance swimming thing has gotten for me :) I felt great on the homestretch back to the beach to finish my race. When my feet hit sand I think I threw a hand up in the air in victory and got a bunch of high fives and handshakes on my way into the finish chute. I came in around 4 hours and 42 minutes which is awesome because it beat both my original goal and my midswim revised goal!
After the swim I hung out up in the park with some friends rehashing the event and trying to eat something. I couldn’t really do it though, my tongue was all weird feeling from the salt water and nothing tasted right. Eventually they did awards and as a 10 mile solo finisher I got a cool little medal, all right! From here it was just me and the freeway for like the next 6 hours… boo. Luckily traffic was pretty mellow, but I think the drive home was harder than the swim! Tomorrow I’m not doing anything physical, but Tuesday I should be back to the regular workouts… gotta keep my momentum up for my Catalina support swim and the Distance Swim Challenge!