My buddy and fellow open water Adventure Beard enthusiast, Cliff from Colorado, emailed me a little while ago to invite me along on a long swim (4-6 hours) he was going to do in Long Beach with my friend and Kayaker to the Stars Beth Barnes. Normally I don’t like to travel out of town on holiday weekends… there’s a lot of traffic between here and there… but this sounded like a good opportunity to get in a really long training swim, plus I needed to go see Beth anyways to pick up a kayak that she’d been holding for me. The only hitch was that I had some concert tickets for a show in Avila Beach on Friday night… hmmm… I went to Facebook and found the event page for the concert and subsequently a dude in SF that wanted to get his hands on 2 tickets. I didn’t know him, but randomly we had one friend in common from my swim team in Thousand Oaks! He sent a friend by with cash to pick the tickets up and my gas was now paid for and the Long Beach trip was a go!
I took off right at 5 on Friday night and assumed the traffic would totally blow seeing as it’s a big holiday weekend… totally wrong… smoothest LA trip in months! I told Cliff best case scenario I’d get to his mom’s place in Westminster at 9pm, I was in his front yard at 9:05. If only all my drives were that smooth! We stayed up and talked swim adventures for a while over a beer and then crashed out for the night to get ready for the next day’s super training swim. He hadn’t swam around Naples Island since he was a 12 year old kid, we had intentions of making up for lost time!
In the morning we ate a little bit, got bottles and feeds prepped, then cruised over to Naples Island. We were greeted by Beth and she was all smiles and excited to go as usual. We were starting from the dock on a house actually on the island and we got suited up and lubed up in the backyard. I made sure to go heavy on the Bag Balm to keep from chaffing…. I think I’m going to have to like quadruple my efforts for the Great Salt Marathon Swim!
Alamitos Bay was pretty calm and the water was warm for me… the thermometer on the dock was around 59 and my digital thermometer was running more like 62. I think most of the swim was around 60-61… probably the perfect temp for a long swim in my opinion.
After a brief run away kayak adventure while we were trying to launch Beth, Cliff and I decided to finally get down to business and start swimming. Both of us are the types to ease into the water, but the whole dock situation didn’t really allow for that so a run and a jump was in order!
We started out swimming counterclockwise around the island with both of us on the left hand side of the kayak so Beth could keep between us and other boats on the water. This was working pretty well until we ran into a bunch of jerks in a sculling boat. It was really busy on the water and everybody was cool except this one group. They even claimed to have hit a swimmer the week before! I can’t hear much while swimming, but best I can tell Beth politely invited them to piss off for us. We later ran into another swimmer who had problems with the same boat. Beth said that she felt like we were little ducklings that she was doing her best to protect on the water… so for the rest of the swim we were Beth’s Bearded Ducklings :)
After one or two feeds we switched up our configuration. Beth took the middle and I swam to the left of the kayak while Cliff was on the right. We were both holding a really similar pace and everything was running really smoothly. With the boat in the middle I wouldn’t see Cliff for long stretches of time though so it almost felt like a solo swim sometimes.
Once we were almost to the last bridge of the island we picked up a straggler from another group that was out unescorted. I didn’t see him until we stopped for a feed. We had to see if he had a beard to join our gang. Turns out he only had a goatee… I’m pretty sure I told him to come back when he grew a real beard… I think I sounded more serious than I meant too but was totally kidding, hopefully he got that :) I never saw him again. I’m not sure if it was because we dropped him or because he was just done anyways. He said he was almost to his finish point when we talked to him.
We did about 2 1/4 laps in this direction which was good for about 10k and things were running really well. I was counting the 1000m buzzes from my GPS as we went along so I knew about how far we had swam at any given time, and I had Queen’s Greatest Hits on repeat inside my head. A lot of Killer Queen, Don’t Stop Me Now and Bicycle Race were going on inside my brain. But this is where we ran into our only real problem on the swim… a boat race! There were a bunch of kids racing teeny tiny sailboats and running them all the way to the docks giving us no clear course through that wouldn’t involve getting run over. We floated there for a bit contemplating our options and I suggested we just swim the other direction and hope they’re out of the way by the time we get back, so that’s what we ended up doing.
Since I’m a right side breather it was kind of nice to swim the other way around the island and see all the boats and houses on the island. I read a lot of goofy boat names and saw lots of people reading the paper and having their morning coffee. Despite the new visual stimulation my body started to have issues. My elbows were locking up and my shoulders were weakening a bit although my cardio engine was having no issues at all. From about 12k-13.5k I was slowing down and not doing well. For the first time in hours Cliff and I were separating a bit. Maybe 5 meters at most, but still after all that time side by side it was pissing me off a little to be drifting backwards.
As we neared 14k I pushed through my rough patch, caught up and proceeded to hang on for the rest of the swim. We swam the rest of the way with both of us on the right side of the kayak, actually seeing Cliff helped me keep the pace and not fall off again.
Once we got back to where the sailboats were there was still a lot of activity going on but it was further out now and we managed to sneak through and swim a full circle around the island. At our next feed we decided that we’d swim it back into the house when we got there because we’d be safely over 5 hours and have at least 15k swam by that point. Ultimately we had 5 hours and 19 minutes in the water and 16k or 10 miles swam! Awesome for a training swim! And now that I think about it my longest swim that didn’t involve getting out of the water occasional to feed or run through a check point. The map below shows the route, but if you go to http://connect.garmin.com/player/88918107 and click play you can see how we actually went about it.
Back on dry land I was pretty sore up top but no chaffing. I did end up with more sun than I had bargained for. I’m pretty tan and don’t typically burn, but a few spots got pretty red. I have two red angry crescents on the backs of my thighs at the base of my suit. Apparently it’s slightly shorter than the majority of my other suits… and now I know by exactly how much :o
Major thank yous go out to Cliff for inviting me to swim along and putting me up for a night, as well as to Beth for her expert guidance and cheery demeanor all throughout our 5+ hour adventure!
After our swim we chowed down on some Thai food to refuel and then went our separate ways for the rest of the weekend. I drove down into Orange County and met up with my friends Merritt and Bekah to hang out… and build IKEA furniture? We’re a pretty exciting bunch :) haha…
The next day we all went to the LCM meet at Mission Viejo. Merritt was actually racing, Bekah and I just swam a bit in the warm up pool to loosen up. Eventually she was drafted to be the head timer and shortly thereafter I was also handed a stopwatch. Amazingly this was the first time I’ve ever been a timer in my life, I had no idea how all this stuff worked. I’m always in the meet so I’m never in a position to work at one. Bekah looked at me in disbelief when I explained this to her and then gave me a 14 second run down of the process… apparently it’s not that hard :)
My big highlight of the meet was helping one of the ladies from the 90-94 age group up on the blocks for one of her races. Maureen swam a ton of events and still dives off the blocks, it’s pretty amazing stuff. She tapped me on the shoulder and proclaimed that “this handsome young man is going to loan me an arm to get on the blocks.” Can’t argue with that right? :) So I put an arm out for her to balance on, she got up on the block, held on to me until she had to take her marks and then boom! She was gone and swimming! Awesome reminder of a what a great sport swimming is… you can literally do it competitively into your 90′s, not too many other sports allow for that!
After the meet I had lunch with my friends and then went back to Long Beach to see Beth again. She had scooped up a kayak for me for cheap a while back and this was the first time that I had been in town to pick it up. I was pretty apprehensive about transporting it 200+ miles and the heavy winds we were having didn’t help much either. We got it up on my rack together and then strapped it down tight. It was obvious that it wasn’t going to budge but I still didn’t trust it… I had visions of a big red kayak escaping my truck at freeway speeds on the 405 :o I made a pit stop in Agoura Hills to see my coach and to stop worrying about my kayak turning into a 13 foot plastic dart of freeway destruction. We hung out for a couple hours and she fed me dinner, score! :) Around 8 I got back on the road and wrapped up my drive. Despite high winds the whole way home, including 45 mile per hour gusts through Gaviota, I made it back just fine although I was a little worried!
All told a good SoCal adventure! Next exciting thing up for me is my night swim birthday party next Saturday! Still figuring everything out for that, but it should be cool :) if you’re around on the 4th and interested in a swim in the dark shoot me an email and I’ll fill you in on the deets.