Yesterday I swam my third Santa Cruz Rough Water Swim and I still totally dig the race. It’s a fun easy to navigate course with a ton of other people. It’s still reasonably low pressure and they give you a lot of space at the start to spread out if you don’t want to be fully in the mix at the beginning. Hopefully I can keep the streak alive next year and do swim #4!
I started my day at 6am in the truck. I drove up from Pismo in the morning and it took me about three hours to touch down in Santa Cruz. I was about half an hour too early for check in so I wandered around a little bit to get a feel for how the course was looking. The water was pretty calm but there were some small but heavy waves breaking right at the shore that were plenty capable of taking your feet right out from under you. After a little while a line started forming over by the check in area so I made my way over there to wait. While in line my buddy El Sharko came by to say hi and contemplate whether we could get a refund on the roughwater since it wasn’t actually rough :) Once the gates opened I got through pretty quick. Got my number drawn on me, picked up my race sweatshirt (yeah!), and got my timing chip and cap.
Not too long after I spotted Sylvia who I didn’t even know was coming and then Niel popped up maybe 10 minutes later. It was very cool to have an Avila Dolphins contingent at the race!
Before the race got going Sylvia and I both made our way into the water to see what we were dealing with. The official race temp was 58 but my human thermometer disagreed. It felt more 56-57 to me and I found out later that the surf report had it listed as 55-57 that morning. Regardless it was pretty brisk. I took my time getting in then swam out about 25m and just floated. I swam in to talk to my friend Jody who was doing the same thing before getting into her race suit. On my way out of the water I chatted with Sylvia a little bit and then ran into my buddy Walt who I haven’t seen in a pretty long time.
Back on the beach I dried off and waited for the race instructions which are followed by the march to the start line. I always wonder what people not involved with the swim think about that procession down the beach. Hundreds of people in caps, goggles and swimsuits emerging from under the wharf and walking towards the boardwalk.
At the start line I took a moment to hop back in the water to get that feel on me again, and then got up in line. I chatted with some Creeker friends and then Niel who would be in the wave behind me. Although we all knew the signals for the start of the race I think a lot of us weren’t paying good enough attention to the flags on the lifeguard boat that marked the start. People started to rush towards the water and then other 70% of us had the epiphany that, hey maybe we should go swimming too :)
Despite there being a lot of people in the race I didn’t have too much contact with other swimmers on the way out. I worked my way through a few folks and then fell in behind a guy about my speed that I couldn’t get around. Instead I took the draft for a bit and was joined a few minutes later by a girl who wanted in on that action as well. The three of us adjusted to this guy pulling up front and the other two of us on either side just behind him. Maybe 3/4 of the way down the pier he gassed out a little and we shot past him. Good ride while it lasted, thank you kind stranger :) Oddly this was the same spot that the temps perked up a bit. I’d believe that this warm spot was 58ish, but the rest of the swim, not so much. Soon I had a new dude swoop in from my left side and park in front of me as a draftee replacement but the speeds didn’t mesh well. I kept hitting his feet and I hate to do that to people. Our lines ended up diverging anyways. He gunned for the pier and I hung a little further out. On this race I don’t like to hang too close to the wharf itself for 2 reasons… 1 it’s not necessarily the shortest route because it bends, 2 fisherman. The good news is that this year they said there were people patrolling the wharf and making the fisherman stop for the race and if they didn’t a lifeguard could zoom by on a paddle board or jetski and just straight cut their lines so nobody got hooked. I’m a fan of this concept!
On the last chunk of the left side of the wharf I settled into a pocket that was pretty much just me by myself. I rounded the tip between the pilings and a guard on a paddleboard. I could hear the sea lions barking in between breaths, luckily I didn’t smell them this year! On the other side of the pier I swang a little wide because of the bend in the pier. I wanted to aim straight for the finish instead of following the line of the pier. By the looks of my GPS I think I did a pretty decent job. I could always see arms and caps to my right but never anybody to my left.
As I neared the beach I saw a couple green caps start to catch me, crap. The 40 and overs were in green and my goal was to not get caught. They got me just barely. The lead pack swarmed up on me and I think that I was the last swimmer they caught… damn. I felt pretty suave about only finishing a second behind my friend Jody, it’s just best we ignore the part where she started 5 minutes after me… haha.
Post swim I was de-timing-chipped and went to dry off. I talked with a few people on the beach and then went in search of Niel’s wife, Kris. She was on the beach with her camera waiting for him to cross the finish (she took all the pictures in this post btw, thank you!!!). He came out pretty cold so she went to go check on him and left me with the camera to catch Sylvia’s finish. While waiting I saw a lot of busy lifeguards helping people out of the water and a lot of faceplants. The surge right there at the water’s edge was tricky and it rushed out strongly at your feet making it really hard to get a foot down and walk out successfully. Sylvia finished like a champ brushing off the lifeguard to finish with out help.
Our Avila crew regrouped on the beach to rehash the race and debate the water temps a bit as open water swimmers are prone to do… we also discussed post race nutrition, as open water swimmers are also prone to do :) I was going with Korean food in Marina and Niel was off for Mexican in Monterey, I’m not sure what Sylvia went in search of.
All told really fun swim. Solidly run as always. It would have been nice if the sun had come out for it, but it’s always a little foggy up there in the morning so I guess you can’t really complain. I’m looking forward to coming back next year and hopefully I can sneak in a few bonus Santa Cruz swims in between!