I swam my 4th Naples Island Swim this weekend, I love this swim and it’s become a must attend event for me. So much so that despite an incredibly angry back I still piled myself into the truck around 4am and drove the 4 hours to Long Beach. There were a lot of moments during that drive where I wondered if maybe I should just turn around and go to sleep… but that wasn’t an option. Naples Island has become a bit of a personal tradition for me and I wasn’t going to miss my annual 1 mile cruise through the canals.
I was up at 3:45am, wondered if this was good idea and then tumbled into the truck. Once it was gassed up and GPS programmed it was just me and the cruise control sailing down hwy 101 in the dark. The upside to waking up so ridiculously early is there’s no traffic and I never really had to slow down even once I hit the 405 and the sun came up. After arriving in Long Beach I made a quick pit stop at the Vons over by the Belmont Pool for some gatorade and something to nibble on and then drove the rest of the way to the beach.
When I got there I saw some Laguna Beach Oak Streaker friends and shortly thereafter my buddy Jason who swims Lopez Lake with me arrived. My buddy Evan from FreshWaterSwimmer.com popped up early as well. The skies were overcast and the water looked pretty mellow. There were some rowers out in the water but there were also some lifeguards on jetskis that looked like they were telling them to wrap it up to make way for the day’s races.
I went over by the dock and got myself checked in and numbered and goody bagged. You could definitely see Merritt’s influence on the t-shirts this year, they’re car racing themed (she’s an engineering genius for GM and car nut). I went and said hi to her real quick since I knew she was busy event directing and whatnot, and then went back to see what was going on with everyone else back on the beach.
One of the best parts of this race is just hanging out on the beach before and after the event. I got to see a lot of my favorite people as well as friends I haven’t run into in person for a while. In the middle of talking and catching up I got suited up and applied some body glide. I went with the classic zebra stripped Rob Aquatics suit… the white stripes aren’t so white these days on that thing, it’s seen some things! A lot of different bodies of water have filtered through that thing!
As we neared 9 I made my way to the start area and waded into the water to get a feel for it. There was a sign at the check in table that said it was 62-64, that seemed pretty spot on. I tossed myself forward to get the rest of the way wet and came up a little grossed out. The water wasn’t tasting quite right today. A lot of people perceive Alamitos Bay as being a questionable body of water to go play in, and most of the time they’re wrong. I’ve probably swam over 25 miles in various races and training swims over there and this is the first time I’ve had an issue with the water smelling/tasting bad. I would liken it to drinking sweat out of a large man’s shoe post running a marathon. Delicious right?
As we got ready to go I put myself in the middle of the pack a few rows back for the start. I figured that was about right for me on this swim, I typically finish in the middle somewhere. Despite that centralized placement it was a friendly start with minimal bumping. I did take a hit to the eye and a few kicks to the side a little later on during the first leg of the swim. I had a younger kid on my right with a thrashing for survival style stroke that slugged me right in the goggle, luckily he was probably 120 pounds at most and it didn’t hurt that much. I had someone on my other side who did the breaststroke at random to sight, it’s always fun to have one of those around you. Luckily we all spread away from each other once we entered the canal… once we finally got to the canal… that swim to the first turn always feels way longer than you’d think it would be.
Inside the canal it felt almost like there was a tidal push on the front half of the canal portion. Not sure if that was real or imagined. I held between the middle and the outside edge of the canal just to have some personal space. No one really got in my way out there which I enjoy. Plus on that last right hand turn out of the canal I can usually cut it real close and jump up a few spots on people who were following the other side. A fair number of people that chase the inside edge actually get wrapped up in that and start to go for a second lap of the canal until a guard cuts them off and turns them around!
Last leg is straight back towards the beach and I sighted on a yellow triangle buoy that I figured was for us and tried to keep it as straight as possible. Once my hand hit sand I stood up and shuffled it in. I was pleasantly surprised to see my friend and kayaker to the stars Beth Barnes right there at the finish smiling and waving. I grabbed my popsicle stick with my finish number on it and gave it to the results people. I was the 36th person overall (of about 89 according to the results) and third in my new 30-34 age group (unfortunately of only 3 according to the results).
I chatted with Beth for a while then rinsed that water off me best I could. I didn’t want to smell like that for the rest of the day. Afterwards I changed back into real clothes and then posted myself up on the dock next to the swim finish so that I could shoot some pictures of people sprinting to the finish. I staked out a good spot to put my towel down and then laid down to get an almost water level view of some of our finishers. I think my favorite part was when a little 8 year old looking kid was swimming in for the finish from the 500m and the 3 mile winner Alex Kostich came racing up on him. Watching Alex have to get past an 8 year old to claim his victory was kinda amusing :)
After my friends finished swimming I went back to the beach to socialize and pick up my 3rd place medal. The nicest part of being friends with the race director is my last name was actually pronounced correctly for my medal :) I hung out on the beach as long as I could but my back was really not feeling well and I couldn’t fake the smiley face any more so I had to split… 4 more hours in the truck didn’t sound good, but I kinda had to do it at some point so away I went! I think I’m going to be taking it fairly easily this week in hopes that it feels better and I can get back to regular workout life.