This weekend called for me to complete a split Channel swim. This means essentially swimming half of the Channel on Saturday and the remaining on Sunday. My parents had come into town to get used to what it would be like to crew for me.
We set out for the Coast very early on Saturday morning. My goal was to be in the water at Nehalem Bay by 7:30am. This would allow me to get in 8 hours of swimming, drive back to Portland, get a good meal and go to bed before getting up on Sunday to do it all over again.
I woke up and ate most of my morning oatmeal and packed up the days feedings. I made sure that I added 3x the recommended amount of Carbo Pro to my liquids as I knew I was going to need the energy. Little did I know just how challenging this swim would be.
My parents had decided to walk along the beach while I did my normal lap of the 9,7, and 5 buoys. The first hour went very well. My stroke rate was at around 60 per minute. The water temperature was a very warm 64. The sun wasn’t shining yet, but it wasn’t raining either. I thought I was in for a great day. That was until hour 2.
Halfway through the 2nd hour the water temperature dropped 12 degrees. For all you non-math people this means that my comfortable 64 had now become 52 and I wasn’t even halfway through the 2nd hour. (Note: Those of you may remember that I aborted a swim after 3 hours due to violent shakes in 54 degree water a few weeks earlier). I was sort of at a loss of what to do at this point. Then in my head I heard Sybil say “You cannot ever let yourself think about quitting.” That did it, I would go until my parents called the swim due to safety. This was of course after I gave a quick hypothermia lesson to my dad that went something like this:
“Ok Dad, the water temperature is really cold. Here is a lesson. Watch my skin color. Red is good. Gray is not so good. Blue gray is not good at all.”
I know a great lesson and I was in the water telling this to him. What a trooper that he carried on. I think I left out a bunch of other signs and symptoms, which I’m sure I will get lots of comments on. Oh well.
All I can say is thank goodness I had planned on warm tea as my liquid feeding, but unfortunately I didn’t plan on enough hot liquid. At every feeding, I met my parents at the water’s edge. They would hand me some warm liquid and shot bloks. I quickly ate and got back in as the air temp was warmer than the water and if I stayed out too long I would really start to shake when getting back in (Yes, I’m aware that this is one of those signs.).
So with my booty shaking more than Shakira (or Charro or which ever dancer who can really shake their booty), I continued to swim. My hands, legs, and even face started to feel tight as my muscles continued to shake to create warmth. I even resorted to kicking my legs in the hopes that this would help. My main focus was to make it through high tide and wait for the switch to low tide. I figured at low tide the warmer river water would be in the Bay and I would feel better.
Consider 7.5 hours later into the swim, I’ve now been in the 52 (and sometimes 50) degree water for 6.5 hours. I was really beginning to struggle. My stroke rate was down to maybe 58. I was cold and I wanted out. But I only had that 30 minutes to go. My feedings were now consisting of regular temperature water + Carbo Pro, as I quickly went through my warm liquids. Just one more 30 minutes and I would be done. I headed back out past 9 and 7. As I rounded for home, I felt it…finally the warmer water. It may have only been around 56 degrees but it felt like getting into a warm bath. I had made it through!
- I didn’t think about much during this swim except just keep moving. I also just kept breaking the swim down into smaller portions. Only 4×1 hour swims and 8×30 minute swims.
- It was really great to see my parents walking the beach with me. It was nice to have the company. Although I have to remind people that during my swim they become my TV for the duration. I always forget to tell people that so I see some pretty strange things.
- A swimmer and the crew have two very different experiences through a swim. My mom pointed out that there were seals in the bay. I never saw them or heard them.
- Not only was I transformed into one of the best booty shakers around, I also became Swamp Thing. There were a ton of weeds in the water during the shifting of the tides. I at least learned how to swim through the flotsam and jetsom. I did manage to acquire a good rash from the weeds that ended up in my suit. I guess I’m back to being itchy.
- Crew are critical in long training swims.