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Nehalem Bay – 30 minutes

July 6, 2007

Generally, Thursday’s have become my day off from the pool and lake.  This gives my shoulder it’s much needed break.  I only need to make sure that I do my physical therapy exercises to help strengthen the rotator cuff muscles.    This was the plan when I sat down to a day at work.  That was until I received an email from Dave Radcliff and Joe Oakes discussing an afternoon swim in Nehalem Bay.


Joe Oakes, aka Alcatraz Joe, is an extraordinary endurance athlete performing a non-motorized circumnavigation of the globe, swam in the Bering Strait, started the Escape from Alcatraz and Alcatraz Challenge events, etc. etc. etc.   Last summer, Joe provided me some invaluable information regarding open water swimming.  I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to swim with Joe and other swimmers in Nehalem Bay.  (Nehalem Bay is out on the Oregon coast and tends to keep Channel like temperatures.)


Unfortunately I had a small glitch…work.  I’m already pushing the limit on my vacation days with my 3 week excursion to England.   I don’t have any extra vacation days to spare.  My manager has been incredibly flexible with my training schedule to date and I was hoping that today was no exception.   I spoke with my manager to discuss a trade in work.  I would make up my hours by working in the evening and weekend, if I could head to Nehalem Bay for this training opportunity.  He was very understanding and agreed!  I couldn’t have been more pleased. 


Now came the next hurdle, I was a swimmer without a swimsuit.  I know that this may come as a surprise as I usually have approximately 5 swimsuits with me at all times.  Today happened to be the exception.  A quick call to Linda at J.D. Pence aquatic store was all the help I needed.  I quickly ran in and purchased a thin strapped workout bikini, as I was not going to repeat my chaffing from the day before.  And I was determined to swim in as little coverage as possible up until the Channel.


I made the meeting time with Joe and Martin.  I was so giddy to be headed to the beach as I have heard that this is truly the place that I needed to train.  Turns out that all of us in the car had our swimming goals in mind.  Joe is preparing for a Channel Island relay beginning on July 21st and Martin is getting ready for his first Alcatraz swim – competing in the non-wetsuit division. 


We arrived in Nehalem and I took my first look at the Bay and thought….”Oh no!”  The wind was quite strong and there were the fun little signs of white caps.  Not a lot of white caps, but white caps none the less.    I just kept thinking that this wasn’t the rest that my shoulder needed, but I needed to swim in the bay with people knowledgeable about tides and open water, which Joe and Martin had.    We parked and did some scouting of the water.  Ok they scouted, I tried to look like I knew what was going on.  The other two swimmers, Curtis and John, soon joined us at the boat ramp.  They too were training for Alcatraz.   WOO HOO look at all these open water swimmers!


After a quick discussion with a fisherman, we found out that the water was a whopping 62 degrees.  I was hoping for colder, but this would have to do.  We all changed into our swimming attire.  I’m beginning to understand that when I change into swimming gear and there is only cold water around to swim in I’m going to get that weird green monster look for people.  Now if only that tail would also show up with those stares.  I keep thinking about how smoothly those salamanders moved through the water at Trillium Lake. 


The swim began with us marching down the beach with the plan to swim with the current back to the boat launch.  I slowly entered the water in my methodical way, which basically consists of me inching my way into the water.  I know that this is a torturous method, but it seems to work for me.  It allows me to wrap my mind around being cold.  I started my swim by heading straight into the current, while the others swam towards the boat ramp.  Let’s just say that we had a fairly strong current as I was swimming against it and making very little ground.  I actually thought it was funny, as I was finally experiencing what it was to swim on a treadmill.   I couldn’t wait to turn around and swim with the current as I was going to be super fast!  Ok, not super fast, but I would definitely move.    The way back held a few surprises though, upswells and wind.  Yep didn’t know about upswells and the fact that they carry water from the very bottom and at a temperature much colder than the surface.  Ah here was the 59-60 degrees that I really needed, but it caught me off guard.  In addition, I kept getting water in my face whenever I breathed to the left side.  Like an idiot, I kept breathing to the left side thinking I would get a different result.  No such luck.  Funny thing is when I breathed to the right, I had no problem.  Again lesson learned; “When the wind is coming from the left, breathe right as the waves will be pushing in from the left”  [sigh]  So much to learn.


We all swam for 30 minutes.  Once we were all dressed and beginning the goose bump stage of warming up, we all agreed we could have gone longer.  But that is for another day and now I have even more swim buddies to help me along the way, as I hopefully help them in their goals.


Here is to that jar of honey, Joe!

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