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San Juan Islands

September 5, 2007

This weekend the girls (Kim R, Jane Barry, and Elizabeth) and I decided that we needed a little getaway.  We packed up the Blazer and headed North to the San Juan Islands.  Kim’s dad has a little place on Stuart Island which is a little slice of heaven here on earth.  It is a small island with about 50 homes, no electricity with the exception of generators.  This leads to a very relaxing and quiet weekend enjoying each others company and watching the water.  (Note: the only way to get to the island is by personal boat or by small plane.  See photo below.  I’ll swim in frigid water, but this little plane had me nervous)


Little PlaneGirls in Little Plane

Me in Little Plane w/ Luggage

To be honest, I didn’t want to train this weekend.  I was ready for the taper to start so that I could sit on the deck in a rocking chair and watch the boats drift by.  Luckily I had my friends there to keep me on track. 


On Friday night, we went out in the boat to do some crabbing, with pots I wasn’t swimming for them this time.  I took along my water thermometer to see just what I was getting myself into.  Yep it would be 52 degrees that I was getting myself into in these next two days.  YEA (or boo hiss depending on my mood). 


Gary, Kim’s dad, secured a small fishing boat that we could use during the swim.  We (OK they) tested it and found that it could hold around 1.4 miles per hour pretty easily without ruining the motor.  I think that I actually swim around 2 miles per hour, but it was nice to have the option to go slower.


Friday night dinner I was eating like there was going to be no tomorrow and in a way I was wishing there wasn’t.  I had given up control of the time of the swim to allow for the girls to decide.  This way I wouldn’t be able to really mentally prepare and I would have to be ready for anything.  The decided on time-frame was anywhere from 5-10 hours on Saturday.  Now due to the 52 degree water, I was pretty sure that 10 hours were out.  I know that I can stand the cold for a few hours, as last weekend taught me, but 10 is extreme. 


I went to bed with a bit of dread in my heart and head.  I just didn’t want to swim tomorrow or this weekend for that matter.  I knew that this is some of the hard mental times that I just had to work through.  Luckily my friends took my bad mood in stride and kept me on track.


Saturday morning we were all up to get into the water.  Oh wait I was getting in the water, they were getting in the boat.  This weekend besides training was a weekend to test the feeding apparatus.  We (OK OK Kim and Jane) had made a small wire basket to hang from a expandable boat hook.  We would have water bottles and cups tied to the basket using surgical tubing to allow for the boat and I to bounce in the waves separately. 


I slowly began the walk into the water as Kim became used to the motor.  John Bunton, the gentleman that loaned us the boat, and Gary watched from the dock.  Now getting directly into 52 degree water is difficult.  Your skin starts to prickle with pins and needles, your heart starts to race, the gasp reflex kicks in and the whole time you are fighting your mind which is telling you to “GET ME OUT OF THIS!!!!”.  In 52 degree water this urge subsists a little but it is still there.  It was even worse for me this weekend as I really didn’t want to be in the water. 


We set out through Prevost Harbor and then around Satellite Island.  Many of the moored boats had people come out and just stare as we went by.  I had quickly become the island oddity by swimming in the water, let alone with the plan to do it for hours.  


Prevost Harbor

Prevost Harbor

Michelle Swimming

Michelle SwimmingMichelle Swimming

Gary and Pat along for the swim

 Pat and Gary Schubel

All in all we spent 5 hours in the water.  The feeding apparatus was working great.  Although I needed larger cups as I couldn’t get the Shot Bloks out of the bottom that easily.  Otherwise very happy with it.  I think because I was in such a bad mood, I also made myself sick.  There was one point in the swim where I almost fed the fishes.  This would have been the first time for me.  I didn’t but I did start the gagging process which brought on the chills.  Kudos for the girls for keeping me in the water and for surviving being swamped by the wake of a cruiser.    And they did a great job of being my TV.  They didn’t point at things, which almost always causes me to stop and ask whats up.  They didn’t eat in front of me, which was very difficult as this was just a small aluminum skiff.  They kept encouraging me and kept the boat by my side, which couldn’t have been an easy task.


I think everyone got a real eyeful of what occurs to me after a cold water swim.  Now I was fully prepared for the hour of sometimes severe shivering that was going to occur.  I think it stunned some of my friends.  They looked pretty worried, but I tried to assure them that this was normal and it would pass in about an hour at which point I would turn into a raging inferno.  (Note: once being so cold my body seems to like to jump to the other extreme). 


I let the girls know that Saturday was it for me.  I wasn’t getting back in on Sunday.  They just shook their heads and said “We’ll see.”  Somehow I knew I was going to lose this battle.  Jane brought it to me though as a short swim where we just needed to test the food one more time, since I had gotten sick on Saturday.  To this I agreed, a short swim just to test the food.  I lubed up one more time and began the climb into the water.  Today we would be feeding about every 45 minutes.  One of the feedings would contain a small amount of protein powder to see how I reacted. 


We went around Satellite island again.  This time the girls were not swamped by passing waves.  And we did a couple of laps of Prevost Harbor.  All of the feedings went very well.  I think that it was more my mental attitude that caused the sickness on Saturday rather than the actual food.  We also just tried the feeding pole with the water bottle tied directly to the pole without the basket.  I think I prefer the basket.  It holds the water bottle more steady so I don’t have to be as coordinated to catch it.  The swim was a short one, just 2 hours 20 minutes.  Thank goodness.  Now my taper can begin.


The rest of the weekend was spent doing a little bit of hiking, lots of good eating, sitting on the deck watching those boats, reading books and great conversation with friends.

Swimming Notes:

  • I apparently have the ability to attract seals to me while I swim.  My mom told me about them in Nehalem Bay and this weekend there was one that accompanied me on both days.  The girls told me that he stayed close, but not to close. 
  • There were red jellies out in the water, but I managed to avoid them.  I’m still concerned about how that first sting is going to go down in the Channel.  Perhaps I will be lucky and avoid the buggers.
  • I couldn’t have successfully completed anything thing this weekend without the help of Gary and Pat Schubel, John and Lynn Bunton, Kim R, Jane Barry, Elizabeth Kafel and the other residents of Stuart Island.  I had plenty of company on the swims as others would motor by and give a wave.  Plus Gary and Pat came out many times to check on us.  There were times when I breathed to the left and saw Gary and Pat and then breathed right and saw the girls.  It kept me going.
  • Thank you to Lynn Bunton for providing some nutritional advice to not only me but my friends.  We all found that we have some interesting nutritional quirks. 
  • Thank you to Pat Schubel for my first interview.  I hope that it was interesting enough for your article. 
  • Thank you to the residents of Stuart Island for a wonderful pot luck dinner on Sunday.  I’m sorry that I ate all of the food and you didn’t get any.  And yes, we do consume a lot of calories 🙂  Also thank you for being my cheerleaders throughout the weekend.  I know we all caused quite a stir and I was so pleased to have the unconditional support. 
  • And one final thank you again to Gary and Pat for opening your cabin.  We all had such a wonderful time.  It was the perfect weekend of training and relaxing for me.
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