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From Sea to shining Sea

August 19, 2008

Yep as people keep reminding me, I’m way behind on the blog.  Let’s see if I can catch up.

The weekend of 08/02 I flew to Boston MA.  I spent a less than 48 hours in town.  Talk about a quick trip.  I arrived at my hotel on Friday at 2pm after a red-eye flight.  I took a quick nap.  Then I went to the quick safety meeting at 7pm.  Here I got to finally meet Elaine Kornbau-Howley.  A swimmer that has provided some great advice over the year and also been a great contact for the Boston Swim.  She is preparing for Catalina this year and the English Channel in 2009.  Yep there are few crazies out there like me. 

You will notice a theme of everything being quick. 

At the safety meeting, it was great to be there with Joe Oakes, a living legend.  He has done numerous open water swims including one in the Bering Sea from Russia to the US (the reverse of Lynne Cox’s swim).  He has done a non-motorized circumnavigation of the globe earning him appointment to the Royal Geographic Society.   As if that weren’t enough, he is known as Alcatraz Joe for starting the Alcatraz swims/triathlons/aquathons/etc.   Then there are his books and of course he is an excellent artist.  Yeah, I’m pretty star struck and I’m lucky that he considers me a friend.  And for For some articles please see the links below.

Ok safety meeting is over and it is back to the hotel for a quick sleep.  Joe is going to be my crew for this swim and my pilot is Bill Gildea, who escorted a swimmer last year.  Bill wants to meet at 5am on Saturday as we are towing another boat out to the start. 

We got to the South Harbor Yacht club at 5am as requested and found the doors locked.  We waited until 5:30am before the door was opened.  We quickly loaded the boat and we were off.  At this time I had the chance to get to know Laura Collette better.  She is a swimmer from San Francisco that recently relocated to Boston.  She was a riot.  I enjoyed spending time with her.

The trip out to the Lighthouse on Little Brewster island was slow going and the fog was thick.  Luckily the water was flat and clear.  I wouldn’t be swimming through the stuff that I saw in Manhattan and for this I was thankful. 

Out to the start and the swimmers and escort boats were all there.  The swim started and we just got under way.  The water temperature was perfect.  The water was flat.  And the fog kept me from looking around at other swimmers.  I just got down to the business of swimming.  And I was back to having fun.

As the sun started to come up, the fog started to lift and the day turned beautiful and clear.  Again the race was going very well for me and surprisingly I was leading up until the last 2 miles.  I really wasn’t focused on racing this event.  I just wanted to clear out the bad vibes from Manhattan and that was going well, which I think helped with my position.  At a feeding Joe mentioned that he felt the 2 guys got a better current line and were going to pass.  I replied “I really don’t care”  In my head, I was just glad to be feeling well.  My shoulders felt good, my stroke felt good.  The only thing giving me trouble was my neck, which has been acting up lately. 

On into the finish, I finished as the 1st female in 3rd place.  The 2 guys, Ray and Seb, tied for first in 2 hrs 44 minutes and some odd seconds.  I swam in at 2 hrs, 47 minutes, and some odd seconds.    Finishing 2nd for the women was Joni Young from Oregon.  Yea Oregon taking 1 and 2.  I hung out on the beach watching swimmers finish and trying desperately to catch up with friends that had made the trek to the beach (Special thank you to Elaine, Jim, Elise, Declan and Sarah for taking the time out of your busy schedules to come say hello.  I just wish it didn’t have to all be so quick). 

I didn’t get to see all the swimmers finish, but I heard that they all safely did, as I had to get back to the hotel to shower, change, pack and check out.  Yep I was back at the airport at 4pm to catch a 6pm flight.  Told you it was a quick weekend. 

All in all a beautiful swim. 

Then the following weekend it was off to Alaska.  I managed to stay just about 48 hours in this state.  For anyone looking for a great open water swim…this is it.  The organization, the commutity and just the whole event is fantastic.  That is why I went back for my 3rd year and probably will be back again next year.  I arrived in Ketchikan at 12pm August 9th and got to watch a kids soccer game.  Only in Alaska will you see a kid playing soccer in wellies.  (Note: I managed to talk my friends into letting me stay with them and their family for the weekend.  1. It allowed me to catch up with them.  2. It saved me some much needed cash.  Hopefully that explains the soccer game).  Then it was a quick run back to the house for lunch and getting ready for the safety meeting.

The safety meeting was wonderful.  Basically it is a chance for me to catch up with all my friends, ones that I have met in person and those that I finally got to meet in person (Note: In the swimming world you spend a lot of time making friends via email and it is great to see them in person).  Man did I mention how much I love this race and these swimmers!  If you don’t remember 3 years ago it was this race and these people that showed me that I did belong somewhere and that cold open water swimming wasn’t crazy.  For that I will be eternally indebted to them. 

Sunday the race started at 10:15am and I was again paired with Mike Rath as my kayaker.  He is the most even going guy in the world.  Plus he has this amazing hand built wood kayak which is a pleasure to look at for over 3 hours.  As always he kept an even keel and kept me on track.

The race this year was cold…I mean VERY COLD.  The guesstimate at the end was maybe a high of 56.  Plus there was little tide, which meant no push.  And the wind bashed us in the head for half the race.  Still it was good, but definitely the hardest Pennock Island Challenge that I have competed in.  I managed to be the first woman and first non-wetsuit person.  I was 3rd overall 3 minutes behind leaders with a 3 hr 31minute and some odd second swim.

Good News:

  • I finished.
  • My lats hurt like hell.  I know how is this good news?  It is because it means my back is carrying more of the load rather than my shoulders.
  • The hot chocolate, rhubarb bars and other goodies on the Osborn’s boat is worth the swim.  Thank you Pat and Chuck!
  • I got to spend the day hanging with some of the best people ever.  I don’t want to list names as I’ll forget someone and that won’t be cool.  But you all know who you are.
  • I met some people from Southern California that are connected with the Catalina Channel and I know that they will help me through this swim in October.
  • I met Sue Free who kindly switched me from a solo non-wetsuit competitor in the Alcatraz Challenge to a relay team so that my sister and I can do it together.  Thank you Sue!
  • I got to catch up with my friends…oh wait I said that already, but seriously the BEST!

Bad News:

  • My neck still hurt like a well “pain in my neck”.  Working on getting this addressed.

After the banquet, I was quickly back on a plane to Oregon.  One of these times I’m going to add a day or two so that I can actually do some fishing and site seeing in AK.

This last weekend I just trained in Oregon.  Nothing to special and it was pretty quiet as my friends were kicking butt and taking names at the Long Course Nationals meet.  Rumor has it that PRs were had and WR were broken. 

This weekend I’m headed down to San Francisco for the Alcatraz Challenge (yep the one that Joe Oakes started).  I’m doing the swim and my sis is doing the 7 mile run across the Golden Gate.  It should be a blast.  And then for 2 days I’m staying out of the water completely.  I need a little break and what better way than to spend it with my fabulous aunt in San Luis Obispo.  My mom, dad, sis, bro-in-law and I are invading. 

If I get my schedule sorted out, you all will hear about Alcatraz before October.  I’ve vowed to make a New Year’s resolution to be better at blog posting, but until then we will all have to grin and bear it. 

And yes, I still know there are photos to be seen and yes I will post them…someday.


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3 Responses to “From Sea to shining Sea”

  1. Sarah says:

    It was great to see you, Michelle, in Boston even if I arrived about a half hour after you got out of the water.

    Good to hear you did so well in Alaska, too.

    You are inspiring.

  2. Shanna says:

    Congrats woman! Sounds like you are continuing to kick some butts and take some names yourself…do they have open water swimming in the Olympics?? Hope you are well – I think of you often and always enjoy reading your blog, most importantly because you sound very happy. Big hugs!

  3. Michelle,
    It was great to meet you and start a friendship. Glad BLS went so well for you and heard that Alaska was fantastic also. Hope to hear about your Catalina soon…

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