Some Swims are Hard

It rained a little almost every night last week. I thought our swim was going to get pushed from La Jolla Shores to Bonita Cove (in the bay). But it didn’t, and at 4:30 I pulled into the parking lot at the shores.

The surf was bigger than predicted with swells coming from, seemingly, multiple directions. We swam north to the glider port and then turned around and went back to the shores. On our way back there was a pod of juvenile sea lions playing in the water, and likely wondering why I’m such an inefficient swimmer! We were supposed to meet Becky at 8 (3 hours into my swim), but we couldn’t find her. We sat by a buoy for a few minutes and I had one of my feeds. Then we kept swimming kind of to the cove. Kevin kept an eye out, but couldn’t spot her as we kept going.

About 25 minutes later Kevin popped up, she found us! We let her know that it we were just about to finish. And she was just fine with that!

Meli came down later and joined me for breakfast and pedicures.

A night of wellness and self care!

June 23, 2018 I’ll be co -hosting an event at a salon in San Diego, California. We are looking for donations for our raffle and for door prizes. We are also looking for vendors to come and participate. 100% of the money raised from this event will be donated to Sports for Exceptional Athletes. If you’re interested, please email me: ambrrrbaker@gmail.com!

Spring Break Swimming

I swam in the ocean nearly every day for the last two weeks, and it was good. The kind of good where you see the kelp swaying below you. The kind of good where you see the fish swim to the right and then quickly to the left. The kind where you can feel your glide seeming longer and smoother.

The water was cool. Early in the week it was around 57, and then it found its way up to 59. One day we saw three small sharks and another we saw one. I told Becca about the sharks that we saw and she quickly gasped, “wait you actually see sharks? Uhuh! No thank you!” I laughed and she told me I was crazy.

The last two days of spring break I had to do back to back 5 mile swims. Saturday I swam with Becky. We started at the shores and went to the cove then the pier then back to the shores, then to the cove, then parallel with the shore to the main lifeguard tower. We swam a few hundred yards under 5 miles in 2 hours and 33 minutes (or something like that). The real adventure started when we got out of the water, though. Becky’s hands were cold and she pushed the key a smidge too far back into its’ hidey hole. I found sticks and we lay on the asphalt poking and pushing trying to get it out. After about 20 minutes we were both filthy, but the key was out and we were headed to a well deserved lunch.

The First Long Swim

The date of the swim got changed up a bit due to other commitments and then weather but we ended up going out on Sunday (2/18), and Becky came too! Becky weaved back and forth adding extra distance (for her) to compensate for her being so speedy. Kevin Paddled along side me offering simple instructions through hand signals as I swam.

He told me he was proud of me for being brave and not swimming in his armpit like I did last time. He also told me I had some stuff to work on. I had fun, but I was disappointed in myself. I wanted to swim faster and farther. When I looked back through my Garmin app though, I realized that I had done fine. I was swimming faster than I did last year and it was in open water not in a pool.

We went 5.25 miles in 2 hours and 45 minutes. The water was around 59F, the sun was shining, and the sea was calm. It was a perfect San Diego winter swim.

With a Little Help from My Friends

Last year when I was helping Diana with Swim4Vets I organized T-shirt sales to raise money for homeless veterans with Father Joe’s Villages. This year I’m raising money for a different NPO, Sports for Exceptional Athletes. The money I raise will be used for scholarship money for adapted swim lessons and teams for individuals with developmental disabilities.

This year I’m selling silicone swim caps with the Nautical Miles Radical Smiles logo that my friend, Dawn, designed for me. If you’re interested in one please contact me!

To date I’ve raised $658, and my swim is still about 8 months away! The support and love that my friends and family have shown is incredible!

Something else that’s recently been impactful on my life is that I had been working in animal welfare and sheltering for seven years, and I quit my job. I’ve always wanted to be a teacher, and I’m using this year to fully decide on what kind of credentials I’d like to pursue. In doing this I’ve been working for a small school district as a 1:1 aide in a Special Day Class with some pretty amazing students. I love seeing the authentic friendships being formed and the genuine belly laughs that can occasionally be heard from teenagers. It has been a great experience! The district is in a relatively rural community a bit east of San Diego. I don’t have to take the freeway and my commute is mostly scenic. My colleagues have asked me about plans for the weekend, and they always include swimming. These conversations often lead to talking about my upcoming channel swim, and everyone has been so supportive. They even placed an article in the local newspaper about me!

#GivingTuesday

Black Friday is over and so is Cyber Monday. Now it’s #GivingTuesday! A day of giving that is powered by social media.

Next year I’ll be swimming from Catalina Island to the mainland of California. I want this swim to be about more than swimming. I want it to bring awareness and to help something bigger. I’ve teamed up with Sports for Exceptional Athletes, a non profit local to San Diego, and I’ll be raising money for their aquatics programs. The money raised will help fund scholarships for individuals who can’t afford to participate otherwise. “SPORTS for Exceptional Athletes (S4EA) is a community based sports program serving athletes with developmental disabilities ages 5 through adult in San Diego County.  The purpose of SPORTS for Exceptional Athletes is to create enhanced opportunities for people with and without disabilities to interact and form lasting bonds of friendship through shared sports and recreational activities in their community.”

To learn more about S4EA please visit their website at S4EA.org.

Channel Planning 

I brought a calander to practice. Kevin and I went through it page by page. Circling dates and mapping out times. The first swim will be in February for three hours. It’ll be chilly (at least as cold as the water can be in San Diego), and I wont be wearing a wetsuit. We’ll go every three weeks building time and acclimating to the cold. In between swims with Kevin I’ll swim on my own practicing staying relaxed even if I’m not comfortable and swimming through the winter. 

My check has been sent in and my boat has been booked. September 7, 2018 around 11:30 pm I’ll start my swim from Catalina island back to the mainland of California. 

Over the next few weeks I’ll be setting up a fundraiser as I’d like this to raise awareness for something. Nothing about the fundraiser is set in stone yet, so more on that later. 

10 Miles Later

The sun was shining, and the sea and winds were calm. Carol was keeping time, Becky and Meli were there to help with my feeds. My dad snapped pictures at every lap that I completed. The smiles and excitement that each face wore are far more memorable than any of the miles swam. I thought I was going to use the entire 6 hours that are allotted to each solo swimmer, so Kyle didn’t show up until a bit later. That’s ok though. He saw me swim miles 9 and 10. I finished the La Jolla Cove Swim Club 10 mile Diabetes Swim/ Relay in 4 hours and 34 minutes.

 Throughout the swim Becky offered me some simple coaching “stretch it out” she’d say. “These first two miles are just your warm up”. “Do you have a good rythym going? Ok, then hold it these next 6 miles”. Meli offered me my feeds and her expert enthusiastic cheerleading. 

At mile 9 Meli explained that Becky was taking over my feeds and I thought that meant Meli was leaving. I was so sad. I loved seeing her smiling face and hearing her voice bubbling over with excitement. Nope! She was getting in! Swimming two miles next to one of my favorite swimmy friends at the end of that long swim was the best. She smiled and dove under the water. Having fun and enjoying being held gently in the water as I had been doing all morning.  At mile 10 my right shoulder started to hurt. I could still pull and swim though, so I knew it wasn’t anything too terrible. I thought a lot about yoga and breathing. My thoughts slipped away from the pain and onto finishing. I was really doing this. After this swim I was practically half way from Catalina to the mainland. 

When we finished my dad put his hand heavily on my shoulder and I thought I might fall over. Then I went and showered and my body temperature dropped and I shivered as I washed my hair and used conditioner for the first time in 3 days. The chatter at the event and excitement were palpable. “You swam the whole thing by yourself? Do you already have a channel under your belt?” One man asked. I told him I was training for a solo channel crossing next year and this swim was the next step in my training. 

I changed in the bathrooms and listened as other swimmers talked about the fun they’d just had. Then I met Becky, Carol and Jo down on the sand. They congratulated me on my swim and I told them how much I appreciated them being there.

The week after the swim was kind of weird. I was supposed to be resting and recovering, but it was hard. There was so much mental build up to the swim and then…? It was done. I didnt know what I was supposed to do. “Just go have fun,” kevin told me. 

Catalina Channel Relays

I helped Diana, with Swim4Vets, plan and organize our Catalina channel relay for almost a year. I thought I was going to have a long blog post about it, but…? I don’t.

The night portion was more intimidating than I’d imagined and my leg of the relay where there was light was more beautiful and fun than I ever could have dreamed. We had dolphins swimming with us for quite a bit of the way. The water was calm and warm.

Coach Kevin paddled on his paddle board and my dad kayaked along side us. It was nice getting to share this extra experience with the both of them. Kevin has helped me so much in swimming. Not just via training, but also with my confidence. I think he has more confidence in my abilities than I do. My dad, I think, is finally starting to understand why this is so important to me. I mean I don’t fully get why I’m fascinated with swimming the channel, but I am. My dad said that he felt like an anchovie paddling out there at night. I think he also thought I was a lot more afraid than I truly was.

We finished our swim in 12 hours and 3 minutes. Upon landing on the rocky shore I tripped and dislocated two of my toes. We also raised $1,400 for Father Joe’s Villages.

After finishing that relay Kyle and I spent the rest of the week in Avalon and Two Harbors vacationing, eating sushi, and drinking beer.

After we were home I was swimming in the cove with Ken and Carol. Carol invited me to join them for their relay. It was a TON OF FUN. The two teams swimming consisted of experienced marathon swimmers and all around nice people. I went on as an alternate, and ended up buddy swimming the last leg with Carol and Ashley.

Watching Grace and Forrest swim, with their long smooth strokes, I saw what Kevin means when he echoes, “if you want to do a long swim you need to take long strokes.” Their swimming looks similar to a comtinuous catch-up drill.

Talking to a Ashley about her 18 or 19 hour solo swim made me nervous, but I also admired her stamina both physical and mental.

Carol urged me not to worry. I’ll have kevin training me, and I’ll be just fine. When I talked to Grace she smiled big and told me that I was going to have a blast. I’ll have my friends and coaches there to cheer me along and push me when I need to stop being a baby.

Long Swimming

“Did you sleep well last night, or were you too excited to sleep?” Coach Kevin greeted me.

“I took 5 milligrams of melatonin and passed out. Otherwise I wouldn’t have slept at all.” It’s true. My imagination paired with excitement could have been a problem.

It was 5 in the morning and still dark. We talked about our plan. We’d swim for about 2.5 hours then meet up with Ken and Becky and finish the last 2.5 hours of the days training swim.

The water was calm and warm. One, two, three breathe. I started to establish a rythym. I took a breath to my right and Kevin was smiling and holding my first bottle of accelerade. Already time for my first feed I thought? I swallowed all 6 ounces in two gulps and I was back face down in the water.

“What the hell is that?!” I screamed. “There’s something big below me.”

“It’s just a sea lion. He’s been following you for a while” kevin laughed.

Stroke swim stroke kick- I really dislike kicking. My mind wandered easily, and I wasn’t thinking about much.

Crap. I just swam away from Kevin again.

“When you breathe only to one side it pulls you to that side”. He’s the coach for a reason.

Stroke, stroke, stroke, brea… burrrrrpp. Right in Kevin’s face.

“Sorry,” I said as I rolled my face back into the water. Gross, I thought.

We swam south from La Jolla Shores to The Cove. Then we turned and went north to Scripps pier and back south again to La Jolla Shores.

“I think that’s them” I said.

“I think so too.”

Ken and Becky swam out further towards us, “Hey! How’s it going? How are you feeling?” Ken asked.

“Good! Water’s great!” I said excitedly. I wasn’t tired yet. We were only two and a half hours in and most of my long swims, although in a pool, had been longer.

We continued swimming south again to The Cove and then back north. We Swam into Carol and her pod. She greeted us with hugs and her usual warm smile.

We kept swimming North to the pier again. Once at the pier Becky pushed us more west towards a buoy. We stopped and talked a while. Becky reminisced on old training swims, also done with Kevin. Ken commented on me getting stronger and faster. He asked more about how I was feeling, and Kevin continued to keep my feeds at exactly six ounces every thirty minutes.

We swam south again to La Jolla Shores. Kevin had two large jugs of warm water in his car. He poured them over me. I apologized that I wouldn’t be able to do the same for him, and he laughed. “You just got done doing all the hard work! I didn’t expect you to!”

Ken and Becky went and rinsed off and changed; then they met us at our cars. We walked a couple of blocks to a nearby Mexican restraunt and had lunch. Ken and Kevin talked about swimming and a reunion party that kevin is planning. Becky and I talked about channel swims.

Once home my sleepiness wore off and I had a jolt of energy. I washed out all of my water bottles and did the rest of the dishes from the night before.