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.

Slow Swimming 

Yesterday’s swim was slower than my last long swim, but I slipped into that day dreamy not really thinking about anything state of mind more easily and effectively than I have before. I thought about our Catalina relay that’s coming up in a few weeks and how excited I am to cheer for my friends as we swim. I thought about a long swim I’ll be doing with my coach in a couple of weeks, and how thankful I am for his expertise, kindness, and patience. 
For a brief time I worried about being tired for a race on Tuesday, but I tuned out the negative thoughts and focused back to where I presently was. I didn’t need to worry. I was exactly where I was supposed to be, and doing just what I was supposed to be doing. 

Happy Swimming 

A couple of weeks ago I attended an Open Water Swim Camp in La Jolla, CA. It was led by Sally Minty-Gravett MBE and Dan Simonelli. We had a lot of fun talking all things swimming: nutrition, goal setting, adventure, mindfulness, and the love of the sport. 

The first day of the clinic, Saturday, I woke up feeling like I was going to vomit. My anxiety was through the roof. I was worried that I’d be the slowest person there and that I’d either get left behind, or hold the group back. 

Instead of allowing myself to be consumed by my own emotions though I grabbed my prepacked bags and drove the 25 minutes to my favorite swimmy place. Once there Dan greeted me warmly as he always does, he’s one of the most kind people you’ll ever meet. Sally introduced herself to me- though I was already aware of who she was, because of her recent two way English Channel crossing. I then met Joan and Karen- who is my long lost mer-sister. 

It was cool and drizzly. The surf was high, but the sea was welcoming. We swam south from La Jolla Shores towards the caves and the cove. Due to the rough conditions we only swam about a mile, but it was great. That afternoon we had a pool session where Sally critiqued our strokes (she kept on me to lengthen my stroke. Ha! A familiar plea often repeated by my coach, Kevin). Late in the afternoon when the sun was low and the wind was howling Dan talked about opportunities and how taking them and using them as learning tools is so important. I didn’t want to swim that night. The air was cold, I was cold, and I was tired. I remembered Dan’s words about using the opportunities as learning experiences and I looked at Karen and we changed back into our bathing suits. We attached lights and glow sticks to the backs of our goggles and tip toed in. Swimming in the ocean is always a little eerie- what sees me that I don’t see? The sea is so huge and it makes me feel so small. Swimming at night was an all new experience. Being face down in the water in the dark deprives you of your senses. We dove under waves and our glow sticks lit up the white wash. I kept close to Dan- again not wanting to get left behind. I kicked him,  swallowed a mouthful of water, and then dunked him when I got tossed by a wave. It was great. We were only in for about 20 minutes, but it was one of those great learning opportunities. 

I drove home and fell asleep quickly. When I woke up I was excited for our long kayak assisted swim. We met Sunday morning at La Jolla Shores. The water was still chilly (55-56f), but again this was an opportunity. Karen and I swam south to the cove and then back north towards the shores where Dan met up with us in his Kayak. We swam further south to Scripps Pier and then part way back to the cove and finally we made it back to the shores again. At one point I told Dan I was only going to swim 2.5 hours, he looked at me and said how about 3? It was only half an hour longer than I anticipated, so I agreed. We only swam about 4 miles, but we were in the water for roughly 3 hours and 10 minutes. We showered, ate, drank, and shared more laughs. 

The weekend ended and I felt like I could take on anything.