“I know I got your relay application, but when am I going to see your solo application?” Carol has a way of nudging you to do what you need to without pushing too hard. This was in April 2017 at the end of a swim camp run by Dan and Sal.
I thought about that conversation and smiled as I swam to shore at Doctors Cove on Catalina Island. I was relieved that I felt much calmer than I had on the “22-minute tantrum” 10 hour swim, and nothing like I did on the disastrous 3 hour turned 30 minute swim just days before the channel swim.
Becky started with me for the first 30 minutes; by then I was relaxed and comfortable. We also wanted to save some of her time as a buddy swimmer in case I needed her more at the end. An hour on and an hour off- Yiga and then Diana rotated in as buddy swimmers. I couldn’t see his face, but I could see his hands churning the water and hear the amazement in his voice as Kevin told him about bioluminescence. This was Yiga’s first time swimming in the channel, and he was loving it. By the time Diana was getting in I was starting to feel nauseous. Doing the math I knew I had been in for a few hours, but it felt like I’d only been in for a couple. My left forearm was cramped, I was nauseated, and I didn’t think I’d gone very far. After Diana got out it was easier for me to swim with my eyes closed. When they were closed the swirling of the bioluminescence stopped and the bait fish weren’t creating anymore fireworks in front of my face. With my eyes closed, though, I couldn’t tell where I was going and as soon as I’d open my eyes to sight on Kevin I felt awful again. I started throwing up. I swam and puked and puked and swam for two hours. I took some Zofran, but shortly after taking it I vomited again.
“I’m half way?” I asked Kevin hopefully.
“You’re more than half way,” he told me.
10 or so more miles really isn’t that far- I thought to myself. That’s just a few more hours. That’s 10-14 feeds. That’s not much. That doesn’t even fill my mesh bag. “Ok, I can do this.”
“Yes, you can. Just close your eyes, and maybe try squinting.” His external calm helped ease my internal combustion.
I put my head down and kept swimming. I replayed a conversation in my mind that I’d had with my grandmother the Thursday before the swim. She told me I’d visited the channel so many times that she was like my second home. That when I got in the water she was going to hug me, and carry me across safely. I felt safe and relatively calm for the entirety of the swim. That’s not to say I wasn’t tired and that things didn’t hurt. They did. But I was where I was supposed to be doing what I was supposed to be doing. This swim was magical. The channel felt alive. Gently holding me and swaying as I rolled with each stroke.
Before the next feed I asked for Becky to get in with me. Having her in made swimming with my eyes closed easier. With my eyes closed the bioluminescence wasn’t there to effect me, and with my eyes squinted I could easily see her glow stick and Kevin’s head lamp without the brightness of either one making me ill. Feeling better my pace picked up, and I was able to make up for some of the time I’d spent puking.
At daylight Kevin got out. As he got on to the boat I hoped there was a cheese sandwich waiting for him. After 8 hours of paddling, and listening to me vomit he most definitely deserved one.
Dan’s calm demeanor and quiet smile were most welcomed. As we swam along picking up trash and yelling stuff back and forth to the boat. I thought about how much I appreciated the weekend I spent at his swim camp. He had Vaseline for me in his pocket and ibuprofen when he heard my forearm had been cramped for most of the swim. Both items were enjoyed very much.
Breathing to the left I saw the boat. I could see my dad standing there. I don’t think he left the boats railing much during my swim. Even at night I could make out the outline of his hoodie. Having him watching me made me feel safe. Paula’s camera was flashing away. Hearing her familiar laugh reminded me of being in the pool. Becky flashed a white board at me, each time with something silly written on it. Later I saw that she took pictures of the whiteboard with her phrases and my responses written down. Carol smiled and yelled, “you’re doing great babe!” I loved that each of the people on the boat was there. They were all a huge part of me doing this. Yiga watched with Becky making jokes and laughing. I loved that they were having so much fun together. I saw Diana texting away. I knew that she was keeping Kyle, and a few others who’d asked, to be updated on my swim in the loop.
Yiga and Diana both swam with me one more time each. It was nice to see them both enjoying themselves in the water, and I appreciated their company. Diana only stayed in for half an hour because we were approaching the end of the swim and I needed one hour off so that Becky and Yiga could get in and swim a bit with me at the end.
Kevin got back in the water. I was happy to see him. He offered me some instructions, but I was tired and I could only do what I could do. He smiled calmly and we swam on. I was glad he was in for the last bit of my swim. He’s helped me so much in the last year and a half. I’m constantly filled with self doubt, and he’s always overflowing with kindness and encouragement.
I couldn’t see land, but it was “closer than crap” according to my dad. We were 1.2 nautical miles from shore. Becky and Yiga jumped back in. We swam together like we have 100 times before.
Dan paddled ahead for the landing and took a video. I exited the beach and saw Kyle. I was so happy that he was able to find us. He was there with flowers (as requested). I was sofa king tired by the time the swim was over.
Kevin towed me back to the boat behind his paddle board and we joked that I was flexing my feet to slow him down. Desitin was embedded in my pores, and I was tired. We grabbed a big bottle of dish soap and Becky helped me in the shower.
It was done. I swam the Catalina Channel September 7-8 in 11 hours 45 minutes, 8 hours in the dark, and I raised $3,240 for Sports for Exceptional Athletes to serve as scholarship money for an adapted swim team that I volunteer as a coach with.