Before I forget the details, I’d like to jot down a very brief account of my very brief attempt to swim the Catalina Channel. This is mainly for my records.
I didn’t make it all the way across this time.
Personally I’m actually very encouraged by my experience, but I feel bad for my crew who went to enormous lengths to help me out on what turned out to be a short swim.
In brief, I think I only swam a little under an hour and a half.
Although the water was about 63 (my guess), glassy, and the air about 60, I got very very cold to the core. I can normally warm myself up after an hour, but was unable to do so even with the warm feeds my wonderful crew was throwing at me. I started shaking uncontrollably after an hour, something I’ve never experienced in act of swimming (after getting out is another story). It scared me. I couldn’t kick properly, which for me means I couldn’t swim. I really didn’t think I was going to be able warm up at that point. I am sorry to say that I bailed. All I wanted to do was go home and see the kids.
I know now I probably would have been ok if I’d stayed in and swum hard for another half an hour. “What ifs” are a waste of time though.
I regret getting out of the water, but I’ll never regret getting in.
I’ve had a pretty rough year. Those close to me know why. Although everything has turned out well, I’m exhausted and still recovering from a lot of stress. I’m not sure if it made any difference, but I experienced several sleepless nights with night sweats prior to my swim. These are not excuses, but possible contributing factors to my not coping with a temperature that I could normally settle into for a good, long swim. I don’t like to analyse too much, but my guess is that my mind, body and heart had just had enough for 2011 and chose a really expensive time to let me know.
Prior to the cold part, I enjoyed a very unique and wonderful swim from the Bottom Scratcher to the shore at Doctor’s Cove on Catalina Island and back again.
For those not familiar with channel swims (myself until very recently!), the swimmer most often jumps from the pilot boat, swims to the nearby shore of the starting land point, clears the water, then begins the swim by reentering the water.
Jumping in was easy, but then I’m the person who jumped off a bridge in New Zealand about five minutes after bungee jumping was invented, just because I had a crowd chanting “jump” at me.
I knew I was jumping (well, flopping) into a thick sea of kelp. It was very clearly visible under the full moon and I knew to expect it. The kelp was interesting. I thought I’d be afraid, but it felt good. The weed was so thick that I swam head up towards shore, getting used to the experience. The stems wound themselves around my arms at each stroke but were easy to unravel. I used the kelp to pull myself forward many times. I could see a dancing shadow on the shore (the pilot boat had a spotlight on the beach) and thought perhaps it was a sea lion. I said as much to my kayaker, Beth and we agreed, but then had a laugh when it turned out to be the shadow of her paddle.
The water felt lovely. Not cold. Very soft and welcoming.
I swam to the shore at Doctors’ Cove, walked on the smooth pebbles until they were dry, raised my arm and then walked back towards the water. It was dark but only one night before the full moon. There was sparkling light everywhere. When I reached the waterline I dropped my arm to indicate the swim had started.
My swim began. I was facing the moon and the shining water. Once the Bottom Scratcher turned off the spot light I felt like I was in an aquarium. There was nothing frightening about it. It was simply wonderful. I had time to consider what I’d do if I were to become afraid. I followed the advice of fellow Point Swimmer, Ted Erikson and closed my eyes. It didn’t make any difference because I wasn’t scared. I had no need to sight because Beth’s kayak was festooned with glowsticks, but I chose to do so on a few occasions because of the beauty of the water in front of me.
The best part of my swim was the chance to see some friends that I’ve really missed lately. I also made new friends. Swimmers are without doubt the best people I know.
Evan Morrison: I treasure you. You have no idea.
Robbie D: the best warmer upperer of sobbing swimmers ever! I’m sorry if I snotted your beard. xxx
ps I feel like bailing a swim again just so I can have a cuddle.
Michelle Nelson: came all the way from Florida to help a friend. much love from Chicago xxxxxxx you are doing an extraordinary job with your kids
Sue Free: thanks for coming all the way from San Francisco!
Beth Barnes: SO glad I got to sign the paddle!
Lynne Driscoll, Anne Cleveland, Liz Fry, Randy Nutt, Leigh Ann Doherty, and many more… have been so lovely and helpful. None of this is lost, despite the DNF.
I’ll be back for another attempt. i might try something else next year just for a change, but I’ll be back.