English Channel Details

I completed my last long training swim this morning and am now starting my taper! My team and I leave for England in just over a week and I could not be more excited! Since my swim is drawing closer, I figured I should answer some of the most common questions I have been receiving from my friends, family, and supporters.

When will I swim?

I will most likely swim between July 29th and August 6th, depending on the weather. I am booked on a neap tide (which is when there is the least change between high and low tide), but the ultimate deciding factor is good weather. I will swim on the first good weather day offered to me by my boat pilot. You can follow my swim on the CS and PF site or my tracker.

How far is it across the channel?

It is 21 miles across the channel in a straight line, but currents will push me and increase the swim distance.

What will I wear?

According to the Channel Swimming and Piloting Federation, I am allowed to swim in one regular swim suit, one cap, and one pair of goggles. Yep, this means no wetsuits allowed! I will also be putting on a layer of grease (1/2 vasoline, 1/2 lanolin) to help with chafing from the salt water.

Who is coming to England with me?

My crew for England includes my mom Natalie, my coach Kim Bierwert, and my friend/teammate/support swimmer/channel mama Paige! My training buddy Rebecca and her family will also be in England at the same time!

Will I swim alone?

For the majority of the swim, I will be the only swimmer in the water, but Paige will jump in to support me from time to time!

What will I eat?

I will follow the same feeding plan I used for my Catalina swim. I will feed every 30 minutes, starting from the beginning of the swim. My feeds are either carbopro (which basically tastes like sugar water) or applesauce. While I do stop to tread water for a few seconds to feed, I am not allowed to touch the boat or receive any assistance.

Are there sharks?

While there are sharks in British waters (it is the ocean after all), the water is generally too cold for the large scary sharks we get here in California. Jellyfish are certainly a more pressing concern in the channel!

Will I have a boat with me?

I will be accompanied by the Gallivant and Captain Mike Oram. My mom, my coach Kim, and Paige will also be on my boat, as will an observer from the swim federation.

I am getting very excited to head over to England and hope you will be able to experience my journey with me!

 

20 mile weekend part 2: 6 mile race

Following my 14 mile training swim on Saturday, my mom and I headed up to Santa Barbara for 6 mile race on Sunday morning. We got to the beach around 7:45 in the morning and I stretched out and met my kayaker Greg. I warmed up and then we had a brief safety meeting before lining up at the water’s edge. The kayakers were out at the buoy waiting for us and the race director blew her whistle to signal the start of the race. I sprinted out to the buoy, staying ahead of most people but also knowing that I would pass some people later on because I have stamina but not easy sprint speed. I rounded the buoy at the end of the pier and met up with my kayaker before turning south and swimming parallel to shore. I was swimming with the shore to my left and the kayak to my right and it was fun to watch the shoreline pass by. Greg stopped me for the first feed and I was surprised how short the first half hour felt and also how smooth and strong I felt in the water.

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Course map.

After the first feed we realized that I kept drifting to my left so I switched to Greg’s other side so that he could stop me from turning to the left. This worked much better and we kept making progress along the course. I couldn’t see very many other swimmers but Greg had told me that I was probably in around 7th place with two people way ahead of me and a small group of people just ahead. I picked up my pace a little, hoping to get closer to the group ahead of me.

The water seemed flat and the kelp was lying flat, pointing south, meaning that the current was favorable. At the 1 hour feed Greg told me that we were about halfway and that I was looking strong. I was feeling powerful in the water, almost as if I had not swam 14 miles the previous day. My stroke had good rhythm and was flying through the salty water. Soon I was at the 3rd feed and Greg could see that I was feeling a little discouraged that I hadn’t yet caught the group ahead, so he told me to shoot for a personal best time on this course.

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My route from this weekend.

This encouragement revitalized me and I kept pushing forward. I was swimming over kelp now and when I sighted forward I could see the bluff at the finish. There two swimmers just ahead of me and I swam a little faster. I swam even with them and eventually passed them. I could see another swimmer off to my right just behind me, and although I couldn’t see who it was, I imagined that it was my friend Jessica. This motivated me to swim a

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Me and Jessica at the finish.

little faster even though I was finally feeling tired from the mileage of the weekend. I sprinted around the buoy and realized that it was Jessica just behind me. We raced each other into the beach and across the finish line. I finished in 2:13.38 and Jessica finished in 2:13.52, placing 6th and 7th overall and 3rd and 4th for women. It was so much fun to race my friend and a huge confidence builder to swim so much mileage within 36 hours and feel good doing it. I also finally got the chocolate chip pancakes I had dreamt about yesterday! A giant thank you to my mom for supporting me this weekend, I couldn’t have done it without you!

20 mile weekend part 1: 14 mile training swim

This past weekend was my last weekend of heavy training before I start to taper for my English Channel crossing. My goal was to swim a total of 20 miles, split between two days. On Saturday, Rebecca and I set out to swim 14 miles, which would be my longest training swim ever to date. We launched from the Marina Del Rey jetty just after 6am, with our friend Melissa escorting us in the kayak, and headed north toward the Venice Pier. The water was flat and calm and felt warm on skin as we swam. I felt like I was flying through the water as I tried to find my rhythm. We passed the Venice Pier and Melissa stopped us for our first feed.

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Rebecca and me taking our first feeds.

I was surprised that the first 30 minutes had passed so quickly and I was feeling great. We continued to swim north to the Venice rock pile and I marvelled at how beautiful the ocean looked and felt. We were soon passing the rock pile and my muscles were loosening up even more and I was still feeling strong.

We took our second feed about halfway to the Tower 26 buoy and I thought about how I don’t think twice about swimming this far but I would never consider running it. I heard a dolphin through the water and looked up to see two fins disappearing off to my left. The Santa Monica Pier was looking really close and I was feeling strong and excited! At the pier, Rebecca’s watch told us we had swam just over 4 miles so we turned around and headed back south.

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Even though we had felt that we were being pushed north by the current, we didn’t really feel like we were fighting it heading back south. Around 3 hours, I started to feel a little stiff but I kept pushing on and humming songs to myself. I was also feeling somewhat hungry so I started planning all the food I could eat when I finished swimming. I decided that nothing sounded better than a neopolitan shake from In-N-Out and I told Melissa that at the next feed. She smiled and then handed me my carbo pro (not quite a shake but still good).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe got back to Marina Del Rey just before 4 hours and turned around to head back north for our second shorter lap. I was still feeling warm and enjoying myself swimming between Rebecca and Melissa in the kayak.

We finally reached the tower 26 buoy again and Rebecca’s watch told us we had covered 11 miles, so we could turn around and finish our last stretch back to the pier. Though my body was tired, I still felt strong and was making steady progress through the water. We passed the Venice Pier again and entered the last stretch of water that usually feels like it takes forever to get through. I decided that maybe I wanted chocolate chip pancakes instead of a shake and focused on that while I swam.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA I could see the Marina Del Rey breakwater in the distance and pressed on toward my goal. I sprinted the last few hundred meters to the breakwater and when I got there I was so excited to be done. Except Melissa told me that I wasn’t done because I was 4 minutes away from 7 hours. I turned back north and swma some backstroke until I had reached the intended end time. I swam into the beach, happy to be done with the swim but also feeling like I could have kept swimming if I’d needed to.

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Map of our swim.

This was my longest training swim ever at just over just over 14 miles and 7 hours. It was a huge confidence builder to swim this far and not feel super wiped and sore afterward. I am so greatful for Rebecca and Melissa for making this such a low stress and well executed swim. In other news, I leave for England in just under 2 weeks and cannot wait to get over there and continue working toward my goal.

 

 

11 Mile Training Swim

This past weekend, Rebecca and I planned a 10 mile swim with my cousin Maddy escorting us in a kayak. We arrived in Marina Del Rey around 6 AM on Sunday and weather was warm with clear skies. The current was still flowing north so we knew we were going to have to fight it on the way back.

We entered the water right at the Marina Del Rey jetty and when I was about up to my knees in the water I saw a large stingray swim past so I reminded Maddy and Rebecca to shuffle their feet. As we started heading towards the Venice pier, I felt smooth and strong in the cool water. After we rounded the Venice pier, Maddy gave us our first feed and I was still feeling strong in the water. I really felt like I was flying in the current and we kept heading towards the Venice rock pile and the Santa Monica pier.

Soon we were passing the Tower 26 buoy and heading towards the Santa Monica Pier. I started to get a little nervous because I’d never actually swam anywhere north of the pier. Up to this point all my training had taken place on the southside of the Santa Monica Pier. We rounded the pier staying clear of the fishing lines and decided to try swimming outside of the rocks that are remnants of the old harbor and old pier. We were pretty far out at this point and I was starting to get a little nervous so I stayed really close to Maddy in the kayak. After we had passed the rocks, it began to get cooler.

 We kept swimming north and eventually reached the ocean in front of the Annenberg Beach House and stopped for a feed. At this point Rebecca checked her watch and said we had gone about 5 1/4 miles and we had been in the water about two hours and 15 minutes. So we turned around and immediately realized that we were fighting the current. It seemed to take forever to get back to the Santa Monica Pier, even though we stayed inside the rocks this time. Maddy said a lifeguard on the pier yelled at us to stay away but I was oblivious and just enjoying how beautiful everything looked and how great I felt in the water.

We turned a little bit toward shore and kept swimming and eventually we were even with the Tower 26 buoy and took another feed at this point. We were about 3 1/2 hours into the swim now and I was feeling great. I was reminded why i choose to do this sport and felt altogether wonderful in the water. However this soon changed as it took forever to reach the Venice Pier. I still felt pretty strong, though, and we pressed on eventually rounding the Venice rock pile and heading towards the pier.

The last mile from the Venice Pier back to the marina Del Rey breakwater is always the most miserable part of the swim. It is just a mile but it feels like it takes an hour and there are no good landmarks along the shore so it feels like you’re never moving. You can see the bottom a lot of the time but we kept swimming and eventually we were near the breakwater!

Overall, this was probably one of the strongest and also the most enjoyable training swims I’ve had this whole summer. We swam for five hours and 5 minutes and covered almost  11 miles in distance. That’s pretty good considering we had one or two stops along the way. I am so grateful to Maddy for being our fearless navigator and also for Rebecca for keeping me company and being my training buddy this whole summer.

I have a few more long training swims planned before I leave for England and am feeling very good about my training. After that I get to begin tapering for my swim. I am looking forward to the rest of my training and cannot wait to see what I can accomplish.

Seal Beach Rough Water Swim 2017

This morning, my mom, my cousin, and I headed down to Seal Beach for the Seal Beach Rough Water Swim. The last time I competed in this race was in 2015, before I was seriously training in open water or completing open water marathons. I was really excited to see how I would perform in the race this year compared to the 2015 race.

The beach was foggy and windy, so I made the decision to not get in the water before the start because I didn’t want to freeze on the beach. The race director gave us a pre-race talk and described the course

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3 Mile and 1 Mile course maps

and then sent the kayakers into the water to wait for us. I watched my kayaker Maddy battle the 6-7 foot surf and thought about how brave she was to be kayaking through the waves. Soon, they started the race and I entered the water, carefully picking my way over the sticks in the shallow water. The frothy water was filled with seaweed and my suit also filled with the slimy green kelp. I sprinted to the first triangle buoy, lifting my head to find Maddy among the kayakers.

I found her quickly and we turned north to the next triangle buoy. The water felt warm and my stroke started to smooth out as we rounded the buoy and headed back toward the other jetty. The race seemed to be going by much faster than in my memory, probably because I have spent so much time training in open water. We turned at the third buoy and aimed back for the pier. I saw another swimmer behind me, so I picked up my pace and

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Celebrating after both races

continued to head for the pier. As I rounded the pier, Maddy signalled that she would continue away from me so that she could exit the water farther down the beach. I sprinted along the pier and drifted pretty far north, even though I was heading for the shoreline. I passed the surfline and swam through the super kelpy water again to the shore. I sprinted up the beach and through the finish chute, where they handed me a popsicle stick and told me that I had finished fourth overall and first for women.

My mom told me that I had about seven minutes until the start of the 1 mile race. I rinsed off quickly and did my best to get the kelp out of my suit, before heading to the start line. They blew the whistle and we ran out into the water aiming for the same triangle buoy. I tried to increase my tempo but seemed to be stuck in my rhythm from the 3 mile race. I swam around the course and into the finish, grateful that I was done for the day. I won my age group so that was exciting, considering how bad I felt during the 1 mile race. A huge thanks to my mom and Maddy for supporting me today!

Catalina Relay Recap

Yesterday my amazing teammates and I completed our 18 hour, 40 mile double relay crossing of the Catalina Channel! I am still kind of in shock about what we were able to accomplish by working together as a team. I’ll let the other swimmers tell you about their swims and I’ll take this time to recount my experience on the boat and in the water.

Around 3pm Friday we loaded up the cars with people and supplies and headed down to Cabrillo Marina, enjoying the

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Listening to pre-swim briefing.

Friday afternoon traffic. It took us about an hour to reach the marina and by that time we were all very ready to be out of the cars and get dinner. We quickly unloaded the cars and loaded everything onto our boat, the Bottom Scratcher. By 6:30 we were pulling away from the dock and heading to Terranea for the start. I started to get ready to jump in the water since I would be swimming the first leg of the relay. Jax got into her kayak to escort me into shore. As I was standing on the boat about to swim into the beach for the start, Jax looked up at me and said, “this is just the warmup,” which made me smile so I counted to three and dove into the water. I swam toward the beach, thinking back to the end of my crossing last year and ahead toward our new adventure.

I climbed up the rocks and Forrest helped me pick out a nice flat dry rock to

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Raising my arm to signal the start (sorry for the poor image quality).

stand on. I raised my arms to signal the start (around 7:31pm) and waded out into the water, choosing my footing carefully so that I didn’t slip on the mossy rocks. I did a bellyflop into the water and started to sprint in the direction of the boat. I could hear the team cheering me on from the boat and I could see Jax smiling at me from the kayak. The water felt warm and I guess that the temperature was maybe 62-63 degrees. The sea was choppier than I expected and I did my

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The relay team cheers me on during my first leg!

best to hold my pace while waves crashed over me. As I settled into a rhythm, my strokes felt strong and I began to fly over the water. I began to wonder if Jax was going to let me know when I had reached the halfway point because time can be weird when you are in open water. Jax finally yelled that I was halfway so I upped my tempo and made the choice to start enjoying myself. I smiled into the water and marvelled at the beauty of swimming at sunset. Every once in awhile, my suit would fill with stinging sea lice and I decided to warn the other swimmers before they got in the water. As the sky grew darker, I hoped I would be swapped out soon because I didn’t have any lights on me and I was worried about swimming in the dark without a glowstick. Jax held her hand up to tell me I had five more minutes, so I sprinted and soon I saw Rebecca hopping off the back of the boat to tag me out. She swam up from behind me and tagged my hand. I swam back to the boat and Rebecca started her leg of the relay. Once back on the boat, I took a quick shower and climbed into a bunk to sleep until my next turn.

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Swimming next to Jax on my first leg.

I woke up when I heard Charlotte hopping into the water, knowing it was my turn next. This time, it was completely dark (around 1:30am), so I put a little green light on my goggle strap and a glow stick on the back of my suit. As soon as the boat captain gave me the “clear!” I jumped into the dark water and went to tag Charlotte’s hand. Melissa was in the kayak now and I tried to keep a good distance between myself and the kayak so that I wouldn’t hit it in the pitch black. When I breathed to one side I could see the glow sticks on the kayak and when I breathed to the other side I was blinded by the lights on the boat. I felt a few more jellies sting me and I tried to focus on the beauty of the ocean at night. The time seemed to pass quicker in the dark and before I knew it Rebecca was jumping off the boat to take over. I swam back to the boat and took another nap in my warm bunk. I woke up about halfway through my nap to watch Eliza complete the turnaround at Catalina at 8 hours and 16 minutes!

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Getting ready for my third swim leg.

I slept again until Charlotte was in the water and this time when I came onto the deck it was light out, even though it was foggy. One of the captains of our boat is famous for playing the bagpipes at sunrise and I couldn’t believe I had slept through it completely. I jumped into the water and marvelled at how blue it looked now that the sun was up. I saw salps underneath me and thought that they looked like dumplings stuck together, floating below me. There was a problem with the kayak, so I had to tread water for a few minutes until that was worked out. Once we got going again, I really started enjoying myself during this swim and swam 2.2 miles even with the delay. I could not get over how beautiful everything was and I had the thought “this is why I do this sport.” I could see Rebecca getting ready to hop in and she came and tagged me out.

I got back onto the boat and watched Rebecca swim, wondering if I’d get to swim again in the sunlight. I didn’t sleep this time and had so much fun watching all my friends swim their legs. When Charlotte was

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Stretching before my last swim.

in the water for her last leg, we had gone through 3 rotations of the relay and I wasn’t sure of she would finish or if I would get in for the last little bit. Because we could only swim for 1 hour each, I would be doing the finish even though Charlotte had gotten us so close. I got ready to get in the water, this time wearing my Smith suit and cap. I jumped in and tagged Charlotte out. Jax and I turned toward shore and I swam about 6 minutes to the beach. I climbed gingerly back up onto the slippery rocks at Terranea, thinking about how cool it was that I had been in the same spot almost exactly 18 hours

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Raising my arms at the finish.

before. I raised my arms to signal the finish and quickly headed back into the water to swim in again with the rest of my team. We all hugged on the beach and just stood there taking in our accomplishment!

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Hugging on the beach.

We swam back to the boat and turned to head back to the marina.

I am so glad that this relay took place halfway through my English Channel training because I am reminded of my goals and why I choose to do these crazy things. I think my training will be revitalized by this swim. I am so inspired by my incredible teammates and will use this unprecedented synergy experience. By bringing together our drive and determination, we were able to set the record as the first ever all-women relay team to complete a double crossing of the Catalina Channel.

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Seven Sisters Catalina 2x Relay Preview

Our Catalina Relay is set to launch in about half a day and it’s been a whirlwind of training swims and planning meetings. It’s basically been like one giant swimming themed slumber party here at my house, as we wait to start our swim! If you’ve been following us on social media,  you will have seen the bios of each swimmer and kayaker, and know the amazing group of women I am so lucky to be swimming with! Here are some things you may be wondering about the relay.

1. When and where will we start?

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The relay will start at 8pm tonight at Terranea beach on the California mainland. We will swim to Catalina overnight, in hopes of landing at Doctor’s Cove in daylight. We will then turn around and head back to Terranea.

2. So it’s a relay, how does that work?

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Each relay member swims for one hour at a time, rotating in the same order every six hours. I will be staring us off at Terranea, so will swim hours 1, 7, 13, 19… and so one until we finish. We must swim in the same order the whole time and each swim for exactly hour allotted hour. When making a relay exchange, the new swimmer must swim up behind the leaving swimmer and give them a high five. Just like with a solo swim, relay swimmers cannot use the kayak or anything else for support, while they are swimming their leg of the relay. When we finish a leg of the relay, we must return to the boat until our next swim.

3. How can you support?

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You can follow our tracker here and cheer us on from wherever in the world you may be! If you happen to be in the Los Angeles area and want to come watch the finish, contact my mom Kim Bergman to coordinate! I am so excited for this relay and cannot wait to see what we accomplish together!