As part of my training for my July 25th Catalina Channel Crossing, I am swimming in the ocean 2-3 times per week in addition to pool sessions, both for endurance and cold water conditioning. I usually do a 2 hour swim on Wednesday followed by a longer 3-5 hour Saturday swim plus one other day. Last Saturday, I completed my longest swim to date: a 7 mile (3.5hr) swim in Redondo beach. This swim tested both my cold water skills as well as my ability to continue even with inadequate food (our feeding plan was compromised due to problems with kayak support).
Today, I learned lessons in flexibility and perseverance that can be applied to my Catalina swim. This swim was characterized by extremes. The water was at times gorgeous and at others full of nasty seaweed, at times warm enough go at cruise speed and at others so cold that it was necessary to sprint. The ability to constantly adapt to a changing environment is part of what makes open water swim such a challenging and exhilarating sport. There are no lane ropes, walls or black lines to guide you.
When we got to our normal spot in Santa Monica, there were dolphins visible just beyond the break. We headed South as usual even though the water was really cold and soupy with seaweed. Though we hoped it would eventually clear up, it soon became evident that continuing south would not yield better conditions. With this in mind, we turned back North towards the pier. Soon, the water cleared up and coincidentally got a great deal warmer. At this point, I began to hear high pitched squeaks in the water, but convinced myself I was imagining things mostly because the idea of any large creatures near me was scary. As the squeaks grew louder, I knew there must be dolphins very close by in the water. Suddenly, a dolphin swam directly underneath me and another swam in front of us a few seconds later. Seeing these powerful creatures help to remind me of the vastness of the ocean that we swim in. The ocean belongs to the dolphins, we just borrow it. Such an awesome encounter helps remind me why I choose to swim in open water; to have new experiences and find new challenges everyday.