Today Natalie, Gino, and I embarked on another 8 mile swim accompanied by our amazing paddler Rebecca (who is also my crew captain for my actual swim). Rather than doing laps until we hit our goal distance like we did last weekend, this time we swam one large lap. After dropping off Rebecca and the kayak at the boat launch, Natalie, Gino, and I headed to find parking and meet her at the mouth of the marina. Our plan was to swim from Marina Del Rey to the Santa Monica Pier and back, a trip that is about 4 miles each way.
This swim presented several new mental and physical challenges that I had to learn to deal with. The first challenge was mostly environmental as the fog was so thick when we arrived that there were moments when all I could see was the two other swimmers and the kayak. I felt like we were swimming in circles as I had no point of reference to tell me even which way the shore was. Though I know this is good practice for the conditions of my Catalina swim, it was a very odd experience and required me to trust my kayaker completely (which I did).
Another environmental challenge for me on this swim was the cold. I don’t have a lot of body fat to provide warmth on these long swims so if we stop for some reason, I get cold very quickly. I was completely fine on the way to the pier, but after we turned around my hands and feet got very cold.
The current provided another interesting factor for this swim. The whole way to the pier, the conditions were very flat and beautiful and we made good progress. It felt like we were moving fast but I didn’t think too much of this until we reached the pier and Natalie told me that it had only take a little over and hour and a half to cover the 4 miles. This is significantly faster than our usual 2 miles/hour, so we knew we must have been swimming with the current and meaning we would have to fight the current for the return trip. While the current seemed moderate at first, it felt like it increased in intensity as we approached our exit point.
This was probably my most mentally challenging training swim yet and I had to find new ways to cope with the difficulty. I broke up the distance of the swim using landmarks to make it easier to wrap my mind around.The first leg was MDR jetty to Venice pier. The second was Venice pier to Venice breakwater. The third was Venice breakwater to Santa Monica pier. By breaking up how I thought about the swim, it became much easier to set smaller goals for myself.
This was the first training swim where I set up a feeding plan and tried to stick to it. I was not sure how the mixes I had tested in the pool would work out in open water, but it turned out well. I fed every half hour on a variety of drinks. I used individual 8oz bottles filled with either CarboPro mix or a mix of CarboPro and Yellow Gatorade. I also tried squeezable apple sauce as a treat and it worked perfectly, delicious and easy on the stomach. In the future I need to plan to consume more calories, but for this length swim my plan worked well.
Overall, it was a successful swim and I learned that even when I am freezing and sore and the weather is less than ideal, I can push through.