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
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
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
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.
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!
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
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
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!
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.