My mom and I drove up to Santa Barbara this past weekend so that I could compete in the Semana Nautica 6 Mile Swim for the 5th year in a row! We spent Saturday exploring Santa Barbara and trying to stay cool in the 90+ degree heat. On Sunday, we arrived at Goleta beach and met up with my kayaker, Greg, before listening to a pre-race briefing. I had so many friends also competing in this event, and it was really fun to see everyone having fun and working hard.
The race began around 9:15am and I sprinted into the water, passing the white buoy marker on my left side and skirting the side of a large patch of kelp. I was ahead of most of the field, with 3 men ahead of me, including my training buddy Gino. As soon as we passed the end of the pier, I decided to crawl across the kelp, rather than try to swim around it, which would add at least 200 yards to my swim. While this was a gamble, it turned out to be a good choice, and I quickly met up with Greg and turned my attention to finding my pace.
I felt strong in the cool water and focused on smoothing out my stroke and letting my breathing calm down after the initial sprint from shore. I could see Gino’s brother, Michael, in the kayak ahead of me and a double kayak ahead of him, as my breathing steadied. The first 30 minutes went by quickly, and before I knew it, Greg was signaling that it was time for my first feed. While I was drinking, Greg told me that there were two swimmers ahead of me and two fairly even with me but way to our outside. There was a lot of kelp this year and many swimmers decided to stay far outside of it, but Greg took me on a more direct inside line, while still avoiding most of the kelp.
The water on the inside of the kelp bed was very calm, almost glassy, and I felt like I was making great time toward the finish. At the second feed, Greg told me that we were about halfway through the swim and that I was maintaining a slight lead over the other women in the field. I pushed on, trying to build my pace a little, and working hard to avoid having to crawl over any more kelp. The third feed came up quickly and I was still feeling good and enjoying the swim. The sweet GoGoSqueez applesauce was a welcome break from the salty water. I continued to fly across the water and began to near the point marking the entrance to Hendry’s beach and the finish line. When I took my fourth feed, Greg told me that I had about 3/4 of a mile left and that he could see the buoy at the finish. I started sprinting, gaining on the blue-capped swimmer ahead of me, who turned out to be a guy. I caught him as we neared the buoy, and we sprinted into the beach together. We crossed the surf line and sprinted up the beach, crossing the finish line together.
I finished tied for 3rd place overall and was the first woman to finish the race. I am so grateful to my mom Natalie for all her support this weekend and to my paddler Greg for his amazing guidance. This swim felt so strong and I am very excited to see what I can accomplish next weekend in Manhattan. If you want to follow along during that race, please see track.rs/abby/ and track.rs/nyow/.