My training buddy Rebecca’s husband decided it would be fun to swim a 10k on January 1st to celebrate the new year. They invited me to join them because I have been known to enthusiastically take on crazy challenges. As a result, while most other Angelenos were still recovering from their New Year’s Eves, 7:30 am on January 1st saw Rebecca, Tony, Colin, and me gathered in the cold beach parking lot. The air temperature hovered around 36 degrees and there was frost on my windshield when I first got into my car, making me want to crawl back into my warm bed. But instead I drove through the crisp morning air to arrive at the beach. Even fully dressed in my uggs, sweats, and parka, I was cold as we walked down to the sand and questioned whether I could make the full 10k in the sub-60 water. The sand was burningly cold and none of us wanted to takes our clothes off so we procrastinated by putting our caps on first and finally stripped down to our suits. Although the weather was pretty calm at this point, Colin told us that strong winds were forecast for later that morning.
We walked down the beach and the 58 degree water actually felt warm on my feet compared to the 37 degree air. The water took my breath away, but we turned south to begin our swim. I tried to find a rhythm in my stroke but it was difficult in the cold water. Despite the temperature, the water was crystal clear and I enjoyed flying over the sandy bottom. For this first length, we swam as a pack; four swimmers in line sprinting across the sea. I felt like maybe we were swimming against a slight current, but the chop got so bad later that it became impossible to tell.
Each lap to the rock and back sums to about 2.4 miles, so our plan was to swim this distance twice and then go north to finish up the 10k. When we arrived back at Tower 26 after the first lap, Tony’s father met us in the surf line and threw us water bottles so that we could refuel without having to lose body heat in the wind. The water was so clear that diving under waves felt dreamlike as we re-crossed the surfline.
The water inside the surfline was colder than the outside and standing still for that time made me really cold and I had to sprint to regain my heat. As we headed back south, I began to break away from the others and felt like I was flying across the cool water. When I got back to the rocks, I knew I needed to swim to the far end while the others swam to the near end so that I could rendezvous with them without having to wait and get cold.
I realized why I felt so fast swimming down to the rock when we turned around and started swimming into heavy wind driven chop. I swam over to Rebecca to say “this is going to be fun” and then we began to slog against the angry water. She told me that our next stop would be the “Casa” on the north side of Tower 26. As we headed north I tried to remind myself to keep having fun, even as the water slapped me in the face and splashed into my mouth on many breaths. I was basically swimming by myself at this point as the choppy water made it difficult to see my friends even as I knew they were actually close by.
I started to approach the Tower and chop seemed to die down so I just kept pushing toward the large brick building on the shore that would tell me to turn around. I arrived parallel to the building and could not see any of the others around me so after spending a moment egg beater kicking to get a higher vantage point, I decided to turn around. Finally I saw two pink caps approaching and swam over to them, however, it was Tony and Colin and Rebecca was not with them. We finally found her past us towards the pier; she must have passed me after I had turned around because her watch told her she needed a bit more distance to hit 10k.
Together we turned back toward Tower 26 and swam the last length of our swim, still feeling as though we were swimming against the chop despite having changed direction. We surmised that the wind must have also changed direction. As if to celebrate the end of our swim, several dolphins began jumping out of the water not even 10 yards away. By this point my teeth were chattering and I was shivering and couldn’t wait to finish the swim. Rebecca, Colin, and I decided to zigzag into shore to increase our distance and finish the 10k, while Tony swam several hundred yards north to finish his swim. We lost track of him at this point and had a few nervous minutes locating him on the beach afterward.
Overall, this was a challenging swim mostly as a result of the cold but also the distance. This was Tony’s longest ocean swim and I am very proud of him for accomplishing his goal in the trying conditions. Despite how cold I was in the water, I actually rewarmed rather quickly after drying off. This swim served the important purpose for me of reminding me how much I love distance swimming and how satisfying it is to take on a challenge that seems daunting.