I was supposed to be swimming 36 miles down a river in North Dakota yesterday. Clearly, 2020 had other ideas. Like so many other athletes, I have had most of my planned events cancelled due to COVID-19.
Back in the latter part of 2019 (which honestly feels like a different century), I was looking forward to a summer spent training and working in Chicago. I decided to take advantage of this and plan a season of swims all mostly near the midwest. I was going to swim ENDWET in North Dakota and a 24 miler in Lake Michigan. I was going to keep my 2020 swim season “local”.
Fast forward to June 2020 and I have now been in California for 97 days and I am having to redefine local. I am planning a few exciting swims for later in the summer, all near to my Santa Monica playground (more details to come). I am making the most of this unexpected time at home and training as much as I can in the Pacific Ocean.
This weekend I made the most of being home by swimming a little over 7 hours in the ocean. On Saturday, I met up with my friends Katherine and Gino to start my planned 4 hour swim. We swam to the buoy where I attached my feeds and then headed a little over a mile south to the Venice breakwater, affectionately known as “the rocks”. The current was mildly flowing north, meaning we would get a slight push for our return trip. This first lap took a little over an hour and when we got back to the buoy, Gino swam into the beach and Katherine and I headed back to the rocks.
The second lap was pretty uneventful except for the unusually warm water and I started to think about how Katherine was going to have to leave after this lap and I would have to hope I could find some other people to swim with because I had promised my mom that I would never swim in the ocean alone. Just as Katherine and I were approaching the buoy, I saw a group of people that I know swimming back south. I quickly said goodbye to Katherine and turned back south with the group, choosing to skip my feed so that I wouldn’t have to catch up too much. We swam south to the rainbow tower, which is a little less than a mile from the buoy. When we stopped at rainbow, I realized my usual training buddy, Rebecca, was actually swimming with this group even though I thought she had decided not to swim that day. When the rest of the group went back towards the buoy, we continued south and swam to the rocks. I was very happy about this impromptu extension because I was hoping to complete 3 laps to the rocks.
When we arrived back at the buoy, I had been swimming for about 3 and a half hours and really wanted to swim for 4 full hours, but I had no friends to swim with anymore. The lifeguard tower was open, so I decided to pass the last 30 minutes doing laps between the beach and the buoy; each about 500 yards round trip. The water was so warm that I felt like I could keep swimming forever. I finished my last 30 minutes and headed into the beach satisfied with my patchwork 4 hour swim.
On Sunday, I planned to swim 3 hours but again needed to string together a series of people to keep me company. I met up with most of my usual Sunday group for the first trip to the rocks. The water was slightly cooler than yesterday but still warm. For the first lap, I was trying to find rhythm and shake off the soreness from my long swim yesterday. I was only moderately successful at finding rhythm, but the water was so flat that it was still a somewhat enjoyable lap.
After the first lap, Katherine joined me, Kristin, and Rebecca for another trip to the rocks. I enjoyed this lap much more and felt my body loosen up more. I pushed my pace on the way back, letting myself have fun in the glassy water. The conditions were so nice and I was just so grateful for the opportunity to swim. After that second lap, I still needed about 45 more minutes to reach 3 hours, but Katherine’s meter was going to run out and everyone else needed to be home.
Katherine and I decided that I would swim laps from the buoy to the shore and she would run to fill her meter so that we could keep swimming. As we were swimming in though, we ran into some of our SCAQ friends and Katherine told me to swim north to the pier with them and she would jog down the beach and meet up with us. This sounded like a perfect plan so I headed north with the SCAQ group and Katherine went to her car. When we were about 1/2 way to the pier, Katherine intercepted us and we set a speedy pace to the pier. At the pier we turned around to swim against the current back to the buoy.
As we approached the buoy, I built my pace and soon I was sprinting for the last couple 100 yards. It felt surprisingly good to sprint after months of not being in the pool. We swam into shore and I felt again like I could have kept swimming forever. I am certainly sore from the 7 combined hours of swimming, but also finally feeling like I am at a good place in my training.
So although I expected “local” to mean lots of Chicago lake swimming for 2020, it appears that staying local actually meant returning to my childhood home and spending the summer enjoying every minute I get to spent in the Pacific.