Last week, my mom and I headed down to Coronado so that I could swim around the island twice very early on Thursday morning. Coronado is a a pseudo-island connected to the mainland by a thin strip of highway, so a “circumnavigation” of Coronado starts in the bay on one side of the highway and finishes at a beach on the other side of the highway. Because my swim was a double, I started in the bay, cleared the water at the beach, and swam back to finish in the bay.
Because this swim is particularly dependent on tides, our splash time was 12:30am to capitalize on a strong ebb tide out of the bay. I always try to sleep during the day when I have night splash time, but I am not always successful. On this trip, I managed to sleep from 1pm to 9pm in our cozy (if very creepy) hotel room. My mom could not believe I slept for 8 hours in the middle of the day.
After my full day of sleep, my mom and I met up with Jax (Cole) and Steve (Chase) at the Glorietta Bay boat ramp at 11:30pm on July 13th to prepare to hit the water and head around the island. As we were preparing, Jax showed me how far the water had already receded; the ebb had started and we needed to get going. I don’t like to start swims dry so I always make sure to get wet before the start if I can and splash around a little bit. After splashing around a little bit I went back up to the dry part of the little stretch of sand and waited for Jax and Steve to get in the water and tell me to go. I stood on the beach and looked out across the water toward the bridge. I don’t love swimming at night and I was glad that the city lights prevented it from being truly black. When Jax told me to go, I walked into the water, a cloud of little fish scattering in front of me and started to swim toward the bridge between Jax and Steve. The water at this point was probably around 67 degrees but the darkness made it seem colder. I focused on finding my stroke and relaxing because swimming in the dark can make me jumpy.
I settled into my rhythm with Steve on my left and Jax on my right and we headed off toward the lit-up bridge. We stopped for the first feed right after the bridge and I was surprised that 30 minutes had already passed because the first 30 minutes often feels very long. After the bridge, we passed over a shallow section and in the low light I could see how fast we were moving in the current. It was very cool to see the lit up boats and experience swimming in such a fast ebb. I would occasionally forget about the current and then sight forward and notice a pole or buoy speeding towards me (in reality we were the ones moving) and be reminded of the speed with which we were being sucked out of the bay. The water got cooler in patches as we rounded the island and I wished I had figured out a way to have heated feeds. I hate swimming it patchy temperature water because the warmer patches manage to make the colder water feel even colder and it is hard to find a rhythm but I told myself it would even out eventually (even though I had no idea).
I could see just enough of the island to try to guess where we were but in truth had no idea and found the low light very disorienting. More than once, I broke my rule and asked Jax where we were but even knowing didn’t help orient me. I knew when we reached the Navy part of the island because there were large, lit up military boats on the shore. I wondered what anyone on board might think if they saw us swimming along.
Eventually, we came into a channel where I could see land fairly close on both sides of the water and I thought that we must be in the area between Point Loma and Coronado. I kept looking for the Jetty but I honestly did not see it until we rounded the rocky outcropping at the end of the jetty, and entered the open ocean portion of the swim. I was most nervous about this section because it would be the least protected and I was grateful to be able to swim between Steve and Jax. When we were about a half an hour past the jetty, something suddenly swam underneath me and I popped my head up and said to Steve, “something just swam under me!” He said that it was a seal and just saying hello. Even knowing this, it made me nervous. The seal popped up in my face maybe three more times and made me jump every time but I just kept heading toward the lights on the shore. I knew that we had rounded the jetty at around 2 hours 30 minutes, so I set myself the goal of getting to the beach as close to 4 hours as possible. While I was still feeling pretty good, the idea that I would have to turn around and do it again was daunting and I thought about what it would be like to just walk up on the sand and be done. Instead, I focused on swimming feed to feed and making as much progress as possible within each 30 minutes. I was sighting forward more often than I should have but the buildings on shore did seem to be getting closer.
Soon I could see glistening sand beyond the dark water. Jax told me that I needed to leave the water past the last condo building, so I needed to swim more along the beach before approaching the surf. Suddenly I saw another kayaker approaching out of the dark and realized I must be close if Sidney was already joining us. I knew that this beach could have a lot of stingrays so I made sure to be careful getting in to shore and planned to not stand up until I was very very shallow. Though I was very worried about stingrays, I did not encounter any and actually scraped the sand with my fingers before standing up. I could see my mom standing on the beach and walked up to where she waited on the dry sand. After Jax told me that I was clear for the first lap, I had a drink of warm water, ate half a waffle, and put on some more grease.
Because I was still pretty chilly, I did not want to spend too much time on the beach so I headed straight back into the water. Although the surf had been tiny on my exit from the first lap, the set was more sizable now and I was very grateful for my many dark start swims with Rebecca and Shirley for preparing me to go through surf in the dark. I dove under a wave and started swimming again, this time with Steve on one side and Sidney on the other. It had taken me just under 2 hours to reach the beach from the end of the jetty and I knew I would be slower to get back to the jetty but I set myself the goal to get there by 6 hours and 30 minutes. The sun was coming up now and I was happy to be able to see a bit better.
When sighting forward, I could now see Point Bonita looming ahead of me and knew that I would soon be able to see the end of the jetty and turn back into the bay. Off to my left, there was a building that looked like a house just floating out in the water. As the sun came up, I warmed a bit and focused on getting to the jetty, since this was the part of the swim that I expected to drag the most. We eventually rounded the jetty and we saw a big military ship sailing into the bay on our left. It as very strange to be passing spots in daylight that I had already swum past in the night because everything looked so different but I was much more oriented in daylight.
As we rounded the jetty, I felt the water get patchy and cold again but I was still feeling okay, so it didn’t bother me as much as before. I felt like I was not moving as quickly as before, but I couldn’t tell if I was slowing down of if the flood current was just not as fast as the ebb had been. Because the island is curved, I kept feeling like around the next bridge I would be able to see the bridge and know where I was, but that kept not happening. We had to stay farther our from shore than planned because the Navy was parking their big boat, but we were still making steady progress.
A few motor boats went past us and we were bounced around in some big wake. Finally, we came around another corner and I spotted the bridge in the distance up ahead. This was good because it provided motivation to get there, but also showed me how far I still had to go. I asked Steve how long I had until I hit the bridge and he said he thought 45 minutes, but it ended up being much longer because we had been counting on the current. Around this time, I started to feel the current push dropping out and I worried about having to fight the current to finish. I knew that Dan (Simonelli) had told me that as long as I was within a mile of the bridge by a certain time, that I would be ok. But I could not remember what time that was. I kept inching toward the bridge and could see that the bottom had gotten shallow and visible again. I tried to see what direction the sea grass was pointing to know which way the current was flowing but it was too hard to tell.
I finally swam under the bridge and we turned it Glorietta Bay. I could tell for sure that the current had dropped out but we were still making steady (if slow) progress toward the finish. My goal was to finish the swim under 10 hours and 40 minutes and by this point it was clear that we were more than on track to be successful so I just focused on moving forward. At the last feed, Steve pointed the finish out to me and I tried to speed up a bit, even as I was looking forward a little too often. Soon I could see Dan and my mom standing on the store and I sprinted to the little beach. I now had sand beneath me and I stood up and cleared the water.
It was a really cool feeling to have made a complete round trip and be back where I started. Completing this swim made me feel powerful. I met my time goal and finished the swim in about 9 hours and 43 minutes!
I am so grateful to my team (Jax, Steve, Sidney, Dan, and my mom Kim) for helping me make this swim happen. I am also very proud that my buddy Kerianne and I raised $5001 for the National Network of Abortion Funds!