To That Little Scared Junior Lifeguard

You were so nervous that first day at the beach. The waves were so large and loud as they crashed on the white sand. All the other kids already knew how to dive under the foaming surf into clean water, but you just stood in knee deep water, your toes squishing in the wet sand. Your instructors taught you how to avoid the pounding waves, but you were still nervous every time you had to cross the surf line. You started to enjoy being at the beach and improved so much that first summer.

The next year your mom gave you the book Swimming to Antarctica and you were enthralled by Lynne Cox’s bravery and adventures. You told yourself that maybe one day you would do a long ocean swim, too. You pulled out the atlas to see where the English Channel was and the seed was planted in your head, but you didn’t share your dreams with anyone for fear that they would laugh at you. You kept training hard at swim practice, imagining you were really swimming across oceans.

You entered a 2-mile ocean swim and enjoyed it so much you entered the 1 mile an hour later. Racing in the ocean felt nothing like racing in the pool, you were free ride the waves as you swam through the salty water. You began to grow used to the surf and were motivated to develop  ocean sense, by how much you enjoyed swimming in it. You entered as many races as you could that summer, and dreamt more about the oceans you wanted to cross.

On a school trip to Catalina Island, you first visited the island you’d been dreaming about. You told your friends that you would swim it someday, and they smiled and said you were crazy, but you held onto your dream. After all, your Junior Lifeguard instructor had swum from Catalina, proving that real people could do it. You visited London with your family and when you took the train under the Channel to Paris, you dreamed about swimming from England to France someday.

When you started high school, you told your coach that you wanted to swim the English Channel one day and she said if you trained hard she was sure you could. This was the first time a coach had believed in your dream and it caused the swim to feel attainable. You continued to train distance and work hard in the pool. At a race in Seal Beach you met Lynne Cox and told her that you wanted to swim the English Channel one day. She told you to keep training and reaching for that dream.

When you started looking at colleges, you heard that the coach at Smith College was preparing a swimmer to cross the English Channel. When you met him at your tour, you told him boldly that you wanted to be his next English Channel swimmer. He told you that it was a challenging and rewarding endeavor. You tracked the swimmer, Paige Christie, as she crossed the Channel that summer, telling yourself that would be you one day.

All those years ago you were too scared to swim through a few waves to do a buoy swim, and in a few days you will stand on Shakespeare Beach looking across the Channel to France and start to swim. Thank you so much for setting seemingly impossible goals all those years ago as a little scared Junior Lifeguard.

 

Welcome to Dover, UK

We arrived in Dover yesterday and have been getting acquainted with the area and exploring! Although the weather was great yesterday, high winds are predicted for

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Beginning our swim in the Dover Harbor

the next few days so it could be awhile until we get the green light to swim. Last night, Paige and I headed to the Dover Harbor for a quick swim. The beaches in this area are mostly rocky shingle, rather than the sand I am used to. The water was pretty calm and not too cold so we swam a few laps of the buoy line, until it got too dark to really see anymore. I felt smooth and strong in the water even after 11 hours  sitting on a plane. I really enjoyed watching the sunset while swimming along the harbor.

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Enjoying flat water in the Harbor

After the swim, we drove back to our rental house and enjoyed some cold pizza, before finally getting to sleep!

Today, we went to Hythe Beach because they were doing construction in Dover Harbor. I did a 2 hour training swim and the water was much choppier than yesterday. When I first walked in, it felt colder than yesterday, but I soon warmed up and tried to find my tempo. The water felt very lumpy and I kept getting smacked in the face by waves. I started by swimming south toward these two large towers on the beach. I swam to the 2nd tower and turned back north again and as I was

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Coach Kim making sure they don’t shoot at me

passing the 1st tower a boat approached me and I saw a man in a guard uniform on the deck. He informed me that I had accidentally swam into a military firing range and that I needed to stay to the north of the towers. There was really no signage in the water warning of the firing, but I was just glad I got out of there safely! I swam to a jetty on the north side of the beach and saw Kim signalling me to turn back south. This time, I swam all the way back to the south but stopped just shy of the firing range. Paige hopped in at this point and swam with me for a little while, which really helped me keep my spirits up. It took until about an hour and a half for me to start feeling good in that water and also start having fun. When Kim signalled me to swim into the beach, I was actually feeling so good that I didn’t want to stop! I swam into the beach and climbed out of the water, where I warmed up in my parka. After eating lunch, we headed over to the town of Canterbury and explored. I cannot wait for my chance to swim the channel and plan to enjoy the rest of my time waiting in England.

 

 

English Channel Details

I completed my last long training swim this morning and am now starting my taper! My team and I leave for England in just over a week and I could not be more excited! Since my swim is drawing closer, I figured I should answer some of the most common questions I have been receiving from my friends, family, and supporters.

When will I swim?

I will most likely swim between July 29th and August 6th, depending on the weather. I am booked on a neap tide (which is when there is the least change between high and low tide), but the ultimate deciding factor is good weather. I will swim on the first good weather day offered to me by my boat pilot. You can follow my swim on the CS and PF site or my tracker.

How far is it across the channel?

It is 21 miles across the channel in a straight line, but currents will push me and increase the swim distance.

What will I wear?

According to the Channel Swimming and Piloting Federation, I am allowed to swim in one regular swim suit, one cap, and one pair of goggles. Yep, this means no wetsuits allowed! I will also be putting on a layer of grease (1/2 vasoline, 1/2 lanolin) to help with chafing from the salt water.

Who is coming to England with me?

My crew for England includes my mom Natalie, my coach Kim Bierwert, and my friend/teammate/support swimmer/channel mama Paige! My training buddy Rebecca and her family will also be in England at the same time!

Will I swim alone?

For the majority of the swim, I will be the only swimmer in the water, but Paige will jump in to support me from time to time!

What will I eat?

I will follow the same feeding plan I used for my Catalina swim. I will feed every 30 minutes, starting from the beginning of the swim. My feeds are either carbopro (which basically tastes like sugar water) or applesauce. While I do stop to tread water for a few seconds to feed, I am not allowed to touch the boat or receive any assistance.

Are there sharks?

While there are sharks in British waters (it is the ocean after all), the water is generally too cold for the large scary sharks we get here in California. Jellyfish are certainly a more pressing concern in the channel!

Will I have a boat with me?

I will be accompanied by the Gallivant and Captain Mike Oram. My mom, my coach Kim, and Paige will also be on my boat, as will an observer from the swim federation.

I am getting very excited to head over to England and hope you will be able to experience my journey with me!

 

20 mile weekend part 2: 6 mile race

Following my 14 mile training swim on Saturday, my mom and I headed up to Santa Barbara for 6 mile race on Sunday morning. We got to the beach around 7:45 in the morning and I stretched out and met my kayaker Greg. I warmed up and then we had a brief safety meeting before lining up at the water’s edge. The kayakers were out at the buoy waiting for us and the race director blew her whistle to signal the start of the race. I sprinted out to the buoy, staying ahead of most people but also knowing that I would pass some people later on because I have stamina but not easy sprint speed. I rounded the buoy at the end of the pier and met up with my kayaker before turning south and swimming parallel to shore. I was swimming with the shore to my left and the kayak to my right and it was fun to watch the shoreline pass by. Greg stopped me for the first feed and I was surprised how short the first half hour felt and also how smooth and strong I felt in the water.

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Course map.

After the first feed we realized that I kept drifting to my left so I switched to Greg’s other side so that he could stop me from turning to the left. This worked much better and we kept making progress along the course. I couldn’t see very many other swimmers but Greg had told me that I was probably in around 7th place with two people way ahead of me and a small group of people just ahead. I picked up my pace a little, hoping to get closer to the group ahead of me.

The water seemed flat and the kelp was lying flat, pointing south, meaning that the current was favorable. At the 1 hour feed Greg told me that we were about halfway and that I was looking strong. I was feeling powerful in the water, almost as if I had not swam 14 miles the previous day. My stroke had good rhythm and was flying through the salty water. Soon I was at the 3rd feed and Greg could see that I was feeling a little discouraged that I hadn’t yet caught the group ahead, so he told me to shoot for a personal best time on this course.

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My route from this weekend.

This encouragement revitalized me and I kept pushing forward. I was swimming over kelp now and when I sighted forward I could see the bluff at the finish. There two swimmers just ahead of me and I swam a little faster. I swam even with them and eventually passed them. I could see another swimmer off to my right just behind me, and although I couldn’t see who it was, I imagined that it was my friend Jessica. This motivated me to swim a

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Me and Jessica at the finish.

little faster even though I was finally feeling tired from the mileage of the weekend. I sprinted around the buoy and realized that it was Jessica just behind me. We raced each other into the beach and across the finish line. I finished in 2:13.38 and Jessica finished in 2:13.52, placing 6th and 7th overall and 3rd and 4th for women. It was so much fun to race my friend and a huge confidence builder to swim so much mileage within 36 hours and feel good doing it. I also finally got the chocolate chip pancakes I had dreamt about yesterday! A giant thank you to my mom for supporting me this weekend, I couldn’t have done it without you!

20 mile weekend part 1: 14 mile training swim

This past weekend was my last weekend of heavy training before I start to taper for my English Channel crossing. My goal was to swim a total of 20 miles, split between two days. On Saturday, Rebecca and I set out to swim 14 miles, which would be my longest training swim ever to date. We launched from the Marina Del Rey jetty just after 6am, with our friend Melissa escorting us in the kayak, and headed north toward the Venice Pier. The water was flat and calm and felt warm on skin as we swam. I felt like I was flying through the water as I tried to find my rhythm. We passed the Venice Pier and Melissa stopped us for our first feed.

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Rebecca and me taking our first feeds.

I was surprised that the first 30 minutes had passed so quickly and I was feeling great. We continued to swim north to the Venice rock pile and I marvelled at how beautiful the ocean looked and felt. We were soon passing the rock pile and my muscles were loosening up even more and I was still feeling strong.

We took our second feed about halfway to the Tower 26 buoy and I thought about how I don’t think twice about swimming this far but I would never consider running it. I heard a dolphin through the water and looked up to see two fins disappearing off to my left. The Santa Monica Pier was looking really close and I was feeling strong and excited! At the pier, Rebecca’s watch told us we had swam just over 4 miles so we turned around and headed back south.

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Even though we had felt that we were being pushed north by the current, we didn’t really feel like we were fighting it heading back south. Around 3 hours, I started to feel a little stiff but I kept pushing on and humming songs to myself. I was also feeling somewhat hungry so I started planning all the food I could eat when I finished swimming. I decided that nothing sounded better than a neopolitan shake from In-N-Out and I told Melissa that at the next feed. She smiled and then handed me my carbo pro (not quite a shake but still good).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe got back to Marina Del Rey just before 4 hours and turned around to head back north for our second shorter lap. I was still feeling warm and enjoying myself swimming between Rebecca and Melissa in the kayak.

We finally reached the tower 26 buoy again and Rebecca’s watch told us we had covered 11 miles, so we could turn around and finish our last stretch back to the pier. Though my body was tired, I still felt strong and was making steady progress through the water. We passed the Venice Pier again and entered the last stretch of water that usually feels like it takes forever to get through. I decided that maybe I wanted chocolate chip pancakes instead of a shake and focused on that while I swam.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA I could see the Marina Del Rey breakwater in the distance and pressed on toward my goal. I sprinted the last few hundred meters to the breakwater and when I got there I was so excited to be done. Except Melissa told me that I wasn’t done because I was 4 minutes away from 7 hours. I turned back north and swma some backstroke until I had reached the intended end time. I swam into the beach, happy to be done with the swim but also feeling like I could have kept swimming if I’d needed to.

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Map of our swim.

This was my longest training swim ever at just over just over 14 miles and 7 hours. It was a huge confidence builder to swim this far and not feel super wiped and sore afterward. I am so greatful for Rebecca and Melissa for making this such a low stress and well executed swim. In other news, I leave for England in just under 2 weeks and cannot wait to get over there and continue working toward my goal.

 

 

11 Mile Training Swim

This past weekend, Rebecca and I planned a 10 mile swim with my cousin Maddy escorting us in a kayak. We arrived in Marina Del Rey around 6 AM on Sunday and weather was warm with clear skies. The current was still flowing north so we knew we were going to have to fight it on the way back.

We entered the water right at the Marina Del Rey jetty and when I was about up to my knees in the water I saw a large stingray swim past so I reminded Maddy and Rebecca to shuffle their feet. As we started heading towards the Venice pier, I felt smooth and strong in the cool water. After we rounded the Venice pier, Maddy gave us our first feed and I was still feeling strong in the water. I really felt like I was flying in the current and we kept heading towards the Venice rock pile and the Santa Monica pier.

Soon we were passing the Tower 26 buoy and heading towards the Santa Monica Pier. I started to get a little nervous because I’d never actually swam anywhere north of the pier. Up to this point all my training had taken place on the southside of the Santa Monica Pier. We rounded the pier staying clear of the fishing lines and decided to try swimming outside of the rocks that are remnants of the old harbor and old pier. We were pretty far out at this point and I was starting to get a little nervous so I stayed really close to Maddy in the kayak. After we had passed the rocks, it began to get cooler.

 We kept swimming north and eventually reached the ocean in front of the Annenberg Beach House and stopped for a feed. At this point Rebecca checked her watch and said we had gone about 5 1/4 miles and we had been in the water about two hours and 15 minutes. So we turned around and immediately realized that we were fighting the current. It seemed to take forever to get back to the Santa Monica Pier, even though we stayed inside the rocks this time. Maddy said a lifeguard on the pier yelled at us to stay away but I was oblivious and just enjoying how beautiful everything looked and how great I felt in the water.

We turned a little bit toward shore and kept swimming and eventually we were even with the Tower 26 buoy and took another feed at this point. We were about 3 1/2 hours into the swim now and I was feeling great. I was reminded why i choose to do this sport and felt altogether wonderful in the water. However this soon changed as it took forever to reach the Venice Pier. I still felt pretty strong, though, and we pressed on eventually rounding the Venice rock pile and heading towards the pier.

The last mile from the Venice Pier back to the marina Del Rey breakwater is always the most miserable part of the swim. It is just a mile but it feels like it takes an hour and there are no good landmarks along the shore so it feels like you’re never moving. You can see the bottom a lot of the time but we kept swimming and eventually we were near the breakwater!

Overall, this was probably one of the strongest and also the most enjoyable training swims I’ve had this whole summer. We swam for five hours and 5 minutes and covered almost  11 miles in distance. That’s pretty good considering we had one or two stops along the way. I am so grateful to Maddy for being our fearless navigator and also for Rebecca for keeping me company and being my training buddy this whole summer.

I have a few more long training swims planned before I leave for England and am feeling very good about my training. After that I get to begin tapering for my swim. I am looking forward to the rest of my training and cannot wait to see what I can accomplish.

Seal Beach Rough Water Swim 2017

This morning, my mom, my cousin, and I headed down to Seal Beach for the Seal Beach Rough Water Swim. The last time I competed in this race was in 2015, before I was seriously training in open water or completing open water marathons. I was really excited to see how I would perform in the race this year compared to the 2015 race.

The beach was foggy and windy, so I made the decision to not get in the water before the start because I didn’t want to freeze on the beach. The race director gave us a pre-race talk and described the course

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3 Mile and 1 Mile course maps

and then sent the kayakers into the water to wait for us. I watched my kayaker Maddy battle the 6-7 foot surf and thought about how brave she was to be kayaking through the waves. Soon, they started the race and I entered the water, carefully picking my way over the sticks in the shallow water. The frothy water was filled with seaweed and my suit also filled with the slimy green kelp. I sprinted to the first triangle buoy, lifting my head to find Maddy among the kayakers.

I found her quickly and we turned north to the next triangle buoy. The water felt warm and my stroke started to smooth out as we rounded the buoy and headed back toward the other jetty. The race seemed to be going by much faster than in my memory, probably because I have spent so much time training in open water. We turned at the third buoy and aimed back for the pier. I saw another swimmer behind me, so I picked up my pace and

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Celebrating after both races

continued to head for the pier. As I rounded the pier, Maddy signalled that she would continue away from me so that she could exit the water farther down the beach. I sprinted along the pier and drifted pretty far north, even though I was heading for the shoreline. I passed the surfline and swam through the super kelpy water again to the shore. I sprinted up the beach and through the finish chute, where they handed me a popsicle stick and told me that I had finished fourth overall and first for women.

My mom told me that I had about seven minutes until the start of the 1 mile race. I rinsed off quickly and did my best to get the kelp out of my suit, before heading to the start line. They blew the whistle and we ran out into the water aiming for the same triangle buoy. I tried to increase my tempo but seemed to be stuck in my rhythm from the 3 mile race. I swam around the course and into the finish, grateful that I was done for the day. I won my age group so that was exciting, considering how bad I felt during the 1 mile race. A huge thanks to my mom and Maddy for supporting me today!