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!

Catalina Relay Recap

Yesterday my amazing teammates and I completed our 18 hour, 40 mile double relay crossing of the Catalina Channel! I am still kind of in shock about what we were able to accomplish by working together as a team. I’ll let the other swimmers tell you about their swims and I’ll take this time to recount my experience on the boat and in the water.

Around 3pm Friday we loaded up the cars with people and supplies and headed down to Cabrillo Marina, enjoying the

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Listening to pre-swim briefing.

Friday afternoon traffic. It took us about an hour to reach the marina and by that time we were all very ready to be out of the cars and get dinner. We quickly unloaded the cars and loaded everything onto our boat, the Bottom Scratcher. By 6:30 we were pulling away from the dock and heading to Terranea for the start. I started to get ready to jump in the water since I would be swimming the first leg of the relay. Jax got into her kayak to escort me into shore. As I was standing on the boat about to swim into the beach for the start, Jax looked up at me and said, “this is just the warmup,” which made me smile so I counted to three and dove into the water. I swam toward the beach, thinking back to the end of my crossing last year and ahead toward our new adventure.

I climbed up the rocks and Forrest helped me pick out a nice flat dry rock to

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Raising my arm to signal the start (sorry for the poor image quality).

stand on. I raised my arms to signal the start (around 7:31pm) and waded out into the water, choosing my footing carefully so that I didn’t slip on the mossy rocks. I did a bellyflop into the water and started to sprint in the direction of the boat. I could hear the team cheering me on from the boat and I could see Jax smiling at me from the kayak. The water felt warm and I guess that the temperature was maybe 62-63 degrees. The sea was choppier than I expected and I did my

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The relay team cheers me on during my first leg!

best to hold my pace while waves crashed over me. As I settled into a rhythm, my strokes felt strong and I began to fly over the water. I began to wonder if Jax was going to let me know when I had reached the halfway point because time can be weird when you are in open water. Jax finally yelled that I was halfway so I upped my tempo and made the choice to start enjoying myself. I smiled into the water and marvelled at the beauty of swimming at sunset. Every once in awhile, my suit would fill with stinging sea lice and I decided to warn the other swimmers before they got in the water. As the sky grew darker, I hoped I would be swapped out soon because I didn’t have any lights on me and I was worried about swimming in the dark without a glowstick. Jax held her hand up to tell me I had five more minutes, so I sprinted and soon I saw Rebecca hopping off the back of the boat to tag me out. She swam up from behind me and tagged my hand. I swam back to the boat and Rebecca started her leg of the relay. Once back on the boat, I took a quick shower and climbed into a bunk to sleep until my next turn.

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Swimming next to Jax on my first leg.

I woke up when I heard Charlotte hopping into the water, knowing it was my turn next. This time, it was completely dark (around 1:30am), so I put a little green light on my goggle strap and a glow stick on the back of my suit. As soon as the boat captain gave me the “clear!” I jumped into the dark water and went to tag Charlotte’s hand. Melissa was in the kayak now and I tried to keep a good distance between myself and the kayak so that I wouldn’t hit it in the pitch black. When I breathed to one side I could see the glow sticks on the kayak and when I breathed to the other side I was blinded by the lights on the boat. I felt a few more jellies sting me and I tried to focus on the beauty of the ocean at night. The time seemed to pass quicker in the dark and before I knew it Rebecca was jumping off the boat to take over. I swam back to the boat and took another nap in my warm bunk. I woke up about halfway through my nap to watch Eliza complete the turnaround at Catalina at 8 hours and 16 minutes!

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Getting ready for my third swim leg.

I slept again until Charlotte was in the water and this time when I came onto the deck it was light out, even though it was foggy. One of the captains of our boat is famous for playing the bagpipes at sunrise and I couldn’t believe I had slept through it completely. I jumped into the water and marvelled at how blue it looked now that the sun was up. I saw salps underneath me and thought that they looked like dumplings stuck together, floating below me. There was a problem with the kayak, so I had to tread water for a few minutes until that was worked out. Once we got going again, I really started enjoying myself during this swim and swam 2.2 miles even with the delay. I could not get over how beautiful everything was and I had the thought “this is why I do this sport.” I could see Rebecca getting ready to hop in and she came and tagged me out.

I got back onto the boat and watched Rebecca swim, wondering if I’d get to swim again in the sunlight. I didn’t sleep this time and had so much fun watching all my friends swim their legs. When Charlotte was

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Stretching before my last swim.

in the water for her last leg, we had gone through 3 rotations of the relay and I wasn’t sure of she would finish or if I would get in for the last little bit. Because we could only swim for 1 hour each, I would be doing the finish even though Charlotte had gotten us so close. I got ready to get in the water, this time wearing my Smith suit and cap. I jumped in and tagged Charlotte out. Jax and I turned toward shore and I swam about 6 minutes to the beach. I climbed gingerly back up onto the slippery rocks at Terranea, thinking about how cool it was that I had been in the same spot almost exactly 18 hours

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Raising my arms at the finish.

before. I raised my arms to signal the finish and quickly headed back into the water to swim in again with the rest of my team. We all hugged on the beach and just stood there taking in our accomplishment!

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Hugging on the beach.

We swam back to the boat and turned to head back to the marina.

I am so glad that this relay took place halfway through my English Channel training because I am reminded of my goals and why I choose to do these crazy things. I think my training will be revitalized by this swim. I am so inspired by my incredible teammates and will use this unprecedented synergy experience. By bringing together our drive and determination, we were able to set the record as the first ever all-women relay team to complete a double crossing of the Catalina Channel.

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Seven Sisters Catalina 2x Relay Preview

Our Catalina Relay is set to launch in about half a day and it’s been a whirlwind of training swims and planning meetings. It’s basically been like one giant swimming themed slumber party here at my house, as we wait to start our swim! If you’ve been following us on social media,  you will have seen the bios of each swimmer and kayaker, and know the amazing group of women I am so lucky to be swimming with! Here are some things you may be wondering about the relay.

1. When and where will we start?

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The relay will start at 8pm tonight at Terranea beach on the California mainland. We will swim to Catalina overnight, in hopes of landing at Doctor’s Cove in daylight. We will then turn around and head back to Terranea.

2. So it’s a relay, how does that work?

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Each relay member swims for one hour at a time, rotating in the same order every six hours. I will be staring us off at Terranea, so will swim hours 1, 7, 13, 19… and so one until we finish. We must swim in the same order the whole time and each swim for exactly hour allotted hour. When making a relay exchange, the new swimmer must swim up behind the leaving swimmer and give them a high five. Just like with a solo swim, relay swimmers cannot use the kayak or anything else for support, while they are swimming their leg of the relay. When we finish a leg of the relay, we must return to the boat until our next swim.

3. How can you support?

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You can follow our tracker here and cheer us on from wherever in the world you may be! If you happen to be in the Los Angeles area and want to come watch the finish, contact my mom Kim Bergman to coordinate! I am so excited for this relay and cannot wait to see what we accomplish together!

Training swim and visit LA Lighthouse

So I know you are probably getting tired of hearing about my swims at this point, but here is one more blog about a training swim. Today I headed down to Cabrillo Beach with my friend Jax to be my kayaker. Cabrillo is known to have some of the coldest water in Los Angeles County, perhaps because it faces South rather than West, and I wanted to take advantage of the water temperature for my training. It is also a little over two miles from the beach to LA Light, which makes this an ideal training location.

We got to the beach around 6am and were in the water by 6:30. After wading through a ton of nasty seaweed and passing the surfline, Jax and I made our way out to the “polar bear” buoy to begin the swim. The thermometer on the buoy read 60 degrees, which made sense because I was feeling significantly warmer than I had in the 54 degree San Francisco water.

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I followed Jax around the breakwater and tried to find my stroke in bumpy water. At the first feed, Jax pointed out that not only were we dealing with the normal ocean swell, but also the chop caused by the water rebounding off the breakwall. jax also told me that my stroke rate was 61 (which is good and normal for me) and that I looked strong. As we continued to swim toward the lighthouse, I kept thinking that the pelicans on the breakwall were people cheering me toward my goal. The light flashed green and the fog horn sounded every few seconds, calling me toward the turnaround point. I took my second feed at the lighthouse and marvelled in its beauty, while wishing I had a camera to document the image.

Throughout the next half hour heading back to the beach, my stroke grew more rhythmic and the water felt smoother in this direction. I was singing songs in my head, which helped me get in the right frame of mind and zone out a little, as I moved through the water. I was surprised at how strong I felt, considering that I had just raced Alcatraz the day before. As we neared the jetty, the LA City lifeguard tower where I often work became visible when I breathed to my right. We got back to the “polar bear” buoy and Jax told me that it had taken me an hour and five minutes to reach the lighthouse but only 57 minutes to return to the beach.

We turned back to start our second lap and I was still feeling strong and confident, even though my left arm could have been digging a little deeper to hold water. Jax told me to sprint to get through an area with a particularly strong current and i rounded the corner still heading for the lighthouse. We passed a few shipping boats and another kayaker and turned around at the lighthouse to complete our second lap. During the next half hour my arms were starting to ache but at the 3.5 hour feed, Jax suggested that I spring for 15 minutes to simulate my English Channel swim. I began to swim hard and upped my stroke rate to 65 (Jax told me later) until I had passed the Jetty. While heading from the jetty to the “polar bear” buoy, Jax and I spotted several large dolphins and one even swam underneath me! I sprinted the last 100 yards to the buoy making Jax laugh because my stroke rate hit 75 this time and we headed to the beach to finish the swim.

This training swim was a very good confidence builder for me because I showed myself that I could perform even after a weekend of heavy training. I am so grateful to jax for supporting me and helping me reach for my goals. I look forward to continuing to build my training and see what I can accomplish.

Cold water training trip (Part 3) – Alcatraz Swim

Today it was finally time to escape from Alcatraz! This swim has been on my bucket list, so I was very excited to finally get the opportunity to try it. My mom and I arrived at Aquatic Park early this morning to check in and get my race number and cap. After that, it was time for the one thing all open water swims seem to have in common: the long wait to actually swim. We received a race briefing complete with corny jokes, but lacking sufficient information about the currents and conditions. We were told to aim for a large military ship so that the current would, in theory, carry us around to the entrance to Aquatic Park.

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Looking out at the water before the swim.

After the briefing, we all walked down to Pier 41 to board the ferries out to the island and start the swim. I was surprised that most of the race participants were wearing wetsuits, while only a few were wearing just swimsuits, like me.

 

We stopped at the island and were told to jump one after another when the horn sounded so we lined up and I plunged into the cold water. It wasn’t as cold as I expected it to be and I swam over to the starting line made by kayaks. We waited in the water for everyone to get off the boats and they sounded a second hown signalling the start of the race.

I began to sprint toward the lead boat, doing my best to avoid getting kicked in the face or swimming over too many people. The field began to thin out and I continued to head along the course, while trying to find my pace in the bumpy water. I swam toward the military ship and before I knew it, I was getting close to the sea wall and the entry to Aquatic Park. To my dismay, I was too far left of the opening since I was hoping to catch a current to carry me right.

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Running into the finish

As a result, I ended up swimming along the seawall and into the opening, rather than straight into Aquatic Park. I sprinted into Aquatic Park and sighted the finish chute to keep my line straight. Swimming into the finish, I ran up the beach and through the chute to finish the race!

This race was a lot of run and I really enjoyed racing again and also trying to maintain speed. I am also glad that I swam in the bay a few times this weekend, so that during this race the water didn’t really feel cold at all. I am so grateful to my mom for helping make this weekend possible and also for my former teammate Meri for coming to cheer me on! I am thoroughly enjoying all the training steps to achieving my English Channel goal.