This whole week for training was a mess. I finished off a hot and sweaty successful build week last week, but my quad and hip on the left were not doing great. Lots of pain when I ran and then some trouble “walking normally”. So I spent most of the week in the pool, aqua jogging, treading water and swimming. Chlorine.
Luckily…On the Agenda was primarily the Bridge to Bridge Swim in Melbourne Fl on Sunday Morning. No need to run there at all.
A friend of mine from the coast had suggested this to me, and at the time I was fascinated by the idea.
This is a 3.75 mile swim in the Indian River Lagoon. It isn’t a river at all, in fact, from my experience, it is extremely salinated.
I was intimidated by the distance, but my friend encouraged me telling me that some people had finished it last year and had only swum about 1.5 miles in the pool before. So I floated the idea to my coaching guy. He seemed to think it was a mighty fine one and I noted that my swimming yardage seemed to increase a lot in the last few weeks. A good friend of mine agreed to do Kayak support if I could find a kayak to borrow. I found one, actually about 4 by the time I was done. But I was still pretty nervous.
See….pool swimming is a lot different from OWS (Open water swimming). In the pool you have these lane lines, and a big black line on the bottom to let you know where the heck you are going.
The only things alive in the pool generally speaking are you and other swimmers.
plus there is this matter of living beings that aren’t human.
Most of the living beings want nothing to do with humans, but occasionally little bump ups happen. People step on living creatures, etc. We are after all entering their environment.
So open water swimming can be a bit more challenging. I wanted so badly to do this swim, but Darn it all I was SCARED. I was worried about so many things:
- Speed- I was scared I’d be miles behind all the other swimmers.
- Sharks..need I say more, they live in the Indian River Lagoon, for sure.
- Fatigue- what if I couldn’t finish?
I tried several times to get out of it. My friend who was providing the Kayak support kept telling me “Nope you aren’t getting out of this that easy” My coach kept telling me that he really thought it was a good idea as well.
A few others who know me less well weren’t so sure it was a good idea. One lady in the locker room said, “YOU are going to swim 3 miles?” Another expressed her doubt in my ability because apparently her ability in that area is low. So people and their statements combined with my doubt made for an uncomfortable bed. I was not encouraged and felt a bit unsure. I tried to check the speed of other swimmers, and as I feared, the times listed by the organizer were slightly faster than I am. I was really starting to wonder why on earth I have thought this was a good idea, but at the same time, I really wanted to do it.
I’d like to point out the cult of “Mean girls” continues, in that all the people who acted like I was not going to be able to do this were ALL women. Just a side note. Another Side note, MANY of my women pals were also quite supportive of this endeavor! (But the men were for the most part, more supportive.)
Then well, it became a very sharky week. A Bull shark was found in a POND in Melbourne and released from the same boat launch that our swim was going off. So, that was a bit alarming. I looked into the area we were going to swim in, and…discovered it is actually a Bull Shark Nursery….Now. Some sharks are kind of scary, and then there are sharks which are actually pretty mean. Bull Sharks are known for aggressive behavior and so that did not encourage me. Over the week, I kept finding articles about sharks, or shark related items… seriously, everywhere I went I was finding little lego sharks, big blow up sharks…you name it if it looked like a shark it found me. I started to have these scenarios play out in my head about how I’d be the one, of course to get Chomped.
So I was getting a bit concerned. I mentioned to my coach where the swim was and told him I knew it was a Bull Shark area. He gave me an odd look and then said, you know…it IS a known area for them….He looked a little perplexed. I asked if he would teach me to run on an artificial limb and he said that he would have no problem with that at all. We both laughed and I headed home. At this point, I had used up all my tries to get out of this event.
Boy oh boy am I glad I didn’t get out of it. This really goes up as one of the BEST DAYS Ever!.
So At 5 am-ish, My Friend M and her Hubby D pick me up with the Kayak strapped to the top of the car. I’m totally freaked out. But I hop in and M and I chat all the way to Melbourne. I like driving with her because she is very laid back about things and kind of knows her way around Florida. We get to the place and meet T. a friend of a friend, who spur of the moment jumped into the swim.
We then proceed to the Boat Launch.
It was populated by people. You can spot me, in the orange cap on the far right of the photo. I like most was unaware of the shot being taken- clearly. I did not do the swim nude, the picture just kind of looks that way.
It was a bit of a heart stopped when I stood on the dock of the launch and saw the expanse.
So above, thats the dock. you see the Land in the background? That was the target. Oh Wow. This was no swim in the Pool, nor was it a friendly little “Lucky’s Lake Swim”
Before we started one of the swimmers gave a very beautiful blessing over the swimmers and Kayakers. This prayer for our safety and enjoyment was really comforting and I felt ENCOURAGED. I chatted with some others and “made friends” and then when the time came I hopped off the end of the launch into the water.
I started to swim. My new friend of a friend T. started to swim beside me, trying to match me stroke for stroke. This was a nice idea, except for 2 things. I swim a bit faster, and we both don’t swim super straight so we were bumping into each other. The Kayakers were observing this with glee apparently shouting out “He’s gonna grab her ass!!!” I don’t believe that was his intention, but it was a possibility. Eventually I pulled away because frankly, I didn’t want to swim that close to anyone. Having had the kick in the face recently, I was well aware of the damage that can be done. I learned later that the guy swims with his eyes shut, so I’m shocked he didn’t punch me by accident. I made an effort and pulled away. I wasn’t really trying to go fast, but I didn’t want to be so far behind the group as to be a hindrance or a concern. The water was really salty and only slightly clearer than Lucky’s lake. But I could see, and I had some new goggles that I was really enjoying. I found it difficult to sight because it was pretty hard to see the target. I mostly tried to site off of a kayak and hope the kayak didn’t veer off suddenly.
At the 1.45mark there is a Sand Bar. Everyone gathered there and kind of regrouped and waited for us stragglers. There were Bottle Nose Dolphins who were curious about this large group of obviously mentally unhinged humans.
I was glad to reach the sand bar and I was quite concerned because WOW, everyone got there pretty much ahead of me. I had little to fear however. This video is from 2012.
What I discovered was that like a race, many of the swimmers went out really fast and got to that first sand bar quickly. On the second leg some were more tired.
As I started out the second leg of the swim, I noticed that I was able to pass some people and then stay in front. I sighted off a stand up paddle boarder. He was tall and wearing a pink backpack. What I didn’t note, but my kayakers did was that he was also kind of towing his swimmer a bit. So… not a race, but…I like the challenge of swimming it all.
And now this was one long haul swim. I swam and swam and swam. I saw some “fish” that I thought were little bull sharks.
I found out later they might have been Cobia. Seen here the Bull shark is on top, the Cobia is on the bottom. I have no idea.
Then at one point I thought I was seeing a huge garbage bag floating by in a fluttering odd way. My Kayakers were totally freaking out at this point and were waiting for me to come out of the water freaked out too….It was a manta ray….not as big as the one in the video.
But it was so cool. and kind of BIG. I was a little surprised, but the encounter was so short that I didn’t really have time to get too excited.
The water got pretty shallow so I stood up for a minute and waded through and chatted for a bit with my kayak support. They reoriented me to the right direction…Sighting off a green roof looking thing. It didn’t look that far off! My swim buddy was about a half a mile behind me, so my Kayak team took him and towed him to me, where he started the attempt at tandam swimming again. 😦 I had to actually stop swimming and go to his other side and just GO.
I made it to the ladder and climbed up on to the pier. My Pal T. was just a few minutes behind.
My friend M. the Kayaker extrodinaire and I snapped a pic right after it was Over.
We then dealt with the logistics of the kayak etc, made some new pals and headed over to Squid Lips which actually was not as good as I recalled it being, but being as hungry as I was, it wasn’t terrible at all!.
And there I had a real Shark=y encounter!
All in all this was just an excellent break in the training regimen. This was a hard challenge, and a new one for me. I feel like I have accomplished something very few others will even attempt. While a 3.75 mile swim seems like nothing….keep in mind that in an Ironman competition, the swim is 2 miles. (of course they have that bike ride and the marathon to run too.) So it is a fairly substantial accomplishment.
My coach was pleased, though I think a bit concerned. At about 11 am when I was just getting ready to enjoy some shrimp, I got a message saying “How was the swim”…
I did send him a reply when we all got back home, and he seemed really excited too. I think in all reality he thought the swim was in July, and so I think even though he didn’t say anything…he might have been a bit concerned too.
Best Day Ever!
It even carried me through a difficult work day. We’ll see how long this warm and fuzzy feeling lasts!