Swim for Alligator Lighthouse

Last weekend, I joined 3 other ladies and we drove on down to the Florida Keys.  Islamorada to be exact.

We we a relay team for an 8 mile swim event to raise money to preserve the Alligator lighthouse.

It was a HUGE educational event for me.  (Read- I did not have success, so I have to make the best of it with lessons learned.)

We got there mid day Friday and went on down to pick up our packets.

Swim races for me usually have pretty light packets.  The last race we did had caps that were left over from another race in 2008…which was fine.  Alligator Lighthouse  “Friends of the Pool”  folks in Islamorada outdid themselves.  Our packet was stuffed full of “stuff”  Emergen-c samples, a lighthouse shot glass, a nice long sleeved shirt, a custom Alligator lighthouse swim cap, and the list goes on.  It was great.  It’s annoying to be handed a plastic bag full of paper.


Here is the detail on the swim cap.  Really cute.  For a 50.00 race, this was nice.

After we picked up our packets, we hung out with some other folks from the Lake we knew who were doing the race.  I hadn’t met them much before, so it was fun to get to know them.

Then we went to the safety session.


It was a laid back affair with everyone hanging out and enjoying the venue and the requisite discussion of the swim.  I started to wonder when the guy started talking about how much harder this swim was compared to an Ironman swim…I mean the minimum distance for anyone swimming, even on a relay, was 2 miles, IM is about 2.5.

Especially inspiring was Hector Picard A double arm amputee who was intending to do the swim and Kerry from Thumbs Up...

Even with the inspiration I was starting to get a bit worried.  Swimming, I can do, but this Kayaking thing was new to me.  When I joined the team, I assumed they had a boat boat, I now knew that I would be responsible for kayaking the other 6 miles I wasn’t swimming.  When I Kayak, I tend to end up going in circles.

Here’s why I was feeling it.


This is a sepia toned picture of the shore and the lighthouse.  its the thing in the distance.  It is a far far distance.  I’ve done a 4 mile swim before, so I wasn’t worried about the swim, but the kayak….

Well.  Being one to figure stuff out as it comes, I went off and enjoyed a pre-race dinner.


(me and the hammer head at the dinner- closest encounter with a shark all weekend.)

And then hung out in the pool and bit and went on to bed.

The next morning was very pretty and there was an interesting headwind.  Not at all good for our team, as the water seemed to want to push us back to shore.  It wasn’t terrible, but most on our team are not experienced OCEAN OW swimmers.


The sea which had looked entirely flat the night before seemed to have lots and lots of wave-lets…

First pic is the night before, second is that morning…

unnamed-2 unnamed-4


I think you can see the difference.   But whatever.  We started, we swam.  On my first 30 minute swim I could see lots…I mean lots of beautiful Jelly Fish.


I got stung about 5 times.  It is an electrifying feeling…but not really a big deal.

During this time, one of our Kayaks (not mine) got overturned and a friend completely lost her cell phone and insulin pump.  The other teammate started to panic, crying and shouting,  “This is the worst thing that could have happened…”  and I knew this day was going to be a chore.  She eventually succumbed to of all things, sea-sickness.  It was not a sad moment to see her leave the team.

About an hour into my other friends swim it was my time to swim again.  She popped up and said, “You know I’m getting stung a lot by Jelly fish”  I was like, no problem, I’ll get it.  So I jumped in.

Holy Jelly Fish.


Those suckkers were  EVERYWHERE.  I tried pushing them away. I tried diving under, I even tried the really dumb move of “If I swim with my head up and can’t see them, they won’t see me…(and won’t sting me).”  I got stung and stung and stung.  I had to come out of the water because I just couldn’t take it anymore.  I got sprayed with vinegar, which truly didn’t help.  I actually started to feel nauseous and threw up a bit…not sure if it was the rougher ocean or the jelly stings,  and I ended up being put on a boat back to shore.  My teammates decided to forgo anymore swimming and thus kayaked.

We we done.  None of us have ever quit a race before so it was not a fun feeling. I at least knew my coach had tried the 12.5 mile swim around Key West and failed at Mile 10, so he was going to be my ally.


Here’s one shot of my Jelly reaction- the actual “sting” mark was this little tiny round thing…unnamed-7

Another gratuitous sting shot.  Yes, I was hurting.

Luckily when I got on the boat there were about 9 others who had not survived the Jellies so I didn’t feel “so bad”

In fact, We all decided to hang at the after party, and I was quite glad to have a large amount of sting-age to prove that I wasn’t just a complete candy ass regarding that swim.


I gotta hand it to the “friends of the Pool”  who put on the race.  it was SUPER organized.  The safety boats were present and really helped me out, and the people on the boats were super cheerful.  The race schwag was nice.  Light house  Larry (the man who decided to make this race an event) was awesome to meet, and told us even though we failed to finish we should take medals.  LOLOL.  I hate medals, so none for most of us, I think one lady got one…she was so concerned and wanted to tell everyone we had finished at home…I was like…truth will set you free.

Would I do it again.  HECK YES.  Next year that damn light house…it’s mine.

I had a blast, even with all the issues. I mean, Florida Keys, Swimming, BBQ after….what could go wrong.

Next year I am swimming the whole thing.  My Coach, or Mrs. Coach is gonna Kayak for me.  I still have yet to figure out how to address the Jelly Fish challenge.




9 thoughts on “Swim for Alligator Lighthouse

  1. I put on a thick layer of vaseline and that helped enormously. Out of my team, I put on the most vaseline and got stung the least …. i mean, you get stung, but it doesn’t leave a mark because your skin is more protected. And if that is hocus locus I don’t know, but it worked for me. Good luck next year!

    • I am going to try it!!!!! I also heard of something called a surf skin that is a type of suit? One issue I had was that the pieces got stuck under my suit and kept stinging me. But I am really going to get into the vaseline!!!! I wish I would have said Hi to you when we were all down there. We were all in a bit of Awe that you were going to do that AND tow the boat!!!

  2. I have no idea if it works, but I have heard some ocean swimmers will cover their arms and legs with Vaseline to help protect agains the stings. And I think you are awesome doing what you did this time around. No way I would have gotten back in the water after those first five stings. 🙂

    • the first 5 were just like annoying mosquito bites. I am going to try vaseline next time round. With the Marathon coming, I’m not sure when the next OWS is going to be, but I need more!

  3. I hit the “like” button, but a second later thought I didn’t like you got stung by jellyfish. They look so pretty in those backlit aquarium displays, but I tend to be hyperreactive to any kind of venomous sting and probably would have gotten sick after the first few. Hope you’re okay now. Rooting for your next try for the lighthouse!

  4. Vicki Carnahan Tracy says:

    Holly, can you wear the long body swim suits or wet suit to help the jelly fish issue? It seems like a really nice race minus the jelly fish! Way to perservere!

    • A couple of people did wear the body suits, they got stung anyway. And the Wet suit would be way too hot for this time of year…they would help, but I would not have been able to swim for too long in that temp in my wet suit. I think next year I will try a slightly longer shorts suit, and loads of vaseline….and the ever present solution to all this- suck it up!!!! It is a great race!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s