On Saturday I swam the 2.5 mile even at the Hammer Head Ocean Marathon at Jacksonville Beach, Florida.
I signed up for this after seeing it advertised on our Lake swim page. I recruited a few others and we made some plans for fun. My coach of course, as he always is about open water, was enthusiastic and got me set up for the 2.5 miler.
My week, unfortunately turned into a bit of an “ultimate race” for items I will need for my trip to Nigeria. On Monday, I had the usual ugly passaport photos taken. Apparently we are no longer allowed to smile with teeth, SO, my pics look really hideous, oh well.
Tuesday and Wednesday were taken up by workouts and stressing, and organizing things so that work functions without me.
On Thursday, I drove to Miami (4 hours) and explained my damaged passport, and was thankfully, issued a new one for the full 10 years. I did do some running in Miami, and then I drove home.
I had to get up the next morning at 4 am for training, and then put in a full work day. During that day I spent time applying for the Nigerian Visa, and trying to keep things under control at work.
Friday afternoon, I ran around, boarding the dog, and packing and at 6:30 pm I was on the road to Jacksonville.
So yeah. Thursday, extreme south of Florida. Friday, extreme North.
By the time we got to my friend’s friends house, I was fully exhausted. I don’t know that I slept super well. The house we were staying at did not get any kind of data reception on the phone, so I felt a bit uneasy all night as I am of course awaiting a “all programs are go” phone call.
We arose and had coffee and enjoyed a few moments of “getting ready to go”
Then drove over to the beach. We had a few moments of panic because we couldn’t find the beach parking area easily. We did find it and rushed over to get our stuff and check in.
I missed the entire “orientation” chat which really really is a bad idea folks….if one is not an experienced open water swimmer, or familiar with the area where the swim is…one should attend this chat. So I had no idea about the buoys, the landmarks, anything. Did that deter me? Well…not really.
My friend was doing the 1.25 swim and hopped on a bus for that, I spotted one of the other swimmers from Lucky’s and hopped on a bus with him. He and I chatted about different events coming up that we are both signed up for. Having someone familiar helped calm my nerves.
We then hit the beach.
Yes it was beautiful. I chatted with some more experienced swimmers. They were crowing about how awesome the water was. It was not choppy and was actually pretty calm.
My biggest concern had been the ocean entry. Back in the day, off the coast of Africa, I got SLAMMED by a wave and really came a little close to drowning. So every time I have to think about an ocean entry, I get the heebie-jeebies. My coach, however, had given me some tips….and thus…I was also reminded that Jacksonville Beach is not known for a crazy powerful rip current.
We didn’t have a ton of time on the beach. I chatted with some other swimmers and then suddenly we all were going!
I took my coaches tips and dove under the waves. To my surprise I had no issue with getting into the ocean. The water was super calm and I got out there, turned left and started to swim.
The water wasn’t really clear and was pretty murky.
I had a few sharky thoughts and then realized that I wasn’t going to see one and I’d only know it was present if I got bitten, so oddly because of that I kind of relaxed and stopped looking/worrying.
The ocean while very calm did have waves and swells in it.
Sooo…I discovered a few things about Ocean OWS. When I had my head down in some of the swells, I really felt a bit “shook” up by the larger ones. It seemed to make my equilibrium off a bit and I found myself slightly nauseous. WOW. I solved the problem by sticking my head out of the water and sighting off some of the hotels along the beach. I also had not really had enough breakfast, so I wondered if that might be part of it.
After I swam past the first buoy, I stopped seeing lots of other swimmers. I’m still a slow swimmer. I did see one or two people in front of me. I tried to keep them in sight and just continue swimming. My main goal was to finish and not too far behind everyone else.
At a certain point, I popped up and looked around and could see nothing…it was all just water, waves and the beach to the left. I saw no paddle boarders, no kayakers and no other swimmers. It was a bit odd. But what was I to do….I put my head back down and started swimming again…
I did get Stung by something under my left arm. I think it was a Sea Nettle or a piece of a sea nettle. All of a sudden I had a lot of pain in my arm. I ignored it, and then it got worse and worse and worse and I wondered if I would be “OK” THis was of course at the same time that I had realized that I really didn’t see anyone out near me. I swam some more and then another person terrified me by grabbing accidently my thigh…the stinging sensation did go away and left only a rash, so no big deal.
Swam some more, and wished that I had some clue about where I was on the course. I did start to see the pier and had a vague memory that the finish was before the pier. Then I saw one of the enormous square buoys and I felt that must be the “turn left” point. It was as I made for shore I saw two lines of yellow cones. Apparently I was supposed to hit the beach running. Yeah, being not a veteran of ocean races, I casually walked through the cones…Yes that was me.
We all met up after and enjoyed the spread put out by the race committee. It really had everything! As a person allergic to bananas, I so enjoyed the water melon, and the other fruit they had. I wanted a bagel and peanut butter, but I knew we were going to eat pancakes. One of the Lucky’s Crew had won an award so we waited for her to receive it. My friend hung around hoping she had also won an award, but alas she came in second in her age group. The awards were handpainted little wooden plaques and I really liked them. (But coming in 7th..well…I got to like the awards from afar!)
Not the best photo of us ever but we were a happy bunch! “Living the Florida Lifestyle” for certain.
So…for my first time in an ocean I think I did alright. I learned a lot about swimming in the ocean and I definitely got in a great workout. Will I do it again? possibly.
We hit the metro diner.
I couldn’t actually finish the huge pancake, but I put a nice large dent into it.
And then….3 hours later I hit home…
back to the “Where’s waldo” search for all the crap I need for the Overseas trip. I sincerely am excite,d but I also am reminded why I chose not to do this as a “forever” career. It’s not bad, but it’s stressful and I gotta admit, chaotic and dramatic at times.
So Kudos to the Ocean “Marathon” It was organized and I think safe (though I have to admit, I felt safer during the non-race non paid Bridge to Bridge swim as we had more kayakers in the water.) The t shirt was cute. Volunteers were super friendly and pleasant and I felt welcomed. After race food was plentiful and it was in general, like all the other OWS events I’ve attended, a very relaxed affair.
So that’s what I did on Saturday!!!!