Semana Nautica Santa Barbara 6-Mile Ocean Swim - July 14, 2013

So Oscar emails me a link to the Santa Barbara Semana Nautica 6-Mile Ocean Swim a few weeks ago and says, "Sunday, July 14th. I'll paddle if you want to do it. 32 finishers last year." I was a little anxious about the water temperature up north, but if I am ever going to do a channel swim I must start the learning sometime and somewhere. I upped my swimming mileage, checked my work schedule, and mailed in my entry.

There were 45 swimmers this year. The water was in the 63-64 degree range, with some definite cold patches. We met at Goleta Beach. I was swimmer 19.

I have done a fair bit of ocean swimming, but this was to be my longest to date. I am still learning the ins and outs of long distance swimming. I first coated myself in 100 SPF sunscreen. Then, not knowing the secrets of bag balm, Vasoline, and lanolin cream, I put Body Glide on my neck, under my arms, and between my legs.

For some sports you put on special clothing and gear. There is something symbolic about the fact that a swimmer takes most everything off before heading out to sea. This was a serious open water swim. No wet-suits allowed. In fact, this is how the entry form put it:

**”As in the tradition of open water swimming, the use of wet‐suits or other non‐porous attire, kickboards,
gold chains, booties, paddles,swim buoys, body suits, triathlon suits, fins, gloves, or other wimpy contraband will not be allowed. No exceptions!!”** -- Quoted from an old school swimmer in the 80’s.

Just a textile swim suit, a single swim cap, and goggles. That's it. We started by swimming to the end of the Goleta Beach pier where we met up with our kayaker supporters. Oscar stuck near me for the next several hours, snapping a few pictures with the GoPro and occasionally giving me water and Gatorade. I swallowed too much sea water to want to eat anything. It was windy and choppy for the first hour or so, but then it calmed down and was reasonable. I tried to remember that the wind was good for Dave, who was sailing to Hawaii while I swam.

Towards the end my shoulders ached like they never have before. The kelp was bending straight into me the whole time. I sang 99 Bottle of Beer three complete times through. Thinking of songs and counting helped keep me from dwelling on the cold. Whenever I would swim into a cold patch I would fear that it was going to stay that cold from then on and wonder how long I could continue at the new low temperature. Then it would go back to the normal temperature and I would regroup mentally.

I saw a giant sting ray somewhere during Mile 5. The crawling over small patches of kelp towards the end was extra tough on my already tired shoulders. At last I turned left at the orange buoy and headed for shore. It took a second to get my feet back under me when I got to the sand. I was better off than two of the people that beat me though. Crossing the finish line I had to weave between two swimmers being treated by the paramedics for hypothermia.

So special thanks to Oscar for encouraging me to sign up, for driving all the way up there (with Julie and son, Kris), and for being my kayak supporter. Next time I will not schedule flight out of the country for the same evening as a major swim like this one.

I did wear my Garmin GPS in my swim cap. It turned off for a bit between Miles 2 and 3, when the waves kept going over my head. I think that's why the distance is off. Overall, 3:31:21.

In case you do not believe me that the conditions for the first half were rough, you can hear it straight from the winner's mouth (Mallory Mead) here


1 comment:

  1. SO cool. Really, an incredible feat. I am impressed times twenty.

    Next one, Devin wants to kayak beside you. And the girls and I will be at the start/finish!