Pier-to-Pier, for those of you out-of-towners, is (apart from the obvious swimming from one pier to the next) a 2 mile ocean swim, from Hermosa Beach to Manhattan Beach. It’s not one of my favs (ocean swimming that is…) but it’s in my backyard (more or less) and good training so every year I sign up. Every year I say I will “RACE” it. And every year I say I will swim it a ton in advance to prepare…. and… similar to previous years, this was my first time since last year’s race I did that swim. Which – hey – if you don’t like swimming in the ocean and prefer pools, then who is to argue? Right? Right?
OK, so here it the lowdown on the day.
Actually, I am going to start with the night before. Only because I wanted to share what NOT to do before a race. Clam and Lobster bake. While it was fun and all, probably not the best thing for the gut before an ocean swim. Regardless, I don’t regret it (or the wine)! A great night with family no doubt about it.
Start: A few years ago, they changed the start so we all (referring to the females) toed the line 5 minutes after the men went in.
I felt like I had a good run until I hit the water (eh hem the main part of it all). I got whacked, pulled, hit, clobbered, sunk, kicked, etc. etc. from those women! Not out of cruelty I am sure but I just ended up in a bad pocket that felt like I was going nowhere. I have never felt like I wanted to quit (even the year I got hypothermia) and right there, at that moment, I considered stopping. I felt dizzy and upside down and anxiety ridden all of a sudden. WTH? Decided to wait it out, smooth out the stroke, and hope it got better after going by the first Pier (it did). THANK GOODNESS. Yeah!
And then you swim. Stroke after stroke. 2 miles. Goal was around 50 minutes but with ocean swimming it is hard to really set a time goal as the conditions (current, waves, etc.) change so regularly time can be irrelevant. I found my paddler (Yeah! Go Doug!) and just went swimmingly alongside him. He is super enthusiastic and most helpful with keeping me at ease (I actually think he likes this race more then me. Then again, anybody on a paddle board would be happier right?! :))
The water was surprisingly clear… maybe it has been like that (like I mentioned I haven’t really been swimming in MB) but I could actually see fish. Not Kona clear, but pretty fun nonetheless. It was so clear I saw that shark everyone has been talking about..and I wasn’t the only one (refer to article). About half way through the race, there it was, directly below me. A very long, quick moving creature that, while beautiful to watch, did frighten me just a touch. It was gone after 4 or 5 strokes and oddly enough the start of the swim gave me way more anxiety then the darn shark did! Probably because there are 1200 other swimmers out there (he is so not interested in me) and also because I had a paddle boarder alongside me (and, yes, I did swim quite closely to him the next 500 or so yards). I had to “cuddle” up in case I needed to make a get-away and jump on quickly!!! It was for sure the highlight of the race, and I am glad others witnessed it as you can read about (see link)
Moving on.. and still swimming… my cap was creeping up my head and my hair started getting in my face (WTH it NEVER EVER has done that before during a race!!!) so I would roll over, push out the air bubble, pull it back down, and get on my way. It was VERY annoying and definitely a rookie move. Along with the fact I didn’t use my favorite chafing cream so my neck looks like the shark DID take a bite out of it. Did those two things set me back a minute or two? I will never be able to know.. or say (so unfair to give excuses after a race, right?)…..
I was a bit off my goal but I did sneak in a 1st place division winner medal. Now, before I go on, truth be told it was the 40+ WETSUIT division. Why is that any different? Well, mostly because “real swimmers don’t wear / need wetsuits”. I don’t wear one to be faster (clearly because it didn’t seem to make me faster!) or to go home with hardware… I wear it because 4 years ago I was ‘ambulanced’ outta the finish chute to the ER from hypothermia. All of a sudden it became quite an expensive (and scary!) day. I also wear it as my eye is on the bigger “prize”, the 70.3 World Championships a mere 5 weeks ahead (where I will no doubt have on a wetsuit). This race was sandwiched between a 75 ish mile bike ride and 11.5 mile run. Can’t complain. And, I suppose lately I have been calling myself a Triathlete over a swimmer anyways 🙂
It was awesome running out of the water towards the finish line and hearing my name being called from family and friends. My brother in law, sister in law and two nieces came all the way from London to watch (well, not really, but the timing worked out well) and it just made it that much more special. Not often you get to race w/ family and friends and I will take it when I can get it and appreciate every minute of it!!!
Congrats to all the finishers out there! It was really enjoyable to watch the finishers after me and be inspired by so many people. Next year I might just catch the first people as well 🙂 It made me feel so lucky to have the conditioning (and courage!) and also the support to participate in these races….
Thanks – as always – for reading!