One way Catalina Channel swim.
In the light of Courtney's incredible 2 way Catalina, about which I am so delighted I could cheerfully shout it from the rooftops, it seems a bit of a damp squib to even want to report on my September 2017 one way C to M swim. Courtney was totally wonderful after my 16 hour 3 minute crossing, and really helped me to feel less despondent about the time.
I thought long and hard about whether or not to write this, but if anybody else ever feels as low as I did at one stage of this swim and sees that you can get through that, it's worth it.
When you're coming to do a swim in a different country, one which has a much faster average swim time, and so many lovely people have kindly reassured you that it'll be easier than your English Channel swim, it's easy to get excited and see yourself doing 12 - 13 hours, based on your training swims and your English Channel time.
I was absolutely ready for this, even if I was more than a little apprehensive about swimming all night and so much sealife passing beneath me. I just got in, swam to shore, waved, started, came level with my kayak and carried on.
That was all fine, except that I'm not used to being covered in Desitin as well as sunscreen and Vaseline and I managed to smear it all over my goggles, necessitating a change within the first hour. I also did it with the next pair, so just had to get on with it and see all the lights as starbursts through a haze. Let me tell you, I felt like a rank amateur and didn't want to disturb anybody any further so I just carried on.
The actual swimming was wonderful. Who wouldn't want to swim in warmer, calmer waters than they're used to, with feeds on a kayak close by and plenty of support on the escort boat? I forgot all about marine life and enjoyed it. A couple of shapes swam below me, so I just closed my eyes so my imagination wouldn't run wild.
I knew exactly how long I'd been swimming, whether I wanted to or not, as my amazing kayakers changed every 3 hours. Not much maths required!
I had a fully lit ship to look at at 2:30 am and a pod of over 100 dolphins with me at about 9:30am. It was as awesome as I'd been advised.
My trouble only started at 12 hours. I'd seen the coast of the mainland before this, but was puzzled as to why it wasn't closer. Between 11 and 12 hours, fog descended so I could no longer see the cliffs. It lifted in parts and everything seemed further away. I thought, since everybody seemed to swim Catalina in a straight line, there would be nothing slowing me down. Now, I'm not a fast swimmer, but I can maintain my pace over many hours in training and expected to on my Catalina swim.
At 12 hours, I felt really despondent and tired and had to remind myself of my aim, just to get there. I knew by then it would
be much slower than I expected. I just plodded on.
Then the wind got up a bit, so I was swallowing water and I really had to fight with my head. I wanted to get out. I have a friend who said to me once, "You can always do another stroke!", so I thought of that and changed it to, "You can always do another hour!".
By the time my kayakers switched again at 15 hours I seriously began to feel I was going to be a laughed at for taking so long. It's no fun to be thinking this when you've swum for 15 hours and land doesn't seem to be getting any nearer.
At this point, my crew and observers started counting down the distance. They knew I'd lost heart. I shouldn't have been looking, but I was..... and nothing seemed to be moving. It felt like I was swimming on the spot.
That last hour was interminable. I only believed I'd land it when my observer shouted "0.6 of a mile!"
The wind and the current were against me. I do wonder if I'd have carried on without the amazing support of my crew, kayakers and CCSF observers.
The shallows actually came very quickly.... along with a dense kelp forest. Normally, I would have balked at swimming through the stuff and getting my arms tangled up, but I could actually see the sea floor, so I was relieved. I stopped to disentangle my arms, had a bit of a giggle with my kayaker, Jax, and carried on to shore.
There were mixed emotions. Yes, I was about to finish, but I was a few hours slower than I expected to be.
Once I'd unsteadily walked out, I high fived a few guys, (they were on the beach and had guessed where I'd come from), had a fun tow behind the kayak back to the boat and got myself dry, dressed and rested.
16 hours 3 minutes 13 seconds. Gulp. It was the longest time I'd spent in the water.
I learned quite a lot from that swim. Courtney sent me the surface currents on the day, which explained a lot. She also told me to be proud because I'd got through it. She's absolutely right. :-)
I'm pretty slow in fresh water and was last to finish Zurich within the cut off last year, but I know I'm much better in the sea. I've talked about it with other swimmers much more experienced in these waters, and have come to the conclusion that I should just be happy I finished and move on to the next swim. It's not about how long it takes, it's about getting from A to B.
It seems wrong to say that I found the English Channel easier. Catalina was warmer, more beautiful by a long way and the swimming was a joy until I realised how far out I was. ;-)
Just had to get that off my chest. Chalking it up to experience and I will never, in future, have any sort of expectations! Onwards.