I took the opportunity to go to the Galapagos Islands in March as part of a vulcanspeleology symposium. I’d been wanting to go there since first reading about Darwin, evolution, and the islands when I was a kid. The symposium wasn’t even on my radar until my friend Carol invited me along as her travel buddy. We ended up only being roommates during our overlapping times, but neither of us would have gone otherwise so it worked out. 🙂 Of course I packed my swimming stuff for the trip and started trying to figure out where I could swim while I was there. My friend Dave got there beforehand and helped scope swimming places out for me which helped a lot. 🙂
If I thought I could have gotten away with it, my first swim would have been from Baltra (island with the airport) to Isla Santa Cruz (main island) instead of taking the ferry. I’m sure the ferry guys would have looked at me like I was insane if I tried to get them to take my bags and meet them on the other side.
Ferry crossing between Baltra and Isla Santa Cruz
First swim I actually did was a late afternoon swim in Las Grietas, a narrow slot inland with salt water. My Garmin kept losing its satellite connection which slightly irked me so I’m not 100% sure what my distance was during my 40 minutes swimming there. I know that the length was about 51 – 56 yards depending on which rocks I turned off of. There were several people hanging out by the entrance and a few kids diving off the higher rocks. I had visions of a kid jumping right onto me. I had wanted to get in at least 5000 yards but seeing an entire tour group arrive to “cool off” was when I decided to get out. Good timing I passed by two more tour groups heading up when I was on my way back to the dock.
Second swim was with my friend Jenny at Playa de la Estacion. She doesn’t know how to swim and had a snorkel and life jacket. The idea was that she could snorkel while I swam. Unfortunately her mask was leaking, but she hung out in one of the rare shady spots while I did my best to swim in a relatively shallow area. There were kids in kayaks in the deepest area who seemed to be more interested in hitting each other with their paddles than anything else. Again, I’m having visions of being whacked in the head. I did however get to see some cool things like sea cucumbers and even a ray passing by!
Spotted Eagle Ray in Playa de la Estacion
Third swim was in Concha de Perla on Isla Isabela. HOLY CRAP. This was by far the most wildlife I have ever gotten to see during an open water swim. Concha de Perla is a natural swimming pool that’s only connected to the sea during high tide and it’s a decent size. Carol and Jenny were with me and they were going to snorkel while I swam. Jenny had heard that there was a place nearby that she could rent snorkel gear from which turned out to not be true. Carol and I started off on our way. I planned to do circles along the perimeter of the pool and was amazed at how much wildlife I was seeing: fish, starfish, crabs, 4 different kinds of rays, a large blue pufferfish, a small eel, and a sea turtle! I saw Jenny in the water with a life jacket she got somewhere and offered to give her my other goggles so she could at least see in the water. She looked really happy to be joining us and I’m glad she got to. 🙂 They got out after about an hour and I said that I’d be fine on my own as there were other people still around. After they left, I cut my swim circle to half the distance for safety reasons. I made sure there were still people around the dock after each lap just in case I got into any sort of trouble, at least I had half a chance of someone knowing and being able to help me. I got way too excited every time I saw a ray and eventually had to stop taking photos of them as I was there to swim, not do a photo shoot. The sun started setting less than 2 hours later so I got out so I wouldn’t have to walk back to the hotel in the dark as I wasn’t too familiar with the area and they seem to have a thing against streetlights there. If I had known how awesome this pool was, I’d have hit it up when we first arrived on the island (even though that was also at sunset) and spent that entire day there instead of going to the caves. This was definitely one of the biggest highlights of the trip. 🙂
Spotted Eagle Ray in Concha de Perla
Fourth and final swim was at Playa de los Perros back on Isla Santa Cruz which was a special swim since I got to swim with my friend Val for the first time! Val and I have known each other for years and bonded over our past experiences on high school swim teams. We were finally going to be able to do a short swim together. Her husband Jim and their friend Mike were also with us and she had promised Mike that she’d help him since he’s not a strong swimmer. I did an exploratory swim out from the beach in the general area while Val kept an eye on me. There wasn’t much to see in this area probably due to a lot of people hanging out at this beach. Regardless, it was so much fun to finally swim with Val though!
Back to reality, it was time to formulate a serious plan for my Anacapa training. My friends Scott Zornig, Lynn Kubasek, and Cherie Edborg have been helping me get my thoughts organized along with getting some really great input from the legendary Lynne Cox (side note: I’m still in awe that she gives me the time of day!!). Jamie’s advice was simply “swim as much open water as you can until then.” Scott’s plan advice would only be possible if I worked part-time since it looked like I’d end up swimming more than I was working a full-time job. Lynn and Cherie have been my biggest cheerleaders and I’m super excited that they’ll be with me on the boat! Cherie offered to kayak for me during longer swims which is awesome of her. 🙂
My two main training areas will be Oak Street in Laguna Beach and Aquatic Park in San Francisco. Oak Street’s advantage is that there are lifeguards at regular posts down the beach during the warmer months AND I’ll be able to easily find fellow Oak Streakers to come along for a lap or two. Aquatic Park’s advantage is that it’s colder than the Santa Barbara Channel which will help my body adapt to heat loss over prolonged periods so I’ll be less susceptible to hypothermia during my Anacapa swim. Both have a cafe with great chai latte 2 blocks away…coincidence? I think not.
San Francisco Aquatic Park
My solo swim application is due on May 1st which is quickly approaching. Scott wants my application to go through without any issues and recommended that I do at least one 10 KM open water swim before then to put on the application. I’m spending the rest of the upcoming weekends this month in SF for various reasons. Scott said I could do the 10 KM in Aquatic Park. F***. Why couldn’t he have said this to me before I went to the Galapagos and had 70 F water to swim in? Goddamnit. Like hell I’m getting that application denied though so I contacted my friend Suzie Dods about doing a 10 KM in AP as she’s done a qualifying one in there before. She responded immediately saying she’ll meet me there the morning of the 19th and help me lay out feeding stations and get me started. She’s absolutely amazing! In the meantime, Scott said he’ll try and get himself in shape to do a 10 KM with me at Oak Street as I said I’d take a few hours off from work to swim that with him on a weekday.
I’ve decided to ditch a couple of my weekly pool swims to go to Laguna Beach during the week to swim. Even though it’s shorter distances than my daily 6 KM pool swim routine, the water is colder and it reminds me of why I love open water swimming so much. I hate swimming through kelp but I love seeing the fish, seals, and of course my friends in the water. If LB was closer to where I work in Rosemead, I’d probably move to LB while I’m still down here. However my friend Carol said that I can stay with her (and her husband Peter) whenever I’m down there so I may turn into a regular houseguest for them since spending the night there means I don’t have to worry about LA traffic to get there. 🙂 I hope they don’t start charging me rent… Cherie also said I could stay with her whenever! I’m really amazed at how awesome my swimming friends are and very fortunate to have them in my life!
Back in SF, I’ve started working on revamping my stroke with my friend Evan Morrison. I’ve talked a few times on here about my stroke issues and getting to work with Evan for 30 minutes at a time is just golden. He’s a super efficient swimmer, very technical, and genuinely wants to help people. We’ve been able to mostly correct my biggest problem of my left arm crossing over when I breathe which took off 6 seconds from my average 100 meter split time in less than a week. He thinks he could take off at least another 15 seconds with a few more tweaks. 🙂 I haven’t even gone back to interval training to work on speed (or my lack thereof). So each time I go back home, I’m making my lesson time with him a priority.
I have a boat reserved for Saturday, 20 September for my swim! Yipee! They were nice enough too to put “TBD” for my swim time as I’ll know closer to the date on when the likely start time will be. The date can be moved too in the event that another day starts looking better to start my swim. My crew is shaping up too which also has me excited as there’s going to be a lot positive energy with me on my swim. 🙂
I’m taking the Catalina Channel Swimming Federation’s observer certification course on 17 May which will mean that I can observe for both CCSF and SBCSA swims! I plan on volunteering for every swim that fits into my schedule. Evan had told me that it’d be good to be an observer on an Anacapa swim also so I can see what the swim is like. I’m really excited about giving back to the swimming community since I’ve gotten so much out of it already. 🙂