The Boston Light Swim is one of my favorite swims. The course is beautiful, it is extremely well run, and it is challenging. My third BLS yesterday was the most challenging to date and I loved every minute of it.
The day before the swim it was rainy. But, at the pre-race meeting and dinner – we were excited about the forecast for swim day…bright sun. There was a little mention of wind – but, frankly, we were all just excited about the sun coming out. I checked the marine forecast before bed and it was calling for strong winds out of the west/northwest. Not good – as we would be swimming to the west.
When we got the swim start at 7:00 a.m. – there was a light breeze…but, nothing that was concerning. And, the water looked a bit bumpy but not too bad. We motored out to the swim start and, while it was a little breezy and bumpy – again, I wasn’t really concerned. My boat captain said the water temp was 61 – booyah! That is my sweet spot and great training for Catalina. I jumped off the back of the boat at 9:00 a.m. excited to start swimming.
The first fifteen minutes went by and then….I started getting bashed in the head. The warning/diver-down flags were on the back of the boat and, when I glanced up during a breath – they were at full attention…straight behind the boat. And I thought…well, there it is…there’s that wind. Knowing that the tide was going with us and the wind against the tide I settled in to what was going to be a very long day.
It progressively got windier and choppier and just down right brutal at points. In addition to the weather – the boat traffic picked up during the course of the morning causing the confused sea to become even more confused. And, because of the waves and chop, the boaters not involved in the swim couldn’t see us very well. My boat pilot – Alan – was outstanding, using his siren and his microphone to alert boaters to the swimmers. He was very frustrated that the recreational boaters had not listened (or paid attention) to the marine warnings about the swimming event that were being announced every fifteen minutes. Greg and the BLS crew had done an outstanding job of ensuring that the swim was announced over the marine radio before and during the swim. And, the boat support out there was extremely diligent in making sure we were all safe. I never once was concerned about the boat traffic.
At one point, when I realized that I was just not making much progress I figured I would have the best possible training swim for Catalina that I could have. I knew the cut-off time for the swim was 5 hours and I figured I would be close. But, the water temp was great and the conditions were brutal…what better opportunity to get a good day in before I head to California in 30 days. I also thought about the last four hours of my English Channel swim and how difficult those were. So, I mentally put myself into the last four hours of any hard swim and used it for both physical and mental training.
When I rounded the last island the wind actually got worse. I could see the island to my left and, like France a year ago, it seemed to stay in the same place for a very long time. I finally broke free and looked at my watch. It was going to be close – but, I doubted my ability to make it to the finish in 5 hours. So, I put my head down and swam and figured I would do so until someone told me to get out or I got to the finish.
Thankfully, I was able to make it to the finish in 5:08 – eight minutes after the 5 hour time cutoff. I came out of the water and told Greg that at least I got my monies worth 🙂
Twenty-two solo swimmers started. Twelve officially finished. I was the thirteenth person and third woman to hit the beach. However, because I finished after 5 hours, technically, I was a DNF. As an open-water marathon swimmer – I understand the rules. The rules are the rules. Marathon swimmers live strictly by the rules and we respect the rules. But, I am so happy that I got to walk up onto the beach rather than have to end my swim by climbing up into the boat. There were 9 solo swimmers who didn’t get to walk up onto the beach and did have to climb up into their boat. There were many hardy, brave souls out there yesterday. I was glad to be among all of them.
All in all – it was a fabulous day for me, albeit very long and painful. I was able to push myself through some pretty dark places and that is a helpful refresher so close to Catalina.