Take it away, Jyl!
So this past weekend I had the crazy idea to swim 1500 meters across Boston Harbor. I thought in my brain this Shark Fest Swim, the first year in Boston, would be a good idea and practice for my ultimate work out goal of swimming from Alcatraz to San Francisco in 2013.
I arrived Friday morning to a cold and dreary Boston. After checking the forecast, I saw the water temp was about 62 degrees, not the 68-70 degrees they mentioned on the website at the time of sign up. I had a sleeveless wetsuit, an awful thing (no one likes trying on or wearing one of these things) and really wished I went for and practiced with the full sleeve one… Never did it cross my mind that the water would be this cold! Mistake number #1 of the weekend!
Saturday morning came and was dreary and drizzly and cold again. Wishing I had gloves and a winter hat as I walked from the hotel to the start was one thing! Man, if the air was this cold, imagine the water!
Mom and I hung out at the finish line, where water taxis were taking us over to the start. I noticed these people hanging around looked like serious swimmers/athletes. Mom mentioned that no silly normal or person thinking they were in shape would jump into the harbor! She was right!
I finally boarded a small water taxi to the start line with about 20 other swimmers. Most were quiet and checking out the scene, and there were 2 college kids on my boat going in Speedos for the swim. Man, I thought they were crazy, but they were the only ones doing it I would soon realize. Sure they were about the 10% of the crowd, but there were people, including a very cute Olympian open water swimmer, Alex Meyer (who won the race, finishing in half the time I did it, and no wet suit).
Anyway, I had about an hour and a half to hang out and stare at the dark, cold water from the start line. I chatted with people from all over the country, some experienced and a lot this being their first open water swim race, like me. Most of the Bostonians weren’t scared of the water temp, that’s when I realized I was a Southern girl now… My 80 degree HFFA pool temp will never seem cold again!
We got our rules and regs, and 300 people were set to jump off the pier in 4 waves. I decided to go in mid pack, and ended up in wave 3. I watched the other waves go off and began to realize I was crazy. Why was I doing this? I saw some people struggle at the start for sure, but did not see anyone go to the wonderful kayakers or paddle boarders…
|Jyl, post swim with her nephew, Daniel.|
Damn Jyl, that looks cold...
I walked toward the start of my wave, and was nervous. Some people were sticking their feet in the water and testing it and I pondered it, and thank God, I didn’t do it. The whistle went off and I was on the far side of the pack and one of the last to go. I didn’t want to get in the crowd and when I jumped in feet first, it was a feeling of shear panic. I have NEVER felt this before. Some choice words went through my brain and then my brain said MOVE. My face, neck, arms turned to quick ice cubes and the first couple of strokes I did not put my face in the water. I was frozen. I tried not to panic and breathe and finally after about a minute I realized I needed to keep going and move forward. I honestly thought if there were kayakers that first minute, I would have stopped. It was awfully cold! I did an obstacle at the tough mudder where you dunk in a dumpster of ice and quickly climb out. This was worse and I had to go 1500 meters to the other side!
I got in my groove and stayed on the outside of the pack and took one stroke at a time. I can say for about 10 minutes I didn’t freeze, but then about half way through the race, I got cold again. Thank God for the wet suit! It was a saving grace. I also wore two swim caps, and I guess any extra layer helped some!
I know I touched things in that harbor, and not sure what they were? Fish, the bottom, dead bodies, garbage. Or other racers I didn’t see, but I did have a couple freak outs of 'what is touching my fingers?'
Spotting was hard, because of fog and the darkness, but aiming for the city was the only way I went. Also following the other yellow caps the whole way!
Finally I saw the white tent near the marina (and lots of huge Boston harbor boats) and I tried to swim faster, not sure if I did or not, but I wanted out. The taste of salt water was another thing I couldn’t practice for, and wasn’t prepared for. I finally saw the back up of finishers near the white tent with the timing pad, and also at that time, I could hear people cheering from the side of the harbor. I KNEW warmth was in reach. I touched the timing board and then had to swim about 50 meters to the ladders to get out of the harbor. At that time I heard my mom and family calling my name, and I smiled. Thank God I was done!
I got out as quick as I could and got that wetsuit off (with some great burns around my neck from where it rubbed) and got in a blanket and had a beer. I finished and NEVER have to do that again! My brother checked my time and it was just over 30 minutes. Again the Olympian did it in 16 minutes, and my goal was just not to come in last or have a boat pick me up, which neither happened.
Would I do that again? NO- I swam Boston and I’m happy I did it. Am I going to do Alcatraz? I haven’t decided. I can say the 55 degree water can’t be any worse than the water of Boston, but the current and shark factor and jumping off a boat, still make me not click the 'Register NOW' button… But I do need a new challenge for 2013, and I can’t think of anything else that would be more challenging and more fun!
Hey Jyl.....remind me to update the Reasons Why Swimming Sucks!
I am so, SO proud of you!
I get asked a lot why I keep going, keep swimming, keep running..... How can I not when I have completely awesome friends, like Jyl and Graham, that continue to surround me with inspiration and motivation? I am one lucky girl.