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La Jolla Rough Water Swim - 1 mile - Swim

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La Jolla, California
United States
Total Time = 36m 33s
Overall Rank = 291/370
Age Group = F30-34
Age Group Rank = 0/
Pre-race routine:

I have my big, scary, pie-in-the-sky goal for triathlon that is lurking in the distant future. And to get to that goal, I need to swim in the ocean, because that triathlon requires an ocean swim. No, for those playing along at home, I do NOT want to do the Kona Ironman. Remember what I said at the finish line of Ironman Arizona? Well, that's a hint.

You'd think I would have learned by now in the 4 years that I've done triathlon that descriptive wording in race names are there for a reason. The "Arizona Xtreme Desert XTERRA" is just that, extreme. So I was a little worried about a race with the word "rough" in the title. I heard about the La Jolla Rough Water Swim through the Ford Master's website. Every year the group goes out and does this race. They have a 250 yard kid's swim, a 1 mile swim, and a 3 mile swim called the Gatorman. I would be in the Master's Women group, so that took me out of the 250 yard swim. Bummer. So 1 mile it was. I started "thinking" about the race, which meant posting on BeginnerTriathlete and asking about it, and e-mailing Jim Stites to ask how "rough" the water really was. Everyone said it varied from year to year, but I should be fine. A few days later there I was on, clicking the submit button.

I was more worried and nervous about this swim than any other. I've swam in a ton of questionable AZ lakes, a stock pond in CA, and a river in CA. But they are not the ocean. The ocean has waves and currents, which is what I was worried the most about. You see, I don't do well in motion. I do well at rest. I can feel the waves if the wind blows on Tempe Town lake and creates 3 inch swells. Before each open water swim I take non-drowsy Dramamine (the PURPLE bottle, not the yellow one which does make you drowsy) which gets me through the swim enough to survive and get to my bike. But the ocean is another story. Waves are measured in feet, the water is briny, and there are currents that can take you 26 miles from shore. I signed up for a 1 mile swim, not a 26 mile one. But I remembered my goal, and how bad I wanted to reach that goal in 2010. Bad enough to learn to swim in the ocean.

My plans were further screwed up by my work schedule where I was sent away on travel the week before the race, and picked up a nice head cold somewhere between Tucson and Atlanta. I had successfully avoided getting sick before IMAZ for over a year, and now it was time to pay. Tuesday before the race I felt like I was going to die. By Thursday there was no way I was swimming because I was breathing through putty. By Friday I arrived in San Diego and felt I cold sort of swim if I only breathed through my mouth and could avoid drowning from coughing.

Zac met me at the airport on Friday, and we found our hotel room in La Jolla. On Saturday morning I went down to packet pickup. It was rather interesting because the woman in front of me couldn't decide if she was going to swim 1 mile or 3 miles the next day. Why was this even a question? It's like asking do you want to do an Olympic or an Ironman tomorrow. You know what you are trained for and capable of, so sign up for that. She left the table still unsure what to do. I sidled on up and gave them my ID and had to recite my age and phone number (interesting that they actually checked). My "packet" consisted of an envelope about the size of the Ace Hardware yellow envelope that you put bolts in, that contained my timing chip. That was it. No junk mail (thank goodness) or strange nutrition bar samples to try (also thank goodness). T-shirts were for sale, which I guess was a good thing because I already have too many race shirts. So it took all of 3 minutes to pick up my packet. We were out of there.

At 4 PM the Ford Masters folks were meeting down at the cove for a practice swim. I decided to go to feel out the water and see if I could survive. The cove is rather tiny, and like much of southern California, crowded. People were snorkeling everywhere in the cove, and it appeared there was no "line of dance" in the water. It was fun to watch because people were plowing into each other. The swimmers that were there to practice had to navigate through the swirling gang of snorkelers to get to the open water.

I found the Ford folks including Judy Gillies and Rane Clements. Jim talked about how to sight in the water and what features to pick on shore for navigating, as seeing the buoys can be tough. The group planned to swim to a buoy about a quarter mile out, then stop and talk some more. I told Zac I was just going to swim for a little, then turn around early and head back in. No need to tire myself out too much, especially with the recovery from the head cold.

The Ford folks jumped in the water and started swimming. I waited until the very end and got in. Time to start swimming! The water was about 68 degrees. I wasn't wearing a wetsuit, as they aren't allowed in official swimming races. It was a little chilly at first, but I warmed up pretty quickly. As I passed over rocks and plants I could see fish that looked like oversized goldfish below me. So that's what the snorkelers were looking at! I navigated my way through the snorkel crowd and got to deeper water where I couldn't see anything below me any more. Good. The less reference I have of how deep the water is, the better.

One of the first things I noticed right away was that ocean water is NASTY. I would stop and look around and a wave would come and splash in my face, forcing sea water in. It was SO GROSS! I will never talk bad about another AZ lake again (well, except maybe Sahuarita, as green just isn't natural). It felt like the concentration of 10,000 dill pickles just went in my mouth. And I had no way to rinse! So I ended up spitting, a lot. Mental note for race day: Keep mouth hermetically sealed shut. The other thing was, there was a lot of kelp in the water and it kind of scratched as you swam over it. I decided for race day I was definitely wearing a 1-piece suit.

The Ford folks went out to the buoy, and I went about 3/4 to the buoy before deciding to turn around. I wanted to make sure I could get back to the beach ok, and wanted to feel the current that people had talked about. Overall it wasn't too bad in the afternoon, but I could definitely feel that it required more effort to move forward. I got back to the beach and Zac was there with the bottle of fresh water I had him hold for me and have at the ready. I was finally able to rinse my mouth out and get the vile brine taste out. I had swam for about 15 minutes, which was perfect.

We had a bit more time left, so Zac and I walked down the sidewalk and moved to a less-crowded area to play in the waves. Zac attempted bodysurfing, and at one point he went out into the ocean a bit far and I was worried I would have to swim out and get him. But he came back in ok under his own power. We headed back to the hotel, showered, and met the Ford group for dinner where I had some awesome mac & cheese. I noticed my toungue felt a little swollen, probably from the salt water that day.

  • 36m 33s
  • 1760 yards
  • 02m 05s / 100 yards

The next morning we slept in. Yes, that's right...slept in on race day! My wave didn't go off until 11 AM! So we had plenty of time to get some sleep and go down to the hotel restaurant for breakfast. It was kind of nice not having to wake up at 4 AM to eat breakfast to be ready for a 7 AM start. I also had practically nothing to pack. No bike, no run shoes, no nutrition for the bike, or anything. Just put on my swim suit, dry clothes, and packed a water bottle, towel, and my cap and goggles.

We got a pretty good parking space before the race and headed to the madness that was the cove at La Jolla. There were hundreds of people milling around. I got bodymarked (down the left arm, left leg, and on the right shoulder...kind of different) and stood around to check out the swim course. It was a triangle, with the "out" leg about 800 yards away, then we turned and headed west about 400 yards, then turned again and headed back to the beach. The out leg looked freakishly long. There was no big dorito chip buoys either. They used little buoys with a stack of balloons tied to them. Definitely harder to see.

I gave Zac my dry clothes, and went to the staging area. I stood with the other 44 and under women while we baked, I mean waited, in the sun. The girl next to me asked me how long I thought it would take me to do the swim. I told her I had no idea as this was my first ocean swim. She gave me a strange look and asked why I didn't think it was a good idea to swim in the ocean first before the race. I realized she thought I was one of those types, who shows up unprepared to races and practically dies on the course (which is so not me...well except for the dying part). I quickly explained that I had done a ton of open water swimming, just none in the ocean. "Why not?" she asked. "Because I live in Tucson" I replied.

We made our way down to the water, and I quickly took a spot at the very back and to the left of the group. I wanted to find my own water and didn't care about drafting. This was just for experience, and really wasn't a "race" for me. The gun went off and it was time to get in the water. I followed the group over the rocks in the water, and quickly found my own little bit of water off to the side. This time I did much better about keeping the water out of my mouth. It was hard to see the first buoy, so I just looked for the red tiled roofs and saw the buoy just to the left of them. I did pretty good about staying calm and just focusing on swimming. The out portion of the triangle wasn't bad as far as the waves went. After the turn was a different story. I made the turn and saw nothing but a wall of water in front of me. Yep, we were swimming right into the waves. Now I was really aware of the up and down motion of the swells. But I stayed calm and kept going. About this time the second women's wave came through, and I noticed everyone was kicking really hard. Of course! It's not like I have a bike ride after this or anything! I should be kicking hard! So I started to really kick as I swam, which helped to get through the waves. It also really tired me out. I finally got to the second buoy and made the turn towards the beach.

The final leg was a bit tough, as the waves were pushing me at an angle to the beach. I would start to swim straight, then would look up and see that I was way too far to the left and have to correct. So I started sighting a lot more. It felt like it took forever to swim this leg, even though it was the shortest. It was easy to see the stairway down to the beach, so I could easily sight and see where I wanted to be. I knew I had to get in past where the rocks were sticking out, and the waves would be a bit less. But the water was different in the morning versus the previous afternoon, and the waves were picking up. This time, it was really hard to get to the beach. I felt like I was caught in a washing machine, swimming through oatmeal. Finally I could see the ground appear below me...and it was moving backwards! The ocean was pulling me back but I wanted to get out! Swim forward, get pulled back. Alright, this is stupid. Normally I swim until I hit the ground 3 times with my hands to stand up (this ensures the water is shallow enough to run through). But this time I stood up as soon as I could. I fell over, but at least I wasn't moving backwards. I crawled on all fours until the next wave hit and pushed me in. I got up and staggered onto the beach and crossed over the timing mat. I grabbed the first water and electrolyte drink that they had, and rinsed my mouth out. It was done! I had survived a 1 mile ocean swim! I grabbed more drinks and a Clif bar, and climbed up the stairs where they had the finisher's medals. The medal was a real medal (unlike the plastic one I got at Snow Valley) and said "Survivor" on it. How fitting.

I finished the swim in 36:33, which is a pretty leisurely pace for me in open water, but I had finished and I wasn't last. I can now check "ocean swim" off my list and know I can survive in the brine. Though I will still be avoiding it when I can. I was also glad that I was a much stronger swimmer before doing this race. Last year I was a completely different swimmer (if you can call what I was doing "swimming") so all the training came in handy. And it was definitely a good race to do as my first ocean swim.

What would you do differently?:

Post race
What limited your ability to perform faster:

Head cold.

Last updated: 2008-07-21 12:00 AM
00:36:33 | 1760 yards | 02m 05s / 100yards
Age Group: 0/
Overall: 0/370
Performance: Good
Suit: 1 piece TYR
Course: Triangle in the cove.
Start type: Run Plus:
Water temp: 68F / 20C Current: Medium
200M Perf. Average Remainder: Average
Breathing: Good Drafting: Below average
Waves: Navigation: Good
Rounding: Good
Post race
Weight change: %
Overall: Good
Mental exertion [1-5] 4
Physical exertion [1-5] 3
Good race? Yes
Course challenge Just right
Organized? Yes
Events on-time? Yes
Lots of volunteers? Yes
Plenty of drinks?
Post race activities: Average
Race evaluation [1-5] 3

2008-09-16 7:19 PM

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Tucson, AZ
Subject: La Jolla Rough Water Swim - 1 mile
And the pics are here:

Edited by PirateGirl 2008-09-16 7:21 PM

2008-09-16 7:41 PM
in reply to: #1678518

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Tempe, Arizona (hot hot hot)
Subject: RE: La Jolla Rough Water Swim - 1 mile
Cool swim. I ave been washed in that machine many times. It makes living in Arizona and away from the ocean a little more managable.
2008-09-17 8:02 AM
in reply to: #1678518

Subject: ...
This user's post has been ignored.
2008-09-18 1:01 PM
in reply to: #1678518

Subject: RE: La Jolla Rough Water Swim - 1 mile

Congrats!!  I know you were nervous, but you got to experience one of the most sublime experiences there is, open ocean swimming.  Trust me, if you do it a few times you'd never want to go back to a lake!

And that big goldfishy type fish is our state marine fish, the Garibaldi.

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