Flowers Sea Swim: Mission accomplished!

My training period was short, only a week, but I knew I could go the distance. Three days before the race, I swam for sixty minutes. The sea was very rough, but not any rougher than what I’d experienced so far. I didn’t think I would take longer than sixty minutes to do the course, so I was satisfied with my training. It was time to taper.

I was supposed to do a shorter swim on the Thursday, but I was feeling a little queasy and exhausted, so my son told me to take a rest day. I had a little pool swim and did some yoga, but otherwise it was a rest day.

The day before the race I went out for a fifteen minute swim, just to get a feel for the sea. It had calmed down quite a bit, but there was still a strong current. I was getting concerned about swimming against the current on race day.

When I got home from the beach, I learned that the direction of the race had changed. Instead of starting at the Kimpton, we would start at the Royal Palms and swim to the Westin. In other words, someone had noted the direction of the current and wanted us to actually finish the race. That news made my day! Surely I could finish the mile going with the current!

Friday evening I ate pasta to provide my body with carbohydrates which would be stored as glycogen. Glycogen is the main source of energy during exertion.

Friday morning I swam for a few minutes in the swimming pool, just to loosen up. I did my yoga to relax and help my breathing. I carefully taped my foot and sunscreened everything except my arm, where my race number would go. We scoped out the parking areas and planned when we should go.

Our neighbour and his friend agree to join us, to save on finding parking. I have to admit that I was relieved to have them along. It helped me relax to have someone to chat with on the way there. I was feeling pretty relaxed when we arrived and I picked up my swim cap and got my race number on my arm.

It was time to sunscreen and pack up my belongings to be picked up later. My husband was walking along the beach, but he didn’t need to carry all my things. I gave him my phone, but that was it.

We were all counted off as we walked through a sort of gate to the water. I had prepared my goggles to defog them, so I rinsed off the defog, put my swim cap on, which was too small for long hair, and put on my goggles. We found places to start in the water and we were off!

Not very far in I realized my goggles were leaking. The seal had come off the lens portion. With great effort to keep moving on my back, I managed to put them back together, but not before the whole eyepiece fell off.  I’d guess that cost me at least 3 minutes.

I remember seeing the first eighth of a mile marker. After that I was in survival mode. I tried to find people to catch and pass. I tried to breathe rhythmically. At one point I was gaining on someone doing backstroke. He suddenly looked up and looked at me with a pleasantly surprised expression, and then I felt it. It was the current actually giving us a bit of a push. I hadn’t really noticed it before that.

I ploughed on. I told myself, like Dory, just keep swimming, just keep on swimming. I tried to recognize the buildings along the beach, but I don’t walk that beach enough. I alternated between front crawl, breast stroke and back crawl. The back of my knee began to hurt with what I thought was a cramp. I could no longer do whip kick. I was so tired, but I pushed myself to do the crawl as I noticed the race officials. They were waving everyone to the right. I realized that I must be almost done. I swam under a rope and pushed myself to finish and get my number. It said 855, but I later was listed as about 844. As I walked out of the water to the beach I saw a time clock with 51 minutes on it, but again, I later learned I’d finished in about 50 minutes. I felt a little disappointed that my time with the current wasn’t better, but happy to have finished.

Race volunteers put “Finisher” medals around our necks. I took my number to an official and got my gift bag. I found the food and beverage tables. I took way more food than I would be able to eat, a bottle of water and a bottle of Gatorade. I still hadn’t seen anyone I knew.

Finally, after I managed to claim my belongings after what seemed like ages, I saw my friends, but not my husband. My neighbour saved a spot with our stuff and we went off to find my husband.

What followed was the most exhausting part of the Flowers Sea Swim; waiting around on the beach, in the afternoon sun, for the prizes to be announced. The Flowers Sea Swim is known for their generous prizes, but in order to qualify, you have to finish the race and be present for the announcements. We could have gone home and showered and come back in time for the prize draws, but we waited through the speeches, chugging our water and Gatorade, munching on fruit and sandwiches and pizza. Honestly, I wasn’t as hungry as I thought I’d be. I was thirsty and hot.

So, we waited, while speeches were made, winners announced and finally, draw prizes. Names were called and sometimes a name would be recognized, but none of those names were ours!

By the end of the day the prize announcements were cutting well into evening plans for others, but not for us. We hadn’t planned to do anything that evening except eat and crash.

In retrospect, I’m glad I did the swim. I’m proud to have finished with so little time to train, and yes, I would do it again.






Flowers Sea Swim: New goals, new discoveries and a rude awakening

I returned to Cayman with the best intentions. I planned to train for the Flowers Sea Swim, the one mile swim along Seven Mile Beach that has competitors from all over the world. There are up to 1100 swimmers in this competition, all ages and abilities.

I’d been told that it was a fun event with lots of prizes for anyone who can finish the mile swim within the allotted 75 minutes. I was told that was a generous amount of time and would be no problem for me, a daily swimmer.

I discovered a few things when I set out to prepare for the competition.

First of all, the date was a lot earlier than I remembered from previous years, when I’m sure it was closer to the end of June. This year, the race is on June 10. That left very little time to prepare after over a month away. Sure, we’d done lots of walking, but I didn’t have a sea handy to swim in or even a pool.

Secondly, it’s  much less convenient to prepare for a sea swim every day than it is to jump in the pool in the morning and kick off  a set number of laps. The sea has no shade, so that means either thorough sun screening or  a sunscreen shirt. The sea outside our door is rather rough this time of year. We require a drive to a more well-situated beach for access and calmer seas.

With an attitude of “Let’s do this!” I set  out the first day, a little queasy, presumably from the rum punch I’d had the night before in addition to wine with dinner. There was a current, but not too strong. I swam for 35 minutes, feeling every one of them as if I was going to die or at the very least, throw up. My head was pounding. My goggles kept fogging up. My hair kept getting in my face.

I came out feeling worse and spent the day in the prone position after a soothing bath. Throw up I did, leaving me completely spent. I was unable to eat anything all day. I had a slightly high temperature, which told me that this was not a hangover.

After some sleuthing, we determined that I had eaten some bad leftovers. It was food poisoning. I swam in the pool the following day and I was very careful with my food intake. It was time to get some training advice as time was running out.

After a long Skype session with our son, I had a training plan. I can do this.

On Monday I went for my next swim, wearing my sunscreen shirt and swim shorts and a swim cap. Here’s the thing about the sea. There are waves. It’s salty. There is no shade. For every stroke in the pool I would need at least two or three to make the same distance in the sea. I swam for 40 minutes, swallowing sea water when I took a breath, resting frequently and wondering if I was completely out of my mind. The positive was that I’d defogged my goggles and they worked just fine.

When I finished the swim, I felt good. I stretched a little, drank a whole bottle of water and enjoyed my little shady spot on the beach until my husband came to get me.

Tuesday; it was a rough looking day at sea, but I checked the forecast and determined that it would be okay in the afternoon. No sunscreen shirt today, as it seemed to hold me back in the water. Swim cap on, goggles defogged, better sunscreen on my face, I went in. It was much rougher than the day before. There was a small craft warning, but fortunately, I’m not a small craft. I stayed in the swimming section for safety purposes while my husband went for a snorkel.

It takes some skill and practice to breath without having a drink of sea water. I tried to build up a rhythm, but my pace didn’t match the pace of the waves. I later found out that the waves were 4 to 6 feet. At one point, I almost choked on a mouthful of sea water. That unfortunate delay was quickly followed by a feeling like something had bitten me on my chest. There is life in the sea. Some things bite. I still don’t know what it was, but sometimes when the sea is rough the jellyfish come closer to shore. Maybe it was a baby jellyfish.

I finished the 50 minute swim, and surprised myself at how good I felt afterwards. I just wish I felt good during the swim. Here is how it goes. I start out and immediately feel the fatigue in my arms. I push through and start to feel stronger, but eventually I need to switch to breast stroke. I look up at a buoy marker and set a goal. I swim for what feels like 10 lengths of the pool and look up, only to get a wave in my face. The buoy doesn’t look any closer. I continue on and check my watch, setting goals for myself along the way.

At one point I took twice as long to swim between the marker buoys as I had the previous run, but I cheered up when the return swim took much less time. Obviously, the current was getting stronger.

I have a 60 minute swim to do today. The forecast hasn’t changed. I know I can do it and I’m actually looking forward to it. I hope the weather improves, but I’ll go anyway, unless there’s a lightning storm.

This is even more important to me now than when I signed up. I need to show myself that I can do it. I also need to do this now, while I’m healthy. I learned yesterday that I may need another foot surgery. I don’t know how long the recovery would be, but this is my window to do the swim.

Three more days to train! Let’s do this!