I’m Gonna Need a Bigger Boat

buff from my brother has been my most important fashion accessory for all outings since Saturday’s Hagg Lake 30k challenge. I’ve worn this buff twice now. The first time was last July as sun protection when I was Michelle’s support paddler for the Portland Bridge Swim. The last three day’s, I haven’t been separated from the buff, as it is concealing my swim cap sunburn. The few students I have shown this sunburn to (students who also have goofy sunburns from this past weekend) laugh hysterically because my cap burn matches Marv’s facial burn, from when the hot iron fell on his face, in the movie Home Alone. I am not sponsored by buff or receiving any compensation for my endorsement of their product, but if the company has any interest in sponsoring a marathon swimmer or donating some extra buffs, either to match a wider variety of outfits for someone needing to conceal iron shaped sunburns, or to give to my crew as thank you gifts, I would be grateful.

In preparation for the 30k, I frequently kept tabs on the weather all last week. Initially rain was predicted and a high of 55 degrees. Later this changed to cloudy conditions with a high of 57, and by Saturday morning, my phone app indicated partly sunny skies and highs in the upper 50s. I was relieved when the rain forecast changed for the sake of my good-hearted support paddlers, but the dry conditions meant more preparation for me. I am a blue-eyed blond with a history of atypical skin nevi, which means I’m at higher risk for skin cancer, and therefore needed to go shopping for sufficient sun protection and application supplies. On rainy days, I apply regular waterproof sunblock (even though this lasts about 90 minutes), and on days with sun and high clouds, my support crew and I glove up and apply Desitin (a diaper rash ointment with zinc). As with Buff, I am also not sponsored by Desitin or funded in any way. Their product works well for me and other marathon swimmers, as it was suggested to me by word of mouth from experienced swimmers. Desitin hardens (even when wet), prevents suntans and burns, and then takes days of harsh scrubbing with dish soap and body oil, to remove completely. It is known to ruin paint on cars. My friend Cindy still points out a Desitin spot on her kayak from me bumping into it (while covered in Desitin) on a swim almost two years ago. Given it is so difficult to remove, you don’t want to get Desitin on your goggles (big reason to wear gloves when putting it on), so to spare my goggles, the upper half of my face was sacrificed and only protected with waterproof sunblock. Now I have this embarrassingly awkward sunburn.

Except for my goggle/forehead area, and a few missed, or too lightly covered spots on my back, I was successfully prepared for the sun. I was not ready, however, for the wind. This was a surprise to me because I consider myself a professional whitewater swimmer. There is a waterfall on the Sol Duc River on the Olympic Peninsula called Rijl Falls, from my days as kayak safety support on white water rafting trips there. This waterfall was named after me by the guide, because every time I attempted it in our training trips, using his plastic sit-on-top kayak, water poured onto my lap, I floated off/fell out of the boat, and then had to navigate the falls boat-less (safely swimming the rapids, feet first on my back of course). This Saturday was my first experience swimming into rapid-like white water. I learned that I’m definitely not a professional in heavy wind circumstances.

My 30k challenge ended up being a 20k swim. The wind started near the end of the first 10k lap, and by the time my second-lap paddler and I were three miles in, she couldn’t safely stop for consistent feed breaks, and she couldn’t keep up with me. There were times when I would pause to see if she was safe, and couldn’t see her. We did stop and discuss if we should call it quits and exit the water, but this was risky as we were no where near our cars and we both could have become hypothermic (she was as drenched as I was). Eventually we made it to a less windy section at the other end of lake and made it to the third paddling team. I had a difficult time calling the swim at that point as the water appeared calmer, but I was battered from being thrown in all directions from waves, under-nourished, and concerned the wind would pick up again. It was the right call because within ten minutes of my exit, we saw a motor boat capsize and need to be rescued.

Despite only swimming 20k of the 30k challenge, I have a new record for my longest swim (7 hours and 15 minutes), and I had a wonderful support team. Ian Maginnis, a  Tualatin Hills Barracuda Masters Swimmer escorted me on 10k lap one. He maintained a direct line and kept me clear of fishing boats. His parents are Irish, and his father is from Bangor, Northern Ireland, where I will be waiting eagerly until my boat pilot gives me my North Channel start time. Kristin Valentine, a fellow Yeti swimmer and Iron Man triathlete, paddle boarded for me on the second 10k lap. I’m sure she worked harder than I did in that wind, and she got us both to the finish safely.  Two more Yeti swimmers, Angie and Amanda were ready and waiting on shore with a camp stove and gluten free muffins and brownies. They were prepared to alternate/swim parts of lap three with me when I coasted in to the end of lap two, but when I said the training swim was finished, they made gluten free grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup, and helped me change for a quick warm-up. Thank you all for your energy, thoughtfulness and enthusiasm!

Next big training swim on the agenda is a 25k this Saturday without support boats! Unless… anyone has a much bigger, wind-steady vessel. Please let me know if you do!

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Above map is the first 10k loop from my swim before my watch battery died and quit logging the swim.

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