May 2007

Goal: To swim around the island of Key West each month for 12 consecutive months

Almost There!

My Eleventh Swim
Thursday, May 17th
Start time: 8:07; High Tide: 2.35ft.

One thing I can attest to is that my body recovers from swimming a whole lot more quicklythan from running. After my near 20 miles experience in Tampa Bay I was amazed at how decent I felt the next day. I had some soreness in my neck especially where it meets my shoulder. My shoulders were somewhat tender but that was about it. The crampy feeling I felt in my waist and quads seemed to disappear as soon as I got out of the water. I think it must have been due to my body’s tenseness from being in the cold water for so long.

Once I returned home from the Tampa area, late Tuesday, April 24th, I got out my tide charts and began to scan May’s offerings. I found what I was looking for, a Thursday (my one day off each week). It was mid month, May 17th. That was much to my liking as it gave me plenty of time to relax, almost a month. I also knew that I was through with the cold water thing. I was also happy to see that it was a very decent starting time. Sine high tide in the Key West harbor was set for 10:20AM. I calculate back two hours and fifteen minutes and I came up with 8:05AM. It was also a pretty high tide at 2.35 feet. That would be the highest tide I swam in in a very long time. That normally should give me a better time. I would be catching the outgoing tide as I swam through Key West Fleming Cut and the Cow Key Channel. Those are the area where, If you time your swim right you can pick us some help from Mother Nature. The higher the tide the more water there is to move you along.

I asked my 17 year old, home schooled daughter Julianne if she was game to go another round. She has been my regular since Christiana move up to Tampa to live with my daughter Elizabeth and her husband Tony. Julie is pretty easy and agreed to assist me. Julie is going to be my kayak escort in the 31st Annual Swim Around Key West on June 16th so I wanted to make my 11th swim in as many months a practice run. Julie and I would work on quick feeding transitions. I also thought I would complete my swim on Smathers Beach rather than the tradition finish in the water. This was because we will be using a chip timing clock in the Annual Swim. My friend, Zanna, who direct Elite Timing has offered to come down with her friend Scott and time our annual race.

Another gal, Yasmin, who attends Keys Presbyterian, the church I pastor had expressed in coming along in her own kayak, but due to a serious rash she developed while weeding the church parking lot had to back out. However, she did drive down to the beach to see Julie and me off.

I had to borrow a kayak for Christy while in Tampa. Dustin who loaned me his boat also loaned me a couple of ratcheted tie downs. I couldn’t believe how well they worked. They really secured the kayak atop the car and we so easy to use. I bought them and used them to affix the kayak atop my Ford Explorer for our trip to the beach. Before I used rope and it seem to take me forever, and I worried that the kayak would become airborne, not anymore!!

As usual we were running late and I know so well the tide waits for no man! I was happy to see Yasmin at the beach, she proved a big help to us in getting the kayak to the shore and in loading it up. The day was beautiful but we had a pretty stiff wind out of the north. We prayed on the beach and then I entered the water at the same location I planned to exit. I wanted to find a sandy bottom for the swimmers to run onto the beach at the end of the swim. After several hours in the water feet become pretty soft, sand is nice to walk or run on, rocks aren’t!

I was in the water, which was approximately 78 degrees. I was a couple minutes behind schedule. It was 8:07 and I yelled, “Go!” loud enough for Julie to hear. She was still on the beach readying the kayak. I was gone heading for White Street Pier. It is always interesting to examine my thoughts at the start of each swim. I check my shoulders. I usually can tell if I am going to have pain by how I feel in the first minutes. I try to relax and settle in for the next approximately six hours. Six hours of continuous motion. It’s funny that seemed very manageable not only because I had done it each month for the previous
10 months but especially after almost eleven hours and thirty minutes in the cold water in Tampa Bay.

I was really hoping to record a good time. I made it to White Street Pier in 18:53. Anything under 20:00 is good for me. Next I aimed for the radar dish on the Truman Military Base. The back part of my right shoulder was giving me pain. I was hoping I would work it out. I kept swimming and passed the Radar Dish at 57:03. That meant it took me 38:10 to swim this next leg. Not great, but not too bad.

Just as I passed the Dish I indicated to Julie that I wanted a drink. We wasted a bit of time. Next, on the agenda, Key West Harbor.

I was hoping for a good ride through Key West Harbor, my next destination. There a gigantic cruise ship at Mallory Square, it was the Majesty of the Seas. We had a strong headwind through the harbor. I glanced at Julie and could see she was struggling against the chop and wind. I always want her by my side as I pass though this heavily trafficked area. I was beginning to feel the need to drink my Perpetuum, but I didn’t want to stop in the Harbor. I thought it best to wait until I got passed the Fleming Bridge. As I passed the Pier House I was underwhelmed with my performance. It took my 48:31 to swim from the Dish to the Pier House. My time now was now 1:45.35. If I can get under the Fleming Bridge by the two hour mark, that is a good sign. The wind was pretty stiff and steady. The angle of the sun and the waves made it hard for me to see the entrance into the Fleming Cut. I pretty much swam from memory. I love getting into the Cut. We had some protection from the wind in the Cut. I got under the bridge at 2:06. I fuelled up again. I find it best if Julie gets ahead of me and readies my nourishment. I told her I would shout, “Drink!” and when I do, she should paddle ahead and get things set up and I would swim to her, I would take what I need and move out. Standing still is a no, no! Going backward is unforgivable.

Now I aimed for Sigsbee. I look so far away, but I thought how far the Radar Dish was at one point and I was will past that. It thought of the many time I passed all these milestones, soon I would be at Sigsbee. It is interesting to swim through all the sailboat moored out in that section. The wind was now at our right side. I arrived at the beginning of Sigsbee in 40:26 my time was now, 2:46:57.

The back of my right shoulder was still sore. I always try to determine if it is muscle, ligament or tendon. I am not so concerned if it is muscle. I couldn’t figure out why it was sore. I pushed on. I made my way around Sigsbee, my next milestone was the antenna on the far side of the island. This island, which houses military is connected to Key West by a causeway, hence the need to swim around. Fort-six minutes after my arrival to Sigsbee I was leaving the island behind. My time was 3:32.57. I had now a good hike to the Cow Key Channel Bridge. In order to make a straight course to this destination I have to keep my eye on the Hilton. That means I need to pick my head up to see where I am going. Going around Sigsbee you just need to look to the right to keep the shore in view and look down to make sure you are in deep enough water. I had another drink and a gel pack and put my head down and swam. Ideally, I want to pass un the Fleming Bridge by 2:00 and under Cow Key by 4:00. That is a pretty good indicator that I could complete the swim in 5:30 or less. I swam under the Cow Key Bridge at 4:17.22. it took me 44:25 to swim the distance for the Sigsbee Antenna. I can see the bottom very clearly unless the water is super choppy. I was pretty clear this time. I hadn’t seen much in the way of sea life this swim.

The Cow Key Bridge is a greatly enjoyed experience. I love swimming under it. I love it when the tide is strong. I love getting pulled along in a fast moving current. I had a pretty good one this time. The Cow Key tells me I have about 90 minutes left. I can pretty much predict my finish time at this point.

I called for another drink and we did very well this time. I have learned to stay in the boat channel. If you look for a short cut you may well find yourself beached. The current flowed the full distance through the Channel. I was pleasantly impressed with this. The wind at our back may have had something to do with this fact.

I realize my shoulder pain was going to be with me the duration of the swim. I knew I could handle it. I had only 2 miles to the finish. We made our way into the Atalantic and headed west. The wind was now hitting us from our right side pushing us out to sea. The main thing at this point is to try to find deep water as this side of the island is shallow. I grabbed my last drink and another gel and headed for the poles. I couldn’t see them but I know they begin where the sea wall ends and Smathers Beach begins. It took me 1:12.17 from the Cow Key Bridge to each the first pole. These poles keep boat traffic from the beach swimmers. There are ten all total. The distance is about a half mile. I usually put a lot of energy into this last half mile. I rounded the last pole in 16:56 that made my cumulative time 5:46:36. Traditionally, I was finished with the swim, but seeking to simulate the chip time beach finish I made a hard right turn and swan for the beach. It took me 3:22 to arrive at the beach. I swam until I could stroke anymore, rather than jump up and run for it. The bottom was funky and unappetizing to stand up on so I swam until I ran out of water and I only need to take a few steps to cross my imaginary finish line. I only felt inviting sand under my feet and I was finished with my 11th swim in 11 months. My time as I stopped my watch was 5:49.59.

Julie and I asked a passing couple to take our photo. I was holing up fingers in past photos to denote the swim completed but now I had run out of fingers, so Julie held up one finger next to my two handfuls.

It is a sense of elation to complete each of these swims, a feeling of real accomplishment. The sun was hot as we carried the kayak from the beach and placed it on them Explorer’s top. We loaded all our salty paraphernalia and we were on our way home. I had completed not only my 11th swim in 11 months but also my 30th lifetime 12.5 mile swim around my island of Key West.

Next up, my 31st personal swim on Saturday, June 16th, the date of the 31st Annual Swim Around Key West. At this moment we have 86 swimmers registered to swim. 42 are entered as soloists. The remainder as participants in either the 2 person or 3 person relays. The race begins at 8:45AM promptly. The tide waits for no man. I think I am almost ready!