Emily, Susan and I swam the 10K Marnaton from Sitges to Port Ginesta. Beautiful sunny day, current against us in the second half of the swim. I finished in 2:58 and was very proud of Susan who finished at 3:10 and 1st in her age group, and of Emily who finished at 3:06 and also 1st in her age goup. I was the lucky one to give them both their trophies.
I took the opportunity to ask them a few questions about their experience in the swim, and their answers leave me confident that we will achieve our goal of crossing Gibraltar next year while continuing to have fun preparing for it.
Mauricio: what were your lowest and highest moments of the 10K swim?
Susan: Something weird happens to me that once the race is over, I forget about all the details. It’s like childbirth. But since you’re forcing me to retrace my thoughts, the lowest moment was when I realized I was going to swim the entire race by myself. This was at the start when I went way out on the side because I hate getting pummeled by people and then looked out and realized I didn’t recognize anyone- I was alone. The highest point was when I literally ran head-on into one of the giant jellyfish that normally make me scream out loud underwater (such a futile effort) and it didn’t sting at all. I might have well run into a plastic bag. It makes you think that your arch- nemesis is actually a cuddly teddy bear.
Emily: From about 3K to 7K I was pretty much on my own and my mind was all over the place. The gel I had at 3k was this coffee flavored gross thing and it didn’t settle well. That combined with being alone and not half way done with the swim, my mind was really negative, lots of unproductive thoughts like “Why am I doing this?”, “I don’t want to cross Gibraltar,” “If I do stay with it and do Gibraltar, I am definitely not swimming again and definitely not doing this 10k next year”, “I am really a pool swimmer and am aching to do a flip turn”…. Around 7k, my mind relaxed and, despite the beginning aches of my arms and shoulders, I felt like I was gliding through the water. Then it was all the way home.
The highlight was stopping at the 9K refueling station and seeing Alberto Compte, one of the only 3 people I knew in the race, I was so happy to swim with someone on the way home. And when I saw the beach in the distance and turned on my turbo, the best is ending strong.
Mauricio: Anything you wish you had done differently?
Emily: I need to figure out how to start a race and not lose my team. Susan stayed to the side as she said she would but I got carried away in a group towards the middle. People perceive swimming as an individual sport, but stopping between sets and chatting with the people in your lane is fundamental. If I had been with Susan, we would have stopped at each buoy; switched positions and pushed each other. We are stronger individuals as a team. We both finished the race comfortably which was our goal. Next time we can be more strategic. Every swim we learn something new about the open water.
Susan: My goal was finish and not be sprawled on the beach from exhaustion. Since we’re training for Gibraltar, it’s important to think we have some reserves- it will be way harder than this. But, when I finished, I knew I could have given more. I know we can cross the Strait.
Mauricio: where was your mind during the race?
Susan: The day before the race, I drove the same distance, from Port Ginesta to Sitges. The whole time I was thinking: “you’ll be swimming this…. you’re still swimming this…. you’re still swimming this!….” It seemed impossible. So, if I’m thinking that while driving 120 KM per hour on the highway, I can tell you that while I was swimming I was thinking: “I’m swimming this, I’m still swimming this… I’m still swimming this”. It was long. But Gibraltar will be longer.
Emily: My mind was all over the place but surprisingly I was not worrying about the waves or currents or sea life. Threaded throughout my random thoughts was how long and boring the race was going to be; my mind was restless and I was unable to shut it down.
Mauricio: You are former competitive pool swimmers, and as many such swimmers, you retired from swimming after college. Until now. How does it feel to get back in the water and what are your first impressions of Open Water lomg distance swimming?
Emily: It feels great to be back in the pool and the open water stuff is interesting, jury is still out.
Susan: When you first get back into the water after a long retirement, you are very scared of the elements: the current, the wildlife, the cold, the unknown… but slowly those fears start to fade. It’s bizarre. You are actually quite insignificant out there.
Mauricio: What was your weekly exercise/workout routine one year ago, and what is it now?
Susan: Last year: tennis 2 days, personal trainer 2 days, running 5k one day a week. This year: swimming 3-4 days, tennis 2 days, and personal trainer 2 times a week. I have to tell you about Lauren, my trainer- she’s tough!
Emily: (Per week) Last year: Run 5k once a week in great pain, play tennis 2 days, yoga 1 day. Now: Run outside 2-3 days, play tennis 2-3 days, yoga 1 day and swim 3 days.