Ranie Pearce has quite an endurance swimming resume. A resident of the SF Bay area, where she swims year round in the frigid waters of the Pacific Ocean, she has swam across the Strait of Gibraltar, the English Channel, and the Maui Channel Swim. In this interview, Ranie speaks to us about her experience crossing Gibraltar in 2010.
Where are you from, and where do you usually swim?
I live in the San Francisco Bay Area (USA). Five days a week I swim in a pool, and on the weekends, I get to swim in the Pacific Ocean. The water temp. here ranges from 48-64 F. I do not own a wetsuit. I belong to the South End Rowing Club of San Francisco and we swim all year round in the Bay and ocean.
It was very hard. The currents are strong. The water is BIG. The water was overwhelming. You can feel the energy of the universe in that water. There are huge rollers and swells, whirlpools and riptides. It is an awe inspiring bit of water.
Date of crossing, # swimmers in group, duration, distance
I swam Gibraltar July 13th 2010. I swam about 13 miles in 5 Hours. It was very hard. The currents are strong. The water is BIG. It was a very exciting adventure.
Describe your training in preparation to cross Gibraltar?
I prepared for about a year. I swam one ten mile/six hour swim before Gibraltar, and many 3-4 hour swims in cold water.
What were your biggest fears coming into the swim?
My biggest fear was that I would be too slow to conquer the currents. I was just barely fast enough. About 1 km off the coast of Africa I was basically swimming in place for almost an hour. But I didn’t give up and I got through.
What did you drink / eat during the swim, and how often?
I drank Gatorade (didn’t know any better) and had some GU packets. I was lucky. I have since gotten better at the nutrition component of my swimming, but it is still my least favorite worry.
What were the conditions like? Better or worse than you expected?
The weather conditions were glorious, sunny and warm. The water was overwhelming. You can feel the energy of the universe in that water. There are huge rollers and swells, whirlpools and riptides. IT is an awe inspiring bit of water.
Describe the water
The water was warmer than I anticipated (about 64 F) and it seemed clean and beautiful, all be it saltier than the Pacific.
What were you thinking of during the swim?
I thought about all of the people who were thinking about me while I swam. I thought about not being able to make it, a lot. I thought about everything and nothing. I had quite a transcendent moment there where I felt truly insignificant. The sheer size and scope of the crossing, although not as bit as some I’ve swum, was mind blowing because you could feel the energy of the world there. I don’t mean to sound all religious or anything, but I felt very connected to the universe in the Straits. I didn’t feel that in the Maui Channel or the English Channel. That’s part of the cool thing about these big adventures, they are all different, and they affect us differently.
Out of nowhere, 25-30 HUGE dolphins swarmed around, and under me and swam with me for a few minutes. I could feel their slipstream and feel them moving the water.
Did you see any marine life?
I had a very hard struggle towards the end of the swim. I could see that I was very far East and that I wasn’t making obvious progress and I was worried that they would pull me. I was very sad and a bit desperate after more than four and a half hours. Truth be told, I had tears in my goggles, when out of nowhere, 25-30 HUGE dolphins swarmed around, and under me and swam with me for a few minutes. I focused so intently on trying to touch a dolphin and there were so many of them that I could feel their slipstream and feel them moving the water. That the next time I sighted ahead of me I was literally in the surf crashing into the cliff of Morocco. The dolphins were gone and I was successful. I don’t have the words to describe my feelings. I was being banged into the cliff and laughing and the pilot was calling to me to look up. High above me on the cliff was a Moroccan fisherman applauding me. It was very cool.
What was the most challenging part of the swim?
The finish was tough. You need to save some energy to fight through the off shore current. It’s an eight mile swim with a one km sprint at the end.
Were you able to enjoy the swim?
I enjoyed this swim more than any other swim I have ever done.
What was your highest and lowest moments of the swim?
The highlight was the wild dolphin encounter, I really believe that they came to help me. My low point was swimming in place about 1 km off the coast not making any progress. It was tough.
It’s just a swim, but it does feel great to be one of the very few people to have ever done it.
How would you rank this compared to other achievements in your life? How was it more difficult or more rewarding?
Good question. It’s just a swim, but it does feel great to be one of the very few people to have ever done it. I have since done harder swims, but this one is very special.
After swimming across Gibraltar, did you set any new challenges for yourself?
After swimming Gibraltar, I met some lovely English people and they convinced me to swim the English Channel.
After you swam Gibraltar, how long did it take for you to get in the water and swim again?
I swam the very next day in Tarifa because the Atlantic was so beautiful.
What condition was your mouth in by the end of the swim?
I had no ill effects from swimming Gibraltar. I was only in the water for five hours. I went sight-seeing, ate normally, and slept easily after my swim.
If you have done other long Open water swims, can you compare them and tell us what differentiated the Gibraltar swim from the others?
After my English Channel swim, I was very waterlogged and my mouth and throat hurt very much. No one prepared me for the salt water making my mouth swell and peel. My tongue was almost double in size and it took a week to peel and get back to normal. I did not eat or sleep for 24 hours after the channel, I was so “high”. It took me 18:40 to cross from England to France. This was life changing in that now I believe I can do anything I set my mind to. I trained hard, set a goal , and achieved it. I am proud to say that I am an “over 50”, overweight, suburban housewife, and I set a herculean goal, trained and accomplished it. How cool is that! I truly believe that I am an Elite Endurance Athlete and I am training for the next adventure now. I am swimming the Catalina Channel this coming summer.
Any additional advice?
Don’t over train. It is better to show up injury free, than over trained and hurt!