I have done this swim 5 times previously- '10, '11, '12. '13, and '14. I was registered last year but had a back injury about 6 weeks prior and was unable to swim that distance at that time.
This year a friend of mine who is close to my pace, and hasn't done many open water events, asked if we could swim together. After a "shake down swim" two weeks prior to test pace match, we decided to give it a try. It was wonderful to have a partner in crime when this event got tough, and tough it did get!
We gathered at Mathew's Beach around 7:15. I found a bunch of my Notorious Alki Swimmer friends. I'm so glad I joined NAS last year because it has given me a posse of like minded people. We took a few photos before hand, and this is by far my favorite! (NAS isn't all women all the time, that's just who we had for the photo).
We joked about how silly it was to wear the ankle bracelets. Between that and the number on the arm, we felt a little like prisoners.
The swim was supposed to have a line of buoys guiding us across the lake, but the wind had done a job on them in the few hours before the start and they were all way down the lake. The staff was doing their best to re-place them before the start, but it was impossible. This should have clued us in as to what we were getting ourselves into.
This year, because they gave us timing chips, they decided to do a mass start. Those were were "competitive" started at the front, and the "recreational" at the back. People slowly walked through the start chute and into the water to start swimming. It was pretty chaotic and still took a while for us to all spread out and find our groove. D and I started at the back, wanting to just take it easy.
The water was warm, and started out flat. We got into a good groove and were cruising along. I checked in with D a few times on pace and how she was doing. She was swimming strong and having a good time.
As we eased into the middle of the lake, the waves picked up. D commented that she kept seeing "whale spouts" and I said I would believe it in these conditions. The swells rose to about 2 feet, with white caps on top.
At one point I suggested D turn around and look behind us. We were about half way across. It is amazing to see how far back the previous shore is, and it is reassuring when the shore ahead really doesn't seem to be getting any closer.
A few times, I saw a white cap crash above me while I was under water for a stroke. The way the light played on the water they would appear to be sea-creatures of some sort. I decided they were mermaids, and good luck.
The waves really were relentless. I reassured D that she was earning her Bad-ass points for the day, as this was the worst conditions I'd ever done Park to Park in. She appreciated the reassurance, cursing the friends who talked her into it saying that lake swims are supposed to be calm and flat.
I was glad for both of us that we'd done so much training at Alki.
The safety crew were having a hard time managing their boats and paddle boards in the high winds and waves. At one point a safety kayaker was struggling with his boat and almost ran over me, D, and another swimmer. I put up a hand to fend him off, as I knew I could push the boat away, protecting all of our heads. He was able to maneuver away without my touching him (yay for following channel rules) but it was a bit harrowing. After this incident, I realized, again, how incredibly comfortable and strong I feel in the water these days. I never felt that I was at risk from that kayaker as I knew I had the ability to judge if I needed to push him away, grab on, or dive under. It is great to see how confident I am in water these days.
D and I made it to the finish. Tired, and with more water in our sinuses and stomachs than we would have prefered. Everyone gets rockstar points for completing this swim. It was a challenging one.
Final time was 1:14:08. Slower than I'd anticipated, but I'll take it considering the conditions.