Swim Defiance: 3.2 Miles Dalco Passage Crossing
DATE OF SWIM: 7/21/19
A sunny, high visibility day in the Puget Sound, I swam from Owen Beach at Point Defiance Park to Vashon Island and back for a total of 3.2 miles in 2:08.
Point Defiance to Vashon and Back
Swim Buoy, Coast Guard, Kayakers
Post Race Photo Courtesy of Hillary Smith, Swim Defiance photographer
A One Year Anniversary Swim
A year ago in July 2018, I started long distance swimming. The story: I went to a tag sale in my neighborhood and bought a neighbor's old wetsuit and we started swimming 1/2 miles in the lake together. When I bought the wetsuit, the woman told me that her husband would swim around Bailey Peninsula at Seward Park (2.5 - 2.8 miles depending on closeness to shore). I thought it was a bit crazy.
During the summer, I swam 1/2 miles frequently in Lake Washington and eventually worked my way up to 1 mile. From 1 mile, I did 1.5. By the end of that summer, I'd swam the Bailey Peninsula loop many times with a new swim community.
I never actually tried on her wetsuit until the lake started to get a bit colder in the fall. When I did, it ripped in the butt. It was still an inspiring piece of clothing to get me started with OWS!
That summer (August 2018), I swam a 2.5 mile swim across Lake Washington for abortion access. It was my first race and introduced me to the OWS community - the Notorious Alki Swimmers and my Masters team the SixGill Sharks.
This weekend marked my first 5K in the Puget Sound - a nice way to round out my first year of OWS. I swam the historic Swim Defiance route, a 5K (3.2 mile) swim from Point Defiance park (Owen Beach) to Vashon Island and back. This route takes swimmers through the Dalco Passage, and across the Tacoma - Vashon ferry line.
An Early Start
The Swim Defiance 5K is known to be potentially a difficult swim - strong currents in this area of the sound can add miles to your swim. I started the swim early, leaving Seattle at 5 am to get to Owen Beach in Tacoma by 6:15 am registration time. It was hot already by that time and by the 7:45 am swim start time, it was nearly 88 degrees. The water temp was a warmer 57 degrees. Alki has lately been 55 degrees, so this was a treat! Land visibility was 10 miles - there was a clear view of Rainier from the passage.
Before we swam, we were instructed to angle our swim to the tip of Vashon so we would eventually be carried by the current to the middle of the island and end up at the buoys that we would turn around and head back from. It would be peak high tide at the start of our swim. On the way back, during slack tide, we had to aim our swim to the buoys at the finish line at Owen Beach.
During our pre-race meeting, the Race Director warned us again that if you straggled behind the group significantly you could potentially get pulled from the water. This is due to safety reasons - you don't get a personal kayak escort on swims like this. If you are far behind the group due to swimming slower, you run the risk of having to end your swim early because it's too difficult to keep an eye on you and the rest of the group. I knew it was possible to get pulled since I swim 2.4 miles in about 1 hour 30-40 minutes depending on conditions. I decided to try anyway since I was so excited for this long salt water swim!
Photo Courtesy of http://www.swimdefiance.com/
A Sunny Swim
There were roughly 15 of us who decided to swim the 5K, the rest shuttled over to Vashon to swim across the beach and complete a 3K. There were a handful of swimmers from my Alki group and my Masters team - it was great to see friendly faces!
Once the horn sounded at 7:45 am, everyone dashed through the water and I felt like I was already behind the group relatively quickly. Even if we could see 10 miles with high land visibility, the water was low visibility - it reminded me of swimming in the SF bay and not being able to see more than my hand in front of me.
This swim was a good opportunity to get comfortable with the idea of being close to the cut off time (2 hours) for the 5K. I swam almost the entire time thinking I would be pulled potentially (I was last at Whidbey, and close to last at the 2.4 mile Blue Seventy Friday Night race at Meridian Lake on the Friday before this swim). This swim was also yet another lesson in positive self talk.
By the time I swam across the sound and headed back, I knew I was okay and out of the risk of getting pulled out of the water for too slow of a time. I had a beautiful swim - no jellyfish in sight (if they were there, I couldn't see them), warm air and water temps, and a lot of encouraging kayaker support. I also did not have to deal with difficult currents. Only at two points during the swim did I feel like I had a current to contend with, but it felt like it was comprised of little waves carrying me along just like in my SF Bay swim.
Amazing Swim Action Shots Courtesy of Hillary Smith, Swim Defiance photographer
A Supportive Community
I finished the swim in 2 hours 8 minutes, right past the cut off time of 2 hours (but I didn't get pulled!). A few swim friends finished after me. After the swim, we ate peanut butter with rolls and fruit snacks to refuel. I was starving halfway through the swim, so I was very excited to eat. The Swim Director did a wonderful job making sure everyone got a souvenir - she packaged water, blue and ocean themed gifts (waves scented hand soap, blue loofah, etc.) with a Swim Defiance label for everyone. All of the swimmers could grab a bag from the table - it was quirky and cute and definitely appreciated. There were also bottles of champagne given out to those who won in their age group and medals for those who were 2nd or 3rd.
I got a medal for 2nd in my age group (30-34, there were only two of us!). My fellow Six GillShark Masters swim teammate won the first place!
You could really tell the sincere effort and labor of love that goes into directing and organizing a swim like this. It was such a special experience to swim across the sound. This is exactly why I swim courses like this - it's such a unique opportunity to be able to swim across a body of water that is normally too dangerous to cross. It would not have been possible without a massive volunteer effort. We had coast guard, kayakers, boats all around our sides making sure we were safe when crossing the Dalco Passage.
Thank you to all of the support - friends, volunteers, family, my boyfriend who cheered me on and greeted me when I got out of the water. I am so grateful that I can do amazing things like this because of the help of fellow OWS supporters!