3.6 Miles Along the Coast of West Seattle
DATE OF SWIM: 7/10/20
A spontaneous adventure from Lowman Beach in West Seattle to the Alki Bathhouse - zero visibility but full sun, no lions mane sightings, and glassy calm water. This swim was my 2020 summer goal and longest swim in West Seattle yet!
With COVID-19 impacting the ability to travel and swim race schedules (all of my planned swims this season were cancelled), I changed my main summer goal to swim from Lincoln Park to the Alki point lighthouse. I've been swimming around 4 times a week with friends at a local cove after work, sometimes over an hour without a wetsuit. I am definitely acclimated to swimming year round at this point, after nearly 3 years of swimming in the sound.
I went for a walk early with my boyfriend by our house and saw the water and sun and couldn't resist making this day my attempt at the swim. I figured I'd put little pressure on myself and just start at Lincoln Park and see how far I could swim. It was more for me about getting in the water - conditions just looked too perfect to not get outside and swim! I did zero research before this swim, I didn't even look at a tide chart. I definitely did not have the expectation of meeting my summer goal already on this day.
I called my friend and former roommate from NYC who recently moved to Seattle and we set off on a major spontaneous Friday afternoon adventure!
Just Keep Swimming
My biggest training tip this summer actually came from my new boss. He is a mountaineer and recommended that our team watch the film "Touching the Void" and view it from the perspective of goal setting. He talked about agile development and working towards a larger goal by breaking it up into smaller chunks. We've had some huge goals at work - trying to change long embedded mindsets and culture, building a new SaaS software, myself launching a whole user research program. Sometimes it can feel very overwhelming and stressful to see such huge goals looming before us. In Touching the Void, two climbing partners encounter disaster while on top of a snowy mountain. One climber gets separated, falls into a crevasse, unbelievably manages to get himself out, and makes the treacherous descent down the mountain with a broken leg. The only way he accomplishes this massive feat and saves his life is by taking it one step at a time.
When I've been swimming this summer, now more than ever, I break up my long swims into checkpoints. For example: "Swim to the green house, okay, made it! Now, swim to the yellow crane. Okay, great, you did it! Now, swim to the condos. You're almost there now! Woo hoo!" This technique has helped immensely with swimming long distances (I did the same thing on my longest swim in Lake Chelan, and it kept me going). It's also helped when swimming can feel really rough - sometimes swimming skins for an hour + on a cloudy day can be difficult both physically and mentally. It really enables me to stay focused on a goal. Instead of looking way far off into the distance (in this case, I wouldn't even have been able to see my goal from the starting point since it was around Alki Point) and getting discouraged by the distance, I stop myself and slow down. I make realistic goals that feel like small wins along the way.
Swimming, at this point, teaches me more about life and overcoming mental challenges than those physical challenges. I swim to clear my head, I swim to set goals and meet them, I swim to have adventures and remember I'm alive. I swim to breathe.
This swim took me approximately 2 hours 45 minutes. My friend exited at the Harbor West condos (2.4 mile point) and I swam the condos to the bathhouse portion alone. I normally don't like to swim alone, but at this point I was very comfortable in the water. We didn't have a tracker with us but we estimated the swim to be around 3.6 miles. I'm guessing it was around 3.8, it felt closer distance-wise to my Lake Chelan swim versus my Swim Defiance 5K. The swim from Coleman Pool to the Bathhouse is 4.35 miles so this seems to be accurate (my next goal!). Somehow we had perfect conditions - it was pure luck. We swam the entire way at slack tide, potentially with a slight push towards the lighthouse. We also didn't see any lions mane jellyfish, only a few tiny moon jellies. Unfortunately, we had about zero visibility on the swim other than the part by the bathhouse.
I've also determined that I definitely like to keep on going, without stopping often. This allows me to get into a groove of breathing. When I stop, it feels like I have to start all over again with proper breathing technique and takes me longer to get into a meditative state. The best parts of the swim are definitely when I am in a flow state.
In the end, it was amazing that I was able to reach my swim goal so quickly into the summer. I think a large part of this was putting minimal pressure on myself. I didn't say internally - "Okay, today is the day I am doing this swim, if I don't accomplish my goal, I'm going to be very hard on myself." Instead, I saw it just as a spontaneous adventure, a test, an experiment. The longer time goes on without my mom, the more I remember her telling me this whenever I was stressed about a big change, like when I moved to Seattle with two suitcases and no job. "Just go have an adventure," she said.
I know I love to swim, because when my swim friends who were just starting a swim came to greet and congratulate me as I got out of the water, I asked, "So I just get out now?" It felt very odd to step out of the water after so much time moving my body in one particular way, in the water, immersed in nature. I just wanted to get back in!
Next up: Bellingham swim adventures and Coleman Pool to Alki Bathhouse (4.35 miles)!