Day four and the last day of swim camp, we went to Long Beach where the Catalina Channel swim ends. I didn't think it was possible for the ocean to get any colder than what we had been swimming in at Manhattan Beach. It can. But before you can even get into the icy water, you have to clamber down a beach of slippery rocks, entering the water backwards like a very uncoordinated crab.
Once in the cryogenic sea, you get to swim through a kelp field the size of a small island. This was Satan's kelp - with bony stems and weird little green balls like knuckles. It was a graveyard of skeletons grabbing at me while I crawled and shimmied my way through.
Once again I was at the back of the pack. The cold put me in slow motion - every stroke felt like I was diving my arm into a bin full of needles. My lips turned to hard wax, making it hard to complain ;-)
We swam over to another beach and then turned around and came back for a round trip of about a mile and it took about 25-30 minutes. I don't think I could have swum much longer without hypothermia. Ugh - more cold showers in my future.
The Catalina Channel won't make it on my bucket list, but it was an interesting and exciting adventure. I'm really glad we had the opportunity to try a real channel finish. Imagining a poor swimmer going through all of that after having swum for 15 or more hours is mind boggling.
Once we dried off and put clothes on, we headed to the city of Long Beach for lunch at Acapulco's, which was the best Mexican food I've ever had (but then, I probably could have eaten my running shoes at that point).
The last training of the day was practicing feeds with a kayaker. Since my plane was leaving in a few hours, I didn't take the time to practice, but watched from the dock with Anne. I didn't mind not getting back into cold water and it was nice to have time to chat with Anne. I wish I would have been able to tell my camp friends good-bye before I left, but I hope we can stay in touch through facebook or email.
The camp was well worth the investment. Anne and Mallory are amazing swimmers and provided a tremendous amount of knowledge and personal coaching. It was a surprising realization to discover how hard it is to swim in the ocean, but now I know and I still have time to increase my training. More weights, more intensive swimming, more endurance work, more yoga and more cold acclimation. I can do it.