It’s been 9 days since my swim. The first 3 days were pretty painful… my shoulder hurt constantly, even though I wasn’t using it at all. Since then the pain has dissipated a lot and it usually only hurts when I’m doing certain movements that are hard on my shoulder. I haven’t swam or played water polo at all; I’ve been kicking with my arms at my side, doing ab workouts, hiking, and a little bit of running.
I went in to my doctor today and he told me that I need to take at least another 3 weeks off before I start doing any swimming or water polo whatsoever. After three weeks pass, we’ll reassess and see if I need to take additional time off. Which sucks. Even going 2 days without swimming makes me crazy. But, I need my shoulder to be totally healed before I start training for my next swim. I talked with my doctor about where I want to be in 5 years, 10 years, 15 years, and I began to understand how important it is to listen to my body. When I look at my future, there’s a lot of things I don’t know. But the one thing that I do know without a doubt is that I always want to be an ocean swimmer. It’s the one thing that I don’t ever think I’ll get tired of, and it’s the one thing that always brings me inner peace. Even at 70 or 80 years old, I may not be doing ultramarathon swims, but I’ve always pictured myself at those ages getting up and going for hour-long swims every morning. So, the next month or so is going to be hard, but I know it’s absolutely necessary. This isn’t some short-term commitment where I can afford to grind through the pain. This is something I plan on doing for the rest of my life, so I need to listen to my shoulders if I ever want to reach my goals.
So, I’m going to physical therapy twice a week and icing and strengthening my shoulders every day at home. As sad as it might sound, physical therapy gives me a sense of purpose that helps with my discouragement and sadness surrounding not being able to swim for a while. And I know that 3 weeks isn’t really that long; it’s just a blip in my lifetime. It’ll be over before I know it.
The past week was really rough for me as I’ve been dealing with my shoulder pain and I’ve also been experiencing some pretty bad post-event depression (“honeymoon blues”), which I’ll talk about more in-depth in a later post. Basically, I’m having a really hard time letting go of Anacapa. I don’t want this journey to be over. Especially when I can’t throw myself back into my training or into water polo again for the next month. I’m working on developing a more positive mindset about it, but it’s hard. I need to find a way of finding closure. I think the lack of a good workout (and the lack of endorphins) over the past week has also put me in kind of a bad mood because I’m used to getting an intense workout in every day.
I’m probably not going to be posting a lot about swimming itself in the next month. I will be posting about my physical + mental recovery from Anacapa. I know this wasn’t a super upbeat post and I’m sorry for that, but it’s important to me that I’m completely honest in my writing. Thanks for your support.
Many people have asked me what my plan for my next swim is since Wednesday. I have a good idea of what I’d like to do for my swim next year… if you’re a marathon swimmer you’ll probably be able to guess! Anacapa was such an empowering experience for me considering how strong I still felt at the end of the 7 hours… I know that I’m capable of taking on much longer, harder swims in the future, but the details stay under wraps for now.
The first thing I need to focus on is my shoulder. As one would expect, swimming for 7 hours didn’t exactly make my tendinitis any better. I was in a significant amount of pain at the end of my swim from my shoulder. So, I have big goals for the next couple years, but the first thing I need to focus on is healing. I was advised to take the next month off of all ocean swimming, and while that’s the absolute last thing I want to do (it’s been 3 days since my swim and I’m already dying to get back in the ocean!), it’s necessary in ensuring I’ll be pain-free before ramping up my yardage again. I’m taking the next 2 weeks off of water polo and all pool swimming and then reassessing how I feel after that.
So. It sucks. But it also I could be a lot worse. I’m grateful that even after I ignored the pain and continued to train through it for months, I don’t have anything worse than tendinitis. I’m really lucky in that regard.
So, I’ll be doing a lot of physical therapy in the coming weeks and months. There will be a lot of early morning ocean dips where I stare out on the horizon and wish I could swim for hours. I’ll probably be doing a lot of hiking, or biking, knowing how cranky I get when I’m not working out. I’ll also be kicking with my arms at my side during our water polo practices.
I’m hoping to get back in the water sooner rather than later, but I also need to listen to my body. I’ll make sure to update you on my progress. Thanks for your support, as always.
Yeah. So. I just did that. I really can’t wrap my mind around the fact that after training for this swim for over a year, it’s over. I was driving home from school today and I looked out to see the faint outline of Anacapa on the horizon, and I realized that I would never again look at it with the same feeling of longing and anticipation. It all feels so final. Everyone keeps coming up to me and wanting to celebrate, but I don’t really feel like celebrating the end of this journey. I know there will be many other swims in my future, but Anacapa was my first real love and that’s something hard to let go of. I think this might make me sound a little overdramatic? Or slightly crazy? Like I’m grieving an ex-boyfriend, or something? Sorry if it does. For those of you swimmers who are reading this, I’m sure you understand the feeling.
So. On to my actual swim.
We met at the harbor at 11pm and then walked down to the boat. The observer went over all the rules and we loaded the kayak and all our other supplies onto the boat. We ended up leaving the harbor at around 12:15am. I went down below to try to rest and get some last-minute sleep before the jump.
I jolted awake and checked my phone for the time. 1:51am. The boat rocked up and down in violent motions. I realized I needed to eat something because I’d be jumping in in an hour. I ate a few spoonfuls of oatmeal, but that was all my stomach could handle because of my nerves. I fell asleep again, waking up at 2:22. I looked outside and there it was, the ghostly silhouette of Anacapa Island quickly approaching. My heart was beating, fast, against my chest. I talked to Gracie and David and Vito, trying not to let my nerves show through. I put sunscreen on, got greased up, put my cap and goggles on, and put my lights on. The boat was shaking so violently that I already felt sick, so I wanted to get in the water as soon as possible. I couldn’t afford to barf and lose those calories before I even got in the water and started my swim.
Before I could even think about what I was doing, I jumped in and the blackness enveloped me. The swells were pretty big, at least 4 feet. I swam towards the light they were shining on the cliff face of the island. I swam into some seaweed, and then I realized that I would be swimming through a thick kelp forest for the 200 or so meters I had to swim to the island. I tried not to think about what kind of animals had made their home in that kelp. If you’ve never swam through a kelp forest, let me tell you: it’s hard. I was already breathing hard and I hadn’t even started my swim.
I touched the island as the waves crashed against me, trying not to get cut up by the barnacles and sharp rocks. I could hear my crew cheering and I quickly pushed off, eager to get the hell away from that island.
The first couple hours were pretty uneventful. At first I was nervous, with doubts and what-ifs constantly nagging at me. What if my shoulder starts hurting, already? What if I get cold? What if this swim was never meant for me? After a while, though, I slipped into a kind of trance. I started enjoying it, watching the bioluminescence shimmer beneath me with every stroke. This is really it, I thought to myself. This is where all your hard work over the past year finally pays off. I started imagining the finish. I imagined myself crawling up on the shore, exhausted, but happy, and a huge crowd of my friends and family cheering for me. The thought made me grin. Gracie, my kayaker, would tell me jokes at every feed to try to keep me in good spirits. At one feed she told me that I had just swam through a huge school of fish and a dozen or so of them had jumped into her kayak. One had swam up the leg of her pants and she couldn’t get it out!
As I swam, I noticed glowing shapes beneath me. I wondered if they were jellyfish, and sure enough, I felt a sharp pain near my shoulder as one brushed me. It wasn’t excruciating, but it definitely hurt. I spent the rest of the night watching the jellyfish, fascinated by their glowing silhouettes.
The sun rose, though it wasn’t the spectacular sunrise I had always imagined it to be. It was really foggy, so the sky just turned a light shade of gray. My shoulder was hurting pretty badly by that point, but I knew that after getting through the night, I could get through anything. I had been fighting my way through huge swells for most of the night, but at around 7am the wind died completely and the water became glassy.
Oil rig Gina was getting closer and closer with every feed. I knew she marked the point when I only had 4 miles to go. Even with the sun now up, I could see hundreds of pinkish-whitish jellyfish floating beneath me. The water was crystal clear and beautiful. I felt completely at home.
I had about 2 miles left when I realized that I was making great time. Maybe I can even finish in sub- 7 hours, I thought to myself in excitement. With about a half mile left, Gracie and Lauren both jumped in to swim with me to the beach. I saw the sand at the bottom and saw it getting more and more shallow. I realized that I could probably stand. I stood up, stumbling up to the beach, overwhelmed by all the people who had come to meet me. The observer blew the horn that meant that my swim was done and that people could touch me, and everyone ran down to me and started hugging me. Everyone was cheering and crying and I was so overwhelmed and exhausted that I started to cry too. My official time was 7 hours and 1 minute.
At the end of the swim, I still felt strong and fast. I never got cold (though the water temperature dropped from 69 to 62 throughout the course of the swim), and my stroke rate never changed from 60 except for the last hour, when it went up to 64. My shoulder pain was the only significant challenge for me. At the end, I felt that I would have been fully capable of swimming at least a few more miles. This was such an empowering experience because I now know that I’m capable of much longer and harder swims than I thought I was.
This swim was an incredible experience and one I’ll never forget. I had so much fun. I’m so grateful for my opportunity to do a swim like this, and I’m so grateful for the support of my incredible crew. I’m sad that it’s over, but I know that this is just the beginning of my marathon swimming career and I’m so excited for what’s to come.
So. Today’s the day. I meet my crew at 11pm tonight, and my jump time will be around 2:30/3am tomorrow morning. I’m definitely feeling calmer than I was yesterday, but I’m still pretty nervous (as one would expect). I’m just tired of the waiting game. I need to be in the water already!
The forecasted conditions look pretty amazing. Less than 5 knots of wind the whole way, and the water is a balmy 67 degrees. There will be a bit of a swell, but it’s a southern swell so it’ll be pushing me straight toward Oxnard!
It’s less than 4 days away. 4 days! Where has the time gone? It feels so surreal that it’s finally happening. I’m starting to get pretty nervous, but also excited. After I got my shoulder checked out I went through a couple weeks where I had lost pretty much all of my motivation and excitement for this swim… it was terrifying. But my shoulder has gotten a lot better thanks to physical therapy, icing, ibuprofen, and taking a week and a half (!!!) off swimming. So mentally, I’m feeling a lot better about it. My mind is in a good place. I’m visualizing my swim every day and doing short swim sessions. I’ve been checking the weather forecast every day, and it looks amazing so far. Less than 5 knots of wind, glassy conditions, and clear skies. I know that could all change, but I’m hopeful. Right now, I’m just focusing on hydrating, mentally preparing, and resting up. My heart starts to pound every time I think about it! Is it normal to be this nervous 4 days out? At least I know the adrenaline will carry me a ways!
I will post again the day before my swim with the link to my tracker and some final thoughts. As always, thank you for your support!
So. I did a 3-hour swim this past weekend, and I experienced some pretty bad shoulder pain. Worse than what I’ve been experiencing on any of my other swims. And it was only 3 hours. I finished the swim feeling incredibly discouraged and decided I needed to finally do something about the pain and figure out what’s going on. So I went to a chiropractor/physical therapist yesterday. And he told me that I had tendinitis, which is basically just inflammation of my rotator cuff. It’s not a very severe condition; most of the time it can be healed in a month with physical therapy and rest. If it’s not addressed, though, it could lead to more serious shoulder injuries like tears. So, the problem I’m facing is that I just got diagnosed with tendinitis and I’m swimming a channel in 2 weeks. Not exactly an ideal situation.
I’ve spent a lot of time crying and feeling sorry for myself, which (surprise!) has not helped the situation at all. So I’m over that; I refuse to feel sorry for myself anymore. Yes, this sucks (a lot) but at least I was lucky enough that I caught it 2 weeks before the swim and not a couple days before. And I know this experience will make me stronger and make my completion of the swim that much more meaningful. I have hope. I’m doing shoulder strengthening exercises every day, icing 3 times a day, taking Aleve, eating anti-inflammatory foods, taking an entire week off of swimming and water polo, going to physical therapy, and visualizing my swim every day. I’m doing everything I can do to be successful on this swim. It may hurt, but my doctor told me that I will not do any longterm damage to my shoulder during the swim. I’ve trained my ass off for this swim over the past year. It means so much to me. So, I’m willing to endure whatever pain I need to to get to the other side.
I’ll make sure to update you on my shoulder in a few days. Thanks for your support.