Monday, September 5, 2011

Oceanside Pier Swim Labor Day 2011 82nd

I took these pictures before the swim began this morning.  First, I must say that I was greatly relieved to see a MUCH calmer ocean than the ocean that I jumped in yesterday.  It was mostly sunny, and the clouds moved in just after the swim ended, even sprinkling us with a few drops of rain.  I saw two lightning bolts way out there about a half-hour before the swim began.  The Oceanside Swim Club did a fantastic job!  What a super-organized event!  The City Lifeguards were great, and the ample safety support staff, jet skies, paddlers, and red boat were as professional as it gets.
The water temp was 62-64 degrees, with the inside water being noticeably cooler than the outside water.  The waves were breaking big close to the pier but where we started, just north of tower #3, was calmer.  Personally, I was concerned about getting out through a massive surf, but the surf zone at the starting line was probably 3-4 feet, with about 5 feet maximum on the big sets.  The photo of the boy above was one that I took because he was the first person out of the water in the first heat.  I think that the kids were doing two different distances-turnaround at the first orange, round circle buoy or the second buoy.  I was in the green cap starting heat.  I took my time going through the surf because this was my first official pier swim and I wanted to conserve my energy.  I did 38 minutes and thought that a time like that would leave a bunch of people behind me but, to my surprise, I was the one toward the back of the field.  I don't see any race results posted but I got a quick look at the papers on the desk in the amphitheater listing finish times.  I'm sure that lots of us will be checking back later on the Oceanside Swim Club site.  The swimmers around me were spread out and I only made contact with another body five times-just mild contact.  I imagine that the body contact was up front with the good swimmers.  I will say that I felt no shame being in my trunks in the 50-plus group.  There were male stomachs larger than mine so I blended in just fine.  It seemed to take a long time to reach the first big, orange buoy for me, even though I felt good.  I hit it at 15 minutes.  The second leg was much easier, and I hit that buoy at 27 minutes.  The final swim in was nice, and I liked the movement of the water carrying me along toward the sand.  I swam until my hand touched sand and it was a very easy water exit.  I had planned and expected much more difficult conditions and was quite pleased with the day.  The clean, crisp water felt great on the body, just the way I like it.  I guess my final thoughts are that I just felt that I did worse than I expected.  I really wish that after I finished I could have watched other swimmers exiting the water after me.  I know there were some more, but I don't think there were that many.  You people are GOOD ocean swimmers!  I may be the guy who swims the pier frequently, but now I know that I must work myself to progress to a higher level.  You fellow swimmers are a good example for me! Who knew so many old people were such good swimmers?  I'm 54, so I figure that I have a few years to improve my times.  See you in the water!
Oh, I forgot to mention that my goggles were washed off of my face when the first big wave washed over me coming in to the beach. 

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Update on Conditions Oceanside Labor Day Pier Swim Monday

OK. I went in the water on the north side of the pier at 2 PM today (Sunday).  Wow!  It is very, very friggin' rough in the surf zone.  I walked the beach from Surfrider Way south to south of the Pier before I swam.  I took these pictures which show some beautiful but rough water with BIG, POWERFUL waves.
I was on and I don't know where they come up with their reports, but they underestimated the size today.  I was in at high tide but for tomorrow morning the tide won't be much lower than this afternoon.  There is a very strong surge and a strong inside current in the surf zone that has the water flowing northward.  The problem with the pier swim, which is beginning south of the pier and swimming to the north side, will be twofold:  the strong current will pull us northward toward the pier while we swim outward through the big, rough surf.  There were clearly three different wave breaks today: a tiny break near the shore, a small but rough & surgy break next, and a big break on the outside which was about 4-8 feet this afternoon.  Now, there is something good about the water also-the interval between the waves as you get toward the outside break is distinct and clean-giving you time to breathe before you dive under the next wave.  It is not a deal where there is almost no time interval between waves, and they continuously break one after another on you, giving you almost no time to catch a breath.
We should encounter wide wave intervals tomorrow morning, giving us time to breathe.  The negative side is 'How the heck are we going to get through the powerful, incoming water flow without fins?'
When I went in today I wore my Churchill fins, along with a swimmer's safety vest.  The fins gave me enough propulsion to get out and I could easily dive well under the big waves.  I took time to catch my breath and relax before kicking out under the next wave.  Once I did get past the surf zone the next two building swells were clearly visible-but the water was flat, not choppy at all.  Swimming should be nice on this flat water with the building swells just gently lifting us up and down but not affecting our forward progress.
To give you an idea of the shoreline current running north, today I got in with the fins and by the time I had gotten past the surf zone I had been pulled north about a hundred yards-maybe a hundred and fifty yards.  And this is with fins!
The lifeguards were actively patrolling on jet skies and one guy stopped by me to check me out past the breakers.  I actually was not swimming but just relaxing on my back and easily kicking with my fins.  It was gorgeous out there, with the water crisp and clean-energizing water-good for swimming.  He asked me what I was doing, and I told him that I wanted to check out the waves, the rip, and the currents far out.  He told me that the swim will go off tomorrow as planned, and the starting point will be a little south of tower #3.  He said that this should give swimmers enough distance to swim out before being pulled to the pier.  As I relaxed out there I watched the shore and there was a very mild current moving south to north.  This should be the same tomorrow morning, he thought.
My bottom twelve pictures here are taken on the south side of the pier.  You can see the huge size and POWER of these waves. 
I had an exciting time trying to get out of the water today.  The water was hitting the beach high and hard, and then sucking back downslope back into the ocean.  My spot was all beach rocks so that added to the fun.  You get thrown up onto the rocks in a foot of water and then sucked back into the ocean rapidly.  I got onto my feet on the fourth or fifth try of this because I had to get my fins off.  I did not want to remove my fins too soon because of the water's power, surge, and movement.  No kidding!  My strap on my safety vest broke while I was being thrown around in this exit-it was strong!
So, my plan for tomorrow will be to start as far south as possible.  I will use my big energy to get through the surf as fast as I can.  I will rest near the end of the surf zone (on the outside) if I need to and if there is a good gap between the next oncoming big wave.  I will want to have my heart rate slower then because I will want to be able to dive under the big waves.  I figure that I'll probably be pulled two hundred yards north getting past the breakers.  Then I'll relax and swim easy while catching my second wind.  The swim from there until the exit should be beautiful.  The exit will be chaotic-with a wave or two sure to throw me all around every-which-way.  When that ends, it will just be the struggle to get feet on terra firma while the rip current pulls me north.  I will expect to land on rocks and enjoy the reassuring pain that they give me as I try to stand up and run out of the rough stuff onto sand.
So, you have my plan and my feel for the situation.  If you are a pool person only, reading this will have you get in the proper mindset and be ready to expect the reality of the strong ocean.  I had not swum the pier in 7 days because my neck was out of whack.  I sure am glad that I got in today to FEEL it, so I won't be shocked into fear as the swim begins tomorrow.  I hope that my description helps you think about your swim plan.  Expect the bad stuff, and maybe we'll be happily surprised if conditions are not as rough as I expect.  Good luck to you, and remember that the water out past the breakers is beautiful!  Don't worry about cold water.  It says 64 degrees but it felt refreshing to me and took no time to get used to the temp at all.