This event was very low-key, so much so that there wasn't even an email from the race director the week before. I have done many, many events, whether they are running races, bike rides, swims, or triathlons, and each and every time there is an email at least a few days before with race day instructions and information about parking, packet pickup, etc. This race had nothing, just the info that was on it's website. I emailed a friend who did it last year to get more information, and in passing asked if all I needed was my wetsuit and goggles. Luckily he told me to also bring a swim cap, else I may not have brought one. Bring my own swim cap? In every triathlon I have done, and in the other swim-only race I did, Tiki, a swim cap is provided, if for no other reason than to let the organizers know that you are in the race. I didn't know how the organizers would know who was signed up, especially since the Cove is populated with other swimmers. Oh well. I made sure to pack a cap!
One notable thing about this swim, for me, is that I broke a cardinal rule: nothing new on race day! I had ordered a new wetsuit from Xterra and just got it the day before. My old wetsuit is 4 years old and is starting to get holes, despite repairs I had done last summer. I decided to chance wearing the new suit---luckily, it worked out well. It fit great and I had no chafing issues.
This is a point to point race. The start is at the La Jolla Pier, and the end is at La Jolla Cove. They strongly recommended parking at the Cove, and taking a provided shuttle to the Pier. I knew that parking in downtown La Jolla gets very crowded, so I left the house at 6:20 and got to La Jolla in time to snag a prime spot right on the Cove. Soon my friend M showed up, and after we found a few of her friends we found a ride to the Pier (really just another swimmer with room in his minivan). We checked in, got our packet (just a timing chip for our ankles), body marked (race numbers on both our hands) and waited. My friend Leo soon came, and it was fun to hang out with him as well.
|View from the Cove over to the Pier. From this distance, you really can't see the Pier!|
Soon it was time to go to the water. We left our bags on the grass, where they would be transported to the Cove. We made our way down to the shore and got in to warm up. Lots of people were in wetsuits, like me (we were non-regulation) but many were just wearing swimsuits (they were in the regulation division). Although the water was perfect (67 degrees) I was glad I had a wetsuit. I didn't need to wear my booties as I usually do---it was THAT warm! After a pre-race talk by the director, a horn blew and it was time to charge in the water!
I walked out quite a ways, as it was very shallow. The waves were very low too. I forgot to do the "stingray shuffle" (you're supposed to shuffle your feet when you walk here to scare away any stingrays) and I'm very lucky, because a few minutes later when it was deep enough for me to start swimming I looked down and there were several stingrays swimming under me! A very scary AND very neat moment all in one.
We swam out parallel to the Pier, then turned left (heading south) toward the Cove. Here is where I got confused. Unlike every triathlon I've ever done, where there's big buoys to mark the way, and even the Tiki Swim, where there were buoys every few hundred yards, there were no buoys here. None at all. We were told to sight off the big highrise building next to the Cove, but that's the only landmark we were given. As I was in the back of the pack, there were not too many swimmers around me; most people took off and were way ahead. and At times I got nervous. Not scared---I knew I'd be ok---but nervous, as I wasn't 100% sure where I was going.
After what seemed like forever, I saw another swimmer by me, and made my way toward her. I felt better knowing I had a "buddy" out there. I was then able to relax and really enjoy the swim. This route has been on my bucket list for a while---such a beautiful place to swim. The water was clear; I was able to see my hands the whole time, which is so different than swimming in the bay or the ocean. I saw a jellyfish floating under me, and when I neared a boat I saw schools of fish.
It seemed like I would never get to my destination, but clearly I was making forward progress. I passed over some beds of kelp (luckily I swam OVER them and not THROUGH them) and they were suddenly behind me. I noticed the woman I was trailing head left; thank goodness, or I would have overshot the Cove! I followed her until we were both yelled at by a lifeguard to veer more left, as we were going to hit the rocks!
The best part was yet to come. Right before the end of the swim, we were in the shallower parts of the Cove. I swam over coral, kelp, and tons of colorful fish darting around. It was like snorkeling, except it was just me and my goggles. It was absolutely breathtaking. I've swam in the Cove a few times before, and have seen some fish, but never before I had I seen such a layout of marine life right below me.
As I approached the shore, I saw Leo and my other friends waiting for me, shouting my name. I finally exited, ran over the timing mat on the sand, and was done! Leo had gotten me a cup of water, which I much appreciated after all that salt water. We made our way up the stairs to the grassy area, got our t-shirts, and got in line for a free spread of Mexican food and cookies. Yum.
|Another view of the Cove (photo credit to my friend Marsha)|
I may look into other swims with the La Jolla Swim Club. I need to get better at sighting, though. While I appreciated the bare bones race (no swim cap, no medal, no tech shirt) while not leaving safety behind (there were lifeguards out on kayaks and paddleboards) I did NOT like not having buoys to sight off. It's hard to swim in a straight line, bobbling up and down in the water, with only one target 1.5 miles away for a guide. That said, more practice in the Cove could help with that. I did love the fun atmosphere---everyone there loves to swim and it was very welcoming.