As 2018 comes to a close, I reflect on what a monumental year! I faced challenges + growth in so many ways. I have met so many new amazing and inspiring people and feel so blessed to have joined the South End Rowing Club. For December, I knew I wanted to close out my first year of marathon swimming with two epic swims with the team who got me to where I am today and who I call my friends, Bryan + Sylvia of Pacific Open Water Swim Co.
On December 9th, my swim buddy Ahelee joined me for a “pilots surprise” with Pacific Open Water Swim Co. What’s that you ask? Well you show up not knowing what you will be swimming. Your pilot (this day we got Bryan) takes you somewhere, you jump and you swim. All we knew was that we were going to swim about 2 hours in 56-57 degree water. Last year at this time, I could not have made it that long in the cold water so I really wanted to push myself beyond my perceived limits. I honestly was not sure I could make it and was thrilled when even at the end of two hours I felt like I could have gone much longer.
Once we finish our safety briefing (love their attention to safety!) we head on out from Horseshoe Cove which is located just to the North East of the Golden Gate Bridge. And as we head out of the cove, Bryan heads towards the Golden Gate Bridge and continues west. Welcome to Pilot’s Surprise!
We are headed to Mile Rock which is just over 2 miles west of the Golden Gate Bridge and to what I call “Whitie” territory. I pretend not to think about sharks. It’s not like we don’t have them in the bay and they stop at the bridge like there is some invisible do not cross line. This is a totally irrational fear. Secretly I think my Pilots like to put me in situations that scare me a little. And honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way. 4 swims now outside the Golden Gate Bridge and each time I have a little less anxiety. Ahelee had no idea until she saw my face when I saw a splash out of the corner of my eye. Thank god it was our beloved Harbor Porpoises! So now it’s time to swim east, then across to the north side of the GGB, under the bridge where we had to dig deep against the flood and then finishing in the calm waters of Horseshoe Cove.
My final swim of the year was to be on New Year’s Eve Day. I can’t think of a better way to close out the year than with a Bridge to Bridge swim. For this swim, the plan was to swim from the Bay Bridge to the Golden Gate Bridge which is about 6 miles (or 10K). However, we would be swimming with an Ebb Tide giving us a nice push making it feel much more like a 3 or 4 miles swim depending on the strength of the current. Unfortunately, the wind gods had different plans. The winds were blowing 22 miles an hour from the north and heard reports of gusts up to 40 miles an hour. There were conversations and ultimately the conditions were not swimmable and the swim was cancelled. I was definitely disappointed but this was the right and safe decision.
What a year it has been! This time last year I was a new-ish member of the South End Rowing Club and still trying to figure out a new path for myself. I was previously an avid triathlete with two ironmans under my belt but my body was just saying no to running. The summer and fall of 2017, I was a bit lost. South End helped me find myself. A new self with a renewed passion for swimming. Through the fall of 2017, I heard stories of the many legends of South End who are impressive marathon swimmers. By December 2017, I had decided that I too wanted to embark on marathon swimming to fill my endurance needs by swimming across Lake Tahoe in the summer of 2018. I had met Sylvia at the South End Rowing Club and chatted with her and Bryan about how Pacific Open Water Swim Co could help me achieve my goals. They put together a swim plan and challenging swims in the bay throughout the season to get me more than ready. I initially signed up for the True Width (12 miles) Swim on August 3rd. I was feeling so good through the season, I added the Vikingholm (10.5 miles) Swim on July 15th more as a practice swim to make sure my nutrition was working for me, that I could handle the altitude and see if I cramped excessively. Then the plan was to re-work as needed to be ready for the August 3rd swim. Well the Viking Swim went amazing and came out feeling great. Ditto for the True Width so in classic Erika fashion, I wanted more and signed up for a swim in the Santa Barbara Channel Islands swimming Anacapa to Oxnard (12 miles) on September 16th. That was not easy. The conditions were not ideal offering some swells, some wind, some surface currents. I got in and I swam from feed to feed. I kept my head down and kept focused and finally landed on shore! What a Year!
I am so excited for what 2019 holds… Stay tuned 🙂