Monday, September 23, 2013

More about Jellyfish and Lighthouses than you ever wanted to know

Saturday I was part of a 4-person relay for the first annual Swim around Alligator Lighthouse.

There were about 150 people/teams that took part in the event (I think ... I don't know this). They were either solo swimmers, 2-person relays or 4 person relays.

There was some confusion around the logistics of this event probably because it was a first time event and who knows maybe it will always be a little quirky. I think that endurance swimming is a quirky type thing and anything that happens in the Florida Keys is bound to be a little quirky. For example we could not figure out where it was actually starting until the night before the event.

Packet pickup was uneventful. I picked up for everyone since we were all arriving at different places and times. Honestly while there was some communication confusion this event was well organized. Especially during the event I had no confusion.

Before dinner we went to scope out the start because it was a little confusing to know where it was from the non-directions. We were pretty sure we had it wrong and that we were at somebody's house but we walked around the house and voila there it was.

Then all but one of us got together for dinner. Since we were a 4-person relay there was more adult beverage drinking than I'm used to before an endurance event (that's usually none so I'm not saying there was excessive drinking here).

The next morning we found the start much more easily since the beach was covered with lunatics swimmers.

Our plan was this. Everybody takes one mile legs in rotation except the final swimmer was going to do the last 2 because she's swimming Ironman Florida in 6 weeks she wanted to do it together. It was an okay plan but I would do it differently next time. I'll talk about that at the end.

I took the first leg. It was fine not a jellyfish to be seen anywhere. Apparently the kayaker saw plenty but I didn't so that was perfect. Then the next swimmer went and it was the third of our swimmers who began to encounter jellies. He only did 1/2 his leg and then got out to treat the stings. I then went in for another leg with my jellyfish suit. I was fine but twice I encountered a "wall" of jellies I couldn't get through. The first time I followed a swimmer through the swarm letting him - clear a path. The second time this happened I had a minor/major panic attack that I am really happy is not on video :-)
All those little white circles and dots are moon jellyfish. They really are pretty. In real life they look pink to me. When they are spaced out I just sort of swam around them.
More jellies. At the beginning I was just trying to enjoy them. But that only lasted so long.

The advance advice about the jellies is to just swim through them don't even think about it. The force of your stroke usually pushes them away. That's what most people who made it through did. Like so many things in life it's really a mental thing. As long as you're ready to be stung and you know that while it's unpleasant it goes away it's best to just not let it bother you. But since it's mental that's not always possible for everybody. At least it was hard for me.
video

I did a total of 4 swims 3 were filled with Jellies and I'm pretty proud of myself. During my second leg I got all itched up on my face, hands and feet but I don't think I actually hit a jelly. I think I must have went through a section of jelly puree from one of the motorboats. Then on my last leg I got one on the leg. OUCH!
me swimming. I know I look stunning. I'm the only person who looks awesome in a swim cap and goggles, ever.

They are beautiful but not much fun. Although I'm a lot less fearful of them than I was when I started.

It was a fun day. It is a beautiful swim. I'm sure even with all the jellyfish this event will grow in popularity.

That little dot out there is the lighthouse. I'm already on the boat so we're at least one mile closer than shore. 4 miles is far to swim. The people who did this solo are superhuman.
It was billed as an 8 mile swim but most people think that the mapped course was a little longer than that. Of course, nobody swims exactly straight so the personal measurements  on Garmins probably don't really matter but I wonder if they will adjust the measurement in the future. Who knows.
The lighthouse up close.

We didn't come in last and we also didn't come in anywhere near first. But we had a good time and that's what mattered.

Strategy
If I do it again I think the thing to do is have the rotations based on time not distance. So rotate every 30-40 minutes. Rotations are key to making this race work. We were going by the seat of our pants here and we lost time there (but we weren't really going for time so whatever). Then there is the fact that like all open water events the buoy markings may not have been exact so it was a little harder to say if we'd gone a mile or more. Switching every xx minutes is more reliable. Also we ran into strong currents in part of the race. This is easier to see from the boat than in the water so rotating the swimmer often keeps the strategy on track. The winners of the 4-person relay finished two hours ahead of us and they were all 4 collegiate swimmers. So if you want to win come ready to go fast :-)

Everybody on my team except me went home after the race. We stayed and ended up at the awards dinner restaurant later. It was at The Morada Beach restaurant. If you do the race stick around for this. It was very very nice on the gulf side, casual restaurant watching the sunset. Very good time.

We stayed the next day and went snorkeling the next morning with the kids. This is their first time snorkeling and they both loved it. They were nervous to get off the boat at first but once they saw the reef under them and saw fish they were thrilled. They can't stop talking about it. There is nothing quite like seeing children discover something new so this was a really special experience.

I have the cutest kids.

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