May 2, 2011

Tampa Bay - A Set Back and Success in my Journey to Cross the English Channel

Tampa Bay - the next step in my training and journey to cross the English Channel, One Stroke at a time.

I was confident, ready and eager to go. Somewhere out there, 24 miles away and to the left of as far as the eye can see lay my destiny. Conditions were just warmer than i would have preferred. The water (74f - 80f) was very warm for me, sunny skies (90f) meant sun burning and tough conditions for my crew and slight breeze meant choppy waves. 

Map of my course using Goggle Earth. Start at the bottom lower left (beach picture taken here), 15.61 miles away is where I retired and past that under two bridges way up top the finish at 24 miles

Here are some fun pictures and details. Here is my dad (aka crew) who came all the way from California for my trip and made it all worth it. I think he enjoyed the day boating, albeit tired as heck from the sun and very long day. It was a great time to share father and son time, stories and look forward to the future.

This 'washing machine chop' is deceptively challenging to negotiate from the stand point of finding or keeping a smooth rhythm. I changed my stroke, shortening it (I usually use long rolling pulls due to my neck issues) and this seemed fine for as long as the chop lasted. 

As the day wore on I was swimming easily along and without effort for a bit over six (6) hours finding myself well up into the front pack when we came across a very choppy and wind driven area of the Bay, North of the St. Pete public peer below. I was consistently swimming with 50-52 strokes per minute, my usual is 47-50.

After a few more miles, we moved well past the man made sea walls and the wind dropped off to almost nothing. I was working to get back into my long stroke, long roll style as we came upon really shallow water. 

We crossed onto this sandbar, I found myself swimming, no joke, in a foot of water. I thought to myself am I swimming or shall I jog? What the #&$^#.  I scrapped my left hand on the rocky bottom and cut it. Of course the first thing that came to mind was blood, ocean, whats in the ocean that likes blood...we won't go there and I kept swimming putting full faith in my crew and them keeping me safe. Oh course what this really means is they would scream, I would stop, turn around and watch myself being eaten rather than just being bludgeoned to death in the frenzy. To no avail (but you must admit the story was getting interesting?) I was fine and my fear subsided after a couple more thousand strokes.

At this point the shallow water was forcing me to change my stroke. Swimmers normally put their hand in the water in front of their shoulder and pull an "S" pattern under neither their body, back to past their swim suit and bring the arm forward. The water was so shallow, I hand to move my underwater pull completely out from under me to each side, think dog paddling. This lasted for awhile so and I didn't give it much thought. 

However after a short time my right should began to hurt in the arm pit when I pulled my hand out of the water to bring it forward. As the two feed stops (ever 30 minutes) came and went it got worse.  At my scheduled feed stop 30 minutes later it was no fun, stabbing sharp pain. I recall thinking to myself that I would work it around, swim some breast or backstroke maybe its a cramp? So I asked for 3 Advil, drank my food and water and went back it. I struggled and out of fear of really hurting myself pulled the plug. When I called it, my stroke rate was down to 40. for some perspective, I was cruising along at 50-52 per minute  consistently which for me is a strong tempo. I usually take 5-6 cycles (both arms) per 25 yard pool so I swim pretty efficiently. I was 7.5 hours at this point. 

Getting the arm checked is paramount. I took more Advil and iced my arm for the rest of the evening. The next day was pretty sore but only in these muscles. honestly other than this incident I felt great. I don't feel endurance training was a factor. I had no other issues, feeds were just fine, felt great, peeing regularly (don't laugh this is really important as it tell's you if your body is processing the lactic acid in your muscles), oatmeal and mouthwash worked just fine and could have easily finished both mentally and physically. 

Disappointing as it is was stopping was the smart thing to do. I learned a lot and had a great time with my dad and that's the real point.


  1. Hi Don. Sorry to hear about your injury. I'm curious how you created the map of your course. I know it's from Google Earth, but is it based on actual GPS tracks or just an estimate?

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