Natalie's Swim Adventures

My solo Catalina Swim on September 27th-28th, 2010

on October 1, 2010

You don’t have to read all of this, but I am going into most of the details of my swim in this blog.  The short version will be on

7:00-My aunt Rachel picks me up with my Nana, we load up her car and go to Jamba Juice for my dinner—a Chunky strawberry with no yogurt and add blueberries with energy powder.  We meet Lexie and Natalie L. at Lexie’s place in the shore for them to follow us to the boat in San Pedro. 8:15-Everyone arrives at the boat and they see me and give me high 5’s ask me questions like “are you ready?, how are you feeling?”  I respond and say “I am feeling great and ready as I will be.”  James, my support guy gets locked into the bathroom and Jeff Jessop one of the boat captains said “congratulations Natalie, this is the first time the cops came down on a swim!”  Jeff, Manny, Jimmy and John Pittman are all the guys on the boat that give me shit all the time.  I love these guys and I put my trust in them.  I know them from going out on swims last year as an observer and many this summer as an observer as well.  They always tease me, it’s great.  James finally gets out of the bathroom and is so relieved.  I was relieved too because he was part of my team!  After that fiasco, I brief my team on feeds and realize I forgot my peanut butter and jam squares.  Oh well…(it actually worked out great as you will read on with feeds).

9:00 pm:  Paula goes over the rules, the boat starts up, and off we go to Catalina.  During these rules, I remained so calm, so cool, and so collective.  My heart beat wasn’t high at all.  I was so used to these rules being read that it didn’t even phase me.  We went over feeds and how to keep them fast and John asked which way I wanted the boat to go.  (Generally, he doesn’t ask swimmers that, but once again, they like me!)  I told him the regular way which is boat on port side.  We get to motoring up and the sea looked good.  It was a beautiful clear night, with calm winds.  I walked up to the bow where the wheel house is and started talking to the guys.  They were all anxious and happy for me.  I told them I wanted AC/DC being played while we were at anchor in the cove at Catalina.  They said “anything I wanted!”  Gee, I guess I am the princess lol.  I decided to lay down in the bunks.  I never thought I’d take a cat nap, but that was how calm I was.  I quickly woke up 25 minutes later and realized it was MY SWIM lol.  You see, I am so used to going on other peoples’ swims that I have the attitude of whatever.  I HIGHLY, HIGHLY recommend getting involved with the Federation before you even attempt to swim Catalina.  They are very resourceful and the swims you witness, will help you with your swim if you decide to take it on.  Ok, back to me now hehe.  I get up out of the bunks and see everyone is still sleeping.  Natalie L. looked nauseous out on the stern as she sat on an ice chest.  I said “are you ok?”  She said “I need air and I can’t go in there.”  I totally understand as I drive heaved over the bow.  Slow boats cause me to have a little motion sickness as well.  Thank God for the patch!

Me all greased up and ready to swim as Lexie gives me two thumbs up!

11:00 p.m.:  From going on boat rides so much, I knew we were close.  Let me tell you, that was the quickest ride up to Catalina I have had on the Outrider.  I think because it was my swim instead of someone else’s.  I asked Jeff how long and I guessed 20 min.  He said I was right.  Perfect, I thought.  I sucked on a Hammer espresso gel with caffeine and plain water to rinse it down.  A little caffeine won’t hurt at this hour.  Time to get my suit and contacts on.  I got naked in the stern and put my suit on since nobody was around.  I didn’t wear my Hammer suit because it was tight around my hips and butt.  I wore TYR.  The suit felt good.  It was a TYR suit with a thicker strap for support.  I knew if I wore my thin straps, I’d be pulling them up over my boobs a lot.  The suit worked out great during the whole time and I never once adjusted it.  It was a different strapping that TYR tried out, but I guess discontinued it.  We got to Catalina and the captain dropped anchor.  AC/DC was playing, I was getting lubed and outfitted with a couple glowsticks.  I put on my Hammer swim cap which had “in memory of Tom Sawdei”  sharpied on it.  He was an old bf in HS and some college that died last year of drug complications.  His parents donated a lot of money for my swim and they are such wonderful people that lost their only son.  I said a short briefing statement about him and carried on.

Paula my observer came out and said “wow that was a Lake out there, I didn’t feel anything”.  🙂  I was ready to go, but the guys on the boat said “easy, we will get you closer to the beach!”  (Again, they don’t usually do that)  Jeff got me SOOO close to the beach.  I think I had to do like 6 strokes and I was there.

Jumping off the boat to Catalina for an official start!

11:40 ish:  I was on the beach.  I did my sign of the cross, put my hands together and said a short prayer.  After that, I raised my arm up high and entered the water.  OMG, I was doing it!  The paparazzi was on the boat taking pictures of me.  Damn that flash!  It was getting on my nerves.  I yelled “can you please stop!”  They said sorry and no more pictures.  Darkness.  The water was pitch black, but I never opened my eyes until I was breathing to sight the boat and my kayaker on my right.  My frist feed was 25 minutes after the start.  I did it quickly!  10 seconds I think.  I drank my fuel, which was super concentrated and told them to add more water.  My fuel consisted of  Orange/Vanilla Hammer Perpetuem (2 scoops) and Mandarin Hammer Heed ( 1 scoop) and addition to plain water.  My fuel mechanism was brilliantly handled by Jim Barber.  It was 2 water bottles attached to carabiners with a flip top wide mouth lid.  The carabiners weren’t the typical ones, they were the kind that you had to push down on.  It made it more secure out there and worked like a charm!

During that night, I never opened my eyes except to sight and breathe.  A few times, I saw the bubbles.  They were glowing.  It was awesome.  Paula said there were dolphins, I didn’t hear them.  In fact, I never saw anything, or ran into kelp.   I couldn’t believe I was swimming this.  I wasn’t scared.  The moon was out which made things a little nice for this swim.  I breathed in exhaust a couple of times, but once again bitched about it and it went away.  According to Jimmy and probably Jeff, I complained a lot lol.  I probably did, but whatever.

Sometime later in the night, I cramped up.  It hurt and all I could think was fuck, fuck, fuck!  I cannot be done!  Paula yelled down at me to work it out in her stern voice.  I massaged it and did backstroke.  I requested more endurolytes caps from the kayaker.  I popped in two.  I didn’t want to kick as my cramping was in my calf.  It was simmering down and I slowly eased my way into kicking again.  An hour went by and I got a cramp in my other calf.  Fuck, not again.  More endurolytes.  I took 2 again and told my crew, I wanted 2 more at the next hour.  Done.  Complaining, maybe…High maintenance, Yes lol.

I lost track of time at this point, but it was still dark out, but I could feel the water getting sloppier.  My guess was that the wind was picking up.  I had to bear down and really focus on my stroke rhythm.  At one point in the night, I began to slap the water and cry out of frustration.  I was determined, but so damn frustrated.  The last thing I wanted was shitty conditions.  They were definitely upon me.  By this time, I was peeing frequently and I cannot pee and swim at the same time.  I have to stop, relax, and pee.  I need to master the art of peeing and swimming.  This was not a good thing because starting and stopping really sucks out there.

Let there be light

Paula yelled down at me that the sun would be up soon.  It was kinda cloudy, so it seemed like it took forever for the sun to pop up.  Sometimes, when the sun comes out it messes up the swimmer.  I didn’t have this effect at all.  I was more determined than anything.  I kept thinking rocky shore, finish, victory!

I changed my feeds to 20 minutes, but still kept them short and under 30 seconds.  At this point, I was getting tired and requested my liquid advil and anti-fatigues.  It was a pain in the ass to have the anti fatigues in the kayak.  I didn’t know what else to do with pills.

The sloppy water kept up and Paula yelled at me to go on the other side of the boat making the boat be on my Starboard side.  Whatever…im a bilateral breather.  The boat kind of shielded me from the wind, but still was sloppy out.  I had a bad head wind and fought that damn current the last 6 miles or so.  It was hard and my shoulder was starting to feel weird each stroke on my left side.  I needed my feeds bumped to 15 minutes.  I had to in the adverse conditions.

Swimming to my feed

Strong headwind and on the port side now

James prepares my feed

Paula yelled down to keep them fast!  I thought they were fast already, but ok.  Done.  I didn’t want to look up, but had to at times because I was swimming all over the place.  The boat was on my right, so I was breathing more to the right.  The boat was at an angle facing San Pedro instead of Terranea.  There was a strong South to North current.  They did a good job in positioning.  Paula yelled down and said less than 2 miles.  Really?  You’re kidding me right?  It was comical because I was fighting so hard to get past this chop, current, and wind.  Paula raised her arms high like the referees do in football for a touchdown.  I yelled at her ” touchdown?!”  Everyone laughed.  Lynn Kubasek my assistant observer got on the megaphone.  She yelled “swim bitch swim!” This made me laugh because she said that to another swimmer earlier this year.  With that being said to me, I cranked out my swim and started to sprint for about 2 minutes and then I simmered down because I knew I couldn’t hold that pace in those conditions.  I did keep going though.  One arm after another.  Bubble, bubble…kick kick.

One mile to go….I could see the weird cave-like rock formation at the Terranea beach.  I was sad because I didn’t see the blue cabanas as I nickname that beach “blue cabana beach”.  We were still angling towards Abalone cove because with the current, I could be swept up to the Terranea.  I was a bit confused, but Beth my kayaker assured me that I was heading to Terranea.  I thought I wasn’t making progress, but Jimmy and Jeff said I was.  Rocky beach, finish, victory!

I was getting closer, but really had to fight and be strong.  I had 2 kayakers in the water and they were bringing me in.  I guess there was kelp, but I could care less and I just wanted to crawl up on those rocks.  I looked up to find which rock I was going to.  I saw a bald guy next to me…who was it?  OMG Forrest Nelson!  yay!  I then heard Hank and Peter say “come on Nat!”  Forrest told me to take my time on the rocks before, so I found a landing area.  I looked behind me for a surge and crawled up to the rock.  Hands and knees.  It wasn’t as exhausting as I thought.  I found a black rock that wasn’t in water and thought I had to clear the water.  I got up and stood up and started crying.  I looked behind me to see Catalina in the distance and acknowledged that I just swam from her to PV.  I was so emotional.  All I could think about was Rocky shore, finish, victory!  Hank and Peter came over and gave me hugs and Forrest gave me a hug.  I saw my Nana, my aunt Rachel, my mom.  All of them were crying.  Teresa from Beach was there.  OMG she just had back surgery and she walked down the long path!  That was so nice of her.  It was so touching.  I got to PV in grueling, rough, crazy waters in the time of 13 hours and 50 minutes with 25 or 35 seconds.  Forrest and Hank helped me get back to the boat.  Yes, there is an afterbirth of this labor and that is getting back to the boat.  It sucks, but what can you do?  I crawled back down to the water with a backwards forward crawl thing and waited for the surge to come then belly-flopped back to the ocean.  I saw the boat going up and down and waited for it to go back down to the water line so I can get to the swim step.  I rolled onto it cutting my finger in the grate.  My bathing suit was up my ass lol and I quickly fixed it.  Manny and Jeff helped me up and I sat there very weak and listless.  I wasn’t cold.  I never shivered.  The water temp. was 66 at start dropping to 60 at Terrenea.  I never ever complained about being cold out there. I just wanted to lay down.  It hurt to take my suit off and I took a long shower on the boat.  I put my clothes on and passed out in the bunk.  I heard the engines die and decided to get up.  Ouch.  I was sore.  I asked Lynn how long does the sore last.  She said ” two days at most”.   She’s right!  My family was at the docks and gave me my congratulations and met everyone.  I was so tired.  I couldn’t really speak.  I went home and laid in my bed.  I couldn’t really sleep though as it is a weird phenomenon after a big swim or long endurance workout.  It was hard for me to imagine doing the swim.  I am still shocked.  I was so happy and I was so proud of myself.  I want more!  Now that I conquered the channel, I want to swim the English Channel and the Manhattan Island Marathon swim (MIMS).  It truly was the most amazing experience I have ever done and that high is the greatest thing you will ever have.  I want it again!  It’s a sickness.  I totally get Forrest Nelson swimming a two-way Catalina crossing.  I’d do it too.

Going back to the boat with Forrest and Hank

I am thankful for my family, my support crew, Hammer Nutrition and for everyone believing in me.

English channel, MIMS….here I come!  Triple crown-ABSOLUTELY!

One response to “My solo Catalina Swim on September 27th-28th, 2010

  1. Darrell says:

    Great article. I’m not a swimmer, but your story transcends your sport. I just found your page blog and look forward to reading more about your focus throughout your training. You’re very inspiring and I wish you luck in your triple crown!

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