Season’s sunset series prompt good cheer & special bonds
It’s Tuesday at Reef & Run on East Beach….
And Wednesday at Leadbetter for Nite Moves...
Standing at water’s edge with eyes closed, I taste victory in these weekly ocean swim-run races.
Click-click-click is all the paparazzi snapping up championship action photos!!
And it’s oh-so-easy to predict the morning sports headlines, a la:
Weiss Bumps Binder from Top Spot!!*
Jeremy ‘Vaa Behind’ Winner Weiss*
Randy: ‘Ho-Ho-Ho Ricky’ & Company!*
HA!! I’m living in a fantasy world!!
Of course, the real race hadn’t yet started….
Then, suddenly the starter’s loud voice: ON YOUR MARK…GET SET…
YIKES!! GOTTA GO!!
Zillions of seal-like swimmers zip into the frigid Artic waters vacationing here off the Santa Barbara coast. A BIG surprise tonight with the ever-present marine layer – Nature’s way of keeping ‘the locals’ humble – nowhere to be seen. What a spectacular evening!!
Within a few quick strokes, the real race is over. No hope of victory. Nor placing in the top finishers.
Time to aquatically settle in with my new pals (whom you will meet shortly) in our usual comfort zone — back of the pack!
These are the incredible people you never really hear about.
Or read about on the sports pages and cool websites like Presidiosports.com (psst: they made me put this in…)
At the first buoy turn about 100 yards out, the anxiety attacks are finally gone after weeks of hydro-therapy (this salty kind). Also history is the Harry Houdini Water Dance – as if escaping a straight jacket like the legendary magician, starting with the back zipper to relieve the pressure of a pounding heart trying to quickly exit my wetsuit.
“Mammalian Diving Reflex is what it’s called,” Sylvia sez.
One website described it this way:
“…MDR is a self-preservation technique triggered in extreme situations. When the body is suddenly submerged in water or caught in a freezing environment, all of the major systems slow almost to a halt, minimizing the need for oxygen, increasing the chances of survival.”
Survival? All I know is that it’s the weirdest feeling sticking your face in freezing water when you can’t breathe but glad that’s all behind me.
And here’s Sylvia just ahead in the water:
MEET SYLVIA GLENN ….
A swimmer nearly all her life, Sylvia, 72, is a retired swim coach who has trained babies to kids to masters and has loved it all … a certified scuba diver, she loves ocean swimming and started Nite Moves (NMs) eight years ago before shifting to Reef & Run (R/R) last summer … always ‘trunks it’ (bathing suit, no wetsuit) and when asked about the freezing water conditions this season, she sez the water is warmer in SB than in SLO, where she also swims … she always enjoys the sense of accomplishment afterwards and absolutely loves the hot shower before the 62-mile journey home to Santa Maria.
Further along is another new friend:
SAY HELLO TO BRIAN LEE…
I got last tonite!! is our usual pre-race banter … Brian typically runs 8-10 miles a few times weekly … started swimming in May for cross-training & cardio … at 56 – we are exactly the same age … he’s a duathlon fixture at both NM’s and R/R and warmly proclaims East Beach as “my beach”… an electronic tech for Soil Moisture Corporation by trade, his easy-going nature makes him a fan favorite on the local endurance race circuit … is always good for a knuckle-bump & a big smile — even in a crowd!
To help with concentration (my stellar Swim Coach Rich Schroeder – a double USA Olympic Gold Medalist sez: Nice easy breaths and long powerful push with arms under water) – I count strokes.
And it’s usually 100 strokes, for me, between buoys.
Before I know it, Lauren is nearby. We have similar strokes patterns and, for awhile, we’re synchronized swimmers – only without the fancy-smancy stuff.
HERE’S LAUREN ANDERSON…
It’s in the genes, sez Lauren — Mom was a lifeguard & polar bear swimmer in Washington State … Lauren took her 1st chilly plunge age 4 & still loves it … a DPHS grad, she swam for La Cumbre & Los Carneros teams & savors the social connections & people she meets at NMs & R/R … the City of SB’s Code Enforcement Officer claims she’s a “completer, not a competer” … never wears wetsuit or goggles… boyfriend, Marathon Man Marco, a plumber who sees plenty of water in his day job – prefers land & is an accomplished runner in both summer venues.
On the return trip, my stroke counts get all messed up. The good thing is thinking about some new fun land-lubber summer amigos like:
THE AMAZING KYLE FRAAS….
How you doing, Brother? is his usual greeting with an always-hearty laugh … you can’t find a happier guy on the planet than Kyle … he’s a big guy who chugs along with an always-smile … he loves the experience – from the Wildflower Triathlon to NMs to R/R to the recent WESTMONSTER 5K where he was “just happy to finish last” (actually 101 out of 103) … a local businessman, he is up for anything – especially whatever good buddy, Jason Cocklin, sets out to do
Kyle’s a ‘gamer’ with a bizzy life between work & family & no time for training…it’s all about having fun, he sez… Amen, Brother!
Then, another real success story beside The Fantastic Megan Cotich – is a long-time pal who has also had amazing athletic achievement:
CHECK OUT BRIAN KERSTIENS…
A relatively new runner, “BK” is a bright young banking colleague who sets a PR (personal record) nearly every time he does NMs & R/R … shaved many minutes off his time from beginning of the season to end … I’m hooked, now! he claims … a recent Cal Luthern grad, he’s also known as a Star Garage Band Performer with other friends … kiddingly calls me: Dude … his newest challenge is a sprint triathlon next summer (no pressure here, BK!) … catching up on race highlights & work stuff with him over a chilled beverage usually caps off Tuesday or Wednesday race celebrations.
And now at the last buoy turn towards shore … with one last push … at this last summer race … it’s clear who deserves last place. It comes with dubious ‘bragging rights’ for nearly nine months.
When I finally reach the shore and stagger up to the Finish Line — Wally the Timer has a big smile and a “What’s your number?”
I give him the back my hand (in a nice way) with the ‘312’ written in black Magic Marker pen.
The clock reads 32:14 – nearly 20 minutes after real champs like Vaa and Binder (“YO, Adrienne!!”) usually finish.
But, life is great! Still breathing. Many new friends.
And I got The Grand Prize — Summer’s Last Licks!!
* Special Note:
Congrats to all the summer swim & run participants, including good sports & local athletic rock stars:
Adrienne Binder, 25 — 10 Time All-American: Auburn University swimming sensation; SEC Champion 3X & Record Holder; beautiful & smart too!
Jeremy Vaa, 31 — Speedo Jr. Championships; FINA Masters World Championships; UC Davis swim team; now cool SMHS Teacher!
Ricky Ho, 34 — from Carpinteria; always wins or top contender in run; recent Westmonster 5K Champ (18:06) & just missed @ Pier to Peak; about the fastest & nicest guy around!
Extra special thanks to Jane Cairns (Reef & Run) & Jake Clinton (Nite Moves) for hosting all the fun!!