Thursday, August 14, 2014

Swim Footage

Kayaker extraordinaire Terry O'Malley sent Charles and I some amazing footage of our swims! This is amazing since it is a perspective that I never get to see! 

This is a long video of the end of the swim. It gets kind of foggy due to the temperature change from being in the open water to hitting land. 

Click here to view

Hold Fast,

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Sandy Hookers-Ederle Relay 2014

On August 10, 2014, I swam home for the first time.

For those not keeping score at home, I swam as the anchor of a 2-person relay from Battery Park to Sandy Hook, NJ. This was not a long expected swim. Swimming buddy Charles Bender reached out to me early in July and asked if I was interested. Of course, I could not turn this down! Two hours on, two hours off. Nothing neither of us could not handle.

And handle it we did! 

The day started at North Cove Marina. Picture perfect day for a swim. Of course, I was terrified that my swim was going to turn out like Stage 6, with waves slamming me for 6 hours. But there was good news! The picturesque supermoon was going to help us out! We could expect fast tides in our long as we made it to the Hook in time.

I had to start the relay, so I said goodbye to Charles and our crew pretty early in the day. We had a great crew for this! Terry O'Malley kayaking (lead kayaker for the day, may I add), and an experienced observer and boater.

A little while after the boat departed, the swimmers boarded a zodiac and headed down to the battery. My dad works in midtown on Sundays, and I had given him directions to where he could potentially see the swim. Neither of us thought the stars would align so that he could see us off. But surprise was on our side (Master and Commander reference). All of a sudden I heard someone yell, "Louie!' He has called me Louie since I was a baby, a derivative of "Laura Lou" and "Lulu Bell" which my mom and grandmother called me. Well, there he was standing at the battery right next to the race director, Morty. Pretty awesome! I got a little verklempt. A good omen for the day!

My first hurdle was to get us the heck out of New York Harbor. The harbor is a madhouse of boat traffic. Think about it: Statue of Liberty ferries, Governors Island ferries, Staten Island Ferry, Seastreak Ferry, Circle Line, Water Taxis...and these are just the ones off the top of my head! I kept telling myself to sprint. Hold fast, and get us to the open ocean! Morty counted us down, and I took off. I dove under and dolphin kicked to give myself some momentum. This worked really well, and I got away from the two other swimmers flanking my right and left. I found Terry very quickly, and we found our rhythm. Out of the corner of my eye, all I could see were these gigantic vessels. I knew I was safe, but I could not help but hope and pray that I did not become fish food at the hands of their mighty propellers. But let's not think about that!

Sprinting to Buttermilk Channel

We made our way around Governors Island through Buttermilk Channel. It does not taste like buttermilk. Bummer. My feeds were quick, as I wanted to build us up as much of a cushion as I possibly could. Can't waste time! While swimming a relay is easier in the sense that there is more than one swimmer, you are really giving it your all for the two hours you are swimming so that you don't disappoint. Charles jumped in, and  I finished the first leg about a mile or so from the Verrazano Bridge.

Then the trouble began...

When I found out that the boat had a head (nautical term for toilet), I decided not to bring my No Flash towel (a handy poncho like device Coach Bonnie invented to make deck changes easier) to save some space. Well, the head was located in the hull of the boat. That is prime area for seasickness. I also rushed getting up onto the boat and getting situated. Your body also goes through a huge blood pressure change when you go from being in the water to land. Between the blood pressure change and changing in the hull, I was TOAST. I proudly did not throw up, but boy did I think I would. I only managed to eat a few grapes, water, and some Nuun. I spent most of the leg laying down and trying to do what George Gallagher told me to do: keep my eyes on the horizon. The support crew around the boat was great. No one made a big deal about it, which would have really gotten inside my head. I felt bad that I could not cheer on Charles more as he was in the water! He had a great leg and swam under the Verrazano like a champ. Miraculously, about 15 minutes before it was time to start my leg I felt better. That plunge back into the cool water felt like heaven!

The second leg started out great. We were getting super close, and I felt much better. But we were not out of the woods (kelp forest? I need an ocean version of woods) yet. I hit a major wall around Roamer Shoal light, about 2 miles from land. It was a long, long, long, long, 2 miles. The water gets "confused" around Sandy Hook, with it traveling in different directions (ebbing and flooding). If you have ever tried to get up onto a sand bar at the beach, it feels a lot like that. It was an excruciating couple of miles. I really wanted to walk up on that beach and finish the swim, but I thought Charles was going to have to come in. It was as big a mental challenge as the end of Stage 6. Thankfully, a second wind hit as I saw the beautiful sand and trees of the Hook. I knew exactly where I was. I could see the hill I grew up on. The water felt the same. Everything started to come into place. A hot shot boater created these huge waves that I saw approaching behind me. Years of bodysurfing came in handy, as I went into the streamline position and road them several feet. I realized this could actually happen!

Somewhere out there...

In the same instant that I saw some brown sand, I heard Terry yell "Stand up! Stand up!" I stood up and there I was! HOME! Sandy Hook! The place where I sang "Castle on a Cloud" in front of a huge audience when I was 7, went on Girl Scout picnics, dissected two sharks at marine biology camp, listened to a Hurricane Sandy prophecy 10 years in advance, learned to drive, visited my friend Sam when she was a park ranger, got wiped out by waves that crash right on the shore, watched for humpback whales migrating south when I was an angsty teenager just wanting to get out of high school. The list goes on. It felt somewhat primitive to step on that wild part of the beach. Like I was the first woman to ever have seen it. A new world, vastly different than the one I was just in.  It was also kind of like the scene in Gravity when Sandra Bullock finally reaches shore. Charles swam out to me and we both soaked in the excitement of completing the swim. We each took a shell from shore, and made our way back to the boat for the ride in.

Foggy due to temperature change, but I am standing on the tip of Sandy Hook!

My parents met us for dinner where we were presented with our Top Relay award! We came in with a time of 5 hours and 52 minutes! Sixth swimmers to hit the beach! I did roughly 12 of the 17.5 miles. It is always such an experience gathering with swimmers, kayakers, volunteers, and loved ones after an event like this. Everyone has great stories and there is such a buzz and energy in the air! You're in desperate need of a shower, and in my case, something to help drain the water from your sinuses, yet you can't help but be upbeat and want to stay forever. It is so surreal and goes by in a blur.

My night ended in as great a way as possible: pumpkin beer (the first of the season), Shark Week on the Discovery Channel, and Francis. 

BIG thank you to Charles Bender for recruiting me to be a Sandy Hooker. Kevin, for being a great crew member and helping when I could barely move on the boat. Davien for being an amazing observer, and snapping the money shot of the day (also my cover photo for a forthcoming album of Bon Jovi/Springsteen cover songs).

Jersey Strong.

Thanks to Terry O'Malley for being such an awesome kayaker! Truly the best! Thanks to my family for the support and great messages. They also helped big time on the boat. Thank you Matt Gurry for the great tweets from a Sandy Hook ferry! And thank you to Francis, for everything from spending money to take an Uber car home from a BBQ on Saturday so he could be with me to keeping my family updated while I was swimming. Thank you to Lori and Coach Bonnie for continuing to be such an awesome support team. This is a highly individual sport that is impossible to do alone. 

I will post more pictures and some awesome video once I have them compiled. And once I get some more food in my system. Bareburger will take care of that :)

Hold Fast,