After a prior postponement due to child illness, my family and I made it out to Zuma Beach on Sunday along with what seemed like half the population of Southern California. The roads were crowded with people fleeing the inland heat, but the beach itself was fine. Malibu has 21 gorgeous miles of coastline and there was room for everyone!
Before I could get too nervous about practicing the one-mile open water swim for the Nautica Malibu Triathlon, I wiggled my way into my wetsuit and posed for the camera because wetsuits are so flattering (not!)
The first challenge in the water was getting out past the two sets of waves that pounded the shore. On my first attempt, I made it past the first set but was still getting hammered by the second set that was farther out. I headed back to shore and consulted with my husband and Chief Safety Officer, who advised me to swim out an additional 50 feet or so to get free of the worst of the waves. It took some guts to get back in the water.
Once I made it past that second line of onslaught, Poseidon rewarded me with the sight of two dolphins swimming past me! They looked so big that my first thoughts were: “Dolphins! Amazing! Wow, those dorsal fins are huge. Wait, are those really dolphins? Could they be sharks?! Does anyone else see them?! Do I look like a tasty seal in my black wetsuit?” After my heart stopped racing I just hoped my kids had gotten to see the dolphins swimming with their mom (with the kids’ mom, me, not the dolphins’ mom, and yes they did see the dolphins. The kids saw them. You know what I mean).
The swim was harder than any I have done before. That was my ninth time in open water, after two times in a protected cove off Catalina Island, three times in choppy Mission Bay in San Diego, once off Silver Strand Beach at Coronado Island, once in freshwater Lake Cahuilla near Palm Springs, and once at Corona Del Mar State Beach.
Because the swim proved so tough, I learned a lot. (1) Strap your goggles on tighter, silly, this is the Pacific Ocean! (2) Dive under the waves that are trying to tumble you in the washing machine. (3) Learn to identify dophin fins vs. shark fins. (4) Stop trying to fight the ocean and just swim! (5) Alter your breathing pattern to fit the conditions. I finally determined that I did the best by breathing to my left side, every two strokes, rather than my usual alternating sides every three strokes. It helped me manage my feeling of hyperventilating, and it allowed me to keep tabs on the waves and avoid being swamped.
I can’t say it was a fun experience, but it was an empowering one! I made it the whole 1.5K and now I know that if I can do it in those winds and high waves in the afternoon, I can do it in what I hope is the relative calm on the morning of race day.
I am so grateful that my family supported me with a trip out there. We made a mini-vacation out of it and treated ourselves to dinner on the patio at this family-friendly place:
followed by gelato at Grom Gelateria, also in Malibu. I don’t have a photo of my yummy vanilla gelato because I was too busy
inhaling it savoring its wonderful flavor.