La Jolla Cove Swim a True Jewel
We vacationed in Solana Beach the week before the La Jolla Cove Swim. I’d signed up to swim the 1-mile race more than a month earlier.
The week started off sketchy with me attempting to join a group of Del Mar swimmers our first morning. After introducing myself to people, I walked down to the water and found myself unable to get past the surf. Two years earlier, a large set of waves in La Jolla had creamed me, barely allowing me to come up for breath between tumbles. Swimming almost daily in the relatively calm water in San Carlos, Mexico had done little to get me past this mental block of fear. I didn’t know how bad it was until I tried to join this morning swim…
I allowed discouragement to suck me under for a few hours and then I started to pray. I asked what I needed to know to move past this crippling fear. An angel message came to me that I should spend lots of time in the water – boogie boarding and practicing diving under the waves. I watched a couple of Youtube videos, which made bypassing waves look easy.
On the first day, I dove under dozens of waves. I found it comforting to be able to glide underneath them without having them toss me around in violent circles. On day two, I got past the surf twice. On the third day, I swam past it again, exiting the water feeling confident.
But another barrier stood in front of me with a woman’s name. Kaye.
This tropical storm was moving up the Pacific side of Baja California. Ominous emails from the race director about huge waves, terrible currents, and possible bacterial infections after rain bombarded my inbox.
I believe that prayer can fight against any kind of evil – including the destructive nature of storms. I prayed and prayed – not just for the race to happen for my benefit – but for no harm to come to people. Due to a freak of nature or my prayers combined, I’m sure, with those of many others, Kaye bounced off the coast and weakened to nothing. Race day left flatter water than I’d ever seen in La Jolla. And I’ve visited La Jolla hundreds of times.
It felt like such a gift to be able to race. I had been assigned to the second wave with the other over-40 competitors. We lined up on the La Jolla Cove beach, waiting for the start. After two days of rain, warm sun baked our bodies and many of us splashed ourselves with water to cool off.
I positioned myself in the front on the right side of the crowd so I wouldn’t have to deal with much body contact. Once the whistle blew, I ran into the water and stroked as hard as I could. I broke free of the crowd within minutes. The water was clear and a rich, deep blue in the depths. I saw bright orange garibaldi, schools of small burgundy-colored fish, schools of blue and silver fish. A seal spiraled underneath me. Hundreds of them bark and play around the Cove.
After rounding the first triangular buoy, I swam through a kelp forest. The tops of the kelp were a a few feet below me, thankfully, so I had no entanglement issues. But seeing myriad tall spires of brownish-red kelp beneath me in the blue depths was awe-inspiring.
Before I knew it, I was rounding the second buoy and swimming back toward the beach. It’s going by too fast, I thought. I wanted to swim in this beautiful ocean for much longer. This open water race was the punctuation mark on our vacation. Once I exited the water, Chris and I would be driving back to Tucson.
I swam my way through a slow group of first-wave swimmers. I raised my head periodically, siting on my objective – the beach and the railing for the stairway that leads down to it. I sprinted with everything I had left, determined to finish the race hard. There was nothing technical about the finish – no big set waves to try to synchronize with. I just swam until I was in calf-deep water and then jumped up and ran up a short stretch of sand through the finish arch.
I looked at my watch, a little surprised. A 17-minute mile? That didn’t seem right. At the top of the stairs, volunteers presented each of us with finisher medals.
I soon learned from Allison and Laura and other swimmers who had recorded their distance that the course had indeed been shorter than it was supposed to be. But my swim had been strong. I ended up placing second in my age group in the race. After receiving my award – a hat – we were on our way to Tucson while my mind was still flashing back on all that beauty I’d experienced out in the water.