I decided to give myself a good kick-start to cold water training for my swim to Namu (part 2) and attempt at a double crossing of Juan de Fuca Strait summer of 2018. Early November 2017 I headed up to Heiltsuk waters just outside of Bella Bella in the Great Bear Rainforest for a week or repeated dips in some fairly cool water.
My first year in the area I was fortunate to have swum in these waters three times. The first was a quick dip in 10C water in April 2016 on the shores of Martin Valley just past Ocean Falls. The second was a 10 kilometre swim through Lama Pass from Drifter’s Cove on Denny Island to Shearwater. Later that year I spent 2 incredible days swimming from Ocean Falls down Fisher Channel, through Gunboat Passage landing on the shores of Bella Bella.
Last year my intent was to continue my journey through the Inside Passage swimming from Bella Bella to Namu – a 50-60 kilometre swim split over 2 days. On the first day I encountered some crazy wind and current. At times I felt like a hamster in wheel, working really hard at not moving forward. I exited the water at Drifters Cove after 3 hours of a very bump swim. I know from experience that when conditions are tough for me, they can be even tougher on my crew. They are not only having to watch over me but also trying to keep themselves safe. On the second day I swam from Drifter’s Cove to a few kilometres shy of the exit from Lama Pass into Fisher Channel. About 3 hours into the swim a humpback swam under me. I never saw it coming, but I sure did feel it’s presence under me, and I saw it going.
Each time I jump in the water in Heiltsuk territory I am struck by it’s beauty and gentle soft hugs. My time in the waterway this November was no different.
I started my week with a 5 minute dip in 7C water at my friend Kevin’s in Drifter’s Cove. Kevin kindly hosted Ray and I for the week giving me easy access to the waterfront. My goal was to jump in every day, increasing the amount of time in the water each time.
The water was black, which is usually a sign that it is pretty darn cold. But it was also soft and clear as clear could be. I did my 5 minutes and then exited where my protectors, Ray and Rosy (Kevin’s dog) greeted me. I began the 3 hour warming process by wrapping myself in a towel.
The next day I submerged myself in the water for 10 minutes. It took me a bit of time to get in. I walked from the shore to waist-deep water and walked around for a few minutes, letting the effect of the cold water cool my blood. Within a few minutes I was swimming head-up freestyle and then head-down freestyle. I find there can be a sharp piercing pain in my ear when the water is this cold. I am careful to take my time and monitor all of the changes taking place in my body. About 9 minutes into the swim Rosy starting barking as though she was calling me out of the water. I waded around for another minuted and then exited at 10 minutes in.
On day 3 my goal was 15 minutes. There was quite the storm and some really strong winds. Ray talked about it and decided I would stay on land – INSIDE!
Day 4 I woke up and began to prepare myself psychologically for the plunge. I find I sometimes look for reasons to stay on land where its warm, and I have to convince myself to swim. If the water and air are really cold, it may take a few hours before I am at firm “yes, you are going in”. It was one of those days.
I opted to wear do a bit of butterfly training to keep warm. At about the 14 minute mark Rosy started barking. Ray let me know I had a minute left an I made my way to the shore and exited the water after about 15 minutes. I didn’t realize until how read my arms had become.
On day 5 I set a goal of 20 minutes. It was getting harder each day and my recovery was more challenging each time. I was pooped! I wore fins so I could do a few HIT sets to keep warm. I brought my kick board in with me and kicked around the cove. Rosy followed me running along the shore. The water was beautiful, but I am not going to lie, it was really cold and my heart rate was slowing down.
I kept kicking, trying to ignore the cold. My legs became heavy and it was getting hard to move them.
At about 19 minutes in Rosy started barking. It was my cue to come out. I made my way to the shore, took off my fins and Ray wrapped me in a towel. I was so thankful Ray was there with me. Had he not been I never would have been able to get my fins off. My fingers were so stiff from the cold.
We walked to the cabin where I sat for several hours under a blanket warming.
On my final training day, day 6, I set a goal of 25 minutes. My friend MJ had flown in from Victoria to help plan for #Namu 2018. I was really lucky to have her there the final day as the air temperature had dropped to about 5C and the water was holding steady at 7C. I brought my fins in again as it seemed to help with the HIT sets. They also left me feeling more confident allowing me to swim further out into the cove. Ray and Rosy were watching over me closely at all times. At 21 minutes in Rosy started barking at me. I looked around to see if there were any otters, seals, sea lions are whales. There were none. I looked to Rosy and said “OK, you know what’s going on here and I will respect what you are telling me”. I exited the water 22 minutes in.
Since coming home I haven’t had time to jump back in the ocean. It is now mid January. It’s time to get back in!