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Exiting the Safety of the Bay

After getting back in the groove last week I have been, once again, looking forward to my treks to the ocean. The wind is still kicking from spring and we really haven't experienced our typical "June Gloom" foggy and dark skies this year. We've had early heat waves and wild fluctuations in water temperatures. Bring it on.

Workouts for the Week of June 8 - 14, 2020


Monday, June 8

Mondays typically aren't swim days. I'm not sure why that is. In part I do feel like I need to get jump on my job duties and transition to the work week. It seems to work for me. Today I did my usual short run. It was a little warm - around 85F.


Total Distance: 3.3 miles

Total Time: 36 minutes, 18 seconds

Tuesday, June 9

Fellow swim mate, Tom, often maps out routes for our group swims. Today's was certainly a first for me. But, we got in almost 2 miles from this. Tom and Teresa, who are both much faster than me, quickly dropped me on the short leg to the Cal Poly Pier. They swam to the other side of the Cal Poly Pier - the great unknown - where I am convinced that the wildlife over there does not welcome us swimmers. So, I swam along the safe side of the Cal Poly Pier and hooked back up with them at the third crossbar.


Again, they dropped me on the long arm back to Avila Pier and I only ever saw them again from a distance. as I did the out and back to buoy 3, I did pass Neil, who got in 30 minutes after us. In all, it was a great swim. The water was a bit chilly, however.

Wednesday, June 10

I had back to back meetings in the morning and wasn't able to get to the beach. So, I hopped on my bike trainer and Zwift during one of my meetings and happily pedaled away for 60 minutes while on a Zoom call.

Thursday, June 11

When I arrived at the beach the fog was low and right on the water. Bummer. I could see patches of sky poking through, so I was hopeful we'd have an interesting swim. We all met up and agreed to make up the swim as we go, waiting to see what the fog decided to do. By the time we got to buoy 4, the fog was almost completely gone. So, over to the Cal Poly pier! I goofed up when I turned on my watch and had it set to a pool swim, so I started it over at buoy 4; it is missing the first 460 yards from shore to buoy 4.


As we carried on, the fog continued to lift and burn off and the water was glassy and calm. The water temperature was moderate, maybe 55 - 57F. My son has been telling me to kick more, so that I don't have my wild scissor kick to balance myself while I breathe. Feeling rather fit and strong today, I decided to put some energy into my kicking. It did do a lot for my pace, putting me out in front of my usual "B pack" swimmers. So, this is a new focus for me. I feel like I've built up enough endurance to throw energy into my legs and kick throughout the swim. It did drop my average pace by around 6 seconds (keep in mind, I was kicking for balance, not propulsion).

Friday, June 12

On a total whim, after my swim on Thursday I drove to our local lake, Lake Lopez, to see if there any campsites available. Alas, there was! So I booked it for Thursday - Sunday and went camping! I made camp Thursday night and made Friday a "rest day." My son and his girlfriend were stoked and joined me Thursday night and all day Friday and we puttered around the lake and campground, enjoying the outdoors and observing our fellow-campers ("the boaters"), who clearly do this rather regularly. What elaborate set-ups they have! The kids left around 4pm on Friday and I got to hike around and explore a bit on my own and then enjoy a quiet and restful evening.


Oddly, when I woke up on Friday morning, I had slept on my right shoulder wrong and felt like the inside of my shoulder had been smashed all night long. It felt stiff and achy. It hasn't bothered me a stitch, so this was a little surprising and concerning. I vowed to keep a close eye on it.

Saturday, June 13

What a great swim today! Tom bravely set our route to exit (yes! EXIT!) the bay and swim around Avila Rock. From shore, it looks like a little tiny triangle way off in the distance. I had never swam around that rock, let alone left the safety of the bay. When I heard the route I commented on the impending wind, dropping tide and moderate swell. But, we know it won't be insurmountable. We journeyed together to the end of the Avila Pier. The water wasn't terribly cold.


Tom shared with us that there were two channels to cross through the kelp - one on the south as we head toward the rock, and one on the north as we came back around. So, off we went toward the rock. As we head into open and exposed waters it got really bumpy and the wind was certainly picking up. I felt like it was coming in just over my back right shoulder, pushing us along. Sighting off the rock wasn't hard, so long as I sighted on the crest of a wind wave. In the valley of the wave I couldn't see much in any direction.

As I neared the rock I quickly saw the kelp beds and looked around for the channel. I finally spotted Neil coming along about 40 yards further out to the south (the beach faces south), so I swam over toward him and, alas, there was the south channel. We swam through without once touching the kelp, which pleased me greatly. It was 1,000 yards from the pier to the kelp beds.


Once through the south kelp we widely rounded the rock and paused for water and a quick break. I got to see just how far past the point we had gone and look back and actually see how far away 1,000 yards really looks like. We started to feel the chill, so we carried on and picked our way toward the north channel through the kelp, which forced us to go NNW, when our tendency was to want to go NNE. Again, we made it through the kelp bed channel without touching any kelp.


Once through the channel we looked back toward the pier and it sure seemed like it would be a straight shot to just go right back to the end of the Avila Pier. About 5 minutes into the return swim (which was about 200 yards), we quickly changed our minds. That heading put us directly into the wind chop and almost squarely into the swell. We instead opted to angle toward the shoreline and aim for buoy 4, which we couldn't see, but we knew where it was.


Eventually we spotted the reef buoy, which sits just 30 yards south of buoy 4, so we knew where to point ourselves. We did finally reach buoy 4, acknowledging that the journey to buoy 4 was, in many ways, more difficult than the journey to the rock.


We carried along the buoy line toward buoy 1 at the pier, which is almost a directly westward path. The current was not in our favor and our pace dropped 2:28/100 for the last 460 yards.


I ended the swim with some energy still in the tank and was proud to have accomplished a rough water swim to Avila Rock. When we do it again in calm conditions it will seem so much easier. In the back of my mind, I always figure if I get whipped around the point by a current and end up at Pirate's Cove or Shell Beach, I'll just beach and walk back to Avila. I almost had to do that at Rincon once, having been pulled down to La Conchita. I eventually was able to break through the current and catch a counter current back up. So, always good to have a backup plan.

Sunday, June 14

Today is the last day of camping, so I packed up my site by 11 and head over to the marina and dropped my kayaks in the water. The kids had come back out to the lake and we paddled around and dodged jet skis and boats. We beached on a small little cove for some fishing and I decided to jump in and do a little swimming. The water was certainly warm enough to not need a wetsuit, but it still felt cool (which was a nice relief from the paddling and warm sun). I didn't record any workouts, but spent the day paddling, swimming, fishing, and hiking about. Enough so that I was pretty tired by the time we left the lake at the end of the day.


My shoulder still feels odd. It didn't bother me during my swim around the rock, but I am very much aware of it when I sleep on my right side and when I am sitting still with my arm on an armrest. I'm a little concerned.

Totals for the Week


Total Swim Distance: 10,371 yards

Total Swim Time: 3 hours, 20 minutes


It was a fun week, both the trek around the rock and the camping.



Oh look! Water! Let's swim in it.

The water draws me in like a moth to light. What is the temperature? What is the visibility? How far is it to swim across? It is time to find out.

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San Luis Obispo, California

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