There was no doubt in my mind what the Shape Up with the Slow Fat Triathlete chapter reference was going to be for this post: Swim at Any Opportunity (Chapter 14). Being in the water fills me with childlike happiness. If the water is open, unconstrained by concrete and untreated by chlorine, and the weather is crazy glorious, that's pretty much like crack.
This is Labor Day weekend, and Tim and I were visiting our friend Steve in one of the charming hamlets of the Santa Cruz mountains. My two key objectives for Sunday were to take in the floating begonia floats at the Capitola Begonia Festival and to swim in the ocean. Technically it's Monterey Bay, but since the bay is not particularly enclosed or protected, I think of it as the ocean.
Only nine floats came down Soquel Creek, but they were covered with real begonias and showed a lot of flair. My favorite was the giant pelican, complete with fish-costumed kids in its enormous bill. (Photo to come!) The crowds were disproportionate to the number of floats. We could hardly move along the creek path, but once we turned into the village, it turned into normal Labor Day madness. I arranged a rendezvous with Tim and Steve, ducked into the decently-appointed public restroom, and wiggled into one of my new suits. I picked my way through beach blankets and umbrellas and walked boldly into the water.
My internal wetsuit served me well . The temperature for the Monterey Bay this time of year usually hovers in the high 50s to low 60s. The calm water and hours of sunshine, though, had probably gotten the temperature up a couple of degrees from normal. It felt great to me, washing off the sweat and fatigue of parade-viewing in the heat, not to mention the hike from the car down to town. (Note to Steve: Hey, bud, the "great parking spot" that works for you on Thursday afternoons may not be such a great option for Labor Day freakin' Weekend!)
Not much to say about the swim itself. I had forgotten my goggles and swim cap, so I wasn't set up for a serious open water workout. A few strokes of freestyle, a few backstrokes, a bit of breaststroke, some of my patented Esther Williams (no relation) sidestroke, a lot of floating about, kicking, stretching, and generally feeling aquatic. I looked on it as preparation for my upcoming regime of lap swimming and a reminder of what I love about triathlons. I managed to work hard enough to feel it in my arms and legs, and the walk back uphill to the car seemed inordinately difficult afterwards. I mean, it was over a mile uphill in 82 degree weather, and I was carrying my beach bag and heavy wet towel, and I hadn't eaten anything since a bagel in the late morning... but still. I didn't feel too much like a trained-up athlete as Steve and my semi-sedentary hubby strode away from me.
But that's not important. I swam in the ocean. It was good.
Postscript: The sweet potato fries at Hula's Island Grill and Tiki Room in Santa Cruz are serious, and the drinks are tasty. But don't order anything "Jamaican Jerk" style - ludicrously unauthentic.