08 May 2007
10 Coves of Death
In 2002, I swam the 5 Coves of Death for the first time. 5 Coves of Death is held every year on the 5th of May at 5 p.m. It is the qualifying swim for the Bay to Breakers swim (Bay Bridge to Ocean Beach) held later in the month. Each "cove" is about one mile.
On my 5th time around in 2002, I saw Elizabeth Leahy swim behind the Balclutha for the 10th time in completing her 10 Coves of Death. Her pilot told me that she was training for the English Channel. At that moment I knew that they year I swam the English Channel, I would swim 10 Coves of Death. At that time, I didn't know when that would be.
Elizabeth swam the English Channel later that summer. Last Sunday I swam 10 Coves of Death in 4 hours and 11 minutes.
It is a difficult swim. You are with the tide sometimes, against it at other times. It is not a swim that is planned with ideal tide conditions in mind. Legend has it that for it to be a true "cove of death" that you are required to take a shot of tequila each time around. I have never done that. For me what makes it a cove of death is going behind the large historical ships of Aquatic Park. This year those include the Balclutha, Eppleton Hall and our new neighbor, the Thayer.
Alice, Amber and I started at 3 p.m. so that we would be able to finish with the rest of the pack at about 7. Alice was in a kayak and would be in charge of my feedings. Amber was swimming, but quickly got ahead and maintained her lead for the rest of the swim.
The water temperature was 54 degrees. It felt much better than it did a few weeks ago, but 54 is still not warm. The cove was full of cold spots that felt like they were 50 degrees.
The swim was uneventful from a swimmer's perspective, but Alice told me later that on 6 of my 10 times around she spotted a HUGE sea lion between the goal posts and the repair. Once she changed direction so quickly to avoid a seal that she paddled my leg. Alice did a great job maintaining a calm presence in the kayak while I just kept on swimming.
When I finished my 5th cove, the rest of the swimmers were just starting. It gave me energy to see South Enders cheering from our dock as I came around for coves 6-10. Cove #6 I swam alone while Alice walked on the beach to stretch her back. She was back in the kayak for coves #7 and #8. At the beginning of #9, Alice gave the kayak to Marta and went in to change into her suit. With one and half coves left, Alice swam out to Marta and me to finish up the swim. Just like in San Diego, it was great to have Alice swim next to me as we finished #9 and headed into #10. My stroke rate stayed the same throughout (74 strokes/minute) and although I was tired at the end, I recovered quickly. I only felt cold in the real cold spots but Marta told me my skin looked purple, which is a sign of hypothermia.
I socialized on the beach at the finish, not even feeling the urge to rush to the shower and sauna. I walked past the party on the patio at South End and looked forward to a great dinner.
The fatigue and exhaustion from 6 hours on the 28th and 4 hours on the 5th is starting to wear on me. I have been having trouble sleeping, yet my body desperately wants to rest.
Thank you to Amber for being a part of the 10 coves.
Thank you to Marta for turning disappointment into teamwork!
Thank you to Alice for kayaking, feeding me, counting my strokes and finding a way to swim where she can match me stroke for stroke after I have been swimming for 4 hours.