Gurl, You Are An Elite Athlete

The Second Annual Redondo Beach Open Water Swim The Avenues happened on July 14, 2019. I was there.

This race is so magnificent, it attracts world class swimmers from deep in the bay. These special guests create some controversy, because they splash around howling with laughter, making fun of the humans for swimming so slow.

An investigation has been opened to determine if they actually rounded the buoys, or even paid the race entrance fee. See the line of humans properly following the race course off in the distance.

When the humans neared the finish, the interlopers swam ahead, as if they had been leading the pack all along, not frolicking in the shallows. That’s called cheating.

The Swim The Avenues is a classy race. They let everyone finish. A fierce 77 year old woman closed the show, escorted by the dolphins and lifeguards, who helped her up the beach. We all cheered.

I want to be that fabulous when I am 77.


Race morning, I awoke with a sore throat. Come to think of it, I had been feeling a bit run down for the past few days.

This is the point where I usually go into a full blow panic over my latest Ehlers-Disaster. 🤬🤬🤬

But finally, after years of functioning and making it through everything, I am beginning to have a tiny bit of confidence in my resilience.

I put on some vintage Ke$ha, gave myself an extra C shot, slid into my wetsuit and decided to break my rule that I do not swim if I am even the tiniest bit sick because I am completely pneumonia-phobic.

At the beach, I collapsed into the sand. I felt really bad. My body wanted to be at home, warm. Ugh.

Someone, give me a nudge when it’s 5 minutes to start.



Game face awn.

I took a few jumps for joy, to warm up. Being such a flexible person, I find I never need to warm up for anything. I have not lost any hypermobility as I have gotten older, but one can hope.

The start buzzer sounded.

I trudged unhappily into the cold water and started joylessly swimming.

My body said I am soooooooo tired. This was miserable. I thought about signaling a lifeguard, heading to shore, quitting. Would that be so bad?

I heard a voice. It was me saying to myself:

Gurrrrl, you are an elite athlete, if only in your fantasies.

Elite athletes have off days. You are having one today.

You may not have two miles in you right now, but no problem, this race is only one. You can swim one mile in your sleep.

It is your privilege to be out here, beyond anything you ever dreamed of for yourself. Suck it up and keep swimming.

You’ll be getting a donut and a t-shirt at the end, so it’s worth it.

Besides, fighting the desire to quit is what makes an elite athlete elite.

So I stayed in the race.

Reach, pull, push. Reach, pull, push. Reach, pull, push. Reach, pull, push.

Out in the salt water, far from shore, there are no problems, except if you have a cold.

Swells were picking me up, putting me down. The halfway buoy was ahead and I was really tired. I wished a dophin would come by. If I could grab a dorsal fin and hitch a ride, I would not even mind getting disqualified. They were nearby, but very busy showing off for Mr. Pennington’s camera, I would find out later.

Rounding the buoys in any race is bad enough. The race pack gets tight and crowded. Arms and legs collide. It’s easy to get a mouthful of water. But as I was rounded the buoys at the half mile mark, the division of non-wetsuit swimmers, who started after we did, caught up. Overtaken by a swarm of sardines, all the slimy bodies crashing into each other. Splashing everywhere. Feeing claustrophobic. Trying not to swallow seawater. Struggle. Not fun.

Reach, pull, push. Reach, pull, push. Reach, pull, push. Reach, pull, push.

The final buoy was in my site. The miserable race was almost over. Left turn, back into shore.

As soon as it was shallow enough, I stopped swimming and stood up. Where is a wave, already? I am done swimming! I am too tired.

One came right at me. I swam into it. It picked me up.

You have a millisecond to pull out of a wave before it’s too late to change your mind. I felt the force of it. I knew it would throw me into the sea floor, hard.

Fine, I’ll take it. I was done swimming. I had a good breath of air in me, hands outstretched to protect my neck, prepared for going under. It was the fastest way in.

All at once, and I’m not even sure in what order, the wave tumbled me over. I hit the sand. Someone’s heel (or perhaps an elbow) struck me in the head. My goggles (my favs!) came off. With sheer intuition I reached into the blindly into the churning, sandy water and grabbed them. How about that for reflexes!

I stood up and started to run.

I was so out of breath, I fell softly into the sand running up the chute. The crowd cheered extra. I am thinking of adding a fake flop to all my finishes.

My time was a very respectable 38 minutes and 47 seconds.

The race was over. The sun was out. The course was being taken down. The dolphins would not leave, clearly waiting to be awarded their medals.

I got my t-shirt, donut, kiss and boozy brunch. I was happy. Really happy. Glad I had stuck it through. And really proud of meself.