The Swim Around Key West is a 12.5 mile
swim race around, well,
This, of course, is all my husbands fault. He read about
this race in Backpacker magazine and was dumb enough to tell me about it.
It didn’t take me long to talk my friend Jackie into being my Kayaker, or as
she refers to herself, “Life Support”. After all, even if things went
badly, we were in
We got up the next morning and headed to the airport, feeling confident our luggage was on the 10AM flight as promised. Of course it wasn’t. We ate lunch at the small airport diner while we waited. After eating, the luggage had still not arrived, so we ran some errands. I needed some zinc oxide, sunglasses and an underwater camera. (It turns out I wouldn’t really be needing any of those things!) When we got back to the airport, I ran into a man who said, “They have our luggage! Are you doing the swim?” This led to some talking about how crappy our flight was, and I was sure I would see him at the pre-race meeting later on. With luggage in hand, we headed back to the hotel...with most of the day wasted.
When I got back to the hotel, a nice local man kept offering to
carry my bag. I assured him I could handle it since I was going to be
swimming around the entire
At the meeting, the race director explained everything so well
my confidence grew. There weren’t many women in the room and most women
appeared to be part of a relay. More good news for me! A bunch of
us from the
We got up the next morning and met Mike who had offered to take us to the swim start. He said the water was “choppy” and that it just had got finished raining. Fun. On our way to the start, it started pouring. When we got to the race start it was raining so hard we stayed in the car, despite the fact that we had 6 + hours ahead of us in the water. It finally eased up a bit so we could get our bodies covered with Zinc Oxide, along with our race numbers and a black “S” for solo swimmer. However, the waves were picking up. When it was time to start it was raining so hard the kayakers couldn’t see the swimmers and the bull horn start couldn’t be heard. There was a wave of yelling “GO, GO, START SWIMMING”
I must have misheard some information because I kept trying to
Eventually she caught me, after I had thrown up my breakfast. I was 10 minutes late for my Gatorade and gel. I downed it hoping it would make me feel better. Wow, I was sooooo wrong. Another hour later I was feeding the fish. I threw up multiple times, and my kayaker was concerned and reminded me I shouldn’t be so stubborn. I wasn’t ready to give up yet. My goal was to turn the corner of the island, and hope the waves would be calmer and I could get my stomach under control. Another man had joined up with us, as his boat never showed up. He kept encouraging me not to quit, but I don’t think he realized how much hurling I had done.
Eventually we got around the first turn, where it was calmer, and I drank some more Gatorade. This time I kept it in, well, at least for the short time I was still swimming. But my stomach did not feel any better. I didn’t really know how much longer I could hang in there.
I was almost to the 4 mile mark at 3:30 minutes (a ridiculously slow pace) and still wasn’t feeling better. Even though I had used the clear zinc oxide, my kayaker told me I was as white as a ghost. The other man’s boat had shown up, so he took off with them. At this point the sun had come out, but dark clouds and lightning loomed ahead. I was hoping for a couple good cracks so I could use the lightning rule to get on dry land and perhaps nurse my stomach back before continuing the swim.
We had just decided to try to make it to the 6 mile mark when I heard a voice from above: “THE SWIM AROUND KEY WEST HAS BEEN CANCELLED, ALL SWIMMERS MUST EXIT THE WATER IMMEDIATELY!” The Coast Guard had called the race because of too many accidents and close calls. I was so relieved that I didn’t have to make the decision to quit, but I was also very disappointed. If I had been feeling better I would have been furious.
On our way to the next beach, the man whom we had helped came back to pick us up. We left Jackie in the kayak and towed her behind. This upset the Coast Guard again, so they came and yelled at us for being stupid. So we got her in the boat and were off to the swim start to see who else may have made it back there already.
There were few people there. Most were upset, one girl was crying, but most were just shocked. Everybody had invested so much time training and money to get there; it was certainly understandable how angry everybody was.
We started to hear rumors that some swimmers had not exited the water. In fact, the race director was still out there swimming! This made some even more angry, but I was happy for my friends. Mike had trained very hard for this and he deserved to finish. Heather and her friend were doing it as a relay, and they weren’t back yet either. I hoped they would make it, and they did! Heather’s relay made it in 5:25, I am not sure what Mike’s time was, but he came in not long after.
I was interested in hearing how they escaped the Coast Guard. Turns out Mike just waited for them to leave and then got back in. Heather and her partner ripped off their race wrist bands and declared themselves “recreational” swimmers.
That night at the awards party, every solo swimmer was given a
finishers medal since we swam until the coast guard terminated the race.
There was plenty of alcohol and we ended up on
We were going to go snorkeling on Sunday, but the weather was
crappy all day, so we went shopping instead. We overslept the next
morning and almost missed our flight. Then when we picked up our luggage
Back to Florida
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Please remember to Leave No Trace!