Hardest Event So Far & You Should See My Hickey!

After doing the first three events of the North Shore Swim Series, I was eager to get started for the fourth and final swim from Pipeline to Waimea Bay on Oahu’s North Shore. For those of us who went for this 2.3-mile swim there was the usual T-shirt and these really amazing hats that could have fallen off a Cabela’s truck, although we don’t have Cabela’s in Hawaii.

Steve’s Gardening Service provided the hat swag for the final race. I will run in this hat. It’s a badge of honor. This swim kicked my a$$.

I was so eager that I got in the water early to get acclimated. I sort of listened to the briefing that was happening on shore. I was probably among 50 other swimmers, so I wasn’t the only one out there. Right before the start I asked a knowledgeable looking water patrol dude about the current. He confirmed what my boss had told me the day before: Stick close to shore till Keiki Point, go around the point and try to stay close to shore on your way to the bay.

As I recall the water patrol guy said, “Don’t swim outside. That current is gonna kick your butt.” (He might have cussed and used colorful adjectives!)

His words didn’t scare me, but I did expect that I was going to work hard as I tracked toward the inside. I had expected that the third event, from Chun’s Reef to Waimea Bay, was going to be difficult. But I guess the current was with us that day because we all had great times. For this final swim I was doing the math and using all kinds theories to estimate that I’d be on the beach again at about 01:20. Instead I landed at 01:59. Yup. I was spinning my arms and turning my head to breathe for two friggen hours non stop.

It’s not a hickey! It’s still pretty bad, two days later. BTW, I LUV my Lanikai Triathlon shirt from Boca Hawaii!

Let me tell you what goes through your head when all you can do is keep moving your arms and turning your head to breathe:

  • Why is that girl talking so loudly? (I later find out it was my friend Sonya trying to get my attention!) (I wear earplugs. I only hear my breathing)
  • Is the bottom changing? The bottom is definitely changing. I’m definitely moving forward.
  • Suckin’ goggles.
  • Is that a buoy or a swim cap?
  • That’s a buoy.
  • That’s a swim cap.
  • Fish!
  • Freakin’ goggles!
  • Caves!
  • Fish! (Please no big fish!)
  • Coral!
  • Boulders!
  • WTPho is up with these shitty goggles?
  • Wow. Lots of folks on water patrol. Relieved!
  • Wait. That’s not water patrol! What are all these women doing kneeling on SUPs? Why is that woman coming straight for me? OMG.
  • Did I just graze by a fishing line? WTPho? (I looked toward the beach and sure enough a regular bamboo ridge!) I’m glad I didn’t snag a hook or get caught in a net!
  • These fringing goggles are SO FIRED!
  • Is that a buoy?
  • Look, a catamaran.
  • The steeple!
  • The steeple!
  • The steeple!
  • A SCUBA DIVER? (Really! He looked gigantic to me over by Three Tables). I was so glad to see a human!
  • WTHell? Why does that catamaran just sit there?
  • WTHell? Why am I not getting any closer to that steeple?
  • OMG am I going to get pulled out?
  • Oh, MAN! I cannot stop. My arms have to keep going.
  • I guess I can stop AND FIX MY STUPID A$$ GOGGLES AGAIN!!
  • Check out that dude sitting on a surfboard in his green cap. QUITTER! I WILL NOT BE A QUITTER!
  • Oh, MAN! This is awful. When will it end? Why is this so HARD?
  • I QUIT! No, I don’t.
  • I feel nauseated. I think of my friend Fred Fortin and his projectile vomiting story. I think I’m gonna barf. I had a Gu gel and a bottle of water on the beach right before I started, more than an hour before this point.
  • I can’t barf. There’s nothing to barf. What the heck could I possibly barf?
  • Get better. Feel better. Forget about it. Just move.
  • Fix the MOFO goggles again. Loudly belch air. Feel better. Look around embarrassed. Realize no one gives a sh^t.
  • Rocks in my face! Where am I?
  • Charlie horse, right foot. Flex heel while swimming.
  • Oh. No. My neck. I’m getting that rash again. It burns like a jellyfish sting! Looks like a white-trash hickey!
  • I must be burning fat stores! I gotta be burning fat!
  • I get on that beach and Imma gonna be skinny!
  • LOL. Swallow water. Not so LOL.
  • Charlie horse, left foot. Flex heel while swimming. Cramps? MUST WE?
  • Finally get by that anchored catamaran. I hate it.
  • I refuse to look over my left shoulder to see where that steeple is. I just cannot deal with that any more. I hate it.
  • Water patrol to my left directing me out to sea. WAIT. That seems wrong. But, OK.
  • Rocks! Turning the corner! YAY!!!
  • Am I actually IN THE BAY?
  • Swim over boulders, spot two bright orange specs in the distance.
  • They could be just swim caps.
  • Please be the buoys!
  • Please be the buoys at the beach!
  • YES! YES! YES!
  • In five minutes I’m gonna be on the beach. Hang in there. Just a few more minutes!
  • You can do it!
  • My arms feel like spaghetti.
  • Gotta get there. Gotta get there. Gotta get there.
  • There they are, I’m almost there!
  • A final few strokes and I can stand.
  • I stand.
  • I just stand there.
  • I pull off my cap and those OMGOGGLES.
  • I stand there.
  • Can I do this?
  • I try to get out of the water, but the bay wants to suck me back.
  • I attempt to run up the beach.
  • People are cheering for me!
  • “This was the hardest thing I’ve ever done!” I said to no one in particular.
  • I passed the timing mat: 01:59:12.
  • Timing chip dude takes off my timing chip.
  • Join my friends who are already on the beach.
  • I remark how Kristin is DRY. That’s a Kona Ironman gal for ya!
  • Here comes John. He takes our pics.
  • OH GAWD. I look awful. Must you?

We say good bye to my friends. I drag my hot, hot, Burden Stylist Husband over to the concessions with me and I get to fuel up with a half Jamba Juice smoothie. I was so grateful. I shared it with John.

My times. Hawaii Tinman Triathlon time, too. I hope I do better in the Duke Ocean Mile Swim and the Waikiki Rough Water Swim!

Showered with the “ocean mint” soap provided by North Shore Soap Factory and I nearly screamed in agony because of all the abrasions on my arms and neck. Quickly went for the lavender, which was easier to take. I love peppermint soap, it’s always my first choice, but it really has a chili-pepper effect when it meets broken skin.

I still have a sunburn, and I have bruises and welts on my body. The black and blue marks around my eyes are fading. The welt on my neck is really bad. I told John that I wouldn’t let anyone think it was the result of a domestic altercation, or even worse, a hickey!

I’ve been told the current on the South Shore for the Waikiki Rough Water Swim can be pretty strong, too. I guess I’ll have to see for myself. When I was younger, I didn’t think I was strong enough to do these things. Now I’m older, and not as strong, but I do these things.

By lavagal

Hawaii Kai wife and mom. Melanoma Stage 3a Cancer survivor. English Language Arts teacher, English Learners Coordinator, and Paraprofessional Tutor. Super sub teacher. Dormant triathlete. Road cyclist and Masters swimmer. Gardener. Mrs. Fixit. Random dancer. Music Curator. A teenager trapped in an aging body. Did you know 60 is the new 40? It is.


  1. Good for you for gritting it out! Next time, old school petroleum jelly for your neck. Keep on keepin’ on.

  2. Glad to know I’m not the only one who develops irrational hatred, HATRED, of inanimate objects that don’t move when I’m training/racing. :-). You are amazing — I still haven’t done this swim because I’m scared of it.

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