How I came to this race is a story of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). I had found a group of military spouses that did ocean swims together 3x a week on base. Thanks to the power of Facebook & social media I was able to connect with these ladies. When I joined the group just making it a mile was a challenge. These ladies were swimming anywhere from 2-3 miles. They were training for Coco’s. A quick side note about this impressive group: The group has always been so welcoming to any swimmer of any ability. No one gets left behind or alone in the ocean. There is always someone of your ability that you can pair up with. Within not too long these fearless ladies had convinced me that I could do an open water swim race too!
Training for the Crossing
The Coco’s Crossing as it was pitched to me was an open ocean swim from the small islet of Coco’s back to the main island of Guam. They offer three different distances a 3k,
5k, and a 10k for the especially brave. After convincing some of my collegiate swimmer friends to sign up for the 5k with I decided I’d need to start getting in some longer distance swims. Luckily for us on Guam we have to much protected reef in the harbor that you can literally swim as far as you want. So, 3 times a week I would swim anywhere from 1.5 to 2.5 miles with my Gab Gab ladies (Gab Gab being the name of the beach). I quickly found my place in the pack. If I wanted to swim and no one was available I would head to Gab Gab’s pool to be in the ocean but also visible if something should happen (like a cramp or sea sickness).
I used to have complaints about the ocean, yet the more I swam the more accustomed I became. The saltiness. The waves. Fear of sharks. The first two I just got used to – however, the later took some work. As well as some rationalizing that there really aren’t any sharks that will get you here. At the very end of one of our swim routes you can occasionally see our resident Black Tip Reef Shark, Rita. When this happens, we simply turn around and leave her to her business.
Ready to Cross… or not
We all got to the race site early on the morning of the race. I felt excited and amped up by the fun atmosphere. It was at the point I was looking for when the ferry times were that I realized I’d made a tactical error. Thinking I’d signed up for the swim from Coco’s and back (a crossing, if you will) I was expecting to have to take a ferry over to the island to start. As it turns out the 3k is the race that crosses the lagoon. The 5k and 10k are a true ocean swim in a triangle course. Disappointed though I was, I focused my energies on understanding the new course I had to swim.
All the swimmers applied Vasoline all over their skin to protect against Jelly Fish. Last year, 2017, we were really luck as there really weren’t any. However, in previous years it has been really bad I was told. This was my first athletic event on Guam and I wasn’t prepared for the differences. For example, they only had three large triangle markers out on the course. Meaning you really couldn’t see your turn buoy when you were in the water until you were quite close. We were told that if we needed help to stop and put your swim cap in the air. Yet, the small number of kayakers meant that no one could get to you fast. If they could see you at all.
The 5k and 10k races started together in a mass start. We had to do 2 laps while the 10k folks had 4 laps. The gun went off and the washing machine started. Bodies flailing everywhere trying jockey for space. Not too long after the start it began to rain. This made visibility pretty poor. The water was super warm, around 86/88 F and visibility to the bottom was probably 40 feet the conditions couldn’t have been better. My first lap went well; I could see people, didn’t feel alone, and felt like I was doing okay. It was lap two that really hurt. I was pretty fatigued, cramping in my legs, and becoming increasingly stressed. A couple times I wanted to stop for a minute but couldn’t see any help around. The pack had thinned out and I felt alone. I couldn’t make it. I wasn’t going to make it. The next turn buoy was not in site and I didn’t know mow much longer I could go.
The very last leg of the race had some moderate swell to it. Conditions that now a year later wouldn’t phase me. Back then however, it had me stressed and crying into my goggles. I just wanted to be done. I persevered and struggled through and finally got out of the water 2 hours and 2 minutes later. As soon as I was done I walked straight back. Not stopping for my husband or friends who had finished long before. I knew the water works were coming and didn’t want to bring the day down. Tears of frustration and disappointment are a funny thing. They’re not easy to explain and they definitely aren’t stoppable.
Post Crossing Party
The Coco’s Crossing was the hardest thing I’d ever done. It was challenging, scary, fun, beautiful, and 100% worth it. After the race and the awards ceremony we hung out a bit and enjoyed Merizo. Ate some hafaloah (flavored shaved ice) and rehydrated then went home for a good nap.
We were planning to race again this year but our move date got moved up so we will be unable to. I am so sure this years race will be even better than the last. The people behind this event care so much about making it fun and safe. It was a tough race for me and my own expectations for myself were not met but I would recommend this race in a heartbeat. If you are new to Guam or just love open water swimming this is a must do event.
For more event info click here: Coco’s Crossing Series
Registration Closes: Friday May 18th, 2018 at Midnight
No Day Of Registration (trust us, my friend tried this last year)
Show Time: 6:00 AM Go Time : 7:00 AM
FAQ and information on the course and rules click here