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Pete's swim blog

Monthly blog - beach edition

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by , June 6th, 2014 at 09:58 AM (4392 Views)
Welcome readers from Sunnyside Beach, Florida. If you don't know where this insignificant half mile strip of beach is, think just west of Panama City Beach. Aside from a few thunderstorms Monday and Tuesday, it has been great all week! Training-wise, this has been a poor time for a vacation. I'm swimming in the Alabama State games in a little over two weeks. They only really offer shorter events and I'll be swimming the 50/100/200 Free, 100 Breast, 100 Fly and 200 IM. Here are my vacation training options:
- Rest and blow off training. It's a vacation and who really needs to train for sprint events anyway?
- Drop $8 per day on the local pool in order to get a proper solo workout - there are no masters workouts in Panama City anymore .
- Train in the ocean... it's free!

I took the free option and it has been worth it! Well, not for training but for cool stuff to see.

Monday, the waves were pretty rough. Thunderstorms just south of us in the gulf were driving 3-5 foot waves. It was great for body surfing so I stuck with that. The body surfing was mostly kick work. I tried to take 2-3 good speed strokes to get going but after that I just dolphin kicked to stay with the wave. For a challenge, I started trying to ride waves on my back. That turned out to be quite a bit of fun and was a decent workout for my abs. Later, I walked east a few hundred yards, swam out past the breakers and swam back down to the beach. By then the wind had really picked up and I was tossed around a lot. Visibility in the water was poor so I didn't see too much.

Tuesday, the waves were calmer but winds/waves were pushing a 2-3 mph east to west current in between the sand bar and the beach. That made getting to the breaking waves a tough task especially for my kids who couldn't keep their feet on the ground all the way out. I decided to swim out past the sandbar and swim east into the waves for a few hundred yards and then swim back. Swimming out was painful and it seemed like it took forever to get anywhere. Sighting in rough water is nothing like sighting on a lake so I ended up taking occasional breaststroke pulls to regain my bearings. Coming back was easier and with the beach on my breathing side, I was able to keep a straighter line.

Wednesday was much better. Winds were still blowing from the SE so I headed east into the wind and waves. This time, I set off for a full mile up the beach. With calmer waves, visibility opened up and I could see a lot more. I was swimming 10-15 yards off the sand bar in 6-8 feet of water. Most of it was barren sea floor. But as I got closer to my turning point, I suddenly saw hundreds of circular brown objects in the sand. I dove down to get a better look and they were sand dollars. Tons of them all over the place. I've been to Panama City Beach many times over the years and I've known they were out there but never found any. Turns out I was just looking in the wrong place! As I swam back, I found more beds of these creatures closer to my family and I took my kids out to let them see. The only problem on this swim was the jellyfish. I never saw one but I ran into their tendrils several times. A couple times, they would get on stuck on the bridge of my nose or caught in my goggle strap. I considered giving it up a couple time but stuck it out. Can't imagine putting up with a lot more that 2 miles of that.

Yesterday was by far the best day. The waves calmed down significantly and the sea life began to come out. As I swam east, schools of fish would go past and my splashing would startle stingrays that scurried off into the depths. There were in fact quite a bit more stingrays than I had ever imagined and I was glad there was 8 feet of water between us. I saw dozens of them as I swam along and there were probably a lot more that chose to remain hidden. On my way back, I encountered a few devil rays playing in the surf and about a 2 foot long sea turtle. My swim ended up being more of a sightseeing trip than a workout! Instead of intervals, I just swam along at a moderate pace until there was something interesting to see.

Only a couple more days left... maybe I'll run into a dolphin today... or a shark (hopefully from a large distance).

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Updated June 6th, 2014 at 10:46 AM by pmccoy



  1. flystorms's Avatar
    I'm so envious of you! Dangit I miss livnig close to the beach.
  2. pmccoy's Avatar
    Really deep down somewhere, I think I'm envious of all those that get to have early morning pool workouts. Actually... no, I'm not .Today was much like yesterday except the wind and waves were coming from the southwest. So, I headed west this time. The sea turtle came back again and I followed it for a couple hundred yards. On my way back, I encountered a stingray that was completely unafraid of me. Usually, they scurry off to deeper water or burrow into the sand as I approach. This one just stood it's ground and stared at me. I stopped momentarily to ponder why this one was so different. The stingray offered no answers so I moved on.