Friday, September 19, 2008

Catalina Swim Success

At almost exactly 3pm, I became the 157th person to cross the Catalina Channel in nothing but a swimsuit, cap and googles. In challenging conditions that one Catalina Channel Swimming Federation observer noted were the worse that ever produced a successful swim, it took almost 14 hours and many extra miles to land on a beach that had never been used as a landing spot before.

The volunteer crew of Jim Fitzpatrick, Ahelee Osborn, John Steed, Jen Schumacher, Lynn Kubasek, Ron Roberts, Jordon Roberts, Jan Roberts and David Clark was incredible! While fighting horrible motion sickness, they stayed up for most of the night (since I started at 1am) and missed their entire Friday to paddle kayaks, be escort swimmers, mix sports drinks, and cheer me on as currents, cold water, winds, and large swells at times meant almost an hour of aggressive swimming that produced no forward progression.

The swim though, is dedicated to my biggest support and love of my life, my wife, Ellie.

Glad its over! I will post pictures and a more complete write-up after I've had some time to recover.


Vigoren Family said...

Phew. So glad you made it. I was worthless yesterday thinking about your swim and hoping that you made it okay. Congratulations!

Dave said...


lkubasek said...

You have a beautiful family! I feel so honored to have been a part of this.

Jordon said...

The swim literally was mind-blowing to me. I did not come close to comprehending the magnitude of such an impressive atheltic acheivement until having been a part of it. I am so grateful to have been able to be there and help in some small way. Having run a few marathons, knowing that you just "ran" the equivalent of about 3 in a row, astounds me still. You were amazing and your perseverence and dedication to finishing truly signified your ability to accomplish anything to which you put your mind and heart. Congrats, again!

Mr. Roberts said...

Amazing job, Chris! We've definitely been inspired by all the accounts!

Ahelee said...

*Christopher Roberts
* completed his *Catalina Channel* Crossing yesterday afternoon!

I hope that both he and *Dave Galli who successfully crossed from Catalina
last month* will also post their experience here on the group as well. The
swimmer's view is always different than the support crew's!

On my 2nd attempt at supporting a marathon swim (a real rookie!) I wrote
this quick story of our day:

Chris had a fantastic epic Catalina Channel Swim effort yesterday.
He was so fit - and prepared. He swam fast and well.

We all met a a delicious Italian restaurant in Long Beach for dinner.
Chris's wife Ellie and the kids made us terrific "Team Chris" shirts to
wear on the swim!

Watched huge fish unloaded from our *escort boat, The Outrider*. Amazingly
when we got on board it was sparkling fresh with no hint of fish or guts

Set off to motor to the Catalina Island start from Long Beach a little late
and actually began the swim at 1:10am. Chris was very relaxed and conversed
with family and friends easily before he set off.

There was a nice big moon out which seemed to light up the swim and
Chris started off at a quick pace with Jen Schumacher (swimming Catlina next
year) pace swimming
and John Steed on the escort kayak.

Through the swim Nova Masters Lynn Kubasek (swimming Catalina next
year) turned out to be one of the key
kayak escorts as well as Chris' brother Jordan. Jim Fitzpatrick
(Catalina/English Channel swimemr) and
John did fine pace swimming along with Chris.

However there was a good 5-6 hours that Chris swam on his own without a
pacer. Not sure he was stoked about this, but he swam very well through
these hours. I was happy to see him do this as it demonstrated even more of
his strength and determination to work thru some trepidation of wide open
ocean swimming - alone.

Even though I was supposed to be on board as a "pace swimmer" and coach, I
did very little swimming on this crossing. I am not big on the whole pace
swimmer practice as I have written before. In addition I've been training
for some big pool swim races, which open water swimming plays havoc on in
regard to technique and body parts. So I personally got a lot of time
in watching and working from the boat. We were incredibly fortunate to have
David Clark, a friend from San Diego as the official observer. Both Dave and
Jim Firzpatrick have been incredible mentors for me in the care and feeding
of open water marathon swimmers, and I thank them both sincerely. Very
grateful for all of their guidance.

Conditions appeared beautiful. Clear water, a small chop, gorgeous
sunny day after day break. But with the sun and clear skies, comes the
The price a swimmer pays for the warmth of the sun.
On an overcast day such as the one Dave Galli had when he swam
Catalina last month, there is little to no wind normally. Water temp started
69 degrees and as the swim concluded in to the California coast in
dropped down to 63 degrees.

At about 7-8 hours, we got hit out of just about no where with a huge
change in direction of wind, tide, and currents. And they were all
headed straight at Chris!
Oh My God - I have not watched swimming like this anytime before that
I can remember. He held his stroke strong and (amazingly pretty well
technically) continued to swim hard through the entire assault.

I could not take my eyes off of him! Everytime he breathed toward the
boat (he was breathing every 3rd stroke) I couldn't help but throw my
arms up in victory at him. This went on easily for an hour. After
about 50 minutes, The captain came out looked at me and said, "Poor
guy, I can't believe he has to swim in this. We haven't made any
progress forward, and there are spots we are actually being pushed

I could not believe it! He was swimming so hard and so well
in this mess, only to be rewarded by the fact that he was "pretty much
holding his position!" An open water warrior...

I still don't know how Jordan stayed on his Kayak though it either!
The battering continued.

The captain told us, the way the conditions were on the planned
course, Chris would have had an additional 4-6 hours added to his
swim for the crossing.

He was suggesting that we look at alternating
the course to one that would land him quite a bit south of the
original finish location. The coaches and observer agreed, and the
course was changed to finish at Cabrillo Point rather than Point
Vincente Lighthouse in Palos Verdes.

In the next hours after the course was changed, the water finally
start to calm down.

Chris continued his *excellent fueling* on the feed
stops every 30 minutes. He began to recover slightly from the extreme
effort he had made in the previous hours to push through and

It was pretty clear the swim was taking its toll on him.
From the top, his stroke still looked the same - long and strong, good
recovery without shortening or dragging anything. When I finally got
in for a swim with Chris, I could see that he was not holding water on
his pull from below. But the effort was there, he was still kicking
and he was definitely moving forward.
He was calm and even a little cheerful throughout. No sense ever that
the swim was in jepardy of terminating.

He progressed so well, that the finish beaches kept being moved north
first from Cabrillo Point - to Inspiration Point (which we all thought
was appropriate) and then finally to Royal Palms Beach where Chris
finished with all of his family and friends waiting on the beach to
meet him.

When Chris was back on the boat, the Captain, John Pittman (The Great!), and
swim oberver, David Clark both told him that they had not experienced
such a tough swim in many years across from Catalina.
Captain Pittman told him he would have probably had a 9-10 hour swim
had the conditions been more normal. He was clearly impressed by
Chris's stamina and determination.

Final Time:

And as mentioned already, EPIC.

Congratulations to Chris and all of his support crew! Which also included
his Mother, Jan and Father, Ron.

d/b/c/m said...

We were so glad to have been able to be there and witness the feat--truly incredible!!! i still can't really comprehend how a human body is able to do that.

Your support crew was awesome, too, and I feel lucky to have met such wonderful people.

You're amazing! Good job doesn't quite seem enough of a sentiment. WOW!