I felt it was time to return to my swim route out along the cliffs. I start where the 40m cliffs that hold up the downtown part of the city, meet the Konyaaltı Beach stretch. Instead of heading West where all the bathers play, I headed East along these cliffs, where no one but fishermen and little tour boats go. The sea bottom within 100m of the cliffs is a jumble of massive rock bulges and dark blue voids. This is what causes me a bit of anxiety when I first swim here.  I don’t mind the deep featureless blue, or a consistently patterned rocky scene below; it’s the un-expected transition between the two that triggers the excitement- the bow of a slime and coral covered limestone submarine suddenly looming in the gloom 30m below! My heart races a bit more.

Small freighter shipwreck from last December's storm

I’ve been watching them salvage the wreck of this freighter this spring, where it crashed on the cliffs last winter. Unlike this picture above, the water this morning was smooth as a table top and crystal clear. The salvage ship and barge have been at work so that there is nothing of the shipwreck above the surface of the water now.

I swam out further from the cliffs today to stay over the bottomless blue so my track would take me well around the bow of the salvage ship, about 30 minutes into my swim. By this time I was finally warmed up and relaxing into my rhythm for the day, feeling no more anxiety. I was holding a steady 1.00 tempo, cutting the surface sheet of water like a knife (it’s a nice way to imagine it at least, eh?). When the water is this smooth it is the most exhilerating feeling- it draws you into speed.

I reached the Old Harbor of Antalya around 37 minutes, then turned back, passed the ship again. I know it just takes the first swim over the route to remove the unfamiliarity that provokes that anxiety. The way back was no problem.

At about 50 minutes I was caught up in some mental tempo calculations while counting through my 250-stroke cycles- my eyes were open, but I was not tuned into their sensory input. Only after passing over the top of this white glowing disk deep below me, that I woke up and registered that it was a sea turtle!

Caretta Caretta diving to the deep blue

It is really hard for me to judge depth here as the crystal water and mineral content distort things so much, but I guess she was 10 or 15 meters below me. There was no fear in being surprised by her! I stopped to watch and when I did she began a gentle dive and disappeared into the blue below me.

I’ve heard of turtles being seen out here, but have not spotted one in the 3 some years I’ve been here. This was such a treat. I went where no one goes (without a boat), where my irrational fears try to prevent me from going, and I am rewarded with this!

If that were not enough, 20 minutes later, now back along the beach zone, but well over 200m from shore where no bathers go, I swam over another one! One was a rarity, but two was unbelievable. This one also dove down out of sight once I stopped to look.

It’s June and this is egg laying season for the caretta caretta. I am told they won’t go (to lay eggs at night) onto the crowded beaches, thankfully but swim along until they find quieter beaches. I am hosting a few open-water swim camps this September and October on one of those favored sea turtle beaches.

I felt so good in my rhythm, even though I hit the end of my fuel at 80 minutes, I decided to keep going to 105 minute mark (about 6 km for me) to test out my stroke resilience under fatigue (I ate only a piece of bread for breakfast before morning swims to train my metabolism to dig for it’s slow-burn fuel, rather than sugars). I was pleased to see I held form and tempo even in exhaustion and finished quite strong though I was starting to dream of my snack bag on shore.

I’m on the path to do some 10-12 km swims this summer so I’ll be experimenting with mid-swim fluid and fueling later on, especially as the water warms up. And I’ll eat breakfast before these for sure. It was interesting to note that 23 C sea water today actually felt ‘warm’ to me because I have grown so accustomed to the 22 C for the last 3 weeks. But it’s only getting warmer! I was pleased to swim through the fresh water surface layers in spots where underwater rivers poured into the sea along the cliffs.

I nice rewarding swim today, indeed!


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