He once bumped against her foot and then swam away from her in an ocean race. Trying to keep up with her on a trail run, he took a spill into the brush, and she ran two miles before noticing. But after years of teasing and one-upping each other, Ed Smith and Becky Glusac took a big step toward solidarity last August. They became Mr. and Mrs. Smith.
They share another title: Mr. and Mrs. Semana Nautica. Since moving to Santa Barbara from his native Australia in 2003, Ed Smith has made a hobby of competing in the endurance events of the Semana Nautica Summer Sports Festival: the five-mile biathlon (four-mile run and one-mile swim); 15-kilometer run; and the one-mile, three-mile, and six-mile ocean swims.
“It’s a fight against the waistline,” said Smith, 39, an engineer at Raytheon. He confesses to a fondness for beer and lamented, “There are not enough athletic events to keep up with the different options for beer drinking.” Ocean swimming is an effective way to burn calories, and Ed has excelled at it; he has won the Semana Nautica six-miler three times in 13 years and finished out of the top five only once.
Becky Glusac Smith, 32, is a physician’s assistant at Alta Orthopaedics. A former UCSB swimmer, she is also devoted to physical fitness, and she would cross paths with her future husband at such events as the weekly Nite Moves swim and run. She found her bliss in running and this year achieved her goal of breaking an hour-and-a-half in the half-marathon, clocking 1:27:51 at the Wine Country Half Marathon in Santa Ynez.
Their mutual aspirations put Ed and Becky in many of the same Semana Nautica events every summer. One thing missing from Becky’s accomplishments was the six-mile swim, but in 2013, she did it, taking 22nd place, 30 minutes behind Ed’s second-place finish. Earlier, she beat him by more than three minutes in the 15K run. “I’m Becky’s water boy when we go on long runs,” Ed said.
After that summer, they took a trip to Catalina Island for Becky’s birthday. Ed’s gift was a mundane iPhone charger, but wrapped below it was an engagement ring. Becky jammed it on her finger before Ed had a chance to utter his proposal speech. He joked that she was like Gollum in The Lord of the Rings.
Six weeks before their wedding, Ed and Becky teamed up for the Semana Nautica six-mile swim. She was his escort on a paddleboard, providing him water and energy food and keeping him on course from Goleta Beach to Hendry’s Beach. “I had more desperation than usual,” Ed said. “I had something to prove before getting married.” When he found himself in a tangle of kelp, Ed said he and Becky got into “a minor altercation.” Becky protested, “The kelp was so widespread you couldn’t avoid it.” Ed struggled through it and was the first swimmer to emerge from the surf. “I knew the wedding could go forward if we survived that,” Ed said.
Their wedding ceremony took place on a bluff at the City College campus, overlooking the Pacific Ocean that meant so much to both of them.
The July Fourth 15K last Saturday was the first Semana Nautica event that Ed and Becky did as husband and wife. “I don’t feel like killing myself,” Becky said before the race. As a result, Ed was able to run with her the whole way. They finished 114th and 115th in the field of 224. Curly Guillen, a Goleta runner who is aiming for the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials, won the 9.3-mile race in a brisk 47 minutes, 50 seconds.
The next morning, they arrived at Goleta Beach, with Becky again assigned to escort Ed on the six-mile swim. When he saw that the ocean was smooth as glass, Ed knew that it would not be his day. “He does his best when it’s cold and choppy,” Becky said. “Today it was, ‘It’s flat, dammit!’”
That didn’t mean it was going to be easy. “Six miles is six miles,” Ed said. “You’re pushed to the limit every time. At five miles, you wonder if you’ll make it. Not many people are crazy enough to do it.”
Alex Roderick, who at 17 had just met the minimum age to enter the long swim, was one of the crazy ones Sunday. “He’s really fast,” said Jane Cairns, director of the annual race. “Ed never had to go against young kids.”
Finding the pool-like conditions to his liking, Roderick took off at a speed Smith could not match. “You’ve got to go at your own pace,” he said. The lean-bodied Roderick did suffer from the cold water, but he stayed the course and led 41 others to the finish line in 2:07:16. Smith finished fourth in 2:13:06.
Ed still has the one-mile swim coming up Saturday and the three-miler Sunday, both at East Beach. There are also the weekly summer workouts provided by Nite Moves on Wednesdays and the Reef & Run Series on Thursdays. Becky will be with him. His endless battle for a trim waistline and their shared joy in physical activity fits their idea of happily ever after.