“Those who say it cannot be done should not interrupt the person doing it.” Chinese proverb
David has been the best training partner I could ever ask for. He shows up early, in any kind of weather, with a great attitude, ready to work hard. For years we've joked about the back strokers in Barton Springs. Before we step off, David quietly inventories who else is in the water, what stroke they are swimming, and if they are swimming straight. The swimmers have limited visibility due to the darkness and the backstrokers tend to swim without a care in the world about running into anyone in the darkness. And when we have a collision, they look at us as if it is our fault :)
Until last summer, we'd been on the same training schedule as Bill for as long as I can remember. Bill is one of those backstrokers. And we've had many a collision with Bill. But his presence has been sporatic at best for the past year or so. Like Norm in Cheers, Bill is the foundation at Barton Springs. The place just isn't the same when he isn't there. So when he is there, we always make it a point of saying hello, as does everyone else in the joint. Sometimes our hello's are just exchanged after a collision with him.
Last Sunday was nutty. One of my favorite sights is the gal from Houston. She and her husband live in Houston but seem to come to Austin practically every weekend. She rides her bike to Barton in her wetsuit with her cap on under her helmet. She just gets off her bike, puts on her goggles, and away she swims. It is quite a site to witness.
And to the man swimming in the white thong, it really isn't a good look. That is a site I could have done without having in my memory bank. Seriously.
Bill made my day that Sunday. When we were walking out I asked him how his swim went. With a huge smile on his face, he said "Swimming in Barton makes me feel alive!" I knew what he meant. As we stood there talking, I lost count of the number of people who went out of their way to come over to say hello to Bill. The impact he has made on people's lives is clear.
It turns out that Bill lives around the corner from me, so we have since started carpooling. It is funny, when you do a good deed, you think you are helping someone else. But in reality, good deeds are more self serving. When I pick Bill up to swim, it is a delight. He is always early, waiting by the curb for me (at 4:45AM!). And he has the enthusiasm of a little kid who is headed to the pool. That spirit and energy is powerful and contagious. No, I am not doing Bill a favor by giving him a ride. It is Bill who is doing me a favor by rejuvenating my spirit and reminding me of how good we have it.
When we pulled up in the parking lot at Barton, David laughed and said "I never thought I'd see the day where we brought our own backstroker." BYOB.
5/11/2009 The Transformation is Complete
A few months ago Steve, Craig and Dave went to a swim meet in Dallas. I watched them build up the yardage and intensity, investigate and invest in tech suits, taper, and then race fast. They were having fun and the rest of us felt left out. So, we decided our team needed to go to USMS Nationals in Clovis, CA. And that is exactly what we did.
It has been another complete transformation for me: In 2004 I ended up 8th in my age group in the Hawaii Ironman. In 2007, I swam across the English Channel in 9 hours and 50 minutes. And now, in 2009, I swam a 26 second 50 free. I am a sprinter!
Being an Ironman meant being able to be uncomfortable for a long period of time, dealing with the heat, and being an athletic chameleon when it came to swimming, biking and running.
English Channel swimmers are a different breed. They are the most peaceful, laid back, non-competitive, and craziest group I’ve ever come across. For me, being an English Channel swimmer meant changing my body’s thermostat settings, learning how to meditate for an entire day, and not wearing my fitness.
And who would have thought I could sprint? Unlike being an Ironman or English Channel swimmer, you have to be ready to pounce as a sprinter. You have to know your strategy perfectly, and execute without exception. There is no room for error as a sprinter because it is over before you know it. Dave says it is like having a seizure in the water- sprinting just doesn't feel right.
The journey back to closed water swimming has been entertaining. My competitive edge has softened over the years, but my strength and determination to execute when I suit up never waivers. It must be in my DNA. Until this year, my last swim meet was in 1987, which was 22 years ago.
The mental and physical shift in training caused me to pause and let go of those self imposed obstacles. Again! We are aware that we are our own biggest hindrances, but letting go of mental blocks is no easy task, no matter how much experience you have.
My 2 big lessons were bringing my stroke up to speed and learning about racing strategies.
At my first meet in Dallas in February, my team mates looked at me cross eyed after my race. A few of them drew the short straws to tell me my stroke was still in the 80’s. Even if it did work for me in the Channel, it wasn’t going to work to get me under a minute in the 100 free, and they knew it. With a little help from my friends (okay, a lot of help from my friends), I set out to change my stroke. It was a miserable experience. My timing was all off, I couldn’t get my breath, and I had to substantially slow down my intervals. My instinct was to leave it alone, knowing Nationals was right around the corner, but I knew better.
And the race strategy?! I stood on the blocks in February, just watching the girls in the other lanes to see what they did. That helped for my start, but that didn’t help me once I was in the pool. I pulled a rookie move and went out too fast in both of my 1650’s. That makes for a LONG 1650. Once again, my friends offered up the specifics on what I needed to adjust. I’ve swum my entire life, so you’d think I’d have it down solidly by now. Regardless of the fact that it is all just swimming, to be successful, you need to apply a different training and racing approach for triathlon, marathon swimming and closed water swimming.
In high school I swam a 59 second 100 yard free, so naturally, my goal has been to break a minute again. On more than one occasion, I’ve pushed off the wall for a 400+ yard swim in practice, and hit a 1:02 in my first 100 yards. I then get on the block for an all out 100, and hit a 1:02.
My friends gave me the keys to unlock the door: Chris, David, Steve, Tom, Dave, Craig, Ande, Tyler. I just had to step up and execute
I was entered in 6 events for Nationals: 1000, 1650, 200, 500, 50 and 100 yard free. The best things in life are free!
My nickname is Lynne “Negative Split” Smith. Out in a 5:39, back in a 5:26 for a 11:05. My previous best time was 11:39. There is some talk that I need to go out harder so my split isn’t as drastic, but the truth of the matter is that it just falls into place and I feel better the longer I swim. A true distance swimmer.
The 1650 is my swim. I had left some in reserve for the 1000, wishing I would have another 500 or so to go so I could reel some more folks in. The heat and excitement of the meet got to me, so I snuck out to rest in the hotel before my event. I forgot they were running double heats, and I miscalculated when I would swim. I walked back into the pool as my heat dove off the block. Son of a gun! I came here for the 1650 and I missed it?
This is the swim I’m proudest of. I knew what I needed to do in terms of race strategy, and I felt like I had the perfect execution. I also hit a 59 second 100 free on my first 100! And at 41 years old, my time of a 2:03 is the fastest I’ve ever swum, even as a kid. I placed 3rd. 3rd in the Nation for a sprinting event!
Seriously! I swam a 26 second 50 free. My all time previous best was somewhere in the 27 second range. I can’t get over the fact that I hit an all time PR at the age of 41, and that my time was 26 seconds!!! No one saw that coming, not even me! The transformation to a sprinter is now complete.
58 seconds. Well under a minute. Done.
Since I missed my 1650, I chose to wait for my remaining events behind the blocks. I can’t get over the energy in the air during the men’s 100 free. I was right in the mix with them, and you could feel the prominent tension, nerves, and testosterone. I had a flashback of being at the Naval Academy: a sea of men, stepping up to determine the Alpha male. (It was Steve. He won the fastest race, the 50 yard free, so he won the throne.)
A lot has changed since my last season of being a pool swimmer. I have vivid memories of running around with my friends all day in between events. We ate boxes of Jell-O powder for energy and had our events written on the backs of our hands. This time around, I still had to write my events on the back of my hand, but this was due more to senior moments than anything else.
I was proud to wear my Nitro shirt at Nationals. There are some fast swimmers of course, but the quality of people on our team is head and shoulders above other teams. Kirk is the National Champion in 2 events, and Steve captured the Champion spot in the 50 free. But there is more to just swimming fast. Granted I trained effectivelty, and wore a tech suit, but there is a lot of power having your team mates, all of them, standing at the end of your lane when you step up on the blocks. Without exception, everyone wants each other to do their best. Energy is used to motivate and inspire each other. What a concept! ;) We have a joke that there is no "I" in Nitro - it is all about the team.
And as a master swimmer, you get to get out using the ladders instead of using the blocks to pull yourself up. After you swim, you sit quietly in the water until the next heat goes, then you swim under the ropes to the edge of the pool. Who knew!
The biggest kick I got from the meet was watching the older people in the locker room with their tech suits. You have these women who are in their 60’s and 70’s putting on $400 tech suits. They are shoving in their “squidgy bits” so everything is tucked in before they zip up. They then have to have a friend finish stuffing things into their suits before they try to zip those suckers up. This process takes about 30 minutes. You’d think there would be a few more inexpensive ways to improve, such as using goggles, diving in from the blocks instead of starting from a push off, or even flipping turns instead of open turns. But what do I know? As I looked in the mirror before heading out in public in my cat-suit, I noticed I was now one of those old people, too. An “old” person with 4, maybe 5, all time PR’s!!!
It is nice to have an interest!
4/7/2009 I'm Amazed at What a 6 beat Kick Can do for a Girl
2005 was the year I decided to swim
2006 was the year of swimming
2007 was the year of The Swim
2008 was the year of 1 swim
2009 is the year of the swims
To mix things things up, I agreed to go to some USMS swim meets with my team. They seemed to be having so much fun tapering, throwing down the gauntlet, and swimming in their tech suits. Since I've never wanted to be left out, I agreed to sign up for Nationals. One meet has led to 3 and I'm afraid this might be a lifestyle change for me :)
In February, I treked up to Dallas with Steve, Jean, Dave, Tom, Jordan, Eric, Mary, Trish, Jeff, and Kirk for a weekend of swimming. I wasn't sure what to expect, but loved the fact that I was sick to my stomach with nerves all due to swimming. Life is pretty sweet when the only worry you have is how fast you can swim at that particular point in time.
Steve, Linda, Dave, Craig and I made a second voyage up north last weekend for a take-two, and it was equally fun. It turns out that my childhood swim coach, Kevin - the one who got me into triathlon- is the head coach at the pool where the meet was held.
3/8/2009 Swim Meets
Larry Wood once told me that I needed to give up and admit that I was one of them. I wasn't a triathlete- I was a swimmer. Once a swimmer, always a swimmer. I wasn't sure what to make of his comments, ecspecially since I had finished a hard 7 mile run with the girls right before my master's swim. He was smiling when he said it, but his comments were unsolicited.
Larry was right. I have had so much fun becoming a swimmer again.
Bishop Kelley High School Record Boards
But I also know I need to stop trying to be something I'm not. I went to Dallas with some friends for a swim meet the week before last and things didn't turn out as I had hoped. It was my first meet since 1987, and I thought I could get get on the blocks and just make it happen. To quote Tobey Keith, I thought "I'm not as good as I once was, but I'm as good once as I ever was." I was wrong!
I swam the 1650 and the 100 free at the meet. My goal was to break a minute in the 100 free. A few weeks ago we pushed off the wall doing 400's and my first 100 split was 1:02. It was a solid 400, and I held on, so I don't think my expectation of breaking a minute is too lofty. I went a 1:02 in the 100 free race at the meet! Oh boy.
My friends are awesome though. No one tried to sugar coat it for me. They just tell me I have a sprinting problem, and are collectively trying to help me. So I signed up for another meet in a few weeks to see if I can redeem myself.
But I am stuck in the middle. If I want to sprint, then I know I need to do speed work. Time is an issue. I don't have time to properly do both the speed work and the distance swims. Right now I'm trying to do both well, but I think I need to choose.
Our long swims are going well. David and I logged about 35K over the course of the weekend. I'm down about 28 lbs from my Channel swim and am still trying to adjust to what the new weight feels like in the cold. I have really struggled with the cold, so I brushed the dust off my wetsuit as a temporary crutch as I got my yardage back up. I call my wetsuit "Black Magic." I swam without Black Magic on Saturday and started getting cold at the 2000 mark. The first 1K was refreshing but then the novelty quickly wore off. I apologized to David and just kicked it into gear to generate body heat for the remainder of the swim. I pulled it out for Sunday's swim and had to laugh that a few people whom I've swum with for years didn't recognize me when I said hello. "The water is only 68 degrees- Why are you wearing that?" Well, I am wearing it because I am COLD! 68 degrees is cold to me right now!
2/25/2009 Can You Send Me Directions?
Dave: I visited that place you talk about.
Lynne: The low water crossing?
Dave: No, the other place you talk about.
Lynne: Barton Springs?
Dave: No. The other, other place you talk about. LOL! The place where you go when it hurts so much. The place where your stomach hurts from the lactic acid, you can't breathe and you think your arms are going to fall off from the intensity. That place. I visited that place. I didn't really want to go, but I didn't have much choice.
Craig: Can you send me directions to that place?
2/15/2009 Beneath the Surface
We might have a change of plans. I'm taking some time to figure that out. We hit the ground running in January, with some fun swims on the 2009 calendar to prepare for 2010. David is swimming Cook's Strait and I have committed to my next swim as well. But things aren't going as planned and I might need to adjust my course.
I am not dealing with the cold at all. I'm 7 lbs over my Hawaii Ironman weight and that just isn't cutting it in the chilly water. Being thinner is much healthier and I feel so much better out of the water, but I dread those cold swims now. And I have become the worst training partner David could have.
We've learned to set the plan before we show up to the pool, so we only need to strip down and make it happen. It is too easy to adjust the workout when you are cold and tired and it is dark outside. But lately I just haven't had it in me to be able to physically make it happen.
For a few weeks I was buckling down and just fighting to stay in. I stayed in, of course, but ended up hurting my back from the muscle tension. I brought the old wetsuit out to wear until my back calmed down. The wetsuit is 4 years old but had only been worn twice until recently. We had fun with the commentary and teasing.
But those cold swims have just become a nightmare for me and I'm not sure I want to endure it anymore as I just don't seem to be acclimating...
It all starts when we descend down the stairs at Barton. It used to start the night before, but I guess I've progressed :) My stomach gets tied in knots, in anticipation of what the next few hours will hold for me. I watch other people show up, hop in and swim with no trouble at all. David falls into this category. He is never cold. We use the pre-swim time to catch up and talk about any new goals or schedule adjustments. And I drag my heels to don my cap and goggles. I just don't want to take my clothes off! David and I just aren't complainers, but I did ask him what the hardest part of these swims are for him. He said it is hard for him to dive but then he never thinks about the temperature again. I can't seem to get that out of my head.
I slowly step into the water and feel the cold start to seep into my skin. We do our count down and then take the dive. And it is all downhill from there for me.
I am just chilled for the 1st 2 round trips and then my right hand and left foot go numb. I still can't figure out why it is never my left hand or right foot, but there you have it.
Mentally, I just tell myself we're in that place and I need to gut it out until the swim is over. But it isn't that simple. The cold slowly penetrates deeper and deeper into my core. My teeth start with a low grade chatter around round trip 5 or 6, which just progresses. Sometimes I wonder if I'm going to chip a tooth. This morning I bit the side of my mouth while trying to breathe and chatter. And I start dreaming about heat. If something is warm, I've thought about it out there: hot showers, hot baths, wool socks, hot tea, seat warmers, a fire. Yesterday I called a friend to tell him I wasn't trying to hit on him, but I was thinking about what parts of his body would generate the most heat for me and to thank him for those thoughts as they helped me get through my swim. But I don't think it is healthy to get to that point. I don't want to push it to that level a few times a week - that is too much.
I also resort to doing math and just trying to get my mind off of the cold. How many strokes does it take to do 400 meters, and divide that by 8 and then multiply that by 24...
And my stroke has been falling apart. I am usually a bi-lateral breather and find such calmness in the long swims. But lately my stroke has been short and quirky, and I've had to breathe every stroke, which messes up my symmetry and peacefulness.
I look around at the other swimmers and everyone else just seems to be having a nice swim. They're smiling and talking, and enjoying themselves. I bagged today's swim after about 3 1/2 miles because it just wasn't fun anymore. As I stood there shivering uncontrollably, I noticed that David didn't appear to be cold. So I asked him. Get this: he said the pavement felt cold on his feet! What?!?! While I was having a shiverfest, he didn't even notice the temperature during the swim.
I ran up to the showers, to try to get warmed up. I let the hot water run on my wrists and head, to warm up my skin. I was still cold inside but my skin was at least warm now.
I just need to sort some things out. People deal with cold differently, and I'm not one who has ever done well with it. Some people have to gain weight to deal with the cold, and I am one of those people. Been there, done that. I don't want to go back to wearing my "Dover Collection" of clothes if my next swim isn't until 2010. I'm okay with gaining weight for a key swim, but I am not okay with carrying around so much extra weight for the training. Lots to think about right now.
The Best Part is the Hard Part.
1/29/2009 We Had The Joint to Ourselves
As I pulled up to Barton Springs this morning, I noticed that the air temperature was 28 degrees. David commented about the temperature filtering out the rif raf. Ours were the only cars in the parking lot, and with the exception of 2 swimmers who came in for a quick dip, we had the Springs to ourselves.
All of my cold weather gear kept me toasty until it was time to strip down. I was wearing wool socks, a turtle neck, fleece pullover from Alaska, a scarf, a hat, gloves, tights and 2 pairs of sweat pants, and a parka. When I took my gloves off to put my cap on, my fingers stung from the cold. It was cold outside.
The swim was absolutely beautiful and I felt like I was in an Alfred Hitchcock movie. It was pitch dark, without any signs of a moon, and the fog was thick over the water. I had ear plugs in, so my sense of vision seemed to be heightened. When I popped my head up to spot, I saw the darkness and fog, and when I took a stroke, I saw the light reflect off the rocks and stones below. It was prettiest right before the dawn broke, with the dark, deep blue coloring. It made the cold and the early hours well worth it.
Did I mention the cold? Oh my! You'd think I'd have this cold stuff down by now, but I do not. I'm struggling swimming in the cold and I know it is the result of having less body fat. My plan is to acclimate while being thin and then see about putting it back on before my next swim.
For me, the challenge alters between being mental and being physical. I seem to have the mental aspect down. Just get your undercrackers in the water and keep on swimming. When you get cold, just disassociate or meditate. Find that happy place. But lately the physical has really been hard in the cold water. I can mentally find the happy place but this morning, I never relaxed. My body was clinched for the 2 hours we were out there, so much so that my hip flexors and lower back were screaming. I actually bagged the last 2 round trips because my back hurt so much.
I know the answer is to just adjust the approach, and lower the bar a little bit. I don't have to swim long and swim cold all of the time. I just have to do the best with what I have that day. And today I gave it what I had, which was half a mile shorted than we had planned on. It is still disappointing.
The water was shut off at Barton, and I am guessing the pipes were frozen. So I went home to take a long, hot shower. My drive home was a mess. I was shaking the entire way and my fingers burned again, this time from warming up. I literally ran throught the door and made a bee-line to the shower. It is weird to me that my skin can be so hot from the shower water yet my body is still so cold. It was the first time in the 7 years that I've lived in that house that I ran out of hot water while in the shower.
I know my limiters, and I know what I need to do to work through it. One swim at a time. Just one swim at a time.
The best part is the hard part.
1/26/2009 There Are a Lot of Good Sprinters Out There (and I am not one of them!)
(Rafael, Gracie, Lynne, Emma, Sean)
I'm down 25 pounds from my Channel swim and I am cold all of the time. It is making the cold water swimming a bit of a challenge for me.
Like clock work, I met Sean and crew Friday night for our Zen swim. Last week the water temp was 49. The air temp was in the high 70's, maybe even 80 degrees today, so I knew this swim wouldn't be too bad. It turns out the water temp was 51. 51 is 51 is 51. It is cold!
Our morning workout was a good one. Mike gave us some distance challenges, and I embraced the workout whole heartedly. I had fun taking the bait from the boyz, and I hit some good times for me:
400 free: 4:26
300 free 3:16
I showed up to the Zen swim tired, and was reminded that my ability to handle the cold is greatly affected by my energy levels. I tried to keep up with Sean but just didn't have it. My arms felt heavy. We only swam 1 perimeter, and we have a pact to attempt 2 perimeters this Friday. I wonder how that is going to turn out.
The best part of the Friday Night Zen swim was Emma Garretson. Emma is 12, and I sense Emma doesn't like being left out if anyone is having fun. Sean had shared that she was bringing her suit, but he wasn't sure if she'd actually get in. She is a Garretson- I KNEW she'd get in.
Gracie, Emma, Sean, and I stood knee-deep in the cold water, trying to each figure out our own strategies for this swim. Sean likes to just go, but I need to ease into it. I promised to start my easing in process earlier next week so I don't hold him up more. The 4 of us stood there, and counted down from 10. 10, 9, 8... And everyone, including Emma, dove in when we hit zero. I know Sean and I both wanted to stop to see Emma's reaction, but we also had to keep moving for our own safety. Emma was with Gracie, so we knew she's be okay.
Sean and I swam a perimeter, and it was fun. I wasn't too cold, and felt like I had actually acclimated a bit from last week. My only discomfort was being tired. That is easy enough to deal with.
I couldn't wait to see Emma's smile when we finished, and it was just as you'd expect. She was grinning from ear to ear, and I think she loved every second of it. She is a tough kid, and one I respect. She faced her fears and just went for it!
(Emma and Sean)
We had a timed 100 or 200 on Saturday. It was our choice. I've not broken a minute in the 100 yard free since high school, so I decided Saturday was going to be my day. We went out in a 1:02 for our last 400, so I was confident I had it in the bag. Not today! Craig was to my right, and he hit a 57. Tom was to my left, and he hit a 58. I hit a 1:01. I had to giggle that no one knew what to say to me. It is the story of my life - I am not a sprinter!
Since my pride was bruised, I found comfort in the fact that we had a long swim planned for Sunday. I had no excuse to skip it, even though the air temp was about 40 degrees. It was our 1st nine miler of the year. 36 round trips in Barton Springs. I was fine for the first 8 round trips and then I got cold. My teeth started to chatter and there was no turning back. I shivered and chattered for about 3 1/2 hours. I can't say I enjoy that feeling at all. It was the first swim in a long time that I just wanted to get out. I fought it to the end. Knowing I'd be the worst training partner in the world if I got out, I just gutted it out. I tried to just be and let be, but that didn't work this time. I pushed the pace as much as I could without being a jerk to David.
Our initial plan was to swim 34 round trips and end the swim with 2 round trips with a parachute dragging behind us. I had to throw the parachutes in earlier, in an effort to warm up. That back fired on me though... Now I was just cold with tired arms.
I am convinced David's parents are polar bears and that he didn't get the cold gene. As I stood there with 2 caps, and ear plugs, shivering, he didn't even notice the cold. Somedays it is I who keeps us in, and other days it is David who keeps us in. I am so lucky our paths have crossed!
The acclimation season is upon us, and I am committed to take it one swim at a time. The best part is the hard part!
1/16/2009 Polar Bearing It
We kicked off the cold water swimming on New Years as a refreshing way to start the new year. Everyone seemed to be onboard with the once a week ritual, but I think they soon understood what it was like to be cold.
Except for Sean.
We agreed to swim at the Quarry after work every Friday, as a way to cleanse the work week off of us and face the weekend ahead. Last week there were 4 of us: Sean, me, Gracie and Rafael. This week it was just Sean and I.
I fretted about the swim all day. Having been so cold at Barton this week, my core temperature still seems a little low. I secretly hoped Sean would want to bail. But what was I thinking? Like Sean would bail on anything!
He texted me en route to ask if I wanted a Starbuck's (and you wonder why I like him!). And we both confessed our deep, dark secrets about being nervous. But he wasn't budging on skipping the swim. There was no mention of a possibility of it not happening.
We measured the water temperature at 49 degrees, which was the same as the air temp. Gulp. We agreed on our plan, stripped down, and just made it happen. And those same feeling just came back: I got an ice cream headache, my lungs constricted, my hands and feet went numb, and I loved every second of it!
We swam side by side, stroke for stroke, and it was amazing. The cold water makes you feel so alive. I didn't want it to end, but knew better than to chance another lap. The laughter started when we got out. Our skin was bright red and my stomach hurt from the gut busting laughter.
I like that Sean is so hard core. He doesn't mind being uncomfortable, and he laughs when it gets the hardest.
We started to thaw out during dinner. Our hands and feet just burned as they warmed back up, but we weren't shaking this time. I did get an odd stare at the deli counter though. I was wearing 2 pair of pants, a shirt and 2 sweaters, hat, gloves and a parka, just swaying back and forth with my hot water bottle, trying to warm up. I doubt I'll forget the look at this woman's face as she looked me up and down, probably trying to assess if I was a danger to her :) I can hardly wait until next week's swim!
1/16/2009 To Be a Channel Swimmer
1/14/2009 What is Colder than Cold? Ice Cold!
David and I showed up religiously at Barton for our 5AM swim this morning. The temperature gauge on my car said the air temp was 31 degrees. You've got to be kidding me?! 31 degrees? How is this going to work?
I stood on the pool deck, in my sweats, wool socks, hat, gloves, and parka, feeling cold. Very cold. I knew I could swim in cold water, but I couldn't figure out how I was going to take my clothes off and actually get in the water. Standing there in cold weather gear wasn't enough, so the idea of standing there in my Speedo was incomprehensable.
As I was standing there trying to figure out my game plan, some guy walked down the steps wearing tennis shoes, white socks, a speedo and a leather jacket. And that's it. Seriously? Seriously. I watched him take off his socks and shoes and stand barefoot on the pool deck without flinching. He thought he was alone so it wasn't like he was acting all macho. He then took off his leather jacket, meticulously folded it, got in the water and started swimming.
What in the world? I'm a tough (right, whatever!) Channel swimmer and I wanted to go get back in my car. How did this guy just get in? And how does he stay in? It was like he didn't have the cold gene or something.
David and I agreed to 18 round trips, so that was the plan. I was too cold to worry about sunscreen or Channel grease, so we just got in. I usually warm up in the first few minutes, but I never warmed up today. With the exception of the last 3 laps, it was a complete fight to stay in. I usually just try to settle in and accept the acclimation process, but today I pushed the pace to try to generate body heat. I couldn't feel my hands or feet and I felt no more than the 31 degrees on my arms and back. It was all I could do to stay in the water. At times I just closed my eyes and tried to go to my happy place. I tried to personify the cold, thinking of a name I could give it, like an old friend, but the cold name thoughts didn't help me stay in a happy place. I ditched that idea and just swam faster.
When we finished our 4 1/2 miles, I ran to the hot showers to try to warm up. I'm bewildered at the fact that no one else was in the locker room. It was only 31 degrees in there.
Another great swim deposited in the bank for my next swim.
The best part is the hard part.
1/11/2009 I Bet This is What it is Like to be in a School of Fish
David and I are ramping it up. We've resumed our weekly long swims and have an unspoken agreement that we can't bail on our swims to head to Starbuck's, no matter how much we want to.
This morning's swim was simply cold. Just plain cold. We met at 5AM and the outside air was in the low 40's. I can't describe how hard it is for me to just stand on the pool deck in my suit, let alone get in the 68 degree water. The thought alone makes me shutter.
But we got in anyway.
And I never warmed up.
It was one of those days where the air temperature was cold, and just got colder as the swim progressed. And I felt every degree on my back and arms. I was tempted to just pick up the pace so I could warm up my core, but I resisted. I decided to just relax and settle in. Just be and let be.
Jack and his entourage showed up around 7:30 to provide some company. I love swimming with Jack because he is just like a little kid. He tries to stop everyone to point out the fish in the water, and he has this huge, enthusiastic wave when decends down the Barton Springs steps. But the swim was very much like a school of fish swimming. Jack was leading the school in his fins, and the rest of us just followed him. It is hard to just be and let be when you are in a school of fish.
Apparently the solar heater for the shower was broken, so after the 28 round trips in 43 degree air temperature, I got to take a cold shower. Operation Cryogenics II is well underway.
It is nice to have an interest.
1/2/2009 It Sounded Like a Better Idea in October
David and I had planned our New Years' Day 9 miler back in October. It will be a great way to kick off the year! Nothing like jumping right back into it. We can start on 1/1 and then build up as necessary.
We were the only people at Barton at 5AM, and we were eager to watch the polar bears jump in. We both drug our feet trying to get in... it was chilly outside, and we are both out of shape. Someone mentioned Starbuck's instead of a swim. As we walked down the steps into Barton Springs, David laughed and said "It was a better idea in October." No kidding!
It was a tough swim. I never warmed up. Usually I'm warm a few minutes into the swim, but not today. I felt the cold air and wind on my back, and it never let up. I had a good training session on learning how to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. I can't describe how wonderful the hot shower felt when we were finally finished swimming.
The New Years' day polar bear swim was memorable and extraordinary as well. I took advantage of the fact that people will do things they won't normally do on New Years Day to kick off my cold water training. I need to get ready for my next swim. What better way to start Operation Cryogenics II than with friends?
We decided to give the low water crossing a try, not knowing what the water temperture would be. I've swum in water in the low 40's a handful of times, so I knew I could handle the LWC regardless of the temperature. And I'm not the toughest one of those whose company I keep, so I knew we'd figure it out together.
And it wasn't too bad. The water temperature was only 57, and the air temp must have been in the 70's. It was a beautiful day! A handful of us - I think about 8 or so- swam to the 2nd dock and back. I'm used to staying in for as long as I can, so just swimming for the fun of it was a nice change. We finished the swim with some hot chocolate and peppermint Schnapps, which is always a good call.
It was a treat for me to swim with my friend, Sean. We grew up swimming together, so it was just like old times, swimming side by side again. Joe Stocker and John Turner would have been proud!
We also resurrected the Friday night Zen swim.
I went solo on 1/3, just to feel it out and to have some alone time. Swimming in the cold alone is harder than swimming in the cold with friends. The water temp was 54, which is a lot different than 57. As I stood on the ramp, I really questioned my judgement. This might not be the smartest thing to do, you know. I noticed 2 college kids standing on the cliffs, trying to decide if they'd jump. I heard the splash when one of them made the leap, which moved me closer to actually diving in. When he got out of the water, I asked for his advice. He smiled as he told me I needed to swim and that it would be great. I listened and followed suit. The water felt great, but I'm no longer acclimated. My lungs tightened up, I got an ice cream headache, and had some equilibrium issues. Oh well - swim!
When I finished, I noticed the second kid was still standing on the cliff. I yelled at him to jump, and by golly, he did! He swam over to me and told me that he wouldn't have done it had I not told him to. That humored me because I wouldn't have done it had his friend not told me to. Team work! You meet people for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. The reason I met them was to get my undercrackers in the water!
And then the hypothermia started setting in. I got really dizzy, and started getting tunnel vision. The only thing I could think of was that I needed to multi-task and get my suit off, put some dry clothes on while I was "hypo-thermicing." It all worked out.
The second Zen swim of the season was much more fun. Sean, Gracie, Rafael and I braved the waters. We couldn't convince Emma to swim, but my hope is that she'll ease in to it eventually :) The water was still 54 and it wasn't bad at all. Sean and I did a perimeter, and sprinted to the finish. Next week we're doing 2 perimeters. Time to get ready for my next swim.
It is nice to have an interest.
New Years' Day Polar Bears
Low Water Crossing
I can't remember the last time my entire body was so sore and tired. Maybe after Catalina. Or maybe after the Hawaii Ironman. In any event, I am sore, and I am tired, and I am loving every second of it.
The peer pressure of swimming hard has captured me. I saw a t-shirt this morning that said "Swim Hard or Go Home." The Boyz are pushing me and I'm up for the challenge. There has been a lot of smack talk, and we're having fun trying to live up to our glory days. To be clear, it isn't about being fast. It is about finding your limits on that day and trying to exceed them. It is about working hard and bettering yourself.
On Saturday we swam 10 X 100's on the 1:30. I'm not one for speedwork as I really only have 1 speed. By the 10th 100 I was spent. I had pushed the 1st 9, and was happy with my times. I started at 1:07 and descended down to 1:04s. On the last one I had decided to back off a tad. I was tired and would certainly be happy with a 1:05. But, that didn't happen. Tom pushed off the wall right next to me, and decided to taunt me. I knew better than to take the bait, but what can a girl say? We swam neck to neck for the duration of the 100. I really enjoy finding my perceived limits and then doing what it takes to extend those limits into new territory. But the temptation to take the easy road is very real. When I push off the wall, I have to make the conscious decision to streamline and not breathe off the wall. When my arms ache, my lungs are on fire, and my legs burn, I am very tempted to just back off so I can be more comfy. What do you do when you are faced with the temptation of taking the easy road?
11/16/2008 Did you Say 2 to 4 or 24?
As I was shutting my system down Friday after work, I happened to check the weather forecast. Like a moron, I made some comment on my Facebook page about the 37 degrees. I was thinking air temp... it came out like I was referring to water temp.... ughhhh! Talk about having no wiggle room now to wimp out of a swim...
Saturday's workout was fun. We did some 100's for time, and I'm thrilled with my 1:01. The past few weeks have been pretty rough for me, and I haven't spent much time in the water. A 1:01 was more than I thought I had in me, and of course my goal now is to hit 59 sooner rather than later. I wonder how I am going to make that happen. The Boyz were wearing their Blue 70's, which seems to make quite a difference in their times. Hmmm... I might need to consider that route.
Apres Swim Coffee 11/15/08
(Steve, Lynne, Linda, Larry, Craig)
Saturday night was equally fun. My friend, Rebecca, and I went to the LWC for a polar bear night swim. As I sat on the boat dock, looking into the dark abyss, I was wondering how to get out of the swim. The air temp was in the low 40's and I was cold in my swim suit. I measured the water temp and it said 62 degrees. Not bad! Rebecca, who was there for moral support, and not there to swim, was surprised at how much I hestitated before I got in the water. No, getting in never gets easier. But once I started swimming it was delightful! The water was actually warmer in the middle of the lake (I am guessing 64 ish), so I only felt a chill in the air and not in the water. It was weird swimming at night by myself though. It was peaceful looking at the stars and darkness, and appreciating the silence. Every swim at the LWC seems to be epic.
I didn't want to swim because I was cold, but the feeling of finishing those types of swims makes it worth every second of it. There is something about facing those things that make you hesitate or pause, that is extremely liberating and rewarding. It makes me feel alive, and the reason I keep coming back.
My alarm went off shortly after 4 this morning to meet David for our long swim. As I got out of my car, he asked if I noticed the temperature reading. I had noticed it, but asked him what it said, as if to get confirmation. 36 degrees. Seriously?! How is this going to happen?
Of course the parking lot was empty, as was Barton Springs. The darkness and fog off the water were magical and mystical, like a well kept secret. As we were putting our gaps on, the raccoons joined us for a swim. Yep, just us and the raccoons.
I asked David if he was wearing 1 or 2 caps. He said he was wearing one but wouldn't think any less of me if I wore 2 :)
I was cold just standing there in my parka, and we could feel the cold radiating up through our shoes from the pool deck. One of us said something about Starbuck's and catching a master's workout later, but the Facebook exposure made me stick it out. I don't want to be one those people who says I will do something and then flakes out. Your word is your bond, so get your undercrackers in the water, Smith!
As we got in, David asked if we were doing 2 to 4 or 24 round trips? That made me laugh!
The swim was wonderful. Our pace was pretty quick so we could stay warm. Generally, if one of us needs to adjust goggles or something, the other will patiently hold up. Not today! If you stopped, you had to go faster to catch up.
I felt the 36 degree temperature on my back, face, legs and arms, but it was fun. We practically had the place to ourselves, and it was beautiful. There is nothing like a cold water swim to put you in a good mood, and I am so glad I made the effort to do it.
The best part was the hot shower after the swim. I'm standing in an outdoor shower, under the hot water, but feeling the cold air all around me. The drastic difference of being so hot and cold at the same time is weird.
It is nice to have an interest!
10/12/2008 The Ironman
Ironman isn't just a race. It is a way of life. I watched the Hawaii Ironman yesterday, and the day was incredible on many levels. Yesterday was a day I'll never forget.
Bill had a super day out there! He just got home from Iraq a few weeks ago, and I wasn't sure what to expect from him. We sherpa'd for him to get his body marking, carrying his bags and bike pump. We said our goodbyes and told him we'd see him at the finish line. One thing I knew for certain was that Bill would finish regardless of the circumstances.
Two Navy SEALS sky dove from a C-130 into the water to do the Ironman themselves. One of the 2 was Keith Davids, a class mate from USNA! Of course someone from the Naval Academy was doing something amazing.
Bill came out of the water at 1:37 and we were able to watch him emerge from the water. But, my mouth dropped when he came out of the transition tent. I wasn't ready to see what I saw! Kona is known for the heat and wind, and a lot of people struggle with the conditions. Bill came out of the changing tent wearing his USMC Uts and Boots!!! He ran to his bike, picked up a plastic bag, pulled out his Marine Corps helmet, and proceeded to put it on his head. That helmet must weigh 15 pounds and it doesn't have any air vents. I was speechless when I saw him running his bike out of T1. Marine Corps helmet, long pants, and heavy boots. Since he didn't have ideal conditions to train in Iraq, I thought his goal was to just finish. Why would I ever lower my standards and think my dear friends would do something to just finish?!
Bill looked fresh coming out of T2, starting his marathon. He was still in his Uts and Boots, running along. He ended up having a PR for his ironman. His finish was pretty spectacular. Tom Knoll and Henry Forrest, original Ironman competitiors, were at the finish line to salute Bill. It was a moment that is etched pretty deeply into my memory. Their friend Dave Orlowski, also an original Ironman, finished shortly after Bill.
It has been incredible to see the esprit de corps and comaraderie among these men for the last few days. Nothing comes close to it.
I was also amazed by Chrissie Wellington's athletic prowess yesterday and Rebekah Keat's sportsmanship. Chrissie smashed the field yesterday, proving her first win last year was not a fluke or beginner's luck. I've worked hard in my life at a lot of things, but the dedication, focus, and talent she has is incomprendable. How does someone continue to improve on the performances and successes she has accomplished? Her down to earth manner and humbleness also makes her a delight.
Chrissie got a puncture on her ride yesterday and was sidelined for about 10 minutes. We were sitting at Cassandra's and heard Mike Reilly narrate the sequences of events, starting with the puncture to the number of women who were passing her. I felt so sorry for her. Rebekah, whom I would guess wanted to victory as much as Chrissie did, gave her one of her CO2 cartidges, allowing Chrissie to fix her flat and get back in the race. Rebekah's actions speak volumns. She is a pro, this is the World Championship, where she brings her A game, she is out to win, and she sacrifices her equipment for a fellow competitor. Not sure I would have done that, given the same circumstances. No, I know I wouldn't have done that, given the same circumstances. It says a lot about Rebekah's character.
We've had fun walking around all day, hearing stories and watching people in their compression socks. Ironman athletes are not average and it is a pretty amazing event to witness.
It is nice to have an interest.
10/10/2008 Swimming With the Dolphins While Drinking Kona Coffee
After 21 hours of traveling, I finally made it to the King Kam hotel. I'm in Kona to support my friend Bill who just got home from Iraq a few weeks ago. After entering the lottery for 13 years, Bill's name was finally drawn. I told him if he could train for an Ironman in Iraq, then I could get myself to Ali'i drive for his finish.
We met up after a morning swim at Dig Me Beach, and I can assure you that no one is happier to be here than Bill! Saturday is going to be an incredible memory for a lot of people and I am lucky to be here to witness it. Bill introduced me to the 4 marines who raced the 1st Ironman in 1978. Doug raced in cut off jeans in '78 and was 3rd overall. He is back this year to race his 2nd ironman.
It is hard to be here and not think back to my turn. This trip is about Bill, so I am keeping my "When I did Ironman" stories to myself :) I did go for a 20 minute jog yesterday morning on Al'ii because... well, I couldn't be here and NOT. I have limped around for the past 2 days as a consequence. The feet just can't do it anymore, and I can't just wish it away. What a shame.
What else is a shame is the number of people who walk around in Spandex and Speedos all -- day--- long. Seriously! We know you're doing Ironman and you have a great body. Now go put your clothes on!
I've had some remarkable swims while being here. I love the feel of the ocean water and the sounds of the sealife around me. There is nothing like it. My friend Kevin was on a big boat anchored out in the harbor, and they will serve coffee to all of the triathletes. Of course I swam out to it to get a cup of Kona coffee and to catch up with him. Soon after, I encountered a pod of dolphins. Some were doing twists and flips in the air! It was pretty cool.
I started this morning's swim earlier, in hopes of seeing more dolphins. There weren't a lot of people out there today since the race is tomorrow. Instead of thinking about dolphins, I started to think about sharks. Nothing to help you get some speed work in like thinking about sharks while swimming alone in the ocean!
10/5/2008 I Wanted the T-Shirt
(Lynne, David, Jack, Josh, Renessa)
We did it! We swam from Mansfield Dam to the Tom Miller Dam. The distance was 21 miles and our time was 9 hours 37 minutes. We started a little after 7PM, and finished around 4:30AM. Swimming in the dark never gets old. It was a beautiful swim - well worth all of the effort to make it happen.
Lake Austin map: http://www.lakeaustinmap.com/images/LakeAustinMap.pdf
This spring, my training partner, David, asked if I was interested in swimming dam to dam with him. I am on the "me, too" training program this year, so I committed to the swim and asked him to tell me when and where I needed to be. David has a lot more experience than I do, and he has never steered me wrong. I knew there was a special reason he wanted to make the swim. And I am so glad I did it.
We pulled up at the low water crossing as the sun was setting and proceeded with the ritualistic preparations. We took pictures, loaded up the kayaks, and slathered Lanabalm on our necks. Okay... it is time to make this thing happen!
We decided to go ahead and swim down to the buoys to officially touch the bouys under the bridge, so it was an official dam to dam swim. The dam was releasing, so I was tired before our official swim even started. We did the count down from 10, and away we went.
Jack joined us for the 1st 2 hours, so that was a treat. I'm not sure I could swim at the LWC without Jack. It just wouldn't be right. The sun had set by the time we made it under the low water crossing bridge, and I reminded myself that I just needed to settle in for a long swim. Time to find that meditative state, and just relax. Until this swim, I had never pulled an all nighter. I was concerned about the distance and staying up all night. And I wasn't sure how sleepy I would get meditating in the dark of night. That part was actually fine.
It took a little bit for the 5 of us to find a good rhythm. David, Josh and I have our routine down, so we just needed to figure out what worked best with Renessa kayaking for us and Jack swimming with us. On the drive over to the swim, I discovered that Renessa has a Purple Heart. If that isn't a hard core chick! She's a tough cookie.
Renessa and Josh were incredible. They kayaked along side of us, keeping us safe from the boats and crocadiles. There aren't any crocadiles in Lake Austin, but when people asked me why we were swimming at night, I told them it was because the crocs were sleeping. A few people believed me :) Renessa and Josh were fabulous - I felt safe, they had great energy, and they just knew what to do to make things work smoothly. We could not have done it without them!
Our first challenge popped up when we couldn't figure out where the Lake Austin Spa was. That was where Jack had planted his car. It was pretty dark out there, so a lot of places resembled a spa. I wondered to myself, okay, laughed to myself, wondering what Jack would do it he couldn't find the spa. Would he keep swimming with us, get into the kayak for the duration of the swim, or just wander up to some house in his Speedo to ask for directions? Luckily we didn't have to find that out.
The other fun treat we had to look forward to was Maxcy joining us at Ski Shores. I saw Leslie for a split second kayaking when they first got in, but I never once saw Maxcy because he was lightning fast! It did help knowing he was out there with us though! And of course he was at the finish.
I had a great swim out there, but my personal challenge during the swim was stomach issues for 8-9 hours. After feeding the fish a few times, I had to seriously ask myself what was the smartest thing to do. I was afraid I had the flu because I was also chilled. The English Channel swimmers recommend something along the lines of "No one ever died from throwing up, so just keep swimming." I took a lot of allergy medicine before the swim, and in retrospect, I think that was my mistake. And the chills and goosebumps were because I was cold. But, I seriously thought about getting out because I was hurting pretty badly...
But... where could I possibly go?
My options were to keep swimming, sit in the kayak and watch David swim, or get out and walk up to someone's door in the middle of the night in my Speedo, just like Jack. My car was at the finish and my keys were with Leslie, so I was in this thing for the duration. I then thought about the t-shirt. David had these great t-shirts made, and I'm a firm believer that you can't wear the race shirt if you didn't do the race. Crud. I really wanted a t-shirt, so I just put my head down and kept swimming.
I switched from Hammergel for my fuel to Diet Coke and small bites of Josh's Clif bar, and it worked just fine.
I enjoy swimming in the dark, but it is harder than swimming during the daylight hours. During the day, you can see landmarks and the environment around you, so you can gauge your distance. While swimming in the dark, you can only see small lights on the shore (that all look the same), the chem lights on the kayak and David's chem light (if I breathe at the right time). I tried to find a peacefulness about this, but not knowing where I was got tiresome for the last 8 hours or so. For "my next swim" I need to practice the sensory deprivation more as this is clearly an "opportunity" for me.
The finish of the swim was as you'd expect. Lots of hugs and high 5's. It was a pretty cool swim.
Looking back, my conditioning and fitness are where I like it. I'm tired, of course, but I'm fairly confident I could have turned around and swum back if that had been the plan. Nothing on my body hurts (thanks Dr Z and Katrina!), I am just tired.
Another successful marathon swim completed. It IS nice to have an interest!
My English Channel journey did not stop when I reached France. The adventure continues to influence my life on a daily basis, and often times when I least expect it. I've always known that triathlon and swimming were a distraction from reality, but I never fully realized how much the life lessons from my sports helped me deal with the unexpected difficulties that have been thrown my way in life.
While coming home from a family gathering in Ohio, I spent much of the airline flight in tears trying to accept reality. The tragedy is the hardest thing I've ever faced.
In the Dallas airport, there was an open seat next to a young family. The kids had a nice way about them, and I was drawn to their positive energy. I couldn't put my finger on it, but the kids looked really familiar. I took a closer look at their mom, and instantly knew the kids looked familiar because their dad just signed up for his 8th Tour de France. I said hello to Kristen, as I had actually sat next to her at dinner last year at a book club gathering. "Lynne, I was thinking about you yesterday". Seriously? Kristen Armstrong was thinking about me?! "I am writing a book and I mentioned you and your swim in it. Here is the draft- take a look." Sure enough. There I was in Chapter 3, titled "Courage". Courage wasn't something I was feeling much of today.
During the book club discussion, my words about facing your fears head on resonated with Kristen. So much so that she decided to write about it. Sitting there in the airport, reading my words in her book, just hit home when I really needed it. Just like I had the courage to face my fears training for the English Channel, I need to use that same courage to face my fears dealing with the tragedy in my life.
People enter your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime. Crossing paths with this amazing woman was a blessing. In addition to telling me she had some great restaurant recommendations for my Santa Barbara Channel swim, she helped me realize that with courage, I can handle the tragedy with grace and style. We have the ability to get to the other side. We just need to face our fears head on.
Next weekend is our dam* dam to dam swim. We will swim 21 miles, starting at 7PM. Talk about courage and facing your fears!
9/21/2008 Just Walk Away... Save the Drama for your Mama!
Jack went to San Francisco to escape from Alcatraz, so I decided to polar bear it alone on Saturday. As I drove to the low water crossing, I questioned my decision, and wished I had gone to a master's workout or Barton Springs instead. It was dark outside, the air was cool, and it just felt creepy.
I texted Tim for support who basically told me to put on a light stick and just swim.
I stood on the dock, ready to dive in, for about 10 minutes, trying to talk myself into taking the plunge. You don't realize how much you rely on your training partners to push you until they decide to go to San Francisco for the weekend. Anne is helping me with my mind set for "my next swim," so I relied on her advice: just swim for 5 more minutes. I decided to just swim for 5 minutes, and I counted down from 10 and dove in.
I played some mind games and decided to swim the same route that Jack, Henry and I swim, setting little landmarks along the way. "Swim to the white dock... okay, now swim to the yellow slide... okay, now swim to the boat." I eventually caught myself and changed my mindset. The reason I enjoy open water swimming so much is because it is like meditating. It is so peaceful and beautiful. Forcing myself to swim to landmarks was contrary to what draws me to the water. Consequently, I told myself that my swim would be over after I was able to hit the "reset" button and enjoy the peaceful silence that makes the LWC so magical.
And that moment eventually happened. About 45 minutes into the swim I really appreciated and felt the temperature difference between the air and the water. It was the first time of the season that the water was warmer than the air. I noticed the leaves have started to change colors. And I watched the sun come up, appreciating how dark the trees were before the sun was high enough to shine on them. I like the fact that I saw it all from a 90 degree angle. Yep, I hit the reset button and turned around to head back to the dock. I would have really missed out had I chickened out of the swim. As often as I swim at the LWC, it never gets easier to get in. But it has gotten easier to stay in.
Sunday's swim was phenominal! I have lost count of the number of times we have swum the 360 Bridge nine miler in the past few years. We start at the Hula Hut, swim down to the 360 bridge and then swim back. David and I have made that swim every weekend this summer. AND TODAY WE HIT A PR!!! By 9 minutes!
If you can't change the things around you, then you might need to change the things around you. Just walk away from the drama and nonsense, and walk toward the positive energy. The difference might mean a PR ;)
9/14/2008 "They are at Barton Springs"
Just like clock work, Jack and I met up for a polar bear swim at the low water crossing on Sunday. He had invited some friends to join us, but they prefer Barton since they feel safer. There isn't a current and the water is warmer. I can appreciate that.
The dam was releasing so we flew down stream in record time. The water and scenary continue to be magical, and swimming there never gets old or routine. The water temp is 64 degrees, which is my favorite temperature. Not too hot and not too cold. One degree can make a significant difference once you hit 62ish.
Since we were warm, we decided to come to an agreement on what our temperature limits were going to be this winter. How cold does it have to be for us to decide it is safer to just head straight to Rudy's? We shook on 50 degrees, but I know we'll stay in all winter. We've done it before, so we can do it again. Once a polar bear, always a polar bear.
At one point in our swim we flipped over and both swam backstroke. To paint a picture, we were swimming in refreshing water, with the beautiful trees along the shoreline, moving down stream, without a care in the world. I asked Jack what he thought the unfortunate people were doing today. without hesitation, he replied " They are at Barton Springs!"
9/13/2008 Hurricane Ike
While folks in Austin were filling up their gas tanks and stocking up on bottled water and perishables in preparation for Hurricane Ike, David, Josh and I were planning our weekend swim. After Josh agreed that he didn't mind if he kayaked in the rain, we decided to try to swim on Saturday. The forecast said 100% chance of rain. I had fun flashbacks of swimming in the rain with Tobey and Fred.
When I pulled up to the boat ramp, I had an eerie feeling. Things just didn't feel quite right. The wind was blowing HARD out of the west, but the storm was to the east. Do we really want to do this if we are clearly on the outskirts of a hurricane?
Let's just see what happens. We counted down from "10" and laughed as we wished each other luck.
What a swim!
The wind and waves were pretty bad. It was hard for us to see each other, even with all of the chem lights. We did the best we could and I just tried to go with it. David grabbed his old goggles by accident, so he had the added challenge of not being able to see ANYTHING :)
I always enjoy swimming in the dark, and I often times lift my head up just to embrace the darkness of the lake. At one point I lifted my head up only to discover we were on the completely other side of the lake, and about 10 feet away from shore, headed straight for some condos. Not quite what I was expecting to see. The conditions were just plain rough. We did the best we could and buckled down into our swim. It wasn't quite the peaceful silence I was used to, but it was fun none the less.
When we came around the last bend before the 360 bridge, Josh was having trouble in the yak. He has kayaking with full force and his shirt was billowing in the wind. We had to work hard to get to the bridge. We stopped under the bridge to get a snack, and it was weird to feel the cold water on our legs when the top part of the water was so warm. The dam must have been releasing. We also drifted an incredible amount in the few moments that we were stopped.
And let me share how fun the swim back was! For the first hour after turning at the bridge, Joah said he paddled backwards more than he paddled forward so he could stay with us. We were flying! As much as we were being pushed by the wind and current, I was exhausted from the first stretch. My arms and shoulders just ached. I tried to convince myself that is good to have your weaknesses surface so you know what to focus on, but that is a bunch of baloney! I was tired.
Our 9 miler times have always been between 4:02 and 4:06. Not today! We were significantly slower.
Annie was at the dock to greet us upon our return. Annie is a 4 month old Golden who loves to swim. After some encouragement, she jumped in and swam over to us, as did Spencer. Life is good in Austin, Texas!
9/7/2008 "Same Old, Same Old", Josh
It was another great weekend of swimming and apres-swim napping. Jack, Henry and I got in a solid polar bear swim on Saturday. It is interesting to watch how powerful the mind is on influencing the body. I was hesitant to get in, knowing what 62 degrees felt like a few weeks ago. As soon as I learned the water temp was 67 degrees, it was like a door opened and I had zero hesitation. Why does the thought of being cold paralyze you when you aren't even cold?
We journeyed downstream for 40 minutes, and fought the current for over an hour, trying to get back to the boat dock. It was a good shoulder and arm workout.
David and I had a wonderful 360 bridge swim this morning. I've lost count of the number of times we've done this swim, and our time has always been between 4:02 and 4:06. Today we hit 4:02. The leaves are starting to change and the position of the sun has definitely moved. The cool air is a nice treat when we start out in the dark. Fall is right around the corner. I am looking forward to some serious cold swims this fall and winter.
9/01/2008 Earning the Right to Feel Tired
Cara and her friend, Bobbi, came in for the Austin triathlon this weekend. After the race, Cara walked in the house with this huge box of coffee and a trophy, to go with her beaming smile. She won her age group! We looked up her splits online to gauge where she finished compared to the other girls in her age group. She ran a 42 minute 10K in the Austin heat. Great energy- great race - great running!
I logged over 9 hours of swimming this weekend, which was ~32,000 yards of swimming. No where near a 42 minute 10K run, but I'll take it :)
The 10K swim went well this morning with Linda. I ended up swimming 118 X100's, descending the intervals. I felt strong at the finish, so it was a good indicator of my fitness.
I like the feeling of being this exhausted from training. Time for another nap.
8/30/2008 What Is Next?
If I could only count how many times I've been asked that question in the past 12 months and 10 days!
My swimming continues in full force, and I'm gearing up for my next big swim. David and I are planning on swimming the Dam Dam to Dam swim this fall. The distance will be roughly 20 miles in Lake Austin. We will start at the Low Water Crossing, where the water temperture is currently 62 degrees and we will finish at the Hula Hut. The challenge will be dealing with the cold and the distance. The water temperature will only go down from here on out. I'm looking forward to the fact that the majority of the swim will be in the dark. I did a spooky, solo dark swim on Friday and the scary component of swimming in the dark never goes away.
We've been doing a 9 miler each weekend in Lake Austin, so we are very familiar with the conditions. The safety issue is the boat traffic starting at 7AM, so we are going to start our 20 miler at 7PM. I wonder what that will be like.
The exciting news of the week is Tobey's English Channel swim. I met Tobey two years ago when she was in town on business. I invited her to swim at Barton Springs and suggested she bring a wetsuit since she mentioned her triathlon background. I think she wore the wetsuit for one round trip before ditching it. We became fast friends at that point!
Tobey earned her English Channel swimmer status on Thursday. Apparently the conditions were pretty rough and she had to battle it out. I don't think anyone who knows her every questioned her ability to finish, but the time and Channel pick you. Tobey was picked, but she was put to the test to say the least. It was pretty neat to feel the connection around the world while she swam. Everyone who had any information was emailing the distribution list to share their insights. We were all on pins and needles, waiting for hours for the final word. I know I was not the only one who let out a loud "hurray" in my cube when we learned she made it. Yep, Tobey Saracino is an English Channel swimmer!
My favorite part about marathon swimming is the sense of community and support. There is nothing like it. Everyone goes out of there way to help those around them achieve their goal. It is the best kept secret out there.
- 9 miler today with David in 4:06
- 2 hour Polar Bear swim scheduled for tomorrow with Jack
- Postal 10K scheduled for Monday with Linda
Life is good!
9/3/2007 It Couldn’t Be Done
By Edgar Albert Guest
Somebody said that it couldn’t be done
But he with a chuckle replied
That “maybe it couldn’t,” but he would be one
Who wouldn’t say so till he tried.
So he buckled right in with the trace of a grin
On his face. If he worried he hid it.
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
That couldn’t be done, and he did it!
Somebody scoffed: “Oh, you’ll never do that;
At least no one ever has done it;”
But he took off his coat and he took off his hat
And the first thing we knew he’d begun it.
With a lift of his chin and a bit of a grin,
Without any doubting or quiddit,
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
That couldn’t be done, and he did it.
There are thousands to tell you it cannot be done,
There are thousands to prophesy failure,
There are thousands to point out to you one by one,
The dangers that wait to assail you.
But just buckle in with a bit of a grin,
Just take off your coat and go to it;
Just start in to sing as you tackle the thing
That “cannot be done,” and you’ll do it.
8/22/2007 What Do You Think Gertrude Would Say About This?
Was I dreaming? Did I really swim from England to France? I keep having moments where I am not sure if it really happened or if I need to call Mike to find out when I am swimming. And then I look over at the "Channel Solo" hat from David, the "Channeling Austin" patch on my beautiful red coat from Brad, the bottle of Champagne, and all of the wonderful flowers. Yes, I DID IT!!!
I am up to about 1,000 emails and I am a bit overwhelmed at the moment. Michael Dell even sent me a note! The most popular question is "How do you feel?" To borrow Michellie Jones' quote after winning the Ironman, "How do you think I feel? I just swam the English Channel! I feel great!"
I was 3rd in the queue for the Aug 19-26th tide, which means I could swim on any of those days, conditions permitting. The process is to call the pilot at 7PM each night and ask if it was a go or a no-go. The waiting and anticipation is a lot of the mental challenge. On Sunday night I spoke to Mike and he said I might be able to swim on Monday. He said I would probably have really rough conditions for awhile at the start but it should settle down after awhile. He made it clear that it would not be a record breaking day. Well, I am not a record breaking swimmer, and I wanted my shot, so I told him I wanted to give it a go. And boy did I!
Chris went to Canterbury for the day, assuming like we all did that Monday would not be the swim day. The girl is incredible! She spent all day on her feet walking, basically pulled an all-nighter since we had to wake up at 1, and then spent all day making it all about me. She made sure I was awake, she brought me coffee, she ensured the cabs were here on time, she carried all of my bags, and then she stood on the walkway of a rocking boat all day, freezing, cheering for me to swim. All with a smile. She is the definition of selfless. Oh, and if that wasn't enough, she made sure I had some snacks while we were waiting at the restaurant for the post swim dinner celebration.
We arrived at the harbor around 1:45AM. It was dark and raining, and I was getting into that water. I said I wanted it hard, but seriously! We found the boat, made introductions and got situated on Mike's boat. I had not been nervous at all about the swim until this point. On the ride over one word was in a loop in my head. (Starts with the letter f. Actually, it was with a capital F.) I turned on my IPod and tried to relax.
Chris and I went into the galley to get me greased up, and then something unspeakable happened. The tough Navy girl who has days of combat on her record, the surface warfare officer, the one who stood port and starboard Officer of the Deck watches during our Persian Gulf deployments because everyone else was belly up in their staterooms from rough seas, the girl who had never been affected by rough sea conditions, yes, that girl. That girl got seasick. The look on Mike's face was priceless. I am sure he was laughing inside and thinking "Rookie". David teased me and told me to stop showing off and gave me a sea sickness pill.
Mike brought the boat as close to the shore as he could. Have I told you it was dark, because it was really dark out there. Did I tell you it was raining, because it was raining out there. Did I tell you it was cold, because it was cold out there. Did I tell you I got seasick, because those waves were rough. Suck it up Smith and get your undercrackers in the water! I jumped in.
I swam to the beach and cleared the water. I was ready to swim across the English Channel. The moment I had pictured in my head for so long. It was a little past 3AM.
I started swimming.
The waves were rough at the start, but I didn't really mind because I was swimming the English Channel! I later learned that Mike had asked my crew if they wanted to pull me out due to the conditions. So glad I didn't know that at the time. I would have never gotten out, but that isn't the sort of information you want to know is being discussed. The thought of getting out early never entered my mind. I was never seasick during my swim. Don't you love better living through chemistry? Seasickness medicine works.
As we left Dover, I slowly watched the spectacular White Cliffs and harbor lights in the horizon get smaller and smaller. I couldn't believe I was actually doing this.
The conditions were rough for me during the first part of the swim. I was bashed around. Waves crashed all around me, and sometimes I was completely submerged when the waves crashed on top of me. Glad I had those 2 light sticks attached to me. When I took a breath, I had to make sure nothing was coming my way before I opened up my mouth. There were times when I got a mouthful and noseful of salt water, but who cares! I was swimming the English channel!
There were also some times when I thought the boat was going to capsize on top of me. I know it wasn't that bad, but from my view, it was rocking pretty good.
One thing I looked forward to was the sunrise. I told myself that it would be the most memorable sunrise I had ever seen. Unfortuantely, I got in my zone and never even noticed it.
However, what I did notice was that those waves were starting to be in my favor. I was still being beat up, and at times I missed a stroke due to my submersion, but those waves were going with me and not against me! I then noticed the flag on the boat - it was a strong tailwind!!! Hot diggity dog!
My crew was PERFECT! David Blanke stood on the walkway the entire day. We were eye to eye for the duration of my swim. He stood there with his (insert adjective of choice as the adjective changed depending on where I was in the swim), he stood there with his "Channel Solo" hat on. David took me under his wing long ago and has helped me with every step of the way. He did my long swims with me, he convinced me to swim Catalina (which was a good call), he let me do my thing but kept an eye on me so I wasn't stupid. They don't come any better than David Blank, and I am forever indebted to him for his and his family's support.
Brad was Brad. I have never seen the guy stressed or ruffled about anything. Ever. His calm presence helped me, as always. There was nothing to be nervous about- just go swim. I sang Fiona's song for awhile: "Say hi to Nemo, and use your scoopers." Brad took a lot of really great pictures, he called back to the Statesman every half hour to provide updates, he wore a motivational shirt for me, I watched him balance his camera, the sat. phone, and hold the end of some signage at the same time- all on a rocky boat. What a team player! What a terrific brother!
The crew was really great about motivating me. Chris surprized me with some cool shirts. At one point, three of them lined up (David, Davis, Brad), each shirt displaying a word. "Swim" "Strong" "Smith". They turned around and displayed "Strength" "Grace" "Courage". Chris popped up with another great one. On the front it said "Get 'er Done". On the back was "Just () Do It!"
And David was still front and center with his "Channel Solo" hat.
My feeds were good. I stopped every 30 minutes for a Hammergel snack. I had a mixture of Perpetuem and Hammergel in my water bottle, mixed with some endurolytes. The feeds were feeds, not rests, so we tried to make them quick. I stopped in the middle of the boat, but was way off the back when I was done drinking. The tides are powerful to say the least. Chris said my feeds were about 5-10 seconds. I could hear them yelling "Chug, Chug, Chug, Chug" when I drank. About every hour or so I took a swig of mouthwash for a treat. The salt water really does a number on your tongue.
Michelle did a really great job helping with my feeds. She kept track of the time and had to fill the bottles after each stop. This was no easy task with the rocking and rolling of that boat. Thanks Michelle!
I had prepared for some really tough mental moments, but they never came. I had fun from the second I started until the moment I finished. I mediated, I walked down memory lane, I thought about my friends who had preceded me. I also sang a lot: Walking on Sunshine, Eminem's Lose Yourself, Natasha Bedingfield's Unwritten. Catalonia is a nation. I was having a party!
I felt really good, and when I was told I was in the Separation Zone, I decided to lay down the hammer. If you're going to do this, do it right! I picked up the pace. This was not the same athlete who had tired arms in Catalina. This was the girl who trained for 2 years without a single taper. This was the girl who sat on sustained 50,000- 61,000 yards a week effort and THEN tapered. This was a girl who brought her A Game to the party!
I knew I was swimming fast but I didn't know what that meant. Your official time is a result of a lot of factors: your head, your ability to swim in the cold, your ability to swim the distance, and the conditions of the Channel (the tides and the wind mostly). I had it all going for me and I knew it.
Mike was my pilot, but Alison Streeter did the piloting in the middle of the Channel. Ali is the Queen of the Channel, crossing more times than anyone else in history. I can only image the stories she could tell. At times Ali would wave to me as I was swimming. I tried to wave back, but I am not sure how effective I was. I did smell her proper English breakfast though. I particularly remember the distinct smell of sausages and onion. Really glad I wasn't seasick at this point. It actually smelled good.
I knew I was getting close to France when my crew started looking in that direction. They tried not to, but I could still tell. I would catch them trying to look casual as they gauged our distance from the shoreline.
Davis is the reason I decided to swim this thing. I met him and that magnetic Channel smile caught my attention. It was so special for me to have him there as I made my way. I could just see him smiling the entire time. Then I noticed he kept checking his watch and knew there was a reason. He was calculating to see if I was going to beat his Channel record (I missed it by 6 minutes).
At this point though, I didn't know if I had half an hour left or 4 hours left. There is no way of knowing. I just kept digging deep and laying it out there. It really IS fun to do the impossible!
Davis was key in my acclimation efforts. He told me to trust in the process and that it just takes time. He was so right!! You meet people for a reason, a season or a lifetime. Meeting Davis altered the path of my life forever.
I knew better than to pick my head up to look for France. I made that mistake in Catalina. Don't look up until you feel the sand under your fingers. But everyone was looking and pointing towards France now, and Ali and Del came topside to cheer for me. Everyone was standing on the walkways clapping, waving towels, cheering. I knew I was getting close but I wasn't sure how far I was. The tides turn and a lot of people miss the Cape in the last half mile and consequently stay out there for another few hours.
I shouted out, without missing a stroke, asking if I could look. When both David and Davis said yes, I decided it was time. I picked my head up and THERE IT WAS! The beautiful French cliffs! My crew brought the signs out again to let me know how far it was. It was now safe to give me distances. They said I had a mile to go. Oh my! A mile to go! I am going to make it!
But about 10 minutes later, the sign said 2,000 yards to go. Wait a second. A mile is 1760 yards. Did I miss it? I had a brief moment of panic. Everyone was laughing, smiling, checking their watches, cheering. I didn't miss a thing- I was right there! I later learned the GPS was going off of the lighthouse, not the shore where I was going to land.
"4 Laps in Barton" one sign said. Sweet! I can do that!
"George Clooney is waiting in France for you." "But he is leaving in a few minutes"
"Mike gets paid overtime in 20 minutes"
"1 lap in Barton"
Mike was sitting in the window, signalling like he was handing me something on a silver platter. He was smiling, so I knew I was golden.
And then I touched France! The rule is that you have to clear the water (there can't be any water in front of you at all). My challenge was that there was water going past these massive boulders and there was no freaking way I could climb this cliff to get past all of the water. But I tried anyway. There was no way in hell I was going to let anyone question anything about my swim. So I started climbing over the boulders, one by one. The crew was all yelling for me to come back, but I had ear plugs and couldn't hear anything. I kept climbing. I got all bloodied up from the barnacles on the boulders - but don't feel sorry for me. I just swam the English Channel!
I swam back out to the boat, just as happy as could be. I had done it!!! I was now an English Channel swimmer. I started climbing back onto the boat and they told me my time. 9hr 50m. Are you kidding me? So much faster than I could have ever imagined. The fastest solo swim so far this season. Let's remember that the Channel and time pick you. It was a rough swim, I am a fast swimmer, I worked hard, and the most important conditions were in my favor. I am well aware of how lucky I am.
Rumor has it that Christoph Wandwatsch, the record holder with 7 hr 3m is coming in this weekend to give it a go. Apparently, Christoph is going up against 2 Russians on the very same day, all trying for the record. It is no longer about just making it across. It is about racing it across! They might even swim on the anniversary of Matthew Webb's crossing!
When I got back on the boat, David promptly plopped a "Channel Solo" hat on my head. There is power in that hat! Those things are earned, not issued. Brad pulled out a beautiful red coat with a patch that says "Channeling Austin".
We motored back to Dover and Frances, Bill, Audrey, Anne and Duncan all came out to greet us - but we missed some of them :(. We went to go celebrate! Our first stop was the White Horse pub so I could sign my name on the wall. Davis also got to sign his name since this tradition started after he swam. How special for me!
Our next stop was a wonderful italian restaurant. Half way through dinner I just wanted to put my head on the table to sleep. Some folks had been up for almost 2 days straight.
We stayed at the Victoria Guest House with Bill and Audrey. I can not tell you how wonderful they are. I felt like I was at home the entire time. Bill and Audrey have become close friends, not just people we stayed with while in Dover.
Two days after the swim I am feeling pretty good. I am tired and my arms are fatigued but I actually feel pretty good. Catalina scared me into training hard for this swim and it paid off. I am having a hard time breathing though and my chaffing is pretty bad. My breaths are shallow and labored - I think it is from the cold rain and salt water inhalation. Don't feel sorry for me though- I just swam the ENGLISH CHANNEL!!
Everyone keeps asking me what is next. I have nothing to prove and I don't have any major events lined up next. My plan is to enjoy the fact that I achieved my goal, and see what life has in store for me next.
Thanks for all of your support and motivation during my journey. I have learned a lot about myself and other people. To say it was life altering is quite an understatement. It changed who I am, how I think, who my friends are, what I value. I also know that anything is possible if you want it bad enough.
It is nice to have an interest!
8/20/2007 It is Called "Star Alignment"
I swam across the English Channel today. 9 hours 50 minutes. Words can not adequently describe my happiness. I am tired, and I am sore. I am also quite pleased.
I will do a write up on my swim in the next few days to share the details.
8/18/2007 Hopefully Sometime this Week
With the exception of Brad, my crew is all here. We went to dinner last night and my stomach muscles are sore from laughing. I need to be careful! The last time I laughed that hard before an event I got bad side stitches.
Our morning swim was a blast. David, Anne, Davis, Chris and I ventured down to the harbor as the sun was coming up. The clouds were rolling in, it was breezy and the air felt crisp. The water felt really wonderful. A little on the chilly side today, but I prefer that. There were a few comments like "Gosh, I love this' and "What do you think the poor people are doing today?". There is nothing like it.
After our swim we found a coffee shop for our "Vitamin C". It is one of the nicest places in Dover - reminds me of the Starbuck's that David and I always go to after our long swims.
We joined Seth and Michelle for an English breakfast. Yum!
The training is all done, so we are just waiting for the call from my pilot, telling me it is time to swim. Might be Monday, might be Tuesday. Might not be this week.
8/16/2007 Show Respect and Ask for Permission
Anne and I went for an unforgettable swim yesterday. There were white caps in the harbor, but of course we swam anyway. It was one of those swims you do not tell your mother about.
We checked on each other on every breath, to make sure the other was okay. Not sure what we would have done if the other needed help, but I suppose it would be good to have someone who could at least have the story to tell to the police if need be. We just laughed and laughed. It is no use fighting the sea, so we just rode the tide and went with it.
Today's swim was as smooth as glass. On our walk down to the harbor we could see France in the horizon. I can't speak for her, but I know I got more pep in my step. Anne and I are the same speed, so it is really great to swim with her. No one has to alter their pace, and we both get our workout in.
After our swims, we have a ritual of touching the Matthew Webb statue. We noticed today that he swam in the same tide we did. It must be a sign!
Michelle went for her first harbor swim this afternoon. I think she liked it, but I don't have the full story yet.
I had the honor of meeting Nora and her son Max this evening. Nora is a legend around here. Audrey showed us Nora's book this morning. There are two fantastic pictures- one of Nora on the beach in France and one of her wrapped in a blanket with the biggest smile I have ever seen.
I had to ask. "Nora, do you have any advice for me as I make my way?"
Bill chimed in for me to take the ferry instead!
Nora said she always pays her respects to the Channel and asks for its permission before each swim. I like that and will follow suit.
8/15/2007 The Channel Picks You
Upon my arrival in Dover, I went down to the harbor for a quick dip. Freda, Neil, Pat and Stewart were on the beach that afternoon, so I enjoyed catching up with them and hearing their stories from the summer.
The water is PERFECT! Seeing the white cliffs of Dover and the Dover castle while swimming is just remarkable. There is nothing like it.
I swam solo in the harbor yesterday. I woke up early so I went down for a swim. It was a bit spooky by myself, but it was just what I needed to clear my head and quiet my thoughts. I thought of Ed and Michelle as I ceremoniously touched the quay walls.
Anne invited me over for dinner last night, which was just plain fun. We shared a lot of our stories from our journeys, and things we have learned along the way. I have not laughed that hard in a long time. She said one thing that stayed in my mind: "The Channel and time pick you." No matter how fast you are in a pool or how much you have trained and acclimated, if and when we get across is out of our control.
I guess it is just in God's hands now.
My strategy is to get in the water, swim my swim, and get out on the other side. I do plan on absorbing everything I can while I am out there- cherish every moment as I will never be able to duplicate the experience. I also want it to be hard. Don't hand it to me - make me work for it so it is satisfying. Make me earn it.
The Statesman ran a very flattering article on Monday (thanks Pam!).
A very kind woman contacted me, telling me that she cut out the newspaper articles from Florence Chadwick's swim in the 50's and she wants me to have them. Isn't that incredible!
My crew is starting to arrive. Michelle came in today, and the others will get here Friday.
Michelle is in charge of my nutrition. She is an engineer by education, so I know I will be in good hands.
Chris is my Communications Officer (aka Comm-O). I have always said that if I were on a deserted island, I would want to be there with Chris because she makes me laugh when times are the hardest. We were roommates at the Naval Academy, so she has helped me through some not so pleasant times. We have the whiteboard all ready to go to send me messages. I will be wearing earplugs, so I won't be able to hear anything.
Brad is my photographer. He is also going to send my position back to the Statesman every half hour so friends back home can track me.
David and Davis will be my companion swimmers. They are both accomplished Channel swimmers and have played key roles in getting me to Dover today. No, I wouldn't be here if it weren't for them and their darn Channel Smiles!
8/8/2007 SWIM Strong Smith!
Last week I was catching up with a dear friend at work, and Mindy came in and asked if I would go talk to her customer. It was a plot. My Team had a big Swim Strong Smith! sign, and everyone was wearing these great orange bracelets in my honor.
Today was even better. We were in an Ops Review that went over time. I asked Yvonne if she had anything at 2:30 or if she could stay to finish her piece. She said she had a customer call so we'd have to finish at a later time. Okay. They then pulled me into the room next door where my Team was. I was very surprised, ecspecially since this was the second time they did this! Who gets two celebrations?! Penne had a beautiful cake that was decorated with Swim Strong Smith! and they presented a banner with a lot of messages of encouragement. Aren't I loved?! I am eager to read them all.
This journey thing. I know I keep saying that, but it has been so life altering. There is nothing like the View that I have. I have received hundreds of emails, cards and phone calls from all over the world. One person even told me I am helping him recover from his dunlop disease (Matt's belly has dun- lopped over his belt!). My friend Eric gave me the CD that he listens to before his big golf tournaments in hopes that I could benefit from what inspires him. I am touched.
I realize this is a time for taper and rest, but to complete the journey properly, I need to process everything has comes with it. There have been so many tears this week, in really unexpected situations. So many people have stopped by to wish me well. I start crying, then they start crying (or vice versa). Lots and lots of tears. I thought I had finished crying, so I went to grab a sandwich in the cafeteria. The girl behind the counter asked how my day was and I started back up. Poor thing. She had no idea what to do with that!
Nope, swimming to France isn't what this is about.
No more tears though. Time to turn the corner and get this thing behind me. Time for a new chapter in my life.
Okay, English Channel. Let's see what you've got. I hope you're ready for me because I'm coming in armed!
8/7/2007 The Lucky Penny
I don't have much to say about my taper, but I have a lot to say about the ending of my journey.
My taper is coming along swimmingly. Often times, college students get sick when they come home after finals. The body just knows it is a down time and their defenses lower. True to form, I got a little sinus infection last week. Not a big deal, just a time of forced rest. I am healthy again and feeling good. Getting a little sick is a good sign of an effective taper, or so I am telling myself.
My last swim with the Master's group was this morning. UT is closed the month of August, so our workout has moved to Mable Davis. I love swimming outside: the fresh air, the trees, the birds. But I melted. The water must have been about 90 degrees. I could barely make any intervals since I was so hot. Needless to say, I won't be going back to Mable Davis for awhile. Tyler and Ande are tapering for Nationals so they did some swims off the block. Tyler asked me if I wanted to work on my starts with him. Of course I did! So, we stood at the end of the lane and raised our arms, signalling we were ready to start our swim. :)
I didn't think a swim practice could be emotional, but it was and I almost lost it. Everyone was saying their good lucks to me and and I got a lot of hugs. The swim from England to France will be hard, duh!, but it is just a formality at this point. And it will be really okay if I don't even make it. My journey has been about the deep emotional connections that I have made with some remarkable people. A deep connection with some "investors". And a better understanding of what I am about.
As I was leaving practice, I asked Ande if he had any words of encouragement for me since he had been so helpful as I left for Catalina. Ande asked me for what. LOL! There is always one who keeps you humble and modest!
As I walked to my car, I saw a bright, shiny penny on the sidewalk. It was heads up. I interpreted it as a good sign and picked it up.
8/3/2007 Sneaking a Salad
There are a lot of unknowns about swimming the English Channel, but one known is that the Texas girls will be cold. The water is now 63, and I know I can do 63, but 63 is cold for Texans.
I spoke to Anne this morning. Anne lives in Dallas, and has been one of my lifelines for this adventure. We are in the same tide, with the same pilot, so she has been a tremendous help for me.
Jon-o just gleamed last year when he bragged about how much weight he had been able to gain for his swim. Jon doesn't remember the end of his first swim. He was so hypothermic that it is all a blur. I think he swam the Channel again to have a memory.
The extra layer has been a big help for me. My skin is still cold, but my core isn't as affected. Don't get me wrong- I'm not a hippo, but I am heavy for me. You'll see the pictures. And I am at my limit. I have tried to push the dense foods and highly caloric foods this week as an extra precaution. But I just can't eat any more. I am down a few pounds from all of my training and was hoping to put 2-3 pounds back on. It is nice to know that no matter how hard I try to weigh more, my body just can't go higher than where it is. What a weird feeling to have.
I asked Anne this morning how her weight was coming along. She laughed and laughed as she has been trying to do the same. She shared that she has been sneaking salads since she feels better when she eats salad. Eating fish and chips in public, but sneaking a salad when she gets home.
8/2/2007 Day 4 of my Taper!!
I slept about 9 1/2 hours last night. I think my body just knows it is time to build up the reserves. I am feeling good and ready to go.
I am swimming in the taper lane at UT now, but I have to admit their version of tapering is a lot different than my version of tapering. Yesterday our last set was 3X300, 2X200 and 1X100. I was abandoned on the second 300! When the going gets tough, the sprinters get out!
The excitement for today's workout was that we had one of Austin's top eligible bachelors in the mix.
7/30/2007 Day 1 of my Taper!!
I swam 61,000 yards last week. 17 hours 38 minutes of swimming in a 7 day time frame. And 2 strength sessions.
Sandettie is 62.4 degrees. I can do 62 degrees.
I slept well last night.
7/29/2007 That is Good Because You'll Have To!
My taper starts tomorrow. I have been training for this for over 2 years, and my taper starts tomorrow.
I could not ask for a better training partner than David Blanke. He has guided the way for me, and he and Leslie have been so supportive. Yesterday, David swam my last long swim with me. Well, my last long swim until my last long swim. We stood on the dock getting ready and I commented on the fact that the occasion was a bit ceremonious. David just smiled and quietly said yes.
Matt Simms is my other great training partner. Matt and I met on the cycling team at the Naval Academy, and ran into each other at the Hawaii Ironman in '04. Matt is one of the most amazing people I've ever met. When times get tough, Matt just laughs. When I am having a rough spot during a workout, I think about Matt, knowing he is doing something extraordinary. "WWMD in this moment?" That thought has kept me going on more occasions than I can count. He calls me his virtual training partner.
Matt just ran the Western States 100. This arduous and grueling event is the English Channel of trail running. Not only did Matt run it, but he ran it well. He makes it look easy.
I thought about Matt as I jumped in for my last long swim. David did the math for us - we are swimming for 6 1/2 hours and it is 7:20, so we are going to finish at... let's not think about that. We did our count down and started our swim.
The swim was the easiest I've ever done. We swam 30 perimeters around Quarry Lake, which is just shy of 14 miles. When we first started my arms felt heavy so I was regretting having lifted yesterday. Everything fell into place rather quickly and we breezed along. I was able to stay in the moment for the duration and never thought about getting out early. My body feels strong. Nothing hurts. My Hammergel nutrition strategy works well. When we finished I was actually disappointed. The last perimeter is usually a victory lap, but this one was just a lap. I wasn't eager to finish and I didn't feel that deep, deep fatigue that I usually feel. I felt like I could swim all day. I told David the same- I feel like I could swim all day. "Well good, because you are going to have to!". :)
We had an audience today which was fun. Some guy sat there and watched us swim for our last 4 perimeters. When we finished, he called a friend to tell him how long we swam. 6 hours 41 minutes.
I stopped at Whole Foods on my way home and another guy stopped me. He said he recognized my crocs and he knew I was one of the people who swims so long in the quarry.
The best part about this is that there is a chain reaction. These people are so thoughtful, but I am not sure they realize how much they motivate me. They always tell us that we help encourage them to do a little more with their workouts ("If they can swim 6:41, then I can do one more lap myself"). But they encourage me to do a little more, too. It is easy to swim 6:41 when you have an audience and people cheering for you. The English Channel is a solo swim, but there is nothing solo about it.
I have 8500 yards to swim today to make it a 60,000 yard week. My last 60K effort. I am headed out in a few minutes to swim with Pam and am meeting Zoe Ann this afternoon.
There is nothing solo about this journey.
7/24/2007 Que Sera, Sera
Our tide is 3 1/2 weeks out but things are not looking favorable. Mike Oram, my pilot, sent out a note today saying that the weather is bad and it doesn't look like it will change for another 5 or 6 weeks. Apparently no one swam in the current tide - people have had to go home without an attempt.
I am at peace with whatever happens. I obviously want a perfect ending. I want to experience the kind of moment most people only dream of, but I am okay with whatever unfolds. The journey has been life altering and I have already experienced the most rewarding aspects of it - connecting with some amazing people, facing my fears head on, blowing past the physical, mental and spiritual boundaries I had previously set for myself.
I hope the sea gets this out of her system because I am ready. I can sleep in a really, really cold room, and I can swim for an incredible long period of time. I am not nervous and I am not scared. I am just ready to put it all together. I am just ready to swim.
7/19/2007 31 Days Out
The first day of my tide is 31 days out. I am 3rd in the queue and Anne is 4th. #1 and #2 in the queue are relays, so Mike said there is a high probablilty that Anne and I will swim early.
The Greenwich bouy is 60.6 degrees today and Sandettie is 61.9 degrees.
My strength is there and I have the endurance. Now I am focusing on the sea sickness and the cold. Icing on the cake.
I'm taking Bonine every other day to see what the effect is on my body. I've been so tired that I really can't tell if is doing anything. I've also been doing a lot of spiral drills to make myself dizzy. It can't hurt.
And then there is the cold. Tim is concerned about the distance and I am concerned with the temperature. I know I can swim the distance, because, well, because I've swum that distance. But that cold stuff. I suffered the last 6 hours of Catalina and I remember not ever wanting to feel that way ever again. So... More sweat in practice, less blood in battle.
I've been taking my ice baths and sleeping with the A/C down. On Tuesday night I sat in the tub for 75 minutes. The temperature went from 48.8 to 62.0 in 58 minutes. I think it is more important to be chilled for a long period of time rather than be cold for 75 minutes, but I don't think the ice baths hurt in the acclimation process. Our access to cold water swimming ended with the flooding a few weeks ago. The water temp at LWC is now in the upper 70's and the water is contaminated.
When I first get in the tub, my skin sticks to the bottom of the tub. I have been listening to some mental training tapes that Terra Castro gave to me. It is a mental game to relax when you are cold. My body is adjusting and I am doing a pretty good job with talking myself out of shivering. R-E-L-A-X. I had to make an effort to keep my shoulders below the water level as they would surface if I didn't pay attention.
After Tuesday's bath I turned the A/C down to 64 and slept with just a sheet over me. This was uncomfortable since my body temperature was already low and my hair was wet. I need to know how to relax and not obsess over the temperature when I am cold. I told myself that when I got too cold I had to get out of bed and start my day. Needless to say I stayed there for 8 1/2 hours but I didn't get much sleep. I now feel like I have a cold. I am stuffed up and my ears hurt. I am also exhausted from the lack of sleep and from being so cold. To quote Matt Simms, "It is hard. As it should be."
I took the day off from being cold yesterday and I am going back in tonight. If I don't make it to France, it won't be because I didn't prepare.
7/15/2007 You Can Get Out When You Are Done With Your Swim
I had a challenging swim today. I managed to eek out 50 round trips in Barton in 6:07, but it wasn't easy for me to make it happen. 50 round trips is 12.5 miles.
We are moving things around with my nutrition and my body is adjusting accordingly. No more dairy, beef or pork. Ughhh. I forgot to eat breakfast and I started bonking about 20 minutes into my long swim. You know the feeling: you get really dizzy and hot, your vision gets blurry, and just want to close your eyes to make it all go away. I made myself relax and finish up the lap so I could get my feed early. I usually feed every hour, but today I had to feed every 20-30 minutes throughout the swim because of this dizziness. After I ate, I felt great, but it didn't last long. I consummed my 5 1/2 hours worth of fuel in 3 1/2 hours. It is easy to justify ending the swim at that point. When I stand on the beach in Dover, no one but me will know or care how I did my training. You have to be true to yourself. I can go home after I finish my swim. I can only get out when the deep, deep fatigue has set in.
I did punt a little and put on my Ipod for a few miles. I know, I know...not really training the mind when I do that.
I got out of the water, went to the shop and bought some fuel to finish up my swim. It was a blessing as I saw some inspirational friends at the shop- Kathy, JD, Josh, Glynn. That was all I needed for a boost to get my tail back in the water.
I went back to Barton to finish my last 20 round trips. After 4 round trips, we had to evacuate the pool due to thunder and lightning. I sat on the pool deck for over an hour, waiting to finish. Again I thought about bagging the swim, with the justification that I could finish it up tomorrow. Nope, I can only go home when I finish my swim.
There was sadness with today's swim. During one of my round trips, this man who was about 3-4 feet away from me called for help. I was right there in the middle of it, as his friend was on the other side of me. I stopped to see if I could render assistance and watched the lifeguards pull him out of the water. I will never forget the look on his face. I then watched EMS administer CPR for the next hour and a half. An hour and a half seems like a long time for CPR. Needless to say, my thoughts shifted during the last part of my swim. Lots of prayer and reflection. It put things back into perspective. I don't know if the man made it or not, but I know I am really fortunate.
Heading back to Barton in a few minutes to swim with the Tahoe group. Sitting at 51,000 yards so far for this week. It will be close to 60,000 for the week after this morning's swim. My body is feeling great- pain free, just fatigued.
The Channel season kicked off yesterday and I've been glued to my laptop, awaiting updates. I am pretty sure Michelle is in the water and I know her friend Julian is out there, swimming. The waiting and the not-knowing is maddening. Emails have been flying from all over the world, exchanging tid bits of information to keep everyone in the know. There is power in the energy that is flowing. Michelle and Julian must know that people from all over the world are pushing for them. I can feel the forces and I am just sitting in my cube.
We've also received the unfortunate emails when people are not successful. Michelle's friend, Jessica, was a mile and a half from France. Apparently after 14 hours of swimming, the tides turned and pushed her out 3 miles. She was too sick to press on. It must have been really bad for her to get out. I feel for her.
I can honestly say I've given it my best to get where I am. All of the shiverfests in Lake Austin and at the Low Water Crossing. All of the l-o-n-g weekend swims. 50,000-60,000 in weekly yardage, week after week. Getting back in the water for another swim when I could barely lift my arms up and my hair was still wet from the last swim. The ice baths. The night swims. Catalina. My weight gain. The strength work and yoga. Yes, I have given it what I have.
The journey has been very rewarding and that is what it is all about.
7/4/2007 Triathletes are Pretty Tough!
Wednesday was another swimming day. I put in 5150 yards at UT in the morning, and then headed over to the LWC to check out the flooding. I stopped at Rudy's en route to pick up some breakfast tacos and a Full Throttle beverage so I could have a picnic at LWC. I love this town!
The LWC was remarkable! I have a vested interest in the place, and was speechless when I saw how powerful the water was. There were 4 floodgates open, which created a whirlpool due to the venturi effect. I don't think anyone would survive if they fell into that water. It looked like Niagara Falls. The bridge that we jump off of was completely under water.
I went back to UT and swam another 4200 yards at noon. When I left the pool, it was raining buckets of water. Good thing I just washed my car. The plan had been to swim with Michelle at Quarry Lake after the noon workout. I was surprised to see she hadn't called to cancel the swim, so I dialed her number. "I'll swim" she said. "Why not?". My favorite thing about triathletes is that they don't let the weather change their plans.
Michelle is coming to England with me, so we practiced the logistics of my feedings at Quarry. It was very realistic with the rain! I have a rope, spliced into three parts, each end is tied to a water bottle - mouthwash, water and Hammergel (Perpetuem and Hammergel). The feeds need to be quick since every second will count. Last summer Ross missed the Cape by 600 yards. The tide turned and he was out there another few hours. We need to be quick on my feeds so I have time on my side. Michelle decided to throw the bottles ahead of me so that she didn't hit me in the head. We got it down- I will swim to the bottles, roll over on my back and kick while I am drinking, close up the top with my teeth, and she will reel the bottles back onboard. Takes about 10 seconds.
Michelle D. and Julian are lined up to swim in the next few days!
Operation Cryogenics has taken a twist. The plan was to swim at the low water crossing for half of my weekly swims until I left for England. The water temperature has gone from 58 to 64 to 71 degrees in about 10 days. And with the flooding contamination, not sure I would want to step foot in there.
Yesterday I stopped at Randall's and bought 20 pounds of ice for an ice bath. For $3.57 you can buy enough ice to bring the water temperature down to the mid 50's for an hour or so.
I also drive with my air conditioning at the lowest temperature possible at full blast. My windows fog up :)
And loitering in the frozen food section in my wet clothes after swimming is another key element to my training right now. Whole Foods even has a walk in freezer, that is the best!
Doing the best you can with what you have to work with.
I swam 48 round trips in Barton Springs on Saturday. 12 miles. Not sure which entertains me more. It is either the triathletes in their wetsuits with hoodies, or it is the look on their face when this overweight, middle aged woman, with a lycra swim cap passes them. I am not exactly wearing my fitness right now, so they usually stop to try to figure me out.
I have to thank my friend Tim for being so supportive. I had 11 round trips left to go on Saturday and I was spent, mentally and physically. I so wanted it to be over. Tim unexpectedly showed up and helped me through it. At one point he said, let's just do 2 more and see how it feels. I already knew how it felt! When I told him I just didn't think I could do anymore, he told me to just swim one more. Down and back. Thanks Tim!
48 more days until my not so secret love affair with Shiner, Ben and Jerry is over.
6/26/2007 Please Step Out Of Your Car
"Were you talking to that nice gentleman?", Tim asked when he drove up.
I was pressed for time, and tried to rush in order to not be late meeting Tim for an early morning swim. Consequently, I threw on my suit, wrapped a towel around me, and ran out the door.
I arrived before Tim, so I backed my car into the parking spot, so I could get a jump start on heading to work after we swam. The LCRA authorities showed up in a rush. They had their flood lights shining on me and yelled their message over their megaphone: "Please step out of the car!". I felt like I was on "Cops" or something. "Whatcha gonna do when they come for you? Bad boys." LOL!
So I stepped out of my car, in my swim suit, by myself, in the dark. Good times!
LCRA was actually really cool about the whole thing. It isn't everyday a girl can say she is swimming the English Channel in a few weeks and was there to swim. He told me he would overlook the day use only rule and let me swim as long as I was careful. AND, he gave me a handful of his business cards in case I ever needed to call a paramedic.
The swim was actually beautful. We were in total darkness for awhile which is always just neat. I started to imagine seeing things, so I had to have some rational conversations with myself. Sometimes it is weird to see your hand in the water when it is pitch dark all around you. It doesn't look like a hand because of the slight glow and I've been spooked by it more than once. Kind of like a dog chasing its tail I suppose.
The water temperature is now 64 degrees which bums me out. I no longer get cold at the low water crossing, even with a lycra cap. That is a good sign.
54 days until my tide!
6/22/2007 Tired and in the Middle of Heavy Training
The other day one of my colleagues asked me if I was sick because I was so quiet. I could barely keep my eyes open at work and I had a cup of coffee glued to my hand. Today my left side hurts so much that I am not sure if I should do a long swim tomorrow.
When I get up past 50K a week, my left side wacks out, starting in my hip and going up to my neck. This is left over junk from my bike/car accident in December, but I am not allowed to talk about that anymore. My routine is that I swim 50K plus, my left side goes crazy, I go see Dr Z, then I feel better again. this cycle repeats every week or so. Dr Z says this is good since we are treating the root cause of the pain and the pain gets less each week.
My initial reaction was frustration. I have worked too hard to have to skip tomorrow's swim. I am 6 weeks out from my taper and I don't want to skip a key swim. But then I realized that you can only push past your boundaries if you know your boundaries. I guess 60K in a week is my boundary. For now. I see Dr Z on Monday and he will push me out the door, ready to hit another 60K week. It is time to relish the fact that I am tired. I have earned that right. If nothing hurt on my body, then I wouldn't be pushing the envelop.
Luck has nothing to do with it.
6/19/2007 I Know What We Can Do...
Today's swim ranks up there with one of the dumbest things I've ever done. I have laughed all day though.
Tim and I decided it was time for another low water crossing bridge swim. Since I am tan all over, I made sure to put on my sunscreen, even though it was 5:30AM. I wanted to make sure my shoulders and back were protected when the sun came up. Little did I know this would be the least of my worries!
The dam was releasing and the water level was really, really high. In fact, it was only a few inches from the bridge, which means it was releasing full force. I was more worried about the cold than I was about the forceful water flow.
Last week we swam down stream 15 minutes and back in 45 minutes, so we decided we'd try that "route" again. We swam down 10 minutes and turned to swim back to the boat ramp. Once we turned, we swam in place for 10 minutes against the current. Actually, we swam backwards because the current was so strong! Oh no! How in the world are we going to get back?
We ended up crossing the lake and trying to inch our way up stream hugging the shoreline. It worked well in some areas as we made progress. At one point I stood up because the water was relatively shallow. My feet were skidding through the rocks. I didn't stand a chance.
We crossed back and tried to make our way on the other side of the lake. Oh my! We swam right up against the grass and trees and fought every inch of the way. We ended up going down stream for 10 minutes and upstream for 1:35! We didn't actually make it to the end either. We got out and walked along a pathway for about half a mile.
I see two good things that came out of the swim. First, I never noticed the water temperature. And second, swimming against the current will make us STRONG!
I swam about 60,000 yards last week. Over 17 and a half hours of training, including strength work.
The taper starts in 47 days!
6/18/2007 Who Would Have Thought...
You might need sunscreen in your underarms and on the soles of your feet?
6/14/2007 How Badly Do You Want it?
I'm now swapping a lot of my Master's workouts for low water crossing swims. My endurance is there, I am physically stronger than I've ever been, my head is in the game, I am injury free, and my weight is where I want it (at least where I want it to get my feet to touch the shores of France). The only part that still weighs on my mind is the cold. I can swim a long time and I can swim in cold water. I just don't know how long I can swim in cold water. During my crossing, I will get to a point where I am exhausted beyond belief and I will be colder than I have ever been in my life. What do I need to do to prepare to make it past this moment? I am turning over that stone and doing everything within my power to make it a non-issue.
Tim and I had an amazing swim on Tuesday morning. We swam out 15 minutes and turned back when the water hit a "tropical" 60 degrees. The dam started releasing when we were out there so it took 45 minutes for us to get back to the boat dock. I was worried about our shoes floating away, again.
This morning's swim was harder. I feel warmer when the dam is releasing because I am generating body heat from my effort. I really feel the temperature when I am just putting in average effort. This is what I need to get used to. I have definitely improved, but it is still a factor as I think about the temperature a lot. The cold no longer seeps in to my bones and muscles but my skin still burns from the cold.
Last Sunday I stopped at the grocery on my way home from a cold swim. I had on a fleece pullover and a hat, and I was shivering out of control. People were trying not to stare at me as the outside temperature was 95 degrees.
52 days until my taper begins!
6/11/2007 Jack Rocked in Alcatraz!
Just got word that Jack was 3rd in his age group in yesterday's Escape from Alcatraz! Go Jack!
Had another great weekend of swimming. Swam 26 perimeters at Quarry Lake last weekend and 30 perimeters this past Saturday. 6 hours 30 minutes of swimming.
The things that hurt at the beginning of a 6 and a half hour swim are not the same things that hurt at the end of a 6 and a half hour swim.
Operation Cryogenics starts Tuesday.
5/28/2007 Waiting for a Gift from the Sea
Spent another fun weekend swimming in San Francisco. As I packed my bags to come home I had to laugh that I never once showered in the hotel - just at the Dolphin Club or the South End Rowing Club. How fine is that?!
I was deeply touched by a quote I read on a locker in the Dolphin Club:
"The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient. To dig for treasures shows not only impatience and greed, but lack of faith. Patience, patience, patience, is what the sea teaches. Patience and faith. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach – waiting for a gift from the sea. " Anne Morrow Lindbergh
Swimming in cold water is a little like truth serum to me. Any ache or pain I have surfaces very quickly, if I am tired it is exagerated in the cold, the root cause of things that irritate me seems to surface, allowing me to process it. It is also like taking a happy pill - everyone just laughs and laughs in the cold water. I feel like the luckiest person on the face of the planet.
Cold water swimming is a commodity in San Francisco. There are all ages, speeds, sizes... I've never seen anything like it. The owner of the restaurant where we ate is a South Ender, the owner of a cupcake store we stopped in is a member of the Dolphin Club. The secret is out in San Francisco! Everytime I looked at the Bay, there were tons of people swimming. Mind you the air and water were both in the mid 50's. It is a small, supportive community that just pulls you in.
The purpose of my visit was the swim around Alcatraz with Mike, Tobey, Michelle, Orin and Tobey's friend Jared. 3.25 miles.
The swim was so much fun! I was nervous about it as you can't really wing it when you're cold. The day before the event, Tobey and I did a long swim in the Bay. It was the same old stuff: the ice cream headache, the tightness of the chest for the first 3 minutes, the loss of feeling in my hands and feet. And this time, I started to lose feeling in my forearms and calves. Not just the skin, but the muscles. And I couldn't get my ear plugs out after my swim.
I loved every minute of the event. I didn't hesitate too much when the horn blew at the start. Tobey dove in before me and I knew I'd never hear the end of it if I didn't swim, so I followed suit. Mike and I ended up swimming side by side for awhile, which was cool. Besides the cold water, the big challenge of the swim is the navigation.
On the way out toward the island, the tides were pushing us to our right, so we aimed for the middle of the island, hoping it would just land us right at the edge where we needed to turn. It seemed to work pretty well.
As I made my way around the island I found myself right next to another swimmer which prevented having much wiggle room. As a result, I felt the rocks and plants under me. It was pretty cool to "touch" Alcatraz.
After I came around the island the tides turned and whew! did they turn! It was like a washing machine. I tried to breathe right and got a mouthful of water. I tried to breathe left and got another mouthful of water. The only think I could do was laugh and do the best I could.
Navigating back was pretty hard. The water was choppy and it was hard to see. I did the best I could with what I had. I stopped every 25 strokes to do some breaststroke to find my way. The quick headup glances while swimming freestyle didn't really work during this swim. When I saw the opening to the pier I was very far left. I made a sharp right to compensate. When I glanced again I discovered I was even further to the left than I was before. What in the world?! Patience and faith, right?
I was hoping to see Delta and Dawn on my way back, but no such luck.
When I finished I was tickled to see that Tobey won and that Michelle had just finished, too.
Michelle is the most amazing athlete I've ever known. Her quiet, modest nature is refreshing. She is gifted and she works hard. She swam 8 hours in the Bay on Sunday - the water and air temps were in the mid 50's. We could all learn a lot from her.
5/13/2007 98 Days Out
Tobey and Grant flew out from New York, for less than 24 hours, for an early morning Lake Austin swim. As I was driving down MoPac at 2:15AM, I couldn't figure out why so many people were driving North... oh! They are headed home from 6th Street. Sweet!
It only took the cops about 10 minutes to show up once we started unloading the kayaks and our gear. You're swimming now?! :)
The swim was one of the best yet, on many levels. Everything fell into place mentally and physically. We swam 6:17, which is about 14 miles, and nothing hurt physically. I was tired, of course, but my arms, back, neck, shoulders were all fine. I also had no problems mentally. I have finally, finally figured this piece out.
David and I hit the 360 bridge in 1:56, which is a few minutes faster than the last time I swam it. What is more important though, is that we negative split the swim. We swam out 3:10 and swam back in 3:07. Our time from 360 to Walsh's landing was 1:57. With the increased boat traffic, I was elated that we didn't fall off pace. I have never felt stronger and feel confident that I could have doubled that distance. That did wonders for my confidence. I feel ready. Really ready.
Last week I swam over 15 hours, which was somewhere between 50K-52K. I felt very good and ended the week by swimming in 56 degree water for 2 hours. I did have some problems with the increased yardage this week, however. My doctor said that the biomechanics break down after that much yardage and the weak links surface with a vengeance. After kicking all week instead of swimming, I was so worried this long swim wasn't going to happen. After a session with Dr Z on Thursday and another one on Friday, I woke up pain free Saturday morning and swam the 6:17 without any aches or pains.
This morning's cold water swim wasn't as successful. Last week I swam 2 hours in the same temp. Today I only made it 46 minutes. Must be because I was tired. After 24 minutes it hit me hard. I started shaking, my speach was slurring and I had no feeling in my hands and feet. I know what cold feels like and this wasn't quite the same as it usually is, so I made the call to get out. We went to Rudy's for breakfast and just sat and shivered and shivered.
It is hard to get the body ready for the distance, the cold and the mental. Some weeks it all falls into place and other weeks one of the pieces is out of kilter. That is what the training is for I suppose. Just keep moving forward.
5/5/2007 You Are NOT Stealing my Pull Bouy!
David and I had another great swim this morning. Swam 24 perimeters of Quarry Lake- a little more than 11 miles - stepping off at 5AM. 5 hours 9 minutes. I've been struggling with the mental piece of my long swims lately, so I had to change my approach. Instead of the boredom and buckling down to make it happen, I've been using the time to meditate and enjoy the silence. In triathlon, I was able to be in the moment and enjoy the feeling. This doesn't always carry over for me in my swimming due to the sensory deprivation. The change of approach has really worked well - I really look forward to the long swims now. Whenever my mind wandered this morning or whenever doubt seeped in, I pushed it back out and brought the focus back to my breathing.
The best part of the swim was when David's empty Gatorade bottle blew across the lake. We had 3 more laps to go and we swam over to get as to not be litter bugs. I told him I'd take it and tuck it into the back of my swim suit until we got back to the dock. David had another plan - "You are Not Stealing my Pull Bouy!". :)
I had another great week of swimming this week. After tomorrow's cold water swim, I will have done 50K plus. My body is holding up well and my shoulders are pain free. My swim equipment does not dry and I laugh everytime I dive back into the water - More Swimming! We did 36 100's on the 2 minutes on Wed. I averaged 1:04-1:05's for the freestyle. We did a handful of 400's on Friday - hit a 4:35 on my last one and a 1:02 on my 100 free. Not too bad while tired.
Our cold water is now 57-58. It is warming up, so we need to take full advantage of it while we can.
15 weeks out!
4/22/2007 The Honeysuckle Swim
We swam a 9 miler yesterday. After pushing the yardage we wanted to level set and go back to our 9 mile default weekly swim. It was one of the best swims yet. I had zero, I repeat zero, mental obstacles out there. I kept expecting it to get hard mentally, and it never did. I had that peaceful silence that I enjoy so much about marathon swimming. I'm turning the corner.
Also had a successful cold water swim this morning. 54-55 degrees. We got out of the water, laughing and laughing. Rachel brought Starbuck's coffee to go with Tim's homemade cinnamon rolls. He didn't have a knife to cut the rolls, so he used a hand paddle :)
Am feeling a bit like a cockahoop swimmer lately. I will accept any invitation to swim- any duration, any temperate, any hour, any speed, any location... Just keep on swimming. On Saturday, I swam with David, stopped at Starbuck's, stopped at home to get a dry suit and towel before meeting the Marsh's for a swim. This morning we did a cold swim, went to Rudy's, stopped by home to get a dry suit and towel, and went to the Master's workout. My hair was still wet!
Best news: Anne won the Tampa Marathon!
4/17/07 At Least I was Willing to Try
A 6 hour swim is a 6 hour swim.
I had a hard time sleeping the night before my swim due to nerves. This swim that I had been putting on the shelf mentally for the past year and a half was now before me. My stomach was upset just thinking about it.
I loaded the car the day before and went to bed knowing all I had to do was swim 6 hours in the cold on Sunday. I am trained to do this. I can do this.
Leslie called me as I was driving to Quinlan with the bad news. The water was only 64 degrees. She had kayaked about two miles towards the colder water and the temp remained 64. The dam must have been releasing yesterday when I measured 62 degrees. I was disappointed as I wanted to test my limits to see where I was with my training.
This was still good training for me, escpecially from the mental aspect. I had to force a lot of negative out of my mind and I had to remind myself that I am ready. I am ready, I am ready, I am ready. Even though Mother Nature had other plans for me today, at least I showed up, prepared to swim 6 hours in 61 degree water.
6 hours on my shoulders, 6 hours alone with my thoughts, 6 hours of positive self talk is always a good thing.
Anne sent me some great news when I got home. I had asked her the temp in La Jolla thinking I'd need to fly out there next weekend to knock this swim out. We just got word that my Catalina Channel swim counts as my qual swim. Sweet! Now the cold water training is for me and not for an official certification.
Moving forward, closer to the goal.
4/14/07 The 11th Hour
I am set to do my qualification swim tomorrow. Everything has been so ambiguous this week. The cold front we have been expecting was delayed and won't hit until tonight. Our 7AM start time was pushed out to 11AM since the temp was expected to be 40 degrees at 7AM! Should be in the low 60s by 11. Also wasn't sure where we could swim. Decker was 66 on Thursday and might cool down by tomorrow with the 40 degree air temps... but there is a race. Been heading to spots along the shore of Lake Austin measuring and making predictions.
Headed out to Quinlan Park this morning for a swim and "turned the corner". The water was 62 degrees and it was wonderful. Am quite sure it will drop a degree or so by tomorrow so we made the call to start the swim from Quinlan. As I stood on the dock I had the gut wrenching knot. What am I doing? Emily went with me and showed me how to get in the water and play. I checked and double checked the temp. Yep, 62. It will be fine by morning.
This little recon made a world of difference. I can visualize what tomorrow will be like. I know the water will be murky and I will have limited visibility. I know I will be cold. Oh well.
David is swimming the 6 hours with me. Tim is doing the first 3. Some wonderful friends with good energy and attitudes are taking turns kayaking for me. How lucky am I to have such friends?!
I took an inventory of people and things to think about when doubt sets in:
- David and Tim will be right there next to me, so I am not alone in this
- Sally did it.
- Bergit did it
- Tobey will do it
- Jen is doing her Ironman at the same time. We agreed to a mental connection during the day. I know she won't quit.
- it is just a dance. Embrace it and go with it
- this will be my first and last qual swim. How fortunate I am to have this experience.
- to quote Kerstin, "I choose this"
- I will feel incredible Sunday night and all week long...
4/13/07 Time for a Test
We swam 21.6 laps around Quarry on 4/1 (4:38) and 23.6 laps around Quarry four days later (5:16). As a result, I have been exhausted. I pushed the limits of my endurance and have not been able to get enough sleep since. Time to rest and absorb the effort.
The left side of my neck and left shoulder have been back talking a little. Seemed to get back into alignment yesterday. Was able to swim most of the workout this morning. Feeling my energy coming back. Almost 100% again.
Doing my qual swim on Sunday. 6 hours in 61 degree or less water. Still my number 1 question- no wetsuit. I have been worried about this swim for about a year and a half. Time to see what I've got. I am actually very excited about it.
4/1/07 Couldn’t Ask for a Better View
The best part of my long swims happens when I’m about 80% through it. Mentally, I’m tired, and physically I ache. This is when the view is so good. When I accept these feelings and just go with the flow, I am able to make tremendous break throughs, physically and mentally. There is no comparison to pushing the boundaries and seeing what it is like. It is the best view; the best seat in the house. I feel invincible and like a kid when the swim is over. I feel sorry for people who do the exact same thing, day in and day out because they have no idea what it feels like to live by a different set of rules.
Today's long swim was the best one yet.
David, Jack, Tim and I did our long swim at Quarry Lake. Barton and Deep Eddie were closed, so we ventured out and headed north. The sun was just coming up when we got into the water, which was breath taking. I enjoyed seeing the ducks swimming in the moonlight. It was very surreal.
We swam 10 miles – just shy of 22 laps. 4:38. Our last 10 miler was 4:37, so we are right on track. I went back later in the day to swim with a friend and did another 22 min- 5 hours total.
David is the master of pacing. We hit 12 min for each of our laps. We held it steady and consistent. I start off strong and tend to fade. David starts out strong and holds it there. Smart.
The water was beautiful today- I enjoyed seeing the rays of sunlight shining through the water, hitting the turtles, rocks, and submerged car. I was really thankful that the lifeguard at Deep Eddie overslept!
Swimming 10 miles in quarry is different than a 10 miler in Barton or Deep Eddie. The straight swimming without any turns makes a noticeable difference. I really felt the swim in my shoulders, hip flexors, lower back, and ankles. I am also more tired than usual – maybe from less rest on the walls and turnarounds.
Friday and Saturday’s swims were also incredible. Friday morning, I had the kind of workout you dream about having. My training plan was validated without question. We did a set of 15 X 100s, long course meters, with decending intervals. Not only did my times improve as we got further in the set and had less rest, but I had more endurance than I’ve ever noticed before. My first 5 were 1:18s, the next 5 were 1:16's, then I hit 1:14 X 3, 1:12 and 1:11 in that order. I was able to hold my own and felt really strong. It was a rewarding and satisfying workout.
Saturday we hit the 54 degree water again. It was easier than last week… wow! This training stuff really DOES work!
Jack, Michelle, Henry, Tim and I decided to give it a try. When I woke up Saturday morning my stomach was a little upset in anticipation of what was ahead. The rain had stopped, so I had no excuse. I had to go do a cold swim. Ughhhh. Jack called to see if I still wanted to go. "Let's do it!" My words said one thing but my body said something else. Conflict.
As we stood in the water, I think we were all waiting for someone to bail. If one person had chickened out, I am quite certain the rest of us would have as well. I know I would have. We dove in. And as expected, it was a rush. My lungs constricted and I got that ice cream headache. Keep swimming, keep swimming.... In spite of it all, I realized the last week was harder. I slowed down my mind and just embraced it. After that I didn't think about the temperature. We swam downstream 20+ minutes and touched the turn-around spot and headed back. I really enjoyed just stopping and looking around. The air was crisp and clear, spring had sprung, and everyone was laughing and having fun. I am so lucky.
I am right where I want and need to be. Not much I'd change about my training at this point.
3/26 Losing a Quarter Reaching for a Dime
I had such a fun swim on Saturday with Jack and Michelle. The water temp was 54 degrees and we swam for 47 minutes. I am just amazed at how the body acclimates. I am still really cold when I’m in there, but my body handles it a lot better. I no longer feel cold to the core – just cold.
As we waded into the water, Jack turned around and looked back at the dock as if he was going to bail. Michelle and I stepped in right after him and quickly realized why he was hesitating. That water was cold!
As predicted, Jack dove in first. Michelle then dove in and again, I was alone, standing on the dock watching them swim away. This is the part I don’t like. I know what that cold blast is going to feel like and I have a hard time taking the leap. Ughhh… I went ahead and dove in, too.
I got the ice cream headache and freezer burn feeling on my skin before I even got to the bridge. This was not the time for pretty form- I just had to stay in the water. We re-grouped about 5 minutes in to the swim to make sure everyone was okay. We were all now breathing, so we continued on our swim journey.
We picked a dock as a target turn around point and swam out to it. As I slowly and purposely placed my hand flat on the dock, I thought about Ed and Michelle, my friends from England who taught me that tradition of actually touching the turn-around point. I could hear Ed's laughter in my head, “Brilliant”.
We swam back to the dock and checked our watches. We had 10 more minutes to swim. That was when I noticed that I had lost functionality of my hands. I just had these claws that I couldn’t really use. My speech was not slurring, so I stayed in the water.
I realize that I don't necessarily need to swim in 54 degree water to prepare for my swim. However, I want to. When I am cold and tired, I want to remember that I have been colder in my life and that my body can handle being colder. Swimming in colder water now will remove one more obstacle for me later.
Our core temperatures dropped when we got out of the water and got dressed. The shivering began and continued throughout breakfast. My skin felt like it was on fire as it warmed back up. I put my warm hands on my cold face and it REALLY DID sizzle. I haven’t laughed that hard since the last cold swim. This was a fun swim!
Sunday’s swim wasn’t as successful. David was unable to make it so I relied on my own pacing. I’ve gotten a lot faster with all of this swimming, and sometimes I get caught up in the speed. This is a mistake as I need to focus on distance right now. Who cares how fast it is. I got into a good rhythm and took the bait when someone wanted to race me. Bad, bad call as I went too fast and depleted my glycogen stores. I was hitting 6:15- 6:20 for my round trips. Physically I could have probably held this pace for the duration, but mentally, I got too caught up in the race. I cut the swim short at the 5 mile mark when it was no longer fun. I just felt a sense of urgency and felt rushed. The whole idea is to enjoy the journey and enjoy the zen. My mind was racing and I couldn't shift to the peaceful silence that I usually enjoy so much. I knew when I made the call to get out that I would feel bogged down all day with guilt, and that is okay. Not every workout is meant to be perfect and I think sometimes it is better to have some mental wiggle room. I learned a lot from this swim. I learned I need to really focus on my pacing and focus on MY OWN plan. Yes, I won the battle with the guy who wanted to race me, but I lost the war. Depositing 9 miles at a steady pace would have been much more beneficial than schooling some poor triathlete with too much testosterone. Looking forward to next weekend’s swim so I can redeem myself.
3/9/2007 Living the Dream!
Our UT practice was cancelled this morning so Jack, Henry and I decided to brave the cold. The water was 58 degrees and the air was about the same. I got out when my speech was starting to slur and I had lost functionality of my hands. What in the world?
When I pulled up in the parking lot Jack and Henry both said they were disappointed I showed up. They were hoping to cancel the swim. As we walked to the water, there was some talk and laughter around collaborating on our stories and heading to Starbuck's instead. I won't ever forget the look on Jack's face as he stepped in the water, shaking his head. I didn't think we were going to be able to pull it off. I counted down from 10 out loud to give myself a trigger to start swimming. Jack dove in when I got down to the number 5. Henry dove in when I got down to 1. And I stood on the dock by myself trying to talk myself into taking the plunge, too. Peer pressure is a powerful force. I dove in.
The first few minutes took my breath away. I sprinted to catch up (I didn't realize they were wearing fins!) and my lungs were constricted so it was hard to catch my breath. Fight or flight. We stopped 5 minutes in to the swim to make sure everyone was okay. It was an incredible feeling that I can't adequately describe. All of my worries seem to melt away and there is just nothing but us and the water. We were all just laughing. The cold water tends to give you a little buzz in such a short period of time. It is amazing.
Henry and I stopped about 30 minutes into the swim to watch the sun come up. Something colorful caught my eye when we were talking and I asked him what was around his neck. "My Speedo!" he proclaimed. This added a whole new dimension to our swim!
I thought about last weekend's trip to England during my swim. I headed over for the Recognition dinner and had a great experience. In addition to spending time with these phenomenal people, I was able to gather more information and gain a clearer idea of what I need to do in the next 6 months. On my 2 hour train ride from Gatwick to Dover I came up with my 24 week training plan. I included periodization, weekly yardage, long swims, strength, acclimation training, yoga, etc. I am leaving no stone left unturned and want to make sure I give this goal my all.
The dinner festivities were memorable, but nothing stayed in my mind more than Sunday morning's swim. The water temp was 46 degrees and the air temp was around freezing. And it was windy. I have swum in 46 degree water once before with Fred and Gracie. I thought those 40 seconds were the longest of my life. I was delighted to discover that I have come a long way in the past year. 46 degrees was cold, but nothing compared to how it felt last year.
What stayed with me more though was what I learned from the British and German women who swam the channel last year. First of all, these women are thin. I would have expected much more meat on their bones. They told me to acclimate, acclimate, acclimate. It isn't about carrying weight- it is about preparing and getting used to being cold. I also learned that these women are not necessarily tough. They might be tough, but that isn't what came across. Instead I learned that they just seem to be made of something very real and very solid. They didn't swim the Channel for bragging rights or to prove anything. They swam it because it was something they enjoyed doing. How refreshing! These people are investors- not consumers. They give- they don't just take.
On my train ride back to Gatwick I re-evaluated my plan. My biggest challenge will be to immerse myself in the cold in the next 6 months. I think I know what I have left to do.
Jack and Henry- thanks for the great swim this morning and for helping me get to where I want to go.
2/21/2007 9, 10…
I knew something would happen. It always does.
I did my first long swim by myself on Saturday. I knew I relied heavily on David for these swims but I didn’t realize the full extent until I had to swim without him.
My plan was to push the boundaries a bit and tack on a mile to our usual 9 mile swim. Yes, today I wanted to swim 10 miles. 40 round trips. 10 mile swim on Saturday followed by a 10 mile run on Sunday. 10 for 10.
Bite sized pieces. I mentally broke my swim into 4 segments- each segment being 10 round trips. The first 10 were quite delightful. My nutrition was great for the week, so I felt strong and had a fun time with it. As usual, the second 10 were challenging mentally. Physically I felt great, but mentally, I was starting to struggle as I thought about 3+ more hours of swimming by myself. The second 10 are always the hardest for me and I know to keep plugging along as something would change along the way. It always does.
Around mile 5-6, Pat Evoe and James Bonney showed up to swim. This was great. I was making some mental deals with myself, allowing myself to take the easy road and Pat "This is What Champions are Made of" Evoe shows up. How can I cut things short with him around? The guy gives no less than 110% with everything he does….great, just great. Peer pressure is a powerful force.
I did allow myself to alter plans though. Instead of a 10 miler, I agreed to let myself do a 9 miler so long as I started to push the pace more. 10 miles moderate vs 9 miles negative split. My PR for a 9 miler is 4:10, which I've hit twice. I decided to roll up my sleeves and see if I could break 4 hours. This change of pace was invigorating. I enjoyed the new challenge and my attitude shifted.
As I was swimming along, I noticed my childhood swimming friend, Tammy, soaking her feet. How great is that? I knew something special would happen, and it did. I enjoyed thinking about our swimming memories from 30+ years ago. Her smile, attitude and mere presence kept me moving. How could I quit with her around?
I give myself an "A" for form and an "A" for my nutrition, since I held my bi-lateral form and I stopped every hour to feed, even though I was racing the clock.
9 miles. 4:04. I didn't quite break 4 hours but I PR'd by 6 minutes.
I was proud of myself for the effort, but it was clouded by some guilt for not doing the last mile. Next time I will know better and will have learned from this experience. I don't like carrying that guilt around until the next tough swim.
On a side note, the 10 mile run went swimmingly. I was concerned that my energy sources would be depleted from the swim but I felt great. I did the last 10 miles of Jen's marathon with her and she hit consistent 8 min/miles. Jen defies all the rules and I love that about her.
Been kicking at workout this week instead of swimming as my left rhomboid is spasming. As a result, noticed my hip flexors aren't as strong as they need to be. Time to get the PowerCranks out again. Have also been doing a lot of one armed swimming. Now THAT will make you strong.
It is nice to have an interest!
2/11/2007 Train Hard. Win Easy.
Another 9 mile swim completed. 4:12.
Some days the swims are hard mentally, some days they are hard physically, and some days I get cold. Yesterday I had elements of all 3 which made it particularly challenging.
The air temp was in the 40s. I wore a lycra cap, so when the wind hit my head and shoulders I felt all of the cold. There was no where to go so I just tried to embrace it.
The best part was the hard part and the last 400 yards.
I went for a long run with Jen this morning. It is funny for me to be tired and have my upper body be so fatigued when my legs feel so fresh. It is a very foreign feeling. I have learned that you do use your shoulder muscles when running.
"Train Hard. Win Easy." Matt Simms, USNA '90
2/4/2007 Michelle is in!
"So, I am booked for July 8-13th! Am using Andy King. Just sent in my contract and check."
2/3/2007 "It Was a Private Conversation", Lyle Lovett
If ever there was a day to miss a swim, today would have been ideal. I had a knot in my stomach as I was getting ready. The wind chill was 29 degrees and we had a 9 mile swim planned.
Usually I don't have to buckle down until after the swim has started. Today I had to dig deep to get out the door. The long distance swimming is harder mentally than it is physically. I have had a long week and mentally I am exhausted. I just wasn't in the mood to see what I had as I didn't really feel like I had much in reserves. I decided to act like my EC swim was this morning in hopes that my view of what lay ahead would change a bit. I got a little nauseated, so I had to alter my strategy!
In my car I played Lyle and heard "It was a Private Conversation." This was a great tune to have in my head for the swim.
Like always, David was already at Barton when I pulled up in the parking lot. We were both bundled up in our parkas, shaking our heads and laughing. There was some comment about it not being crowded and filtering out the riff-raff. :)
My strategy is to prepare for all scenarios and to leave no stone left unturned when it comes to training. Since the swims are getting easier physically, I wanted to kick it up a notch. I swam the first half of the swim with a drag suit that acted like a parachute. David and I swim the same speed when I do not have a drag suit, so I had to work extra hard to stay up with him. My arms and shoulders ached after the first hour, but in a good way. I took the suit off after 2 hours, due to fatigue and chaffing. I'm sure my colleagues at work wonder why I always have hickies on my neck Monday mornings!
The swim was absolutely beautiful today. It was cold, so the fog was thick and heavy. The water felt warm, except just past the diving board. I let out a little cry every time we passed that area. There were also hundreds of little silvery fish under the diving board. David said at one point he saw a duck diving for fish at the same time a turtle was swimming under him.
Lots of people were out today. At one point in my swim Jack swam really close to me (inches away) and started laughing and waving at me under water. I love Jack! Kurt and Ian were out. As was Jeff W, Steve and Philip.
I give myself an "A" for technique today. My stroke was long and pretty and I kept my head down. I naturally keep my head at about a 30 degree angle. Today I kept my head down and my eyes looking straight down. I can feel the tension in my neck and lower back diminish when I correct my form. I was able to keep a nice, bi-lateral breathing pattern for the entire 9 miles. I felt like a rotisserie chicken on a skewer, rotating from side to side.
I give myself a "C-" for today's nutrition. My nutrition was good for the week, so I wasn't coughing or congested. I ate a good breakfast (wheaties, banana, rice milk). But I made 2 critical errors - 1) I forgot to shake up my fuel bottles and 2) I skipped my last feed. I put Hammergel, rice protein and electrolytes in my fuel bottles. By not shaking them, I left most of the calories in the bottle of the bottle when I stopped to feed. I put myself in a fuel deficit and felt hungry during the swim. I got excited about our clock time (we hit 4:10 again) and didn't want to add time by stopping at the 3 hour mark to fuel. As a consequence, the last 3 laps were not good. My arms were heavy, probably from wearing the drag suit and from running out of fuel. I got dizzy and couldn't keep a straight line very well. He denies it, but I know I held David back at the end as I could hardly keep up with him. I literally ran out of energy. I know better than to do this. This is not a race - the clock time does not matter at all. I should have stopped to refuel so I would have a better swim and so my next workout would be more productive. Next time.
I sang "Private Conversation" during my swim. No one knows what is going on in my head when I am out there. I keep the negative to myself so I don't adversely affect David. There is a lot of self talk to deal with the situation at hand. I talk myself into a lot of things when I am out there- dealing with the here and now & living in the moment, being uncomfortable for just a little while longer, getting that head down, getting in the cold water, acting like I can see France. There is a lot of private conversation during those swims.
1/30/2007 What Champions Are Made Of
9 miles in 64ish degree water without a wetsuit.
I can not adequately describe my satisfaction when I finished Saturday's swim. It is a combination of breaking through barriers and enjoying the little things in life.
This training stuff works.
David and I did our 9 miles in 4:10 without much effort. We just keep watching the time improve, which is fun.
I am so amazed at how the body acclimates. I have been swimming with a lycra cap so that my head doesn't retain any heat. I've also figured out how my body will feel in certain temperatures based on different body weight. Carrying extra weight will slow me down and puts undue stress on my shoulders, but not carrying enough weight will make me colder. Balance is key.
I am also very aware that I need to let go of my anticipation of being cold. When you swim in 64 degree water and you are cold, you naturally expect to be cold the next time you swim in the same conditions. The beauty of acclimating is that the body gets used to the temperature and you aren't as cold the next time. Anticipating the cold is just a waste of energy.
I ran the 3M half marathon on Sunday "with" Rob. The wind chill was in the upper 20's/low 30's. I got hot during the run, probably because of my lack of running that distance. While others around me were shivering after the race, I was not cold. I was able to soak my legs in 46 degree water without the fight or flight reaction. Acclimization is awesome! I am no longer the girl who turns the heater on when the temp dips below 70 degrees!
Whitney always tells me to lengthen my stroke and keep my head down. I slowed things down during Saturday's swim to have a pretty technique. My strategy is to practice and prepare as best I can so that everything is automatic when it is time for my Swim. I will just hit the "play" button.
My body has also adapted to the effort. I now recover from these long swims in 2-3 days instead of 2-3 weeks.
I used Monday's workout for some active recovery. Three of us stayed to the end to finish the set Whitney gave us. Pat Evoe was one of the three. Pat's quote kept me in the pool to the end - "This is what Champions are made of". Sally tells me something similar- "the last part is the only part worth doing!"
1/21/2007 Just Keep Moving Forward
We had another wonderful swim this morning. 16 X 1,000s in Deep Eddie. The air was 36 degrees when we started and the water was probably 66-67 degrees. Our time was 3 hours 56 minutes. I thoroughly enjoyed today's training, and my journey continues to be extremely rewarding.
There were a lot of great things about today's swim, but I also made some mistakes, which I hope I learned from. My favorite part of the swim was the glistening of the sun on the water and David's never fading positive attitude.
Jimmy and Jack joined us for the swim and they were great company. It really helps to have friends out there with us.
When we walked from the parking lot to the water you could hear a pin a drop. It was cold and dark outside. There isn't much to say- we were just there to do what we needed to do. I thought I knew what it was going to feel like, and I was just focusing on making it happen.
After much consideration, I decided to wear my lycra swim cap instead of the silicone cap. I needed to be cold today and I didn't want my head to be insulated.
We went through the drill- put our water bottles along the pool edge, put on our caps, goggles, ear plugs and body glide. My feet were cold standing bare foot on the pool deck. I heard David gasp as he jumped in and was not looking forward to my feet hitting the water a split-second later. We sprinted the first length to warm up and then we settled in to our normal pace. This first length was the only time I was cold. This training and acclimization stuff works!
The first mistake I made was with my goggles. I had grabbed a nice, new pair of goggles for the effort. I used anti-fog, but they fogged up immediately. I cleared them after each 1000 but other than the line on the bottom of the pool, I really couldn't see much for the duration. I saw David's shadow next to me, but not the writing on his cap that usually motivates me. Not being able to see much makes for a boring swim. The goggles also dug into the sides of my nose after the first hour. Ouch. Lesson learned- keep using Aquasphere goggles as I know they work for me.
The second mistake I made was with my breathing. My swim coach, Whitney, always tells me to extend my reach more. My challenge is that I have a hard time taking long, pretty strokes while breathing bi-laterally. I just get too winded. The importance of bi-lateral breathing is muscle symmetry and it minimizes the chaffing on my neck. I am constantly working on improving my stroke - long strokes, head down, rotating, but I have a long way to go.
I thought about Amy, whom I swim with at UT. I was in Amy's lane yesterday and she makes it look so easy. I watched her do a 100 free at the end of practice. Her stroke looked so smooth and effortless - and then I saw she swam a 100 yards in 54 seconds. Beautiful! Amy also has a great attitude. She is so encouraging and supportive. What a delightful way to be.
I did a pretty good job with the mental aspect today. There is nothing easy about 16 X 1000s in the cold. After the 2nd or 3rd one, I felt overwhelmed. I also started to fade mentally when we had 10 left. "Only 10,000 left". What?! That is going to take forever! At that point, I pushed out all negative thoughts and only allowed positive ones in. I just focused on the current 1000 and nothing else. My mantra was "More sweat in practice, less blood in battle." I can only get out early if I have given it all I have - I hadn't given it what I had, so I just kept swimming. Just keep moving forward.
My arms and shoulders hurt early today. The discomfort started around my rotator cuffs and moved down my arms and down my back. I made an extra effort to keep good form. Keeping my head tucked down helps a lot. I thought about my last hour in the English Channel. I will need to really buckle down then, so I bit the bullet and continued to give it what I had. The last 1000 was the hardest one.
I was really happy when we finished. I was proud that I stuck with it when it got hard, and I was pleased that we deposited another 16K in the bank.
It is nice to have an interest!
1/1/2007 I Can Only Imagine
I had looked forward to our New Years' Day swim for weeks and it was now time for the adventure. When I got out of my car the air temperature was 38 degrees. Our plan was to do 9 miles. I just blocked out the negative thoughts and went through the motions to swim 9 miles like it was any other day.
Barton Springs was breath taking, in more ways than one. There was a heavy fog on the water which added a mystic feeling to the atmosphere. It was still dark outside, so I looked forward to the sunrise.
Eri and Brian showed up like clockwork. I think Eri swims more than I do. Eri told me last winter if I just swam outside all winter, I would adapt and every winter after the initial winter would be quite easy in comparison. I must note that Eri has minimal body fat. She is the thinnest polar bear I know. When I get chilled I look over at Eri and decide I need to dig a little deeper. Eri was right, by the way. I wasn't cold today. Chilled, yes, but not cold. 38 degree air temp and 68 degree water temp. And windy.
I would not have gotten in the water without David today. There is no way I would have done today's swim by myself. I couldn't ask for a better training friend. He shows up early, with a great attitude, and just makes it happen. I just follow his lead.
Today's swim was extra special. I wasn't cold, but mentally I had a tough go of it and my arms started to hurt about half way through the swim. One of the things I like best about marathon swimming is how supportive the community is. Those that have succeeded turn around and help those that follow. When I faced my challenges today, I thought about all of the supportive notes I have received in the past few weeks from those that have gone before me: Sally, Birgit, Terry, Mike. As I swam alongside David, I felt like those friends were on the other side, pulling me over to where they are. David was showing me the way. It was a very powerful feeling.
I usually wear a lycra swim cap because it makes the water feel colder than it is. Today I took the "easy" route and wore a silicone cap. It was quite toasty! The secret to staying warm is keeping your ears covered.
The swim started to get hard at about the 4 mile mark. I tried to just "be", hoping something would fall into place to make things a little easier. It did. A handful of friends showed up to support us. Not only did Jeff swim with us, but he came back after his bike ride to cheer us on for our last mile. Brian stopped by to wave us on before his big roadtrip. Liz was there. David's wife, Leslie, stopped by and swam with us for about a mile. She made us pick up the pace! Laura brought her family by to support us. The prize of the day goes to Laura's son. I am guessing he is about 3 years old. At one turn he was fully clothed, standing at the water's edge. 7 minutes later at our next turn, he was just wearing a shirt, no pants. 7 minutes after that, he was down to his skivvies, knee deep in the water. You have to love that kind of spirit and sense of adventure!
The Polar Bears were out in full force today. Over the duration of our swim, we watched about 100 people come and jump into the Springs and then turn around and sprint out as fast as they could. Some were even jumping off the diving board. The best part is watching their faces when they hit the cold water.
With 3 miles to go, David suggested I think about the last 3 miles of my Channel swim. That is when the tides turn and when I will need to give it all I have. I was tired and my arms hurt. Oh well. We picked up the pace and had some fun with it. I started singing Mercy Me's "I Can Only Imagine". Focus on being successful. Focus on making it happen.
Another swimmer joined in with us for the last mile. I didn't know who it was, but we picked up the pace even more. When we finished, he introduced himself as Jamie Tout, the other English Channel swimmer in Austin! What an honor to swim with David and Jamie. Just like the others I am following, Jamie was extremely supportive and helpful.
9 miles. 4 hours, 20 minutes. Water temp 67-68 degrees. Air temp 38-50 degrees. Another key swim deposited in the bank.
12/22/2006 Because Smiths Try Harder
My 2 nephews visited Austin last weekend for the 10 year old's birthday. We ran the Jingle Bell 5K to celebrate. It was their first 5K and I was honored to run with them.
The Jingle Bell run has 2 events- the kid's K and the 5K. They both looked at me with puzzled looks when they discovered they had been entered into the longer of the two events. When asked about it, I told them we were doing the 5K because Smiths try harder. I learned that phrase from the other swimmers in my family. Boy did I gleam inside when they accepted that answer.
The boys had a great time pushing their limits, seeing what they were capable of. It was a wonderful experience and we look forward to next year's event.
12/17/2006 Do the Best You Can
David and I put in our weekly 12K yesterday. The air temp was in the 50's, so the training was about endurance and not about being cold. We are planning to ramp up the yardage beginning January 1st. Hopefully it is cold then. Our swim was extra special because we had some good company for it. Sally, Jeff, and Chuck all came out to put in some yardage with us. Sally swam between David and I and influenced us to push the pace a bit. It was a solid swim and I was glad to be out there.
I was hit by a car 2 weeks ago while riding my bike. I landed on my head, shoulder, hip, hand and knee. I've had a difficult time swimming with the limited range of motion in my shoulder and the pain in my hip and back, ecspecially when I rotate. The doctor said I should be back to where I was in 6 weeks or so. One day at a time... doing the best I can with what I have to work with.
As Rocky says, "It isn't how hard you can hit. It is how hard you can be hit and keep moving forward." Just keep moving forward.
12/2/2006 I Don't Think it is Going to be Crowded Today
When I drove into the parking lot I saw 2 other cars. One was David's and the other belonged to the lifeguard. The outside air temperature was 40 degrees. As we walked to the water David mentioned that he didn't think the water would be crowded today :)
I am getting better at facing these cold water swims. Last December I would have a difficult time sleeping the night before, I would sleep in a lot of layers so I would be hot, and I turned the heater in home up very high. If I was going to be cold swimming, then by-golly I was going to be hot before hand. Guard rail to guard rail.
It is still difficult to get in that water, but I no longer have a stomach ache thinking about it and I don't think about it until I am facing it. Last December I would fret about it for days before the swim.
As we were getting out our swimming gear David hesitated a moment. I asked him if he had forgotten something essential, hoping for the best (that he had left his goggles or swimsuit at home). He laughed and said he had the same feeling when I drove into the parking lot. He had hoped I slept through my alarm clock!
What time is the Master's workout at UT?
We joke about it (actually, we aren't joking - we really mean it!) but we are there for a reason and we have some training to do. David is swimming around Manhattan next summer and I am swimming from England to France.
The English Channel CS & PF and Catalina patches on David's parka motivate me. I am in a good place but I am not where I need to be. There is still some work to do.
We swam 12,000 yards in 3 hours.
I continue to find things I need to work on and I make the effort to improve on them. I try to swim bi-laterally, especially for the longer swims. The challenge in the colder temps is that my lungs constrict and I need to breathe more frequently than the bi-lateral form will allow. I do the best I can with it and make sure that when I warm up I don't forget to get the bi-lateral training in.
Nutrition is a challenge for me when I am cold. After the first hour I realized I had forgotten to eat breakfast. I knew I had to get fuel in for the 12,000 yard effort but I don't like stopping when I am chilled. I made the effort to do the right thing and it paid off in the last hour.
Mentally things are falling into place. It is rather mind-numbing to swim for 3 hours, but I am learning how to make it happen without draining my mind. I focus on the here and now and not on the entire swim all at once. I only allow positive mantras into my thinking and I do not let myself think about all of the other things I need to do today. "Here and now."
I have never been more aware of temperature than I am right now. I am getting used to being chilled and my body continues to adapt. My feet went numb today and my arms and head were cold. It was uncomfortable for the duration but not overwhelming. Slow, steady progression.
My shoulders and arms made themselves known with 1800 yards to go. That is perfect. Let's stress them for a mile and push the boundaries a bit.
David and I pushed the last 1000 and it flew by. We are the same speed so it is really fun. His SwimStong cap is a powerful motivator.
Another key swim deposited in the bank!
11/30/2006 I'm In!
Needless to say, I was quite flattered by Pam LaBlanc's write-up in the Austin American-Statesman on Monday on my Catalina Channel swim. The swim was hard for me so I've blocked out a lot of the memories. The article and thoughtful notes from friends has allowed me to reflect back and pull the positives from the experience. Thank you!
You can imagine the types of thoughtful notes I have received, especially since my photo was on the front page of the paper above the headlines. The response that stands out most in my mind was from my friend, Tobey. While everyone was telling me I was crazy, Tobey decided she is swimming the Catalina Channel next year. Bring it on! No wonder we are friends. I like how Tobey operates!
11/17/2006 The Season Kick off
I woke up at 4 this morning and couldn't go back too sleep because I was too excited about this morning's cold water swim. While most sports seasons are winding down, Gracie and I are just kicking off our season.
When I pulled into the parking lot at the low water crossing I had that familiar, wonderful feeling. I knew the swim was not going to be a cake walk, but I knew I would be in a really great mood when I finished. Kerstin was already there, smiling.
We walked down to the water's edge and it was pitch dark, with thick, thick fog covering the lake. The air temp was in the low 40's and the water temp was about 65 degrees. I knew I would warm up as soon as I started swimming.
We donned our silicon caps, our goggles, and our flashing lights. Away we went!
The laughing started when we ran into some fishermen in the darkness. One said to the other "See, there are those sea monsters I told you about."
I love swimming in the dark. It is just me and my thoughts. I find it really calming and grounding. This morning was no exception.
The coldness started when I got out of the water. I quickly took off my wet swimsuit and put on dry clothes but it didn't help. My hands and feet went NUMB.
Kerstin had set up a wonderful tailgater for us for after the swim. We stood there drinking hot chocolate with whipped cream in the parking lot of the low water crossing. What a way to start your day!
As I stood there my hands and feet slowly warmed up. The numbness was replaced by burning. I had forgotten what it was like to be that cold. We just laughed about it!
It is nice to have an interest!
11/11/2006 Letting Go of Time
David and I had another great swim this morning. A cold front blew in last night so we were cold on the pool deck as we were getting ready. We have the routine down: strategically place our fuel at the 1/8 mile marker, put on our silicone caps and goggles, put in our ear plugs, quickly strip off our layers of clothes, and get into the water and start swimming without allowing any second thoughts to enter our minds. If I stop to think about the craziness of swimming in the cold, I will more than likely bag the workout.
As I simultaneously felt the brisk 51 degree air on my skin and the extra special refreshing 68 degree water on my feet, I jokingly asked David if he wanted to skip the swim and head to Starbucks. It would not have been hard to convince me to do that today!
20 round trips. 5 miles. That is all I had to swim today. Time to get in and swim.
As I dove in, I laughed as I felt the uncomfortable sensation from the cold water. Here we go!
I actually warmed up quite quickly. I was not cold after that moment (until I got out). I am still amazed at how the body acclimates. I've dropped some of my extra weight but I was not cold. Sweet!
For me, the secret of having a successful long swim is to let go of time. It has become much easier to do this, but it is by no means easy. I usually have a moment during the swim where I think about cutting it short. The remaining duration just seems too overwhelming and I want it to be over. I have learned to acknowledge the feeling and then immediately shift my thoughts to something positive.
Today I thought about my friend Laura. Laura is a mother of 4 whom I swim with at UT. Laura shared with me that a few weeks ago she took her 6 year old daughter swimming at Barton before the sun came up. Apparently her daughter had the time of her life and was just thrilled with her experience. How can you not embrace the experience of swimming at Barton Springs in the dark?
The best part of today's swim was the guy jumping off the diving board. David's and my swim path goes right in front of the diving board, so we have to alter our course if anyone wants to dive. I don't know which made me smile more- the fact that a grown man was jumping off the diving board on this early Saturday morning or that he appeared to be in his 80's! I love this place!
10/23/2006 Those are Dolphins, Right?
Dell sent me to Kona as Dell's ambassador for the Hawaii Ironman. I did my first triathlon 24 years ago, and I still get excited about watching these events. There is nothing like it! Endurance athletes are so amazing. They test their limits beyond belief. I still get goose bumps and teary eyes watching the finish line.
I witnessed a lot of memorable events during the week. Other than the earthquakes, the memory that stays with me the most right now was Michellie Jones, the winner. When the media asked her how she felt right after she crossed the finish line. She said: "How do you think I feel? I am the World Champion!" Even though the rest of us are not World Champions, we have a similar satisfaction when we cross a finish line. Few things are more satisfying than extending yourself so much and testing the limits. You fight your battles the best you can. Sometimes you succeed. Other times you just don't have what it takes.
I swam almost every day while in town. It was so spectacular. It was like swimming in an aquarium. I have never seen more colorful fish. One view I had was of about 100 yellow tangs with about 20 black fish sprinkled in. Just beautiful! It was like art.
I had another unbelievable swim on Friday. Anne and I went for an early swim before the Ironmen came out to get their workouts in. As we were stepping into the water, I noticed a ginormous green sea turtle at my feet. I have always wanted to see one of these turtles and there he was- swimming with Anne and I.
We swam out about 30 minutes to say good morning to the people on the Coast Guard boat. As we turned back, we decided to swim fly for the duration of the swim. As we started swimming fly, a pod of dolphins started swimming with us, right off the coast of Kailua-Kona! Anne said they must have thought we were family. I was scared when I first saw the pod. I saw a black dorsal fin and had to make sure there was a pod of dolphins and not a shark looking for breakfast. The fin was between us and shore, and since I am meatier than Anne, I knew if it were going to get someone it would get me!
A few minutes later I swam over a stingray. No kidding!
We also went for a night swim, of course. Jim, Ryan, Brian, Gracie and I all braved the creepy dark waters after the awards dinner. As we were walking to the pier, Gracie asked if I brought lights. I told her I did not bring any with me to Kona but we would be smart and all stick together for safety. I laughed when she told me she had packed night lights in her suitcase but didn't bring them to the swim with her. She brought the lights because she knew she would be doing a night swim while she was here. BAM!
10/14/2006 Put on Your Big Girl Pants and Get in the Damn Water
I swam the Lake Travis relay solo today. 12 miles. 5 hours and I think 49 minutes. There were 4 of us mad enough to take on the endeavor.
Marathon swimming today is what triathlon was like 24 years ago. I shifted my focus from triathlon to swimming due to some foot injuries and now I smile every day, thankful for the change. Someone was looking out for me.
Marathon swimming is so intimate and embracing. It is a small community that is all-accepting and supportive. Swimmers tend to check their egos at the door. They focus on enabling everyone to function at their best. They turn around to make sure those that go behind them have what they need to succeed.
The pre-race meeting was held in the basement of a church. There were about 40-50 relay and solo swimmers sitting around in aluminum folding chairs to get the instructions for the event. There was no microphone or impersonal automation - just smiling faces telling us what to expect for race day.
I like the race day check in procedure. In triathlon, you have to stand in a long line, feeling like cattle, waiting to be branded with a race number that stains your skin for days until you scrub it off. In a marathon swim, you tell the race director "good morning". He asks if you have what you need and tells you to have fun out there. He doesn't have to put a check by your name because he already knows who you are (and the last event you swam).
Chuck, Gracie and Mike crewed for me and they were SUPER!!! We loaded up the boat with turkey sandwiches, Doritos and Oreos (did I mention I love this sport?!) and Gatorade. I put on sunscreen, Bodyglide to prevent chaffing, my cap and my goggles. I took a few gulps of Hammergel Perpetuem and I jumped into the water and swam to the start line.
At the start I saw a team name that really made me laugh: Put on your Big Girl Pants and get into the Damn Water. So true! It is time to step up!
The first 30 minutes were quite delightful. I swam next to some relay swimmers and I enjoyed having some company in the water. The relays switched after 20 minutes, so we got quite dispersed after their switch overs to their second swimmers. I was pretty much on my own after that except when Chuck swam with me. Chuck would get in for 10-30 minutes at the start of each hour to keep me company. His charisma and energy would make anyone go faster! After Chuck finished his swims, he would tease me with an Oreo or Dorito! Laughing is always good.
I have not fully recovered from Catalina so my deltoids and rotator cuffs started back talking after about 3 hours. I backed off the pace and tried to rotate with my hips more to propel forward. Definitely need to do some strength work over the winter.
At around 4 hours I passed a relay team. I stopped and told my crew that few things are more satisfying than being an over weight, middle aged woman passing a young relay team. For the record, I quickly faded after this and they left me in their dust. I know better than to get arrogant - kharma will get you EVERY time!
I really enjoyed being out there today. Life has been pretty fast-paced lately, so I cherished the alone time and the ability to process the thoughts that have been circling in my head for awhile. Few things are better to calm your mind than swimming for 6 hours. It is like hitting the reset button on your computer. A peaceful silence.
The first hour of my swim I am usually coherent, very alert, and playful. Somewhere around the 3 hour mark I fade and go into a meditative state. The rhythm of my stroke is hypnotic and therapeutic. An hour can easily go by without a thought in my head- just a mantra. I had a good idea of where the finish line was, so my plan was to tease my crew and for the last half hour tell them that I smelled something (The Barn). When it was time to start the teasing, I was just too tired to do anything but swim. I relied on them immensely to get me through the last few hours.
The finish felt wonderful. It was much more rewarding than Catalina. In Catalina, I just wanted out. I didn't want to talk. I didn't want to celebrate. I just wanted to go home. I obviously wasn't as tired today as I was in Catalina so I enjoyed the finish. There were 2 large red buoys and lots of balloons on the pier. The people on the near by boats stood up and clapped for me. There were a lot of people standing at the finish line cheering for me. I felt of surge of emotion and held back my tears. Not sure why I was emotional - it is just very draining, physically and emotionally, I suppose.
It is nice to have an interest!
10/8/2006 Kaleidoscope Swim
After 3 weeks of down time, I got back on the horse and had a nice long swim this morning with David and Jack. I was dragging my feet to get to Barton as I was not sure I was ready to push any boundaries quite yet. Mentally I've needed the down time after Catalina.
The swim was delightful!
The air temp was a degree or 2 colder than the water temp, so I felt that all too familiar brisk feeling on my arms as I swam. I was never cold or chilled, it just felt brisk and energizing. It was great!
My favorite part of today's swim was the shimmery glow of the rocks. We had a full moon, and the light on the rocks through the water had a shimmery, marble effect on the rocks below. It was escpecially beautiful when I saw a turtle swim across as the light just lit up his mossy back. We were all out for an early Sunday morning swim.
I thoroughly enjoy swimming with David. He is faster than I, so he thoughtfully slows down the pace to swim with me. Going stroke for stroke with him for 5 miles is much easier than enduring the swim solo. David has a good energy about him, so swimming with him is special. I was also motivated by seeing his "Swim Strong" swim cap with every breath.
Jack is also great to swim with! He shows up with a smile in his Longhorn cap, has a lot of energy and he never hesitates to get in the water. Jack has what it takes!
I am calling this swim the Kaleidoscope swim because as we were getting in the water David shared that his goggles were so worn out that he could hardly see through them. What is better than having training partners who use their gear so much it wears out? It doesn't get much better than today.
9/17/2006 Escaping from Alcatraz in the aftermath of Catalina
The day after my Catalina Channel swim, Brad and I went to San Francisco to join Ned, Tammy, Greg and Jack for an Escape from Alcatraz swim. I decided to go ahead and swim since I could not transfer my race number to Brad. (Lesson learned- it is better to beg for forgiveness than to ask for permission).
The swim was a delightful experience. There were 800 swimmers, about 10% of us did not have a wetsuit. Being a "skin" definitely puts you in an exclusive club. The Dolphin Club folks invite you in past the front desk and teach you the "tricks" for the swim, and the other "skins" catch your eye and give you the nod of acceptance and approval. "Skins" also trump the wetsuit swimmers. Regardless of how many times a wetsuit swimmer has done the swim, a wetsuit swimmer always takes a lower number in the pecking order when compared to a "skin".
We boarded the boat and motored out to Alcatraz for our adventure. Since I didn't have much left in me after Catalina, I hung towards the back of the boat and was one of the last people to jump into the water. The water was 61-62 degrees. My body was appalled when I first jumped in. My initial reaction was to turn around and get out as it is no longer time to push my limits. I just started "swimming" and things fell into place nicely. I was so slow that I didn't even get to the start line in time for the official start of the race. My arms and shoulders were done swimming before I even got in to swim, so I just tried to relax and let the cold water diminish the swelling in my body. I thought about Gwen. Gwen did Alcatraz a few weeks ago. After much contemplation about what to wear, swam her race with a wetsuit. She then went back out the same day and swam it without a wetsuit. Atta Girl! If Gwen could do this swim, then I can do this swim!
This was my first swimming race to be in the back of the pack. I was swimming with the people who stopped to apologize when they bumped into each other. I was swimming with the people who stopped to take photos during the middle of their race. I was swimming with the people who held on to the kayaks to rest during the middle of their race. It was great!!!
The swim gave me a lot of time to reflect on Catalina. A lot of emotions I had stored in my muscle memory were able to now surface during this swim. While I was in the Catalina Channel, I decided I was finished with swimming. No more cold water swimming, no more isolation, no more English Channel goal. I was done with the madness. When I think back to my swim I get sick to my stomach and I find myself shaking my head thinking I don't ever want to do that again and I don't want to even think about it. I think that is what they call Post Traumatic Stress.
I called Tobey after my swim and told her I was not doing the English Channel next year. I told her I would crew for her but told her to not plan on being on a boat for me.
My body is starting to recover, so those feelings are fading. I will swim the English Channel next summer. Tobey has a theory which I agree with 100%. While you are in such a dark place mentally, you have to suppress any negativity in order to finish. Once you are done, the negative thoughts flood in. This is normal and you will get the fire back in your belly before you know it.
I made a list of my conclusions.
Things I did right:
- Hammergel nutrition works
- used my Scoopers
- greasing up in the right spots before the swim prevented a lot of chaffing
- I picked the perfect crew to help me
- mentally I could not have been stronger
- Acclimization to the cold works
- The long swims we did in Lake Austin and at the low water crossing paid off physically and mentally
- Aquasphere goggles Rock!
- antifog for the goggles works beautifully
- mouthwash is a nice treat while swimming
- I give myself a "B" grade for limiting my worries to only things I could control
- mantras work
Things I need to work on:
- strengthen my rotator cuffs
- do not swallow salt water when swimming
- next time I will take some Aleve before and during the swim
- next time I will have some company in the water to pace me
- next time I will have a song in my head
- next time I will not worry about how much further I have to swim
- next time my feed stops will be more efficient
- next time I will continue to feed and drink when I am cold
I have not been able to lift my arms up for 3 days now, which confirms I gave it what I had. My eyes are still swollen from my goggles, my tongue and lips are raw from the salt water, and I have a painful, large hickey on the side of my neck from my swim suit rubbing.
*** Excerpts from Tobey's email to me after my swim (included with her permission). Her comments refer to her swim Across the NY Sound in August ***
"...I laughed after we hung up. I didn't know whether to be inspired and actually consider swimming the Catalina Channel or to be scared to death and hang up the goggles. That's when I started thinking about my mental right after my swim and said...yeup, she's right on course. During the swim I gave up marathon swimming all together and EVER considering doing the English Channel, Catalina Channel, Swim Across the Sound or ANYTHING else in open water longer than a bath! When I got out, Dave put me on the microphone and asked me how I felt...response: Tired. He asked how it was...response: Rough out there! He later asked me if it was fun, I was shocked when this came out of my own mouth: NO! I said I would love to say it was fun, but it sucked, it was hard and I felt like crap the entire way! I even told my father that I would NEVER do that again, I would never put myself in a situation to be that sick for that long while exercising. It wasn't worth it. Then I told him I would have rather a bullet through my head instead...and that was NOT a figure of speech, I meant every word of it! 24 hours later I decided to cancel Swim Around Manhattan and go back and do Swim Across the Sound again next summer. A week later I signed up to do the English Channel.
Moral of the story, be patient with yourself. It's all part of the cycle. I do have to say, the best part of all of this is the training. D Day is the absolute worst part of it. I figure 1 entire year of fun training out-weights 1 really bad day :) I guess the cups half full here, huh?
I am so proud of you that you stuck with it and made it to the other side. That in itself shows the strength and determination you hold within. Keep in mind, there is a reason more people haven't made these crossings....it's because they are not tough enough! You now have entered a Sorority for REALLY tough people!!!! That's counts for mental and physical. The group is very limited in numbers so take your bow my friend you have achieved greatness!!!!! "
" …It sounds like you are starting to come out of the post-swim haze. It's this black cloud that sits over you for a little while that makes you think of all the negatives. I attribute it to the fact that during the entire swim you are trying to push those thoughts out of your head as much as possible so that you can stay positive and finish. So after the swim when you come to your post-delirium senses, all the negative floods in. It takes a day or two to rid yourself of them and problem solving in your head on how to do it better next time. Then there is a moment where you stop and say...next time, YEUP, next time! That's when you know you're back. Or at least that's how it happened for me.
Two biggest lessons learned: Aleve $7, Anti-Nausea pills $5, Finishing...PRICELESS!!!!! "
9/13 So That is What it Feels Like
I swam my first cold water marathon today in preparation for the English Channel. I swam from Catalina Island to Cabrillo Beach in California, which is over 21 miles. My time was 11 hours, 27 minutes and 29 seconds.
This swim is unique because it starts around midnight. We met our boat pilot on his boat at around 8PM and headed over to Catalina Island. This boat is more like a yacht, so we had the luxury of catching some sleep on the way over.
I went topside after we landed only to discover that I could not even see Catalina Island. The island was only about 25 yards from the boat and I could not see it in the dark. This seemed like such a cruel and unusual joke to play on someone.
After being briefed on the channel rules by my official observer, I put my swim suit on and and got ready for the swim of my life. We put a thick layer of lubricant on my body where my swim suit seams touch my body. This worked perfectly as I only had a slight irritation on my neck when the day was over.
At 12:30AM, I dove into the water, swam ashore and cleared the water. I raised my hand signaling I was ready to swim to Long Beach, and then dove in.
The first hour was wonderful in many ways. Brad was in a kayak on my right so I had the comfort of seeing him with every other breath. Orin was on the boat, so I got to see his smiling face on every other breath as well. The air was a comfortable 63 degrees and the water was 67 degrees. Thoughts of all of the good luck wishes went through my head and I felt cradled as I swam through the darkness.
The phosphorescent ocean was spectacular. I had seen phosphorescence many times in the Navy, but this was the first time to swim through it. It illuminated a lot of marine life for me. During my swim, I saw flying fish, a school of dolphins with 20-30 swimming directly below me, a giant squid, a very large fish that looked like a puffer fish. Along with the marine life comes the 2 jelly fish that stung me and the unidentifiable objects that touched me while I was swimming. This was my first exposure to significant marine life.
I started the swim on the leeward side of the boat. The water was clear and comfortable, and I was having a blast.
After the first hour, my hands and feet started to go numb. I told myself to swim until sunrise and everything would be okay once the sun came up (in 5 hours). I broke the swim into mentally managable segments and confronted one piece at a time.
The exhaust fumes started to get to Brad and I so we had to move over to the windward side, where the water was much rougher. I started swallowing water by accident when I took a breath due to the waves. My stomach started hurting immediately.
The miles kept clicking off and I kept swimming. The water gradually cooled down from 67 to 64-65 degrees by sunrise. By sunrise my stomach was not good. I have never been seasick, so I am pretty sure my upset stomach was from the salt water and not the waves. In any event, this is when I started vomiting. I vomited up all of the contents in my stomach and this continued until I finished the swim.
My Hammergel nutrition plan worked well. I used Perpetuem and Hammergel gel mixed together with some electrolytes mixed in. It gave me sufficient energy and it tasted good.
I was getting colder and colder. I think I shivered and had chattering teeth for about 6 1/2 hours. The water temp just continued to drop as we got closer to Long Beach.
My shoulders started hurting sometime after sunrise and it was hard to mitigate the pain. I swam a lot of breaststroke to try to give my shoulders a break but I wasn't able to generate enough body heat to stay warm. I ended up swimming a pattern of 100 strokes free plus 10 strokes breast for quite some time. I saw Cabrillo beach with every breast stroke breath I took and it looked like I wasn't making any progress, so I switched back to all free and tried to compensate by kicking a lot. Since my shoulders hurt, I didn't have much of a turnover and my body temp continued to drop. Next time I will take some Aleve to help out with any physical discomfort.
I was cold, shivering, teeth chattering, and my shoulders hurt. I so wanted to get out. There is some warped right of passage tradition that prevents your crew from telling you how far you have left to swim and from relaying any messages to you from your friends who have called. When I was having a tough time, I asked Brad if anyone had called to check on me, hoping for some positive energy. He had to tell me that no one called (which was far from true as my voicemail was full).
I got pretty frustrated at this point. Everytime I stopped for a feed, I asked how many more miles but was just told "You're getting closer - keep swimming. We will tell you on the next feed." I needed to visualize what was left so I could wrap my arms around it. I got the same answer at every feed and the sailor in me surfaced. "What are the fancy GPS units for if you can't #$($ing tell me how much farther I have left to swim?!" I just wanted to get out.
I had no connection with the outside world and no idea how much further I had to swim. I was cold and my arms hurt. I was NOT in a happy place.
I vomited a few more times before I felt the 61 degree water. David had told me that it gets really cold for the last 2-3 hours, so I knew the end was near. However, I was not sure if I could tolerate 61 degrees for another 2-3 hours. I then started hyperventilating. I rolled over on my back and regained my composure. I had visions of swimming this far and being pulled so close to Long Beach. At the time that plan sounded just fine with me, but I rolled back over and started swimming again.
When I was told I had 2 nm to go, I still wanted to get out. I could see Long Beach but it did NOT look any closer than it did 4 hours ago.
I just kept swimming.
Orin ecorted me to the beach in his kayak. You think you are going to run when you finally make it. I stood up and walked slowly out of the water. I was shaking uncontrollably, teeth chattering and now hyper-ventilating again. There is a fire station on the beach and they had come down to the beach to watch me finish, not knowing I was having problems. My pulse was 58. They scooped me up, wrapped thermal blankets around me and put me in a truck with the heater on. They gave me hot liquids to help me warm up from the inside. After the swim, I was supposed to get back into the water and swim to the boat so we could all motor back to the dock. The firemen would not let me back in the water, so they drove me to meet the boat.
I do not want to feel the way I felt today again for a very. very long time. I am proud of myself for staying in, but there was nothing fun about today's swim. So glad that is over!
9/11 Two days before the Catalina Channel Swim
Brad and I went for a swim in the Pacific upon our arrival in California. I felt sick to my stomach as I stood in the cold breeze noticing that no one else was in the water. I was cold just standing there.
We slowly worked our way into the water and I discovered that the water really was warmer than the air temperature. The water was probably 65 degrees and I know I can swim in 65 degrees. I was quite relieved.
Brad and I learned about swimming in the surf as we practiced my finish. I wanted to be able to visualize the end when my swim got hard. The waves threw us all over the place. My goggles were ripped off my face twice and my cap was ripped off my head as well due to the sheer force of the water. My favorite cap is now in Davey Jones' locker at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean.
It has been a long time since I was nervous before an athletic event. I did my first triathlon 23 years ago so I've a pretty good grasp of what happens on the race course. I know how to taper, where to keep my heart rate, what is going to hurt on my body and how to deal with it, I know how to disassociate my mind from my physical pain, I know a smart nutritional plan to follow, I know what the finish line is going to feel like, and I can predict my finish time pretty accuratately. The Catalina Channel will be my first marathon swim and I do not know what to expect. I have an educated strategy which I plan on executing, but it is all so new. Being told what something is going to be like is a lot different than actually experiencing it first hand. I plan on embracing the day… errr… NIGHT… and cherishing the fact that never again will I be facing my first marathon swim. I now have a greater appreciation for my friends who tell me they've signed up for their first running marathon or their first Ironman as I understand their apprehension.
Brad, Orin and I will meet John Pittman, my boat pilot, at a pier in LA at 9PM on Wednesday. John will motor us over to Catalina Island and they will drop me off in the water around midnight. Anyone who knows me knows that my clock stops abruptly around 9PM. My biggest concern is swimming past my bedtime. I am keeping my fingers crossed that melatonin and coffee will be very, very good to me.
I am also afraid of the dark. Trying to visualize my swim is difficult. I've a lot of experience swimming in the dark in Lake Austin but I know how dark the ocean is in the middle of the night and I can not imagine jumping into the water and swimming into total darkness.
I am concerned about the cold. The water temp has dropped a few degrees in the past few weeks. The air will be about 60 degrees overnight, and the water temp will start at ~66 degrees and drop to ~63-64 degrees for the last few hours.
And then there is the sea life. I've heard of dolphins swimming with Cat Channel swimmers and I so hope they come join me, too. I am also hoping I get to experience the flying fish. Apparently they hit you all over as they are flying out of the water and it gets really hard to swim- I think that would be fun. Let's hope the jellys and sharks have other things to do while I am out there!
I swam with Ande yesterday and he gave me some mantras for my swim. I won't let any negative thoughts in as I only have enough energy to focus on the positive. It is time for some fun!
After the Catalina Channel swim, Brad and I are meeting Ned, Jack and Greg in San Francisco for an Alcatraz swim. Not sure I will even be able to get my arms over my head. I will swim the Alcatraz swim with a water proof camera tucked in my swim suit - this way I can stop and take some photos of the madness!
It is nice to have an interest!
8/31/2006 DOVER BEACH Matthew Arnold
The sea is calm tonight.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits; - on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand,
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanched land,
Listen! You hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.
Sophocles long ago
Heard it on the Aegaean, and it brought
Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
Of human misery; we
Find also in the sound a thought,
Hearing it by this distant northern sea.
The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth’s shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breadth
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.
Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! For the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night
8/20/2006 To the Pier and Back
16.72 mile swim in 8 hours 45 minutes
8/9/2006 Ironman Triathlon vs English Channel Swimming
- Ironman triathletes are proud to be lean. English Channel swimmers are proud to have insulation.
- Ironman races start at a set start time and date. English Channel swimmers swim during their tide, but they might sit around for 2 weeks and not get to even swim.
- Ironman races have a finish line with a banner. You hear the words “You are an Ironman” over a loud speaker when you finish. Channel Swimmers finish alone, usually in the dark, rarely with the opportunity to get a finisher’s photo.
- Ironmen can quit their race at any time. English Channel swimmers can only quit if their pilot will let them back in the boat.
- Friends and family can check ironmanlive.com to track triathlete’s progress through out the day. Friends and family have to text message the support crew to track progress of a Channel swimmer.
- Voyeurs can check to see how fast their triathlon competition raced on race day. English Channel swimmers can check online at the end of the season to see who made it across.
- Ironmen ask “What was your time and did you qualify?” English Channel swimmers ask “Who is your pilot and did you finish?”
- Ironman nutrition consists of Hammergel and Perpetuem. English Channel nutrition consists of Easter candy and Maxim.
- Triathletes drink Endurox after an Ironman. Channel swimmers drink Guinness.
- Triathletes wake up and sign up for next year’s race the day after their event. Most Channel swimmers say once is enough (in a very colorful manner).
- Both Kona and Dover have a “Dig Me” Beach!
8/8/2006 Falling into Place very Quickly
We had been sitting around for 10 days so when it was time to actually swim the relay, we were all quite relieved. We had a dress rehearsal on Friday, so no one was nervous. It was time to just execute.
We slept in until about 6:30, ate a big breakfast, and met David White at his boat at about 8AM. I was surprised at the lack of urgency or timeliness around our start time. Of course the timing is based on the tides, but it is a very relaxed evolution. We just started when David was ready to take us and after yesterday’s lunch was scrubbed off the deck. It was raining, which made me think of Fred, Gracie, and Tobey. They love swimming in the rain.
We motored around to Shakespeare Beach while Frances got greased up. She dove in and swam to shore, ready to begin our journey. Cliff and Laura had come down to Shakespeare Beach to send us off.
We had decided Frances should start the swim since she had organized everything for us. We then picked names out of a hat. I was 5 out of 5.
In a relay, everyone swims a one hour segment and we rotate through until we reach France. After a swimmer does their hour swim, they swim close to the boat and the next swimmer dives in and overtakes them. Our order was Frances, Simon, Laura, Ed, and then me. David, one of our swimmers, had to unexpectedly leave early, so Ed kindly stepped in and joined our relay.
Nothing out of the ordinary happened that I can report. We just each swam as hard as we could for an hour and then got out. The water felt great – I was never chilled. I did see about a dozen jelly fish but none stung me. On my first leg, I swam through the Separation zone. It was similar to crossing a highway. The cargo ships were traveling right to left in the first lane and then left to right in the next lane. The Coast Guard had been reporting our locations to all of the ships in our vicinity so we didn’t have any close calls. It was pretty cool to take a breath and see a large tanker or ferry steam by. There was also a lot of seaweed floating around in the separation zone, which we just dodged.
We thought I might be able to swim us on our second leg so I gave it all I had. I had visions of timed intervals at our Master’s workouts at UT. I knew how to do this. The wind had picked up and I was surfing the waves. It was fun. I tried to maintain my bi-lateral breathing, but sometimes I didn’t get to breathe due to a wave.
I saw Frances getting greased up so I knew I was not going to swim us in. Frances was going to do the next leg and we were all going to swim in the last 500 yards with her. It only seemed fitting since the relay was her idea.
The winds and tide really picked up and we had a hard time even seeing Frances. Richard (a.k.a. Sid Vicious) launched a dingy and escorted Frances to shore. David, our pilot, thought it was too dangerous for us to all get in, so we just sat tight, proud of our group effort.
When Frances got back in the boat, there was blood everywhere. The waves had just shoved her on to the rocks and she was cut up pretty badly. She got a deep gash in her heel and toe.
After swimming to France, we had to turn around and sit in the boat for the 3 hour ride back to England. It was really, really choppy, so Laura, Simon and I just sat aft and laughed and laughed as we were thrown about.
I was happy that the wait was over and that the swim was behind us, but also slightly sad that it was time to say goodbye to my new friends. Meeting these amazing people meant more to me than the swim did. For the most part, the group is a “roll up your sleeves and do it” kind of people. No mental obstacles.
I was not able to do my 6 hour swim afterall. I had planned on doing it Tuesday after the relay, but ended up going to France with Orin, Terry and Jon instead. How could I refuse this invitation from these 3 dishy blokes?! The Chunnel took us to Calais, where we stopped and shared a French pastry. We then drove to Sangette and ate the most wonderful lunch and drank French wine. We stopped in an old church where we lit a candle, praying that the future holds good things for us.
We also went to Cap Blanc Nez, where Terry landed a few days before. We then went to Cap Gris Nez where Jon landed (twice) and where Orin and I hope to land. We stood on these cliffs and saw England in the horizon. My English Channel recon mission was now complete. It was the perfect ending to the 2 weeks.
8/6/2006 The Most Amazing Thing I Have Ever Witnessed
Birgit swam across the English Channel yesterday in 16 hours 24 minutes. Watching her swim this incredible feat is the most amazing thing I have ever seen. She maintained her composure and held steady emotionally all day. I felt honored to be part of the support crew and I will never forget the look on her face when she stepped foot on France.
We boarded Neil Streeter’s boat at about 6AM and headed off to Shakespeare Beach. Birgit jumped off and swam ashore. She gave hugs to our friends on the shore, raised her arm signaling she was ready to begin, and dove into the water. When she started her swim, we could barely see France in the horizon.
There isn’t much to report on her swim other than she swam, and swam, AND swam for practically 16 ½ hours. She was able to maintain her bi-laterally breathing pattern to the end, and her stroke count held pretty steady (58 at the beginning to 52 at the end). She was conversant and mentally alert for her entire swim.
Birgit made it to the Separation Zone at ~ 6 hours. The Separation Zone is about half way from a mile perspective but far from half way in terms of swimming to France. While Birgit was in the Separation Zone, the tide turned as predicted. We knew she had another 6 hours to get to France until the tide turned again.
There were 4 boats in a caravan crossing together. Birgit stepped off last, so we were able to watch the other 3 boats for about 8 hours. Only 2 of the 4 swimmers in our caravan were successful. One swimmer got seasick and had to get out after 5 hours. One swimmer was incoherent and unresponsive and was pulled about 2 hours from France.
The boat crew could see France from the beginning of the swim, but Birgit didn’t see it until about hour 6 or 7. She was quite excited when she saw it (Duh!).
I would imagine Birgit felt like she was in the Bermuda Triangle or Hotel California from hour 7 on. We could see France, but it just never looked like it was getting any closer. The tides turned after 12 hours and we did not know where in France Birgit was going to be able to land – it just depended on how fast she was swimming and the tides. We just kept going in the general direction and tried to keep Birgit motivated with The Wave and other games.
The sun set after about 11 ½ hours so about 5 hours of Birgit’s swim was in the dark. I can only imagine what was going in her head at this point: it was dark, the water had cooled off, France wasn’t getting any closer, and she had been in the water ALL DAY LONG. (I later learned that she just blocked it out and refused to think about adversity).
Birgit missed Cap Gris Nez so Neil took her around to the other side of the Cap to land. Since the boat couldn’t go in that far, I got to swim the last 500 yards with her. I took a light stick with me held it out on front of us and told her to follow me with the light. The waves and rocks were rough so we had to be careful to not touch each other until there was no water in front of her. The rocks where we landed were horrible. The waves roughly threw us on the rocks/boulders and they felt like sand paper on my skin. My feet and legs got pretty scraped up, but I knew I had NO ROOM to complain!
Birgit had made it! She swam across the English Channel. She sat down on the rocks while I got out the camera to document the moment. We sat their in the dark, alone, for a minute. There was no one on the shore and no one else from the boat had accompanied us. She sat there and absorbed it - she said “I am a Channel Swimmer” with the biggest smile I have ever seen. She did it! She swam across the English Channel. This title was earned 100%.
8/4/2006 The Morning Of
We woke up at 4:15 to get ready to go swim across the English Channel. There was a lot of good energy in the air. Fred sent me two photos: one hook ‘em horns and one of him wearing his goggles. Both made me laugh. As we were getting ready to walk out the door our pilot called and said not today. It is too windy, so we need to hold off one more day.
I am okay with the ambiguity, but I will admit it is nicer to be able to plan. It is hard to know what your workout should be this close to the swim and it is hard to keep perishable food for the boat. One day at a time.
Just got back from swim in the Harbor and learned that 2 Americas are in the Channel right day. They have perfect conditions- the wind is at their back and they are flying! We missed a good opportunity to swim today.
8/3/2006 The Night Before
6PM We are all packed and ready to swim across the English Channel. We walked down to the grocery to get food for the boat and ran into David White, our pilot. David said it might be tomorrow or it might be Saturday. He is going to call us at 8PM tonight to let us know. It is weird to not know when we are swimming. We are just relaxing and waiting.
9PM A group of 12 of us went out for dinner to celebrate our up coming swims. We got the call from David that we Are swimming tomorrow! Looks like we swim the relay on Friday, Berget swims her solo on Saturday, and Orin, Mike and Terry swim their solos on Sunday.
8/2/2006 I Get By with a Little Help from my Friends
One of my favorite parts about cold water swimming is the camaraderie and lack of competition. Rather than trying to compete with other people or comparing times, people use their energy to better themselves and to help each other. Another part I like about cold water swimming is that I have to rely on other people to help me. I am one of the most independent people on the face of the planet, and it is really good for me to have to ask for help and then to have to take it.
Our days still revolve around our morning swims and the call from our pilot telling us when we are swimming. It is like being pregnant I suppose. We have our bags packed and we are just waiting for the call to go swim across the Channel.
David and I met Michelle and Ed at the Harbor at 9AM this morning for a swim. Michelle and Ed told me they were swimming 3-4 hours, so I… gulp… agreed to join them for the duration. I know what it is like to be cold and I know what it is like to swim long, but I wanted to learn what it was like to swim long in the cold. What had I agreed to?!
While we were walking to the water, my head was telling me to swim an hour and get out (because I was cold just standing there) but my heart was telling me to go for it and swim 3-4 hours. I let go of my mental barriers and obstacles and let Ed and Michelle take the lead and show me the way. I was shaking my head thinking to myself: “No shit, there I was…” I thought about Fred and Gracie. I told Michelle and Ed they were crazy for doing these swims. Michelle looked at me and said “It takes a crazy to know a crazy. And you are right here in the middle of it all too you know!” We stepped into the water and Michelle and I counted down from 10. 3,2,1… we dove it. David and Ed were to my right and Michelle was to my left.
The water actually felt good to me but it was extremely windy and it made my arms and shoulders cold from the start. The last time I felt that kind of cold was swimming in Barton in January. I had gotten out early that day so I know what it is like to give in under these types of conditions. Today I was going to learn what it is like to stay with it.
Ed and I swam side by side the entire way. Ed is a student at Cambridge and he is waiting for his tide to swim his solo crossing. Michelle is a traveling nurse from South Africa. Her tide is in about 2 weeks. Today I just relinquished my concerns and fears and followed them. At each turning point, Ed and Michelle would stop to chat for a few minutes. I, on the other hand, kept saying “I have to keep moving” and would swim back and forth until their chat was over. By this time next summer I will be able to stop and chat like they do in the cold water.
Ed also taught me the satisfaction of actually touching the harbor walls at each turn. I had been leery of touching the muscle-clad walls, but I learned it was a nice tradition to actually touch it. At each turn Ed would tell me “Well Done” with his thick British accent.
At the 2 hour mark we decided to go in for a feed. At this point I was shivering and shaking. Ed actually said to me that the water felt like a warm bath to him. NOT to me! I made a deal with myself that I would go up for a feed, warm up a little bit and then go back in to finish my swim.
Getting out of the water is hard due to the sharp rocks and pebbles (shingles). I was slowly exiting the water and Michelle yelled at me to stay where I was and she would get my shoes and feed for me. She would NOT let me go get my towel to warm up. As I stood their drinking my Maxim (and shaking) John came down to say hello. I so wanted to go take a hot shower. I thought about John doing his 2 crossings. I thought about Emily and Berget and their 5-6 hour swims. I thought about the chap whom Freda made get back in the water. They did it, so I can do it. I turned around and dove back in.
Ed and Michelle soon joined me. I picked up the pace to try to generate more body heat. At the 3 hour mark my back and shoulders told me they were tired. The water was really choppy and rough due to the strong winds, so it was hard to swim. I tried to share my energy with the elements instead of fighting it - Just ride the wave and glide though the water as best I can.
We just kept swimming. 3:31 was my swim time. I was so proud of myself when I crawled out of the water. I was cold, I was tired, and I was hungry. What a great exercise session!
When I got back to the flat, I learned that our pilot had called. We are now scheduled to swim Friday morning at 5:30. I will rest tomorrow so that I have energy left for the relay. I laid down and slept for over 10 hours!
8/1/2006 Day 4 in The Channel Relay House (a.k.a. Real World)
There are 6-7 of us sharing a 1 room flat in Dover. There is hardly any room to turn around and we are laughing a lot about it. The girls are teaching me British slang. “Dishy” is my fav – it means cute or attractive. My second favorite word is “undercrackers”.
Last night I went for a night swim in the Harbor. I tried to get the others to join me, but my powers of persuasion do not work in this country so I had to swim solo. Laura pinned a lightstick on my costume (swim suit) and I swam to the Harbor wall and back. Frances and Berget walked alongside me on the shore to make sure I was safe. I LOVED seeing the lights from the light houses shining. It was such a fun swim that I could hardly sleep when we got home.
We had another great swim this morning and met even more amazing people. I woke up early and wanted to swim so I did not wait until the usual kick off time of 9AM. I headed down to the Harbor and dove in at 8. I was nervous to swim alone and was relieved to see another swimmer already swimming. I joined him and proceeded to swim 2:22. My training last Sunday helped a lot. I felt very alone in this big body of water (the other swimmer got out after about 10 minutes) but I put my head down and pretended I was heading towards France. I could actually see France from the Harbor Wall, so it was easy to imagine this.
While I was waiting for the other swimmers to finish their swims, I met Michelle. Michelle is doing her solo at the end of the month. I am going to meet her Saturday morning and try to see what a 6 hour swim feels like. I so hope our relay swims on Friday so I can do this with her.
I also met Terry, John, and another Terry from Australia. Terry, John, and I met up for another night swim. John has swum the Channel twice, and he and Terry have come out to support their friend for his solo crossing. Terry had a stroke 15 years ago and his wife was told he would not make it through the night. He started swimming and now he is attempting his solo swim. They took me out for a Guinness at the White Horse pub after our swim. I saw where John has signed his name on the wall, twice.
7/30/06 Swimming in the Rain
8AM: We are getting ready for our Sunday swim with Freda and it is pouring down rain outside. Tobey and Fred taught me how to swim the rain! BAM! I am so excited to go swim!
8PM: What a great day we had in Dover! Ended up swimming 2:15. The water was ~64 degrees and the air was a little colder, maybe 60 degrees. Freda told us to swim 2 hours, so away we went. Laura, Simon and I swam together for the first hour. We swam from the pier to “the rings” and back again. At the hour mark, Laura got out and it was just Simon and I. I had been lifting my head periodically to spot to make sure I was going straight, but the water was too rough to see ahead of me. I just put my head down and just kept swimming. We were madly bobbing like a cork in the Harbor and it was fun.
I am so excited that I was not cold today. I was chilled, but I was not cold. I never shivered and only my left foot was numb. The numbing starts at the toes and slowly moves up your leg. It never made it past my heel today.
At the 1:48 mark I told Simon it was time to turn back because we were about 10 minutes out. Simon asked if we could just swim to the rings and back instead of turning back. This added 15 minutes to our swim. Simon is cut from the same cloth as Gracie since she is the other person I know who adds on to the plan!
When I handed my cap back to Freda, she told me “Well done, Lynne.” It is not every day that you get praise from Freda. I was so proud!
As we were leaving Emily and Berget were heading back in for the rest of their swim. Emily had 3 more hours to go, of a total of 5 hours. I found myself wishing I could go with them but decided I needed to be conservative right now.
We stopped back by the Harbor on our way to Shakespeare Beach. Shakespeare Beach is where the swim actually starts. One poor chap was walking out of the water just shaking. Freda got out of her chair and yelled at him “Get back in that water you Bastard. There isn’t anything wrong with you!” OMG! The guy turned around and dove back into the water. I stopped by an hour later as he was getting out of the water. I felt for him and I know how cold he was. When he didn’t think he could go on, he turned around and went one more hour. He did it and it will pay dividends. His tide is at the end of the month.
7/29/2006 Swimming with General Freda
I arrived in England on Friday, anxious to meet my relay team and eager to swim across the English Channel with them. My friends at home were teasing me because I met this group on the internet and mailed them a large check without knowing them. I was quite relieved when I discovered they were real and they are all very strong swimmers. I knew my time in Dover was going to be a once in a lifetime experience.
Freda, the General, meets everyone in the Dover Harbor every Saturday and Sunday at 9AM. I went down for the Saturday swim with Mike Humphreys, a friend from Seattle, who is doing his first solo during the same tide. There must have been about 20 people there to swim. I as in awe as I stood with this group, getting ready for our swim. Allison Streeter was mingling about. Ali has swum across the Channel roughly 40 times – she is known as the Channel Queen. She is a very unassuming lady, with a never ending smile. There was a mixture of amazing people on the beach- different ages, nationalities, and body types. The only common variable was a he smile on everyone’s face.
The first step in the process to swim is to check in with Freda. Freda inspects you, analyzes where you are in your training program and tells you how long you are going to swim for. (I was told to swim and hour and a quarter.) You are then issued a CS&PF (Channel Swimming & Pilot Federation) swim cap with a number on it. At 9AM, everyone walks down these painful rocks, a.k.a. the shingles, and dives into the water. The routine is to swim back and forth in between the piers for as long as you were assigned to swim. En route to the water, I made a stop to see Barrie, the Shingle Stomper, an asked him to put Vaseline on me to prevent chaffing. Mike and I dove in together and away we went.
I had the swim of a lifetime! I really enjoyed the buoyancy of the salt water and feel of the salt water on my skin and in my mouth. I also had fun bobbing in the undulating ocean waves. I definitely need to work on getting my sea legs back 100% before next year though as I can easily see how I could get sea sick after hours and hours of that motion. The water temperature was perfect! It was about 64 degrees, which is exactly what I am trained to swim in. The air temp was in the mid 60s and felt equally comfortable. It was easy to find a rhythm during my swim. When I took a breath to the right I could see the breakwater that leads to France. When I took a breath to the left I could see the White Cliffs of Dover. I missed Fred and Gracie.
When I got out of the water, Barrie, the Shingle Stomper, brought me shoes to wear up the beach. The beach is lined with little rocks called shingles that are quite painful to walk on.
Around noon I met the majority of my relay team: Frances, Laura and Simon. David, our 5th swimmer, is arriving from NZ on Sunday. Frances rented a flat for us in downtown Dover, which was perfect. We quickly became friends over lunch and then headed down to the pier to meet our pilot, David White. David is one of the most experienced pilots around- he is the pilot for Kevin Murphy, who just swam across the Channel for the 34th time. David said it is likely we will swim on Wednesday, so we’ve a few more days to acclimate and rest.
After meeting David, the pilot, we went for a group swim. Laura, Frances, Simon and I are all about the same speed. There is actually a strategy for the order – you want your strongest swimmer to be 4th because that is when it gets the hardest. Since we are all about the same speed, I am not sure what the order is going to be. I also seem to be the only person who is concerned with the order.
The family who is staying in flat above us stopped down to introduce themselves. Piyush is 15 years old and is getting ready for his solo swim. The Channel rules state you have to be 16 to swim, so he is scheduled to swim at the first tide after his 16th birthday. He is headed to Zurich this weekend to swim a 22K while he waits for his birthday and his tode.
That afternoon, we stopped at the grocery to stock up on supplies for the house and the boat. Here is what we bought for the relay:
- Syrup to flavor the Maxim
- Ginger cookies
- More cookies
- Chocolate rollups
- Hot chocolate
Rest assured, I know all of that sugar would play havoc on my system, so I am sticking with my Hammergel. I can’t imagine eating straight fructose!
We decided to go to the local Italian restaurant for dinner, as a celebration for our first night together. There were two girls at the table behind us who are getting ready for their solos swims. They were laughing during their entire dinner. I met one of the girls, Berget, at the Cold Water Championships in London in January. What a small world. Berget lives in Germany and Emily lives in London. The two girls had been meeting in Dover every weekend since May to train together.
This town is buzzing with Channel swimmers and Channel want-to-be’s. Naturally, there is a pecking order: the experienced Channel swimmers who come back to help their friends are on the top of the food chain, those preparing for their solo swims are next in the order of merit, and the relay swimmers are at the bottom. The other question you are asking is: Who is your Pilot? It is equivalent of asking someone what their Ironman time or what their salary is.
July 23, 2006 The Twelve Miler
Really had a tough one today. 12 miles in 6 hours 9 minutes. I could not have done this swim without Gracie's support. Gracie was great out there! She smiled the entire time and I felt very safe with her keeping the lookout.
Gracie and I met under the 360 bridge a little before 4AM this morning for my swim. We laughed when we discovered that parking WAS a problem. I guess the fishermen spent the night on the water.
The first 75 minutes of my swim were tough. I felt a sense of urgency and I was very anxious. Doing a night swim solo is a lot different than doing a night swim with a friend. Taking away the ability to see, even if just while taking a breath, adds a whole new layer of challenge. It was dark and pretty much the only thing I could see for the first 2 hours was Gracie's lights. I wanted to turn back so badly! At times I would swim a few strokes of breaststroke mixed in with my freestyle in an attempt to get my bearings. I took an inventory: I was not sleepy, I wasn't tired, I wasn't hungry, nothing hurt, I wasn't cold, I was just mentally uncomfortable because I could not see. I started thinking about Catalina. The Catalina Channel is DARK, so I have to learn how to do this. I am not sure how I am going to feel comfortable swimming in the dark thinking about sharks in Catalina, but I will worry about that at another time.
Instead of turning around to get out of the water, I started thinking about people who have recently faced their challenges:
- Gary who called at 4AM to wish me luck. He was heading out for a solo 6 hour ride so we had a mental connection.
- Sally just swam across the English Channel. 18hr 52min. Can't imagine doing anything for 19 hours. Bloody Brilliant!
- Katie. She just swam across the EC after 2 unsuccessful attempts. She threw herself at the challenge for 3 years. What tenacity and determination.
- Kevin Murphy, King of the English Channel. Just crossed the EC for the 34th time.
- Michelle was going to start her Ironman in a few hours
- Fiona and Molly are now swimming with their faces in the water
- Tobey is starting her taper to set the record while swimming across the NY Sound
- Gwen swam Alcatraz with a wetsuit and then turned around the next day and swam it without one. Love it!
Just keep swimming.
I started singing the song "Unwritten" and I found my rhythm. "Live your life with arms wide open... the rest is still unwritten." Gracie and I made our way from the 360 Bridge down to the Hula Hut in the dark.
I swam for over 2 hours in the dark before the sun peaked out. Watching the sun come up was spectacular. The sky was pink and I felt like Gracie and I got to witness this beautiful miracle while everyone else was sleeping. I just kept on swimming.
After almost 4 hours of swimming, I saw the 360 bridge in front of us. What a rewarding feeling! 9 miles down. 4 hours 24 minutes. We had less than 2 hours to go to reach my goal. Just keep on swimming.
We crossed under the bridge and headed down towards Mansfield Dam. At 4:45 I hit the wall and I hit it hard. I hadn't been fueling much and I think it caught up with me. I could barely get my arms out of the water. I felt like I was at the end of an Ironman. Just Exhausted. Fred's words resonated in my head: "The Best Part is the hard part." Just keep on swimming. At this point I relinquished any control I had and let Gracie take over. My job was now to just swim. I was too tired to spot, so I relied on her 100% to watch out for boats for us. I was too tired to check my watch, so I relied on her to make me fuel. I was in new territory and I was exhausted. Gracie's idea to make me fuel more frequently worked. I drank 16 oz of the Hammergel / Perpetuem concoction and found a second wind. My energy was coming back but my shoulders were aching. I focused on my stroke and found that if I had high elbows and I rolled the pressure in my shoulders was relieved. Hmmmm... Whitney knows what she is talking about! :) I guess those Olympic medals were earned!
I just kept on swimming. 6 hours 9 minutes. 12 miles.
I learned a lot from this morning's swim:
- If you are uncomfortable, just stay with it because something will eventually change
- Sometimes our mind is the only thing that holds us back
- Being eaten by a shark will be the least of my worries in Catalina
- If something hurts, focusing on good form helps
- Sometimes it is the little things, like watching the sun to come up, that are the most rewarding
- Chaffing happens!
- Spit works just as well as anti-fog
- Muscles of the Day: Lateral Deltoid and rhomboids
- Wish I were a kicker!
- Whenever I think I am done, I can always find the energy to give a little more
July 21, 2006 Go Sally! Go!
Fred, Gracie and I met Sally Goble at the Cold Water Championships in London in January. One of the highlights of the trip was spending a few hours with Sally hearing about her English Channel training experiences. She told us about training with Freda all summer and about TBC (total body confusion). She would meet Freda every weekend and never knew what to expect. Some days Freda had her swim 1 hour in the Channel, sometimes she had to swim 7 or 8 hours. Unfortunately, Sally was not successful in her first attempt to swim the Channel. After swimming for over 21 hours, Sally had to get out. Anyone who swims for over 21 hours in 60 degree water is amazing to me.
I checked my email before meeting Gracie for a swim this morning and learned that Sally is in the water making her second attempt to cross the Channel. I am sure she is enjoying her snacks of Candbury chocolate during her feedings. You have to love this sport!
Gracie and I had another Epic swim ourselves. We started off on our 90 minute swim and I was cold. I checked my watch and discovered we had only been in for 10 minutes. It wasn't bone deep cold, but it was the surface cold that makes you want to get out. My head was cold. A lot of my body heat was dissipating through the lycra cap I was wearing. I thought about the fact that I have been colder before. Much colder. I thought about Sally. I decided to break the swim into little segments and reassess my comfort at each little interval. Gracie and I have different gifts: I swim faster but Gracie can swim in colder water. When Gracie and I swim together, our routine is for me to take 100 strokes and then turn around and regroup with her. Since I was cold, I purposefully didn't talk to her or try to establish eye contact when we regrouped. I wanted to stay in the water and I didn't want to know if she was cold or not. I wanted to just put my head down and deposit another long, cold water, night swim in the bank. I am headed to Dover next week for a relay and I need to be able to swim in cold water when I am uncomfortable.
Around the 45 minute mark Gracie popped her head up with that dynamite smile and laugh. She said she felt great, as always.
We deposited another successful swim in the bank. 1:36 in 63 degree water.
We will be tracking Sally all day and sending her all the vibes we can. Go Sally!July 9, 2006 And Another Key Swim
I started exercising again 5 weeks ago and I was not sure where my fitness or endurance levels were until today. Kelly is swimming across Lake Geneva in 3 weeks after she takes the BAR exam. Most people get drunk and take a trip. Kelly swims. No wonder we are friends! In any event, Kelly asked if I wanted to do a long swim with her in Lake Austin.
As we were counting down for our start Kelly turned to me and said with a smile: "It is nice to have an interest!"
The first time I swam to the bridge and back last fall I was beside myself. It was such a battle mentally to do the distance. Today, I discovered that instead of getting stronger mentally, I've taken down some mental obstacles and am just more liberated. Mental toughness and fortitude are no longer required. I swam 9.5 miles today (4:31), which is my longest distance to date. I also hit the 8.5 mile mark with a 9 minute PR (4:03). Today's swim was not a mental challenge for me. I watched the sun come up, I waved to the fishermen we swam past, I sang country songs the entire time. I had a blast today and no one wanted to be out there more than I did.
It IS nice to have an interest!
July 7, 2006 Another Key Swim
Since UT was closed today, Gracie and I decided to do a long swim at the low water crossing. When I pulled up at 5:20AM, it was pitch black. I remembered Fred's comment from our cold water swims over the winter: It isn't like parking is going to be a problem.
I was nervous to start the swim. The water was cold (63 degrees) and I couldn't see anything. As we started walking into the water I felt a heavy knot in my stomach. I was questioning the sanity of this workout and needed some reassurance as to why we were doing it. I turned to Gracie and asked her what she was thinking about. Her response was "I am thinking that it is too dark to even see the water!" We definitely have different things going on in our heads! I was scared and she was blind. Great combo!
We dove in and away we went. Swimming through the duck weed in the dark was a new sensation. I was hyper aware of everything I touched and everything that touched me. I felt like a kid who was afraid of the Monster under my bed. Are you SURE nothing is going to get me?
I spotted a yellow light on the horizon and aimed for it, turning back every 5 minutes to regroup with Gracie. As the sun was coming up, we saw this elegant blanket of fog ahead of us that spread across the width of the lake. It was so bizarre as it was limited to one little patch on the lake. As we approached it, I saw a family of ducks swimming out of the fog. And the sunrise. The sunrise was just splendid. I was so glad I had made the effort to come out and experience this.
At the 24 minute mark I started to get chilled. The cold water slowly began to seep in. By the hour mark my feet were numb and my teeth started to chatter. Gracie, the Eskimo, even told me she was cold. I wasn't so cold that I was miserable, but I was cold enough to be uncomfortable. I decided it was the perfect situation to be in if I wanted to acclimate. I tried to just be and absorb the feeling. Just keep on swimming.
My plan had been to swim out 15 minutes and then back 15 minutes and repeat this 3 times. I wasn't brave enough to venture out too far from the bridge. I wanted to stay close to my exit. At the 20 minute mark I asked Gracie if she was ready to turn back. No Lynne, let's keep going and turn at 45 minutes. The problem with swimming out 45 minutes in 63 degree water is that you have to swim back 45 minutes in 63 degree water. It was a great idea. Thanks for getting me out of my comfort zone Gracie!
I waited for Gracie 25 yards from the boat ramp so we could finish up together. Instead of turning in, Gracie just kept going. She certainly marches to the beat of her own drum and she always gives what she has to the workout! I ended up swimming for 1:35. I think Gracie had 1:40.
Today's swim was perfect! One more key swim deposited in the bank!
2006: The Year of Swimming
2007: The Year of THE Swim
July 1, 2006 First Solo Swim of 2006 was a Success
We just received word that the first English Channel swim of 2006 was a success. Nancy Douglas swam in 11:16. The air temp range was 57-75 degrees today for her swim. The water temp was 59.5 degrees. I can only imagine what she feels like right now. Unbelievable!
We had a great swim ourselves last night. Michelle Ryan had just received the word that she qualified for the Hawaii Ironman, so there was a lot of excitement in the air. Michelle, Jim, Brian, Andre, Gracie, Steve and I enjoyed our weekly Happy Hour swim.
When I dove in I already knew what to expect: I was unbelievably cold for the first 3 minutes, I warmed up until 24 minutes, and then the cold water seeped into my bones, my hands and my feet. I just kept swimming as I've gotten used to the feeling. While we were swimming the dam's release rate increased. Instead of making slow progress or swimming in place, we were actually moving backwards. I had perfect form, I was pulling strong and I was kicking with all I had, and I was moving backwards! I tried to swim over to the other side of the lake to see if it was easier over there. It was not. My body was at a 45 degree angle to the shore - it was such a weird feeling.
I had the Dixie Chick's "Easy Silence" in my head and it was perfect. "Everyone is running and I come to find the refuge in the easy silence you create for me... and the way you keep the world at bay for me... and the peaceful quiet you create for me... I need something to believe in." Swimming creates that easy silence for me.
These Friday night swims are the best part of my week. The group that shows up is fun with no mental ostacles. No one complains and we just laugh. I also like the fact that there is no where to hide. Cold water swimming forces you to face your limitations head on. When you get uncomfortable you have to just deal with it. There is no where to go and no where to hide. Honesty.
June 27, 2006 The Mansfield Dam Fools
I swam with Fred last night to send him off for Ironman Switzerland. I had a long day and was eager to swim. As I drove down the hill, I saw the beautiful glistening of the water and I could not wait to dive in. I knew I would feel alive once I hit the refreshing water.
We threw caution to the wind and changed our course up a little bit. So crazy! Instead of swimming against the current, we swam downstream and then turned around and swam into the current. Big, Big mistake. I am a strong swimmer and I did not move. I swam in place for a good 15 minutes. In place. I saw the same rock and tree with every breath I took. There was a group of kids sitting on the bank drinking and smoking, just watching us for entertainment. They gave me a "Hook 'em" sign at one point and I got a standing ovation once I decided to stop. I couldn't stop laughing.
Acclimization does happen. It really does. I remember how I used to be paralyzed in 68 degree water, with the flight or fight reaction. I can now swim in 60 degree water without a cap without much effort. I never thought I'd see the day where I would prefer to swim in 60 degree water as opposed to the 80 degree water at UT.
On Friday, we had our usual Happy Hour at the LWC. Jeff stated it best while getting out of his car saying that the Dam Fools were here again. Besides Jeff and Lynn, Jack, and Dave, HUGH graced us with his presence. Hugh says if you're going to be stupid, you have to be tough. We've adopted his philosophy on many occasion.
The acclimization is working, but I will admit that I still get cold when I get out of the water. I stopped at Randall's on the way home from Friday's swim. I stood in line with a neoprene jacket and a hat and my teeth were chattering uncontrollably. The outside air temp was in the upper 90's. The guy in front of me in the line kept turning around to watch me. I did not establish eye contact. I just stood there with my head down shaking and chattering. LOL!
Going back to the LWC tonight for more fun! Can hardly wait!
June 15, 2006 The Barton Springs Treasure
My health is coming around and I am starting to feel good again. It is awesome to be back!
Went to Barton this morning for a swim and was reminded of this little treasure we have. I swam 3 miles: 1 mile swim, 1 mile kick and 1 mile pull. During my kick, I had the chance to fully observe my surroundings. You have to love Austin!
I first noticed this guy in his black Speedo doing yoga. I was in awe of his flexibility but had to giggle at his choice of clothing. Did he look in the mirror before heading out the door, giving himself a thumbs up? "Lookin' good! Go with it!" He stood on the deck in his speedo for about an hour doing these amazing stretches. Only in Austin.
The runners were also out in full force. The skinny runners make me laugh. They hop into Barton after their runs to soak their legs in the cold water. Some bring head phones to listen to music while they are standing there. Others bring their coffee. I love to watch their faces when they take their initial step into the water. It is as if they are being tortured.
You also have the triathletes in the mix. You know the person is a triathlete if they are wearing a wetsuit. Triathletes wear a wetsuit regardless of water temperature. On Monday we swam in ~85 degree water and one of the triathletes had her wetsuit. You can also tell a triathlete from a swimmer because triathletes have to draft. Intense crowd. It is all about going faster!
And then there is the topless nurse. Apparently this woman swims at Barton every day in her bikini bottoms and fins. That is it. Bikini bottoms and fins. Only in Austin.
The older people are my favorite. One woman showed up with her walking cane and a t-shirt that says "I don't do mornings". She wasn't kidding! I am not sure if the older people can not see or if they think it is their birth right to have the right of way while swimming. They swim on the backs doing the old English Backstroke without a care in the world. Gotta love 'em for getting out there!
We also have the former UT swimmers on deck giving coaching to some pour soul who is trying to learn how to swim. The UT swimmers stands their with their beautiful V-shaped body giving instructions on how to swim a perfect stroke. I watch and try to listen so I, too, can pick up some tips.
You also have the attorneys who stop by for a swim before work. They hang their fancy suits on the lifeguard stand, right next to the 78704er's towel. 78704: It is more than a zip code. It is a Way of Life.
And then there is the pregnant lady swimming so peacefully with her baby belly. And the new mother who hops in to cool off after a run around town lake. Her baby is in his jogger at the water's edge within Mom's reach. How great is that!
I swam along absorbing it all, happy to be in the mix. Someday I hope to be referred to as one of the Channel swimmers who trains in Barton. This place is such the jewel. Looking forward to the next one.
June 9, 2006 Things I Wish I did Not Know
June 4, 2006 Just Keep On Swimming
Jack, Ned, Greg and I did our weekly swim at the low water crossing at it was fabulous! Cindy and Chris were there as well.
Jack brought his digital thermometer since everyone questions the accuracy of my worldy rubber duck thermometer. The water was 59 degrees and the dam was releasing full force. The conditions were just how I love it!
As always, Jack was in first as the rest of us stood there and watched him go. I didn't want to be left, so I quickly dove in behind him. I don't know why I was concerned about being left alone because I swam in place, going against the current, for a good 5 minutes.
Today I swam without my silicone cap. I wanted to allow my body to release some body heat and I wanted to feel the cold. My goggles fogged up quickly due to the vast temperature difference between the air and the water. I would usually stop to fix them but I knew there wasn't really anything that I needed to see. I just kept my head down and kept swimming against the current. I knew I was going in the right direction.
Davis told me last fall to embrace the cold and don't fight it. I have finally made it to that point. I do not like being cold, but I love swimming in cold water. There is a big difference.
Jack, Ned and Greg all made it to the dam before I did, and they turned around to escort me in. Talk about having the red carpet layed out! It took me 32 minutes to get there today - about 2 minutes off my normal time. My training has been sparse for the past few months due to some health issues, so I will take 32 minutes any day! We hung out at the dam for a few minutes before we FLEW back to the crossing. At some points I just put my arms steamlined above my head and kicked and let the current push me. I felt like a fighter jet, soaring through the atmosphere. The total swim time was 40 minutes.
I didn't shiver when I got out today. I am carrying around some extra weight due to my inactivity and it definitely helps me stay warm in the water. While driving home I turned on my heater full blast. I wasn't shivering, but my insides were cold. Picture this: my heater was on full blast and the outside air temperature was 98 degrees. And I was cold.
June 2, 1006 "Swim to France"
Fiona, my 5 year old niece composed a song to help me with my training.
Her lyrics are darling: "Be Brave and use your Muscles... Swim to France and get to a country that you want to go to... Say hi to Nemo and stay warm."
May 29, 2006 This IS Living
I've been sick for the past few weeks, so my training has been non-existent. This weekend I was able to fit in 2 "easy does it" cold water swims, and it is soooo good to be back!
Cold water swims leave me in such a good mood. I feel so alive and I feel like a kid out there.
You would think I've gotten used to the ritual by now, but I have not. Jack called and asked if I wanted to meet him in 30 minutes to swim. My chest tightened and I felt a little nauseous. I know what it is like to be cold and that feeling makes me anxious. I'd love to - see you there at 9!
The drive to the low water crossing is difficult. I am nervous and look for any excuse to cancel the swim. We have a 10% chance of rain. Do you think it is safe to swim?
We pull up and the water is picture perfect. The dam is not releasing, so the water is as smooth as glass. It is breathe taking actually.
We put on our silicon caps and ear plugs, count down from 10, and dive in. Jack likes to wade in to get used to the temp. I like to wait until the last minute and just go.
The water is ~59 degrees. I dive in and I feel that all too familiar sensation of the warm blood being drawn from my arms and legs into my core. My face is so cold it feels like it is on fire. The skin on my back burns as well. I swim as hard as I can knowing it will get better. I fight to block the negative thoughts from my head- the ones that are telling me to turn around and get out of the water.
After a few minutes I relax and slow down. I am no longer cold and have a nice rhythm. I look at my watch: 3:01. Yep, it still takes 3 minutes to settle in.
Jack and I found a nice path today. Usually the duck weed is so high when the dam is not releasing that it is impossible to swim. I end up skulling and kicking quite a bit. I also have horrible stroke technique since I have to swim my head up to look out for rocks and duck weed. Swimming at the low water crossing is about acclimating and not about traditional swimming. Today we found a clear path and had open water. It was so incredible. On the way back from the dam I swam under water as much as I could in order to find colder water.
As I got out of the water I was wishing I could stay in longer. I didn't want it to end. I felt so invincible and free. Life doesn't get much better!
May 2006 You are Triathletes, not Wimps. Get Rid of the Wetsuits
I met Anne Cleveland while out seeing my podiatrist. Anne has swum an English Channel double. In 2004, she swam from England to France, and then immediately turned around and swam back to England. Needless to say, Anne is an amazing woman with an amazing attitude. She has an incredible laugh that I would imagine gets her through any adversity she faces.
Anne invited us to join her at her Master's swim workout, and it was time well spent. Not only did we get a great workout (37X 100s on a fast interval to celebrate a 37th birthday) but I had the chance to learn from Anne and hear about her English Channel experiences first hand. A lot of Anne's advice differed from other things we've heard. I walked away with the reminder that I have to figure out what works for me and me alone. Everyone is different. There is no secret formula.
Anne had mentioned there would be some pro triathletes at the workout, but I didn't give it much thought since my purpose was to meet her. Some of the first people we met were Jurgen Zack and Kate Major. It was fun for me to train with such triathlon legends. I tried not to gawk so I wouldn't embarrass Anne or Tyler.
When Anne introduced me to Jurgen, he shared a story from his earlier triathlon days. He was at the start of a triathlon and the water temperature was about 53 degrees. Only two guys were standing there in wetsuits. The race director said to them "You are triathletes, not wimps. Lose the wetsuits." When I learned that Jurgen did a triathlon in 53 degree water without a wetsuit, my level of respect for him when up quite a lot! That guy is tough!
I was also able to fit in a swim in the La Jolla Cove while we were there, and it was epic. The water temp was 59 degrees. I wanted to set an achievable goal, but I did not know what my body would be able to do. I decided to just start swimming and my goal would be to get out when I had had enough.
I got in and just headed across the Cove towards the pier. The first 3 minutes in the 59 degree water was refreshing. I have been colder, but this felt different since I was in the Ocean by myself. There were a lot of new variables to have fun with: salt water, the sun rise, not being able to measure distance by land marks, and being alone. After about 15 minutes I started thinking about sharks. Ughhh. Not a good feeling to have when you are out there alone. I had asked my friend's husband, Doug, a former Navy SEAL, how he mentally dealt with the challenges of SEAL training. He said to just worry about the here and now. The situation could always be worse. So... when I was obsessed with sharks in the La Jolla Cove, I tried to focus on the here and now. There are no sharks right here, so keep on swimming. I will admit that nothing will get your pace up like thinking about sharks while you are swimming. Catalina is going to be interesting indeed.
I also thought about the sea lions and dolphins who were swimming with me. If they were out for a morning swim, the Cove should be safe for me as well.
I swam 1 hour in the Cove. I never got cold after the initial plunge and I am excited about that. I find it interesting that my body was in cold water but I never thought about the temperature. My training is moving along swimmingly. After my swim my hands and feet were numb for quite some time. I put my hands on Tyler's chest to warm up and I am almost certain they sizzled!
April 8, 2006 How Warm Is It?
On Saturday I had the privilege of crewing for a 6 hour English Channel qual swim. The rules state that you have to swim 6 hours in water 60 degrees or less before attempting to swim the Channel. The thought of doing this swim causes me to lose sleep. Lots of sleep.
I showed up at the boat dock at 4:30AM to meet David and is friend Ross, who flew in from Albuquerque to do his qual swim. Ross is scheduled to swim the English Channel in August.
A few minutes before Ross got in the water, we discovered I grew up swimming with his wife, Kaari. What a small world!
Crewing for Ross answered a lot of questions for me. Watching him do the swim so effortlessly gave me hope that I can do the same next year. I can now picture what a successful 6 hour swim in 60 degree water looks like and I have David AND Ross to follow.
The part of the swim that made the most impression on me was Ross' comment before he got in the water. Rather than asking how cold the water was, he asked how warm it was. Attitude is everything.
March 22, 2006 Ralph's Half Ironman
We had the fortune of going to San Diego for the weekend to participate in the Ralph's Half Ironman and to meet David Clarke, the fellow who is helping me with the Catalina Channel. It was another great weekend and another great experience. Life is good!
The Half Ironman was a blast. I had a long training weekend the weekend before (8 1/2 - 9 mile swim on Saturday and a 5 hour bike on Sunday), so I used the race as a workout.
At the start of the race, the air temp was ~46 degrees, the water temp was 56 degrees, and it was raining. I think Fred and I were the only people at the race who were not cold. Who knew our cold water training in the rain would come in handy for a triathlon in SoCal!
I crossed the finish line with 2 conclusions: 1) My training for the English Channel has made me mentally tough, and 2) due to some structural problems in my feet, my triathlon days are winding down.
Mentally, I was "front and center" for the duration of the race. I had fun out there and I never let any negative thoughts seep into my head. I am learning how to "just be" in my cold water swims and it is carrying over to other areas of my life. I raced my race, and I did not falter when faced with adversity. I am proud of that. As Peter would say: I turned a corner as far as mental toughness goes.
It also helped to be out there with my friends: Anne, Fred, Jeff, Dana, Julie, Jennifer, Kenny, Bill, Desiree, Ian, Kurt, Mark, ... There was a lot of good energy on the course. Knowing Tyler was at the finish line helped me dig deeper, too.
One of the main reasons I decided to attempt the English Channel is that I can not run pain free. About 3-4 years ago the second metatarsals in both my feet dropped with causes me to feel like a sharp nail is being shoved into my toes when I run. With the exception of surgery, I have tried everything imaginable to fix it: numerous orthodics from 4 different experts, PT, a POSE running class, CHI running class, Nike Free's, Chirocracker, calf and foot stretches, kinesio tape, pelvic floor work, every support shoe on the market, low heels at work, Power Cranks. You name it: I've tried it.
When I got off the bike and started running the pain level in my feet was a 10 out of 10. I made the decision to keep going in hopes that the pain would subside. It did not. It is frustrating to have the desire, energy and muscular strength to run fast but lack the structural ability to actually make it happen. I realize there are worse problems in life to have, but it is frustrating none the less.
The fact is that my feet were not made to run more than an hour and I am tired of running in pain. The cortisone shot and discussion with my podiatrist on Monday morning confirmed what I have been fearing for years - my days of long runs are over. I would rather swim the English Channel than have my toes cut off and have my mets fused together! I am not sure why I need a challenge at all, but that is a discussion better left for another day. It is time to focus on marathon swimming without a rearview mirror. There is no looking back.
The day after the race Tyler and I met with David Clarke to discuss the Catalina Channel. David is unquestionably the most experienced person to talk to with regards to Catalina. After our 5 hour conversation, I am excited about what lies ahead. Only 120 people have swum the Catalina Channel. I am lined up to make my attempt starting at midnight on September 13th. A 20-21 mile Ocean swim, at midnight, in shark infested waters. Solo. I wonder what that is going to be like!
March 11, 2006 Mermaid Training
Today's swim was the best yet! Tobey flew in from CT for the swim and her positive attitude rubbed off on me. We ate Rudy's BBQ for our pre-swim dinner and then headed for a night swim in Lake Austin to measure the water temperature. I wanted to know in advance how cold the water was so I could mentally prepare. It was 65 degrees!!! We went back to the house to get our Hammergel fuel ready and to lay our gear out for tomorrow's big swim.
Tobey suggested I try some mental imagery and to get a good mantra in my head to prepare for the swim. David suggested I "relax and let my body adapt", so I used that as my mantra. I woke up early and turned on some music. Kenny Chesney's "Living in Fast Forward" was the song of the day that stuck in my head for the entire swim. Perfect.
Tobey and I laughed at the fact that when each of us woke up the first thought in our minds was to wonder if we could start the swim early.
Surprisingly, I was a bit disappointed as we pulled up to Walsh's Landing. I was glad I was not going to be cold today, but I was also sadden by the fact that my cold water training program is going to change drastically with the warmer temperatures. I guess I can not have it both ways. Even though cold water swimming is the most challenging thing I've ever done, it is also one of the most rewarding things I've ever done.
Tyler and Fred are so incredible. They each sacrificed their day to help Tobey and I with our swim. I know I could not have made my swim without Tyler's help and encouragement. He was right there next to me for the duration and I relied on him heavily.
"I will see you in about 4 hours. 10, 9, 8.....3, 2, 1..." we were off, headed to the 360 Bridge!
The swim took me 4:19. It took 1:55 to head out and 2:24 to get home. The strong head wind and chop made the second half good rough water training.
A lot of my past challenges fell into place today. Mentally, I was great. I didn't have to redirect any negative energy, and I had fun out there. I am finding it easier to go to that meditative state and I like the calm that it offers. I tried to absorb the experience. I tried to "just be".
The water was 65 degrees. I have swum in colder water, but 65 is still chilly when you swim in it for over 4 hours. I was uncomfortably cold for the entire swim, but it was an acceptable discomfort. During some of the cold spots, I thought about my 3 year old niece Molly who just started swimming lessons. Molly called me a few days ago to tell me she went to "Mermaid Training" a.k.a. swim lessons. I guess it is all in the messaging. I decided to view the 65 degree water as a refreshing experience instead of as a cold, dark lake. I was doing my own Mermaid training today and Mermaids get to swim in cold water.
Physically, my body is adapting to the mileage. Today's swim was between 8 1/2 - 9 miles. I was tired for the last part of the swim, but I made a solid effort to push the last 30 minutes. My shoulders and arms were fatigued, but they have adapted enough to push the distance further next time.
Fred summed up the open water swimming experience very accurately. He says "It is like running on a treadmill, on a ship, alone, in the closet, with the lights off, with the air conditioner turned up too much." So true! I love it!
We are headed to San Diego next weekend for a Half Ironman. My goal after the half ironman is to swim to the 360 bridge, and back, and then to the 360 bridge again. It is time to see how I handle a 13 mile swim.
March 7, 2006 Be Positive!
There once was a bunch of tiny frogs, who arranged a running competition. The goal was to reach the top of a very high tower. A big crowd had gathered around the tower to see the race and cheer on the contestants...
The race began...
Honestly: No one in crowd really believed that the tiny frogs would reach the top of the tower. You heard statements such as: "WAY too difficult!! They will NEVER make it to the top."
or: "Not a chance that they will succeed. The tower is too high!"
The tiny frogs began collapsing. One by one...except for those who in a fresh tempo were climbing higher and higher...
The crowd continued to yell, "It is too difficult!!! No one will make it!"
More tiny frogs got tired and gave up... But ONE continued higher and higher and higher...This one wouldn't give up!
At the end everyone else had given up climbing the tower. Except for the one tiny frog who after a big effort was the only one who reached the top! THEN all of the other tiny frogs naturally wanted to know how this one frog managed to do it?
A contestant asked the tiny frog how the one who succeeded had found the strength to reach the goal? It turned out...that the winner was DEAF!!!!
The wisdom of this story is: Never listen to other people's tendencies to be negative or pessimistic...because they take your most wonderful dreams and wishes away from you. The ones you have in your heart! Always think of the power words have. Because everything you hear and read will affect your actions!
Therefore: ALWAYS be POSITIVE!
And above all:
Be DEAF when people tell YOU that YOU cannot fulfill YOUR dreams!
March 5, 2006 One More Swim Deposited in the Bank!
Mentally, I was in need of a successful swim today. I've gotten out of the water earlier than planned for my last few swims, and it has weighed heavily on my spirit. My head tells me the water was COLD and I gave it what I had, but it is still disappointing to cut my workout short. It is easy to set lofty goals from the warmth of my home. However, when I get into that cold water, all bets are off.
A successful triathlon workout is measured objectively. If the workout says to run 60 minutes in zone 1, I have solid data that tells me if I accomplished the goal. A successful cold water swim is much more subjective. There are a lot of factors to consider: water temperature, air temperature, wind speed, wind direction, sunlight. My biggest lesson has been to be more flexible with my goals and my definition of a successful workout. If my plan is to swim 4 hours, it is okay to cut is short if I have given it all I had.
We started the swim from my friend Rex's new water front home. It was a class act from beginning to end. Rex met us at the door of his Tuscan home, and we could smell the post swim steak and carrots cooking. Yum!
I was excited when we got to the water's edge and the thermometer read 62 degrees. The Channel is predicted to be 62 degrees for my swim so I wanted to see what 62 felt like. This was going to be a good test.
The first 15 minutes of today's swim were fabulous. I was comfortable and rested. Tyler and Rex were both paddling for me. We were lined up perfectly. When I took a breath to the right I saw Rex and when I took a breath to the left I saw Tyler. I didn't feel alone out there and it helped tremendously to have these two great guys helping me. I had seen Tyler swim a 51.01 100 Fly a few days before, and I watched Michael Phelps and Ian Crocker set new American records over the weekend as well. I was feeling good and let the positive momentum of the weekend carry me along.
After 24 minutes the cold had seeped into my bones. My teeth started to chatter. My first battle was to not worry about how much more time I had left in the water. My arms and back were burning from the cold and my feet... well....I had no feeling left in my feet. The sun had tucked behind the clouds so I no longer had that warmth on my back. Just keep swimming and see what happens.
When swimming in cold water, there are not a lot of distractions to divert the mind. I only see green, murky water. I have ear plugs in so I can not hear, I only taste and smell the lake water, and there is no one to talk to. It is just me and my thoughts in the cold. Awesome!
After 45 minutes I made the call to turn around. I felt like I had been running barefoot in the snow. The first few minutes are fun, but the cold gets old. Tyler re-read the water temperature and it had dropped to 59-60. There is a big difference between 60 and 62 degrees and I felt it.
Mentally I held in there. Being cold is still hard for me, but it is getting easier to deal with mentally. The mental piece is my biggest obstacle, so I am thrilled to see some progress.
We turned around into a head wind and a lot of choppy water. I welcomed the chop. I had to work hard to move forward and the increased work load warmed me up a little. In spite of my harder efforts, the wind slowed us down considerably. It took us 45 minutes to head out and almost an hour to get back. I also swallowed more lake water than I care to think about. The bi-lateral breathing work is paying off. This was great rough water training.
When we got back to Rex's I was spent. My shoulders and arms ached. Mentally I held in there when it was hard, and that felt good. I had no feeling in my feet and it was difficult for me to walk to the steps to get out. Once I got to the breakwall, I was shivering uncontrollably and hyper-ventilating, a sure sign that I gave it what I had out there. After I re-gained my composure, I proudly climbed out of the water. This was a great physical and mental workout AND I was acclimating to the cold. I had deposited another successful swim into the bank! 1:43 in 59-60 degree water. I went to what Fred calls "The Edge" and hung out there for awhile. I have a long way to go to be ready to swim the Channel, but I am definitely seeing progress.
Feb 25, 2006 "It Wasn't Like Parking Was a Problem" F.C.
When we saw there was a 80% chance of rain today, Fred, Tobey and I decided to swim rain or shine. Since Barton Springs is closed for the annual cleaning, we swam in Lake Austin. The water temperature was 56-57, the air temp was 53, and it was pouring down rain. Dave Miller, my hero!, volunteered to kayak for Tobey and I. Did I already say it was pouring down rain?! Michael Garel, another selfless friend, volunteered to kayak for Fred and Kelly Gier.
Fred called as I was getting my gear together. He said he was going to swim as long as he could without a wetsuit. OMG! 56 degrees, in the rain, without a wetsuit? I asked him what he thought people would say at his funeral if something happened? "Well… We all know how Fred is… was… when he sets his mind to do something, he does it." We both laughed and I packed the car to go swim.
En route, Tobey text messaged me: "Here comes the rain again. Falling on my head like a new emotion." I knew today was going to be special.
When I dove into the water, my face, hands and feet immediately burned from the cold. I knew I would settle in after a few minutes, so I just kept swimming. 3 minutes is still the magic number. After 3 minutes, the extremities go numb and I am able to relax.
I was not sure how long I would last in the water today. I wanted to swim to the 360 Bridge and back, but I was not sure how my body would perform in these conditions. In my last 2 key swims, I have gotten out early. I just didn’t have it mentally on these days. Granted the wind chill was in the 20's one of these days, but I got out because I was bored and not because I was cold. Even though I wanted to swim to the 360 Bridge and back, my goal was to swim as long as I could with a wetsuit while maintaining mental fortitude.
After about 45 minutes I was ready to turn around. The last "To the Bridge and Back" swim took me 4:11, so I wasn't even half way to the turn around. My feet were cold and numb. They hurt from the inside. My hands and face were fine. Tobey suggested I kick more to increase the circulation to my feet. I found a relaxing rhythm and started to incorporate a kick. It worked a lot better - good thing to know. I kept swimming. I told myself that the best way to learn how to swim in cold water is to swim in cold water.
Tobey and I decided to stop every 30 minutes to feed. I could not stop. I was too cold to stop, so I kept swimming. Definitely something I need to work on.
My rhythm was working well. It distracted my mind from the temperature and I was able to enjoy the swim. The Lake Austin swim is great. I love the beautiful water front homes and yards. I love seeing the 360 Bridge from 30 minutes away and watching it get bigger as I approach it. I love swimming in the rain.
We stopped for a feed close to the 360 Bridge. Unfortunately, my hands were too numb to squeeze my water bottle. I floated on my back and tried to get some of my Hammergel to trickle into my mouth.
At the 2:30 mark I was scared. I could no longer move my feet or toes. They were white with yellow splotches. I started to wonder if I was going to do some permanent damage. A friend recently told me that there is a fine line between brave and stupid. At the 2:36 mark, I made the call. I got out of the water and into the kayak. I knew getting out of the water was the right thing for me today, but I was concerned about leaving Tobey to swim the last hour and a half by herself.
Tobey is such an inspiration. I think people come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. I am not sure yet why our paths crossed, but I am glad they did. Tobey is amazing. She is tough as nails and as fun as Fred. She thoroughly enjoys life and her attitude helped me today. I was grateful to experience this swim with her. Tobey showed up from CT and basically asked "Which way is the 360 Bridge?" She then swam to the Bridge and Back… without any complaints. Amazing! We really wish she lived in Austin so we could train with her more.
I learned a lot today. If I was going to quit, today would have been that day. I accomplished my goal of maintaining mental fortitude, but I was reminded that I still have a long way to go to acclimate to the cold. Today I got out of the water due to a physical limitation (my feet still hurt 12 hours after getting out of the water). It has forced me to step back and analyze my training. I can swim in very cold water for a short period of time and I can swim in warm water for a long period of time, but I have difficulty in the middle ground. I need to work on swimming distance while being cold and uncomfortable.
- the acclimization process takes time. Be patient. Trust the process
- the body doesn't always shiver when you are cold
- cold water swimming drains your energy more than expected
- Some days you will have mental challenges and some days it will be physical
- the body will settle in to the cold water after about 3 minutes
- kicking will warm up your feet
- need to stop and feed even while I am cold
- drink from a cup and not a water bottle
- drink warm Hammergel
- I might try putting grease on my feet for the next swim
- don't compare your training with other people's training. Believe in your own program.
1/29/2006 Somewhere in the Middle
This morning I swam 9 miles in 4:31 in Barton Springs. Accomplishing this goal is quite significant for me, due to the distance and the water temperature. It was another great morning and another great swim!
I swam with David Blanke and Tobey Saracino, who is visiting Austin from CT. I could NOT have made this swim without them. Marathon swimmers have magnetic energy and personalities. We had smiles on our faces from the minute we got out of cars until we said goodbye. I have discovered that long distance swimming is not about being fast, but rather having fun and accomplishing our goals in a supportive environment. I can't believe it took me this long to discover this realm.
This morning's swim was another key swim, which took a lot of mental fortitude. While driving down Barton Springs I realized that I did not have a good song in my head, so I turned up the radio. "I've got friends in low places" became the song of the day. Perfect!
There isn't anything easy about a 9 mile swim, but I feel a little less satisfaction since I wore 2 silicon caps. I wanted to see what it felt like, and I wanted today to be about a long swim and not about being cold. I was not cold at all. 4:31 in 68 degree water without being cold is unbelievable to me.
The first part of the swim was great. I adjusted to the water temperature after about 30 seconds, and found a nice rhythm to settle in to. After about 45 minutes the novelty had worn off and I wanted to get out of the water. I decided to find my friends to connect with them. This should make it easier to stay in. A team effort is a lot easier than pushing the boundaries alone. I found Gracie. We don't have to stop to say hello- just seeing each other is enough. I found David and then Fred. I then found Eri and Tobey. Everytime I saw Tobey she was smiling and laughing. How great is that?!
I also saw a spectacular sunrise. The sun was glistening off the water and it was so beautiful. It really did look like diamonds.
The middle part of the swim is the hardest part for me. Somewhere in the middle is when I have to make the decison to stick it out or to quit. After about an hour I am still really aware of my surroundings and I start to get uncomfortable, mentally. I seem to check my watch after each round trip, as if I am going to have a drastic change in lap time :) I have another 3 1/2 hours to swim. It is really foggy outside, and my goggles are foggy as well. For about a mile I couldn't see anything. This is where I have to talk myself into it. I try to sing (I've got friends in low places), I focus on my technique, I think about my friends and family, I act like I am actually swimming in the English Channel. I think about how the 3M runners must be feeling. Just keep swimming. My energy level is okay, but my triceps are starting to burn. At least I am not cold. For a treat, I allow myself to breathe on every stroke instead of bi-laterally. Go crazy!
The swim gets a lot easier after the half way point. With 18 round trips to go, I start counting down.
The last 10 laps were fun. At this point I still have 1:15 left to swim, but I knew I could finish. 10, 9, 8, 7... I felt on top of the world.
The 3M runners had come in to soak their legs, so it was wonderful to see more friends. Kelly Gier, Michelle and Michael Garel, and Jim and Michelle Ryan. Their presence and smiles inspired me to stay with it. In fact, I tried to pick up the pace. David and Tobey each lapped me twice so I had to keep swimming even after they were dressed. I acted like I had one mile left in the Channel and that I had to fight the tides. I put my head down and worked it. My triceps hurt and I could barely move my arms. But... I did it!
9 miles. 4 hours 31 minutes. This is my longest swim ever.
It is nice to have an interest!
1/23/2006 Swimming in 45 Degree Water
Fred, Gracie and I went to London and Dover, England for the weekend to do an English Channel recon mission and to swim in the Cold Water Championships. The most valuable part of the trip was walking away with the confidence that I have what it takes to swim from England to France. The experience was unbelievable!
We were fortunate to stay in the “Crowe’s Nest” in Bill and Audrey Hamblin’s Victoria Guest house in Dover. Bill and Audrey are known around the world for their hospitality and support of English Channel swimmers. As Fred's girlfriend, Zoe Ann puts it, the Victoria Guest House is like a Biker Bar for swimmers. I felt at home from the minute I met them, and thoroughly enjoyed their never ending laughter. We spent hours sitting around their kitchen and dining room table listening to all of their English Channel swimming stories. I felt like they were old friends who were helping me get ready for my journey.
Meeting our boat pilots, Mike and Lance Oram was another highlight of our trip. Not long after we checked in with the Hamblin’s, we drove north to Folkstone to meet Mike and Lance. We sat in the Oram’s Seaschool for about 2 ½ hours and absorbed all of the guidance they had to offer. We learned a lot about the logistics of the swim, the conditions and elements of the Channel, about nutrition and recommended body fat, crew selection criteria, etc. We were also able to see the boats that will be escorting us. Fred will swim next to Sea Satin, while Gracie and I will swim next to Gallivan. This valuable information can not be found by reading a book or via email. This conversation alone was worth the trip.
While searching for a place to eat dinner, we came across the White Horse Pub. The White Horse is where all of the successful Channel Swimmers sign their name on the wall of the tavern. I enjoyed seeing some of our friend’s names written on the walls and ceiling, and the quotes were incredibly inspiring. My favorite quote was “I can forgive failure, but I can not forgive not trying.” I also picked out the spot where I am going to write my name J
Another memorable experience was swimming in Dover Harbor. Just outside the Harbor walls is the English Channel. The White Cliffs of Dover seem to illuminate the Matthew Webb statue and the swimmer’s memorial situated on the seawall of the Harbor. It was cold outside, but we were in Dover, and we wanted to swim. I wanted to know the feeling of that special water on my skin and I wanted to taste the saltiness of the sea water. The air temp was in the mid 40’s, but felt cooler due to the wind. We tried twice to measure the water temperature. We know it was in the low 40s and just decided the number didn’t matter. Cold is cold.
The swim in Dover Harbor was incredible! I have not laughed that hard since the last time we swam. The three of us walked to the water front, stripped off our outer layers and ran into the water. There was no hesitation. I was only in for 20-30 seconds, but it is a feeling I will never forget. To warm up we drank hot tea and ate biscuits and scones in front of the fireplace in the café across the street.
The Cold Water Championship swim meet was also quite lovely really (gotta love the British!). We swam in a beautiful facility called Tooting Bec Lido. The water temperature was 45 degrees. Prior to this weekend, 53 degrees is the coldest water I had swum in. The quote of the weekend was “Hey y’all… hold my beer… watch this!”. Famous last words of a redneck.
The race itself was something I will never forget! I watched Fred swim 4 times before my heat was on deck, so I had an advantage of learning from him. We were not allowed to dive into the water – something about risk of cardiac arrest. The race was 66 meters. The race official told us to get into the water and then he quickly blew the horn signaling for us to start swimming. Getting in and swimming the first 15 meters were the easiest part of the race. When I got half way down the pool my face and back were on fire from the cold, and I just kept getting colder. I flipped my turn and kicked as hard as I could off the wall. I was too cold for bi-lateral breathing. I would not have wanted to race me: I held NOTHING back since I wanted out of that water. I ended up 3rd overall female. I guess there were 2 women there who were colder than I was. J When I got out of the water, the TV crew had their camera out and they were taking pictures of me and asking me questions. They couldn’t believe we flew all the way from Texas to London to swim for 41 seconds.
After the swim meet, we met up with our friend Sally. Sally is the one who invited us to come over for the Cold Water Championships. In 2004 Sally swam for 21 hours in the Channel. Unfortunately she had to get out of the water when the tides turned on her. She will swim across the Channel this summer. Hearing Sally’s stories really helped to put things into perspective. Sally taught us a lot about how to train for such an event and she shared a lot of logistical information that will be helpful. I think Sally laughs more than we do.
The Best Part is the Hard Part.
1/18/06 The Ryan's Join the Polar Bear Club!
Today's swim was extra special because Jim and Michelle joined us. I am so impressed with the Ryan's! They are tough!
I can't think of a better way to start the day. We showed up and the air temp was between 31-34, depending on whose car temp gage we used. Thanks goodness the air was calm. As Fred got out of his car he yelled "It is fine, fine, super fine day in Austin,TX!"
I measured the water temp and was stunned when it said 53 degrees. I measured it two more times just to make sure. Yes, the water temp is 53 degrees.
I quietly walked over to Fred to share the news. We have all agreed that 55-56 degrees is our limit. Swimming in water colder than 55 degrees is just dangerous. The Eskimo's reaction was similar to Fred's. If the Ryan's had not shown up, I would have asked that we move the swim to Barton Springs. We didn't want to disappoint them so we decided to swim 10 minutes.
Jim repeatedly asked us what the water temperature was. Everytime he asked, Fred and I would change the subject - we didn't want him to be concerned. We finally caved and told him the truth. When he said he had been diving in colder water before, I decided I would give it a try, too.
Other than the fact that the Ryan's joined us, today's swim was not fun for me. It was a key swim, and an important swim, but it was not fun. I didn't find that peaceful place that I enjoy, and I did not get the usual buzz. Today was about swimming in extreme conditions and letting my body acclimate.
We put on our lights and accessories, and Fred dove in first (of course). Away we go! I swam as hard as I could to try to warm up. Swimming in 53 degree water is something else. When I got to the other side of the lake I checked my watch and saw we had been swimming for 6 1/2 minutes. I had "warmed up" and I felt in control of my body. I knew I could swim longer, but I was concerned because I was having problems opening up my mouth to breathe. It was like my face was frozen shut, literally. I made the call to head back to the boat ramp, concerned about what might happen in another 6-7 minutes. I wanted to be close to my warm car if I got into trouble.
When I got to the boat ramp, I actually felt a lot better. I turned around and swam a few out 'n backs to where the rest of the crew was. We started together, so we would finish together. I didn't want to get out early.
21 minutes. We did it!
When we called time, I raced out of the water to get out of my cold swim suit. I was surprized that the Ryan's, Gracie and Fred were taking their time to get out. Not me! I put on my bathrobe and ran to my car. I wasn't shivering yet (that would come in a few minutes) but my hands burned as they warmed up. This was a new sensation.
We did a check to make sure everyone was okay. No one was laughing, but I think we all shared the same satisfaction.
I am amazed at how drained I felt after this morning's swim. I am usually refreshed after the Lake Austin swims. Today I felt like I had been hit by a Mac truck. Taking your body to such an extreme is taxing.
I wonder what swimming in 36 degree water at the Cold Water Championships will be like this weekend.
1/16/2006 It Is Like a New Dimension
To quote Bruce Koach, cold water swimming is like a New Dimension. It is just you and your thoughts in the darkness. Nothing else in the world is like it. Nothing else makes me feel so alive.
We had been planning on our Lake Austin swim for the past week. Each day closer brought more anticipation and uneasiness. Last night I got a knot in my stomach thinking about the swim. These swims are HARD, but they are so AMAZING.
To prep for being cold, I swing to the other guard rail 24 hours prior to the swim. Last night I turned my heater up a few degrees and I slept in layers. I was sweating. This morning I drank hot, hot water as I was getting ready to head out the door. I turned my car heater up full blast as I drove to Walsh's boat landing. The outside air was 64 degrees ;)
We piddle around for a few minutes before we get in the water. We decide on our route. We take pictures. We breathe deep and savor the moment.
We were honored with Bruce's presence this morning for our swim! It means so much to us that he wanted to experience the madness for himself. Gracie told him it was "Life Altering" and I think that pushed him over the edge.
We put on our swim caps, ear plugs, lights, paddles, and drag suit. I stood on the dock wondering how to get out of it. It takes everything I have to dive into that 57 degree water AND to STAY in that water. Bruce and Gracie dove in and I watched them swim away. It is now or never... I had better get my tail in the water or I would never live it down.
Getting in never gets easier.
I dove it. %*(@(. It was cold! Gracie quotes it best: "It is like needles puncturing the skin on your back." I told myself to turn around and get out. Bruce and Gracie were still ahead of me. If they were still swimming, perhaps I should try a little harder. I decided to stay in until I got to the bouy at the 3 minute marker. This strategy worked last time, so it might work again.
I got to the bouy and had settled in. I have been colder before, so perhaps this wasn't too bad. By the time I got to the other side of the lake, I wasn't cold anymore. This is so bizarre to me. I was swimming in 57 degree water and I wasn't cold. I looked for Bruce after every 25 strokes. He was laughing and having a ball! It doesn't get any better!
I enjoyed the darkness out there. It is liberating. I put my head down and just swim as hard as I can. There isn't anything to collide with so there is no need to spot. I just swim. So much goes thorough my head. Cold water swimming cleanses my mind and spirit. I looked for shooting stars and I enjoyed the beauty of all the lights.
We finished our route and got out of the water. 30 minutes in 57 degree water. We did it! Another swim deposited in the bank. I was ready to face the day!
Fred is right: The Best Part is the Hard Part!
1/14/2006 24 Round Trips
Since I am a rookie cold water swimmer, every key swim is very memorable for me. I never know what is going to happen as the swim unfolds, and I am not sure what to do when faced with a new problem. This morning’s swim was another tough one.
I had the privilege of swimming this morning with David Blanke, an English Channel veteran. We had both decided on 24 round trips in Barton Springs, which would take approximately 3 hours.
When I pulled up to the parking lot I checked the air temp. 36 degrees. The water temp was 67. Here we go!
I love Barton in the mornings. There was steam coming off the water, and I could see the Frost Bank tower and the full moon in the horizon. Bill, the Backstroker, was already underway. It doesn’t get much better (except if Fred, Gracie, Eri and Bruce had been there, too).
I decided to take the “easy” route and wear a cap today. Swimming without a cap makes it colder. The most FAQ we get is “Do you wear a wetsuit?” I usually don’t have the heart to say we don’t wear caps either.
David and I got in the water and away we went. The first 50 yards were fine. I told myself the 67 degree water was warm and the air temp, though cold, wasn’t that bad. I decided to break the swim into 4 X 6 lap increments.
My teeth started to chatter and I started to shiver on lap 5. I had 19 more laps to go. Ugghhh! I tried to elongate my stroke to minimize the time my arms were in the 36 degree air. I also started to swim underwater, holding my breath for as long as I could to try to warm up.
I thought about Bruce. He swam 1:10 yesterday. If Frankenankle could swim for 1:10, I could swim for 1:10.
I thought about Fred. The Best Part is the Hard Part. He was right. This was the best part. I knew I would feel an incredible sense of accomplishment if I worked through this primal instinct to get out of the water to warm up.
I thought about Gracie. If the Eskimo was going to swim for 4 hours in the heat of the day, I can swim for 3 hours in the morning.
I thought about Eri. Eri would be smiling and not thinking about the cold. Do it for Eri.
After lap 6 I stopped to re-fuel. Next to my Hammergel fuel bottle, I had a thermos of hot water. I thought a cup of hot water would be a great solution, but I only managed to scald my tongue. I learned a lesson from that experience!
I really wanted to bag the swim. I had been cold and uncomfortable for 45 minutes and the thought of staying like that for 2 more hours was not very appealing. However, I couldn’t get out because I didn’t want David to think I was a wimp. If I got out, he might not ask me to swim again. Peer pressure is a powerful force. I started to think about the black watch cap he had worn to the pool. It has an attractive English emblem with the words “Channel Solo” embroidered in white lettering. I want the right to wear a watch cap like that. How bad do you want it? What price will you pay?
I kept swimming. And swimming. I was still shivering.
The sun started to come up a little after 7. I tried to swim in the sun light to warm up.
The runners started to come in around 7:30 or 8 to soak their tired legs in the cold water. I watched them during my breaths as a distraction. I laughed at the looks on their faces when they stepped in. How could they be cold? They are only thigh deep and they just got in?!
I kept swimming. And swimming. I was still shivering.
I did not have any suit chafing under my arms today. This was a pleasant surprise. Unfortunately, I had new kind of discomfort. My nimples were hard for the entire swim because I was so cold. Consequently, after rubbing against my suit for 3 hours, they are sore and raw. Lovely! Just lovely! Who would have thought to put Body Glide there?
I kept swimming. And swimming.
After lap 17, I knew I was going to finish. 7 laps would take me 53 minutes, and I knew I could swim for 53 more minutes.
I kept swimming.
My body held up well today. I didn’t feel the effects of the distance until the 21st round trip. It was the usual: my triceps, the back of my neck, my rotator cuffs and lats and my right hip flexor started to get my attention. It actually felt good to know I was pushing the physical and mental boundaries.
My hands did not go numb today! This was a first. Acclimization happens!
As I finished up, David was waiting for me on the deck with my towel. I think he finished his 24 round trips 5-6 minutes before me. I COULD NOT have done this swim without him today. If I had been alone, I would have gotten out after lap 5. What a good friend to have!
24 Round Trips. The Best Part is the Hard Part.
12/07/2005 Going to the Edge
Fred says you have to go to the edge to see the best view. Today we went to the edge and saw a new view. We are now in the territory where it is best to keep a lot of the details to ourselves. We don't want people who care about us to realize just how extreme acclimating to cold water is.
This morning we all showed up at the boat dock at 5:15, just like clock work. The water temp keeps dropping now. Today it was 57 degrees. The air temp was ~44 degrees. We agreed on our swimming route and decided to stay close together for safety. Gracie said she was too cold so she dove in and started her swim first. I stood on the ramp, watching Gracie swim off and my gut just wrenched. Every cell in my body told me to get my clothes back on and go warm up. As I stood there in conflict (and cussing like a sailor), Fred yelled "Go!". Uggghhh…. Away I went. The first 2 minutes were just awful. For the first time I told myself I was turning around and getting out. It was not going to happen today. I was flailing in the water to warm up and I know that is the easiest way to get injured. I decided to swim to the buoy at the 3 minute mark, and I could turn around there. When I got to the buoy, I had settled a little bit. I decided to give it a whirl and keep going, and just see what happened.
My body is adjusting. The first time I swam in 57 degree water, I felt the blood instantly leave my arms and legs and go straight to my core. Today, my feet did not go numb until ~20 minutes into the swim. My hands felt fine for the duration. I also did not shiver nor did my teeth chatter while I was swimming. I did have a new challenge out there this morning though. Without going into the details, I was successful with staying in control. When I had my "challenge", I went back to neutral and to a solid ground. I was able to help my body figure out what to do next without getting into trouble. I found that edge and learned how to step back to the safe territory without panicking. Once I swam back to the boat dock, I saw that I had only been in the water for 21 minutes. I knew Gracie and Fred would be in for 30 minutes, so I decided to swim for 9 more minutes. I know the feeling of getting out of the water before them and I did not want to carry that feeling again today. I swam back and forth to the buoy twice and then finished up the swim with Gracie and Fred. Two amazing things happened out there for me today: 1) I recovered from a scare and was able to bring myself back to where I needed to be without panicking, and 2) I stayed in 57 degree water (44 degree air) for 30 minutes without being that cold.
The second part of the acclimization training is getting out of the water. We have our clothes lined up, so the process is pretty quick, but I must admit it is horrible. I stood at my car and put my clothes on as fast as I could. I drank some hot water to warm up from the inside. I then ran and joined Gracie and Fred in Fred's minivan for the de-brief. As I sat there shivering out of control, I bit my tongue twice. I was shaking so bad the hot water was spilling freely over the sides of the thermos lid. Gracie and Fred both hugged me to share their body heat to help me warm up. We had to just sit there and let it happen. This is the process. This is what we are supposed to do. Each time is horrible, but your body can take more each time it goes through it. The episode really wore me out. I got a lot of sleep last night but I was really hungry today and I am exhausted. I am earning my way through this rite of passage.
There was nothing fun about this morning's swim. It was a key swim and it was a successful swim. Since we do not need to acclimate to such severe conditions, it looks like it is time to move our swim back to Barton Springs. The water temp does not seem to bother us much, but combined with the air temp, it is too extreme. It is supposed to snow tonight, so we might go swim just for the fun of it. :)
We made reservations today to go to London for a weekend reconnaissance mission in January. We want to get a lay of the land and figure out some of our logisics. This is really happening!
It is nice to have an interest!
12/05/2005 It is Working...
Fred and I have come to the conclusion that Gracie is not been truthful with us. She told us she is Hispanic and that she grew up in Laredo, TX. We think she is half Eskimo, raised in Antarctica. If anyone is doubting Gracie's ability to swim the English Channel, they need to come swim with her!
On Sunday Gracie and I decided it was time for another long swim. The temp in Lake Austin is now 58 degrees, so it is too cold to put much distance in. Consequently, we decided to do a long swim in Barton Springs. Like clockwork, Gracie shows up laughing. Let's go!
I am amazed at how fast the body actually acclimates to the cold water. This summer, I shivered uncontrollably for hours after swimming 400 yards in 68 degree water. Today, I swam under water a lot because the air was so cold. I could have actually swum for hours in Barton Springs had the wind chill not been in the 30s. My arms started to feel the chill of the air after an hour, and I knew the long swim was not going to happen as planned. I had wanted today to be about distance and not about the cold, so we had to alter our training plan a bit. I broke the swim into 2 pieces, totalling 2 hours 30 minutes. Gracie swam 2:30 without stopping. I tried to stay in with her, but my body refused. When I got home, I took my temperature and discovered it was 92.3. I decided cutting the swim short was just fine. We still had a key swim and are moving forward in our training.
Our swim in Lake Austin was also extra special today. The air temp was 40-41 and the wind was pretty strong. This combined with 58 degree water is a real wake up call! You don't need much coffee after a swim like that! I am noticing that it is getting easier. The body does get used to the cold and learns what to do. I am shivering and shaking less after each key swim, and I have more and more energy at my follow on workout at UT. It is happening. Things are moving along swimmingly :)
11/30/2005 We Are Really Doing It!
This morning's swim was one of the best swims ever! I packed my car last night so that I could get to our aquatic playground as early as I could this morning. The first thing I heard when I pulled up was Fred saying in his thick Texan accent "It is another beautiful day in Austin, Texas!" It was all downhill from there.
Before I got out of my car, I took a quick glance at the index card I made up to help me through the hard parts. "Don't fight it. Just accept it." Okay. I can do this.
We have our routine down. We have our warming up necessities laid out in our cars in the order that we can put them on the fastest and in the order of importance: hat, socks, gloves, shirt, pants, and parka. On the bottom of the pile is a thermos full of hot water. We lay our essentials out next to the ducks on the boat dock: flip flops, towel and bath robe so that we don't freeze getting from the water to our cars.
This morning my temperature gage said 35/ Ice. The water temperature was 59! There was steam coming off of the 59 degree water! It does not get much better!
It is getting easier to get in the water. Someone announces "Let's go" and we all simultaneously undress and dive in to the water together.
This morning I had Train's "I'm About to Come Alive" in my head and it was perfect. I found that rhythm and just went to that euphoric place that only endurance athletes know about. An amazing thing happened this morning: I was not that cold! I kept waiting for my teeth to start chattering and for my brain to say "Enough!" but it never happened. Since I am the weak link in the cold water, I am always the one who makes the call for when to turn around. Today, I didn't want to turn around. I was handling the cold temperatures well and I was having a blast!
Other than the camaraderie, one of the best parts about our swim is the bliss. There are a lot of wonderful things that I like about our morning swims:
- I like feeling so alive
- I like seeing the stars when I take a breath.
- I like the fact that I laugh more before 6AM on MWF that I do for the rest of the day combined.
- I like that everyone is in a good mood and wants to be there
- I like the feeling of accomplishment when I drive away from our swim.
- I like the tacos Gracie brings us for breakfast from Laredo!
We swam for 27 minutes today but could have actually gone for longer. We didn't want to go overboard!
11/23/2005 Kicking off the Remedial Cold Water Training Program
Monday night's swim frustrated me. I was proud of myself for making the effort and swimming 63 minutes in 62 degree water, but I am frustrated that I am the weak link of our group in the cold water. Consequently, Gracie and I kicked off my Remedial Cold Water Training Program this morning in Lake Austin.
Swimming in Barton Springs was really hard for me in July, but I adapted. I remember that sometimes Fred and I did not want to swim so we would just stand in Barton Springs neck deep shivering. Since Barton is no longer a challenge and we can swim there endlessly without getting cold, Gracie, Fred and I decided to move our MWF morning swim from Barton Springs to Lake Austin to give me the "opportunity" to adapt to 62 degree water. (Gracie and Fred have already adapted.) Alex Nice, our friend from Dover, predicts that the water will be 62 degrees for our Channel Crossing, so hopefully this is a good plan.
At 5:15 this morning, Gracie and I kicked off the program. We met at Walsh's boat landing and had an awesome swim!!!
Gracie is so amazing. There is no way I could (or would) have done this without her. She shows up laughing and really makes the swim fun.
When I got out of my car, I felt the sting of the 43 degree air on my face. I tried to embrace the crispness rather than be bothered by it. During Monday night's swim, my mindset was "I'm so cold I've got to get out...I'm so cold I've got to get out...I'm so cold I've got to get out..." This attitude is not going to cut it, so I decided to relax and have fun with it. This morning's swim was completely different. George Strait's "She Let Herself Go" was in my head, and I found that peaceful rhythm that makes open water swimming so addictive. Acclimization happens.
Gracie and I swam side by side, stopping every few minutes to check on each other. Everytime we stopped, Gracie was laughing. How fine is that?!
I really, really like swimming in the dark!
Fred called me last night to tell me how his swim in San Francisco went that afternoon. I literally got sick to my stomach when he told me it was 55 degrees. OMG! 30 minutes in 55 degrees?! And I am freakin' out with 62 degrees! Fred recommended I approach my Remedial Cold Water Training like AA. Take one swim at a time. I like that idea and plan on going with it.
I also sat neck deep in 59 degree water for 5 minutes last night. Tyler had left a motivating voicemail to encourage me, so I listened to his message over and over as I sat there shivering. Whatever it takes - right?! :)
The next Lake Austin swim is Friday morning and I can hardly wait! I am starting to get onboard with the program and I like that!
11/21/2005 The Christmas Light Swim
My drive to Barton Springs was festive this morning as I saw Christmas decorations up for the first time this season. It seemed odd to see Christmas lights knowing I had 2 outdoor swims planned today. I stopped at Walsh's Boat Landing en route to Barton to measure the water temperature. I wanted to know in advance what my night swim was going to be like so I could prepare mentally. The water was 62 degrees.
When I made it to Barton Gracie had already done a few laps. She yelled from the water that the water was hot and that I was going to really enjoy it. The image was surreal: the outside air temperature was 39 degrees and there was steam rising from the water. I decided that I no longer need the glo bracelets. It was too steamy to see them and there was no one else there to run into.
I have finally gotten used to swimming in Barton Springs. Acclimization Does Happen! Getting out is quite the experience though. When I get out of the water, it is a race to see how quickly I can strip off the wet swimsuit, put on warm layers and run to the car to turn on the heater. Today was no exception. I felt like my bare feet were frozen to the pavement as I got dressed. The drive from Barton to UT is so much easier than it was this summer. I no longer shiver uncontrollably, and I forget about being cold as soon as I get into my car.
I suppose Gracie had a nice swim this morning, too, because she sent an email to all of her professors at UT telling them she had decided to swim from England to France. Gracie is my inspiration! The girl has no, I repeat NO, mental obstacles. Her positive attitude is so refreshing to be around. I feel privileged to be able to train with her and Fred - they are a really good influence on me.
Fred is out of town, so Gracie and I did our night swim in Lake Austin by ourselves. As the day progressed, I got more uncomfortable and my stomach started to hurt as I thought about the swim in 62 degree water. Our paddler got hung up at work, so we actually had an excuse to bag the swim if we wanted to. This turn of events made me realize that I really did want to do the swim. I wanted to make it through this rite of passage. Bruce Koach volunteered to come paddle for us and it was great having him out there with us. Bruce has been on the sidelines due to foot surgery (he ran an Ironman with a broken ankle!), and he is eager to get back in the swing of things. Seeing him so hungry to train reminded me once again how fortunate I am to be out there.
As we unloaded our gear, I still felt backed against the wall. There was no way to get out of doing this swim without being a total coward. I was cold just standing there in my sweats and hat. I looked over at Gracie to get a gauge for her comfort level. Gracie was standing there in flip flops and a t-shirt, showing No Signs of being chilled.
Right before we stepped off, Gracie gave me a high 5. It is so obvious that Gracie has what it takes. I would not have done this swim if Gracie had not been there with me. The girl just smiles and does what she wants to do.
I let out a scream and just started swimming. The plan was to swim 1:30.
I loved the first 20 minutes of the swim. The view of the 360 bridge from the water when it is dark outside is breathtaking! I have discovered that I absolutely love swimming at night! Since you can not see anything but a few lights from houses on the waterfront, it is easy to meditate and relax.
After about 20 minutes I got cold and uncomfortable. I shifted from a peaceful meditative state to obsessing on the fact that I was cold and uncomfortable. I could not think about anything else and I could not find a rhythm. I swam as fast as I could to build up some heat. I decided to alter the plan and turn at 30 minutes instead of the 45 minutes we had agreed upon. I could not feel my feet and my hands were starting to go numb as well. The skin on my back and shoulders felt like needles were poking me. I tried to justify cutting the swim short by telling myself one hour in 62 degree water at night is still pretty good.
Swimming back under the 360 bridge was just as amazing as starting the swim. I liked seeing the car lights above us and the darkness of the bridge was comforting. It is an extraordinary view.
When I hit the dock at 1:03, I already knew what my plan was. Getting out of the water is the worst part for me. I start shivering uncontrollably and I can barely move my fingers or toes. I race to get off my wet swimsuit and layer on my warm sweats, wool socks, parka, hat and gloves.
And then there is Gracie. Gracie stood there in the water, taking her sweet time to take off her fins. She stood there in the cold air talking to some guys who had been out boating. I tried to give her a warm, dry towel thinking she was as cold as I was, but she was NOT cold, at all! Gracie was not shivering. I then learned her cap fell off during the swim. She swam in 62 degree water without a cap which made it even colder for her! When I apologized for turning around early and asked her how much longer she could have swum in the cold water, she replied that she never got cold - she was just tired. She could have stayed in the water for hours longer.
When Fred and I swam in the 57 degree water in the Chesapeake Bay, Fred's second swim was 45 minutes and mine was 30 minutes. Tonight I witnessed Gracie not even thinking about the cold temperatures when I could think of nothing else. Gracie could have swum for hours more and I was the one who had to get out early. Fred and Gracie can handle cold water much better than I can and I am going to have to rely on them heavily to help me through this acclimization process.
As my English Channel training unfolds, I am learning where my strengths and weaknesses are and I am adjusting my training plan accordingly. I am learning a quite a lot and I am still having the time of my life.
My main weakness is dealing with the cold. It is all I can think about when I am swimming and I experience that "fight or flight" reaction. I need to figure this out. My hope is that I will acclimate over time. I am improving, but I am no where close to where I need to be. I have put myself on a cold water remedial training program. The water in my pool is ~60 degrees, so every night I will take a dip. My goal is to get my body to handle the cold water like Fred and Gracie handle the cold water.
On a positive note, I have noticed that I am getting stronger in the water. I swam a total of 3 hours today at a good clip (believe me I was swimming fast tonight!) and I did not feel tired. My body is handling the increased mileage well, and the work is paying off in the pool. The goal is to continue to slowly ramp up the mileage and let the body adapt over time. I am excited about the improvements I am experiencing, which helps offset my love-hate relationship with the cold.
11/06/2005 Chesapeake Bay Swim
We experienced a new level of cold water swimming this weekend. Fred and I successfully completed 2 training swims in sub- 60 degree water this weekend and it was awesome! When I told Fred I was going to miss our weekend training ritual due to my 15 year Naval Academy reunion, he immediately bought a plane ticket and announced he was going with me to swim in the Chesapeake Bay. Our friends Peter and Cande quickly hopped onboard, too!
We could hardly wait for our Saturday morning swim in the 57 degree water. I think we were out the door 10 minutes after we all woke up. We had built up a lot of excitement and anticipation for the swim, and were both curious to see what 57 degrees felt like. We had only read about 57 degrees and we wanted to feel it for ourselves. Reading and talking about something is clearly not the same as experiencing it first hand.
The experience was fabulous for both of us. We drove out to Sandy Point, just outside of Annapolis, and enjoyed watching the sun come up over the Bay Bridge. The view, literally and figuratively, was breathtaking.
The outside air was a crisp 52 degrees, so we quickly undressed and started our swim. The outside air was 5 degrees colder than the water temperature. Words can’t adequately describe our experience. In previous swims I felt my right hand and left foot go numb. In 57 degree water, the process of the blood leaving your extremities and going to your core is practically instantaneous. I could actually feel the blood rushing from my arms to my core. My extremities quickly became numb but my core remained warm- it was a really peculiar feeling. The skin on my back and face burned from the cold – I felt like a piece of meat with freezer burn.
After I settled in, I started to laugh and have fun. I was extremely alert and aware of my surroundings and I wanted to absorb it all. I was swimming in 57 degree water! I began to believe I could do this for 6-10 hours for my qual swim. I started to wonder if I could endure these conditions in the Channel but quickly decided to think about that on another day.
I enjoyed riding the rough waves and feeling so alive. I liked feeling my body’s reaction to these extreme conditions, knowing it was all part of the process of acclimization. I am learning how to just let go and let it happen.
The mental piece of acclimating to cold water swimming is more than I initially realized I signed up for. Every cold water swim requires me to be on my game. The first step into the water is the hardest part. Fred and I have learned to not even look at each other. We know what we need to do and we just have to do it. In each of my long swims I have gone to that same quiet, meditative, focused state that I go to when I race Ironman. I now have a cue card to read before each tough swim to help me work through the experience. The card reads: “1) You have to learn how to swim in 59 degree water if you want to swim from England to France. The best way to learn how to swim in cold water is to just swim in cold water. 2) You can get out of the water after you have given it your best. Have you given it your best?” I might need to laminate this card.
The most uncomfortable part of swimming in cold water is getting out. Your body is “warm” while you are swimming and quickly cools down when you stop. Stopping is something else! When I get out of the water my body shakes uncontrollably. I discovered that it is best to strip off my wet swim suit as soon as possible in order to put some warm clothes on. Cande had to hold me up after today’s swim so I could get dressed. I was shaking so bad that I could not move. She had to help me get my arms in my sleeves, put my hat on my head, and put my gloves on. She helped me get as bundled up as possible before we went to sit in the car with the heater turned up full blast. Thank you Cande!!! While I was taking to Cande, my teeth were chattering so badly that I bit my tongue.
We stopped at 7-11 to get coffee after our swim. I was standing at the checkout fully decked out in cold weather gear: 2 hats, 3 shirts, gloves, pants, wool socks and a parka, and I was still shivering and shaking uncontrollably. I had a bottle of Recoverite in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other. The guy next to me was just staring at me. He was wearing shorts and a t-shirt. I am sure he thought I was de-toxing. I guess I was!
This weekend was a break through weekend. We are right where we need to be.
10/30/2005 If you have to ask why, you wouldn't understand.
Fred and I decided it was time for another long swim. I have come to really look forward to these long swims. Open water swimming is still so new to me - the swims unfold unpredicatably and I really learn a lot about myself out there. Today was no exception.
Since we didn't have time to coordiante getting a group together, it was just Fred and me. It had been a busy week and I was actually looking forward to being alone with my thoughts. A 4+ hour swim will certainly allow you to do this!
I noticed the beautiful fall foliage as we stepped off and quickly settled into that peaceful rhythm my body likes so much. It was pretty windy outside, so the water was really murky. When I started to look for something to occupy my thoughts I took a quick peek at my watch. ~ 3 minutes. Jeez! I predicted the swim would take a little over 4 hours, so I decided to just get comfortable and let the swim happen.
The water temp was 68 degrees. 68 usually doesn't affect me any more, but the wind made me cold today. When I took a breath on the right I could see the wind blow the trees pretty fiercely. I felt like I was in Lake Erie in January! When I took a breath to the left, I saw Liam bundled up in pants and a fleece vest. Yep, it is the end of October and it is going to get cold. I am here to adapt to conditions much more severe than this, so I needed to just get this swim deposited in the bank.
At about the hour mark I did not think I was going to make it. I had set out to swim to the 360 bridge and back and I was half way there. Sometimes training is physical and other times it is mental. The first 3/4 of today's swim was mental - And then it became physical. When I became uncomfortable, I decided to take an inventory and focus on the positive results. I discovered my body had acclimated from the last swim. This time, only my right hand was numb from the cold. I did not shiver while I was swimming and my teeth did not chatter uncontrollably like they did in the last long swim. My right hip flexor hurt again today. In fact, other than being cold, the only part of my body that hurt throughout the entire swim was my right hip flexor. Bi-lateral breathing seemed to alleviate some of the discomfort. I need to do my homework and find the source of this pain. On a positive note, my neck, triceps, biceps, back, and legs all felt great, and I had a lot of energy right up to the end (Fred was not going to be able to tell people I got tired this time!). My body is adapting.
A weird thing happened out there today though. At two points going down (and two points coming back), I started sneezing and coughing and my nose started to burn. I decided to just continually exhale out my nose to prevent whatever was irritating me from getting into my nose. It didn't work but I continued anyway. At one point I had to stop to adjust my goggles because I was sneezing so hard they were cutting into my eye sockets. I was cold, starting to get tired and my nose burned like crazy. I just can't figure out why no one else want to do this with us...
All sorts of things went through my head today. I started to question my goal and question my ability to swim the Channel. Is the hard part really the best part? There is a reason only ~20 people do this a year! I felt like throwing in the towel and finding a new interest. I didn't know how I was going to swim in the 57 degree Chesapeake Bay next weekend, I didn't know how I was going to do this 6-10 hour qual swim in sub -60 degree waters, I didn't know how I would swim Lake Cowichan or Catalina next fall. I did not see anyway I could swim the Channel. Somehow I turned the "corner". It was probably because I could never face Fred or my other swimming friends if I quit. Bruce Koach can run an Ironman with a broken ankle. Gracie shows up and does a bike ride with a huge honking knee brace and swims at the low water crossing without a cap just because. These people are tough, so perhaps I should toughen up a bit, too. I realized I could only control what was right before me. I was not here to swim the Channel today- I was just here to swim to the 360 bridge and back. Time to focus on the here and now.
My body has changed from these long distance swims and I can tell a drastic difference in the pool. On Friday I pushed off the wall and swam a few 100's in 1:02 and I swam a 25 in my Half Ironman swim last weekend (without a wetsuit!). My back and lats have gotten bigger from the training. Shirts that fit me 6-8 weeks ago are now tight across my back. It is really hard to find a 36AA bra now - do they even make a 38AA bra?! My suit is also starting to rub hickies under my arms. I guess this is what it is like to be a swimmer again!
Today I was able to swim the 8.4 mile distance without getting unusually fatigued. I am happy that my body is coming around. I am adapting to the distance and will get to push the distance envelope this winter. I need to continue to acclimate to the cold... and some serious mental training needs to be worked in as well.
My nutrition is also working perfectly. I am using a drink with half of the calories from Hammergel and half of the calories from Perpetuem. Sipping the fuel every 30 minutes seems to work for now. I am going to try warming it up and keeping the warm fuel in a thermos.
We were not able to get a post swim picture today like we usually do. When I walked up to get my car after the swim, my body started shaking uncontrollably. My muscles seemed to freeze up and then I started hyper-ventilating uncontrollably. Fred and Liam ran up and helped me. I do not know what happened but it scared the day lights out of me. It was either from being cold for so long or some allergy attack, or both. In any event, I did not like the experience. I couldn't help but wonder again if it is worth it. Taking your body to the point of losing control should not be taken lightly. I have learned that I have to push the boundaries gradually over time for them to expand. Any drastic changes where I go too far, too fast seems to actually set me back. The best approach is to just nudge the threshold and gently work my way into the new territory. Then, I need to just hang out there and absorb it. Anything more would be too over whelming. Anything less would be a cop out. The biggest challenge is knowing where that line is. The most important step after that is to step back and recover. I need to be rested, mentally and physically, to go push the boundaries again. Today's swim was not fun at all. However, I think going to the edge is part of the rite of passage.
It is now time to rest. Need to look at the calendar and figure out when can we go again.
If you have to ask why... you wouldn't understand!
Adventure ... you don’t know what will happen, you just know you want to be there. - Henry K.
10/9/2005 You Have to Earn It
Fred and I decided it was time for another long swim in Lake Austin. Our last long open water swim was 3 hours 2 weeks ago, so we decided 3:30 would be a healthy jump in duration. The goal was to swim from the Walsh Boat Landing, by the Hula Hut, to the 360 Bridge and back. It sounded reasonable...
As I pulled up to the boat dock to unload the red kayak, I noted that the air temperature was 54 degrees. I knew the water was going to be brisk. I made the decision to just do it without thinking about it. We have a goal and I need to just make it happen.
Fred and I had an incredible group of people out there with us this morning: David and Leslie Blanke, their paddler Brian, Tyler Blessing, Emory Osgood, Sally Maddox and Jeff, Liam and Bridgette. We laughed while wondering what the people in the water front homes thought while drinking coffee and eating breakfast when we all swam by their windows. We had a second laugh wondering what they thought when we swam by AGAIN while they were eating lunch!
The open water swims are just amazing. Their unpredictability makes it fun yet tough. It is hard to stare straight into murky, brown water for hours on end when you are cold and tired.
Two weeks ago RF and I swam out ~1:30 and turned around at the flag pole. This morning I made it to the flag pole in 1:26. It was a nice milestone. I thought the 360 bridge was only 10-15 minutes further. I was wrong...
At the 1:40 mark I was cold. My body was shivering and my teeth were chattering uncontrollably. This had been going on for the past 45 minutes. The water temp was between 65- 68 degrees. I knew I could swim to the bridge but I was not a fan of staying in the cold water and shivering for the next 2 hours. I picked a landmark and told Liam I wanted to turn around there rather than swim to the bridge. He told me I could do whatever I wanted. Ughhhh... He clearly knew what to say to make me finish. I put my head down and just kept swimming. I made it to the bridge in 2 hours flat. I took a quick drink of Hammergel, we took a picture, and I turned around, eager to finish and warm up.
At my next Hammergel fuel stop Liam told me Marie said hello. What? I knew he didn't know Marie so I couldn' figure out what he was talking about. It turns out Marie had been riding her bike across the 360 bridge at the same time we were there and she stopped on top of the bridge to say hello. Marie was coming over for dinner that night to celebrate Steven's birthay, so I laughed at the thought of how our conversation would go. I love this town!
At 2:39 I wanted to get out and get into the kayak with Liam. I was cold and shivering, and I was tired. My shoulders, neck, biceps, triceps and right hip flexor hurt. My right hand and left foot were numb. I had no where to go and there was nothing I could do to alleviate the discomfort. What do you do when you are backed against a wall?
The last time I felt this way was during my 8:11 bike ride with Peter. We got lost and our 4 1/2 bike ride nearly doubled in time. I got to the point where I just didn't think I could move forward any more. Somehow I was able to pull it out and make it happen. I knew I had this inner strength and I reached down deep to find it again.
"She started to sing as she tackled the thing that couldn't be done and she did."
Unfortunately the only song in my head was the song on the radio during my drive in: "Somebody's gonna give you a lesson in leaving.. somebody's gonna due to you... what you did to me and I hope that I'm around... to watch 'em knock you down"... uggghhh. Find something else to think about! Well, it worked. I just kept singing for a distraction, and I found that inner strength to keep going.
I kept dreaming about crawling out of the water at the end and sitting on the dock to rest and warm up in the sun.
I thought about Fred being out there too. Last year when we were training for Ironman, when I had a breathe-taking moment from a great sunrise, mountain top view, or pure adrenaline rush, I would ask Fred "What do you think the poor people are doing?" Fred's response was always "Sitting in front of 36 inches of living color, drinking a beer and eating a bag of potato chips." Our conversations have shortened to: "What do you think?" followed by "You know." This mental connection helped me get through some tough moments during today's swim. I knew Fred was out there somewhere too loving every second of it.
I decided to just let the swim happen. I would never duplicate this experience, so I just absored what I saw and what I felt. On my way back in I saw a grandfather sitting on a dock fishing with his two grandsons... I saw some ducks and the black swan... I swam by Bruce's place. There was a lot to see and I started to enjoy the challenge regardless of the discomfort.
I saw Fred and Bridgette and I knew it was over. 4 hour and 12 minutes. ~8.4 miles. I earned this one. I got out of the water really proud of myself. I love breaking through barriers but getting to the other side is not easy. I couldn't help but wonder if I could swim down and back TWO to THREE more times in water 10 degrees colder. It was time to go to Freebird's!
10/5/2005 Acclimization Happens
Today was a great swimming day! Fred and I did our routine Wednesday swim at Barton Springs at 5:15AM. Fred showed up with a surprize for me: he gave me a picture he found of Matthew Webb. Isn't that awesome?! I can't wait to get it framed for inspiration. Life is so good!
Our swim was just plain fun...The initial shock of the cold water is something else that early in the morning. I laughed as Fred declared that he heard tomorrow was going to be more refreshing. More refreshing? Our unspoken rule is that we are not allowed to complain or talk about cold we are. As I was trying to ease my way into the "refreshing" water, Fred just dove in and started swimming. Naturally I had to follow suit. Away we went.
I have learned that I have to have a clear plan before I get in the water, otherwise I allow myself to modify the plan. Today the plan was to swim for 45 minutes without stopping. I also started swimming without my swim cap to make myself feel the temperature more.
Acclimization really does happen. Swimming in the 68 degree water is not easy, but it is getting less hard. My first Barton Swim this summer took about 6 minutes. I went down and back and then got out and shivered the rest of the day. My hip flexors also ached for a few days- I think I was so tense from the cold that my body actually tightened up for ~48 hours. Today I was not cold until I got out. I felt the cold during the swim, but I was okay with it. My body seems to accept the cold water after the first 5 minutes. However, after about 30 minutes, the fingers on my right hand and my left foot go numb. My right shoulder also ached. I think the chi is just stagnant in these areas. I need to see what happens once I get it flowing better.
The drive from Barton Springs to UT for the Master's workout is interesting. My body is tight, starting in my core. I have to force myself to relax otherwise I would shiver uncontrollably. Don't forget I am wearing sweats, a hat and parka and my heater is turned up full blast. I am embarrased to admit the outside air is also ~80 degrees. I know, I know... my blood has gotten thin down here.
Our friends Joey, Laura and Sarah inspired me today. We told them their picture is on the website and we shared our goal with them. After we described the conditions of the Channel as we understand them, I told Joey the hard part was going to be the cold water. Joey disagreed and said it was the distance. I noticed at this point that all 3 of them were just standing there with towels wrapped around them. None of them were cold AT ALL. The fact that they didn't even notice the temperature boggles my mind. I had on enough layers for an avalanche and was still shivering away. I will now try to be more like them...
Swimming the English Channel has not been a life long dream for me. In fact, the idea did not enter my head until I met Davis Hart at a triathlon clinic in February. His stories mesmerized me and I started to wonder if I have what it takes to join "the Club".
I do not know if I have what it takes to swim the Strait of Dover, but I do know I am up for the challenge.
The factors that concern me right now are:
1. The COLD water. This Texas girl turns the heater on when the temp dips below 70! Davis swears that acclimization happens - I will be a good test subject for this experiment.
2. The Distance. The English Channel is ~21 miles across but we will end up swimming between 30-40 miles due to the tides and current. This summer I swam a few back to back workouts at Circle C to see how my body handled more yardage. My longest swim until now was 9500 yards in 2:30. We will see if my body can adapt to a gradual increase in yardage over the next 2 years.
3. The Unknown. There is a comfort in doing what we already know how to do. I think I have an idea of what I need to do to prepare for the Channel, but I will not know if I am on the right program until it is time for the test. Triathlon books and tri coaches are a dime a dozen these days... finding an English Channel Training program is not quite as accessible. Figuring it all out is part of what intrigues me.