Sunday, January 7, 2018

Swimming with a whale

Yes, you read that right. I finally got the experience of swimming in the Sound knowing there was a whale nearby.  I was getting ready to swim with the Notorious Alki Swimmers, when we spotted a whale just off shore.  After watching for a while, the blows were seen again.  Our best guess is a Gray Whale.

I still hope to someday see a whale while I'm IN the water.  But this will do for now!!

Here's the gang that can say they've swum with a whale!

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Notorious Alki Swimmers

Two years of swims in one collage:

Proud to call these folks my friends!

Making Waves

Growing up in North Carolina we would go to the beach every summer for a week or so. The water was warm and swimable, if dirty. Regardless of how careful I was, every summer I'd get knocked over by a wave and have that horrible moment of tumbling, not knowing which way was up, and getting water up my nose.  I hated it, and it instilled in me a fear of high surf.

In early November, the spouse and I were in California for a vacation. I did a swim in the ocean near Ventura, and wanted to do another near Carlsbad. When we got to Ventura and I looked at the water, I was not fully confident of my ability to swim in the surf.  This is what it looked like:

Yeah, I know, most don't look at that and get scared. But I do. Any breaker feels like a lot to me.  But I went and swam. I did laps parallel to shore for half an hour while the spouse sat on a beach chair and read.

A friend from Alki had told me, prior, that if I watched the water for a while, I'd see the wave pattern and have a better sense as to when to go in.  She was right. After watching the waves I knew when I was about to get a low one, and used that opportunity to get to deeper water.  I had a great swim (the water was WARM compared to up north here) and was proud of how I did in waves I wasn't that confident about.

Then, New Year's Day 2018 came. And I wanted to do a NYD swim.  Not just a "plunge" where you go in and immediately come back out, but a true swim. The gang from Alki met up for a 1pm swim.  There were just a few of us who showed up:

The wind was from the north, so the waves were big.

I got in and swam. It was hard. I was uncomfortable. I got water up my nose and in my throat.  But I felt safe.  There were so many other swimmers, and I'm getting more comfortable in the water as well.  I'm really glad that I swam, even if the video should be entitled "Rebecca, look behind you".

Happy new year, and see you in the waves!

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Synchronized Swimming

I love to dance. And I love to swim. A few months ago I came up with the idea that I'd love to dance in the water, aka, try my hand at synchronized swimming. That led me to the discovery of the Seattle Cascades Synchro Team!

In October I started out with the beginners series.  Nine of us brave souls got in the water for the first time and started to learn basic moves like head up breast stroke, sculling, back tucks and egg beaters. Egg beater was the new move for me, and it took a few practice sessions on my own to figure it out.
After six sessions, we had a little routine down. I'm in the middle of the row furthest from the camera-- dark bathing suit, light cap.

The group of women were wonderful.  Each with her own strengths and weaknesses in the pool and each eager to both learn and support each other. 

Seven of us have continued on, past the beginner class, with hopes of joining the team.  If we stick with it, we can be our own beginners team, and compete together.  

This is some serious fun, it combines my love of swimming, my love of dance, a challenge that is reachable, camaraderie, and some new cognitive skills. The thinking required to know where you are in space (or water) and how to move to keep coordinated requires some serious concentration and cognitive stretching!

The best part is, I get to keep learning.  Here is me practicing ballet legs:

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Halloween Fun

One of the things I like about my swim friends is the ease with which we joke around with each other. No need to be professional. Just a bunch of locker room talk (which does not mean dirty, it means casual).  This means that Halloween gives us extra licence to have fun!

One friend brought a fish head to our last swim that was a cause for much merriment.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Swimming and Leadership

Facebook's "On This Day" feature reminded me of a blog post I wrote a few years back that was an intersection of leadership and swimming. I was faculty in a Higher Education Leadership program at the time, and we were blogging about "everyday leadership."  The post is below:

Persistence and Leadership: A Story of an Epic Swim

-Written By Dr. Rebecca 
mapmyswimThis weekend I completed the longest swim of my life. It was about 2.5 miles (swim distances are never precise, as you never swim a straight line) as I circumnavigated Seward Park in Seattle. Seward Park, for those of you not from Seattle, is a city park that is a peninsula in Lake Washington. You can park your car, enter the water on the North side of the peninsula, swim for two and a half miles and exit the water on the south side of the peninsula, about 100 yards from your car. This makes it ideal for a long swim, as you can stay close to shore, never backtrack, and swim long.
As I swam this weekend, I reflected on how my swim was a metaphor for leadership:
Sometimes it isn’t about Precision, it is about Forward Motion
I love to swim and found a passion for open water swimming about four years ago. The ability to just walk into a body of water and swim wherever I want, gives me freedom. I’m not a fan of chlorine or flip-turns, but with Lake Washington always free and always open, I can swim as far as I want whenever I want. Open water swimming also de-emphasizes precision and stroke. An open water swimmer has to breathe on the side where the waves don’t hit her in the face. And she needs to lift her eyes every few strokes to ensure she is on track. An open water swimmer doesn’t have a line on the bottom of the pool to follow, so she needs to forge her own path through the openness.
Sometimes, as a leader, the focus on precision and clear paths keeps us from making forward progress. Leading by going where the water is calmer, can be beneficial, if otherwise the waves would keep you from getting there.
The greatest accomplishments are the ones we are not sure we will achieve.
The first mile of my swim was out of a cove and into the wind. The waves were strong and the wind was heavy. It was one of the most hard-fought swims I’ve ever done. I would look at a landmark on shore and think there was no way I’d ever get there. Then I’d swim and swim and swim, and only make it part of the way. I’d have to take a breath, and keep going. Eventually I’d get there. Then I’d pick the next landmark goal. Many times during this first mile, I wanted to give up. Many times I was truly unsure I’d make it. I knew I always had the option to swim to shore, climb out, and walk back to my car. This wasn’t something I wanted to do, but it was an option. When I finished the swim, I looked back on that first mile and the doubts I had. It make the victory of completion that much sweeter.
As a leader, doing something you know how to do is easy. True leadership skills are proven when accomplishing something you are unsure how to do.
swimgogglesAchievement is a Mental Game
The swim got hard at times. Not just the fight against the wind of the first mile, but the fatigue of two solid hours of swimming. The motion sickness from mild dehydration coupled with the motion of boat wakes. The goggle headache from two hours of suction around my eyes. It was physically uncomfortable. There were times I just wanted to quit. But I didn’t. When I got tired or uncomfortable I refocused myself. Reminded myself of the goal. Gave myself a pep-talk about persistence and accomplishment. And kept swimming.
Leadership, similarly, can be a mental game. As a leader you not only have to motivate yourself, but your team to keep moving toward the goal. Projects can get uncomfortable, but with a reminder of the outcome, and a refocusing of the team, you can get there.
Dr. Cory is an associate professor and the associate program director for Higher Education and Adult Learning at CityU’s School of Applied Leadership

Monday, September 11, 2017

Swimming through Smoke

Every year, a group of friends and I go away for Labor Day. And every year I try to get my friend D somewhere cool to swim with me.

This year we were in Stevenson, WA in the beautiful Columbia River Gorge.

We had a 6+ bedroom house high on a hill overlooking the river. It was a perfect place for a weekend getaway with a group of families.

About 5pm on Saturday afternoon, my spouse woke me up from a nap and suggested I look out the window.

There was a giant column of smoke from the hillside across the way.  By the time the sun had set, we could see the fire from our porch.

We were able to see individual trees go up in flames. The media was reporting that there were approximately 150 hikers trapped on a trail above the fire. We worried about them as we marveled at the power of the fire.

Sunday we woke up to smokey air quality and heat.  No one really wanted to go outside. It was hard to breath and ash was falling from the sky.  We spent most of the day inside, playing board games and reading.

Monday, as we were packing up, I was feeling sad about not having had a swim adventure. So I convinced D to go down and dip in the Columbia River with me. It looked like it was snowing on the way down to the river; there was that much ash falling from the sky.

That's D with the SUN above his head.  That's how smokey it was.

The water felt refreshing, as it was still early enough in the day for the air to not feel awful. We swam upstream for about 25 minutes. We got to a point where we basically were on a treadmill, swimming with almost no progress.  So we turned around and headed back.  I'm glad I got my swim in, even if it wasn't the greatest ever.  I'll have memories of the ash that day.

On the way out of town, I stopped and took this photo.  It accurately portrays the air quality that day.

The good news is that all of the hikers were safely evacuated.  The bad news is that a lot of a beautiful wildlife refuge has been destroyed.