Sunday, July 31, 2011

Must love dogs.

I love cats. They are fluffy and independent. And they purr. I want to snuggle them and invite them into my home. Dogs, I like from a distance. I'm glad they exist on our planet, as they are attractive animals. I am pretty dog neutral about them getting close to me. And am anti-dog if they are aggressive, jump on me, or lick me.

Today the swim was full of dogs.

I headed down to the lake around 10 am. There was a fund raising walk going on in the park, so there were people thronged on the path. A lot of them with dogs. A group of about 15 people and 6 dogs had stopped, on the swim beach, to let the dogs swim. Seattle Municipal Code prohibits animals on swim beaches. This park has a HUGE dog off-leash area including a dog only swim beach! And, just 30 feet or so down the shoreline there was easy water access where the dogs could legally swim. And yet this group had their dogs swimming in the one place in the park they are expressly prohibited from swimming. I started forming words to confront them about it, when the, of their own accord, headed back to their walk.

So I took off for my swim. A quarter mile or so in, there was a man on shore throwing a ball into the water for his dog. The dog would swim out and get it, then bring it back to the man on shore. A wet game of fetch. However, as I swam past, the dog decided to bring the ball to me. It took the man calling him 6-8 times, before he returned to shore. I used to have problems when I'd trail run in Green Lakes State Park outside of Syracuse, with off leash dogs who would rather run with me than walk with their humans. I have said that open water swimming is the trail running of the water. I guess this was just further proof.

My turn-around for this swim was the dog-beach in the park. That makes it a short mile swim. However, I was dogged out, so I turned around a little short. I didn't want another dog encounter. Lest you think I am too hard on the dogs. I fully maintain that there is no such thing as bad dogs, only bad humans who don't train and protect their dogs.

Vibram 5-fingers.

I got the shoes. The funny looking ones with a slot for each toe- Vibram 5 Fingers (these but not in leather). Tried them out at the lake this weekend, and they are ideal for my situation with the rocky beach. I can easily walk into and out of the water with no problem. I can swim in them and they stay put- no blisters.

It's an $80 solution, which isn't they way I usually want to solve problems. But it works.

And secretly I'm glad to have an excuse to have bought these shoes. I love to go barefoot, and can't wait to just wear them around.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Alice Lake.

We went camping at Alice Lake this weekend. Alice Lake is a great little provincial park about half way between Vancouver and Whistler. It is just a few km north of Squamish. The park hosts four lakes, and on Sunday afternoon we did the "four lake hike," a hike of about 5.5km that takes you past all four lakes. On the way we encountered an aggressive dog and two frogs (I am deathly afraid of frogs). The hike was pretty, and I evaluated the swim-ability of each of the lakes and decided that Alice was the best choice for my swim the next morning.

Monday was a bit colder and more overcast than Sunday, and I set off to swim around 11am. I started on the swim beach near the campground, swam to the far beach and back, then did another lap. Total distance around .75 miles.

The water was warm enough that I didn't need the wetsuit- but I wore it anyway. Since it was an overcast Monday there weren't other people in the water. A few kids were playing on the beach, but otherwise I had the place to myself. My spotter sat and read as I swam. It was quiet.

The only drawback of this swim, was the 9 hours my wetsuit sat wet in the car on the way back to Seattle. ICK! There needs to be another plan next time.

Air temp: 68 Lake temp: 66 Time in water: 35 min.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Oatmeal Swim.

When I ran I developed the concept of an oatmeal run. It was usually a short, not all that much fun, run that I did just to get a run in. Called "oatmeal" because "oatmeal is better than no meal at all."

Today was an oatmeal swim. Half mile easy. Matthews beach. Nothing worth posting about except a bald eagle sighting.

Water Temp: 68 Air Temp: 65 Time in water: 25 min.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Swim from Cuba

NYT has coverage today of Diana Nyad, a woman in her 60's who is planning on swimming from Cuba to Florida. 103 miles. That's my swim across Lake Washington, repeated approximately 73 times!

There are a few things I find remarkable about this story.

One is the focus on her as a woman in her 60's. The claim that older athletes may be better distance athletes. The idea that the wisdom and experience of age, combined with years of base building, can make the slightly older athlete a better endurance athlete. I've always thought of myself as someone with more endurance than speed. It may be that my parents gifted me with more slow-twitch muscle fiber than fast-twitch. My lineage of Russian and Turkish Jews does not breed sprinters. As I approach 40, I would love to age into a practiced endurance athlete.

Another focus of the story is on her saftey in what are assumed to be shark infested waters. Having just finished Fearless Swimming for Triathletes (review coming in the next week or so), I know that the incidence of shark attack on humans is very low. There are things they will do for Diana to make it lower, but in general, this is not her biggest risk. It plays well in the media, however, and that is probably part of the reason for its coverage.

Finally, the article mentions that she will eat "predigested protein." This just sounds icky to me. So I turn to the source for all things- google! Turns out that body builders use this, and the "predigesting" is done by adding the right enzymes to the protein, not a human or some other animal having to re-regurgitate it. Phew! It isn't as icky as it sounds.

I wish her luck with the swim, it will be interesting to see if she can make it.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Mathews Beach

In an effort to save my feet, I decided to try a different lake entry point. Off to Mathews beach, just up the road from my usual entry of Magnuson Park. Mathews has a few advantages over Magnuson. It has a sand beach entry. The swim area is smaller, the parking lot is smaller. The whole park is smaller. It has a few disadvantages too. It does not have showers, and it has a horrid milfoil problem.

Standing on the beach, looking at the flat water, I wanted to just swim across to O.D. Denny park- following the route of the Park to Park swim. But without a boat escort (or a way home for that matter) I decided parallel to shore was a better option.

I swam out into deep enough water, and looked for a turn-around point on shore. I was swimming south this time (I usually go North out of Magnuson). The point I picked, I estimated to be a quarter mile away. When I came home and mapped it on mapmyrun, it clocked the round trip swim at .49 miles!! How's that for accuracy.

There was a blue heron on a buoy for most of the swim. I got fairly close to it, and it didn't seem to mind. It's quite a beautiful bird-- with a very long beak and a neck that it can stretch so it looks like a crane or retract so it looks like a duck (with a pointed beak). Impressive.

One more draw-back of Matthews, is that where I swam was on a concave shoreline, so swimming straight, I got further and further from the shore. At Magnasun it's much easier to stay parallel to shore. And, my half mile swim took me almost to the NOAA station. I think they don't like folks too close to their equipment, so there may be a limit to the distances I can go, from this beach, in this direction. I'll have to swim North next time. Or, across the cove to Magnuson beach. Perhaps I can do a point-to-point swim from one park to the next.

Water Temp: 67 Air Temp: 72 Time in water: 25 min

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Motion Sickness and a blister.

Beautiful Seattle summer weekend day. High expected to reach the low 70s. Water temperatures in the mid 60s. Perfect for swimming!

And boating.

The motor boaters were out in full force. And the wakes were large and coming from multiple angles.

My goal was a mile swim. I'd used Map My Run to get some distances from the swim beach, and the dog park swim beach was about half a mile. So I decided to swim until I saw dogs.

As I started out, the wakes came across me from the side-- from 3:00. Then at an angle, from 1:30. The two sets of wakes crossed. Some wakes were large enough to break near me, rather than on shore. And I got hit with my first round of motion sickness. Since I didn't have any official remedy with me I had to try what I could. Breast stroke helps, as I can keep my head up and look at the horizon. Side stroke, when the waves were coming form 3:00 helped, probably because I could see them coming and anticipate them. Otherwise, head-down crawl left me sick.

A few months ago I took a long train ride to California. Before I left, I bought some motion sickness wrist bands. I didn't want Dramamine for a 20 hour ride, and am fairly prone to motion sickness. The bands were amazing. Although they hurt a bit after 10 hours or so (so I took them off to sleep) I didn't have ANY motion sickness. I specifically bought plastic ones so I could wear them to kayak, I'll have to try them for swimming.

I've been told ear-plugs help with motion sickness too- so they will be another "remedy" I will try.

As I said in a recent post, I hate the stone beach I enter and exit from. Again on this swim I wore my Lizard shoes. However, this time they wore a horrible blister on my toe. The blister broke open, and is still quite sore. I need to come up with a different footwear solution, or a different beach.

Water Temp: 66 Air Temp: 71 Time in Water: 50 min

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Safety gear possibilities

After CJ's and my conversation this weekend about his spotting me when I swim and what safety equipment to use, I did some research.

We want something that is 1) inexpensive, 2) light weight, 3) easy to use, and 4) effective (not necessarily in that order.)

A ring buoy is an obvious choice. But it would have the drawback of being big and bulky, not to mention dorky. I just don't see CJ walking along the shore, following me, with a ring buoy over his shoulder. He isn't a lifeguard, just a husband who doesn't want to feel helpless if his partner is needing assistance.

So then we discussed a throw bag. The throw bag has the advantage of being light weight, easy to use, and easy for him to store in a backpack or other bag. This is likely the option we are going to go with. CJ was worried about the ease of use for this for a rescue. I showed him a few articles, mostly focused on kayaksers, and he's agreed that this could work.

The plan now is to do a little more research and make a purchasing decision. I'll keep things updated when it comes in.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Happy Birthday Kavana

The Kavana Cooperative, which I've been involved with since it's start, 5 years ago, had a birthday party tonight. Bring your dinner, and Kavana will provide cake. At Golden Gardens, the quintessential Seattle beach. I see it as the perfect opportunity for a swim.

Dinner with my friends. Socializing. Cake. What more could a girl want? A vast Sound to swim in!

After dinner, I suited up and went down to the water. My friends watched my bag, and we had a quick saftey check-- I told them my planned course, and estimated time.

I'd forgotten Puget Sound is salt water!! This was my first salty swim. My friend BL had said his daughter had been in the water over the weekend and on a scale of "nice" to" eek its cold" it was just a Brrrrr. She was right. After the initial brrrr, the wetsuit warmed and the water was delightful.

I was swimming around 8:30pm with high tide at 9:18. I'd read that there tends to be a current across this beach in a northern direction. And that was correct. I got in at the south end (because that's where my friends were. I know to typically swim against the current first). I knew I could get out at any time and walk back if needed. The beach is sand, and therefore easy to walk on.

I'd forgotten that salt water can be icky. On your lips. And nose. There were a lot of seagulls, one who almost didn't fly away as I approached. And a lot of seaweed. But the temps were great. I had a yellow lab seriously consider swimming in to "save" me. And a kid skipping stones lob one at my head. There was a photographer who took tons of photos of me-- I wish I could get copies. This made me consider putting a name or URL on my swim cap, so folks could find me.

Generally a good swim. If I ever do an "Iron" length swim, I want it to be in fresh water. The salt got to me.

Air Temp: 73* Water Temp: 54* Time in the Water: 25 min.

Harrison Hot Springs

CJ (my partner) and I went away for the holiday weekend. It was a holiday in both countries. Sunday we drove up the Frasier Valley to look for a campground. Our one goal was a camping site where I could swim. Oh yeah, and spending some quality time together.

Kilby Park was our first stop. At the spot where the Frasier River meets the Harrison River, this campground is on a spit of land surrounded by water. It would be perfect, for camping, for a swim....except.... within moments of arriving and getting out of the car to pay our fees, we each got approximately 8 mosquito bites. The spot was immediately nixed. And off we went, in search of less buggy grounds.

There isn't much to the town of Harrison Hot Springs. Except the hot springs, some hotels, and one VERY LARGE Lake.

After a quick pic-nic and walk, I donned the wetsuit and headed out. The plan was to swim, parallel to the shore, while CJ walked along, spotting me. I swam what google maps shows to be about 2/3 of a mile, in what was very cold water. I wished I had my booties, as my feet never warmed up. The hands did, once I got moving.

Following shore I was able to wave to lots of people out walking. And communicate with CJ when needed. The water was not very clear-- I couldn't see my hands when my arms were extended. Probably the minerals from the geothermal pools nearby.

After, CJ and I had a conversation about safety. He'd like to get something he could throw to me, if I was in distress. So we brainstormed ropes with buoys on them, or other options. I'll do some research and see.

Air Temp: 68* Water Temp: Unknown (but cold) Time in the Water: 25 min.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Is gear the answer?

I wore sandals for last night's swim. The beach I enter on is rocky and I HATE walking across the rocks. I find it very hard, at the end of the swim, to establish balance on the rocks and it hurts my feet getting out.

So I wore my water sandals (they are like Tevas, but a brand I picked up in Israel years ago called "Lizard"). When I would do the crawl, they acted like little flippers, boosting my kick. When I would breast stroke, they would create drag. Slowing me down.

RJ suggested I get the Vibram 5-fingers shoes. She has a pair, and loves them, not just for swimming. I've been wanting a pair, but am unsure about the $100 price tag.

So the question now is, is this a good excuse to get shoes I've been wanting. Or is this another case of just throwing money at the problem. Should I move up one park north, and get a more sandy water entrance, driving 5 min further to swim, but saving $100 in shoes. Should I learn to just suck it up and do the rocky entrance? Is gear the answer?