Monday, September 26, 2011

This is who I am.

This post is a week late. The swim was last Saturday. Sunday I got on a train across Canada, and couldn't post. So here it is.

I didn't do the "last gasp" swim.  I'd pulled my glute muscle earlier in the week, and wasn't sure I'd have a strong enough kick. Another "DNF" was not the way to gain back my confidence. So I thought I'd test things out in Lake Washington instead.  This idea proved to be brilliant.

I was having a very emotional day. The trip across Canada was one I'd been anticipating for almost a year. And the fact that I was finally packing to go had me in a vulnerable feeling head space. That, combined with almost a week off exercise to rest the glute left me craving a workout.

I took a break from packing, and headed down to the lake. As I was getting in, a father, out walking with his young son, asked me about the water temp. My reply was "probably in the high 60's, so a little warmer than the air."  When I checked the bouy stats, I was right. 68*.  Perfect for a short swim.

Within 5 strokes I KNEW I'd made the right decision.  I remembered who I am.  Swimming makes me the most me I know. The sky's were cloudy, so visibility under water was excellent. And I relaxed.  The stress of the trip, the emotionality floated away.  It was the perfect swim.

It rained briefly. My first "wet" swim.  And the waves were whitecaps for a while.  I probably only swam for 25 minutes, as I still had some housework to do.  But it was still perfect.  A reminder of who I am.

I don't have photos from the swim.... so here's one from the train trip across Canada.'

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Lost my nerve?

There's a "Last Gasp of Summer" swim this Saturday at a lake just about 20 minutes from here. One mile and two mile options. Course open for 90 min with the 1 mile swim starting either 15 or 30 minutes after the 2 mile start, depending on which web page you read. Either way, that leaves at least an hour for a mile swim. In a lake (no tide). I didn't sign up a few weeks ago, when I first learned about it, because I didn't know if I'd be in town or not.  Now I know I will be.


For some reason, I'm scared to sign up. Do I want to drive all the way over to SeaTac to swim with strangers? What if I'm pulled again? There is something about the Park-to-Park, and the Greenlake Open Water Swim (GLOWS) that are familiar, are family. There are people there who love me. Who know I may be slow but that I'm strong. Do I really want to swim with people who don't believe in me?

I think my confidence is still shaken from the Whidbey Island swim. Especially the idea that I didn't know how bad off I was.  Although I admit that is a possibility, based on how I felt later in the day (neither cold nor tired) I have a hard time believing it is the "truth."

The first ever OWS that I did was GLOWS in 2007.  Here is an excerpt from my race report (note, that I swam this without a wetsuit):

There were about 50 people doing the half-mile and I started near the back. The chop was still strong from all the swimmers and a stiff wind, and I was getting a face full of water every time I turned my head to breathe. It was so cold that I was hyperventilating, my heart was racing. I switched to breaststroke to see if I could catch my breath. Then to sidestroke, facing away from the waves, so I wasn’t being hit in the face. The other swimmers around me (back of the pack) were struggling in the waves as well. I heard one call a lifeguard over to take her back to shore. Another took her wetsuit off and dropped it with a guard.  I pushed on, panting, and wondering how I could relax and breathe.

It occurred to me that I might have to drop. I wasn’t sure what to do to breathe. I slowed down. I switched strokes (trying everything but back stroke) I still couldn’t get my heart to stop racing or my breath to slow. I was taking in large amounts of water. I was quite sure I wasn’t going to do my tri in 3 weeks, not if the swim is going to be like this.  I knew, that I could do this swim if I could relax, but I couldn’t get my body to relax. The green tents of the finish looked so far away.

At one point I was the second to last swimmer. I heard three guards talking to each other- I’ll take this one, you take that one, you go on ahead with the pack. Great. I had my own guard. I took on more water, coughing. The guard asked me if I was ok. I told him I was fine, and kept moving forward.  I’ve had this kind of “death march” feeling in a race before. My goal was to just keep moving as I fought to relax. I couldn’t figure out how to catch my breath and still swim forward.

About half way across the lake I started to relax. Somehow, I got my rhythm. I was able to switch between crawl and breast. I gave into the experience, and swam.  The swim became fun. I started passing other swimmers. The green tents at the finish started coming closer. I could hear my mom’s voice yelling for me, and the cheers of other swimmers and spectators. I saw the swimmer in front of me stand, marked the spot and swam for it. Then I stood, legs shaking, and ran for the finish.

The conditions were bad, and I panicked, but pushed through it and finished in 22:xx (it's a short half mile). My head knows I can do it. My heart continues to doubt.

I'm still undecided about the "Last Gasp." My Saturday plans are not yet finalized, so I'm not sure I can make it. But I wish I were more excited. More able to say "I can do this."  I'm not sure where my confidence has gone or why I need others to believe in my to be able to believe in myself.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Lake Chelan- Labor Day Weekend

For the past five years a gang of my friends has gone away together for Labor Day weekend. We have visited the Washington Coast, Orcas Island, Mt. Rainier, and this year, Chelan, WA.  Thirteen of us rented a SWEET house, that included it's own private pool, and spent the weekend hanging out and swimming.
 The pool was a two lane, lap pool  Seriously good for both hanging out and swimming in.  Saturday, I did my first (and only?) pool swim of the year.  It felt weird to be confined to a pool. No wetsuit. No milfoil. Just chlorine. And a bunch of dead bees.

The house was up on the hills, above Chelan with an amazing view of the lake. We spent many an hour sitting in Adirondack chairs with a Pimms Cup admiring the view. Evenings we played with the pingpong table and had our own dance party.

 Sunday, we rented a boat. A simple pontoon boat, that had a wimpy motor, but could still pull a person on an inter-tube. We went swimming and tubing.

After about an hour of enjoying motoring up the lake we found a place to swim. KP, DF and I (the same friends I'd swum with in Baker Lake) lept from the boat and took off for a quick swim to shore.  KP's friend, a beach lifeguard, followed quickly behind (catching up with us easily). The water was amazing. Clear, and really soft on the skin. Few waves. No fish or other sea-life that we could detect. We touched bottom on the rocky shore. Rested for just a minute, then returned to the boat. It was a short, but excellent swim.  We continued to play and float in the water, dive off the boat and generally enjoy ourselves for another 40 minutes, before having to get the boat back to the rental agency. We were able to enjoy a local winery on the way back to the house.

I did a final pool swim on Monday morning. Enjoying having the pool to myself. Sad to leave it. We all agreed that this house will be rented again. Some future Labor Day.

On the way home (ok, out of the way) we stopped at Grand Coulee Dam. If we hadn't been focused on getting home, and the 3 hour drive in holiday weekend traffic, I would have asked for a swim stop, in Banks Lake or one of the many other beautiful bodies of water we passed.

Thanks to my friends, and swim buddies for a fabulous weekend.