Monday, August 22, 2016

Park to Park swim 2016

The Park to Park swim is a 1.5 ish mile swim across Lake Washington. Like a lot of open water swims, I clarify the distance with an "ish" because swimming a straight line is unlikely, and therefore the measured distance and the actual distance can be two different things.

I have done this swim 5 times previously- '10, '11, '12. '13, and '14. I was registered last year but had a back injury about 6 weeks prior and was unable to swim that distance at that time.

This year a friend of mine who is close to my pace, and hasn't done many open water events, asked if we could swim together. After a "shake down swim" two weeks prior to test pace match, we decided to give it a try.  It was wonderful to have a partner in crime when this event got tough, and tough it did get!

We gathered at Mathew's Beach around 7:15. I found a bunch of my Notorious Alki Swimmer friends. I'm so glad I joined NAS last year because it has given me a posse of like minded people. We took a few photos before hand, and this is by far my favorite! (NAS isn't all women all the time, that's just who we had for the photo).
What beautiful and colorful women!! Love to  join with them (that's me on the far left in my new bathing suit!!)

We joked about how silly it was to wear the ankle bracelets.  Between that and the number on the arm, we felt a little like prisoners.

The swim was supposed to have a line of buoys guiding us across the lake, but the wind had done a job on them in the few hours before the start and they were all way down the lake.  The staff was doing their best to re-place them before the start, but it was impossible.  This should have clued us in as to what we were getting ourselves into.

This year, because they gave us timing chips, they decided to do a mass start.  Those were were "competitive" started at the front, and the "recreational" at the back. People slowly walked through the start chute and into the water to start swimming.  It was pretty chaotic and still took a while for us to all spread out and find our groove.  D and I started at the back, wanting to just take it easy.

The water was warm, and started out flat.  We got into a good groove and were cruising along. I checked in with D a few times on pace and how she was doing.  She was swimming strong and having a good time. 

As we eased into the middle of the lake, the waves picked up.  D commented that she kept seeing "whale spouts" and I said I would believe it in these conditions.  The swells rose to about 2 feet, with white caps on top.

At one point I suggested D turn around and look behind us.  We were about half way across. It is amazing to see how far back the previous shore is, and it is reassuring when the shore ahead really doesn't seem to be getting any closer.

A few times, I saw a white cap crash above me while I was under water for a stroke.  The way the light played on the water they would appear to be sea-creatures of some sort.  I decided they were mermaids, and good luck.

The waves really were relentless. I reassured D that she was earning her Bad-ass points for the day, as this was the worst conditions I'd ever done Park to Park in.  She appreciated the reassurance, cursing the friends who talked her into it saying that lake swims are supposed to be calm and flat.

I was glad for both of us that we'd done so much training at Alki.

The safety crew were having a hard time managing their boats and paddle boards in the high winds and waves. At one point a safety kayaker was struggling with his boat and almost ran over me, D, and another swimmer.  I put up a hand to fend him off, as I knew I could push the boat away, protecting all of our heads.  He was able to maneuver away without my touching him (yay for following channel rules) but it was a bit harrowing.  After this incident, I realized, again, how incredibly comfortable and strong I feel in the water these days.  I never felt that I was at risk from that kayaker as I knew I had the ability to judge if I needed to push him away, grab on, or dive under.  It is great to see how confident I am in water these days.

D and I made it to the finish.  Tired, and with more water in our sinuses and stomachs than we would have prefered.  Everyone gets rockstar points for completing this swim.  It was a challenging one.

Final time was 1:14:08.  Slower than I'd anticipated, but I'll take it considering the conditions.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Gear Review: Rash Guard

Last month I had a mole removed from my shin.  Turns out the biopsy was "pre cancerous". I've always had pale skin and burned easily, but this has made me want to up my game for sun protection.  Enter the rash guard for swimming.

I purchased this top last summer from Lands End.  They claim spf 50 sun protection in and out of the water. I fist purchased this one in my normal street clothing size (and in blue, which they don't seem to have anymore).

I love the feel and the drape. But it was too big to wear in the water, it flapped around a lot during real swimming.  So then I got the yellow one, sized down to be tight (and I got yellow for visibility in the water). The bottom line is it serves its purpose.

I like the top best when I wear the swim safety buoy over it. The belt helps to hold it in place, otherwise it rides up a touch.  For the most part the top is unnoticeable in the water, which is what I want.  It stays a bit cold when wet and out of the water, so I need to remove it quickly, though it dries quickly on the line.  I've also had some moderate chafing issues with it under my arms.  Nothing a little body glide can't fix.

In the long run, I'm glad I have the shirt. It means I don't have to worry about the sun on my back, which is, of course, the hardest place to spread sunscreen yourself. I'll wear this happily all summer, and the blue one for summer festivals when I want to be cool and have sun protection.

Monday, June 6, 2016

The chop!

This weekend I had a bridal shower that kept me from Alki (and was totally worth it, Mazel Tov to the bride-to-be!!).  A mimosa before a swim may not be the best of ideas, but it helped me be festive. Since I couldn't make it to Alki, I posted on Facebook for a friend to swim with in the afternoon.

I met up with L at the big lake in the middle of the afternoon.  Seattle is in the middle of a heat wave, so it was in the high 80s and everyone wanted to be on the water.  With a strong wind and TONS of boats the lake was really choppy. I'd estimate there were 1-2 foot swells, and in many directions. The wind was mostly out of the north.

L and I did the mile round trip to the dog park. The swim out was much rougher than the swim back, with the wind. I had to stick to breast stroke, even though I want to work on my flutter kick, as freestyle would have made me seasick.  However, I observed how comfortable I was in the waves.  I remembered a swim from my 42nd birthday, a year and a half ago, where I was in similar chop and wasn't sure I was going to make it. I kept thinking I should give up and get out.  This time that wasn't even a consideration. I knew I could handle the chop.  It was great to note how far I'd come.

The funny sight on this swim was three men swimming and trying to keep their beer bottles out of the waves.  Each one had one hand, with a bottle, raised well above his head.  They did offer to share, so at least they were nice about it.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Kitsilano Pool AKA: My happy place

It was a three day weekend in the US, so the spouse and I took off for territories north to visit friends and family and eat vegan dim sum. One of my favorite things to do in the summer in Vancouver, BC is swim in the Kitsilano Pool. This pool is 137 meters long, salt water, outdoor on the beach, and absolute bliss.

The pool is so large I struggled to get a photo that showed the whole thing.

The water was perfect. Just warm enough to swim but not overheat. Clean. Clear. Only mildly salty. It was windy outside which made it a little cold when I got out. But perfect while swimming.

I did a mileish of laps, with 274 of just kicking. I've been wanting to improve my kick strength. The lap swimming is done by staying to the right of the two black lines you can see in the photo. Slower people go outside, faster inside. You can cross inside the line to pass if you need to.  Generally it was pretty well organized, even with a few dozen people swimming.  The pool is so long, you get spread out!

This pool is always on my list of places to go when I visit Vancouver between May Long Weekend and Labor Day!

Monday, May 23, 2016

Taste of the Water

In the past week I've had the pleasure of swimming in Puget Sound, Lake Washington and the pool at my local gym.  One of the things that struck me about the first swim back in the Lake, after a winter in Puget Sound, was that the water isn't salty!  It know, it isn't profound. It is definitely something I knew, intellectually.  But the realization was visceral.

I don't love the taste of Puget Sound. I know some of my fellow swimmers do. But the salt bothers me.  Lake Washington, doesn't have the salt taste, but it isn't really a clean taste either. It is always a bit "green" like there is something growing.  Which there is.

The best tasting lake I've swum in recently is Crescent Lake in Olympic National Park. The water had no taste at all.  It was amazing. So clean!  The color was remarkable too, blue, and clear deep enough to trigger my fear of heights as I came close to shore and could see the bottom again.

Crescent Lake

So although I don't try to drink the water (though I often get a face-full on a windy day) I am aware of the taste of what I swim in. Just one more reason to avoid polluting our waterways!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Body Image and Bathing Suits

I've posted a lot of photos of myself in a swimsuit or wetsuit here on this blog.

So you probably all have a sense of what I look like. One of the things that swimming, and this blog, (and possibly being in my 40's and maybe having a good F-off Fairy) have done for me is given me an "I don't care" attitude about being photographed in my bathing suit.

I look at these photos and generally think "that was a great swim".  I'm focused on how much swimming helps me love my body. When I saw this meme, I thought "YES, that's it!!"

When I swim I remember who I am.  I get to absolute pleasure of feeling the power of my body move me through the water. I get the playful feeling of buoyancy lifting me off the ground. I get to be an orca.  I get the feel of the water on my skin. I get to sense the changes in temperature, in wave motion, in smell. Swimming helps me love my body and all it can do.

During a recent group swim, I heard one of the other swimmers refuse to be photographed in her bathing suit without a cover-up.  This made me sad.  Swimming is about celebrating my body.  Rejoicing in its strength. Enjoying the sensuality of the water.  Any photo taken just documents that joyful experience. Nothing could make me happier.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Rules of the water

Seattle has been under Viadoom 2016 for the last two weeks.  The Alaska Way Viaduct was closed as Bertha, the resident tunneling machine, dug her way underneath.  This created traffic chaos, and therefore a spin off group of the Notorious Alki Swimmers.  5 of us met at the usually meet up time this weekend, but at a different beach-- Golden Gardens.  This north end beach allowed us to not have to travel the viaduct to Alki and to still get in an open water swim.

However.  It was boating opening day.  So as we pulled up to Golden Gardens, we were greeted with probably 200 sailboats parked just off shore, luffing.  Our swim started around 9:30, and at precisely 10am, they all tacked and started to sail away.

Except there was no wind.  And there were TONS of boats in a very small area.  So some of them tacked toward the beach.  One of them came withing about three strokes of me.  The captian waved at me, so I know he saw me.  But it still made me uncomfortable.

Since boating season is now officially open, and swim season lasts all year, this is a good time to review the rules of the water.

Seattle Parks website outlines the rules for open water swimming as follows:

SMC 16.28.010 indicates that swimming is prohibited except:
  1. in designated swimming areas
  2. within 50 feet from shore, unless the swimmer is accompanied by a boat that is designed for both swimmer and boater, is within 25 feet of the swimmer and have lifejackets for all persons on the water
SMC 18.12.180 states that watercraft cannot operate within 75 feet of a swimming beach, and powered watercraft cannot operate within 300 feet of a swimming beach.

75 feet of a swim beach. This sailboat was MUCH MUCH closer.  I could not have been more than 20 feet out, as the line of sailboats was probably less than 75 feet out. 

I looked for further information to make sure I was in the clear.  Seattle Police list the following information about swimming:


Swimming (SMC 16.28.010)
Swimming in all the navigational waters of Seattle shall be prohibited except:
  • A: In designated swimming areas; or
  • B: Within 50ft from shore or a pier; or
  • C: Within 25ft of a vessel
Swimming is prohibited in:
  • Government Locks
  • Montlake Cut
  • Fremont Cut
  • Under any bridge
  • Within the confines of any guide wall
  • Within 300 feet of a ferry slip
  • Within 300 feet of a boat launch ramp
So basically, I was in the clear.  The sailboat was in the wrong.  However, being right is not helpful if you've been hit by a boat.  I will continue to practice defensive swimming-- wearing bright colors, keeping aware of boat traffic in the area, doing my best to make eye contact with the boaters, etc.

There were at least three times as many by the time we swam!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Pool swimming

I swam in a pool today for the first time in months (possibly years).  I did laps for half an hour. It felt great.  But I also had totally forgotten what it feels like to swim in still water.  It is so easy.  With a stripe on the bottom to guide, the effort is simple.  I was able to just take pleasure in the motion of my body through water.

When I swim in the Sound, I wear neoprene gloves to keep my hands warm.  The ones I have are webbed, like this:

I kept forgetting, as I swam without, to cup my hands instead of spreading my fingers. I hadn't realized how automatic using the webbing had become.  Now that the weather is getting warmer, perhaps I'll have to leave the gloves behind a bit more.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Auditions to swim with me

The University of Washington Cheerleaders posted a "Do's and Dont's" list for how to become a cheerleader:
It is really offensive, for a lot of reasons.  But I thought it would be helpful to make one for the Notorious Alki Swimmers.  Want to join us?  Here's your list of Do's!!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Sea Lions- they don't actually "attack" humans

I love marine mammals. Orcas are just about the coolest animals on the planet, and I love watching them an learning about them.  Sea lions are up there among the cool. I've spent hours at both Pier 39 in San Francisco and on a beach near San Luis Obispo talking to the sea lions.  In fact, the fact that my boyfriend at the time waited in the car while I spent another 30 min with the sea lions was one of the many signs that he was going to be an ex.

Pier 39 San Fran

Last week, I had my first sea lion encounter in the water. We'd seen a few swim by prior to entering.  This one I saw surface and dive about 25 feet in front of me.  I was in awe.  It was beautiful! Then I was scared, I didn't see which way it went!

I looked for it under the water. I didn't see it.  I looked for it above. I didn't see it.  I'm pretty sure, however, that it saw me.  And probably swam away shaking its head at the poor blubber-less mammal that swims so slow.

The whole thing got me thinking about the safety of swimming with sea lions. So I did some research.

The news headlines were abundant "sea lion attacks man taking photo" "sea lion attacks kayaker". Seriously, a kayaker?  They aren't even really in the water. "Diver attacked by sea lion". But as I drilled down, I saw that all these articles had one thing in common-- the person was FISHING at the time they were attacked.  The man taking a photo had just cleaned fish and had one in his hand for the photo. The kayaker was "attacked" by a playful young pup who climbed on his kayak and stole fish.  The diver was spear fishing as well.

So I kept looking for cases of swimmers (without fish) who were attacked by sea lions. I found a story about a beach near San Diego where the sea lions had taken over, for resting and breeding purposes.  Humans were used to swimming from that beach and still wanted to. A few had negative encounters, including being bitten, by the sea lions.

The story reports:
Lately, the increasingly territorial animals have started blocking swimmers from getting into the water, forcing people to walk back and forth on the beach until they can find a safe opening to enter the ocean.

In this case, one has to put at least some of the responsibility on the human.  When a wild animal is clearly signally to you "don't go there" then you probably shouldn't go there!

Monterey Bay Sea Lions
I did find one case of a lone swimmer in San Francisco Bay who was neither fishing nor harassing sea lions when she was bit.  That was the only case I could find through a casual search.

The bottom line, is that they are highly unlikely to bother you, if you don't have fish and don't bother them.  So I'll keep on swimming, and hope to see more again in the future.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Warmth and ear plugs

People have often told me that ear plugs keep you warmer in cold water. The idea is that the cold water hitting your ear drum makes you much colder than if you avoid this. It didn't seem all that believable to me.  But I decided to give it a try, as I've been having a hard time swimming with my face in the water. I get "ice cream" headaches, and therefore revert to head up breaststroke.

So I used some old silicone ear plugs I had sitting around. I hate how they muffle all sounds. BUT, I was much warmer.  My toes didn't get cold. And I was able to do my longest Alki swim to date with my face in the water most of the time. So perhaps it makes a difference. I will have to try the earplugs that advertise they preserve the ability to hear.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Strong Current

Back to Alki. Water temp about 50. Air temp about 50. It takes me a loooong time to get in the water, but I'm know I'll be happy when I do. So I do.  The current is strong. My half mile out and back takes about 40 min, 30 out, 10 back! I spend the rest of the day hungry, but happy!

I want to work on my refueling. Take a sandwich with me to the beach. I think part of why I'm SO hungry the rest of the day, is that by the time I change, get home, take a rewarming bath, take a shower and eat, it has been as much as 90 min since I got out of the water. I need to cut that time down.

The good news is that even with the longer time in the water, I'm not losing too much body heat.  My temperature was 95 after the swim.  Still in what I consider a "safe" zone.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Mental Fortitude and Consent

Back in the water after two weeks off for my Flying Clinic. It was HARD to get back in. Getting into the cold water really is a mental game.  It was like all my mental fortitude was gone. Perhaps I used up all my emotional and mental strength on the flying. As I stood there, contemplating the water, waist deep, I even said, "I confronted my biggest fear last weekend and now can't convince myself to get into cold water this weekend."  I seriously contemplated getting out. But I want to participate in the Democratic Caucus next weekend, so will likely miss that swim. So if I want to swim in March. This is the one.

I watched a sealion swim by, it looked happy to be in the water. I wanted to join it.

One of my swim buddies told the story that she heard at the Duwamish Longhouse.  That when one enters the water, they should ask permission of the water to swim. I love the idea of getting the consent of the water for you to be there.  It seems that if the water consents, it is more likely to ensure your safety.

I ask for consent from the water. It took a few tries before it agreed.

For a good five minutes I stood there.  Shivering. Doing all the self-talk I could muster. Go, Rebecca. You'll be glad you did.  I splashed myself with water.  Got colder and colder.  The air temp was probably 55, so warm, but not with the water and wind. I watched other swimmers enter and swim off.  And finally, I got my consent, swore with a child-friendly swearword (fudgsicle) and swam off.

And it was delightful.

I felt like I could swim forever.

I swam to the third staircase (half mile round trip) and loved every minute of it.  I felt cold but I never felt too cold.  It was magical.

Oh yeah, this is why I swim!!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Orcas can fly-- a follow up report

I promised a follow up, so here it is. The orca imagery (described here) worked. It did.  I flew.  For the first time in over a dozen years, I flew without medication. I'm very proud of this.

The take off from SEATAC was smooth, but still nerve wracking, as it was my first moment to test my new-found confidence in flying.  I used good positive self-talk ("you are ok") and was fine.  We did hit some turbulence near Mt. Shasta, and I pictured an orca swimming over a large rock in ocean currents.  Perhaps the water gets choppier, but the orca is perfectly safe and happy swimming along.

The challenge came on the return flight.  If you live in Seattle you know we had a HUGE windstorm on Sunday.  Twenty thousand people lost power. The 520 bridge was closed due to wind damage. A semi truck overturned on the Tacoma Narrows bridge.  It was rough.  And that was when we were landing back in SEATAC.

The landing was bumpy.  Very, very bumpy.  When I'm swimming at Alki and a container ship goes by on the way to the Port of Tacoma, about 20 min later a HUGE wake comes in.  And it is choppy. Very, very choppy. So I pictured an orca in that boat wake.  Swimming along.  Possibly getting pushed about. But totally safe.  And happiest swimming.

I'm happy to be a flying orca!

Here's the crew that I "swam" with:

Monday, March 7, 2016

Open water swimming and my fear of flying!

I don't like to fly. Which is unfortunate, because I LOVE to go places.  But turbulence makes me very anxious.  As does being in the air.  And take off. And to some extent landing.  I get panicked on airplanes. I have anxiety attacks. I grab the hand of the person next to me, which is fine when it is my husband, not so cool when it is a stranger.  Basically, flying sucks.

But I want to fly. I want to fly comfortably. I want to be able to go to the places I want to go and have flying simply be a mode of transportation, no more or less stressful than a train or car or bus.  Sometimes stinky, sometimes delayed, but generally ok.

So I signed up for the "Fear of Flying Clinic" run by a non-profit in Seattle. The clinic is held at the Museum of Flight (or as I've come to call it-- the Museum of Anxiety) for two weekends. It culminates with a "graduation flight" together-- to Sacramento and back in a day.

So what does all this have to do with swimming?  Well, my love of open water swimming came up multiple times over the course of the past two days of the clinic, and is helping me overcome the fear.

One of my biggest fears is that the plane will just fall out of the sky.  Turbulence feels that way to me.  I was talking to the pilot who volunteers at the clinic to teach us the science behind flight.  He said that air is a fluid, just like water.  The plane can't just "fall" because the air is there beneath it.  That is when I started working on my airplane as orca metaphor.

The metaphor is that the airplane loves the air like an orca loves the water.  It will swim (fly) along happily.  Sometimes a current from a river flowing into the water will push it aside (strong side wind) and the orca will keep swimming (flying) along, adjusting its course to go where it wants to go.  Sometimes there might be obstacles that create churning water (turbulence from the jet stream for example). The orca just keeps swimming (flying) along its way.  It may not like the churning water, but it does not pose any type of hazard to the orca (airplane).  Sometimes there may be boat wake, that causes the waves to bounce the orca around.  Again, it may be uncomfortable, but it does not pose a safety hazard.

Since I experience these types of currents and wakes and waves when I swim, I can picture myself as a orca (airplane) safe and mostly happy in the water (air). I was first developing the analogy for a swimmer, but realized that the tendency for a swimmer to be high in the water, made some if the details difficult.  For a water-loving mammal like the orca, the analogy can go further.

I'll get to test this analogy next weekend, at my graduation flight! Wish me happy swimming (flying)!

Friday, February 19, 2016

Swimming farther

Last week's experiment in body temperature helped me see that I can increase my time in the water. And if I do regular temperature checks, I'll be able to push my limits and see where the threshold for too long is.  I'm sure the time to temp drop is not a linear scale, as the act of swimming generates body heat.  The harder I swim the more heat I generate.  So bigger waves or stronger current might actually help keep me warmer.

This did let me swim further this time.  I matched my "furthest" swim at Alki!  Last time I did that distance I was wearing a wetsuit. So this became my furthest swim in skin!  How far? To the third set of stairs!! How far is that? Well, a half mile.  I hope to keep pushing further.

Here's the map:

The red arrow marks the bath house where we start.  The blue arrows point out two sets of stairs, and the green arrow marks the third set, where I turned around this time.  The stairs are .1 mile, .2 mile, and .25 miles from the bath house respectively.  Making this a net .5 mile swim.

The eventual goal is to swim to the light house!

Again, the red arrow marks the bath house. The green arrow is the light house, .6 miles away from the bath house for a 1.2 mile round trip.  Since that is more than double what I'm swimming now, I will need to work up to it, not so much for distance, but for time in the water.  I was easily doing 1.5 miles or 2 miles prior to my injury last July. I don't think it would take me long to build that distance if I weren't so worried about the cold.  So I'll build slowly and see how my cold tolerance builds.

Monday, February 8, 2016

How Cold Is It?

After a few months of swimming from Alki with the Notorious Alki Swimmers, I've become fascinated by the issues around getting cold and warming up again. I've watched other swimmers spend 15-20 min post swim in a teeth-chattering shiver, which can't be good.  My goal has been to avoid ever getting THAT cold.

I've been reading up on hypothermia and cold water, to try to get a sense of where the limits are, how long I can stay in the water and be ok.  One thing I've noticed is that all the writing is about people ACCIDENTALLY ending up in cold water. Not those who intentionally do so!

My initial reading on hypothermia took me to the Mayo Clinic site and their list of symptoms.  What became clear, as I was reading, was that it can be hard for the person with hypothermia to recognize it, because one of the symptoms is fuzzy headedness or confusion. This is scary, so I can get this thing, and not even know I have it!

All this made me slightly anxious that I was taking a foolish risk with my swimming.  At the same time, I'm one of about 20 people who do it weekly, and many of the others stay in the water a LOT longer than I do.

So where is the line?  How will I know if I'm getting too cold?  Can I know when I'm IN the water, or will I only know with hindsight? Most websites on the topic says that hypothermia sets in when the body temperature is 95* (F) or lower. (There is mild, moderate and severe hypothermia, but I'll talk about those some other time.

My research took me to the LoneSwimmer blog, where the author has asked these questions and attempted to answer them with science.   The chart below is from that blog and provided me some comfort.

Alki is usually around 10* C. So this gives me a safe zone of just under an hour in the water, and a marginal zone of three hours.  That would expand my swim range significantly, from the current 20-25 min.

The author of LoneSwimmer also pointed me to research that shows that there is no long-term negative effect of MILD hypothermia (the author has an in depth discussion of this topic as well). This may give me permission to push a bit further.

But the question remains, am I getting hypothermia on my current swims?

So I took a thermometer with me to Alki last week.  Here's what I learned:

Before the swim (at home) temp 97.3 (yes, this is normal for me, I'm always a bit low)
Before the swim (at the beach) temp 96.8. 
After the swim (at the beach) temp 95.3.
After the swim (at home, about 45 min later) temp 97.3.

What does this all mean?  

First, I lost about a degree and a half in the water for 20 min or so (I swam to the second set of stairs, and there was little to no current). With a low "normal" body temperature, I'm not sure hypothermia, for me, will be at the precise 95 degrees. I'm guessing that it has more to do with lowering the body temp 3.6 degrees (from 98.6 to 95) then a set 95. But this is just a guess, I'd love to find research that supports it. If I could lose up to 3.5 (for rounding sake) degrees and still be ok, then a body temp as low as 93.8 would put me into the hypothermic zone. 

Second, I'm losing a half a degree just between home and the beach.  We often spend a bit of time hanging out waiting for people to gather and working up the nerve to get cold.  My body is cooling in that time. I may want to work even harder to stay warm in that phase.

Lastly, I rewarmed by the time I finished the drive home.  With no adverse effect.

For this to go from anecdote to data, I'll need to add some data points. Will continue doing the temp checks, before and after swimming for a few weeks. Stay tuned for updates. 

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

CSO: Or why I didn't swim this weekend

I live in Seattle and swim in Puget Sound (or Lake Washington). Recently I've been swimming most often out of Alki beach in West Seattle.

Seattle has a dirty little secret. That is, with each large rain storm, the city releases thousands of gallons of sewage into the waterways, both Puget Sound and Lake Washington.  This is done to keep the sewage from backing up into the streets when the storm drains are full.  That's, on balance, probably a good idea.

However, I don't especially like swimming in raw sewage.  And so, when the rains are heavy, I check the city website for information on if the Combined Sewage Outflows (CSOs) have fired off.  If they have, I don't swim.

Here's the chart from this weekend, with my swim point marked with an arrow:

One might argue that the CSOs near my swim site weren't dispensing, so why not swim?  Well, I once got VERY sick after a swim with that logic.  So these days, a red or yellow CSO means no swim for me.

I hope to be back this weekend.  And, as the days are getting (slightly) longer, perhaps an after-work swim will be back on the agenda soon!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Getting Warmer...

The plan for this week's swim was to "hyper warm" before the swim and see if that helped with my time in the water.  The short answer is, it did!

Here's what I did... Prior to swimming I tried to keep my body warm. This started when I got out of bed, immediately putting on sweatpants and a sweatshirt, even though the house was comfortable. Then I kept the heat up in the car on the way to the swim, and wore a puffy jacket and hat until the moment I put on my swim gear.

That's me under the arrow. You can see in the pre-swim group photo I'm still wearing my hat and coat.  I was nice and comfortable.

For the swim I wore two caps (one silicone, one latex, that's just what I had on hand) and my booties and gloves.  I swam for 25 min or so, to the second stair case. And I felt comfortable the whole time (OK, the cold side of comfortable, but still ok).

My one mistake came near the end of the swim. I started chatting with another swimmer and just gently paddling. This got me COLD.  My fingers started chilling first. I tried to make fists inside my gloves and ended up removing the gloves, which just made my fingers colder.

For the first time, I did have a small amount of the teeth chattering after the swim.  This only lasted about 30 seconds and I was able to control it.  But that is the threshold I don't want to cross. I think I would have been ok, and not had the chatters, if I'd not done the slow paddle chat and instead finished swimming. I'll know for next time!

Air Temp- 40. Water Temp- 48.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Learning about cold water

Great January 2nd swim at Alki.  Met up with the gang, got in the water, and got COLD.  Ended up feeling like my fingers were colder than I wanted them to be, so I got out. Air- 29, Water 48, time in water, about 15 min.

I've been thinking about why I got colder faster this time. It might have been the air temperature, but I'm not really sure how relevant that is when your whole body is in the water.  I think what happened can be seen in this photo.

Of the two in red sweatshirts, I'm the one on the right.  You will notice that my hands are tucked up inside my sweatshirt sleeves for the photo.  This is a sure sign that I'm feeling cold. I think I was too cold before I even got in the water.  And therefore, couldn't truly get warm from swimming.

I have a big puffy jacket that I often wear in these colder temperatures, but had realized a few weeks ago that it is so non-breathable, that the warm air from the car heater wasn't getting into it to warm me post-swim. So I left it at home. I didn't think about how it could help me pre-swim.

My goal is to try to heat my body a bit more before the swim next time, and see if that helps.  If not, I may go back to the wetsuit, so I have more time in the water.

The good news is that my fingers re-heated quickly and I maintained my fine motor skills, so I was unlikely in any real risk of frost bite. I am glad, however, that I made the decision to get out of the water when I did. The goal is always safety first!