What I’ve Been Doing Instead of Swimming (Snowzilla Edition)

I’m officially in the Chesapeake Bay Swim. Yay! So, of course, instead of training (the pools are closed due to the big hissy fit Mother Nature had all over the mid-Atlantic, I have been doing a lot of shoveling. A LOT of shoveling. And a little of this:


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2016 Race Calendar – Spots Still Open!

It’s officially a brand new year, so I’ve been spending some time trying to figure out exactly what kind of trouble I’m going to get into in 2016. I’ve already committed to spring Masters Nationals, so that goes on the calendar.  The Chesapeake Bay Swim definitely goes on the calendar, assuming I get picked in the lottery. I’ll mark that as tentative for now.

Otherwise, I’m at a loss. Should I re-attempt the 10 miler? Should I look for something completely different, possibly on the west coast? I’m definitely planning to help this guy crush some big swimming goals this coming summer, but the plans for the long training swims have not been fully pulled together just yet (although I’m definitely looking forward to my first swim in La Jolla Cove since I was 6). I’m getting a bit twitchy trying to figure this out, with some possible work issues throwing another potentially large wrench in the planning.

On the other hand, this is probably the earliest I’ve started getting my crap together with my swimming plans for the year. Usually right now I’m holed up in my cave like a hibernating bear, downing copious amounts of holiday cookies, and dreading having to throw my well-padded ass back to the pool. While I did have some down time after the disappointment in October, I seem to be finding my mojo much earlier than usual this time around.

So, since the calendar is still mostly up for grabs at this point, anyone have any great ideas for cool and interesting races to tackle this year?

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My race was cancelled. Now what?

I have been seriously delinquent in my race report for the Bridge and Back 10 miler because, well, there was no race on which to report.

Yep. After a full summer of training for this race, a nor’easter decided to hit the mid-Atlantic the very weekend we were scheduled to swim. The river flirted with flood-stage levels, and for safety reasons, the organizers were forced to call the whole thing off.

I understand. I think it was the right decision, especially after they posted a picture of the river on the day of the race – chocolate brown rapids. Ugh. But holy crap, was I frustrated and upset. I went from someone who was focused and working hard toward a significant athletic goal to someone with nothing particular to do that weekend besides put some analgesic gel on her slightly achy shoulder.

So, as you might expect, I drowned my sorrows in beer and ice cream.

(c) wynne

Artist’s rendition of Grappledunk taking a header into a vat of ice cream.

Several weeks later, I am still working my way out of a post-race funk that I feel I don’t even deserve, not having actually raced. Therefore, in order to get myself back into the grind, I have decided to sign up for Masters Nationals, which will be held in April in North Carolina. Since it’s being held in a nice, protected, concrete lined indoor pool, if we are swimming against a current, something has gone terribly wrong.

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Almost, anyway.

The 10 miler I spent my summer training for happens this weekend. I am excited and nervous. I’m simultaneously wishing the day were here already and wishing I had more time to prepare. I keep second guessing my training – did I do enough? I should be able to finish, at the very least. Right?

My training swims included an 8-mile straight pool swim and an 8k straight pool swim, a 4.4 miler in the Chesapeake, 3 (somewhat queasy) miles in the Atlantic, and a 10k in a less than placid lake. I managed to shed a few extra pounds that I didn’t want to bring with me up the river, and I did some strength training to keep my shoulders from having a complete nervous breakdown.

But I just got a weather report from the Best Swim Mom Ever, who informed me that the weather forecast for the entire week is…rain. And the day of the race? Yup. Rain. As many of you know, rain can have a rather deleterious effect on river levels, at least for those of us who plan to swim against the current for several hours. Flotsam and jetsam will likely be abundant. (Quick question for those of you who know things – is the stuff I find in my swimsuit after a race considered flotsam or jetsam?)  The temperature will also be decidedly un-balmy, especially Friday for the practice swim.

As my age group swim coach used to say, “Near perfect conditions”. He just never told us exactly how near.

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2015 Lake George Open Water Swim Race Report

Last weekend, I got the crap beaten out of me by a lake.

Lake George 2

Looks all calm and unassuming, doesn’t it?

I’m not kidding, either. I went up to Hague, NY for the 2015 edition of the Lake George Open Water 10k last weekend, a race I did last year and essentially beat the crap out of myself beforehand. So, this year, armed with the memory of what *not* to do when traveling 8+ hours to a race, I arrived in Hague a day early, with plenty of time to rest and recover from the long drive. I relaxed, wandered around the area, and found this fabulous specimen at the side of the road.


Dodge Power Wagon. I so want to buy this and restore it.

I even spent a few minutes swimming in the tiny, roped off swimming area at the public beach where the event starts.

Pretty. But small.

Pretty. But small.

The lake was gorgeous, the water clear and calm and at an almost perfect temperature. None of the melt-your-face-off heat we’ve gotten from the Chesapeake Bay Swim lately, for instance. So, lulled into a sense of complacency, on the day of the race, I was expecting nothing but the same.

The 10k is conducted over four 2.5 kilometer loops, with a conveniently placed feeding raft at the turn buoy. As we made our way to the in-water start line, the lake demurely reflected our faces back at us. The starting horn sounded, and off we went. I felt good the first loop and even wondered if I might be going a bit slow, despite the fact that I was at the front of the pack. I decided to hold my pace and try to descend my effort each loop. I rounded the lap buoy, took a quick shot of UCAN at the feed raft, and headed out for the second loop.

Then, it felt like all hell broke loose. A nasty headwind kicked up suddenly on the outbound half of the course. The waves gradually increased to the point that I couldn’t tell the difference between the wake from nearby boats and wind-driven chop.  Whitecaps smacked me in the face as I tried to sight. When I didn’t make an effort to swing my arms higher on recovery, they got stuffed by a wave halfway through the stroke. The second loop was challenging; the third and fourth got progressively worse, or my perception of it was worse as I got more tired. The outbound half of the loops seemed to take forever, while the return trip was much faster, but even with the tailwind on the return, the constant pummeling from the chop took its toll. Where the water was more shallow, the wave action was kicking up the sediment and clouding up the water.

I also lost the other competitors and spent most of the last three loops swimming by myself, with no concept of where any of the other swimmers were in relation to me. Thankfully I managed to stay on course this year – lesson learned on that one – but I also wonder if I would have gone a bit faster with someone nearby.

I exited the water almost exactly a minute slower than 2014. I’m not sure what that means for my performance, since I don’t remember any sort of serious wave action in the previous year’s race, but then, I could have conveniently forgotten that little detail. But on the other hand, I think I really rocked the run up the beach to the finish this time. I didn’t trip and fall on my face or lurch sideways like a socialite at 3 am, which I have been known to do in the past, so I felt pretty badass for that.

If I can manage a similarly graceful exit on the 10 miler, chances are I will have had a good race. Only a month left – maybe I should start doing some finish line repeats.

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Staying Motivated to Swim: Summer Edition

One of the hardest things about getting in shape is staying motivated to get to the pool every day. Since my spectacular burnout in college, I’ve had trouble forcing myself to get in the pool on a regular basis for an extended period of time. I would get out of shape, start swimming again, hate it because it hurt so badly and I sucked, and then peter out again. I would repeat this cycle a few times a year, and on the rare occasions I swam in a meet, I would be seriously disappointed with my results.

Since April, however, I’ve been doing a bit better, and I think there are a few things I’ve done that have helped me stick with it for more than a few months at a time. (This is the summer edition, because in the winter, the whole game will change – more on that in a later post).

Sign up for something scary. This was the first thing I did that really got me interested in getting in the pool. I signed up for my longest race in 20 years. I knew that I could swim 10 miles with no problem in the far distant past, but this was now, after years of not training or half-assed training. I managed a 10k last year, but this tacks on another 4 miles. Ack.

Swim outdoors. Something about an outdoor, 50-meter pool appeals to me so much more than a gloomy indoor short course pool. Even the 5:30 am workouts have much more appeal. The sun hasn’t come up at that point, especially as we get later in the summer, but the ambiance is so much better. The pool lights are on, the deck is dark, and there is mist rising over the lanes. The water is a beautiful luminescent turquoise that you just want to jump into.  I know not everyone has access to an outdoor pool with ambiance, but I guess the main point here is to find a facility that you enjoy spending time in. If you can.

Find your people. There’s something magical about meeting people afflicted with your same kind of crazy. I was fortunate enough to cross paths with one who happens to be training for an English Channel crossing. He introduced me to two more, and the four of us went out to Lewes, DE this weekend for an ocean swim. Ocean swimming is not my strong point, but I think the more I do it, the better I’ll get. And the strange looks you get from the people on the beach as you wade out of the water are much easier to handle when you have other crazies with you to absorb the impact.


Venturing out with like-minded crazies.

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Gratuitous Shark Attack Video.

I know this video is doing the rounds all over the Internet right now, but I had to post it.

This is why doing an open water swim in South Africa is not on my top ten list of things to do. Just…ugh.

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