First swim during a pandemic...

I haven't swim in almost 6 months. First it was due to the 'stay at home' orders and then it was the 'millions of reasons' my mind comes up with to not practice self-care.

  • I can't find my swim stuff

  • I have to work

  • I can't leave work at lunch because...

  • I can't leave at 5:00 because...

  • I waited too late to go

  • I don't know what shape I am in

  • I don't know if I can fit the suit I can find.

  • I have to pick up the dogs

  • I am too tired

  • There is a storm coming in

  • I can't get a reservation.

  • .. the other reasons that add up to one million plus.

So today I kept drowning out the reasons.  I asked my customer boss if I could bail and was suprised to hear 'of course'.  I was able to book a reservation at the Y.  I stil waited until 5:00 because you know, me.  I grabbed the old suit, old cap and new googles that I had found and got in the car.  I was not willing to let my anxiety or 'reasons' get in my way.  I got to the Y and grabbed a towel that has been waiting for me for months in the front seat with my mask and checked in and got dressed.  My suit fit (bonus).  I did the best to drown out the 'reasons' that continued to bombard my head by singing loudly between in my head.  Like a kid with their fingers in their ears singing 'la, la, la, la...'  But thankfully I have better taste in music so it was Cher today.

'I have to walk alone'

But there's a time to dance
Time to laugh
Time to cry
Time to go
Time to grieve
Time to come

Oh, I still got time to cope
Time to hope
Time to play
Time to grow
But for now I gotta walk alone

I gotta walk alone

There was only 1 person per lane today, it helped calm me down to know I would be in my own lane today.  Two people just feels unsafe right now.  I grabbed the last one, it has the stairs.  Not a popular lane but for me it would do.  I started to swim and everything felt out of sync.  My back was sore, my shoulders were tight, my head was loud and it felt awkward but I continued to add laps and my body started to relax, my shoulders stopped being so tight, my back felt better , my brain quieted down.  I had 45 minutes and didn't want to waste one so I kept up the lane and back down the lane.  Long even strokes at a slow pace but feeling stronger and better as the seconds became minutes ticked by.  The water healing my brain, my body with every lap.
Slowly starting to sew the pieces of my soul together in a patchwork quilt made with love from the water.  The music in my head changed as I swam, all Cher today, but not stuck on one song.  I finally had to get out to pick up the dogs but everything had calmed down and I was ready to do it again maybe tomorrow in the ocean and Monday in the pool.

I will practive the self-care I ask others to practice.

The rest of my Cher playlist in my head, 'Sirens' and 'Favorite Scars.'
Last night I dreamt I was floating with you
The river was so deep and the sky perfect blue
If we leave behind the dust in the sky
From the sound of Sirens the city will rise
Hold your hand in mine, we will swim against the tide
From the sound of Sirens love will survive

Risk it all if you ain't living you're surviving
Tell me why you tip your toes when you could dive in

If you want to listen to the music that was in to my head:

Goggles, the tear catchers…

So tonight I swim as I do every year on the Solstice.  I swim to honor the sun’s return to longer days as the longest night passes and the rotation of the earth changes direction to favor the Northern hemisphere.

 I also swim to honor my brother’s life which was taken on a cold winter night, 2 years ago.  He died alone in the street.   For some reason, I didn’t see it but will never be able to get the vision out of my mind.  I grieve tonight even as I celebrate his life and my goggles fill with tears.  

I swim because he can no longer do so.

I swim to remember the times we lit out in the summer to swim in any pond, percolation system, creek we could find.  We watched the road carefully to escape the ‘natural pool’ before my Mom caught us.  This was not allowed but we ‘never asked’ but knew we didn’t want to get caught.

I swim remembering the polliwogs we found and brought home to the pool my parents put in for us.  Our backyard had the most frogs anywhere in the neighborhood because of us.

I swim to remember all the workouts we went to over the years, the pools, the different teams, and different times.  The meets we swam in. There were two years difference in our age even though there were a few years that we could have been twins.
I wade in the ocean tonight to celebrate a life that was just coming together again.  His involvement in life wasn’t just the grungy side.  He was loving computers, car repair, astronomy class, involved with Dad and Mom, enjoying friends, working hard to rebuild a life that drugs had marred for too many years.

I also swim to honor his friends, the ones that cared enough to cry when he died. That came, wrote letters to the DA and the judge.  The one that addressed the court in person.

Tonight I will swim.  I will empty my goggles many times during the short duration.  Then I will go to the beach and walk the pups in the shallows, unwilling to swim in the sea in the dark tonight.  I will understand that this night will forever be the longest night of the year but not for the natural reasons.

I will swim because I can.

Tale of two swims - the early years

For many years I thought that the beginning of my openwater swimming was as an adult but that issue not entirely true.  There were two swims as a teenager that couldnt be further apart in nature.  The first was at 15 or 16 returning from a team trip to Reno.  We had traveled for a meet in which I had done fairly well.   REO Speedway on was big at the time and I remember it being played on a the bus.

' Heard it from a friend who herd it from a friend you've been messing around...' 

On the trip back to what is now known as 'Silicon Valley' we stopped at Lake Tahoe for lunch and one of the coaches led an open water swim to those interested.  This was the era of bug eye goggles and I had a pair with red lenses.  I loved those goggles, they  made the water and surroundings different shades of purple.

Donning my goggles, I waded in and was immediately entranced not only by the shades of purple but the clarity and feel of that magnificent blue water.  The rocks you could see on the floor of the lake and the small fish hanging out near them.  All were purple of course.  This is when Tahoe became one of my favorite lakes.

We swam out about 15 minutes and I just wanted to continue on instead of turning back.  I loved the motion, the rythym and lack of intrusion.  That day I felt I could swim forever.  I've never forgotten the feeling or the wonder awoken that afternoon.  And the goggles, just saying. I was a teenager but in the water the normal anxieties of the age were forgotten.

The second swim was different, very different. Looking back it was when I first learned you could either persevere or be beaten by the Grey matter between your ears. It was a mile swim out in a lagoon in Redwood City right before Marine World moved north and Oracle took over.   The lagoon had flocks of ducks in it and I got ready to swim my first openwater 'race.' As I walked out in the water to the start line my feet sunk into the muck.  Yes, duck shit.   I couldn't get that thought out of my head, it was like glue. No way was I putting my head down in that water.  I finished the race swimming like a waterpolo player. Head up freestyle, in fact i never put my head down the entire 1 mile no matter ehat anyone yelled.  My brother was much tougher, he swam his head down the entire race.  We both agree to this day, grossest swim ever.  But I did finish the race, I did not quit, I just swam water polo freestyle the entire way.


Looking for myself


I’ve struggled the past few years to figure out who I am in the water. I’m not the channel swimmer or long distance swimmer I once was.  I’ve misplaced most of my friends from that time in my life also. I’m not really sure what that means to my hydro-identity or where I fit in the swimming world anymore. I may get there again but not the way I was going.  

I’m also working on healing the ravages that age, illness and overuse/underuse has wrought on my body and that life has wrought on my mind.  I figured out I had to respect the process and the path much more than I was and understand ‘life balance’ is a lie, sometimes life kicks your ass over and over again.  

I’m taking time to remember where I started and how I got to where I was as well as how I also stepped back. I’m building up not expecting to be there right now. Some additions to this journal might be old swims that I’m remembering as well as training and new swims as I build. 

Instead of sitting on the sidelines this summer, I started to swim small local events to ease back and hopefully alleviate the panic attacks I’ve started to have around groups, swimming and venues. That has worked well this summer. I completed three local swims with no pressure on myself and thus far have evaded the dreaded tightening in my body, constricted breath and RUN message flashing in my brain. I don’t know if it will continue to work but so far it is a strategy worth pursuing. 

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Some days the lobster buoys are faster than you.

Went to swim a second race today.  It was overcast and cool, matched my temperament this morning.  I checked in and got ready.  I as always have to get wet first. I hate entering water that I don’t know how cold it is and I don’t mean knowing the temperature which was 63 today.  It means getting wet.

The youngsters swam their 500 and I got ready for my 1.2 mile.

The race began and within 4 strokes I was immediately a whining baby in my head.  It was cold.  I thought of pulling for a moment but could hear my Dad in my head saying “you always say it gets better Laura” so I pushed on. The water warmed up about 100 meters from shore.  I set off about mid-pack.

And then about 500 in there was a woman standing in the water. Her wetsuit gave her enough bouency to just stand there. Every the lifeguard, I stopped to ask her if she was OK.  She had that look that said no and wasn’t talking.  I accompanied her over to a paddleboard and made sure she could speak and was going back to shore.  Then I took off again, now DFL (dead fast last) but OK with my decision to make sure she was OK.

Slow and steadily I started to pick off swimmers as I swam.  The water was warming the further we got from shore.  There were cold spots but they were nice.  And yes what goes up must come down, I figured the temps would drop closer to shore.

A couple of times I saw what I thought was a swimmer catching me over my shoulder.  My mind said ‘where they heck did they come from’.  It was a lobster buoy and it felt like they were moving faster than me.  Hence the name of this post.

I have been working to open up my hips and relax the piriformis muscle but not enough apparently. It hurt for some of the swim.  It feels like a softball is in your buttocks which makes kicking a little uneven to say the least.  On the other hand my shoulder the deltoid on the right shoulder is extremely tight. And I have been trying to stretch it out to loosen it and I was aware of it but not really pain.

I kept swimming, chasing down one swimmer at a time and rounding race buoy and finding the darned lobster buoys that didn’t even enter the race that were chasing me. Back to the middle of the pack.

I rounded the last buoy and there was the shore just 39 feet ahead, Swam my body in as far as I can and beached.  I headed up and Chuck met me at the finish.  It made the finish a lot easier.  Thank you Chuck very much.

I did take the time to gather a few shells for my first ‘ocean race’ in awhile.  It was hard not having anyone to call.  I knew this would be hard.

So here goes “Dad, I’m in.  Yes, it was OK.  I wanted to bail the first 25 yards but I heard your voice in my head that ‘it would get better.’ It did get better.  I swear the lobster buoys were chasing me.  Sorry Dad, no lobsters for dinner, the lobstermen don’t find that funny at all.  Yes, I have to work on speed now.  I love you Dad, take care of Eric.”
It isn't the same but it helps.

Getting my Mojo Back

For the last few years my life other than work and family has shrunk smaller and smaller.  I have gone backwards more than I was willing to admit.   When I came east I thought I had friends and found that not to be the case.  I wasn’t the person they wanted me to be I guess.  It hurt a lot and I avoided situations that might bring that to the surface.

In the last 6 months, I have lost my Dad, my brother was killed and my best friend (my pup Boo) died.  I also have expanded my family to include Tru Nor’Easter as well as Roo and Whoo.  What I didn’t know when I rescued Roo was it was a two way street.  She is rescuing me also.  Because she has a need to do many more athletic things and thrives on swimming and lure coursing, I have to break out of this small world I trapped myself in.  Tru is always up for a new adventure and Whoobs will go along ‘for pretty’ or to get wet.

I’m tired of staying at home, living in a small world on weekends. I’m not avoiding swims this summer and am traveling to dog events.  It turns out my pups like camping in the car as long as fun is involved.   It also turns out that I’m not the only one that does this and even the folks in the Winnebago didn’t judge.  I am unwilling to make friendships that are based upon who I am supposed to be or are one way these days.  I have learned to live on my own and now I will adventure on my own.

And for the record, you can take me as I am or you can exit stage left.  This is my life and I'm going to live it. 

New Challenges, new year...

I swam the 3K at World's this year.  Because I'm not in the shape I want to be in, it was long enough to allow a lot of thinking:
As the summer comes to a close this year, more than ever I’m missing the big swims.  It has been 10 years since the summer of big swims including the Channel.  I not only miss doing them but I miss being able to do them. Somehow I think being in the shape to swim miles upon miles helped me not only physically but emotionally.

It is the ability to swim and not focus on anything or focus on something as needed.  I solve problems when I swim or it can also be a zen like experience.  I let go of each thought as it comes.   I lose myself in the repetition of the stroke, the sound of the water and the passing of time.  I may be tired at the end but I am also clear in my head.  I'm at peace.

I also very much miss the people, those that share the passion or the need to make dreams come true.  Those would be the swimmers as well as the crew folk, the pilots and event directors. I miss working out and going for a soda or beer after.  I miss the comradery of a group of swimmers no matter what their goals are.

So 10 years after my last big swim, it is time to head back to the water for distance and speed.  Be it salt and fresh and chlorine, it is always wet.   It is time to put in the long workouts and short power swims as I work up to a long swim.  Next year this time, I will have a long swim under my belt if not more.  Tampa is on the slate for April.  It will be good for me for all reasons big and small.

Strength in many forms, grace also…

Many years ago during a time of personal crisis I saw that strength comes in many forms.  I was sitting on top of Sentinel Dome in Yosemite National Park.  As I watched the hawks gliding on the updrafts behind me in the rocks were Monarch Butterflies flitting.  The contrast of the strength hit me at once.  The sheer power of the hawks as they glided by and the perseverance of the Monarch who make a annual trip round trip from Northern California to Mexico back to Northern California.  Each had a different types of strength for the same purpose, that of survival.

Of late I have had the privilege to be on periphery and witness two friends on similar paths but at different places of them.  It appears in the near future one will be on to the next great adventure.   Again I am forced to understand the concept of different strength.  Most importantly this is 'the strength that is needed to love and let go.'  I don’t do helpless well.  I try not to do it at all. But there comes a time when you have to understand that it happens at times and realize no matter what, you can’t affect the outcome.

These two friends are unknowingly teaching me lessons about both strength and grace.  Both lessons I hope I learn well.  The one that will be moving on has finally decided it is time for her Big Beautiful Schnauzer to be re-homed with another friend.  We all know that he has helped keep her alive and living with the joy and grace she shows us all.  Even in her request there was just this amazing lady showing the love she has for this pup and all of us.  Not a grumble, nor hint of discontent, just an explanation and request.  She is facing the biggest transformation of her life and she is showing us all how to be graceful and loving.

The second friend is a soul sister to the first and when they are together the laughter is unstoppable and bubbling, not little snickers or giggles but laughter as it was meant to be, uninhibited and unashamed.

I can only help in trying to provide some of this laughter as she also faces her biggest opponent and love her through her journey.
And pray she knows ‘her sister’ will always be with her.

Boy, they are making sure I learn these lessons….

Help me learn these lessons of 'strength and grace' with grace they would be proud of.

So in closing, here are a couple of pictures, one of Jolie and her Big Beautiful Boy and one of Jolie and Rach laughing.


Just two goals....

Well I started this New Year with two goals besides learning to dive with goggles which has been consistent for 10 years or more

They are to ‘avoid drama’ even when being sucked in and to ‘just do better.’  Fifteen days into the month and I’m doing pretty good.  I have learned the delete key in email; the hide key in Facebook and the red button on my phone.  I wish it was as easy to utilize the delete key in my brain but I’m working on it.

Progress not perfection is the motto for this year

The ‘just do better’ is with nutrition, exercise, sleep and de-stressing.  I’m home right now and eating fairly healthy, exercising, working on sleep issues, less stress and more patience.  I went to my first acupuncture appointment to see if that would help bring down my blood pressure and am doing yoga and meditation in search of similar results.  So far my pants fit better,  I’m establishing a good swimming base and the dogs say I’m not as ‘demanding.’ But they will say anything for a treat, so who knows.

The real challenge will be to continue this on the road.  How to avoid the fast food and salt laden junk food will be interesting.  I do travel with a bottle of Mrs. Dash so if I have the change to cook something myself that is healthy and not boring.  I’m not carrying a full suitcase of herbs with me.  So that is my check-in with myself for the first half of January.


Changes are a constant.

Well folks, I know I owe a few entries and I was hoping to be home for a few weeks to get caught up.  Best laid plans and all that….

 Instead I will be traveling into the upcoming hurricane and it won’t be as cool as swimming in Cocoa Beach as one closed in on Florida a few years ago. 

And to finish my luck (good this time), a number 1 position opened up on a late September neap tide next year; I received the notice today and I just emailed back and asked to be penciled in. 

My second mid-life crisis has definitely taken shape and this one will last 2 years until I turn ‘half-century.’ 

So the semi-official next year schedule for big swims is ‘Tampa, Catalina and English.’  The Catalina will finish my triple crown after 8 years of stasis…

More later.