Monday, September 15, 2014

Swim Defiance - what fun!

This was cool! The first organized swim since the 1920s between Tacoma and Vashon took place on Sept 14 - Swim Defiance. After swimming in warm oceans and lakes all summer, I wasn't exactly dazzled by the cold salty water but I was very conditioned for any potential chop or current. It was a gorgeous day and a total of 41 swimmers either did the 5k or the 3k swim. I was in the latter half. Three Vashon Islanders did the swim: me, Wendy VanDeSompele and Stewart Putnam. Wendy swam non-wetsuit, placing tops. It's awesome to watch her swim, and longtime competitive swimmers shine in events like these.

I definitely didn't swim my fastest time and I took a ton of sighting breaks; at one point I heard a motor, looked left and there was a huge yacht full of people staring down at me. Fortunately David came along on a kayak and wasn't too far behind me--he also made several visits to people who were drifting with the current. Given the many swims I did this summer, this one was, without question, the LONELIEST. With so many individual paces, and such a spread-out distance, the herd thins and suddenly you feel alone. 

 My arm. Yeah, I have this habit of straight-arming on the recovery. But I promise the underwater phase is very bendy on the elbow and a nice straight paddle through the wrist. Check out Mt Rainier!

 Here's the start from Vashon's South End.

David had packed me hot chocolate at the finish. Boy was I happy to finish! My time: 1 hr 7 mins. Not spectacular, but spectacularly average by USMS standards (yet thanks to so few swimmers I topped my age group). For most people there was no trouble with the small current and -most- so stayed straight on the course. The water got really cold in pockets on that last third on the Pt. Defiance side. Seals were following us at the start. They were probably delighted for all the new company! All in all, success. Really meaningful that our island was part of a USMS sanctioned swim race. There once was a Brent Rice Memorial Swim that crossed from Des Moines and terminated at Pt. Robinson, but that was before I learned to swim distance.

My take: This is definitely a swim for stronger open water swimmers. We need more support boats for next year to make this feel really safe for open water swimmers of all speeds. The fact that boats were allowed to cross at-will through the line of swimmers in Dalco Passage , from my water level perspective, really underscored the need for more support boats. It'll grow, and so will the volunteers. Hats off to the organizers for making it a great event!

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Saturday, September 06, 2014

From one island to another...hello, Lefkada!

Last fall, my wonderful swimming mentor and friend, Anne, sold me on the idea of a swim vacation. The days were getting shorter and we'd just wrapped up a lovely run of weekends splashing down in alpine lakes. The convo went down like this:

Anne: Would you be into traveling somewhere for a swim trip next summer?

Me: Sure, if you don't mind me lagging behind!

Two days later an email arrives from Anne to a group of swimmers of mutual acquaintance. The link takes us to a faraway place with azure and turquoise seas. It is not only not the West Coast, this is not America. Did she wanna swim abroad?

Me emailing back: Anne, this looks amazing. But I think it's in Greece!

Anne: Yeah, it is.

Me: I need to talk this over with David.

Keep in mind I don't just drop and travel. I work. I plan. I am a bargain-hunting flyer. I use miles or I shop it. But this was not one of those kinds of trips, going to a less-traveled place. Long story short, I bit the bullet, plopped the trip on credit and slowly paid it off so by the time July 2014 rolled around the next year, it was all debt-free.

Anne and I swam 25k on that trip alone, met incredible people from the UK, Greece and South Africa who we now call friends, ate wonderful food, saw beautiful unspoiled sights in the Ionian Sea - mostly from a fishing boat called Ouranos, and have a lifetime of memories. We were the first Americans to stay at the Ilios Club Hotel and perhaps one of the few Americans swimming The Big Blue Swim excursion.

Since returning we have not stopped swimming! It's been my swimmiest summer ever for sure. We just knocked out another two miles this weekend in Swim Across America to benefit the SCCA.

Thanks for being so awesome, Anne. We have the healthiest, most drama-free friendship in history!

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