Sunday, April 29, 2007

Mexico Cruise Recap

Sunday, Embarking

We got up at 4:30 in the morning to drive to San Jose Airport. I was tired and wired after spending two days at the swim meet. We flew to Ontario Airport, where we climbed into the mini-van with Raybon's Dad (R.), Mom (D.), Brother (K.), Sister-in-Law (J.), and 3-year old nephew (L.)

The rest of the day I wandered around in a bit of a daze. The cruise ship was huge. The ship had 10 floors, and a staff of 1000 people. I felt tired and disoriented. The first thing I did was go to the top floor to look at the gym. I got there, and breathed a sigh of relief. I saw the treadmills, elliptical machines, exercise bikes, weights, exercise balls, and mats and instantly felt at home, that this cruise thing would not be so bad. This is exactly how I felt in Prague when I saw the tiny pool they had in the hotel with an "Endless Pool" machine.

The gym was attached to a spa. As I've said in the past, I like having painted toes, and haven't had a pedicure since the last time I blogged about it, so I made an appointment. I sat in the hot tub until about 10 minutes before my appointment, thinking I could run down to my room, change, and get back in time for my appointment. No such luck. Finding my way around the huge ship was much harder than I expected, and I got to my appointment 20 minutes lake. I apologized profusely, and felt like an ass. These people on the ship work ridiculously long hours for little pay, and I showed up late for this poor woman's last appointment. She tried to make me feel better, told me to relax, and that I should enjoy feeling spoiled and pampered. I couldn't. She noted that on a scale of 1-10 my stress level seemed to be about an 8, which I thought might actually be an understatement. My head was spinning with the disorientation of being lost, late, and coming down from the stress and excitement of the meet. She told me I should get a massage, and I practiced my New Year's Resolution of saying "I'll think about it."

Monday and Tuesday, On the Boat

These days were spent sailing to our destinations in Mexico. The weather was cold on Monday. I spent most of it indoors. I tried to eat lightly, and ran, did weights and Pilates. My Sister-In-Law, J., and I did Karaoke. That was tons of fun. We sang "Build Me Up, Buttercup." She didn't know the song as well as I. I danced and hammed it up, much to her initial embarrassment. She later told me she was impressed at how confident I seemed. I told her singing Karaoke was nothing to me like facing up to the terror and childhood trauma I faced that weekend swimming in a meet.

Wednesday, Puerto Vallarta

Raybon and I tossed around the idea of doing some kind of adventurous excursion, involving zip lines and repelling down a waterfall. We decided instead to find a beach for me to get a good swim in, while he and the rest of the family went shopping. I swam for about an hour in an area swarming with fish and pelicans. I have am embarrassing phobia of birds. I've been pecked in the heads by birds at least a dozen times. No joke. It's like I'm like the Bizarro World St. Francis of Assisi. The pelicans were diving down, beak first of course, right in front of me, and I was little frightened that one of them would brain me. The pelicans left me alone, but some fish ran into my legs. I screamed so loudly, I'm sure everyone in Mexico heard me. I felt like such a wuss. I swim in the ocean so much, along with bat rays, jellyfish, tiger sharks, and sea lions, and I'm scared by some silly little fish running into my legs?

My other adventure in Puerto Vallarta was parasailing. I'd never tried this before. Raybon and his family watched me. J., who I am starting to realize is a kindred spirit and potential partner in crime, did it last time she was there, but couldn't this time because she was pregnant. I was a little nervous, but it felt more like a sense-heightening experience than a thrill-seeking adventure. I was more amazed and enthralled than afraid, floating up above the beautiful ocean and beaches. It was over way too quickly.

Thursday, Mazatlan

I got another nice swim in. There was a sign at the beach in the "Golden Zone" warning of jellyfish in the water. I talked to a couple of local guys about swimming, and they said that the jellyfish were pretty small, and while they burned, they wouldn't kill me. They dared me to swim out to the island about 900 meters from the beach, and asked me if I thought I could break the round trip record of 32 minutes. Based on my times in races, I thought this wouldn't be a problem. I swam from Treasure Island to San Francisco (1.5 miles) in 39 minutes. It took me an embarrassing 39 minutes to swim the 1800 meters. They said I spent too much time sighting, and that the conditions were rougher than when they went for record-breaking swims. It was very gracious and kind of them to not rub in the fact that I shouldn't have bragged. Raybon joined me on a kayak, reluctantly. He wasn't going to, but his Dad and the two locals I talked to gave him a really hard time about not caring enough about his wife's safety. Poor guy didn't reach me until I was already out to the island, and was totally soaked. We had to buy him new clothes so he wouldn't be totally miserable. Senor Frog T-shirt and shorts.

We ate at McDonalds in Mazatlan. That's what they wanted to do. I didn't make a big deal about it. I never expected this trip to be an authentic, Mexican, cultural experience.

I Karaoked again that night. J. and I sang "Take A Chance on Me" by Abba, which as it turned out, neither of us knew well enough. I then played it safe and sang "One" by U2, which had a ridiculous video with really bad model/actors crying and trying to look hot. Embarrassing. I then sang "Build Me Up, Buttercup" solo, and had some guys standing in the back of the bar cheering and singing back up for me, which restored any loss of self-esteem I had from my previous performances.

Friday, Cabo San Lucas

I was PMS-y and hung-over. Raybon and I went on a little glass bottom boat that toured some rocky island formations in Cabo. I actually enjoyed the boat ride, despite not feeling all that well. The boat dropped us off at a small island, so I could swim and Raybon could explore the rocks. I got in a little bit, but the water was cold and rough, and there were so many boats speeding around, I didn't see getting in a good, long, safe, swim. I sat on the beach, trying to enjoy the surroundings, but generally feeling like a wuss. I then saw a guy in a cap, goggles, and Speedo, escorted by a kayak. Swimmer! I pranced up to him, and asked him where he swam from. He said he had swum for about 24 minutes from the mainland. I asked him if he was a Masters swimmer, and he said yes, he was, and an Ironman Triathlete. He said he'd done Hawaii twice. I did a little ass-kissing/harmless flirting (I was never going to see him again after all) by saying "Wow, you must be really fast." I told him I was an open water swimmer, but a slow one. He asked me if I'd like to swim with him back to the mainland, and I told him I'd love to, but the boat that dropped me off was going to pick me up shortly. We swam a short distance together (maybe 500 yards), he flattered me by telling me I was strong, and I swam back to the island.

Saturday, Stuck on the Ship

At this point, I was starting to feel claustrophobic. My period had begun in earnest (sorry if this is TMI.) The ship seemed smelly and stuffy and small. I sat on the top level of the ship looking out at the bow. It was windy and the ship was a little unsteady, but I felt thrilled and refreshed to be up there. I imagine that as a swimmer in this life and a dog in my former one, I was experiencing the equivalence of what my dog feels when she sticks her head out the window when she is in the car: powerful, big, and faster than I can naturally go.

Raybon, J., K., and I went to a trivia contest, which was followed by a cruise version of "The Family Feud." J. and I went up to add our names to a bowl to be picked for the contest, and decided again to be partners in mischief by putting our husband's names in instead. We giggled as we put their names in, but tried to act like nothing was up when we went back to sit with them, until K's name was actually picked. We whooped it up as he reluctantly went up on stage. Too bad Raybon wasn't picked, too.

Sunday, Back Home

A lot of boring sitting around and waiting in line. I'm home at last though.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

PMS Induced Post Meet Blog

I went to a meet on Friday and Saturday. It's hard to know what to say about it. On the one hand I had a great time. I improved all of my times over last year's, and in all but two events set personal records. I can't be anything but pleased with that. I had plateaud for quite a while, and last year was actually slower in almost all of my events than the previous year. I figured training hard and not getting any faster was where I was stuck, another f--king opportunity for growth, and the effort should be its own reward. While it is true that the effort should be its own reward, ribbons and improved times are a lot of fun. I'm excited to think that I can continue to improve if I continue along my current path of training.

Hanging out with my new club Mellow Masters aka Team Superman (T.S.) was fun. I met a lot of people on the team that I'd never met before, and it jived with my general experience that T.S. is full of just nice, nice, nice people. They were all kind, supportive, and welcoming. I liked how diverse the age range and speed range of the people representing T.S. was. As nice as many of them were, I always felt a little out of place amongst the Lane 1ers who represented Flip Flop Masters at meets.

I was really impressed at what a great job Coach did in making sure everyone felt supported in their swims. He gave me great feedback, both positive and critical, and did for me what I hear he somehow manages to do for everyone on the team, which is to make everyone feel like they are an important part of his club. Really amazing. I hope his positive energy will rub off on me.

*Sigh.* The one hard thing for me about the meet was feeling a bit like a traitor to my old club F.F. I had a range of reactions from people when they realized that I was hanging out with a new club. Most people seemed surprised. One person seemed angry. I thought they all knew I was with a new club, so I'm not sure why they would be surprised by this. For the last 3 months I've been swimming at F.F. maybe twice a month. I haven’t swam at U.C.F.F. regularly for 9 months now.

I think it says a lot about how involved I was with F.F. that people are surprised that I would change clubs. Last year, when I didn't go to Worlds, people seemed suprised. "You're not going to Worlds? You of all people?" I thought this was funny, given that I only started competing in meets the previous year. I mean, isn't it entirely possible that I tried swimming in meets for a while and decided it wasn't my thing? Sometimes people would try to reminisce with me about Flip Flop Masters events in years past, not realizing I hadn't actually swam there for all that long. E,g,: "Nori, remember that time a few years ago when we almost had to cancel Long Course Champs because something went wrong and the pool wasn't all the way full?" "Nope, I've only swam here for a year and a half." One guy talked about how he had joined up with "Coach J. and the rest of you guys" a few years ago, thinking I was in the club longer than he, and was baffled to hear that I wasn't.

I loved F.F. Masters. I was probably more active in competitions than anyone except maybe Coach J. I showed up at the beach on Sundays for buoy swims nearly every week during the summer, and even organized my own swims mid-week. I baked cookies for after workout snacks. I recruited friends to swim with the club, and even paid for their memberships when they couldn't afford it. I volunteered at our meets, exhausting myself by working and swimming in them as much as I could. I was so involved with swimming there, you'd think I was a loser who had no life previous to swimming there, when in reality I had and have lots of non-swimming friends. I spent hundreds of dollars on gifts for the coaches. I went to all the club social events. I worked for free on H.'s website and took a lot of time off work to build a bulletin board, a blog, and to update people on his progress during his swim. I would have done even more if I was asked.

A lot of people who swim with other clubs during the week because their jobs aren't in Flip Flop keep their F.F. affiliation. I didn't feel comfortable doing this, given how much support I've received from Coach and the rest of people at T.S.. I didn't feel like a traitor to F.F., because I’d come to the painful, yet liberating realization that despite the ties I felt F.F., they owed me nothing and I owed them nothing.

Still, it was with a very heavy heart that I switched to T.S. When I got into the car after telling Coach I wanted to join his club, my eyes teared up as I drove back to work. I didn't want to give my heart to my new club the way I did F.F., because it hurt so bad to leave. Despite my stubborness in not letting it in at first, T.S. has been slowly finding its way into my heart. I’ve tried not to place the high expectations I put on F.F. on T.S., but in a sort of Kierkegaardian way, almost all of the expectations I’ve consciously tried to release have been met by T.S.

I counted laps for my old coach, Coach J. at the meet last weekend, and wished everyone luck and congratulated them on theirs swims when I ran into them.

I’m a happier person than I’ve been for a while. T.S.’s pool is close to my work, and having a good reason to go into the office has made me a happier and richer (in the most literal sense) person. I like my co-workers. Most of the junior staff are women my age, and we all get along great. I like my boss, and I enjoy contributing to my company. The type of support I’ve received in achieving my goals at T.S. has really been a life changing experience. I’m more confident and happy with myself than I’ve ever been.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Jesus May Be My Lane Line, But...

I feel like this is my theme song nowadays. I really do try to be good, and have good intentions, but even so my drive and motivation aren't as holy as I want them to be. I won't elaborate here... My thoughts might be pure, but sometimes what I find satisfying reveals that:

Satan is My Motor

I've got wheels of polished steel
I've got tires that grab the road
I've got seats that selflessly hold my friends
And a trunk that can carry the heaviest of loads

I've got a mind that can steer me to your house
And a heart that can bring you red flowers
My intentions are good and earnest and true
But under my hood is internal combustion power

Satan is my motor
Hear my motor purr
Satan is my motor
Hear my motor purr
Satan is the only one who seems to understand
Satan is my motor

I've got brakes
I'm wide-awake
I can stop this car at any time
At the very last second I can change directions
Turn completely around if I feel so inclined

I've got a mind that can steer me to your house
And a heart that can bring you red flowers
My intentions are good and earnest and true
But under my hood is internal combustion power

Satan is my motor
Hear my motor purr
Satan is my motor
Hear my motor purr
Satan is the only one who seems to understand
Satan is my motor
Satan is the only one who seems to understand

- Cake

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Why Do I Go to Meets?

I'm signed up to swim in a meet this weekend. Friday, I'm swimming a 1650 free, 400 I.M., and 200 free. Saturday, I'm signed up to swim a 500 freestyle, 100 fly, and 200 back.

I'm nervous already. Sunday morning, when I did my 7.1 mile swim, I was more nervous about the meet than I was about my long open water swim.

There is a big part of me that hates pool meets. I love open water swims, which is probably why I am a swimmer. I'm baffled when I swim with people who complain about the cold and have to talk themselves into getting through an ocean swim. I love it, that's why I do it. When others whine, I wonder why they do things they hate. But here I am, signed up to do something that I kind of hate.

I think if I set some personal records, that would make me pretty happy. That's a good reason for going. And all my reasons for not going are pretty bad ones. They all relate to fear of failure and lack of strong sense of purpose, which are my two weaknesses I'd like to defeat.

I think I need to be positive about this. I need to be excited about the possibility of getting times I'll be happy with, and not care much if I get times I don't like.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Dreaming about Dover

Last night I had a dream that I called Hubert House, an inn in Dover that a lot of Channel swimmers stay at. The lady that answered the phone was very friendly, and excited that I was interested in staying there. She was going to put someone else on the phone to help me make a reservation, and I freaked out and hung up. I felt bad, because she was very nice.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

5. Do some sort of significant long distance swim (10K or greater)

I swam 7.1 miles at Lake Del Valle today. 60 degree water. Windy. Choppy. Cold air temperature. Against a strong current for more than half the distance. Only my second exposure to cold water since November. It sucked while I was doing it, but I'm glad I did it.

I'm leaving aliases out on purpose:

Thanks, Glenn, for paddling for me and feeding me. Thanks, Michelle, for swimming with me part way (and thanks, Naomi, for paddling along with us.) Thanks, Michele, for swimming with me last week. Thanks, Ahelee, for planting the seed in my head that I could be more than a wannabe. (I still sort of think I am one, but I'm convinced I can be more than one.) Thanks, Tim, for convincing me that I could do this and that I should commit to completing my goals. You guys are my heroes. I could go on and on, but my arms are too tired to type :). Plus, I need to save stuff for when I actually do cross Tahoe this year.

This was just a training swim for Tahoe's width this year, but I am totally convinced after today that I'll make it across, and I think it does count for #5 on my list of things to do before I die.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Proof That I Am Japanese

Wow. If only I could have been there. This is a group of online friends who showed up on a street in Akihabara dressed up in manga costumes to do a synchronized dance. There is so much that I love about this. When I am at home, I am dancing at least 20% of the time. I love getting dressed up in costumes. I often wish that life was a musical where people would spontaneously start dancing and singing. Nearly all of my favorite memories involve music. That they had the guts to do this when they knew the police would show up and break them up rocks, too. Often, I'm baffled and amused by modern Japanese culture (as much is Lost in Translation for me as anyone else) but this totally strikes a chord with my inner Japanese ancestry.
My family loves Raybon more than they love me. Proof:

1. My Aunt sent an Easter card to Raybon instead of me.
2. You know the picture below of my Dad? He sent that to Raybon and my two brothers, not me, is daughter.

Team Superman

I'm sick of calling my club Mellow Masters. They're a really nice group of people, but Mellow is a pretty lame name for a team. We're nice, but tough. I'm going to call it Team Superman, because the Tri-team it is a part of has a logo that reminds me of the Superman shield, and I saw Coach's little son wearing a Superman T-Shirt.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Go, Dad, Go!

This is the best news I've had in a while. My dad is back on his bike. When's the last time you rode, Dad? My Dad used to take the same kind of joy biking that I do swimming. The feeling of flying I have when I swim, my Dad experiences when he bikes. I hope he bikes for the rest of his life.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Lake Del Valle

Raybon, Channel Princess, and I headed out to Lake Del Valle on Easter Sunday to do a long swim. We swam for 3 hours. Lake Del Valle is where I think I'll try to do the bulk of my long training swims for Tahoe. I'd never swam there before yesterday. I've missed out. It is a beautiful lake surrounded by hills and oaks. The weather was lovely, sunny, if a little windy.

2 bazillion Warrior of Valhalla points to Raybon! He saved our lives over and over again by keeping us safe from all the boats in the lake. He managed to look out for and feed both C.P. and I. C.P. told me I was a lucky woman to have a guy like him.

C.P. is swimming the width and length of Tahoe this year, in addition to swimming the Catalina Channel. She is also running the Western States 100. She asked me if I was up for swimming Lake George (41km) with her as well. I told her my one big swimming accomplishment this year will be Tahoe's width, and that will satisfy me just fine. She told me I was too normal. That I can't agree with. When we arrived at the lake, she marveled at the beauty of our surroundings and wished we were having a barbecue, too. Frankly, I was happy to be surrounded by beauty while I swam, but who cares about a barbecue when you have something like a 3 hour open water swim to look forward to? In some ways, she's gotta be the more normal one.

C.P. made my swim much more cheery and humor filled. We both wore our "Nothing great is easy" CS&PF T-shirts. (Thanks, Hendrik!) I wish I took pictures, but my camera was out of batteries. Next time. We didn't quite make our training goal of 6 miles. I have to admit, I'm so obsessed with numbers and such, it bummed me out when I saw we didn't make it on the GPS log after the swim. Oh well. This was sort of just an experiment anyways.

Accomplishments (see how much I like numbers?):

1. Found a great new place to swim
2. Learned to trust Raybon more as my paddler
3. Did an open water swim with Channel Princess
4. Did do my longest straight open water swim in my life, both in terms of time and distance.
5. Will know how to plan out my next open water training swim better, so I do make the distance I set out for. 7 miles next weekend, if Raybon's shoulder recovers enough from the long paddle yesterday. Otherwise will do as many yards as I can in the pool.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Tahoe Application

I mailed my Tahoe Application in. Woo Hoo! Fingers crossed, I will get the acceptance soon. I can't wait. I'm actually excited about this.

Monday, April 02, 2007

What Should My Trans-Tahoe "Team Name" Be?

I'm trying to think of a "team name" for my Trans-Tahoe swim. I don't really have a team per se, but there is a space on the application for a team name, and whatever I put will probably show up on the results that go on the web. Most people who swim it solo just use their name along with the word Solo, e.g. "Alan Bell Solo."

Here are some possible choices. "Jesus Is My Lane Line" comes from a clever quip made by Eleven. "Spawn of Ill-Tempered Mutated Sea Bass With Laserbeams" comes from my team's name from last year (and of course Austin Powers.) Raybon suggested "Rubber Ducky Fan Club" (perhaps because I occasionally swim in the bay with a rubber ducky pool thermometer.)

What should my Tahoe "Team Name" be?
Nori Seaweed Solo
Spawn of Ill-Tempered, Mutated Sea Bass with Laserbeams
Jesus is My Lane Line
Rubber Ducky Fan Club
Free polls from

Sunday, April 01, 2007

How a swimmer can learn to run

Raybon forwarded me the page for triathletes. I wasn't sure why, since I have no plans to do a triathlon, but I found this article on it that was pretty interesting:

How a Swimmer Can Learn to Run

Even before I read the article, I was beginning to suspect that my loss of running ability has to do with my body being specifically adapted to swimming over the past 2-3 years. I previously blamed my accidents and surgery, but maybe that's not it. All the core strengthening I've done hasn't seemed to help much. Reading that article has given me incentive to explore my new theory further. It is my lower back that hurts when I run, and I do have tight calf and plantar muscles. When I ran 2 10K's in 2004, I did so with very little pain. I built up my mileage and speed much more quickly than all of my subsequent attempts over the past few years. Back then I wasn't the swimmer that I am now. I swam, but at the most 3 days a week, and not very hard. When I first got into running, I quit swimming altogether for at least a month. I'm a swimming addict now, and don't think I would be willing to do this, but I hope I can find a way to run anyways.

Anyway, while I find the article intriguing, I think some pictures would be good to illustrate the stretches. I've looked all over the web and can't find any. I already have a calf stretch, but at the very least I need to find a good plantar stretch. Can someone out there help me out with this?