Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Other Soloists...

I did a search on "Trans-Tahoe" in Google news, and discovered that one of the soloists listed as "Did Not Finish" finished in 7 hours 32 minutes. I wonder if they all finished, but didn't have their times listed because they came in too late. Raybon said that they were pulling teams 200 yards behind me. Maybe they made an exception for soloists?

Saturday, July 28, 2007


Some people think my open water swimming makes me brave. I'm not sure whether it does or not. There is a lot of fear involved that I have to work through, but I think my fear-o-meter is not exactly gauged correctly. I'm afraid of competing, I'm afraid of failure, but I'm terrified of falling. Hence, I'm terrified of my clipless pedals. Now that I'm done with Tahoe, my major swimming goal for some time, I feel like I don't have an excuse for not getting on my bike.

I rode down my block today. I probably went a half mile total. Do you have anything you're really afraid of? Something that makes your whole body shake, like it does when you've swam in 52 degree water for half an hour without a wetsuit? That's what happened to me as I rode my bike. I decided to make it easy on myself, and only clip in with one foot. I didn't fall, I'm happy to say. I did clip in with both feet twice, on accident, but unclipping wasn't quite so scary as it might have been. Hooray for me! Triumph! I rode half a mile without falling! I rock! I think I'll do this every day until I just feel like I can go a little more.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Post-post-Tahoe Posts

So far I've written 3 posts about my Tahoe swim. I'm trying to decide which one I like better.

In some ways "I made it" is my favorite one. It is short and sweet, and maybe it gets down to the important part anyways. I accomplished something. Enough said. Why try to make it more or less than what it is, as if by reflection and analysis my accomplishment is somehow better than that of someone less analytical?

My second post may be too much information. But it's the kind of thing I like to read about sports: what people went through psychologically as they race. I think bare results are kind of boring. I care a lot more about the relatively modest results of people I know than the stellar results of the best of the best. In the past, I've defined an athlete as someone who tries to improve him or herself by setting performance goals. Having finished my goal and still finding myself stuck in a lot of my annoying habits, I need to reflect on how much of this is pretense and how much reality. I do think I grew from the experience, but I wouldn't say I was transformed. That probably only happens in movies. I'll be working on my foibles and apologizing for my peccadilloes the rest of life I guess.

Sometimes I think pretending that my athletic accomplishments have anything to do with spirituality is kind of B.S. Especially when I feel more accomplished if other people tried the same thing as I did and failed, as noted in my last post. I guess it proves that I did something difficult if not everyone is successful at it, but I already knew it was hard when I finished it. It feels a little bit like I'm happy about someone else's failure, which is something I feel uncomfortable with. If any of the people who Did Not Finish ever read that post, I'd be pretty sad if it hurt them, and maybe point them in the direction of my post on what I define as a successful swim. I kind of hate my "Blatant Bragging" post for that reason, and would delete it, except I know other people have already read it, so I'd rather just leave it up and apologize for it.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Blatant Bragging About Tahoe

I'm allowing myself to blatantly brag, because I worked my ass off on Saturday, and need to feel rewarded. Plus it is my blog. What else is a blog for? My numbers obsession wasn't going to be satisfied with my race until I could see where I placed. Here are the stats:

Out of 7 soloists, only 4 finished. I finished 4th. Of the people who DNF, one of them has a time for a 1650 about a minute faster than me, and another of them was a Hawaii Ironman Qualifier. How do I know this? Um... I'm a scary google stalker.

I finished ahead of 10 teams.

In addition to this 10 teams, and 3 soloists did not finish.

Less flattering statistics:

3 soloists finished ahead of me. One of these, Iris Nishimoto, finished in 4 hours 19 minutes 55 seconds. Awesome. Sorry you missed all that chop, Iris. :-)

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Trans-Tahoe Race Account, July 21st 2007

Glenn and I arrived in Lake Tahoe Friday afternoon at 1:00 pm. On the way there, I prayed about the swim the next day. I prayed that I would be able to finish the race, that I would be strong and focused, that I would be safe, and that I would finish the race with a sense of gratitude and humility.

At the captains’ meeting on Friday night, the butterflies in my stomach that I’ve had on and off all week resumed. The one thing that piqued my attention was the stress they put on that the race would end at 1:30, 6 hours after the start, and that it was crucial with their agreement with the Coast Guard that we get in the boats if we were told to. I had hoped to just swim in anyways without official results if I didn’t make the cutoff, but I nodded in understanding. I knew about the cutoff when I signed up for the race, so this was entirely fair.

I saw Tricia and Nicole, my most frequent lane mates at Flip Flop Masters. They both gave me hugs, and Tricia very sweetly told me she'd be thinking good thoughts for me the next day.

Much to my surprise, I managed to get a good night’s sleep that evening. Even before races that are much less important to me, I don’t sleep well. I told myself that the race isn’t what is important at that moment, what is important is sleep, and somehow that worked.

We got up around 4:45 that morning. As I looked at myself in the mirror, I had a rare experience of being happy with my physique. I was proud of my broad shoulders that would take me across the lake and happy about all of my extra padding that would give me warmth for my swim.

We arrived at the Marina a little bit before 6 a.m. A team of swimmers who were renting a boat, but not a pilot, were there, too. One of them asked me if I was swimming it solo. I said yes. When she was little distance off, but not far enough to not hear me apparently, I asked Glenn “Do I look crazy? Is that how she knew?” She turned around and answered “You’re not crazy to us.”

I finally got to meet my pilot. This was his first time piloting the race. He explained that he would stay to my left side the whole time, and I wouldn’t have to bother with sighting. This is exactly what I asked of him, so I was glad. I explained that if the wind picked up and the gas fumes were heavy, I would want him downwind of me. He seemed amenable to this.

My pilot asked me what my strategy would be. I told him what Tim told me, that I should keep it relaxed for the first 2-3 hours of my swim, and then start racing past that point. My pilot then asked me if I thought I’d stay with the pack, and I told him being one of only seven solo swimmers, and not being a fast swimmer anyways, I’d be towards the back. He answered “Well, it’s just for fun anyways.” I didn’t explain to him that just because I wasn’t fast it was still a serious thing that meant more than fun for me.

I lined up on the beach with the other solo swimmers. We introduced ourselves and shook hands. Our race numbers were all 001-007, mine being 002. There were 5 women (including myself), and two men. One of them commented on how cool it was that one of the guys was 007. I said, at least we are all 00’s and have a license to kill. Someone on a megaphone told us we needed to move down the beach. I thought it was kind of funny that all 7 of us solo swimmers lined up in the wrong place entirely. “Stupid soloists,” I muttered and later hoped that they knew I meant myself as well and was just joking.

The race started at 7:30 am. I started on the far right of the beach with the rest of the soloists, and tried to stay to the right of the pack so that my boat would find me. It took them about 20 minutes. For about 5 of those twenty minutes, I popped my head up a lot, and even looked backwards to see if I could see my boat. I was getting nervous; realizing I was supposed to meet them at the buoys that were by now far behind me, and hoped they would know to start looking for me by now. Luckily, Glenn recognized me and the boat moved up to me.

I kept swimming. The boat moved way up ahead of me. I swam back up to the right of it, after which they stayed in place as I swam ahead. The plan for them staying to the left of me, with me just looking to the left at where the boat was to know which direction to go, was clearly not working out. I sighted on the boats ahead of me. Again, I told myself that my responsibility was to swim as best I could and not let setbacks that I couldn’t control, like my boat, bother me.

My shoulder started to hurt almost immediately after I started the race. The whole right side of my body was feeling kind of tight even the night before. I remembered that my health wasn’t something I could control entirely, and hoped that if I relaxed, kept my stroke long, and swam through it, it would clear itself up. I can’t remember at which point this actually happened, but it felt fine after swimming for a while.

After my first feed, my pilot and Glenn told me which direction to head. I swam from feed to feed for most of the race. The feeds went pretty well. Glenn threw me a bottle full of a mix of Vitamin Water and Knudsen’s Recharge. Every other kind of sports drink I’ve tried makes me kind of sick. This worked well: I didn’t feel hungry at all the entire race, and I didn’t feel sick at all.

I got cheers from other boats and swimmers in the water as I stopped to feed, which was heartening. I didn’t have much time and energy to smile back and thank them, but I appreciated it nonetheless. Glenn also shouted encouragement to me along the lines of “You’re doing great, you’re rocking it!” He’s a pretty shy person, and I’ve never seen him cheer for me like that before, so I was pleased he stepped up to the plate in terms of giving me praise and encouragement in this race that was so important to me.

I can’t say I was as kind. I was frustrated with having to sight the race myself. Despite feeling unsure of their instructions, I guess they were understandable enough that we maintained a reasonably, although not perfectly straight course for most of the race. If I wasn’t keeping a straight course, I guess the pack around me wasn’t either, because I was surrounded by boats and swimmers for the entire race.

Three hours in, at my sixth feed, Glenn shouted to me “You’re halfway there.” My face fell. He backtracked “I mean, you’re more than half way there.” I told him “I better the hell be. My time is halfway up.” I swear I swam for the next 1.5 hours faster than I swam the previous 3. I was a little surprised at the reserves of energy I found. I kept lying to myself “Swim hard to the next feed, and then you can coast into shore.” I said this at every feed until I finished race.

Luckily the water and wind were fairly calm for the first 4.5 hours of the race. After that though, the chop picked up very hard and very suddenly, and I pretty much swam directly into it. In some ways the last part of my race was harder than any other swim I’d done previous to Tahoe, even apart from the fact that I had already swam for 4.5 hours. I’d experienced chop before, sometimes that hard, and sometimes for that long, but never as hard and as long at the same time. I think what made it hardest is that I was completely unable to find my rhythm. When I tried to keep my head down for long enough to find a rhythm and get a good hold of the water, I veered off at what Glenn later told me was almost a 90 degree angle to where I initially aimed. I was sighting every 30-60 strokes before that, but I started sighting every 14 after Glenn and my pilot kept insisting that I kept going the wrong way and needed to sight more. I still zig-zagged my way until the end.

I didn’t find out until the end of the race, but at the 5 hour mark, there was call on the radio that they were going to pull from the race everybody that was behind the sailboat that was, according to Glenn, only about 200 yards behind me. He said he wasn’t sure exactly how close the next boat back from the sailboat was, but I feel fortunate that my feeds didn’t take a little longer, that I didn’t freak out more than I did when my boat didn’t find me, and that I was able to swim as hard as I did.

I finished the race in 5 hours and 54 minutes, 6 minutes short of the cutoff. I wish I could say I ended the race with a feeling of grace, triumph, humility, and dignity, but I didn’t feel that at all. People at the shore were excited to see a soloist finish. They asked if I needed help or anything. I’m embarrassed to say that the first thing I said after finishing was “I need the bathroom.” I’m even more embarrassed to say that the next thing that came out of my mouth was complaining to Glenn about having to navigate the course myself. Glenn gave me a hug after I got dressed, and I felt like crying like a baby. I felt like a child who’s been up to late and been to a long tiring party with too much sugar, just wanting to cry and not even knowing why. I found a nice spot where I could sit down quietly under the trees and look at the lake for a while, while Glenn returned to the boat so he could get back to the Marina and get the car to pick me up.

A lot of the negativity that I managed to push out of my mind as I swam and mentally prepared for the race rushed at me after the finish. I guess the need to battle it wasn’t as urgent after the finish, and being so overwhelmed and exhausted, I succumbed to a lot of the thoughts that I hoped I could defeat by finishing the race. Why did I do this? Did finishing so close to the cutoff mean that if conditions were even worse I wouldn’t have finished, hence I shouldn’t have bothered attempting? The doubts compounded on themselves, because my main reason for doing the race was that I hoped that the race would make me mentally and spiritually a stronger person.

I sat down at an empty picnic bench. One of the people who cheered for me as I finished, sat down with me and offered to get me food. She and her team members had pulled themselves from the race as soon as it got choppy for safety reasons. I sympathized and told them they were smart to put safety first. Veronica and Sara, two other people from the Flip Flop Masters relay, came and said Hi and congratulated me. I congratulated them on getting 4th place in their division. I told them how frustrating the race was, and although I couldn’t say I had fun or a pleasant swim, I knew that the frustration would fade with a good night’s sleep and a nice dinner, and I’d be left with the satisfaction of completing the race.

That turned out to be a true. I woke up this morning feeling refreshed, and as we walked to breakfast I felt, instead of the bratty kid I was the day before, like a happy one who is enjoying the sunshine and happy with the world and her place in it. I hope that much like my physical body was weakened at first from the challenging swim, but will be stronger as a result, my mental and spiritual self will be as well. My shoulders already feel better, and so does my soul. I’m giving myself permission to float on the feeling of accomplishment for at least a week.

I didn't finish the race with the sense of gratitude and humility that I prayed for, but as I recover, I'm starting to feel it. Thanks to everyone who helped me with this.

Thanks, Glenn, who put so much effort into crewing for me and assisting me on my training swims. I asked a lot of people to crew for me, and you were the only one to offer, and for that you deserve nothing but my gratitude. A million thanks for your help, and putting up with me at my bitchiest and most selfish moments. These kinds of swims are a team effort, and I hope you are proud of yourself and what you've accomplished.

Thanks, Tim, for helping me with my training plan, for the advice on how to recover from my wrist injury, and for getting me through the psychological aspects of my training and racing. I can think of many times I would have given up on this race if you hadn’t encouraged me, and I wouldn't have even thought it possible without challenges like "Can Do February" or the New Year's Days 100 x 100's. You and everyone at MMakaTS are a constant source of inspiration to me.

Thanks to Bruckner for taking the time to answer my questions with your seasoned advice for the race, and your encouragement. Thanks to Marianne, for being helpful and supportive throughout my training, sharing the training plan Tim wrote for your solo Tahoe swim, and being a fantastic lanemate.

Thanks to everyone else who sent me their well wishes, and for all the mental support you've given me. Thanks especially to Mom and Dad, for calling before, during and after the race to send your support. Thanks for being proud of me.

And mostly, praise God for answering my prayers of allowing me to finish the race under the cutoff time safely, and continuing to teach me humility and gratitude. You didn’t make it easy for me, but as Captain Matthew Webb, the first person to cross the English Channel, said “Nothing great is easy.” In an odd way, the difficulties actually made it the perfect swim, and coming in just under the cutoff proved that it was exactly as hard as it should have been while allowing me to complete my goal. I'm grateful that it was it was challenging, but possible.

I made it

I made it across the Lake. It was hard. I'm still processing. More later.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Successful Swim?

Weather.com says that there will be 14 MPH WSW winds on Saturday. I'll be heading WSW, straight into the wind. Wind means chop. Wind means cold. This will be a hard swim. As they say, prepare for the worst, hope for the best. I'm glad for the wind and cold in some of my training swims. This will be an adventure. I guess harder conditions means more to brag about.

It's too early to get too excited. I need a good nights sleep tonight at the very least. A good nights sleep on Friday would be nice as well, but may be too much to ask.

There's too much out of my control to say for sure what the results of my swim will be. I told Coach I was having trouble visualizing my swim, because there is so much beyond my control. He said to focus on what I could control. Not having slept last night, I can't remember everything he said. But here is a list of things I can control, and these are what I'll base my criteria for a successful swim.

1. Training as well as I could. Check!
2. Taking care of myself and relaxing.
3. Praying
4. Eating well.
5. Showing up at the race.
6. Getting in the water
7. Swimming from feed to feed (every half an hour) until I finish
8. Staying focused on my stroke
9. Bringing positive energy and positive thoughts to my swim. I just saw Harry Potter last week, so in a sense what I'll be doing is summoning my Patronus. :-)

If you're going to be really nitpicky, not everything above is entirely in my control. Don't bother. The most important part was Step 1, and I'm glad that is done, and I can count the swim as partially successful. When I'm in the water I'll learn more about why the rest of it is important, but I can be satisfied with myself for training hard and making it this far.

With so much out of my control (health, weather, my pilot, my crew, my boat), I can't be 100% sure I'll finish. But I want it. Badly. Wanting things makes it more painful when we can't have them, but it also makes it more satisfying once you've obtained it. My list of criteria for success gives me something to focus on, but what will get me across the lake is my desire.


10. Embracing wholeheartedly my desire to succeed in crossing Lake Tahoe.

Wish me luck!

The swim is Saturday. I'm not going to say much about it, because it makes me nervous to think about it too much. My coworkers have all been telling me about when they tell other people that they know someone who is swimming across Lake Tahoe, people act amazed. One person asked if I was single. I guess you can only be so flattered if someone who has never seen you thinks you're interesting, but when you've been married for 8 years, you take compliments like that when you can get them.

Hearing stuff like that makes me happy. There's that demon that I'm trying to defeat: my lack of strong sense of purpose. It tells me that I'm a poseur, that I'm not a good swimmer, and that anything I can accomplish isn't a worthwhile goal anyways. Hearing that other people think what I'm doing is cool helps with that.

Is it too obvious that I'm fishing for support and compliments?

Monday, July 16, 2007

Angels and Goblins

From a post by Camille:

"Ever since I decided I needed to move, my emotions have been up and down. The ups have been as intense as the downs. Butterfly-light tappings of optimism have been quickly squelched by the heavy sandbags of despair. Wide vistas open in my imagination then close, and then open again.

It took a prolonged moment of near-despair to force me to realize that I don't have to take this seriously at all. That the parade of goblins and angels doesn't mean anything beyond the fact that I am alive and the universe is what it is."

Count down...

My Trans Tahoe race is on Saturday.

When I think about it, I get nervous.

I had a bad day in practice today. That on top of some PMS freaked me out.

I swam 4 miles on Sunday by myself. I had a nice swim, but had trouble focusing. I couldn't focus at work today either. I guess having swam 4 miles, with no breaks and no feeds should be a good excuse for having a sucky day at practice. That and having someone 10 seconds faster than me per 100 in my lane.

I haven't been sleeping too badly, though. That's a plus.

I'm tired and feel slightly incoherent.

I feel like a poseur of an athlete for freaking out in the locker room after practice today. I guess even people like Marianne and C.P., who have been doing this a lot longer than me and are far more accomplished than I, get nervous.

Coach says I should enjoy and accept the build up and nervousness. I think that is a good attitude. I think fighting my feelings and being embarrassed of them is what makes everything so much harder.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Splash and Dash 2

I did another Aquathlon this evening. It was the same course as the one I did a month ago. I felt like I did better, but I didn't get my results yet. The swim felt tougher, and I had more trouble keeping straight than I usually do. I've been working on my stroke, and I think overall it has changed for the better, but it is still awkward enough that I need to work out some kinks like staying straight in the open water. I wore a shirt this time, which I pulled on over my sports bra after the swim. It was too tight, and the opening too small, so I had trouble pulling it on. Probably cost me at least 30 seconds. The run was a lot easier. I actually ran half way up the killer hill at the end. Last time I walked the whole hill.

When I finished the run, I was exhausted, and had a pained expression on my face. Someone turned to me, and smiled and said "Hey, its supposed to be fun." I hate it when people say stuff like that. It strikes me as almost being a nastier kind of competitiveness than being competitive about the actual event. Let's make it a competition about who is the happiest. I think if I'm in pain after running, I should be given at least 30 seconds before I have to smile.

Quote of the Day

"I don't know why you like burritos so much. They aren't very good. In fact, they aren't good at all." - Raybon, July 11th, 2007, after I suggested we get burritos for dinner.

Maybe you had to be there to appreciate it.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007


I had an embarrassing spelling error a few posts down. I don't normally fret much about or even bother to correct my typos. Normally, they are the result of being too tired or not careful enough. I figure if people want to think I'm stupid, they will no matter what, so I don't worry about it too much. But spelling "wherewithal" as "where-with-all" for some reason seemed worth blushing about and going about fixing.

I wonder if I should take more care and pride in the spelling and grammar in my blogs. I don't think anyone reads my blog anyways, so part of me doesn't care. I've gotten fewer compliments from my readers on my writing ability than I would like. Is it the grammatical errors? Or is it the content?

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

CP swims Lake George - Account by Laura

I haven't been blogging for various reasons lately. Here is something much more exciting than my blogs about my training swims:

Hello SERC Folks, MM Coaches and Ali,
There is a young member of our club that maybe the most 'touched' of us all. Her name is Michele Santilhano a US resident and citizen of South Africa. Now Michele ran the Western States 100 miler on the weekend of June 23-24th and had a strong finish under 29 hours. Personally I think it would take me 29 days to go 100 miles on foot. But did she stop there as most sane folks would do?

No, she had entered the 41K Lake George Swim Marathon that was being held for the first time since 1926 one week later on June 30th. It runs from Lake George village to Hague village. There were a number of very large names in the marathon swimming world, especially from the pro-circuit. Bruckner Chase from the DC was also entered and turned in a fine performance. She asked me to stand in as her Coach, feeder and boat crew. It was truly an honor.

We met on the start beach at 7:00 AM, she was excited and ready to go. She had already spent a couple of days with her host family and was very comfortable with everyone. Her host family deserve many kudos, they were gracious with their house, time and caring. Being as this was the first year the race has been back, there were some logistical things that came up but they were soon solved. The swimmers were on their way at 8:04.

Now her goal was a 12 hour swim, the swimmers were pulled at 8:00 PM or 2 hours after the first of their gender finished. At the end only Rafael Antonio Perez from Argentina crossed the finish line. The interesting thing and really cool rule was that each swimmer got credit for the amount of distance covered. There were no DNFs in the event. Even the young 17 year old that pulled himself due to hypothermia got credit for distance covered.

She started out off the beach beautifully. I got on a safety boat to head out to her boat and meet her.

Her boat pilots were Jim and Jason, they were the best pilots for her and the conditions. The race started off calm but that deception soon lifted. Most of the day was spent fighting headwind gusts up to 20+ MPH and and due to the wind the small boat that kept getting blown around (I felt like I had been horse back riding the next day and I wasn't swimming in it). Because of the wind, the size of the boat and where we were on the lake, she had the worst of it of all the competitors. It was pretty ugly most of the day. The wind kept the ambient air temps down and the clouds occluded the sun most of the day. Which made the water temps colder and the wind chill was not fun. In fact as soon as we docked after the swim, the clouds opened up.

She amused the crew when crossing shallow areas with a comment about 'thanks for the TV.' We confused two other boats when we asked her about the TV later. They thought that we were asking if they had a TV on board.....

The Lake George patrol spent a lot of time with us following and cheering her on, loved all of them. The sheriff's boat came by for awhile also. Michele waved at all and blew them kisses. Jim's (co-pilot) Mom was a mama tiger at chasing away the boats that were stupid and too close to Michele.

Even though there were issues with nausea, muscle spasms, and sore shoulders. Michele stayed patient, generous and easy to work with. It took a long while to find a concoction that would settle on her stomach. We worked on stretching to try and relieve some of the pain. She never took even an Advil in the entire 12 hours, (she is so much tougher than me.) She responded to my hoots in order to get her attention. I never heard a whine, complaint or anything less than a gracious athlete with a fantastic sense of humor who was swimming her best. Even when at 7:00 PM, I asked her if she could give me one more hour and her face said 'maybe not' she said 'yes.' She gave me a hour that didn't let up, she just chugged along like the energizer bunny. She may not have been the fastest but she was the best in my opinion and definitely the toughest. It was an amazing experience to be called her coach, crew and most important 'friend.'

Three cheers for the Western States runner and one week later the 18+ Mile swimmer (she took the scenic route while swimming) in some of the worst lake conditions I've seen.

If I get a USB cable, I'll transfer photos and send a link over the holiday.

Laura Colette