Sunday, September 30, 2007

More About Why I'm Going Nuts

ActivityTime (Hours)
Swimming 1
Eating/Fixing Meals1.5
Getting Ready for Bed0.25
Morning Routine0.5
Physical Therapy Exercise
Strength Training
Everything Else0.5
Total 24

Ok, I don't do all these things, but if I did everything I wanted to do in a day, that is what I feel like I should do in a day, that is what I would be doing. No wonder I'm going out of my freaking mind! No wonder I make stupid mistakes all the time. No wonder I have trouble concentrating. No wonder I'm always tired.

Somethings gotta give. I can think of one thing I'd like to knock right off that list: Driving. I'd either have to move, work from home, or change my job. Changing my job probably wouldn't help. I'd have to drive to work anywhere. It would knock a little time off maybe, but it might not. It'd have to be a job in Scotts Valley for it to help at all, and since there is no Master's team in Scotts Valley, it wouldn't help. Not giving up the swimming. Since I can work from home some, I can knock off driving time from my day. I think I'm going to work from home more, at least twice a week Then see if I can shift some of those things on my schedule to days where I work from home, or the weekend. Like maybe I can do as much meal prep as I can on the weekend. Or figure out how to eat healthily with really simple stuff.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Hooray for Fall

It's too early for deep thoughts, but I'm in a good mood.

The weather is a little dreary, but there are nice things about the fall. Runs in the wood are more pleasant. I get to wear cashmere. I can wear my red leather jacket.

That's all for now. Maybe I'll add more later.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

What I Got Out of Swimming Tahoe

Tahoe was draining. When I finished it, I wondered why I did it, because I felt weaker, not stronger, both mentally and physically. I hoped that as I recovered, I would come out of it stronger than ever.

It's been a hard thing to evaluate what I got out of it, in the process of recovering. I would have moments of positive energy, followed by more moments of fatigue and self-doubt. Sometimes these moments stretched on for days. I think the long term effects of it are still worth pondering. Running in the forest by myself the past couple of weeks has given me a little bit of time to reflect upon the difficulty and benefits of what I did.

1. I fulfilled a goal on my list of things to do before I die, which was to do some kind of significant swim, 10K or greater. It's hard for me to explain why this was important to me, except that when it first captured my imagination it seemed like an amazing, crazy feat. I first heard about it when I did my first open water swim around the Flip Flop Pier, which was an amazing life-changing experience in itself for me, and I knew it was something I wanted to do. Initially, I wanted to swim the Pier-to-Pier, but doing Tahoe as a relay last year made swimming it solo exciting.

I think I have a problem characterized by Groucho Marx, that I would never want to belong to a club that would have me in it. Now that I've accomplished my goal, it really doesn't seem like that big of a deal. It's a terrible thought, really. Maybe I'll be plagued by these types of thoughts the rest of my life. I hope not, but it's possible. But just because they occur to me, doesn't mean I have to listen to them. And as I swam across that Lake, I pushed that thought out my mind for 6 hours straight. As I trained for it, I'd fight it on and off for months. And by accomplishing my goal, I won. I imagine this power is something that will go away without exercising it, so I'll need to set goals for myself throughout my life.

2. I learned a lot about myself and my relationships to people around me. I've gone through a lot of ups and downs with this. I asked people for help and was turned down by people who I really thought should help me. For a long time, I came out of the experience a bitter, angry, disillusioned person. It was hard for me give people my well-wishes when they sought after fulfilling their own goals. I was jealous of other people who were able to find more support in their goals than I was.

There have been many things I've gotten out of this. In forgiving the people around me, I've had to learn to take people as they are, and still take vicarious pleasure in their accomplishments, even if they aren't always as supportive of me as I want them to be. I've learned to more deeply appreciate the few people who did help me in my goal, and who have since offered to help me if I choose to do another long swim.

I've also learned that I can be a deeply judgmental and negative person. Everyone is good and bad both, and we are all by necessity selfish at times, but if I focus on what's bad about everyone around me, I'll be a lonely, unhappy person.

I can't pretend I've found the right balance here yet. It's hard to see how it helps the people around me in the long run become better people if I'm supportive of their goals, and they aren't supportive of mine. I do know that when I feel connected to others, I'm a happier person. I can't make anyone a better person, really, but maybe I can make the world a better place by trying my best to support other people in their goals. This sounds good for now anyways. My whole life may be a learning experience in this respect.

3. I've learned that I am capable of some degree of independence, even if it is a painful thing to experience. It helps immensely to know other people are there to support you, and makes the experience much more fulfilling, but it really isn't necessary. I don't mean to say this to sound ungrateful to the people who did give me support, but I did feel very lonely throughout my training and swim.

4. It was a huge confidence booster. In the weeks since Tahoe, I've thought about other goals that are much less interesting or compelling, but still slightly daunting: e.g. losing weight, gardening, running farther, biking without fear, being more organized, learning to paint. These are all things where I've "thrown in the towel" when they got frustating. My life is a bit of a mess, but I feel confident that I can sort this out with the kind of commitment and positive thinking it took me to get across Tahoe. It might seem a little silly that I need to cheer myself along throughout the day for such mundane things, but in the long run it will improve the quality of my life. Perhaps later, the confidence will be applied to something more exciting and glamorous, but for now, it gives me a sense of peace to know it is there.

Athletic Goals for 2007/2008

I'm feeling aimless. I feel like I need a goal that I can get excited about. Maybe I shouldn't feel bad about the fact that I'm feeling dissatisfied and ambivalent. Maybe all that means is I'm lucky to have choices. It's hard for me to figure out what I want, but I'm grateful that I have options.

Possible goals for the next year:

1. Another big swim, possibly a channel crossing.
2. Relaxing and enjoying swimming and running and not worrying so much about performance.
3. Breaking a 22 in the 1650 freestyle
4. Feeling comfortable consistently swimming on a 1:25 base
5. Swimming 4200 yards in the Hour Postal
6. Getting in better shape cardiovascularly through running and cycling
7. Doing a triathlon

Thoughts on my options:

1. Another big swim, possibly a channel crossing.


It captures my imagination. I'm not sure how else to explain it. The challenge? The glory? My love for the power and unpredictability of the open water?


It probably won't be satisfying in the ways I want it to be. Swimming Tahoe and training for it was hard and lonely. I don't regret it, because everything that was hard about it was a learning experience and also empowering. Reading the accounts of Michele's swim was inspiring and fascinating, but also frightening. Marathon swimming could not be a lifestyle for me. As a lifetime goal, it could be empowering, enlightening, and enhancing, but as a long term lifestyle it might be harmful. I don't think I need another challenge like Tahoe at this point in my life. I think what I got out of it in terms of learning about commitment and building my confidence is enough fuel for a while.

2. Relaxing and enjoying swimming and running and not worrying so much about performance.

Of course, enjoyment has intrinsic value. Relaxation is definitely necessary for a happy life. This would have to fit somewhere in my goals, but knowing my personality, it would not be enough to be satisfying. Every time I've tried to be a happy-go-lucky slacker, I've been unsuccessful at it.

3. Breaking a 22 in the 1650 freestyle
4. Feeling comfortable consistently swimming on a 1:25 base
5. Swimming 4200 yards in the Hour Postal

I guess 3, 4, and 5 are all tied into one another: getting faster. I think in terms of priorities, I'd like to get back to the basics for now. I chose swimming as an activity because it was healthy and enjoyable. I chose to set performance goals, because it enhanced my enjoyment and interest to set goals for myself.

Do these goals seem reasonable? My P.R. for a 1650 is 22:56. I'd have to swim about 3.4 seconds faster per 100. I swim pretty comfortably on a 1:30 base right now, and when I'm energetic, confident, and, um, have just the right person in front of me to draft on, I can swim on a 1:25 base. Maybe some combination of pushing myself mentally and supplementing strength training would help me with these goals.

6. Getting in better shape cardiovascularly through running and cycling

Doesn't seem like there are too many cons here. Cross training is beneficial. The only thing I worry about is that when I push myself when I run, I sometimes use up all of my “give a crap” for the week and don't have energy to swim hard. I wonder if it would work well to alternate hard running weeks and hard swimming weeks.

7. Doing a triathlon:

Maybe running and cycling for enjoyment and cross-training will lead to racing and performance goals apart from swimming, but for now it isn't really necessary.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Just In Case

Someone who knows about this blog asked me if I thought my surgery scar got infected at the pool. I hadn't thought about the fact that I might be implying that by saying that one of my fellow swimmers had an infected surgery scar. I just said that to explain my relationship to that person, not to imply that there was something wrong with the pool I swim in. I was actually wearing a waterproof bandaid before I went to Urgent Care, so it seems pretty unlikely that would be the case. My doc told me it was healthier to leave it off when I swim, and that he wanted to see it dry out rather than kind of steam up inside the waterproof bandaid.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Michele Swims the Catalina Channel -

This is from Forrest- The Crew Chief:

I've heard stories of incredible fortitude. Michele's 13-hour Catalina
Channel swim was the first time I've witnessed a feat of this magnitude.
Her crossing immediately ranks among my "top 10 favorite swimming stories".
It's that inspiring.

Had I known (at the time) exactly how seasick she was on the evening boat
trip over to the island, I might have counseled Michele differently. Our
experienced boat pilot stopped mid-Channel in a chaotic mixed-swell and
strong winds. There were doubts this would be an ideal swimming night.
Maybe it was time to reconsider. The best I had to offer was the forecast
was for diminishing winds... by the time she'd cross these waters again,
perhaps 12 hours later, the winds were supposed to be calm. As luck would
have it, the forecasters were correct - for once.

Michele was ill before the swim started, and continued to struggle with
nausea and internal distress. Imagine trying to feed every 20 minutes,
knowing the drink is meant to sustain you. And it's just as likely going to
make you wretch your guts. Michele hesitantly drank at each stop. Even a
few sips brought on the heaves.

What rarely wavered was Michele's focus. One goal. Even if she could take
only a few strokes at a time. I'd watch her talk with herself. Pep talks in
the pitch black waters, to help calm her nerves and discount negative
emotions. Convince herself she had the ability to put together 50
consecutive strokes. Then put her head down and after 2 strokes wince in
pain, roll over and nearly vomit. On occasion, there were vocal sounds that
I'm not sure were human. Only to repeat this process.

I've watched swimmers falter, but never have I seen one recover from such
despair. About an hour before daybreak, after 5 hours of swimming, and 2
hours of regular gut-wrenching heaves, Michele said she'd suffered enough.
She wanted to "call" the swim. Make the pain stop and climb aboard the
escort boat. Find a hot shower and sleep the remainder of the day.

What Michele proved to us, today, was she could suffer another 8+ hours.
And she ought to "call" this 20-mile Catalina Channel crossing a crowning
success... and I hope Michele doesn't hold true to her mid-Channel promise
to "never swim again". It'd be a downright shame if she missed the
pre-party swim at November's Catalina Channel celebratory event.

This is from Emily Evans-Crew Member:

Yes - Michele made it! - It was an great event adventure swim experience.
Michele has a powerful mind I think they could solve the energy crisis if
they tapped into her will power - it's quite amazing. She did a great job
- despite sickness, and "large fishies" bumping her in the night. Some of

the highlights of the swim from my vantage were to see Michele go from
experiencing pain and illness to putting her head down and plowing though
the water with focus and determination and as she came to the shore a
group of 5 or so dolphins came to greet her as she swam against the current and
to those lovely rocks we all now (the small car to toilet bowl size
rocks with teeth). Everyone on board was amazing as well. John paddled
with craned neck and gentle encouragement and kept Michele on track.
Susan was a constant voice of encouragement and tried to help Michele to
remember that left arm every time she swam too far from the boat. John Pittman was
amazing and his crew as well - steering a course and helping and answering
questions. Laura cooked up drinks in the kitchen and kept careful watch
over the feeding schedule -and when tough love was needed she had plenty
to serve up. Forest was a pillar of strength and wisdom and his advice and
assistance were absolutely crucial to the success of the swim.

On a personal note - I must admit there were times that I thought this
(channel swimming) is a strange sort of sado-masochist recreational
phenomenon. We the crew are the sadists forcing down juices and drink and
forcing our friend to continue through pain - and Michele enduring the
hard times in order to gain the satisfaction of completion. But in the peaceful
moments I could hear the rhythmic splashing of Michele's arms in water and
see stars, clouds and birds overhead -and in the intense moments I could
feel everyone's hearts pounding with excitement and encouragement and
minds spinning through expectations, fears and strategies for both - and I know
why challenges such as this one are so enticing.

Now I should try and get some long awaited sleep and perhaps dream of
black waters, rocky coasts and an amazing group of wonderful people - all of


Saturday, September 15, 2007

Weekly Summary (Or Why I'm Going Nuts)

My dog got sprayed by a skunk, at 5:15 in the morning. Bathed her twice. Took her to the vet to get her bathed again.

Went to the Urgent Care clinic Tuesday night for a mildly infected scar from my cyst removal surgery. Got home way past my bedtime.

I got lost on my way to a Weight Watcher's Meeting. I printed out directions, but didn't print out the address. I knew the street name, and figured there'd be a sign, but there wasn't one. Turns out it was in some building on the second floor.
Got up at 5:30 a.m. so I could swim at 7, and didn't get home until nine, since I ran until 6:30-8:00.

-Felt very anti-social, and didn't talk to anyone in the locker room at swimming at all.
- Found out my car which was supposed to be fixed this weekend won't be finished until next week.

Got up at 5:15 a.m. to swim, only to find that Hwy 9 was closed about 3 miles up the road. Turned around and went home, and got on my bike trainer again.

Ran out of gas in an area without cell phone coverage.

Week in general:
Worked out 9 times total.
My house has fleas! We think... Haven't seen them yet, but Raybon and I both have bites. Willow has never had fleas. Not sure which of the two dogs that visited our house last month to blame.

Sounds like a bad week. But:
Had a good laugh about the skunk incident with my co-worker Sandy.

Was lucky to have decided to go to Urgent Care. One of my fellow swimmers had a painful, troublesome problem with her own infected scar.

Didn't really wanted to go to WW anyways. Mostly wanted to kill time in between work and running.
Ran with very little pain. Am probably going to recover just fine.

Thursday really wasn't so bad. Just felt tired for the most part.

Had a nice lunch with Raybon, who also worked from home that day.

Running out of gas was actually a fun adventure (at least for a biking wuss like me.) See below. Had a nice ride with Jac.

Week in General:
Lost weight, I think.
Not to tempt fate, but although I'm tired, I'm in good spirits. Ease up on me fate. Don't let my positive attitude come off as "What else you got?"

Accidental Adventure

Apologies in advance for all the typo's. I'm feeling a little tired and lightheaded.

I woke up this morning looking forward to a swim workout followed by a bike ride with Jac. The workout was an easy pyramid set. The ride was flat and not too long, 20 miles tops on a road with a wide shoulder. I tried to focus on my cadence, but other than that rode at an easy conversational pace with Jac. I was starting to feel like I had a handle on this cycling thing. I'd unclip automatically at a stop sign, and focused on my pace rather than being terrified of falling. We turned around right as we got to a hilly, curvy road that I usually take home from work. We talked about riding a little farther, even maybe some day riding all the way to my house in the Flip Flop Mountains. Someday... Frankly when I say "Maybe someday I'll swim the English Channel" it sounds more plausible, despite the fact that I see riders doing it all the time.

OK... When I first started writing this blog I wrote about all the stupid things I do, figuring it had good entertainment value for my readers. Back then I was very protective about who read it. I still don't think too many people read it, but my cover has been blown enough to fear having people who might be laughing at me rather than with me. But it's an important part of the story. I ran out of gas. It was stupid. I should have known better. I knew I was low on gas on my way to practice, but figured I'd push it because I was afraid I'd be late. But by the time I got done with riding with Jac and got in my car at her house to head home, this thought completely exited my head.

I ran out of gas on the road that Jac and I debated about heading down, and wisely decided to turn around. When I first started taking this road to and from work, I was pretty nervous, because there is no cell phone coverage, and a lot of the houses say stuff like "KEEP OUT" and have crazy looking gates and rusted cars. When I ran out of gas I was pretty close to a very nice looking place, though, but I decided against bothering them for their phone. I decided instead to take my bike out to Highway 9, and see if I could get better phone coverage there, or maybe stop at the Jewish Summer Camp that was right next to the Highway there.

The hills were more than I bargained for. Jac and I thought about doing a hillier workout, and I was afraid I'd go so slow I'd have to stop and wouldn't be able to unclip before I fell over. I'm glad I did this hill, because I now know that was silly, and unclipping on a hill is really not that hard. I stopped and walked a little bit (luckily none of the numerous weekend riders who take this route saw me and laughed at me.) It's been a long time since I've done a semi-challenging hill: 8 years, back when I lived in Flip Flop proper. I wasn't too bummed about being forced to do this actually; it seemed almost like fate that I'd be forced out of my comfort zone a little bit.

There was no phone coverage when I reached he highway, so I asked the Jewish Summer Camp if I could use their phone. They were very kind, and I called AAA. I then thanked them and started my ride back to my car. When my car stopped, I had a choice of whether to head down hill or uphill, I figured I should get the hard part out of the way first. I think my flat, confidence building ride this morning made me forget what the actual hard part for me is: going fast down hill. I was terrified. I clenched my brakes so hard going down that winding road, I felt sure at times my hands wouldn't have the strength to hold on much longer. My guts felt like they turned to liquid. I've read about this happening to people, but had no idea what this meant until I actually experienced it. I had to tell myself over and over again to not panic, that my hands would not fatigue, that I wasn't going to faint or lose balance and fall over. When I got to a point where I felt safe stopping, I realized I had already gone a little past my car. My whole body shook.

Some perspective on my ridiculously dramatic account of today's adventure:

- The section of hill I rode was only 1 mile long.
- As I sat and waited in my car for the tow truck to come with gas, an old man on a road bike came riding down the same road I came down. He didn't look like he was going fast at all. Either I don't know how to brake properly (entirely possible), or what feels like a roller coaster to me is actually a pretty wussy ride.

What's weird about this is when I used to ride more often, when I went to UC Flip Flop, I rode down roads just as steep and longer than 1 mile. I don't remember ever feeling terrified or out of control. Jac, who is only 23, and has been riding consistently since a younger age, sometimes doesn't understand my terror of riding. I don't know if it is just that I'm not as over my fear of clipless pedals and my slick road bike I thought I was, or if I've just become more painfully aware (sometimes literally) of my mortality in ways I didn't when I was younger.

All in all, I'm not too sorry I ran out of gas today. It all worked out pretty well, and I did all sorts of things on my bike that forced me out of my comfort zone: hills, winding roads, no bike lane, going faster than I felt comfortable with, riding alone, gravel, and a one lane road. Only 2 miles total, but a month ago I was terrified to do 2 miles just down my block. I must say my fascination and respect for cyclists has increased 10 fold. Not that I didn't respect them before, but as I drove home and watched them climb longer, steeper hills than I did, I had to mentally bow down before them.

Trying out a new sport is teaching me humility in ways that Lake Tahoe solo swim and my Catalina Channel relay really did not. I always want to explain to people that I'm not a big wuss, and that I'm actually a pretty brave swimmer, but I always feel like a dork when I do this. I think I'll resolve not to mention my swimming adventures at all next time I go to a run workout or on a bike ride.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Word of the Day: Schadenfreude

From Wikipedia:

Schadenfreude is a German word meaning 'pleasure taken from someone else's misfortune'. It has been borrowed by the English language[1] and is sometimes also used as a loanword by other languages.

Schadenfreude is referred to in the Simpsons episode "When Flanders Failed." Lisa accuses Homer of feeling schadenfreude when Homer gloats about Ned Flanders being on the verge of bankruptcy. Lisa asks Homer, "Dad, do you know what Schadenfreude is?", to which Homer replies in a sarcastic tone, "No, I do not know what Schadenfreude is. Please tell me because I'm dying to know." Lisa then explains "It's a German word for shameful joy, taking pleasure in the suffering of others." Homer responds with "Oh, come on, Lisa. I'm just glad to see him fall flat on his butt! He's usually all happy and comfortable, and surrounded by loved ones, and it makes me feel...what's the opposite of that shameful joy thing of yours?" "Sour grapes." "Boy, those Germans have a word for everything."

Monday, September 10, 2007

Willow's Terrible Day

I was going to write this from Willow's perspective, but it came out kind of sappy.

My poor baby doggy (um, is sappy a bad thing?) got sprayed by a skunk this morning. I got up early to make the 7 am workout, and took her out to front yard like I always do before I leave for work. It was dark outside, and there is not light near the gate to the front yard. I heard a scuffle, and then heard Willow sneezing convulsively. There was an overpowering smell, and I realized she had a run in with a skunk. I ran into the house, told Raybon, who made me run to get a flashlight. By the time he got outside she was in the neighbors front yard, sneezing, and rubbing her face in the dirt.

"Crap," I thought. Selfishly, I wanted to ask Raybon if he could just take this one so I could go swimming, but I knew that was the wrong thing to do. (He wouldn't have gone for it anyways.) We washed her with hydrogen peroxide, vinegar, and baking soda, and then again with baby shampoo. We did it outside with the hose. We almost always bathe her in the bath, so she won't get cold. Poor thing, got sprayed in the face with a skunk, then got doused over and over again with cold water and a nasty mixture of peroxide and vinegar diluted in a gallon of water. She was very, very patient, and whenever I went away to get something from the house, she tried to follow me. Poor sweetie. We put her in her kennel in the shed, and left for work. The house reeked, because the skunk smell from outside seeped through the open bathroom window.

I did get to swim at noon, but I was exhausted. We paid $40 to have the vet bathe her again, because she was still stinky, and it hurt my back to bathe her the first time. She doesn't much like the vet, ever since she had surgery there a couple months ago. She doesn't smell all that bad now, only a little bit.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Menlo Plus Catalina Relay, August 12th 2007

How the Team Came Together

Michele Starts Putting Together the Team

Back in early February, when I was still feeling a little lonesome swimming with my new club, Menlo Masters, I noticed a familiar name on one of the club's monthly newsletters. I smiled from ear to ear to learn that an English Channel swimmer I'd met the previous year, Michele Santilhano, with whom I'd corresponded with by email had joined the club. I was so excited; I immediately emailed her and told her we needed to meet at one of the workouts. We met for a workout and dinner, and shared stories and plans. I was so pleased to have a new friend at my new club, and to feel the camaraderie of having another crazy open water swimmer on my team. Michele is a nurse from South Africa, who is an ultra-runner, marathon swimmer, and Ironman triathlete. Every other weekend she knocks off some event that would be a normal athlete's life time goal.

In February or March of this year, Michele told me she had put me on a mental list of people for a relay across the 21 mile Catalina Channel she was going to do in preparation for her solo swim in September. I immediately broke my New Year's Resolution of learning to say "I'll think about it", by answering "Absolutely." As an aspiring marathon swimmer, I couldn't think of anything I would rather do. She excitedly told our coach, Tim, about our plans, and he sent out an email to try to help us recruit 4 more people to round out our team. I questioned my sanity in committing to this without much thought.

Meeting Marianne

One day at workout I met another open water swimmer. I'm sort of an open water swimming groupie, and internet addict. I'd combed through results of open water swims looking to see which Menlo swimmers did open water, and found that Marianne was repeatedly the open water points champion in her age group. I was leading the lane next to hers, which had 2 other people in it, while she swam by herself. She invited me over, which I think may have been my first day moving from Level 3 to Level 2. I couldn't quite keep up with her, but I had fun trying, and she was very friendly and welcoming. She asked me my name, and when she started to introduce herself, I said, "I know who you are. You're famous. You're Marianne" We talked a little about open water, and she feigned not knowing that she was open water points champion, although I'm pretty sure she did know.

She later inquired in the locker room about the Catalina Channel Relay. I asked her if she'd like to join us and she thought it didn't sound like much fun, being on a boat in the dark for hours and hours and not really getting much swimming in. As we were putting our relay together, and I asked people to join us, people kept telling me to ask Marianne. They told me to keep asking when I told them her initial answer, and she might change her mind. I did this and hoped she would.

Lorraine Joins Us

Michele and I scheduled a meeting with potential relay members. Two other people showed up, one of them a woman named Lorraine. I was instantly impressed by Lorraine She was friendly, confident, mature, intelligent, and had open water swimming experience. That she was friends with Marianne, and obviously cared about her a lot was also a plus. I was glad when she told us she would join our team, and hoped she would help us recruit Marianne. She turned out to be a great asset to the team, with her candid nature and organizational skills.

Marianne Finally Joins, Along With Emily

Marianne, Lorraine, Michele, and I, along with a bunch of other Menlo swimmers, spent the day at Lake Berryessa. I also met Michele's friend from Davis, Emily, who Michele had recruited to be a team member. I instantly got the sense that she would be a great person to have on the team. She was friendly and energetic, and seemed like a sweet, modest person. After spending the day with us at Berryessa, Marianne decided to join us on our relay. Michele, Lorraine, and I were all delighted.

Mike Completes the Team

Tim told me that he had talked with another potential relay member, Mike, and gave us his recommendation. I had seen Mike at our Menlo Master's Run-Swim-Run-Swim-Run, which he won by a wide margin. We'd also shared a lane once or twice, although I'm not sure we had met. After Tim told me about Mike's interest, we shared a lane about a week later. I was having trouble keeping up with him that day, but he and the other person in the lane were very supportive and accommodating. We introduced ourselves, and I asked him if he were the Mike that was interested in the relay, and he was very surprised to learn that I was one of the organizers. (I wondered later if it was because I seemed sort of whiny and wimpy that day in workout, and didn't seem so much like a tough open water swimmer who would help organize a relay across the Catalina Channel.) Michele was also in the pool that day, and I introduced her to Mike, and told her he was great and that we should let him on the team.
The team we started putting together in March was finally complete in early June.

Saturday Before the Relay

I woke up on Saturday morning at my parent's house, still pretty shook up about the car accident I had the day before and also exhausted from my Tran-Tahoe solo swim. I thought the car accident might be a good excuse for not doing it, but I also thought that since I'd committed to doing the swim, I should do it anyways.
I was scheduled to swim the third leg of the relay. I thought it would be good to go last, so I could get as much rest before my swim as I could, and that the relay would likely be finished before I got to swim my second leg. This would mean I would have to change places with Mike, so I hoped he would be willing to do that. I called Michele and told her about my accident, that I would still swim, but thought I should change places with Mike. She promised she would baby me, and talk to Mike for me.

Lorraine and Michele picked me up at my parent's house and we drove up to San Pedro. We got there very early. We stopped at Cabrillo Beach, where Lorraine and Michele chatted up a friendly lifeguard. Our plan at the time was to swim to this beach to finish the relay, and the lifeguard said he'd watch for us. We had a lot of fun doing cartwheels and Pilates in the sand. I told Michele and Lorraine I'd never successfully done a cartwheel before, and Michele said she hadn't either. Lorraine did one elegantly, and Michele and I tried out best. Lorraine declared me a successful cartwheeler. I guess I'll take her word for it.

We also met another interesting person. We watched him get in the water in his goggles, cap, and baggy trunks that came up above his belly button, and then watched as he swam out to a buoy. I thought he looked a little goofy in his trunks, but saw in him a kindred spirit in his love for the beach and buoys. We talked to him a bit and found out he was a member of the Cabrillo Beach Polar Bears. He let us see their little clubhouse, where we found out he and his wife were the 1999 King and Queen of the Cabrillo Beach Polar Bears.

We killed more time at an aquarium, where Michele bought cute whale's tail mood charm necklaces for everyone on our team as souvenirs. We then arrived at the 22nd Street Landing Seafood Grill and Bar and had dinner with everyone on the team, as well as Marianne's partner Joan; Mike's daughter Shelby, who would be accompanying us on the boat; Forrest Nelson, our official observer; and Emily's mother, who's name I forget unfortunately. I felt comforted after listening to Forrest talk to everyone. He is an experienced Channel swimmer, and a very knowledgeable and responsible person. Michele spoke to Mike at dinner and he kindly gave up his cozy 6th leg of the relay to me.

The Swim

It was already dark by the time we boarded the boat. I believe it was around 8:30 or 9. The boat was clean and spacious. I climbed down below to where the bunks were and fell asleep very easily after Michele sweetly tucked me in. Michele woke me up at 4:30 a.m. after what felt to me not much time later to tell me I was up to swim in half an hour. I'd been suffering from lack of sleep since the week before my Tahoe solo swim, and couldn't believe how hard I slept. I felt a little sorry I didn't even see the island or the start of our race, but not very. I really needed the rest. I stumbled up the stairs and through the doorway to the deck of the rocking boat, where I found Marianne sleeping on the deck in her All-American parka. It was pitch dark. There was no moon at all. I saw Emily swimming gracefully, smoothly, and very fast in the black sea. Mike helped fasten my lightstick and glow bracelet on me before I jumped in.

I still felt a little sleepy, but also felt nervous. The word surreal has been used by many members of our relay to describe the experience. I swam towards Emily, and we sort of rammed into each other. I treaded water until Emily climbed back onto the boat, and began my swim.

In an embarrassing lack of forethought, I had brought a tinted pair of goggles. The boat really didn't have a lot of light. I felt self-conscious after watching Emily's lovely graceful stroke, and also knowing I was being watched. I tried to focus on keeping a smooth stroke and breathing pattern, but gave up, because every time I did this I started to almost run into the boat. I heard Forrest call out my name as a warning both times I did this, and finally decided my main priority was to focus on not crashing into the boat.

The sun came up during my leg, and I kept swimming away from the boat and towards the light. I felt pretty goofy about not being able to stay straight. I also felt a little crazy. I got far enough from the boat at times to feel a little panicky (it didn't take more than few strokes to do this), and had a vague crazy thought that it might not be the right boat. (I wasn't quite crazy enough to actually believe it was true.) My leg was finally up and Michele jumped in. Again, we collided as we did the transfer. I clumsily climbed back into the boat, coached by Forrest on how to do it.

Lorraine got in after Michele I think most people felt a bit queasy, due to the surprising amount of rocking on the boat in what seemed like a calm sea from a swimmer's perspective. Lorraine was the most affected of anyone by seasickness. I was very impressed by how incredibly good humored and graceful she was despite not even being able to keep down Gatorade. I watched her swim beautifully with her long dancer's arms. I got a chance to chat with Emily, who offered to swim Catalina solo together sharing the same boat the next year. Emily is a different class of swimmer than I am, so I was amazed by this generosity and lack of ego.

I started feeling sick, and went down below to take some ginger pills and sleep some more. I luckily didn't get too sick, and was able to keep everything down, despite my occasional urge not to.

Part of me wishes I had more energy to feel more like a participant in everyone's swims, but it simply wasn't there. A few of us felt this way, I think. Michele seemed the most energetic of anyone, and I'm grateful for the tea she gave me to soothe my stomach, and generally babying me and everyone else on the boat. Her good nature was a gift to everyone on the team. She probably had the best "team" experience of any of us, because she seemed the most present. I was woken up when we were about half an hour to shore, and after debating a bit with myself, I got in my suit, cap, and goggles, and joined Marianne and Emily in the water, as Marianne took us into shore. I swam with them for about 15 minutes. Michele jumped in with us at the last minute.

We had hoped to land on the sandy Cabrillo Beach, but because of strong currents instead landed on rocks close to San Vicente Point. This is what most Catalina Channel swimmers choose to do. Forrest told us to help Marianne by telling her when to hold on and when to float in. I wasn't sure how to time this, but Forrest yelled to us, and Emily and I relayed the information to Marianne and Michele, who joined Marianne in climbing up onto the rocks. It looked very difficult and scary, and I was glad I wasn't the one who had to do it. Marianne finally found herself on shore, and raised her arms in a victorious V. I like to think of myself as being a gutsy person, but Marianne is one of my heroes in that regard. She finished our relay at 10 hours and 3 minutes, blessed by great conditions in a calm sea.

We swam back to the boat. Marianne was pretty badly cut-up. Nothing very deep, but there was a lot of blood and quite a few scrapes. I ran and got my first-aid kit. Lorraine and I helped cleanse her wounds and bandage her up. I was glad for the opportunity to once feel like a team member by helping Marianne out.

We parted ways with feelings of affection and accomplishment. I think we were all tired and at a loss of words to explain exactly what happened. Even after writing this long account, I feel like there is more to be said, but in summary I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to share this adventure with a great group of people.

Word of the Day

I use this word and hear it used all the time, but never thought much about what it actually meant. Great word.



Etymology: Latin congratulatus, past participle of congratulari to wish joy, from com- + gratulari to wish joy, from gratus pleasing -- more at GRACE
1 archaic : to express sympathetic pleasure at (an event)
2 : to express vicarious pleasure to (a person) on the occasion of success or good fortune ; also : to feel pleased with
3 obsolete : SALUTE, GREET

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Bored, bored, bored

I can't run. I'm not supposed to swim for another 3 hours, because I'm supposed to wait 48 hours from my surgery. I'm biking tomorrow and Monday, so biking is out. What to do?

Being bored is awesome! I haven't been bored for months! I'm finishing up a book I'm reading and just chilling out.