Sunday, June 22, 2014

Another Weekend Swim

This is my next to last weekend before we head to Dover. I can't quite get my head around the fact that my channel tide is less than a month away. When I started this journey in January of 2013, it seemed so far away -- couldn't even imagine the shoreline, so to speak.

For what seems like the hundreth time, I waded into Branched Oak Lake on Saturday. It's become a good friend. I know every point and buoy around its perimeter. I see the same folks in boats, often asking how long I'm swimming today. It's my Mayberry.

I planned on 6 hours for Saturday and my friend Rodney took the first 3-hour shift. The water seemed unusually warm -- 75f according to my thermometer. But, it felt OK. Sure beats shivering after 10 minutes. 

Rodney and I paddled and swam under a gorgeous summer morning sky. The water was completely flat - a very rare phenomenon. Things felt good and I was humming along at my fastest rate yet, according to my Endomondo tracker.

We wandered a little too far into the north end of the lake, but it was no big deal. Nothing to do but swim for 6 hours, so the route doesn't much matter. When we crossed the lake to get back to the beach at Area 1, I was surprised that the lake was still so smooth. We both stopped a bit to check out a helicopter that was carrying a fire bucket. Not sure why - must have been a drill.

Paul took over kayak duty at the beach while I meandered between the buoys. My shoulders, especially the left one, were beginning to bother me. And my head was completely stuffed up. There must be a lot more algae in the water. I had to blow out the snot block every once and awhile. Conveniently, there's plenty of water to wash up with.

When we got to the north side of the lake, a young guy on a paddle board came over and asked if I was training for something. I told him I was training for the English Channel and would be heading over in a couple of weeks. He said, "That's you. I heard you were training for that. That's incredible." I'm sure not doing this for any kind of fame, but it's nice to know that people care.

I had thought about putting in 7 hours, but at about 5 and a half, my left shoulder was killing me and my head was about to explode from the sinus pressure. So, we stuck to the plan and completed the 3-hour loop as intended. My tummy was feeling pretty gross, too. As we crossed the lake to get back to the beach, the water was like a washing machine from all the boat traffic. I mention these things because they were going on, but really, it's par for the course in long open water swims. Some swims are better than others. This one was one of the others and it's OK. Just keep swimming. I waded out at 6 hours, 25 minutes. Blew a gallon of lake water out of my nose then sneezed incessantly for about 10 minutes. Very weird. 

I took 2 sudefed, 2 ibuprofen and a benadryl, which finally cleared out my head after about an hour and a half. Don't do this at home, kids.

I had planned to swim 3 hours at the lake again today, but it was raining and the forecast predicted storms. So, I texted Michaella to see if she'd be available for coffee chat instead of kayaking, which she was. I picked up a coffee for me and some kind of fru fru iced toddy thing with 8 ingredients for her and enjoyed sitting in her beautiful screened in porch, catching up on each other's lives. I will always be grateful that we became friends at Madonna and have stayed friends since she left to become the marketing maven for the Lincoln Children's Museum. Everything is better when shared with good friends.

Oh, and after the chat, I sat in an ice bath for a half hour and swam at the Y for 3 hours and 10,000 yards. After the first few hundred yards to work out the kinks, it felt pretty good. I forgot to bring any Gatorade or carbo drink - doh! But, that's probably good for training. I have plenty of padding to keep me going. Afterwards, I rewarded myself with a delicious bowl of pho. Mmmmmmmmm.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Dude, Somebody Stole my Floatie!

Last weekend, Paul and I were in Springfield, Missouri, to visit his parents and grandma. I was looking forward to swimming in Table Rock Lake. It's so clean and clear and pretty:

I didn't have a kayaker -- wanted Paul to be able to visit with his folks, so I made my way to Moonshine Beach (only in Branson... land of hillbillies, has-beens and holy rollers) a protected cove for swimming with a sandy beach. The swimming area wasn't very big, but I could see a nice route along the buoy line.

I swam out to the first buoy and attached my floating beverage ring by rope and a carabiner to the anchor chain. It's a great little self-service feeding station, pictured here in my corner full o' swimming gear:

The water was absolutely delicious - very little wind, cool but not cold and I could see about 4-5 feet below me. Following the buoys across the swimming beach over to the marina and back took about 15 minutes, so 2 laps to a a feed. 

It is so handy to have that floating feed station. I'm able to relax and swim, not having to go back to the beach or put a handful of gu gels and a water bottle down the back of my suit. As I swam back to the marina, I could see some drowned trees under me in the water -- it was like I was flying over them.

On my way back to the floatie, I noticed a big power boat parked by the buoy. I wondered if it was some sort of lake patrol annoyed that I had attached my float to the buoy, although I don't know why anyone would care. It wasn't a hazard to boats or other swimmers or anything.

By the time I made it to the buoy the boat was gone. And so was my floatie. 

Are you kidding me? Seriously? What kind of cretin steals somebody's float ring and carbo drinks. Did they think there was beer in there? Good grief.

I swam to the beach thinking maybe whoever took it dropped it off, but no such luck. I could have, and should have, put in another hour of swimming, but I felt angry and a little violated. I just wanted to go home to the inlaws, so I did.

The next day, Father's Day, I was determined to get in more swimming since I only swam an hour and 45 minutes at the lake. I stopped by Starbucks, grabbed a latte and a breakfast sandwich and headed to the YMCA, where I like to swim when we're in Springfield.

Could this weekend have been a bigger swim FAIL? Why on earth is the YMCA closed? Father's Day? Sunday? KHAN!!!!

Swimming friends and mentors had been telling me to rest. I had swum 11 hours last weekend and had racked up some decent yardage in the past few weeks. But, I wasn't planning to swim 100 x 100s on the 100 - I just wanted to get in some yards. Believe it or not, I actually like swimming just for the sake of swimming. And I'm a little bit anal about staying on track with my swim plan, which involves certain total yardage each week.

But this weekend wasn't going according to plan. I needed to let it go. Breathe. Maybe one of my swimming friends did some extra yards this week and it all balances out in the swimming cosmos. Gotta go with the flow.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

How to Swim All Day

Last Sunday, I waded into Branched Oak Lake at 6 a.m. and sloshed out at 5:08 p.m. I swam for a little more than 11 hours. 

So, what's it like to swim from dawn to dinnertime? Well, like any day - some parts were pretty good and others were challenging.

It was a huge help to have 4 kayakers lined up to provide support in 3-hour shifts. That helped break up the day into separate chunks and get a fresh perspective, and new swim route, with each kayaker. The weather was calm, though a little cool. It was in the high 50s at the start and never rose above 70. It was mostly cloudy and the water was between 69-73 (estimating).

Good morning, Branched Oak

The first shift with Tammy went well. We took a loop around the lake and as we were crossing the open lake to return to the start, the wind and lake current were pushing us back -- like walking up a down escalator. Tammy asked if I wanted to backtrack, but I figured this was probably a lot like it will feel getting to France. We must plow through! And we did. It just took a looooooong time.

When we arrived back at the beach, Ashley was ready to take over. We followed a similar loop, but went clockwise instead. This segment was a little tougher. I had put in more than 3 hours and knew I still had many, many more hours to go. This is the mental challenge of marathon swimming. It's hard to stay in the moment and not get pulled into the daunting prospect of many more hours of swimming. I tried to stay focused on my stroke form and singing songs in my head. 

The feeds and comfort stops were going well. The free sample of maltodextrin as a feed passed inspection. In fact, it dissolved more completely than the Genr8 and I really didn't notice any difference in energy levels. 

After retracing my steps - or rather, strokes - we made it back to the Area 1 beach where Matt was ready for his shift. It was now noon and the boat traffic was picking up. Having predicted as much, Matt's route was an out-and-back course near the shoreline. This shift was hard, but also easy in a way. I was tired, but I knew this was my last 3-hour chunk. Again, I had to shift my focus back to the present moment and just put one arm over the other.

The feeds I'd given Matt were mixed with ginger beer. I thought that might help settle my tummy, but they tasted terribly acidic. I should have left the ginger beer out to get flat. But, I'm not sure that would have made much of a difference anyway. I was running out of songs to sing and my mind was coming up with all sorts of excuses for ending the swim: my right goggle lens was leaky - better get out; I left my swim parka on a picnic table, I'd better go lock it in the car; those clouds are getting darker, we'd better get out; I'm getting cold and I still have hours to go, I'd better get out.

But, I didn't. I kept swimming. 

Finally, Matt and I made the return trip to the beach and Paul was there for the last 2-hour shift. Although I was bone tired, I knew I could make it with just 2 hours left. I had given Paul feeds I thought would be good to have at the end: Genr8 with Sprite and Genr8 with tea. I hated them both. I skipped one of the feeds and took a Gaviscon tablet. Oh the joy of Gaviscon! It totally wiped out my nausea, but unfortunately, I totally ran out of gas without the calories. I guzzled as much of the sprite mix as I could. The tea was just too awful.

Paul is such a good support kayaker - always positioned just right and has feeds ready to go so I can take them quickly. But, since he's my hubby, it's also tempting for me stop and chat for the dummest reasons. By now, I'm cold, tired, hungry but slightly nauseous and exhausted and have felt this way for several hours. But, I also know I'm going to make it and that is a powerful motivator. The very best!

Swim Video

I plowed my way back to the beach and felt a little woosy walking onto the sand. I wanted a hot shower and to stop moving! I'd been in perpetual motion all day long and I just wanted to SIT. So, I sat for a brief minute, then collected my gear and drove up to the showers while Paul loaded the kayak on top of the Pilot and went off in search of roast chicken for dinner.

The shower felt so, so, so good. I'd still be in it now if I'd had enough quarters. I still need to work on my cold water acclimation. Second verse, same as the first. But, I am still proud of completing my longest swim to date. Eleven hours is an accomplishment!

And that chicken dinner was the best meal I've ever had :-)

Monday, June 9, 2014

Back to Back

Cyndi Lauper - still rockin' it!

The one and only, Cher
This weekend (May 31-June 1) was a planned back-to-back swim adventure: 5 hours on Saturday and 4 hours on Sunday. What I didn't take into account was the Cyndi Lauper and Cher concert on Friday night with my mom and daughter. Friday had been a stressful day at work and I was focused on having fun with my favorite gals. I tend to get a little obsessive about my areas of interest and enjoying the concert became my life's mission that particular evening. 
Me, my mom, Audrey and Jaxon (the cat)

Audrey and Mary Ann on our way to the arena

I had a blast and enjoyed my own personal dance party, much to the amusement of the guy sitting behind me and the total embarrassment of my daughter. We made it home around 12:30 a.m. and the alarm going off at 6 was the very definition of a rude awakening.

But, the swim must be done, so I got up, slugged a coffee, loaded up the car with the gear and headed to the lake. I swam 2 hours on my own along the buoy line, then Paul joined me in the kayak for the last 3. It was a pleasant enough day, although it rained for an hour. I didn't mind it but it's a drag for the kayaker.

I actually enjoyed the swim. I told Paul it was one of those picture perfect days I'd remember when we're old, sitting on the porch swing. After the rain, the sky cleared up with a few of those popcorn puff summer clouds and the lake was smooth as silk. I felt surprisingly good despite my late night partying and just enjoyed the swim.

The next day, I planned a 4 hour slog on my lonesome. But my luck held out and my friend Alberta and her husband were at the lake, too. Donny, Alberta's husband, kindly took my feeds and somehow managed to cover both of us as we swam along the buoy line. It's so much nicer to have company even if you're not swimming side by side. Just having a friend in the water makes it easier somehow. The four hours went by surprisingly fast. At least that's how it seems looking back on it!

The water was well out of Channel range, probably in the low 70s. I've been taking cold baths in the horse tank - that's all the acclimation I've got until Dover. Here's my Awkward Family photo of me in the tank during a cookout with the family: