Tuesday, August 6, 2013

A photo essay of Denis's swim

It was a rocky start - lots of big swells
Past Stanley Park now!
With Denis and Michelle after he swam all the way across.  Congratulations Denis!

Friday, August 2, 2013

The look of Satisfaction

Yup, he swam the whoooole way!

The Bay 2013

Well it's over and though it looked challenging (which is, I guess, why they call it the Bay Challenge) Jen pulled it off with style.  Matt piloted her boat and I got to count strokes and mark down her splits.  Jen swum the Bay in 2:53 and won the race!  First woman across the Bay.

Denis also completed the swim and in a terrific time of 3:04.  It was an impressive show from two very impressive swimmers.

The start was a bit hairy, with large swells battering the beach and wind whipping around us.  One support boat was beached, another was swamped and then overturned.  The organizers decided last minute to ask the boats to stay off shore and have the swimmers swim to the beach for the start.  There was a lot of calling to and fro on the walkies, looking for swimmers that hadn't checked in yet, checking that all the boats were OK and understood the change in plans. Jen weathered everything like a champ, but I know from experience how much a change in plans can throw your mental game.  I felt for her.  But I also knew that once she got in and started swimming, everything would slip away and she would remember that this was just swimming - and if there's one thing Jen knows inside out, it's swimming.

It took a while for all the boats to find their swimmers and we were kept from Jen by another swimmer that was just behind her and that swimmer's support boat.  When Jen pulled far enough away from the swimmer, we slipped in next to her and I could see her look and then recognize us as her boat.  She was moving fast and pulling hard and I started counting her strokes.  After almost 2km I could see her relax and drop into the swim.  That strong, smooth stroke I admire so much surfaced and I thought to myself "OK, here we go".
In the shipping lane she hit the current and it was tough going - it looked like a slog and I felt for her - but she kept swimming, only switching to backstroke a couple of times but not stopping. 

We counted down from 2km, and left her about 1km from shore.  As she swam toward shore I stood up to watch her stand up and walk out of the ocean.  Colene called and said that Denis was coming up behind us so we turned and pulled up on the other side of him to cheer him in.  After a long tough swim, Denis still had it in him to wave to us when he heard us cheering.

Matt dropped me off  before he went to return the boat and as I walking toward the finish he texted me: "Jen won!".  I could hardly believe it.

When I saw Jen I ran to her and hugged her so hard and she whispered it to me: "I won"!  I was overjoyed - what a gorgeous thing to hear! 

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Catch up.

Wow!  It's been a long time since I've posted.  So much has happened, and so quickly.   Every once in a while I thought of posting something that was going on, but I was already so far behind that the idea of everything I had to write was overwhelming.  So I did what any reasonable person would do; I ignored it.  Until last Friday when I was told in no uncertain terms to put something up already.  So this post is for you Susan...

Joe, Denis & I at Bird Islet.  It's a short swim - only about 2km round trip from Whytecliffe - but boat traffic means you need an escort. Matt rented a boat in June and lead us out there.

I've decided not to sign up for the Bay 10km.  It started with a sore shoulder that just continued to get worse and worse until I couldn't ignore it anymore.  At the same time all sorts of daily stresses and responsibilities began eating into my training time.  I didn't do the right thing and pull back on mileage, and by the time I began upping the mind-numbingly boring shoulder exercises the physiotherapist gave me it was too late.  My shoulder was shot.  It was an agonizing decision and I was heartbroken for a few weeks, but I quickly realized that with work, the date of the closing on the sale of our house getting closer and closer, and all the packing and moving we had to do, it just was never an attainable goal this year.  The decision coincided with the end of the Spring Training Squad sessions and I took a few weeks off and allowed myself to wallow in self-pity, giving up swimming entirely.

This opened up a lot of time to run and bike and hike.  The great irony is that all this cross-training and leg work produced a shift in my swimming when I finally took to the water again.  The last few weeks my shoulder has been feeling astoundingly better as I've stopped overstretching and overusing my arms and instead, begun to rely on the increased strength in my core and my legs.  So I've lost a race and learned yet another lesson, but that's the business of sport for you and a lot of the reason why it keeps me coming back. 
Doing my thing.
I was busy sulking when the weather decided to pull out all the stops.  It's been so incredible this July I couldn't resist jumping back in.  It's been great fun to meet the same old crew and watch them shed hoods, vests and gloves and socks till everyone is down to their summer gear.   After my firm decision to not sign up for the wetsuit required race, I no longer had to train to swim with one.  Giving it up and reverting to swimming in my bathing suit was a revelation.  As soon as I felt the water on my skin I knew I'd made the right decision.  I'm a little lower and slower in the water, and it's sometimes hard to keep up, but it's all worth it.  I wish I could articulate why losing that thin layer of neoprene makes such a difference. It just feels so right to swim skin.
Rounding the Point from Bachelor Bay
Not racing has also freed me up to crew for Jen, my coach.  She's racing the Bay this year and I'll be timing her splits and keeping track of her stroke rate. And, of course, cheering.  Matt is piloting her boat and it will be great fun.  Denis is also racing it with Colene and Andrew crewing for him.  Pete is piloting for a team swimming it as a relay,  so it will be a reunion and party of sorts...at least for those of us in the boats!

The race is next weekend and Jen & Denis have trained hard and prepared themselves to battle the crossing.  There's nothing now but to swim it.  I will channel Dory and try to beam them the mantra telepathically "...just keep swimming, just keep swimming..."  They're both more than ready for it and I can't wait to see them succeed.
Synchrnonised swimming with Colene

Colene is also undertaking a big swim this year.  She's signed up for the 7km Rattlesnake Island swim in Okanagan Lake.  I knew she'd been thinking about it and consciously tried not to pressure her even though I knew she'd swim it like a champ and enjoy it tremendously.  I am hoping that Matt and I can be out of the house before that weekend, can meet with the notary and sign all the papers, do the stuff we need to do with the bank, and hightail it to Peachland for the race.  It would be my third year swimming it and I wouldn't want to miss the opportunity of circling the island with my friend.  Plus the debauchery that follows is just too much fun.

As to what happens afterward....well Matt and I have been asked about that a lot since we sold the house.  Right now we are just focused on getting everything out while we are both working and trying to find the time to train.  It's been busy but every time we move something into storage or give it away I feel like a weight is being lifted.  I'm starting to feel freer and freer, as if once the last piece is gone I'll just float away. 

We'll sit down and make some concrete plans soon, which will for sure include lots of freediving and swimming, but for right now we're just enjoying the whole process of making a major change in our lives. 

Saturday, May 18, 2013

The elusive French Canadian Beaver

"Action shot" of Denis illustrating how he'll carry his feeds while swimming

Last week I used a water bottle at the end of a freediving lanyard with waist strap to carry some water and it worked, but the water bottle did drag a bit as it floated perpendicular in the water and I kept waiting for it to get tangled in something.  Today Denis brought his answer to the problem.  Apparently it worked very well for him and he had no problem carrying it for his whole swim.

Andrew, Joe & Denis - the boys, getting ready to give 'er
I decided to back off of the distance a bit as my shoulders have been making themselves heard and I really want to be in good shape for the Bay, so I only swam 2km today.  Andrew and Denis clocked over 5km and Colene, Michele and Joe did something in between.

The water was big and wavey and energized and the rain held off for the most part until we were done.  At lunch us under 3km-ers ate our soup and glared at Denis and Andrew who earned fish and chips and po'boys.  Jealous!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Things you see when you're working on the river.

This Spring is my third or maybe fourth on the Coquitlam river working with Matt.  All  sorts of things come down the river and end up in the RSTs (Rotary Screw Traps).
Me posing and looking tough I do look tough, right?

One year I put my hand into the side of the trap to remove debris, and pulled out a drowned squirrel.  That is an example of a bad thing to find in a trap.

But usually you find cool things.  Like a Belostomatid aka a "giant water bug" or "toe-biter" (seriously).

These things may look like just bugs, but they actually stalk and eat fish. They have a snorkel on their back end and they wait just under the surface for something to swim by, then they pierce it, inject their digestive juices and suck the whole mess back in.  They have something called a Piercing-Sucking Mouthpart.  Nice huh?  Apparently their bites are extremely painful - Matt can attest to this as can another technician I spoke to who works on the river.  You can bet I kept my fingers tucked carefully into the pocket of my chest waders until Matt moved it out of the trap.

My big fat head and a deer getting ready to have a drink
We often see cool things from the trap, like deer, or black bears and sometimes rarer things.  Matt has been lucky enough to see flying squirrels and once even a lynx.

We find sculpins that are overstuffed and can barely swim after spending a night in a trap with a bunch of fry.  Hellooo baby...

Lamprey.  Yes, yes, they're cool but I don't want to touch them.  Have you seen their mouths???

Salamanders of course...

Sometimes we open the trap in the morning and are suprised to see an adult steelhead which we try to release as quickly as possible.

But mostly we trap smolts (chum, coho, steelhead), rainbows and dace.  They're ID'd, measured and released, with or without a mark.

And we count fry....

Buckets and buckets of fry.  Thousands of fry. 

We ID chum, coho, chinook fry and look for dye marks.

Random catch-up post

Well despite all my good intentions of blogging at least twice a week, I have let another week pass without a post.  So this will be a brief catch up of what's been going on lately.

Last weekend Joe & I swum 4.5 km again, ramping up from 4 but a little shy of Denis, Andrew and Colene and their 5km.  Way to go guys!  Matt and the rest of the gang swum somewhere around 3km and got to play with a couple of seals (lucky buggers).  At this rate the whole lot of us will swim the Bay!

I'm trying to ramp up my distance very slowly because I'm concerned about my left shoulder as usual.  I have a torn bicep tendon that's caused me trouble for years.  Last season my physiotherapist started me on shoulder exercises with bands that kept the pain at bay for the season, but they are just so darned boring that I became a little lazy about doing them.  Hard to believe, I know, but true.  I'm back on track now and am looking forward to seeing how my shoulder performs this weekend.  The plan is to swim another 4.5km tomorrow.  The lone swimmer had a great post today about how much mileage you should be doing to prepare for any distance.  I'm on track to get there in plenty of time so I don't feel bad about backing off a little bit right now to make sure my shoulder is strong and ready.

A few years ago I bemoaned the fact that most of the open-water swimming I did was alone.  Looking back I can clearly see I was transitioning from freediving to swimming as my main open water activity and I just would go in and swim 2 - 3 km by myself.  It was great but could be lonely at times.  I wanted an open-water crew so badly that I think I partly willed it into being!  Meeting like minded people that love nothing more than coming out and spending a few hours in the sea has changed everything for me.

Saturdays have become our day and I look forward to them all week long.