Sardines on Toast

Chicago’s annual Big Shoulders 5 and 2.5km swims were held last Saturday. Every year I promise myself two things for the next year:

1. never to swim it again because, well, why would I pay to swim in Lake Michigan; and
2. if I break promise 1, only enter the 2.5k, which would give me time to smugly watch other people finishing after myself (hopefully).

Both promises broken, I headed to the starting line at an obscene hour on race morning. The weather had been a bit dodgy leading up to the race, and the organisers had warned of potentially rough conditions. The water turned out to be not too bad, though, and I was pleasantly surprised. Actually, not pleasantly surprised because I like it rough! There was a smallish swell that was nice and regular and some surface chop, but nothing too slappy or random. The water was very murky, which I like, because because the only sandy bottom I want to see when swimming does not belong to the lake.

As usual, I ended up placing in the bottom half of my age group. I took a huge kick to the left boob when the guy in front of me decided to suddenly change to breaststroke going around the 2nd turn buoy. For identification purposes, I noted he had on a full wetsuit and (non adventure style) beard. Couldn’t find him on the beach afterwards though. My right shoulder hurt like a b%^& the whole time, but I swam in lovely straight lines, mostly in the right direction.

The best thing about the swim, though, was my sardine suit. Here ’tis:

sardine swimsuit

Here’s a sardine:


Here’s me and some other swimmers being lapped by the elite wave:


It looks like some of us got stuck in their teeth.

Here’s a recipe for sardines on toast, which I may or may not try:

Point to La Pointe

It only took me 5 days to figure out how to resize photos to fit onto my albums here.

Last Saturday I swam in the Point to La Pointe 2 mile swim race in northern Wisconsin.

I’d originally planned to camp in one of the Forest preserve campsites, but they were full! I had to settle for a Comfort Inn in Ironwood, U.P. My 5.30am wakeup on Saturday morning for the race was too early to make my own waffle. Disappointed, I had a McCoffee and a granola bar and headed to Bayfield for my first ever immersion in Lake Superior. It’s the big lake I call Gitcheegloomy.

Here’s the crowd at the starting line.

point to lapointe swim

Point to La Pointe is a “wetsuit strongly recommended” race, but I’d managed to get permission from the race director to swim as God intended, in all my pale wobbly glory, with nothing between yours truly and the Great Lake except a thin layer of sparkly red nylon.

The entry fee for Point toLa Pointe was almost $90. There was a great hoody included but I got even more value for my money by swimming the route marked by the black line below. The water was 72 degrees and very smooth. Just a slight ripple on the top. Someone at the finish line told me there was a sunken house somewhere along the course, which had fallen through the ice during an attempt to drag it to the island one winter. Glad I didn’t see that!


I took over an hour to swim the 2.1 miles. Hmm. I obviously didn’t swim hard enough and couldn’t summon up even a little reflux to comply with the finish line commandment to hurl in a garbage bin.

vomit here

Here’s me posing in front of the course, after I’d finished. My hooded towel earned me a lot of envious glances.


I did a little hiking alone the lakefront by the Apostle Islands after the race and saw some sea caves! I guess they’re really lake caves…

lake superior

I enjoyed a much longer hike in the Black River Falls area the next day on my way home, probably because I’d been able to have the Comfort Inn’s make it yerself waffle for breakfast.

I highly recommend Point to La Pointe. It’s a very scenic swim, which is great for a slow moving tourist like myself. For the super competitive, there looked to be a lot of competition. Lots of skinny triathletes. There’s no separation or even indication in the results of who wore neoprene or not, but I knew that going into it. There were no shortage of kayakers and support boats, and the whole event seemed very well organised.

I’ll do it again! but hopefully without this song playing over and over and over in my head

Thought Bubbles

Answers to questions posed in previous blog:

1. yes;
2. yes; and
3. Toowoon Bay!!

I’d like to say thankyou to Chaos, Rondi Davies, Swimsuit Addict, Suzie Dods, my boat Captain, kayaker, and everyone else (USMS nicknames unknown) that organized and helped with the 8 Bridges swim. What a wonderful experience!!

I was so worried I barely slept the two nights prior to swimming, and could not take in much breakfast prior to getting on my escort boat, World Class. Worry is such a waste of energy. All anyone can do is jump in and swim, but tides, shoulders and various other body parts can go in the wrong direction at any time and I was hugely relieved and overjoyed to make the swim with no shoulder pain at all.

It helped enormously that I was sent off a little early, before the ebb tide started. One of the other swimmers (Martin Tureky) and I jumped about an hour and a half (??) before the tide turned and swam very close to the New Jersey side of the river, out of the opposing current, until the tide turned. I enjoyed this part of the swim very much! The houses along the shore were amazing. One of them had a huge waterfall. I might have been gawking a bit too much because my paddler, Teddy Gruber, told me to stop sighting and swim.

I’m always restless during the first couple of hours of a swim, but this swim was a little easier on my mind than most. On the whole, I felt more “in the moment” during this swim than ever before. I never felt as though I wanted to be anywhere other than exactly where I was. . I had calm water and lots to look at while swimming. I’ve established a pattern of feeding every half an hour and this seems to work very well, especially while swimming. The Maxim, water and apple juice recipe I borrowed from Evmo worked perfectly, though I’ll try to add some little extras next time for variety if I do any longer swims. My crew and paddler were great, and seemed to be always in the right place at the right time. It’s the most relaxed I’ve ever felt with a boat and kayak supporting me. Swimsuit Addict and Suzie Dods provided laughs and endless encouragement.

At times I watched the scenery go past and at times I thought of nothing at all and was surprised when it was time for my next feed. The water got a little sloppy and randomly choppy in a few places. I don’t remember where, exactly. I felt uncoordinated and grumpy in these places, but the neon handclappers Suzie was waving at me cheered me up. Thanks to Swimsuit Addict for swimming the last hour with me!!!

I’d decided before the swim that passing the Statue of Liberty was to mark the end of and complete good riddance to a difficult period for me. Done. Thanks crew for getting this picture!!!

statue of liberty

ps. “I don’t like Mondays” was playing on my escort boat when I finished my swim. This song had been in and out of my head the whole swim. Captain claimed it had not played on the radio until the end. Not sure I believe him!


With only a week to go until I attempt Stage 7 of the 8 Bridges swim, three questions remain:

1. Will my nasty, impinged shoulders survive? My guess is, yes they will. Between my two best friends pictured below, a big rubber band and my physical therapist, I think I’m in with a shot;


2. If my shoulders survive, will my extremely low-mileage training get me there? Yes to that too. Not sure how, but yes.

and the last and most important question is the only one to which I have no answer

3. What suit will I wear?


Clockwise from upper left, we have

  1. the Toowoon Bay SLSC suit that I wore for my fizzled out Catalina attempt. This is the club my nephews and niece do nippers at in Australia, and I’ve swum there a few times. I owe this suit some redemption. It’s as comfy as can be but needs the straps shortened.
  2. a new suit in a nice maroon color.
  3. a fairly worn out but comfy black suit with red piping around the edges. Possibly still full of pollen from the lake because the last time I wore it I got a rash on my chest.
  4. a new Speedo super skinny, super small buttocked suit that I bought recently, hoping I could wear it to even out my tan lines. It has a cut out waist. I don’t think my waist is meant to bulge out of the cutouts but it does.
  5. Sparkles the Red. Super comfy, sparkly. This suit has everything. I did get a slight under arm chafe wearing it for 3 hours yesterday.
  6. The Thunder from Downunder (this refers to my thighs, not my heritage). As worn in Kingdom swim and Swim the Suck in 2010. Getting a little worn out, but so am I.
  7. The White Suit.
  8. Rob Aquatics. Veteran suit. No futher explanation needed.

What’ll it be?


2 weeks out from 8 Bridges!! I took my miserable, sore, impinged shoulders to Ohio St late this afternoon for a change of scenery.

The water was much warmer than it had been at The Point the previous day, measuring about 67 in the ankle deep bit by the shore.

That wasn’t the only difference though. After a few strokes I felt something tangled around my fingers. It felt like a long hair in the pool.


It wasn’t hair.

it was weed. But it felt like hair. Yuk.
After 3 miles I was covered in it. It was wrapped around my neck and in my suit.
Long, beautiful hair. Now I’m hairy high and low. Don’t ask me why…give me down to there hair. Let if fly in the breeze and get caught in the trees.

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

Weary and condemned by the years, I decided to celebrate Anzac Day 2012 by launching my open water season at Promontory Point.

Aside from my other two dips in the lake this year, this one was my first. It was a fairly grey, drizzly day, but the water looked relatively calm when I arrived at the Point around lunch time on Wednesday.

promontory point

I could see that fellow Point Swimmers, Andre and Greg were already at the second buoy when I arrived and made it my goal to be in the water before they got out.

I really can’t resist throwing in the thermometer before I get in and was glad to see the mercury getting pretty close to the 50 degree mark! Now THAT’S a rush! After 5 minutes or so of whooping and giggling I attempted to actually swim a little. my goggles fogged up completely every time I cleared them, so I ended up doing alternating breast and backstroke back and forth and around the first buoy.

Here’s a diagram of my route that I prepared using a satellite image of The Point and my primitive version of Photoshop (a printer, sharpie and camera-phone). I was in for 20 minutes and I think it took an hour to warm up afterwards. It didn’t help that I dropped my pants in a puddle of water while dressing. Thank goodness for heated car seats!


It felt good to be out of the pool.

Never Leave a Woman Behind

So excited! So nervous to be doing the Tampa Bay Frogman Swim on January 2nd!

The Frogman Swim is a 5km race across a stretch of Tampa Bay that started off in Jan 2010 as a fund raiser for a wounded Navy Seal. In 2011, the swimmers will be raising money for the Naval Special Warfare Foundation, which helps the families of wounded or fallen Navy Seals.

The water temperature for the 2010 event was 58 degrees, and it doesn’t look like warming up at all for the 2011 swim. I’m planning on swimming sans wetsuit, a decision made easy by the fact that I’d have to lose about 10lbs to fit into my wettie (I own one, but I never wear it so it’s ok). After already being stuck in an 82 degree pool for 2 months, and with no opportunity to acclimatise myself except for having a cold bath, I’m nervous.

Fortunately, I’ve been assured by the race director that every swimmer has their own personal escort for the swim. I’m already having fantasies about being surrounded by Navy Seals, and am pretty sure I’m getting a whole unit as my escort. Here’s an action shot of them practicing our mid-swim stealth hot chocolate feeding:


Navy helicopters chock full of Seals will be standing by in case I get too cold and need rescue:


Anyone trying to draft in my wake will experience unexplained warm currents, but will also have these guys to contend with:


Here’s hoping my body remembers my cold swims from September and October and I’ll make it! I’ll be wearing my new swimsuit, so I’ll be stylish no matter what the outcome. So stylish, in fact, that I’m a bit worried I’ll be bombarded by affectionate Seals at the finish line and will be too exhausted to take my daughter to Harry Potter Land after the race……


Seriously, though, if I don’t raise some more money for this worthy cause, my crew may well consist of


To donate to the Naval Special Warfare Foundation in my name, please go to:


I’m still feeling great in the pool.

FEELING great, but not BEING great (and by “great” I mean mobile).

At around 7.30 last night, I retrieved Bill White’s Sewickley Seadragons Lane B workout from the trash folder of my email and headed to the pool, full of confidence.

The workout included two 800yd straight swims on a 14 minute interval. I haven’t done a straight 800 in a long time. In fact I don’t even remember the last time I swam that far without breaking it up with some elementary backstroke or breaststroke at some point. The 14 minute interval seemed nice enough that I thought I could just cruise. Merely completing the 800’s all free would be the goal of the night.

I did some drills during the warm up and felt pretty smooth. I really enjoyed the first 800 and remembered at about 300-400 yds into it that the longer the swim, the better I feel. When I landed, though, the clock said I’d taken 12 minutes and 35 seconds!!! I was horrified!! Even swimming slowly should have taken less time.

Bottom lip quivering, I launched into the second 800. This time I did as the workout suggested and swam every third 50 “fast” (hehe). Twelve minutes and 30 seconds later I landed, feeling like I was having a coronary. My heart rate was 105… I even did flip turns the whole time!

I’m really devastated by this slowness.

I’m still quite fat from my fruitless Catalina Channel swim weight gain and my bum circumference probably exceeds my wingspan by now.

I wonder how much speed you lose by being fat (and having most of that fat on your backside)?

When I returned home I looked on facebook to see if anyone had reported more tragic results than mine from the evening’s workout and noticed that Jim Thornton had consumed a healthy lunch of raw squishy things and some sort of macrobiotic excrement. Assuming he didn’t soil himself during the workout, I’d be willing to bet his 800’s were a lot faster than mine!!!

I made a list of things that I’d eaten during the day to see if I could blame my poor performance on fatness and diet, but all I’d eaten prior to swimming was:

1 cupcake;
2 plates of leftover breakfast sausage and mashed potatoes;
1 toasted ham and cheese sandwich;
2 bowls of full fat Greek yoghurt with honey;
1 large cinnamon roll;
1 bowl hamburger helper; and
2 bowls of apple sauce with caramel sauce on top.

At a complete loss and feeling quite depressed I ate three Trader Joe’s chocolate chip ice cream sandwiches, a bagel with cream cheese and smoked salmon, a packet of flaming hot cheetos and a diet coke.

I’m changing things around today and drinking extra coffee. I’m on my fourth cup of espresso now. I think I’ll do the same workout and see what happens.


It’s about five weeks since I ended my post-Catalina sulk and crawled back into the primordial soup that fills the pool at Edward Health and Fitness Center.

I’ve never been fast, but marinating in the lake all summer turned me into more of a barnacle than a swimmer.

For the first couple of weeks of my “return”, I averaged about 1m 35s per 100 SCY. That’s swimming time, not total interval, and with a rest of about 25 seconds in between each 100!!

I felt slappy and uncoordinated, and would have looked it too, had my practices not been performed in secret.

I’ve got a history of being a giver-upperer, but this time was different. I persisted with my agonizingly ugly workouts and finally made a breakthrough this week!

I went to the pool last night after eating a roast chicken dinner with mashed potatoes and gravy. 2000 yards seemed like a goal and I did 4 x 500 yds of swimming. The first 500 was half drill, the second was half backstroke, but the third was 500 yards of real swimming all in a row! all 500 yards joined up end to end!! I don’t remember the last 500 because I was dizzy.

Today was even more magnificent. I swam an actual Sewickley Seadragons, Lane B workout, and stuck to the intervals-for the first time in well over a year. There were 400’s and 200’s. I made one of my 200’s in 3 minutes!

Going from stationary to merely prodigiously slow never felt so good.

A Clayton’s Season

2011 was a strange open water season for me.

I knocked back a chance at doing the Memphremagog and the Ederle swims, pinning all my hopes on Catalina. Catalina didn’t work out this time, and as a result I’ve been moping and thinking 2011 was a complete failure.

Not so!!!!

After much delving I’ve been able to dig up some wonderful memories of my 2011 aquatic season including an unconventional marathon swim or two. My memories are a little fuzzy, 2011 already being about seven times the length of a conventional year (2011, the Dog Year?), but here goes.

After floating around in the 50-odd degree lake for most of June, I headed east to Maine to celebrate the nuptuals of KGirl and swim the 2.4 mile Nubble Light Challenge. The Nubble swim was first done in 2010 and was apparently very cold indeed. I was quite nervous going into the swim but on the day the water was 65 and smooth. It was wonderful! I loved swimming around the headland between the mainland and the lighthouse I’d only ever seen before as a non-swimmer tourist. I think I ate 7 lobster rolls on the weekend I was there and had a really fabulous weekend. Can’t wait to go back!

Here’s a photo of the Nubble course:


and a picture of the lighthouse:


The remainder of July and August were uneventful. Lake Michigan was very very warm in 2011 and I spent those months at Promontory Point in high 70’s water. Very strange for the lake. I even developed a rash…..

On 1st September I swam what was to be my first and only “marathon” swim of 2011 (and calling it that is really pushing the definition).

I drove to Promontory Point at the devil squealing hours of the morning and swam a mile in the dark. A mile at Promontory is one loop to the pier and back to the ladders. I was the joined by the usual 6am Point swimmers group and we did another mile. The sun was now up and I did a few more mile loops, feeding at the ladder and lurking around the 2nd buoy to see if I could find the watch I’d dropped down there two weeks prior. I got out a few times at the ladder to take some photos and play a few moves at Words with Friends, just to keep from getting too bored

The water was pretty calm until about mile 9-10, when it developed the disorganized, washing machine type chop that we’re pretty used to at the Point. I felt pretty good until mile 12. I was joined by Vivebene, thank goodness, because mile 12 felt rotten. Miles 13 and 14 felt great though. I called it quits after 14 loops because I was kind of bored and needed to go to the toilet. So that was it, I guess. THe water was 78 degrees when I began in the dark and possibly a little warmer when I finished.

Here’s the Point, as it usually looks:


A week later I did a 15k yard workout in the pool and felt surprisingly good.

Two weeks later I returned to the Point. Back pain defeated me that day and I drove back to the ‘burbs after 8 miles. I took some Advil and finished another 8 miles in the pool for a total of 16 miles. At least the lake was 65 degrees that day so, aside from back pain, I was able to enjoy the water!

Three days later I swam Big Shoulders and didn’t come in as slowly as expected. It was probably one of my most enjoyable Big Shoulders, as the water was 65 and quite smooth. I’ve finally identified the building to sight off on the second leg of the triangle. Better late than never.

Here’s a photo me with some of the 6am Promontory Point swimmers who left our little south-side sanctuary to swim in the race:


Late July/early August saw an unexpected trip home for a family funeral 🙁

While I was there I did some swimming at the Entrance Baths, a 50m sea water pool cut out of the rock platform at the end of The Entrance Beach (just north of Sydney). I was also able to swim off the beach at Toowoon Bay, where my nephews and niece do nippers. Such a beautiful place, it was more like snorkeling than swimming! I lurked around the area where the blue grouper supposedly frequented, but didn’t see him. The people at the surf club might have been pulling my leg about that one! The surf lifesavers in this photo were practicing rescues with their zodiacs the day I swam.


Although I didn’t have time to swim, I was able to go for a quick visit to my place of origin, Freshwater Beach. This is where I was hatched and where I’d like to be flung after I die. I suppose I should be cremated first.


My last swimming experience before leaving Oz was a paddle at the famous Bondi Beach and then 1000m at Bondi Icebergs club. I paid $6 to swim in the 59 degree water (watched by a row of crabs on the pool deck) and then had a sauna. The weather couldn’t have been better. There was practically no surf and I could see someone swimming across and back between the headlands just inside where I assume the nets were. I wasn’t brave enough for that 🙂


Aside from the Catalina crewing adventure and attempted swim, that’s it for 2011!

2011: the season you have when you’re not having a season. Bring on 2012, please!