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May the odds be ever in my favor.

I’m cogitating on a big decision regarding my Catalina crossing in late August. I’ve recently increased my time in the bay, and while it’s still cold, I’m doing fairly well. The plan is to gradually increase my tolerance to the cold, to the point that my long swims will be held in open water. I’m only now starting to increase my yardage in the pool, but I have a training plan and trust my and my coach’s judgment.

Following my application to CCSF, I’ve been in contact with two of their officials. In my conversation with them today, they said they would not approve my application unless I swam two qualifying swims for them in 60-degree water: 6 hours in April and 10 hours in May, with observers. While some associations, such as the English Channel, have such requirements, Catalina does not have an official qualifying requirement. These additional hoops are attributed to the fact that I don’t have enough cold water experience in their opinion.

I have no doubt that the CCSF means well, and that they consider this additional cautionary measure an important guarantee that all applicants are up to the task. But I am a grown woman, have considered my fitness and investment in this venture carefully, and I would respond better to advice and counsel than to unequally-applied requirements. It may well be that swimming 10 hours in 60-degree water is a great idea. But if it is, I want it to be my decision, not something I do to jump through externally-imposed hoops.

So, I am more and more excited about the prospect of swimming Catalina unsanctioned. I already have a boat and a pilot, a crew, and a training plan. I have friends who can act as observers for the swim, and I have every intention of complying with channel rules during the swim. The water belongs to everyone; it is not owned by channel associations. The only consequence, as far as I can tell, is that my name will not appear on the CCSF channel crossing list, but I’m realizing that I don’t really care: I will know that I swam it, and so will the people I love, and we will raise money for indigent advocacy, and that is the only thing that matters to me. I want to bring back the feeling of swimming for my own pleasure, gratification, health, and sense of achievement, rather than for the approval of others.

Much as I’m excited about the prospect of swimming unsanctioned, I haven’t given CCSF my final answer on whether I’m going to do the qualifying swims. I’m going to give this some thought over the next week or two. Your advice on whether swimming unsanctioned has any downsides I may have disregarded will be welcome.

Catalina Fundraiser Will Benefit GAAP

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Yesterday, as I was working my way through lengthy sets, I had a brainwave: I should use my Catalina crossing to fundraise for GAAP, which provides much-needed services, legal and otherwise, to the low-income and homeless community in the Tenderloin.

GAAP’s involvement in people’s lives includes helping them file for, and receive, benefits such as food stamps and supplementary security income. They also help people fight tickets and debt collection and assist them in resolving landlord-tenant issues. Many of their clients are very ill, and they help them with issues surrounding their health. GAAP is directed by my capable and principled friend and colleague Gary Lewis, helped by Kendra Amick (also a Hastings graduate) and a whole cadre of dedicated public interest advocates from the Hastings student body.

Beyond the obvious importance of the services GAAP provides to the community right outside my office, this fundraiser also has the potential to succeed because I can team up with Gary, Kendra and the students, and we can appeal to the Hastings community to contribute. That’s a resource I haven’t addressed yet in fundraising, because I save my appeals to my workplace for workplace-related things (such as the Hastings Mermaids, our annual team at Swim a Mile for Women with Cancer at Mills.) This way, the fundraiser will benefit a Hastings-related cause, and I’ll get the warmth and support that comes from having my community know, and express interest in, what I’m doing for recreation.

Welcome to Lake Slothbegone

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As part of the official campaign to end sloth,  I headed to the pool this morning determined to do a mammoth swim as a fundraiser for the American Multiple Sclerosis society. I was planning on a 10k and ended up swimming a 8k – my shoulder was nagging me and my new bikini top chafed me something fierce.


1) If a bikini top works for you – just buy millions of the same cut. If it works, don’t fix it!

2) Get thee to Evan Morrison’s coached session at St. Ignatius, so he can video you and you can see once and for all how and why you are screwing up your shoulder.

3) Dried apricots and peaches work fantastically well as pool food for long swims!

4) Breaking the monotony of long pool sessions by doing other strokes works better if you don’t put in 500 fly as part of your stroke diversification too soon.

That said, I’m pretty happy about how things went, and encouraged in my ability to put in long sessions in the pool in preparation for the scary and wonderful things that await me this season.

10k MS Swim postponed to tomorrow afternoon

So much for bidding farewell to sluggishness! A City Guides tour and a fairly heavy curry lunch made me forget that the pool closes at 6pm today. So, I’ll do the 10k swim tomorrow, and spend the rest of the day, well, resting.

I’ve contacted my coach Suzanne of Steel City Endurance, who put together my program for Tampa. This time around I don’t need specified workouts – I get a lot of those at Masters and have a large stock of them from the Tampa training days. What I do need is ongoing support and a general yardage plan for the whole season. Here’s hoping I’ll get my plan soon and can break this pattern of “meh”. I know I have the grit to complete the big swims I’m planning this season, but I can’t coast on grit alone (the flaw in that plan was fairly evident at the Kaiser half.) I need to build endurance, work on a stroke that will guarantee an injury-free crossing, and most importantly, get used to the cold. Being accountable to someone else will go a long way toward making me go through with it.

Fellow marathoners (and everyone, really) – how do you drag yourself out of “meh” periods in training?

Swim for MS: This Sunday!

I had a long conversation with my shrink about my sluggishness in the last few months. Many people I know don’t think of me as sluggish, because classes get taught, articles get published, workouts get swum, and the Sea of Galilee thing happened. But I feel like something has changed for me on the molecular level in the last year or so. Some of it was prompted by a lot of personal upheaval (heartbreak, death in the family, miscellaneous ailments) and some of it may just be the natural consequence of approaching 40. The bottom line is that I need more sleep than I used to and I’m slower, on land and in the water.

I’m not seriously worried about loss of fitness, and if, indeed, my conditioning has changed, so be it. I’m in this for distance, not for speed, and if this is about age, I can accept that with grace and good cheer. But I do wonder if I can muster the energy to turn things around simply by going back to train at the volumes I was putting in for Tampa last year. I’ll certainly have to put in at least as much for Catalina, and better start now than later, I suppose. And if I can challenge myself for a good cause, why not?

So, this Sunday I’ll put in a nice 10k in the pool raising money for the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America. I’m participating in the event at the invitation of my partner’s family and swimming in honor of my partner’s stepmom, Linda, who lives with MS daily and cheerfully spends her time and energy inspiring and helping others who suffer from MS and lupus. Linda is a very graceful example of a person living a full life of affection and giving with a chronic condition, and it’s nice to be able to do a small thing to recognize and support her. Compared to the daily struggles of living with MS, a bit of doldrums and sluggishness is truly nothing.

We’ve already raised $325 and, hopefully, will raise the remaining $175 over the next couple of days. Please contribute if you can; every little bit helps!

Ala Moana happiness!

I am always so happy in Hawaii photos! Is it the sun? Is it the calm water with the reasonable temperature? Is it the lovely, personable connection between people around me? Is it the fact that I saw a turtle? Is it the humu spirit that takes over the visiting humu whenever I stop by there?

I think there’s an executive decision to be made: I must punch my Hawaii visit card every year!

Four Days, Four Workouts in Hawaii

Last weekend was happily spent in Hawaii. Four nights – four glorious open-water workouts in O’ahu beaches I know well!

I lived in Hawaii for a few months in 2011, when I was fortunate enough to spend my sabbatical at University of Hawaii at Manoa. At the time, I stayed in an apartment in Maikiki, which was a five-minute drive from Ala Moana Beach Park. I started training regularly at Ala Moana, swimming a back-and-forth course around the buoys that added up to 2km. That was a lot for me back then, and toward the end of my stay I started increasing distances to the point that, once in a blue moon, I swam two rounds for a total of 4k.

These days, of course, 4k is pretty much a solid staple of my swimming diet, and it was a good distance to start my days (I spent much of my day at the conference, which was terrific.)

The left side of Ala Moana, Magic Island, features a beautiful marina. The beach has a natural reef protection from the waves and is almost always calm and glassy. I went in between 7am and 8am and swam a relaxed 4k every day.

On my last day on the island, the Waikiki Swim Club had an aquathlon race: 5k run, 1k swim. I would have rather preferred the reverse, but oh well – despite not having sneakers or running clothes with me, I happily decided to report for duty on race morning. Of course, the generally mellow Aloha spirit got the better of me and I completely forgot the start hour – and showed up shortly after the athletes started running!

But the Waikiki Swim Club is full of Aloha spirit. They laughed and smiled and invited me to crash their race and use their buoys, and helped me come up with a stratagem to avoid the usual washing machine effect that happens by the buoys. The racing folks would swim 500m in and 500m out; I would swim the full 1km in, 1km out, twice, for a total of 4k. It was very kind of them to allow me to use the racing buoys and to crash their course; I was a member of the club in 2011 and still think of them fondly.

I started shortly before the fastest runners made it to the water, and so was able to see them make the turn around the bouys. I very much appreciated how graceful their turns were. Then, I continued on my merry way to the other shore, turned around a non-racing buoy and came back to race the slow people to the end. That was fun! And after they came out, I did another round by myself, finishing my beautiful workout with a great shower. I’m a huge sucker for outside showers and dream of having one in my home.

While the pleasant, 72-degree-water is no grueling preparation for channel conditions, it was good to get some longer open water swimming in. I now need to steel myself and be more disciplined about getting in the bay, though the experience will, of course, not match the loveliness that is Hawaii swimming.

Made it! Registered for Swim the Suck!

I’m so happy! Yesterday I managed to register for Swim the Suck, which happens in the Tennessee River in October. I pounced on the website on my iPhone from the Castro Theater lobby in the middle of Noir City. Of course, I ended up missing twenty minutes of Yves Montand driving a truck with nitroglycerine, but it was worth it! I can’t wait!

The race’s 2013 website is very telling. I think we could all take lessons from the race director here on how to run an excellent event and do amazing PR for it. The hotel recommendation website is terrific (I’m going to sleep on a ship!), the after party looks awesome, and they have shuttles for everyone and a promise of hot showers and dry clothes upon arrival to the finish line. Moreover, their website lists all the swimmers with their accomplishments and favorite junk food. I’m really impressed.

In other news, gearing up to run the Kaiser Half tomorrow and to head to the pool today. And, for some levity, the incomparable Donal Buckley has me in stitches with his hilarious Beauty Tips for Open Water Swimmers post. Truer words were never spoken, and certainly not in such hysterical prose. Eau de Moutton, indeed. His dictionary is hilarious, too.