Reflections on my chaotic life of minivans, tantrums, deadlines, and diets ... a life I wouldn't trade for the world.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Open Water Hijinks

Last weekend I completed the 1.3-mile Swim Across Suttle Lake. It was my first non-triathlon open-water "race," and it felt good knowing that I could spend all of my reserves on one sport rather than calculating how much to hold back.

Unfortunately, my tank was close to E when I started the swim. Sunday was the last day of our Central Oregon vacation, and I had just spent six days drinking too much beer and eating too few vegetables. To add insult to injury, J spent the week fighting a cold, extremely dry air, and budding teeth; she did not sleep more than 3-4 hours in a stretch, and neither did we.

Our canoe on the Suttle Lake shore, 2009
At 6:15 AM on Sunday, after 4 hours of sleeping on the couch to escape J's coughing, I joined my swimming cohort, Sarah, on the one-hour drive from Sunriver to Suttle Lake. We eyed the car thermometer with dread: 45 degrees. Sarah, sadly, did not have a wetsuit. I, sadly, did have a wetsuit, but opted for solidarity over common sense and left my wetsuit in Portland.

We jumped into the 68-degree water right before the 8 AM start, and in the spirit of non-wetsuit badassery, we dove in as the "gun" went off. After 5 minutes of fast swimming. trying to escape the fray and feel my limbs again, I settled into a good rhythm. The point we were told to aim for did not seem that far off. "I can do this," I thought.

That point never got closer. In fact, it seemed to get farther away. And I'd found the loneliest spot in the pack--100 meters behind the faster group, and 100 meters ahead of the slower group. I was swimming alone, I couldn't feel my feet, and the point seemed miles away. Not to mention my lower back was aching, thanks to extremely out-of-shape abs, thanks to two years of childbearing. But I digress ...

Fortunately for me, swimming is easier and less taxing than walking. I just slowed down and enjoyed the views, knowing that I would get there--it was just a matter of time. As the sandy lake bottom came into view, I anticipated getting vertical again. My somewhat-numb body, however, lagged behind my mind, and I stumbled a bit as I stood up to cross the finish line.

My finish time was around 50 minutes, though official results have not yet been posted. I estimated I came in 4th in the category, based on the number of ladies on shore without wetsuits. Not bad for my first swim, and considering two out of three of those women who beat me looked to be in high school, I was pretty proud of myself.

So, I'm pretty hooked. I'm eyeing the 2013 open-water season, and have an informal agreement with some friends to swim the Portland Bridge Swim as part of a relay team.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Back in the Not-So-Fast Lane

Who is that--Missy Franklin? No, that's just Meg gliding effortlessly through the water like someone half her age. It's hard to tell the two apart, really.

Ah, one can dream.

But seriously, my re-entry into the familiar world of Masters swimming 3 weeks ago was an easier one than I'd anticipated. I'd envisioned myself collapsing on the deck after 500 yards; instead, I managed to push through 2,000. I'd worried I'd have to be introduced to a whole new crew of swimmers; instead, I was warmly welcomed by a familiar crowd, who barely recognized me without a pregnant belly (there is something in that water, I swear).

Getting back in the pool has done worlds for me. Sports and exercise are such important aspects of my mental well-being that, up until a few weeks ago, I was starting to feel a bit depressed about losing the athlete in me. I am sure there are many moms who feel the same way--with pregnancy comes exhaustion and discomfort that makes exercise dreadful, and life certainly doesn't get any easier after the kids arrive. We become mom-bots, mothering all day and all night, leaving little room for sleep, let alone such luxuries as exercise.

But I have gained some perspective on the matter lately. It doesn't have to be all or nothing. I don't have to train for a half-ironman or break my PB in a 100-yard sprint to reap the mental health benefits of sports. I can bike to work a couple times a week and join my Masters friends for a good workout when I can. And if I am lucky, in a few years my kids will want to join me.

P.S. I'd like to give a shout-out to my husband, who has endured, without complaint, multiple chaotic dinners and bedtimes as a "single dad" while I swim in endless circles for an hour. You rock.

Pre-kid athletic luxuries, like multi-hour rides with friends,
have become a thing of the past.