Monday, July 15, 2013

Swim Across America - Nantasket Beach

"Long have you timidly waded holding a plank by the shore,
Now I will you to be a bold swimmer,
to jump off in the midst of the sea, rise again, not to me, shout,
and laughingly dash your hair." - Ovid

I don't know if I laughingly dashed my hair, but on some level I was a bold swimmer. That was, without a doubt, the HARDEST thing I have ever done in my life!!! Both physically and mentally, but I'm so glad I did it and finished. (No matter how many times I wanted to bail while I was out there.)

Chop man, chop. But more on that later.

I have to say that Swim Across America is an AMAZING organization! The event was run so well, everyone was so nice, and the whole experience was incredibly uplifting. I urge you, if you live near where one of the swims are held at the very least volunteer, find a swimmer you know and donate, or hell...SWIM! I'm trying to find FIVE people to do it with me next year. Yes, I got tossed around like a piece of dead kelp and I cant wait to train harder, smarter and get back out there next summer and raise even more money!

Speaking of raising money, with the very generous support of my friends, family and colleagues I raised $1,115!!!! That made me the 8th highest individual fundraiser for the event. And here I was afraid I wouldn't be able to raise the $250 that I had to to be allowed to swim. The people I associate with and surround myself with ROCK! With the Boston Harbor Relay swim (google it and have your mind blown) and the Nantasket Beach swim combined, SAA raised $300,000!!!! $150,000 each was given to The David B. Perini, Jr. Quality of Life Clinic at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and The MassGeneral Hospital for Children Cancer Center. It makes me smile to think of all the amazing work your dollars are going to do.

That all being said, this swim kicked my ass! (Remember, dead kelp?) It wasn't the darkness/deepness of the water, it wasn't extreme saltiness of the water (for what it's worth, the New England coast is WAY saltier the the Gulf Of Mexico), it wasn't the mass of people, it wasn't necessarily the waves, it was the chop and the current. See, most of the swim was done past the breakers, you should have been golden. "Golden" being a relative term. Let me backtrack.

I know that I trained well for this event and that I am a very capable swimmer. I also know that I did everything in MY power to get ready for this event. (With the exception of going to a beach and swimming, but doing that alone is just madness. What was I going to do, have my husband treat water and act as I buoy? I enjoy being married....) Now, if you're all, "pft! how hard could it be?" Here's what you do....go out in the ocean (still water won't work for this) make it through the breakers and then turn and swim parallel to the shore in a straight line and report back to me. Do this all while wearing something so tight, it will make you feel sorry for the rice in boudain.

I should have known that this wasn't going to be beach swimming business as usual when 1) they wouldn't let the mile swimmer do their full distance and cut it back to a 1/2 mile for everyone, 2) they completely changed the coarse and 3) the event kept getting delayed. By a grand total of 45 minutes (I think).

This'll explain things for you. I would swim, with someone on my left ahead of me about a body length. I would swim five strokes, he'd be on my right. I'd look up to site and I'd be FACING the shore. Insert "expletive deleted here."

The important thing is I swam out, and I know I'll do it again, and do it better! I also know that I wouldn't have been able to do it had it not been for the help of a Swim Angel named Trevor and a life guard name Allie. If y'all ever run across this blog and are reading this, I know I already told you a few times, but...thank you, thank you, thank you! 

I did get some "free" technique advice out there. One of the other swim angels was hanging about and said, "Hey, you're a REALLY strong swimmer. Did you know you're pulling REALLY hard with your right hand?" "Funny," I said, "because I'm left handed and was try to compensate. Guess I'm over compensating." I was very aware of this in the pool this morning.

Favorite part of the swim? Allie had asked me why I decided to do this swim, you know who was I swimming for? She asked me this as I was clinging onto her surf board & engaged in some very negative self talk. "For my mother in law and my Dad. She passed away from her second bout with breast cancer a few years ago. My Dad, he's fine now....but he had to have a third of his tongue removed. They both loved/love the water, so it's rather fitting that I'm....ok...we're swimming now."

People battle and succumb and survive cancer every single day. I could let the Atlantic Ocean bitch slap me around for a few more minutes. I made sure I swam until my finger tips scraped sand and made sure I ran through the finish line. No matter how much help I needed to get there. I finished on my own.

I WILL be back next year. Who's swimming/volunteering with me!?!

So maybe I'm not exactly Ovid's "bold swimmer", but I will be. For the moment, I choose to take Emerson's warmer and fuzzier approach....

"Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Before I launch into picture-palooza....three more things....

1) I have to publicly say thank you to my husband throughout this little endeavor. From the endless swim talk to carting my ass out to Walden Pond he's been awesome. Nothing says let's work a full work day and then stand on the shore while your wife swims lines in a lake where some dude wrote some poetry. Also, he's been wet suit putter oner extraordinaire.

2) Also, thank you to my friend....let's call her InkyLady and Mr. InkyLady for coming out to Nantasket and supporting me during my swim. It was great to see your pretty face and I can't wait until we run a 5K together!

3) Speaking of 5K's that's what is next. The Chestnut Hill Reservoir 5K. This one is pretty much in my back yard, so time so loose a bit of my sea legs!! Before that, it's already time to start thinking of open water season for next year. I emailed Coach Bill of Breakwater Sports Training, explained my current swimming "issues", what my short term and long term swimming goals are, and I have a video evaluation this Wednesday evening in Watertown (appropriate) where we can look at my stroke together and come up with a plan. How exciting! I feel like a "real" athlete!

*** Biggest "I wish I had" take away, and great advice for anyone about to do any type of open water swimming or triathlon...I wish I had clear goggles. All I had were mirrored and tinted blue. With the grey skies and chop, I REALLY wish I had clear goggles. I'll be ordering some with my next pay check. Have options! We cannot control nor accurately predict the weather.

Now....THE PICTURES!!!!!

My swimming pool / ass kicker for the morning

My "Rookie" tattoo!

Why I swim.

Setting up the course

I considered my Carolina Blue swim cap a good omen, as that's where my husband went to school and he proposed on campus.

Ready to rock 'n roll! (or be rolled around by the chop...)

The "mile men" now "1/2 mile men" waiting to start.

Walking down the the start

Waiting to start. I'm somewhere in there. The blue caps are the 1/2 mile swimmers and the while caps are the swim angels.

I'm somewhere in there....

The Angel Swimmers

Presenting the checks to Doctors from Dana Farber (he swam!) and MGH Children's.

Proud of my towel. Proud of myself. Proud of the money we raised. Proud to be part of such an AWESOME organization. Shallowly proud of how good my arms look!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Tales from Walden Pond Open Water Swimming

All it takes is a quick 30 minute drive out of Boston, and you're in Concord at Walden Pond. Thoreau did stuff the and wrote...yadda, yadda, yadda, but to tell the truth, that didn't interested me AT ALL this time. I was on a mission.

Open water swimming!

For the record, I must state....that I am VERY grateful to Kosher Biker for pushing me to get some open water swim time in before the Swim Across America event. I learned some very important lessons.

Sunday was the first trip out. Al and I got there relatively early so we could get one of the limited parking spaces. The pond told us via twitter that it had been filling up a lot late. Did you know that ponds have twitter these days? Well, they do!

As it was a summer weekend the pond was quite busy. Lots of families, lots of screaming kids, a few open water swimmers dotting the pond, three or four kayaks, and one small aluminum boat.

I was super excited! I quickly got into my wet suit, found my stop to start my triangular 1/2 mile route and plunged into the water.

This shows exactly why one should wear a BRIGHT swim cap for OWSing.

Swim, swim, swim, swim.....this is kinda it's REALLY dark down there....swim, swim, swim....this wetsuit feels so tight around my chest....swim, swim, swim....I'm really moving fast am I going?.....swim, swim, the F%CK did I get in the middle of the lake so'm in the middle of the lake....alone. F&CK! F#CK! F*CK & PANIC!

This would be a good time to mention that "swimming outside the lines" at Walden is 100% "swim at your own risk."

This is going to sound really strange when I say this, but I'm so glad that this was not my first panic attack. Spending a good portion of my life as a rather anxious person, I've had my share of panic attacks. I haven't had one in a good two and 1/2 years, but at least I knew what I was experiencing. Had I not had this knowledge under my belt on Sunday, I'm pretty sure I would have thought I was dying and that would have been a lot worse.

Just when I was starting to REALLY panic another open water swimmer was coming in from a swim across the pond longways. He was toting a safety float around his waist. Once I got his attention, he offered to swim in slowly and offered me use of his safety float to get back to the shore.

I was shaken.

I was humiliated.

I've NEVER...EVER...gotten scared in the water in my life. What the HELL was this all about? I'll explain more later.

The swimmer that helped me in was very nice to me, asked what was going on... What WAS going on? I think the biggest thing that got to me was the realization that I was ALONE and if something really bad DID happen, I was screwed beyond belief.

He reassured me that he had a very similar situation happen to him during his first OWS, which was why he swam w/ the safety float. He also encouraged me to get out the again and give it a try.

Giving it another go!
 I ditched my wetsuit this time, I really wanted the reassuring feel of the water against my legs...and was honestly thinking that the wetsuit was weighing me down. I swam just outside of the designated swimming area where my best guess the depth is 7-9 and I was cognisant of the bottom and couldn't "see" it. I was still a little shaky from my panic attack and could never get into a smooth rhythm like I know I am capable of, but I got back out there and shook off the earlier debacle off. All in all I think I swam somewhere between 1/3 and 1/2 a mile.

I told myself, maybe flailed a bit, but you weren't a quitter and you were smart and didn't repeatedly put yourself in a potentially dangerous situation.

Leaving the pond I was more ravenously hungry and more sore than I have been since I started swimming in February. Adrenaline is amazing, isn't it?

Al and I quickly made plans to get back out to Walden after work on Tuesday. I had to get a 100% positive OWSing experience under my belt before Nantasket. Firth though, what really contributed to my panic attack.

There are a lot of things I could have done A LOT better...and that's the main reason I'm penning this blog entry.

1) Biggest thing - I really shouldn't have gone out that far alone on my first time out. Never in any race or OW event are you completely flying solo. Hell, even people that swim the English Channel have a boat super close to them and sometimes even a ghost swimmer to give them company. That feeling of being 100% alone. It's much more daunting that I EVER expected. Lesson learned. Solution? Either joining an OWS group or Al falls desperately in love with kayaking. The make inflatable kayaks now, you know. Totally perfect for apartment dwelling & I could take it on the T!

2) Lack of pacing - When I swim in the pool, I know exactly where my body should be for each breath to not tire myself out for the length that I'm swimming for any given workout. This wasn't to easy in open water. Add that to the adrenaline of being in the open wonder I booked it to the middle of the pond and wondered how the hell I got there so fast. Solution? Through some "swim math", Al determined when swimming the 1/2 mile I take a stroke on average each 1.5 seconds. If I sing a march in my head and sing just a TAD fast and stroke every other beat, I can keep pace. As I result, I just sing "Stars and Stripes Forever" over and over and OVER again as I swim. Why just that march? Well, it's been awhile since my march playing days and I'm starting to forget a lot of the orders the strains come in for a lot of marches. This just pisses me off in the water and I'll stop swimming and float until I can remember what comes next and continue swimming. Totally efficient, right? "Stars and Stripes" it is!

3) I just jumped right in - This covers a multitude of sins committed. I always, ALWAYS stretch before I swim....I didn't do that Sunday at Walden. Also, I didn't take time to acclimate to the water. I didn't let any water into my wetsuit to help it expand a bit. I didn't get a feel for myself, in my wetsuit, in that particular body of water, on that day. Maybe that sounds a little bit metaphysical to actually be a thing, but I really think there is some truth to that.

4) Millimeters matter - Just as in clarinet playing, they matter in wetsuit donning. Wetsuit wearing really does have a learning curve. I feel like you can just say, "there's always more" room to be found. Take you time, and get it on RIGHT. Once it's on correctly, (I've learned) that swimming in a wetsuit can be FUN and actually give you a secure feeling.

Monday I did a 1/2 mile swim in my wetsuit in the pool and it went awesomely! I started to really understand the wetsuit and enjoy it. I shaved my 1/2 mile time from 27 to 24!

Tuesday it was back to Walden. I had a SMALL window though, was able to take the train to Al's work and leaving the Boston area at 5:15 and had to be back from a work meeting in the Back Bay at 8. (Eating had to happen at some point as well.) Al and I decided while still in the car that at 6:50 he would signal for me to get out of the water and and HAD to get out of the water at that time. No discussion.

Things went MUCH better at Walden on Tuesday.

The vibe was a lot different. There was ONE family, one dude just lounging, a lady randomly playing the ukulele, and a good deal of open water swimmer. I stretched, I eased into things, and then I started swimming close-ish to the shore. I didn't want to do anything stupid.

I. Love. This. Picture!!!

 This was a much better and much more fun experience than Sunday. The water a lot less murky than it had been on Sunday. (Which makes zero sense to me as Sunday was sunny and Tuesday was cloudy.) I enjoyed and sometimes got a little distracted checking out the fish down there. There was what was either a really large perch or really small trout that hung out around me. I named him Bob. Yesterday on the T I wondered to myself, "I wonder how Bob's doing today?

I have one more easy swim workout to go before Saturday. I can't believe it's almost here! I'm getting really excited!!!! I just keep telling myself any time I get nervous, stop and think about WHY I'm doing this and it puts in ALL into perspective. 

Speaking of which! It's not too late to make a donate! Just follow this link.

BTW....Al made friends with the Walden ducks on Tuesday!


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Metaphorical Carrots v 6.0

This was a big one! My official "You Are Half Way Done With Your Weight Loss Goal" metaphorical carrot. I didn't want something I'd grow out of. I wanted something that would be part of my every day life. I had been thinking of getting a right hand ring. So, on my dinner break today...I headed over to Sikara Jewelry and visit my friend....we'll call her pick out my little treat to myself!

Here's what I ended up with....

A stunningly beautiful, yet simple Capri moonstone ring from the Italian Collection. :) Shiny, pretty new things make this girl happy! What do y'all think? Appropriate way to commemorate the milestone?

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Metaphorical Carrots v 5.0

Yep, I've been TOTALLY slacking on these posts...and I apologize for that! Most of my "weight loss rewards" have been clothing, since I'm getting too small for all of them. Good thing I that I'm firmly NOT in plus size clothing anymore, my clothes have the ability to be A LOT CHEAPER!!! I'm talking 30% cheaper. Seriously size clothing doesn't have THAT much more fabric...the price hike is a shitty, shitty thing. Nonetheless, I'm ecstatic I don't have to deal with that anymore.

This blue dress is my new favorite dress right now! (Paired w/ the only black cardigan I own that actually fits!)

Y'all are getting to really know what my vanity looks like and judge the rest of my messy, messy bedroom. Oh well!

I got this "real green dress" to wear to Ben Folds Five/Barenaked Ladies/Guster later this month, but it's just a little too casual. (I've already got my eyes on another green dress from the Gap. WOW! I have gotten clothes from the Gap in the LONGEST time!) This dress lends itself better to a quick trip to Trader Joe's or throwing over my bathing suit to go to the gym. The cardigan is already one of my most favorite things in my wardrobe and I honestly could have ordered it a size down. It's this paper weight t-shirt material, and I love it.

All new clothing, per usual, is from Old Navy. Carrots...NOMZ! Even if they're metaphorical!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Half Way There


Half way there. Now those are words that should be cherished and meditated upon. In general, I blow past a lot of my miles stones. Yeah sure, I'll blog about them and buy myself something shiny and new and then move on; but this....this deserves reflection. What brought me here, what worked well, what didn't...gearing up for the NEXT 60 lbs..... All of this needs to be looked at, true... but I do need to take a good long pause and just be REALLY FUCKING PROUD of myself.

I'm proud of myself for not giving up on myself, and knowing I was doing things the RIGHT way (aka "the best possible way for ME"). Maybe talking about these things would be the best way to celebrate how far I've come and perhaps inspire others that are looking to head out on their own weight loss journey.

The more I got to thinking about it, all the smaller details that swirl around to make this journey of mine successful and actually *gasp* enjoyable can be summed up in four meta-categories: Be In The Right Head Space, Don't Deprive Yourself, Everything In Time and Be Proud of What You Are Doing.

1) Be In The Right Head Space: I had to let my personal demons be in the right place before I embarked on this journey. I knew when I started counting calories, and exercises, and really putting 100% of myself into this weight loss. Mentally I was strong, probably the strongest I had ever been. The demons in my brain were as quiet as they had ever been in my entire adult life. I could have categorized myself in life as "happy but not satisfied." Which if you think about it, is a pretty damned good place to be. I had traded my sweatshirts and black stretchy pants of my BoCo days for actual dresses and actually giving a shit what I looked like. I may have not liked the way I looked in the mirror, but at least I wasn't avoiding full length mirrors. I was enjoying the dresses, I just wanted to look better in them, I just wanted them to be smaller sizes.

Now, I'm not so shallow as to think that weight loss is all about the clothing. I knew, and I still know, that losing weight is a big mental game, and things will get drug up when you least expect it and thwack you right between the eyes. Body parts that you never had issue with, you suddenly abhor. (I mean think about it, you had ignored your body for so long out of shame, it stands with good reasoning that they'll be some blindsiding going on.)

This is a big and all encompassing one. Setting out to lose over 100 pounds is a big scary undertaking. Had I not had my mental ducks in a highly regimented row, this ship would have sunk before even leaving the dock.

2) Don't Deprive Yourself: The biggest part of my success is by using the LoseIt iPhone app to count my calories and track my exercise. With the exception of a two week sabbatical just so I didn't start to resent it, I have tracked every morsel of food that has touched my lips since the days ofter Thanksgiving 2012.

Here's what doing this enables me to do: I never have to say "no" to any one particular food. Want a piece of chocolate cake for dinner? Then it's a smoothie for breakfast and a light lunch the next day. Or maybe make that run a little longer. It's a system of checks and balances. I can have it, I just have to work it off in once way or another.

Why do I do this? To cut down on resentment. Sure, I could cut out ALL soda, booze, cheese, sweets, sweettarts (hey, they're a food group).... I'm sure I'd drop a ton of weight up front and it'd be awesome... until I started feeling deprived. Then resentment would kick in, then I'd just move heaven and earth to get what I felt like I was being deprived up. This is a pretty primal human response, not to mention saying "buh bye" to any weight loss up to that point.

You know that joke, "Everything in moderation, including moderation"? Funny, but there's some real truth there.

This is why I choose the balanced approach. This is why I choose not to deprive myself.

Also, reward yourself. Buy yourself new clothes. I've kind of been churning through them lately, so I set myself a little guideline: until I reach my goal weight (unless it's for a special occasion) can't be above $30. Exception? Bras. Barring DRASTIC breast reduction surgery, shopping at Victoria's Secret will NEVER be an option for me. A quality bra for me is, on average, $60. And yes, I NEEDED that new purple bra. NEEDED. Sometimes a girl needs to be allowed to be a girl. Especially when the girl is working as hard as I am.

3) Everything In Time: The human body is a many wondrous place. Some things are certain and finite.... cut my flesh, I will bleed... smother my face with a pillow and deprive my system of oxygen... I will die. Other things are a bit more (please don't roll your eyes too much for my putting it this way, but...) mystical. While we know a lot more about cancer than we did say 20 years ago, we don't have ALL the answers to why.... There's no 100% proven formula. Do this + not doing that / BMI(county you were born in - age) = well, it doesn't equal if you will or won't get cancer, just as there is no 100% hard/fast formula for weight loss. You can do all the right things, and sometimes your body is as stubborn as a mule...and sometimes it rewards you with an embarrassment of riches.

You can't put all your eggs in to one basket of measurement: be it the scale, the tape measure, how your clothes fit, how much exercise.... They are all playing a part in the end story of your weight loss and your heath. There is no winning equation. Our cells take it all in, do something mystical and amazing with it. It does not happen on our clock, it...for lack of sounding overtly happens one some weird time plane where science and mystic meet.

Yes. I realize I sound bonkers.

This particular brand of bonkers seams to be working at the moment. So there!

This also leads me to my new found penchant for 5K running and training to jump into the Atlantic Ocean. I can't lose weight on a set time schedule, but I CAN train for a sporting event (still surreal to think of myself, and the words "training" and "sporting" being used in the same sentence). These are time frames and CAN hold my body accountable for, and hopefully push my weight loss goals along the way. All in all, it helps me feel in control.

4) Be Proud of What You Are Doing -  I am INANELY proud of what I've done. It took me awhile to get this proud though. I feel like society as a whole  doesn't celebrate weight loss on the long haul, for people that are slugging it out day by day while living their everyday lives don't get enough celebrations. Drastic surgeries get more press, and we watch riveted to reality shows as people try to lose a drastic amount of weight, in a very short time on national television. Please do not get me wrong, I'm not condemning or saying there's anything wrong with losing weight this way. Just please don't forget that there is something heroic and courageous in losing weight "the old fashioned" way as well.

You have to be proud of yourself and of these work that you're doing.

If you're not proud of yourself, then no one else will be.

How HAVE to be both your biggest fan, and your biggest critic.

Be so proud of yourself, that others can't HELP but be proud of you.

It's awesome when a friend you haven't seen in over a year tells you how amazing you look, but it's soul-stirring when you notice some muscle definition you haven't seen in sixteen years. Day in and day out, the grind of weight loss can take its toll, but it can also uncover some conviction affirming results.

Be proud of what you're doing...lock, stock & barrel.

So there you have it: Be In The Right Head Space, Don't Deprive Yourself, Everything In Time and Be Proud of What You Are Doing.

In case you've forgotten....


Here's to the next 60! :)