adventures of a mere mortal in fitness and life

Posts tagged ‘michael phelps’

race report: swim to the moon 5k

How was it?

Fun. Freaky. Chill.  Not as bad as I thought it would be.  I was so nervous about this race I didn’t fall asleep until midnight the night before– and had to be up at 5:15 AM to drive out to packet pick-up and the start.

This race was absolutely so different than triathlons I cannot tell you.  Let’s be honest, there’s a tiny “gear geek” (there’s another word for it that isn’t as nice, but you get the picture) factor with some triathletes that just annoys the ever-loving crap out of me.  When my husband started racing ultras, it was a lot of guys in baggy shorts who put on a pair of shoes and ran.  Obviously, it’s slightly different for the pros and whatnot, but it is still mostly like that in ultrarunning.  Now, there weren’t any “pros” (HAHA! Could you imagine open water swimming pros? Somebody give Michael Phelps a call!) at this event, but people kept it casual -swimsuit, goggles, cap.  No dynamic warmups, no speed suits, etc.  I could get used to racing at this pace…but I digress.

The main point of this race for me, other than because you should if you can and you should always support races that support kids with cancer, was to continue to dispel open water swimming fears and prepare for some longer distance swimming (Alcatraz anyone?).  But it was much more educational than that because:

  1. I had no idea where I was going, other than the description on the website reading, “The 5k will swim south and east through the heavily forested Pinckney Recreation Area, passing through five lakes along the way. Scattered cottages are the only signs of civilization.”  As if the cardinal directions were gonna help this poor gal.  Seriously, if I don’t have Google Maps, I can’t find my house.
  2. I had no idea how long it would take me. Maybe an hour?  Maybe two?  That’s a lot of swimming under/over.
  3. I had no idea what the swimming would be like.  Lake monsters?

So…all those things probably conspired against sleeping on Saturday night, although I did spend a lot of time thinking about paint colors for the new house and not about all those legitimate fears.

For the 5k, they bussed us to the old U of M “Fresh Air” camp site, the future home of NorthStar Reach, which will be part of the Newman’s camps for kids with life-threatening illnesses.  At the former children’s camp site, the swim was a mass start, which was predictably annoying, but people spread out within a few hundred meters.  The first lake actually had homes on it, and going into the first channel, there was a bridge made of a huge steel tunnel.  Swimming through that was kind of freaky but not as freaky as blooms of seaweed that would pop right into your line of sight unpredictably in the channel.  That crap freaks me out (perceived lake monsters/regular fish), but I realized by about the fourth time that happened that it just meant it was so shallow I could stand up.  Which I did once at what I was told was the halfway point, but the girl who told me that said that only what she had heard.  Which was another freaky part because I had no idea when to turn on the speed, since I had no idea how far I had gone or how much farther I had to go.  It was kind of laughable, but I tried not to laugh because I didn’t want to swallow too much lake water.

Finally, we got to a point where I saw bright yellow buoys instead of orange buoys and I assumed that meant we were close to the end.  I was dragging a little, but my main concern was how tight my calves were getting.  I didn’t want to end up with a charley horse cramp in my leg, for if you have never had one in the water, you have no idea how painful it is not to be able to put weight against it and stretch it out.  I was in a particularly deep part of the lake, so I wouldn’t have been able to stand up.  Once I reached the first yellow buoy, I decided to just go for it and swim as fast as I could to get it over with and get to shallower water in case I did cramp up.  I didn’t drink any water or take in any food during this race, as I can’t imagine eating or drinking while I am swimming.  Perhaps that would have been a good idea.

Anyhow, I was pleased with the result.  The weather was perfect, the lakes were calm, and I finished in 1:23.27.  Not too shabby, I thought, and good enough for first in my age group.  Most importantly, I faced my fears head on again, and was reminded that those fears are really, really, really tiny compared to having cancer or having a kid with cancer.  If you have the opportunity or ability, please consider donating to Northstar Reach camp.  It’s the only camp of its kind in Michigan, and one of only 2 in the whole Midwestern US.  They still have a long way to go to restore the camp, but it will have a really beautiful location.

northstar reach


thank you, swimming

This morning I woke up in my hometown.  As I did so many, many mornings in my hometown, I put on a swimsuit and drove over to a local pool, where I worked as a swim instructor and lifeguard for most of high school years.  Adult lap swim had started at 5:30, and the odd-shaped pool with no lane lines, no clock, and ancient pull buoys was packed.  I might have picked a different place if the times had been better, but I figured I should take a little trip down memory lane and do some swimming there.  I don’t think I ever swam any laps there before today, since my club team practiced in the Olympic length pool on the other side of town.  Well that, and it’s a lot harder to figure out how many lengths a 100 is when the pool is 35 yards long. 

I had a lot of memories at that place to process, too.  I just didn’t know it until I got there.  I worked my first job there, making about $3.25 an hour to teach kids how to swim.  I met my high school boyfriend there, got my first write-up on the job there, peeled out in my Dad’s Corvette in the parking lot, fell off a lifeguard chair and nearly broke my hip, and well… you get the picture.  Most of that stuff I hadn’t even thought about until I started swimming this morning.  And then I realized how wonderful is was to be back.  And swimming in the place that I basically learned how to swim.  And just swimming in general.  I was filled with gratitude for the sport of swimming and all that it gave me. 

Maybe that sounds silly, but I know what Michael Phelps meant when he was being asked about his retirement last night.  It’s like you want to leave swimming, but you are pulled to stay.  It’s something that will always stay with me, and I know it will always stay with Phelps no matter what he does.  Well, swimming, and that cute, goofy grin he has when Andrea Kraemer asks him a dumb question. 

“c’mon Andrea, you know I am not gonna answer that question…”

 There are many gifts swimming has given me over the years, including:

  • Time to think. I was a kid who needed a lot of time and space to think about stuff.  I am an adult who needs that time too.  I can do that while I swim in a way that I can’t anywhere else in my life.
  • An insane number sense.  I knew fractions and decimals before I was seven because of swimming.  I knew how to add them, subtract them, and their visual representations before I had mastered double-digit subtraction.  I know this might sound silly, but many adults I work with today have very little number sense, and it really impedes their ability to do well in math.  I think swimming with a pace clock really increased math skills.  Plus, by the time I was in high school, I could do my math homework in my head during practice.  How’s that for efficiency?
  • Responsiblity and dedication.  Goal setting and fair competition were part of my swimming experience from the beginning.  I learned how to figure out what I wanted and what it would take to get there from my coaches and parents.  I swam with other friends and acquaintances who had a similar level of commitment as I did.  I watched my older sister compete at high levels of competition and succeed.  It was a very positive, very encouraging environment. 
  • Glorious travel experiences.  OK, well maybe Cincinnati, Ohio, isn’t on your bucket list, but when you’re ten, it’s pretty darn cool.   Plus, we did lots stupid stuff like drink 2 gallon bottles of soda and make up stupid dances to songs a la Team USA’s rendition of “Call Me Maybe“.  If you didn’t know, there is a WHOLE LOT of down time between events in a 3 day swim meet. 
  • Amazing people and a built-in support system.  I believe in the value of good coaching and the power of a team.  I have had many awesome coaches, and I have learned something from all of them, great and good.  Plus, I always had teammates who were there with me, struggling, succeeding, and experiencing life with me.  It was an experience that not everyone gets, and it helps continue to define the person that I am.  I know I cannot thrive without the support system I have today. 

Swimming has given me so many things for which I am grateful.  It’s the sport I first started with as a kid, and I imagine I will be that little old lady breaststroking in the lap lanes when I am old.  When I decided to lose weight and get in shape, it was the first activity I turned to in order to change my life.  I can only hope that my children find something like swimming that they can enjoy for a lifetime.  So, thanks swimming, for all you have done for me!

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