I just spent a holiday week in Toronto with my daughter Scarlet. We lived there before making the move to the Kootenays in 2018. I’ve been back to the Big Smoke several times for work, but I’ve rarely had any time to explore past haunts and do fun things. The best part of this week was seeing the city anew through Scarlet’s eyes as she was 8 was when we left. We stayed at an AirBnB in our old Danforth neighbourhood and it was really cool to retrace our steps 6 years later. We hung out with good friends, took in the Vans Warped Tour, smuggled Scarlet into Choir!Choir!Choir!, saw 2 movies, went to the beach and travelled a lot of kilometres on foot, baking in the hot sun. I am not eating or sleeping well right now so it was nice to have a plethora of distractions and good to be very tired at the end of each day.
My training plan was set as a recovery week, so I went on the holiday intending to swim but with all pressure off in terms of meeting my weekly km goal. I had a lovely 2 km swim between buoys at Bluffer’s Beach in Scarborough – which is a beautiful place and one I would highly recommend if you’re doing open water training in Toronto. The buoy distances are long enough that you can get a good workout, the water is clean and clear, and it’s very cool to look up and see the looming red cliffs. The lifeguards are also constantly present in row boats, so I didn’t worry that a dink on a jet ski would run me over and ruin my day. The speedos are also plentiful. Maybe it’s just me??
Before heading to Toronto, I’d done a bit of research to see if there was an open water community to swim with. As much as I like training alone, I’ve been thinking about how nice it would be to introduce a bit of social interaction to the summer outdoor season. My tendency in difficult times is to isolate myself, but I’m finding that it isn’t really working for me lately. Sure enough I discovered the Lake Ontario Swim Team (LOST) and was excited to learn that they meet every Saturday at Lakeshore Park in Oakville for a group swim.
Scanning through the LOST website was also a treat, because I learned about upcoming Ontario events, the history of the club, and was also able to register and pay as an International Guest, a bargain at $10.
Not a bargain was the money it cost me to Uber out to Oakville from the Danforth. I could have spent 2 hours in public transit, but I only fell asleep at 5 am on Friday and I needed those extra 2 hours. And damn it, I work hard for the money, honey!
I found the group down in Lakeshore Park, and immediately noticed the state of the lake. Big. Rolling. Waves! Lots of wind and lots of chop.
There were approximately 50 swimmers getting prepared. Some in wetsuits, some without. The atmosphere was very friendly and I spoke to a few people who were also “new”. I got my coveted white LOST cap and started to get ready – feeling both incredibly excited and completely freaked out about swimming in 7 foot waves.
I introduced myself to fearless leader Rob Kent, who gave an overview of the conditions and how we should approach the swim. He let us know that the lake was 74 degrees (24 Celsius). Then the group started taking the 3 large bright yellow buoys out for anchorage via SUP board.
Getting into the water with waves like this required walking down a carpet and then dropping in backwards. Finally I was in, and I was swimming. I really love swimming in challenging conditions, so the chop and sway was hilarious and fun.
I remembered to not fight the waves and to pull wide to maintain my body position. As a swimmer with a “swinging” tendency, my stroke is actually very well suited to swimming in rough conditions. Anyone observing might have thought I was a drunk otter, but I could not stop myself from laughing and hooting as I was swimming. Like a big neon sign, the word JOY came into my head and boy, was I grateful for that joy!
I swam 6 or 7 laps (1800 – 2100 metres) around the buoys and then headed in, feeling great but not just a little nauseous (have you seen The Perfect Storm? Yeah.)
A friendly soul helped me stand up and pulled me out of the churning, sea-weedy soup (completely covered and yes all orifices yes yes yes). I shakily stood back on land – marvelling at how much I’d enjoyed myself and how glad I was that I’d made the effort to get up early.
I want to seek out more opportunities to test my mettle in rough water!
More of that – please!
If you’re in the area and want to experience the fun and friendliness of LOST – find them here.