Happy Birthday, Little Swim Blog!

Dear Swim Blog,

You’re one year old! Happy birthday to you, and happy blog-iversary to me! I’m giving myself the bumps right now – although it will look, to the casual observer, more like The Worm. I can also do this just for you if you invite me to your BBQ.

When I started this blog, I was motivated to catalogue my swimming events and training.  I’d been open water swimming for a few years, but I hadn’t been all serious about it. Serious times call for serious measures though, so I became a lot more serious.

I also wanted to write more – mostly about the personal progress I wanted and needed to make.

I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the positive response to my posts, especially since most of them include anecdotes about going through divorce and peeing in my wetsuit. It’s also heartening to be part of this growing worldwide community of open water swimmers. I’ve been lucky to connect with so many inspiring folks through our shared love of galvanized rubber, chlorine, Instagram, and swimming under open skies.

I made a New Year’s Resolution to blog more, but that hasn’t exactly happened. Quality over quantity… and because life has gotten in the way. Mostly in good ways. I spent a lot more time skiing this winter than previously, which meant that my training goals sometimes took a bit of a backseat to being in the snow and making out in backcountry cabins. That being said, I spent the majority of my winter swim training concentrating on technique, since I do believe that better technique is going to help me swim stronger and faster in the longer distances I have planned for this year, including 4 swims over 10 km…

Now it’s May, and I’ve started to ramp up the distance again. My forearms feel the strain, but I’m comfortably training up to 12 km/week in the pool. Yep – the pool. Despite a few early, encouraging lake dips, I have not been able to bring myself to start training in any nearby body of water that is less than 15 degrees Celsius. And I’m still taking warm showers.

So, Baby Blog, it’s now been a year.

A year of tracking.

A year of training.

A year of consistent effort, and constant reflection. My, how things change!

A year of growth, and shrinking (in some cases).

And also, a year of life highlights. Never mind the lowlights. They’re dimming all the time.

In the very most celebratory birthday fashion, I have something a little more exciting than a treat bag for those of you who are interested in taking up this highly recommended hobby, and those of you who are already able to lick your arm and smell the sweet, sweet chlorine.

I’ve partnered with the fab folks at Ocean Junction to offer a 25% discount on pretty much EVERYTHING one could ever need to start or support an open water swimming journey. Grab some awesome new Vorgee goggles (my favourite – read my review here) or hand paddles – or maybe a new Swim Buddy so that boats don’t run you over. I like the Touring Version, so that I can bring along some birthday cake.

TREAT YO SELF! Use the code openwater2019 at checkout to claim some sweet savings. I’m splurging on the new Vorgee Aqua Hair Rinse in the hope that I look a little less like Sammy Hagar by summer’s end.

And since you’ll be all tricked out in your fab new garb – please have a big piece of cake and celebrate with me. The calories will help you float.

Gear Review: Finis Duo/Finis Neptune Underwater MP3 players

Music and swimming. These things go together like peanut butter and jam and bread before a big race.

I first came across an MP3 player for swimming a few years ago at my first Lake Chelan event. A woman I was floating around (and probably peeing) with at the start had these weird yellow headphone type things attached to her goggles and the sides of her head. I was drawn like a moth to a flame.

My life changed in that one moment. I do not speak of this lightly, having experienced a few life changing moments, including my first eyebrow wax, insoles, a good blender, a reading light that attaches to my book, and the baguettes from the new bakery in town. But yes – a life changing moment.

I told my Mum about this divine invention, and my Mum, being the fountain of awesomeness she is, ordered me one for my birthday.

Talk about a game changer. Now, instead of the OCD counting and intense problem solving that accompanied my workouts, I could have my TUNES piped directly into my head while swimming. Music! To swim to!

I music to everything, from driving to walking to sleeping to cooking to (Ed. note: Censored).

My first Finis Neptune arrived in the mail and the heavens opened. Harps harped. Angels moonwalked.

The little black and yellow contraption connected to my laptop and it was relatively easy to move MP3 files in to create a playlist. However, the Neptune was not without its annoyances, including that my laptop wouldn’t recognize the device and I was never really sure if it was charged. The tiny connective prongs had to be cleaned regularly in order to charge. Licking them hardly ever worked.

Still, I used that Neptune through miles and miles of pool workouts, and several races. It travelled with me and became a true conversation piece at events (especially during peeing at the start.) It wasn’t ‘t perfect, but damn, I LOVED it.

Pumping up the jam, pre-Long Bridge Swim in Sandpoint, ID.

Concocting the perfect swim playlist became a bit of an obsession for me, just as I obsessively curate playlists for showering, driving, running, skiing, and (Ed. note: Censored).

There are some workouts where you really want to be chilled out, for which artists like Sufjan Stevens or old Cure just hit the spot. But when you’re brimming with adrenaline during a race or event, the hi tempo new wave hits of the 80s or 90s punk might be better ear fuel for the day. I’m truly partial to swimming in a gay disco, it seems, or a Scandinavian coffee bar.

I have tried to listen to podcasts during my pool workouts too. In between my lap counting and stewing over quandaries to solve, I’d only hear a few words and completely miss any story or plot line or argument. Some people swear by podcasts in the pool. I would only swear that it seems like a waste of good thinking time, since music provides the perfect background and tempo and you don’t need to concentrate to get the benefits.

Probably listening to Toto. 

I also find that audio quality of the swim MP3 players can leave much to be desired, and if a podcast isn’t perfectly mixed and mastered, it is difficult to reliably hear what’s being said. And in the era of #fakenews, ain’t nobody got time for that.

Once my Neptune finally conked out, I upgraded to the Finis Duo. I looked at other brands and models but decided to stick with the Finis bone conduction audio technology, which means that the little “pads” attach to my goggles and sit on my upper cheekbones. Somehow, this ensures that the sound pipes right into my ears, if not my actual brain. I wasn’t keen on earbuds, since I’ve always hated swimming with ear plugs. Brain conduction audio becomes loud and clear as soon as you’re submerged in water. Miraculous, really. Other swimmers don’t even need to know that you’re a massive Toto fan.

The Finis Duo

The Duo doesn’t have as many playback options as the Neptune, nor a track display, nor a battery life indicator. You just have to keep it charged and hope that there is enough juice to last through your workout or your event. It promises up to 60 hours, and I’d say that it succeeds during the height of its powers. I ran through my 3 hour playlist several times during last summer’s Ultra and Kootenay Lake swims. It’s not perfect, but damn, I LOVE it.

However, after a year a half of heavy use, it wasn’t holding its charge very well (not that you can actually gauge whether it’s charged at all), and the left headpiece started making a horrible, garbled droning sound. The wires looked fine, but it was toast. I knew I’d never have added Alice in Chains to my playlist (YUCK), so I contacted the fine folks at Finis and they agreed to send me a new one for half price, even though the warranty wasn’t valid any longer.

I thought this was rather generous, and it prevented me from doing any further research into replacements or other options. So – if you’ve used another underwater MP3 and liked it, I’d love to know about it.

I’m pumped to crank the tunes back up during my swims again, after a month of swimming with my own thoughts. And while these thoughts have been mostly happy, nothing beats powering through the last 100 metres of the last set to “8th Wonder” by The Gossip.

Here’s a swimming playlist that saw me through most of last summer and fall. I hope you like it!

https://open.spotify.com/user/ez5jwi2xqn2h8k9ai8ul705zb/playlist/2gMx6x2T9Q4vvP6k9ybSmA?si=24ozoJQpRq-m96V4EKWrag

Enjoy! (This one’s made for shuffling.)

Shakespeare, who was a great swimmer and looked so hot in his Elizabethan Speedo wrote: “If music be the food of love, swim on, swimma!”

I have to agree.

You can order your own life changing Finis Duo here. Please let me know how you like it.

Here Comes Skaha and I’m Ultra-Excited

It’s almost here!

It’s the event I’ve been working toward since the early new year – the Skaha Lake Ultra Swim.

The Skaha Lake Ultra Swim is an 11.8 km event, encompassing the length of the lake from Penticton to Okanagan Falls. It’s one of BC’s longest swims, and it’s the longest swim I have attempted in my short life. I’m confident due to last weekend’s long swims, but also nervous because there has been so much build up to this weekend.

I thought I’d write a post about my preparation for an event such as this, in case it’s helpful to anyone else with a big life-changing swim coming up. Read More

Gear Review: Vorgee Vortech Max Goggles

Gear review time!

We checked in to the Across the Lake Swim in Kelowna and as always, we took a look at the vendor tables in search of something fun. I like to spend money when I’m a ball of nervous energy. Don’t you?

The Vorgee table had a bunch of interesting stuff, and I had noticed their presence at the Canada Day Challenge in Vancouver a few weeks ago.

I struck up a conversation with the rep about my current struggle to find the perfect pair of goggles for both lake and pool. Sharing is caring, so I’ll fill you in on my situation:

I’ve been almost exclusively using the Aqua Sphere Vista masks for my open water swims. Pool training is a bit more flexible – as I have a bunch of different goggles in my swim bag at any given time. My collection is huge and includes the tiny Tyr mirrored pair that look cool but sit inside my eye socket and threaten to suck my eyeballs right out of my head.  Friends, this can happen!

Let’s get this out of the way – I am blessed with extra large eye sockets. Not quite anime-level peepers, but definitely higher and wider than the eye sockets that most goggles seem to be designed for. Small competition goggles get uncomfortable when my eyelashes bump up against the lens, and I can never seem to open my eyes properly when I’m wearing them. I like seeing. Seeing is fun. Read More

Back in the Lake

IMG_7565I’m back in the lake!

Last Sunday was my first lake swim of the year. It’s much later than usual, due to the heavy snow pack in the mountains creating colder than usual temperatures. Or at least that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

I swam out at Nancy Greene Lake, which is a smallish lake about 30 mins drive from my house. I like training here because I’ve mapped the distance quite accurately. Swimming the “triangle” gives me approx 1000 metres, so it’s easy to track my progress and accomplish a practice goal.  Swimming in a triangle is also nice, because triangles are one of those shapes that just do not get enough love.

The lake is cold and deep, and the weeds grow long and thick as the summer goes on. I don’t mind the weeds at all and actually find the surreal underwater green-ness to be quite thrilling and interesting. There’s always a chance that a big ugly fish face will emerge from the depths to say hello. I also like to take my dogs along on swims at Nancy Greene, because they can run alongside me on the shore. I can keep an eye on them and vice versa. Sometimes they swim with me, and we become a battle fleet. I’m sure they feel this way too.

I wore my oldest, thickest wetsuit for my inaugural lake training swim. It’s a 4 mm Blue Seventy Sprint, so I figured it would be the warmest option. I wore it for my first 2 years of events before I decided to upgrade to the Blue Seventy Fusion, which didn’t work for me at all. Read More

Training vs Racing

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Happiness and anticipation for the Long Bridge Swim in Sandpoint, Idaho

Right now, I like training more than I like racing.

Don’t get me wrong – I enjoy event days too – the atmosphere of anticipation, the cameraderie, the snacks, the fashion parade of wetsuits, the men in wee speedos…its all good.

BUT – the reason I swim is not to race. It’s to access the feeling I get while swimming and after swimming.

What I want to discover is how far/long I can swim in this sagging 43 year old meat sack. What I want to do is swim in amazing places all over the world.

I think I would be happier if open water events were positioned more as experiences rather than races. Of course, I am concerned with my time and my performance at any given event. But the reason I swim is to tamp down my sharp and uncomfortable edges. Competitiveness has a way of creeping into my head and my body and gives me the exactly opposite feels that a challenging but relaxed training session or light lake swim gives me. I stopped swimming with a local masters group because I was overcome with the negative mindset the practices triggered in my head and body, especially during a time of misdiagnosed illness. This would express itself in swimming too hard and then crying in the shower if my body wasn’t up to what I was asking of it. And of course it wasn’t up to it – it was liable to fall asleep at any given moment. It would remind me of how I felt when I quit competitive swimming as a teenager, when repetitive, negative thought patterns became a big problem for me.

Swimming on my own terms is my solution for the brain that I was born with. And solo training takes me into the positive space I need, and allows me to channel those characteristics into my work (which I LOVE), rather than my workouts. Read More