That Time I Escaped from Alcatraz

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When I told my good friend that I would be writing this week, I promised a tale that would include a diaper and CPR.

THIS TALE CONTAINS BOTH.

Without further ado, I’d like to tell you about the time I escaped from Alcatraz.  Yes, I joined the likes of that (in)famous Bird Man and other brave escapees.

How did it happen?

My escape from Alcatraz was part of my 40 year old swim odyssey, but I didn’t get to plan it in advance. On my actual 40th birthday in September 2014, my family arranged a surprise party. I don’t normally love surprises because I’m a complete control freak, but this one was simply awesome, unexpected, and welcome. After a lovely dinner, I walked into my house to find my friends all dressed up as characters from my favourite movie, Wes Anderson’s The Life Aquatic. We had Zissous, Klauses, and even a convincing Alastair Hennessey.

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And my present (as if the party wasn’t a giant present in itself) – my present was a trip to San Francisco to do the Alcatraz Swim. This is an annual event organized by Water World Swim (who organize many other cool destination events). The swim itself isn’t particularly long at 1.5 miles, but the chilly waters and finicky currents of the San Francisco Bay make it a challenging one.  I was so excited and freaked out. I thought I’d completed my 40th year challenge, but I was pumped to add one more fabulous destination swim to cap off an amazing season. And best of all, my parents would be joining us in the city I grew up knowing as the inspiration for their “Song“. Read More

Swimming with Rattlesnakes

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I’m on a boat, waiting to swim the Rattlesnake Island 3 k. (2014)

I’m writing this on a plane on my way back to Comox, BC. My work takes me back to the Island this week, and I’m looking forward to chalking up a few more swims in the local aquatic centre. I made a quick executive decision to not bring my wetsuit on this trip, after some research that told me that the local lakes around Comox will still be a bit too cold for training. This may be true, or I might just be a wuss.

By June I have usually been in the lake a few times. Christina Lake is often the place for my annual first foray into the open water outdoors. It is always awesome to feel that chilly briskness on my face and hands. That first wetsuit pee is also very nice. This year I’m either a little less brave OR it’s still too cold. Following a strict training schedule in the pool is also my focus, as I strive to get my kms in and build for the longer events coming up this summer. Cold water training will have to wait a week – or at least until I’ve made it through at least 5 cold showers in preparation.

Last week I trained 3 times, including one midweek session that was 4800 metres. I could not consume enough carbs in the 2 days that followed (toast fans, are you out there? Can I get an AMEN?) and finished up the week with a short Saturday night session that focused on drills – specifically my underwater pull. Rather than throwing my shoulders into each stroke, I’m working hard to develop the water feel in my pull through fist drills, doggy paddle (yes!), and sculling. My early swim coaching taught the centreline pull technique so I must undo this tendency to pull to the middle and then out and down. I’m an avid reader of technique tips, and right now I’m finding TriSwimCoach and Swim Smooth blogs to be helpful. Read More

My Open Water Story: Part Deux

Screen Shot 2018-05-26 at 8.38.11 AMSo, I was swimming again. And turning 40! I wanted to celebrate the unlikely success of both major life events, so I plotted a summer of races in all kinds of places: Across the Lake Swim in Kelowna, Sandpoint’s Long Bridge Swim, the Rattlesnake Island Swim, and the Lake Chelan Swim. There was another surprise swim, but it was a surprise for me and I’m saving it as a surprise for you. I am a sucker for clean water (who isn’t?), so I set up a fundraising campaign through Charity:Water and set a goal of $1000.

First was the swim leg of the Christina Lake Triathlon, with my trusty team of pals. This event is held every year in late June, and as a “sprint”, it requires an 800 m swim, 20 km bike, and 5 km run. All walks of life from Hardcore Strava Dawgs to People Who Drink Slurpees turn up to this event, which, depending how hardcore you are, includes campfires, beers, and a giant baked potato (or 2 if you’re crafty). I don’t really count this as a SWIM swim, but it definitely served as the kickoff to my other events.

My next swim was Kelowna’s Across the Lake Swim, Canada’s oldest open water event founded in 1949. It’s a 2.1 km crossing of Okanagan Lake, and finishes up at Lakeside Park. When you finish, you get oranges, cookies, and chocolate milk. This is important to me. It truly is the best swim to try if you’re new to the game – a very supportive atmosphere, tons of fun, and good swag. You get to ride a yellow school bus in your bathing suit. Even the check-in and safety meeting the night before is fun. In fact, I must mention that I haven’t bought a towel since I started open water swimming. If you ever need one, let me know. Read More