It’s the Time of the Season for Swimming…and Pie

First things first. It is so beautiful in Rossland in October.

Photo Credit: the amazing Don Conroy

I think about moving a lot – there would be some benefits to my social life, my airport situation, and my access to things I love like art, cinema, concerts, and new restaurants. At the end of every summer I start looking at real estate listings on the Island or the Lower Mainland. It’s like I’m programmed to spur on even more change, just as the leaves are turning colours. I feel like I also need to “shed” and reinvent and make a new start.

But somehow this season, my favourite season of all, elicits a feeling of settled-ness and happiness that keeps me in this spectacular place. Even though it’s expensive to swim due to a recreation funding conflict between Rossland and Trail, I cough up the cash for my membership at the Trail Aquatic Centre and start into the new season of a different kind of swimming.

I hike gloriously colourful trails with my dogs and I marvel, like the big sensitive nerd that I am, at the greens and oranges and reds of the leaves and soil and mountains. The sunrises are sublime – hot pink and orange from my bedroom window. The sunsets are slow, soft lavender, purple and blue. When the clouds roll in, the contrast of metal grey with the blue sky almost chokes me up. Told you I was a big nerd. Nature astounds me.

It’s more important for me to live and breathe and BE in this amazing place than it is to see the films that showed at TIFF in September or have a wider variety of shirtless, fish-holding prospects on Tinder.

Many of the swimmers I follow on social networks are able to continue their open water training outdoors, and it does indeed look fabulous to swim in 12 degree lidos or Welsh lakes in the middle of October. But there is something about settling into a season with what you have available that is comforting and valuable and even reassuring. I like the pool. I love the hot tub afterwards, even the pee. I like the people there, and choosing locker #69 every time because I am a 14 year old boy at heart. I like driving home in the dark in my farty old sweatpants and listening to the CBC. I like eating 15 pieces of toast in my kitchen and waking up the next morning with the most epically chlorinated bed head ever. It’s truly a sight to behold and way better than Lady Gaga in A Star is Born or even Beyoncé.

Having taken a 2 week break from the pool since returning from England, I decided to start a completely new program from scratch – one that will lead me into a 10k destination swim in January (to be revealed later!). Starting at a 3k training baseline, I’ll work my way up to 8 km in the pool by mid December. I have a number of technical goals to work on this fall, including improvements to my rotation and my current straight-armed recovery. There’s a lot of kick, and even more pull. My weight training program is focused on building the upper body power I need to conquer longer swims, and includes specific exercises to increase my core and shoulder strength. It feels more planned than ever before, which is weird for a spontaneous nut like me, but as it turns out, there are wise people who have already thought of these things and confronted these challenges. Who knew? I thought I knew everything.

My daughter Scarlet and I are celebrating our Canadian Thanksgiving this year as “NoFucksGiving”, due to our acceptance and resignation with a particularly sad and frustrating situation that has taken up much of our emotional space over the last few weeks. We heal. We let the system take control. We gravitate to those that make us feel good. We take long walks. We swim. We accept invitations for care and love and support. We eschew a big dinner and a whole day preparing it for a dinner consisting entirely of a beautiful pumpkin pie from Mountain Nugget. We’ll join good and generous friends for even more dessert, and settle in to watch creepy movies on Netflix in our pajama bottoms and coziest hoodies.

So why would I move?

I’m already moving. I’m changing, swimming, hiking, running, and waking to beautiful sunrises. I have everything I need here. I have a 10 k in January. So yes, maybe it should be “SomeFucksGiving” – but only for things worth giving fucks about. I think those things are pretty clear to me now, and abundant here in this place, and only become more clear with every length and flip turn and bite of delicious pie.

There’s no place like home, my homies.

Another Spin Around the Sun…In Slocan Lake

I had a birthday this weekend. You just can’t stop them from happening every year. I’m fortunate in that mid-September is often still warm enough for lake swimming in BC, and this weekend was no exception.

I have always enjoyed canoeing and camping on Slocan Lake. It’s one of the most beautiful places in the world, with gorgeous beaches, clean water, and plenty of variety in terms of campsites, canoe routes, whitewater rafting, and places to explore. I’d never swam across it before though, and the occasion of turning 44 seemed to be the perfect opportunity with the water holding a balmy and refreshing 15 degrees C and the rain holding off (because of my special birthday rights). The lake is approximately 2.7 km across from Silverton to Sandpoint Beach.

I was also very keen to try night swimming. And it did not disappoint.

I set off from the boat launch in Silverton around 7 pm, wearing my thickest, warmest wetsuit – a Blue Seventy Sprint – 2 swim caps, and positive thoughts of warm fleece, hot tub time machines, steaming mugs of Earl Grey tea, and Swedish saunas.  Scarlet had both dogs and all of our camping gear in my big old blue canoe, as well as a bright light to guide her crossing. She’s an experienced, skilled, and capable paddler, and I had no concerns with her ability to guide me safely.  The sun set quickly while I was in the water, and soon I was making my way across in darkness next to the canoe. One word sums up this experience – exhilarating! The combination of the cold, the eerie play of the light on the surface of the water, and the feeling of swimming weightlessly into navy blue nothingness was just awesome. I definitely want to do it again. And again! Read More

Chewing the Scenery in Lake Chelan

The Lake Chelan Swim is an annual community event in Manson, Washington, held on the first Saturday after Labour Day.  It’s a 1.5 mile (2.4 km) shoreline race from Willow Point to Manson Bay Park. I’ve been looking forward to this weekend all summer. It’s the second last of my planned 2018 races (although – never say never!) and awesome because it’s a) a road trip, and who doesn’t love a road trip weekend and b) it’s one I hadn’t done since 2014 and I was eager to see how I’d fare with a few years of training under my belt. I should add a c) here – I’ve done such long swims recently (28 k and 12 k in the last month), that I knew a 2.4 k would feel very different!

The lake is one of Washington’s cleanest and most pristine, which is another reason I’ve been craving a return to this race.  The water temperature, at around 18 degrees Celsius is also perfect. Perfect for a bracing wake up if one is a wee bit hungover, which you will be if you really make the most of your Chelan weekend. With dozens of wineries and bars in the region, a visit (even for a sporting event) must include a good sampling of the nightlife and fun stuff. The Shore to Shore Marathon is held the same weekend, just in case you’re particularly hardcore or maybe training for swim run. (Insane. How do you swim with shoes??)

The drive from Rossland to Lake Chelan is spectacular. Washington is a beautiful state, with winding roads that take you alongside the mighty Columbia River and through to the more arid and badlands-esque Okanogan County.

Having secured an amazing VRBO, I was eager to arrive and relax lakeside (and bar-side) before Saturday’s swim. I’m accustomed to events that begin at the crack of dawn, so it was nice to know that a restorative lie-in would be possible. The morning sunrise over the south side of the lake was beautiful and inspiring and the situation of the property was almost like an infinity pool – I could look down and across the water from the deck. If you’re planning to visit the area, you’d be treating yourself with a stay here. Treat yo self! But book early – places fill up fast!

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The Skaha Lake Ultra Swim…is OVER!!

I woke up this morning having achieved something I wasn’t sure I could do.

Yesterday I competed in the Skaha Lake Ultra Swim – an 11.8 km event in Skaha Lake, BC from Penticton to Okanagan Falls.

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I’ve been training for this swim for the last few months. I followed a plan and stuck with it as well as is possible for me to stick to any kind of plan.

I learned so much about myself during the lead up to this event. I learned not only what my body is capable of, but also my mind.

It’s often said that long-distance swimming is more of a mental than a physical game. The long training workouts required for a big distance can be boring, isolating, and frustrating. You are effectively trapped with your thoughts. I’m no stranger to this, especially with the annoying personal issues I am currently working through.

Physically, I knew I was strong enough for the marathon distance after last weekend’s 27.17 km. I had put in the work.

But mentally and emotionally, the work is so different. I have sought to create a positive inside space for myself when swimming. It’s so easy to dwell on what’s not going well because you have so much time alone with your own brain.  My work here has been to learn to focus on breathing, the movement of my arms and legs, and the rotation of my body. And to not focus on the things I can’t solve in that moment.

Sometimes it works for me, and sometimes it doesn’t. The work continues, and that is the whole point of it all, really.

Yesterday it did!

The swim started at Skaha Park in Penticton at 7 am. The weather was cooler than it has been recently, but the smoke of 500 forest fires hung heavily in the air.

The atmosphere was lively and positive, as you can see from the group photo taken before we started.

Swimmers and kayakers assembled on the beach to share last minute strategies and plans. I was so lucky to have my friend Christine as my support kayak. Christine drove all the way from Victoria for this event, and I am so grateful for her support and encouragement before, during, and after the swim.

We talked about my nutrition plan – Clif Bloks every 45 minutes with no dolphin tricks required. We plotted the straightaway to Ponderosa Point, and how we would approach each of the landmarks.

I swam my first 3 km the way I always do, easy and relaxed (unless something is chasing me). I focused on the rhythm of my stroke, my excellent tunes, and getting a feel for the water. At 20 degrees Celsius, it was quite a bit warmer than anything I’ve swam in recently.  I really noticed the smoke in the air, and I was thankful for the fruity flavour of my Bloks to take away some of the bbq-esque palate of the lake. Read More

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

Sunshine Bay to Nelson: Day 3 (Six Mile to The Prestige)

If you want to indulge in a lush, boozy brunch, you’ve gotta earn it!

And earn it we did – with a grand finale swim of 10.6 km from the Six Mile sand bar all the way into Nelson. The original plan had us wading ashore at Lakeside Park, but cooler and hungrier heads and hearts prevailed and we climbed out at the marina just below the patio at the Prestige Hotel. Brunch never tasted better. More than just an extra mile, the additional distance added another 3.17 km to our grand total taking us to 27.17 km swam over 3 epic days. Read More

Sunshine Bay to Nelson: Day 2 (Kokanee Park to Six Mile sand bar)

You might have thought that your intrepid swimming subjects would have faced the darkness of the new day and the prospect of another 8 km with dread and apprehension.

You might have thought that there would be tears, self-doubt, and…chafing.

YOU WOULD BE (mostly) WRONG! (There was some chafing.)

Another 4:45 wake up call, coffee, poops, pep talks, vehicle drop off and a short portage, and we were off! Our team was one less today, since our triathlete decided to save his shoulders for an upcoming event.

Today’s 8.03 km stretch went from the beach at Kokanee Park to the sand bar at Six Mile. The lake was calm and peaceful for our first half, with mild currents for the second.

Without the challenge of yesterday’s chop, everything felt a lot smoother. I had worried about my shoulders, but the only discomfort I felt was in my lower back. This is usually because of the altered position of my body in my wetsuit.

The Steven Boys took an early lead and reported that they both felt amazing. Mark stated that he could have gone all the way into Nelson. Wanker!

Deanne and I gave Barney, our kayaker and food dispenser, a good morning workout as he paddled between us doling out Shock Bloks and encouragement. 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