Tahoe: A look back

IMG_20150806_205417Tahoe happened in July.  I found this post sitting in my drafts folder.  But because it really is the best time of the year, and it’s a shame to let such an event go to waste, let’s reminisce.11695958_10100534397230472_3311924401407648567_nA few weeks ago (like…15 weeks ago) I headed up to Tahoe to do the Trans-Tahoe swim on a star-studded boat. IMG_20150806_205457We all wore our uniforms (sweats) and were ready to take on the competition.

6 swimmers, 11ish miles across the lake.

Unlike past years, the morning was cloudy. IMG_20150811_155629 And cold. IMG_20150811_155536Like, really cold.  And the water wasn’t super inviting.

But we battled on. 20150718_080840 And eventually the sun came out. IMG_20150811_160523 And the Cheladas came out. IMG_20150811_160007 And things were awesome.  Like they are every year. 20150718_131556Because that’s how Tahoe and this crew rolls. 11760338_10100534798915492_3397795908193799603_n until next year… IMG_20150718_164647

Race Report: Del Valle 10K

IMG_20150625_145610the dry hills of northern california

This is going to be the most boring race report ever.

Two weeks ago I drove up to Sunnyvale for the Del Valle 10K.  I left crazypants with Mimi and Grandpa, and stayed with some old friends who were fantastic hosts/fellow racers/support crew.  We got up around 5 the following morning and made the drive out to Livermore.  The water was a really nice 71 degrees, the sun was out…pretty ideal.


My strategy was to go out really, really easy and hang on.  Because I was terrified of not finishing.

The course was 4 x 2,500m loop around a lake.

So I went out easy.  Like, suuuuuuper easy.  For the first 7.5K.  That is a very long time to swim easy.  Fortunately I had this song to keep me company:

The. whole. time.

My splits:

Lap 1: 39+ min
Lap 2: 42+ min
Lap 3: 41+min
Lap 4: 41+min

With about a 30 second break between loops 2 + 3, and 3 + 4 (I just swam by the aid station after the first lap, didn’t need a break).

Total time: 2:44:xx


Strategy made for a boring race, but it worked!  I broke 3 hours, didn’t faceplant running up the ramp (which I was nervous about), and came out honestly feeling fine.  I thought I could have gone further (though in retrospect, I felt like I picked it up at the end, when in reality it looks like I just held steady).

Aside from a foot/leg cramp towards the end of lap 3 that I thought was going to be the end of my race, but somehow miraculously disappeared, there was little to no excitement.  I spent a lot of lap 2 worrying about a turtle biting me.

IMG_20150625_150348time for beer

I finished not sore, surprisingly not too exhausted, and feeling like I need to do another 10K to see if I can actually race it.  …then proceeded to not swim for what is now going on 2 weeks and promptly got out of shape.

And that was it!  Ready to rock Tahoe.



Summer sunrises in New York City are awesome.

T minus 11 days until the Del Valle 10K, which can mean only one thing: time to cram.

A lot of people this past week have asked me: how far of a swim is that?  I answer: it is a 10K. 10,000 meters.  6.2 miles.  A distance that you should probably train for.

My strategy in approaching this race thus far has gone something like this: swim about 3x a week and start off most workouts with a 2-4K straight, just so I get used to jumping in and going.  Then don’t really worry about the rest. How’s that for a well thought-out plan.

I have done a few longer workouts: 7K, 7.5K, 8K…but–surprise!–haven’t been able to squeeze in my really long swims.  And the 2 week trip to Kentucky/NYC from which we returned yesterday didn’t help.  But it did help with this:


That’s a huge inflatable swan and day drinking.  But in a pool.  So it half counts.

But now it’s crunch time.  Things just got real.

SO TOMORROW!  Tomorrow I am going to the pool at 6am, and I am getting in a full 10K.

That is a ridiculously long time to swim alone.  But if I’m going to feel any sort of confidence going into this thing that I might be able to actually finish, I have to do it. Mentally it will make a huge difference.

It’s going to suck.  It’s going to suck a lot.  But fortunately I got a new cap straight from the alma mater to give me extra power.



Catch you on the flip side.



Finally.  FINALLY.  After 2 years of hardly anything, I’ve got a schedule happening for 2015.

So far it’s just water (I have some foot stuff going on, I’m going to go see a doctor about it soon, still hoping to sign up for a half or two in the fall, but for now no running.)


I realize this is backwards in terms of distance, going from the longest swim to the shortest, but what are you going to do.  Also, note that none of these are in the ocean (that’s really just coincidence.)

Time to start ramping up the yardage…

It’s been so long.  So happy to be back.

Lap Swim

IMG_20141113_113810this is not ‘nam.  there are rules.

You may have noticed the lack of running talk here.  I haven’t run in almost 2 months due to some foot issues.  So I’ve been spending more time in the pool.  This means a lot of time at lap swim.

I’ve been told that lap swimming can be intimidating for non-swimmers.  I assume it’s like the one time I decided to go on a ride with the local cycling club.  I was stressed and felt like I was in everybody’s way the entire ride.  That is why it only happened once.

I like to think that swimmers are not like that group of cyclists.  But that is not always the case (see: here).

Once, I swam for a team in the Czech Republic.


That is (a very pale) me and my Czech coach, Jura, at a meet in Vienna.  And for posterity’s sake, here is Jura in his coaching uniform:


But before Jura saw me swimming one day and invited me to join the local club team, I swam during lap swim at the local pool.  The pool was next to my apartment and was actually really awesome.


Lap swim at this pool, however, was not awesome. Couples would make out in the middle of the pool, people swam on whatever side the lane they wanted to, and sometimes the guards just wouldn’t put lane lines in and people would swim both the long and short length of the pool, like this:


Total chaos.  (That picture is actually WAY more orderly than the pool ever was, because without lane lines nobody was swimming in a straight line.)

Imagine it’s a beautiful day and you head out on a run.  But every time you pass a bush or a parked car someone jumps out in front of you.  That is exactly what it was like.  And after colliding head on into the supple belly of yet another scantily clad octogenarian for the umpteenth time, I would be like, “WHAT IS HAPPENING!  THIS ISN’T THAT COMPLICATED!  DOESN’T ANYONE HERE FOLLOW THE RULES?!?!?”

swimming-skewed-downold czech men: i swim where i want

So many days I left the pool knowing that the only reason my heart rate went up at all during my “workout” was because I was about to get homicidal.

But those days are behind me.  Now I swim at an absolutely gorgeous Olympic-sized pool, where there are rules posted in English and established lane lines and I can converse with people outside of a simple “Excuse me”.

1237408_589180961134440_251501823_omy current pool

And yet lap lane strife continues.  And not just between experienced swimmers and new swimmers.  I watch new swimmers butt heads with other new swimmers every day. Figuratively and literally.  Lap swim strife abounds.

Sharing a lane with other people is easy.  It really is.  Sharing with people who aren’t the same speed as you is totally doable.  You just have to know the rules.

SO!  For everyone’s sake…


First things first: Where to swim

  • Splitting a lane–When there are only two people in a lane, you can “split” the lane.  That means you just stay on one side of the black line, that is your side of the lane.  Simple.  No reason for any conflict.


  • Circle Swimming— This happens when there are more than 2 people in a lane.  As the picture at the top of this post depicts, it means you always stay to right.  Much like you would if you were driving (in the US).


Odds are, if it’s at all crowded, you’re going to have to circle.  Just the way it goes.  And in my experience, circle swimming is where things begin to go downhill.  So…

Next: 5 Basic Rules for Circle Swimming

  1. If the lanes are marked by speed (slow, medium, fast), do the best you can to be honest about where you belong compared to the other swimmers in that lane.
  2. Swim on the right side of the lane (as mentioned above)
  3. Pass on the left (as you would driving or cycling)
  4. Give people space. Don’t push off the wall right in front of someone else who is about to turn and start a new lap, and don’t push off the wall right behind someone who just started a new lap. Give a person 5 seconds at least before you push off behind them. Personal space. Recognize.
  5. Be aware of your lane mates.

Rule #5 is really what it all comes down to.  When your head is in the water it’s easy to be oblivious to everything else around you.  But lanes can get crowded, and not everyone swims at the same speed.  You’re sharing the space with varying ability levels and should act accordingly.  Which brings us to…


  • If someone is about to pass you in the middle of the lane, just stay calm and keep swimming straight and to the right and leave it up to them to get around you.  And don’t be an asshat and speed up and race them as they pass.
  • If someone is on your feet when you come into the wall, or if you notice someone is catching you, just stop on the wall, in the corner, and let them pass you there.  It’s a lot easier than passing in the middle of the pool.
  • If you are the person passing someone, make sure no one else is heading down the lane in the other direction.  Avoid collisions.


Pretty straightforward.

There are certain situations that are, in the long run, unavoidable at lap swim (the lady with the breaststroke kick that takes up the entire lane, the old dude who crosses over onto your side every time he breathes…)  That is the nature of the beast.  It’s always a craps shoot.   Which leads to….

My biggest piece of advice: when you head into lap swim, be prepared to be flexible.  Pool’s is empty?  Awesome!  Killer workout exactly as you have planned.  One of those days when everyone decides to go to the pool at exactly the same time and there are 8 people in each short course lane, at least two of which are old ladies that don’t want to get their hair wet?  That sucks.  Do your best.  And next time you might have 4 lanes to yourself.  You just never know.

Stick to the rules, apologize when you run into someone, forgive others for their trespasses, and keep things in perspective.  It’s just one swim.  Everything will be fine.

DSC01496the beginning of what i believe to be some sort of water polo practice in CZ.  and yes, those are fins and snorkeling masks.  i don’t know.

awesome square-headed swimming diagram via

400 IMasochism

IMG_20141113_113142 (2)

Yesterday was a little bit of a struggle day, mentally and physically.  I felt crappy.  I decided the best way to deal with it was to pile on a little more pain.  So I went to the pool and did a 400 IM.  Legally.  LONG COURSE.

I haven’t done that in over a decade (because why in god’s name would you).  It wasn’t pretty, but I didn’t cheat.  It was legal, two-hand touches and all.  Sometimes a little personal victory is all you need to lift you up.

Hurts so good.

The Problem with Swimming


Saturday morning I swam for the first time in over a month (all the pools in town close over the holidays).  The first thing I did when I got home was make a shake, a sandwich, and finish all of the leftovers from the previous night’s dinner.

Then I sat down to work.  But instead I fell asleep.

Night swimming


Sunset outdoor practices are my favorite.  By far.  Maybe it’s because for some reason swimming at dusk almost always gives me flashbacks of swim practice as a kid.  Maybe it’s because when you’re done, and that super relaxed, warm, foggy, wave of sleepiness that always follows a hard swim finally washes over you, you know all you have to do is curl up in your bed and go to sleep…as opposed to spend the whole day trying to hide the fact you’re about to faceplant on the conference room table.  Who knows.

Getting there is hard.  Usually Paul isn’t home, and the lifeguards aren’t super stoked on babysitting a one year old while I swim (weird). Even if Paul is home, more often than not, by 6:30pm I’ve had the whole day to convince myself I definitely should NOT go to practice.

But I love watching twilight fall while I swim, seeing the pool lights come on, illuminating the bright, bright blue water against an orange sky, knowing that my sweats are waiting for me if I just get through this one last set, and walking through the front door clean, tired, and happy.

…until someone poops in the bathtub and I spend the rest of the night dealing with a screaming one year old because she wanted to stay in the tub longer and bleaching everything.  But still.

Brush with Great(white)ness: The Dwight Crum Pier to Pier Swim


The night before the race it rained.  In August.  In LA.  What.

The morning of was cloudy, rainy, and super humid.  Fellow swimmer Vanessa picked me up at 6:30am.  Weather.com predicted “chance of storms” all morning.

Where sharks are normally the thing I like to freak myself out about before an ocean swim (especially in this case, given what happened off the MB pier last month), after living in Kentucky I also excel at panicking about weather.  And with the lightning incident in Venice last week and the humidity that high, I really started to stress out about a storm rolling in while we were out in the water, despite reassurances from the race director that they were “monitoring the situation”.  Because let’s be serious, beach guards might know how to deal with sharks, but nobody in LA understands weather.

IMG_20140803_131408pre-race registration.  the one picture i took the entire day

Before the race started the humidity mellowed out, and so did I.  By the time we hit the water I was feeling fine about everything on all fronts.

The start was way way way easier than I expected.  Not that crowded, no kicks to the face, no problem.

The water was super warm (almost 70), surprisingly clear given the fact it had been stormy, with a mild swell. Nothing crazy.  I could see shadowy patches of seaweed along the bottom, but other than that no sea life.  It was pretty pleasant, and I just decided to cruise along, avoid any big groups of male swimmers (who had gone off in the first wave, 5 minutes before us), zone out, and do my thing.

And that’s exactly what I did.  I zoned out to some music in my head for about 30 minutes and just kept swimming.

As the pier got closer, I realized that I hadn’t seen anyone from the women’s heat in a really long time (we were all wearing the same color cap) and that I had been swimming pretty much by myself for probably 10 minutes.  I guessed that the really fast women were in front of me and that the big pack was probably behind me.  And I was by my lonesome in the middle. I did a little calculating and figured if I could keep sighting fine and swim straight I would be done in about 10-15 minutes.  I was pretty happy to not be in the middle of a mass of agro dudes, but the thought did flitter through my mind that it might be nice to be a little bit closer to someone else for safety.  But whatever, I was almost there.

That’s when I saw the shark.

I grew up near the ocean, I surf, and I’ve done tons of ocean swims.  I’ve freaked myself out plenty of times touching seaweed and having seals or dolphins pop up next to me, but I’ve never seen a shark.  This was not a “dark shadow”, it wasn’t like “maybe a dolphin”, the water was really clear, I had clear goggles on, and it was very, very clearly a great white shark.  Not a super huge one, probably only 7 or 8 feet…but really, in a situation like this, does that matter?


This is one of those moments in life, one that you’ve thought about, like, “Hmmm, I wonder what I would do if I was in the middle of the ocean and suddenly I saw a great white shark.”

Well, predictably, first I pooped my speedo.*

Then, in a surprising second move, I popped my head out of the water and, trying to keep cool (NOT something I would have guessed to be a priority at a time like this), said to the guards on paddle boards a little ways away, “UUUH….UUUMMMMMM…UUUUUUUHHHH…THERE’S A SHARK.  THERE’S A SHARK LIKE RIGHTHERE.  IT’S SWIMMING THAT WAY.”

There were a few things that made this way less freaky than it could have been.  First: even though it was only maybe 10 feet from me (yes, that close), by the time I saw it, the shark was swimming away from me, not toward me (holy shit thank god).  Second: the shark seemed calm and not at all interested in me.  Third: though I was in big open space with no other swimmers around, there were guards on paddle boards all over the place…one of whom came paddling up to me, told me he couldn’t see the shark, and that I was “doing great, just keep swimming!”

I stopped and looked at him like, “How about I push you off your board and YOU ‘just keep swimming’?”  I don’t know what I thought the alternative was, but at that point I couldn’t care less about the race and did NOT want to put my head back in the water and come face to face with anything toothy.  I wanted second-by-second updates from the paddle board that the shark FOR SURE wasn’t coming back to eat me.

efab6612820cd6fcade8ed4f511d8582this is basically what i saw. this clear. that is not kelp.  via.

I’d like to stick a disclaimer in here that logically yes, I know the shark was “probably more scared of me than I was of it” (umm…false), and that sharks don’t eat people intentionally, and that it was just roaming its natural habitat and wanted nothing to do with me, etc etc.  But logic doesn’t always rule in these situations.

The guard said he would paddle with me until I hit the pier and keep an eye out, which I really, really appreciated and gave me a nice false sense of security.  He was so calm and nonchalant about it that after about five minutes of me swimming with my head up so I could talk to him and make sure he still couldn’t see the shark I was like, oh….maybe I’m being a little too dramatic.  At one point I actually think I apologized to him for “being such a wimp”.

Anyway, I (obviously) survived and made it to shore.

IMG_20140803_164050my hammerhead greeting party!  …and me looking rough
(and, as my sister would say, “what a cute little boy!”  we probably should put some bows on her or something, or at least dress her in not-grey)

The guard left me as I rounded the pier.  By the time I hit land I was a little bit shaky from my brush with nature, so no big dramatic sprint up to the finish line.  I remember seeing the clock at 54:xx as I was coming out of the water and being mildly  bummed that I didn’t have it in me to sprint and squeak in under 50 (as the second wave, we left 5 minutes after the official clock started).

Official time: 50:15.  First in my age group, whattup. Thanks, shark friend.  (But two 13 year olds beat me, along with a 50 year old, so…yeah.)

Most of the field was still out in the water when I came in, and I didn’t want to freak people out by running up onto the beach screaming SHARK!  SHARK!   But I couldn’t wait to tell SOMEONE, so Paul got an earful when I found him.  And when Vanessa got out of the water I immediately told her.  Because seriously.

So there it is, the story of how I convinced all of my non-swimming friends to never, ever do an open water swim with me.

Happy Shark Week.

*This was a figurative poo. Sorry folks.