solstice, swimming

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


I swear I'm not a hippie, but this has always been one of my favorite days of the year. For some reason, the extra light makes me feel like I have to do Something Significant. I remember, in 2005, that meant deciding to leave journalism to pursue a career in wine.

(We'll pause here to let that sink in for a moment.)

And now, seven years later, it means swimming 1.2 miles in open water. That's right -- I spent the evening at Johnson's Beach, practicing the Vineman route. And there was zero freaking out (OK, except for the part when a slimy underwater weed wound itself around my arm and I actually screamed a little) and zero backstroking.

It took 1:06 to finish the swim -- slow, but likely because we made a few stops. Though one of those was to do handstands in the water at the turnaround (clearly I take my training very seriously), the breaks were focused on learning the course. I swam with my co-worker Gwen, who did the Aquabike last year, and we would pause so she could point out tricky terrain (the Russian River is really shallow in spots -- there are areas where you can actually stand up and walk), share tips (apparently, there is also a big weed patch -- see above screaming -- that requires navigation) and basically just talk through anything that might end up being a mindfuck on race day.

I can't explain how much more comfortable I feel about the swim as a result. It's crazy to think that just three months ago, I could barely survive a half-mile. I know now that I am absolutely capable of doing 1.2 miles within the cut-off time. (The bike and the run, however, are another story, especially if it's going to be hot. Also, have I mentioned that my longest ride has only been 40 miles and I have less than four weeks left until race day? Anxiety attack!)

My focus now for swim training is to really familiarize myself with the river, make a plan for how I am going to navigate it and memorize the landmarks I want to sight on. I'd like to swim at Johnson's at least once a week and supplement that with a masters swim class (yes, that's right -- I've conquered my fear of that too and actually took my first masters class two weeks ago -- like I said, completely crazy) to build endurance and speed. I also want to use lap swimming to work on form and efficiency -- and practice breathing out of both sides.

My goal (and I can't believe I'm putting this in writing): Finish the Vineman swim in under an hour, as close to 50 minutes as I possibly can.

(Again: Crazy.)

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