Saturday, May 31, 2008

Woods, Weather, and Water (by Special Guest Blogger Nicole)

Saturday, circa 5 PM

So...bona-fide L.A. chick Nicole here. Thanks to Clara and Mallory for letting me come along with them and even grab a blog space.

I got in Thursday morning on a red-eye from Long Beach (as a result of the aforementioned confusion of a.m. and p.m.). Two iced mochas and a trip to the zoo later and I was all set. Well, until I passed out in the back seat of the car while Clara and Mallory got lost and frustrated trying to drive to the swim. Sorry about that, guys.

Which brings me to last night. Now, I have plenty of outdoorsy experience with backpacking and camping and stuff, but I was legitimately freaked out by the overgrown dirt roads and backwoods, especially at night. But I'm okay now. I am amused at the comparison between that little incident and when Clara's and my friend Rachel got freaked out driving through the streets of Brooklyn at night during our Spring Break road trip. But I guess that's just City Mouse/Country Mouse in a nutshell for you.

The swim was really great--well, what we made of it was. The river crossing was cancelled due to rough chop, high winds, and impending bad weather. So, the official race was relocated to a nearby lake. While I wouldn't have minded just doing that, the course was short, shallow, and calm, and decidedly not what C&M came to do. The race organizers off-handedly suggested that if we could find kayakers who would brave the conditions, we could go out and back in the river and they couldn't stop us, but that we wouldn't be officially with the race because of liability. After a little bit of trouble finding Mallory a kayaker--and a warning from the kayaker (and park ranger) with the awesome name of Radar about the frigid 68 degree water, we set off in the river. *

The 5-mile swim was more than double the longest time I'd been in the water and significantly farther than I'd swum in one go previously--the old record was the Long Beach Grand Prix 5K, which took me just over an hour. Well, I survived and had an absolute blast. You know, I think I could get used to this long swim thing.

It was quite choppy on the way out, but other than that, there was none of the thunder and hail they were worried about. I understand why they needed to cancel it, because many of the swimmers and kayakers were not as experienced, but the three of us (and the three other
intrepid souls that came with us) were fine.

The nice thing about wind and chop is that, though it works against you on the way out,
it works with you on the way back. That might explain why it took us an hour
and a half to go the 2.5 miles on the way out, and probably like 50 minutes or so to come back in.

When we got back in, most of the people from the lake swim were already finished and seemed excited that we actually swam in the river. Certainly a stark contrast from the discouragement and concern we encountered before the start.

Well, that's pretty much it from the swim front. We're back in D.C. now, but the drive was something interesting. The weather that we were concerned would hit the swim definitely hit us in the car. Thunder, Lightning, hail, and rain that probably counted as a flash flood--everything short of the threatened tornado. Now that we're back, I think it's time for a nap!

* Note from Clara: As a point of comparison, the conditions for the Potomac on Saturday were: 17-20 knot winds, 3-4 foot waves, and a water temp of 68 degrees Fahrenheit. In the Boston Light Swim, Mallory and I faced 25-30 knot winds, 5-6 foot waves, and a water temp of 60 degrees. Not only that, but we had swum into the wind for all 8.2 miles of the swim, as opposed to the 2.5 miles against and 2.5 miles with the wind on Saturday. So the point here is that we knew what we were getting ourselves into, and we knew we could handle it, even while the race coordinators tried to convince us that we would die in the attempt.

Night in a Really Old House

9:55 P.M. 5/30/08

What an interesting day we’ve had. It turns out you need to get tickets ahead of time to see the Holocaust Museum, and showing up at 12 PM is way too late to get one, so we ended up wandering around the Air and Space Museum instead. While we were in the planet exhibit, I heard someone call my name, and it was the David family! They are friends of mine from back home who moved to Oklahoma the summer after I graduated from high school. Their daughter, Ashika, is one of my best friends, but I rarely get to see her, since, for her, going home for the holidays does not mean going to South Bend anymore. I had no idea she was even going to be in D.C., and somehow managed to find myself in the same exhibit at the same time as her family. Amazing!

Anyway, after that, we hoofed it back to Crystal City to pick up the car, which ended up taking a little longer than we anticipated. We were under way around 3:20, got a little confused about which way we should start out, but ended up figuring it out. I was navigating from some directions Mallory had pulled up on a computer program, but I couldn’t keep the computer up and running the entire time for fear of running the battery down. I had quickly jotted down the directions, but without much detail, so there was some confusion several times during the trip, and an hour-and-fifteen minute trip turned into a 2.5 hour frustration fest. We finally arrived at our host’s house at about 5:45 pm, 45 minutes before the pre-race dinner, and much too late to hope to get in the water before it. Then, the dinner, which had been predicted by the race organizer to last about an hour and fifteen minutes, ended up running for over two hours, and by the time we got back to the house, it was well past sunset. We drove down to the shore to take a dip, but when we realized how rough the water was, how rocky the shore was, and just exactly how dark it had become, we decided maybe it wouldn’t be so safe after all. After a short adventure involving the keys falling out of Mallory’s pile of stuff, we were on our way back to the house to sleep.

The house itself is quite nice. It, or perhaps the property around it (I’m a little unclear), is called Mulberry fields, and it dates to the 1700s. Mallory, the self-described city-girl, and Nicole, the bona-fide LA chick, are a little creeped out by our rural situation, but I think the house is quite charming. It’s been in Erik Jansson’s (our host) family for a few generations now, originally purchased in 1906 I think? Anyway, fascinating history.

So the weather reports are calling for thunderstorms tomorrow afternoon. The good part of the bad weather reports is that, if the race goes on as planned, it will probably be nice and rough, and thus better preparation for the Channel. The bad news is that there is the possibility that the race will be cancelled. If that happens, we may do some 3.5-mile swim in some lake somewhere, but it really won’t be nearly the same. So here’s hoping the weather is good, but not too good. ;-)

Anyway, it’s now 10:10, and as I’m waking up at 4:30 in the AM to get to the boat launch at 6, it’s probably about time I thought about going to sleep. The easily creeped-out (i.e. Mal and Nicole) are sharing a room in the attic, so I’ve got a nice four-poster with a canopy all to myself. The mattress is one that the mama bear from the Goldilocks story would really enjoy: very soft and squishy. Time to sleep now.

10:13 PM

Friday, May 30, 2008

Update: 5/30/08

So I'm sitting here in the lobby of a Raddison Hotel in Crystal City, waiting for Nicole and Mal to pick up our rental car. (This hotel has TRULY free wireless! I didn't need an access code or anything! We're not staying here, but I am fully connected to the internet... sweet!) Anyway, my camera ran out of battery yesterday in front of the White House, and then I forgot to charge it back up last night. I've been getting a lot of grief for that grave error, even though I'm the only one of the three of us who even remembered to bring a camera in the first place. *sigh*

Anyway, so Mallory and I got into the hotel around 5 on Wednesday evening. We had been hoping to do a little sight-seeing that day, but we were ultimately too pooped to do so. We DID manage to get into the pool for a swim, which was a pretty decent pool as far as hotel pools go. It wasn't rectangular, per se... it was kind of trapezoidal, but at least it wasn't the dreaded-but-popular kidney shape. And the height of the trapezoid was maybe 20 yards, so we could sort of swim laps (although, the lack of lines on the bottom of the pool and any defined crease between the bottom and the wall made it really difficult to tell where the walls were). Anyway, we had been swimming for about 20 minutes when some children came out to the pool area. We didn't think it very likely that they would actually get in and swim, given how cold the water was... how very wrong we were. Not only did they get in to swim/jump/splash, but they were quickly joined by about 30 of their closest friends. Also, I think all of these 10-12 year-olds should immediately get their vision checked, because none of them seemed to notice that we were in the pool trying to swim. I ran into the same kids over and over and over, and they were surprised every time! And we narrowly missed death by littletykejumpedonmyneckitis. I don't know if the adults with them were parents or some sort of program coordinators, but they did a remarkably poor job of supervising the children... we didn't even get yelled at for running over them as our frustration mounted. And the guy who we assumed to be the lifeguard just stood there while we got mauled. Needless to say, our workout didn't last very long.

Nicole arrived at around 8:15 yesterday morning, due to her accidental booking of a flight that was 12 hours later than she had intended. We attempted to swim in the morning, even though the pool didn't officially open until 10 AM, but we got kicked out, so we just showered and got ready to go out on our day of sight-seeing. We started at the National Zoo (free!) and checked out all the lions and tigers and bears (oh my!). Actually, we didn't see any bears... I think there were sloth bears? (Not really sure if those are sloths or bears.) We didn't get to that part of the park, but we did spend a good 3 or 4 hours wandering around, and I've got a wonderful purse tan-line (or burn-line) to show for it.

After that, it was lunch at Starbucks, and then off to the International Spy Museum. Unfortunately we weren't allowed to take pictures in that museum, but if you're ever in D.C., I would highly recommend it! It started out with a room where you picked out a cover story, which you had to remember during your trip through the museum (we were tested on it later). The cover story and the "de-briefing room" gave us the false impression that the museum was going to be much more mission-styled than it ended up being, but it was still pretty awesome anyway. (You could pay $14 extra for a mission thing, but as Nicole and I are just poor college students, and Mallory is just... poor, we didn't want to shell out.) Mallory's favorite part about the museum was finding out that all the spy stuff she thought was only found in the movies was actually the real deal.

Finally, we headed out to the National Mall to look around... pictures at the Washington Monument and WWII Memorial, hiked down the reflecting pool to the Lincoln Memorial, Korean War Memorial, and Vietnam War Memorial. Weirdly, Nicole and I both remembered the Iwo Jima Memorial to be near the Vietnam one, but we couldn't find it. Anyway, we then headed down to see the White House, which we sat in front of for about 15 minutes to rest our poor tired feet, and finally set off for the hotel (way too late to make the 9 pm closing time of the pool... *sigh*)

All right, Nicole just called me and said we have the car, so I've got to head out. I think we're off to the Holocaust Museum today before heading down to the location of the actual race. Over and out.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

En Route to Potomac River Swim (Posted by Mallory)

As I type this, I am camped out next to what I believe may be the only outlet in the Chicago Midway airport, conveniently located in the aisle leading to gate B17 no where near a chair. I have noticed this problem in almost all airports I’ve been too. Wireless is available, but you better hope you have a good battery with a long life. Alas, they have me there.

The last two weeks have been crazy. I graduated from Western on the 10th, and the following week, with Morgan doing movie stuff in LA, I packed up our stuff, and after he got back from the airport on Friday, we loaded the Budget truck and took off for Indianapolis. I would like to thank Brian Lee, Patrick X, Adam Beck, and Mark Bitterling for helping us load our truck so that we were able to finally leave Bowling Green at 10pm.

I am loving our new Castleton location. Last week I was swimming up at the Fishers YMCA, which is a very nice facility with separate lap and kid pools, and an outdoor pool that will open soon. Next week I will be trying out the Lifetime Fitness that is right next to my apartment. Not only is it a little closer than the Y, but it also has a rock climbing wall which is a fun way to build a lot of total body strength. Once I try out the Lifetime Fitness, I will have to make the commitment and designate my new training “home.”

On Memorial Day my father and I went out to Lake Maxincukee, hoping to get in a long lake swim. Unfortunately, the motor on the boat wasn’t working correctly and was rendered unfit for a support vessel. It was a good thing we brought the boat out before next weekend, so we wouldn’t be short a boat for the Maxincukee race. I did still get in, and I swam for 45 min-1 hour in the 62 degree water, a great way to start acclimating to cold water swimming. On Tuesday, I was in between gym trial memberships so I decided to check out the pool at our apartment, which had just been filled for Memorial Day weekend. What I found was a strangely appropriate duck-feathered 20yd-ish L shaped pool that made me feel a little dirty and dizzy after bouncing between the walls for awhile. The temperature was probably in the mid-60s, but I’m not sure if I was dizzy from mild hypothermia or from the excessive amount of flip turns, but it was probably a combination of the two. As I left the pool a maintenance worker saw me and asked me if it was cold. I told him “That’s the way I like it” which is a total lie and obviously weirded him out. Though I didn’t have much adverse reaction to my two cold water encounters this week, I noticed that I must have taken a shower too soon after getting out of the pool on Tuesday, because I felt colder afterward and had to bundle up in sweats. As a general rule you are supposed to warm up gradually after cold water exposure.

Coincidently, yesterday was my 22nd birthday which I celebrated by getting my Hepatitis A vaccine, which was recommended before getting into these dirty bodies of water. Unfortunately, I doubt the vaccine will work fast enough to counteract any Hepatitis exposure I may have encountered in the duck pool.

I am en route to Washington D.C. to swim the 7.5 miles of the Potomac River. To many this is a curious fact. My friend Margaret, who previously lived in D.C., tried to convince me that NO ONE ever swims in the river, save maybe the Georgetown Crew team after a boat-tipping accident. When I asked if there were any public beaches she laughed harder.

It is 8:47 here in Chicago, and my flight from Indy to Chicago, with a time change, lasted exactly one minute. I will land at Dulles Airport at 12:45, and Clara will land shortly after. Our friend Nicole, who will also be joining us for the swim (her first big open-water swim) will not be arriving until Thursday, thanks to a mix up involving travel itineraries and those tricky little a.m. and p.m. notations. We will be staying right outside the city doing a little sightseeing and some tune-up swimming today, Thursday, and Friday. Friday evening we are renting a car and driving toward Point Lookout State Park, which is from what I understand, is far south and very rural. Friday night we will be staying with a group of Potomac River Swimmers at a volunteer’s house who was kind enough to offer up accommodations. Saturday is the race, and hopefully the weather will be beautiful. Sunday we’ll be heading home, all ready to get back to work and to start preparing for the Maxincukee swim. Bring it on……..

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Update (Posted by Mallory)

Now that I am coming up for air after an extremely hectic 2 weeks, I can give you the update.

Training has been more of the same, but I accidently erased my training logs. On Saturday, my mother and I traveled to Memphis, TN for the closest meet before the qualifying deadline to swim the mile as a requirement to compete in 25K Open Water Nationals (swimming a mile to qualify for a roughly 15 mile swim seems slightly irrelevent to me). What an experiance. Upon arrival at the meet I realized that USS swimming would never be the same for me again. As the oldest swimmer at the meet, my favorite moment occured as I was checking in for the mile. A young boy at about a third of my size also inquired about checking into the mile. It was the first time I have ever felt "old." I said to him "Are you really swimming the mile?" to which he replied, "yeah, are you?" It was a far cry from the old days when I was always the youngest in my training group.

The cut was 19:00 for 1500m, which I swam in 19:04, just barely missing the cut. Though it was dissappointing, the really odd thing is that I dreamed the night before that I would go that exact time. I told my mom, then promptly forgot about the dream. When I got out of the water after the race, she was laughing, much to my confusion. I said to her "Mom, it's not funny, why are you laughing?" to which she reminded me of my premonition from the night before. Then I was just weirded out.

On a side note, I would like to thank the people at the Memphis Tigers for all of their assistance this past weekend. It is hard to describe how amazing it is to get so much support from complete strangers! They helped me with meet registration, worked with me on my USS membership issues, recruited a lap counter and a pacer for me, and showed sincere interest in what I am trying to do. I appreciate your support!

On Saturday, I will graduate from Western Kentucky University, after which I will be moving to Indianapolis, IN and will be starting the next phase of my channel swim training. I just started reading "Dover Solo: Swimming the English Channel" by Marcia Cleveland and its really helping me mentally prepare for the next step. I have come to the realization that my training will be very different that Cleveland's, and that I will have to come up with special solutions to prepare for the big day. Many channel swimmers, including Cleveland, live on or near the coast, making open water and colder temperatures much easier to come by than it will be in Indianapolis. I've got some ideas running around in my head, and once I nail down my training regime, the blog will be the first to know.

Yesterday I booked my plane ticket to Washington DC at the end of the month where Clara and I and our friend (also from MIT) Nicole will be swimming the Potomac River. We will be there a couple of days in advance to prepare for the race. I'm really hoping for frigid temps and rough conditions similar to the Boston Light Swim, so that we can get an idea of our true readiness.

One last thing that I wanted to mention is that Clara and I are working on setting up swim clinics by Coach Powell in the month of June or early July. In order for this idea to be successful, we are seeking special "pool sponsors" or organizations that will let us use their facility to host these 4-hour long clinics for competitive swimmers ages 10 and up. Coach Powell has been offering clinics for 20+ years, and he has generously agreed to run one or more clinics (with Clara and I assisting) as a fundraiser to help cover our channel swimming expenses. Although this gesture is generous, it is merely scratching the surface of the overwhelming support I have received from Coach. He is and will always be a major player in my life.