june 24/BIKESWIMBIKE

bike: 4.25 miles
to lake nokomis

Biked over early to open swim. Wasn’t sure when (or if) the thunderstorms would start. As I began, it began drizzling (or spitting as I like to say to my daughter). Not too many people biking on the trail. More runners trying to beat the storms. A nice, easy ride with no vision problems even though it was really gray and my sunglasses made it look even grayer.

swim: 1.6 miles
lake nokomis
68 degrees/drizzling

Wore my wetsuit which was much harder to get on with all the humidity. Spent a few minutes trying to get it zipped up before I finally managed it. Got in early and did 4 loops (.75 miles) off the big beach. The lifeguards were 30 minutes late setting up the course. Once the course was open, I did a loop + an extra trip around the first buoy. The water was wonderfully smooth. The buoys were easier than usual to see. A great swim. I was wiped out when I was done, which felt good. Thought about doing another loop but I wasn’t sure when it might start storming and I still had to bike home–of course, 1 1/2 hours later it still hasn’t stormed. I don’t remember thinking about much while I swam. Mostly I counted: 1 2 3 4 5 breathe right 1 2 3 4 5 breathe left, or 1 2 3 4 5 breathe right 1 2 3 4 5 6 breathe right 1 2 3 4 5 breathe left 1 2 3 4 5 6 breathe left. I like counting. It’s relaxing and distracting. Didn’t see any fish but I did see one duck. No boats. I didn’t hear any planes. Didn’t run into anyone. No kayaks off course. Saw some bright pink, bright yellow, glowing green buoys tethered to swimmers. Most swimmers were wearing wetsuits.

bike: 4.25 miles
back home from lake nokomis

Couldn’t stop smiling on my bike ride back. Happy to have missed the thunder/rain. Happy to have had a good workout. To be in the wonderful water. To see the buoys and not get off course. To bike without the fear of running into someone or the curb.

Right before I started swimming, it began to rain. Soft, slow, steady drops for only a few minutes. I love rain on the lake–what it does to the air hovering above the water, what it does to the water hovering below the air. I searched for “rain on the lake” at the Poetry Foundation site and found this lovely poem:

Song
BY LLOYD SCHWARTZ

rain on the lake
room at the lodge
alone in a room
in the lazy light

loons on the lake
geese in the air
moose in the woods
aware    awake

a cry dislodged
from the musty woods
the gamy musk
of the one aroused

the roaming moose
the rooms lit up
the woods awake
in the loony light

the moon dislodged
the lake aflame
the Muse amazed
amused     aroused

june 18/BIKESWIMBIKE

bike: 8.5 miles
lake nokomis and back

The bike ride to the lake is only 4.25 miles and only takes 20 minutes but it seems much longer. I think it’s because of all the different places I bike by: south on the river road, through the crowded minnehaha falls, by the Dairy Queen, over the mustache bridge, on the creek path, close to lake hiawatha, up the hill, then around lake nokomis. I didn’t have any problems with my vision today as I biked. Nice! I should make sure to bike more this summer while I can still see. The bike ride back, after my swim, was good too. I just barely missed getting stuck in the narrow bike part of the double bridge at 44th street with a surrey.

swim: 2 miles/3 loops
lake nokomis
75 degrees

What a great night for a swim! Not too much wind so the water was calm. The buoys were positioned well. I could barely see them on the way back but there were enough people around to see the way and I could always see the top of the building at the big beach. My sighting is good this year, which is such a relief. Lot of swimmers because it was free night–first timers preparing for their first triathlons. Heard lots of people calling out, “I can do this” or “I’m swimming in 3-2-1….I mean it this time…3-2-1….okay, here I go.” Didn’t have too many run-ins (or swim-ins?) with other swimmers–I fear I might have routed a few. I was tired by the end. Breathed every five or five on the right side, 3 on the left. Or five then six. Didn’t see any fish or ducks. One sailboat before open swim started. Heard lots of planes roaring overhead. Got to the lake almost an hour early so I sat on the beach and listened. Heard people talking, dogs barking, and a swing rhythmically creaking. As it went up it sounded like Rs rolling. On the way down: mmmwwwooowww. Over and over again.

Just looked at my notes and saw that I wrote down swarming bugs. Little gnats dancing around, flying in my face. A few years ago, Scott looked it up and discovered that they’re not swarming but mating.

Just read that Joy Harjo will be the next US Poet Laureate. So cool! In honor of her, here’s one of her poems:

Ah, Ah
BY JOY HARJO
for Lurline McGregor

Ah, ah cries the crow arching toward the heavy sky over the marina.
Lands on the crown of the palm tree.

Ah, ah slaps the urgent cove of ocean swimming through the slips.
We carry canoes to the edge of the salt.

Ah, ah groans the crew with the weight, the winds cutting skin.
We claim our seats. Pelicans perch in the draft for fish.

Ah, ah beats our lungs and we are racing into the waves.
Though there are worlds below us and above us, we are straight ahead.

Ah, ah tattoos the engines of your plane against the sky—away from these waters.
Each paddle stroke follows the curve from reach to loss.

Ah, ah calls the sun from a fishing boat with a pale, yellow sail. We fly by
on our return, over the net of eternity thrown out for stars.

Ah, ah scrapes the hull of my soul. Ah, ah.

june 13/RUNBIKESWIM

run: 2.25 miles
river road up above, south/down below, north
63 degrees

So beautiful this morning! Sunny, calm, cool, low humidity. Decided to do a quick, easy run. Stayed up above, next to the road running south and took the lower, rougher trail on the way back, running north. Noticed the boulders and the split trail fence that stretched alongside the walking path up above. Heard some yelling, laughing kids at a school. Running back, on the lower path, I payed attention to the wrought iron fence and how bushes and vines and wildflowers were reaching through the bars. Will this be trimmed back anytime soon and who will do it, volunteers or the parks department?

bike: 4.3 miles
lake nokomis

Biking by Minnehaha Falls park the parkway was so crowded. Very happy to be on a bike and not in a car! Also, noticed as I turned onto the lake biking path that the flooding is over and the walking path is open again. All that’s left is a mucky mess.

swim: 1.5 miles
lake nokomis
70 degrees (air and water)

A great second open swim at lake nokomis. Decided that 2 loops with one extra trip around the first buoy (an extra 200 yards) was enough. Cold in the water without a wetsuit. The water felt very thick and slow at the beginning–extra dense, which is strange because I think that’s supposed to happen when the water is warmer. Couldn’t really see the buoys at all on the way back because of the sun but it didn’t matter because I could see the tops of the building at the big beach. Saw several swimmers swimming way off course and realized that I swim straighter than a lot of people who can see much better than me. Coolest thing I remember: watching the bubbles from my hand slicing into the water make funky shapes and lines.

Looking for a poem about lakes, I found this one. I like the idea of wind and the sound of wind being two separate things and the soft, simple way this poem reveals itself–oh and the line: “these creatures robed/in your parents’ skins.”

At the Lake House
BY JON LOOMIS

Wind and the sound of wind—
across the bay a chainsaw revs
and stalls. I’ve come here to write,

but instead I’ve been thinking
about my father, who, in his last year,
after his surgery, told my mother

he wasn’t sorry—that he’d cried
when the other woman left him,
that his time with her

had made him happier than anything
he’d ever done. And my mother,
who’d cooked and cleaned for him

all those years, cared for him
after his heart attack, could not
understand why he liked the other

woman more than her,
but he did. And she told me
that after he died she never went

to visit his grave—not once.
You think you know them,
these creatures robed

in your parents’ skins. Well,
you don’t. Any more than you know
what the pines want from the wind,

if the lake’s content with this pale
smear of sunset, if the loon calls
for its mate, or for another.

june 5/BIKESWIMBIKE

bike: 8.5 miles
lake nokomis and back
swim: 1050 yards/.6 miles
lake nokomis

Back again at the beach today. Only one small, puffy cloud, the rest of the sky was a bright, blameless blue. Lots of people at the lake but not many in the water. I didn’t think it was too cold–I wonder what the temperature is right now? Whatever it is, I didn’t need a wetsuit and I wasn’t freezing after I got out of the water. Did 3 big loops without stopping and then, after a quick break, one more loop. Maybe a mile is only 6 loops?

The water was turgid and light brown with several shafts of paler brown light beaming down from above. A cool effect. A few times I saw some silver flashes below me. Big fish? Every swim right outside the big beach is tinged with mide trepidation–what’s below me? and what if it decides to surface? Planes heading to MSP Airport roared overhead. Was able to mostly spot the smallish, vertical white buoys. I think I’ll practice more sighting (and not panicking when I can’t sight) tomorrow. Feels good to be in the water again. Hopefully I can keep up my goal of swimming almost every day.

In honor of the fish I may or may not have seen but certainly swam above, here’s Elizabeth Bishop’s classic and marvelous poem:

The Fish
Elizabeth Bishop – 1911-1979

I caught a tremendous fish
and held him beside the boat
half out of water, with my hook
fast in a corner of his mouth.
He didn’t fight.
He hadn’t fought at all.
He hung a grunting weight,
battered and venerable
and homely. Here and there
his brown skin hung in strips
like ancient wallpaper,
and its pattern of darker brown
was like wallpaper:
shapes like full-blown roses
stained and lost through age.
He was speckled with barnacles,
fine rosettes of lime,
and infested
with tiny white sea-lice,
and underneath two or three
rags of green weed hung down.
While his gills were breathing in
the terrible oxygen
—the frightening gills,
fresh and crisp with blood,
that can cut so badly—
I thought of the coarse white flesh
packed in like feathers,
the big bones and the little bones,
the dramatic reds and blacks
of his shiny entrails,
and the pink swim-bladder
like a big peony.
I looked into his eyes
which were far larger than mine
but shallower, and yellowed,
the irises backed and packed
with tarnished tinfoil
seen through the lenses
of old scratched isinglass.
They shifted a little, but not
to return my stare.
—It was more like the tipping
of an object toward the light.
I admired his sullen face,
the mechanism of his jaw,
and then I saw
that from his lower lip
—if you could call it a lip—
grim, wet, and weaponlike,
hung five old pieces of fish-line,
or four and a wire leader
with the swivel still attached,
with all their five big hooks
grown firmly in his mouth.
A green line, frayed at the end
where he broke it, two heavier lines,
and a fine black thread
still crimped from the strain and snap
when it broke and he got away.
Like medals with their ribbons
frayed and wavering,
a five-haired beard of wisdom
trailing from his aching jaw.
I stared and stared
and victory filled up
the little rented boat,
from the pool of bilge
where oil had spread a rainbow
around the rusted engine
to the bailer rusted orange,
the sun-cracked thwarts,
the oarlocks on their strings,
the gunnels—until everything
was rainbow, rainbow, rainbow!
And I let the fish go.

june 4/BIKESWIMBIKE

bike: 8.5 miles
to lake nokomis and back
swim: 1000 yards/.57 miles
lake nokomis main beach

Yes! Summer is here. My first real swim of the year at Lake Nokomis. Thought about doing a mile but since I haven’t swam since October, I thought I’d better take it easy. I did 5 loops in my wetsuit which I don’t like wearing because it feels tight and too constricting. But today it was nice in the cold water. The water was not clear at all and a bit choppy. Noticed a few kayaks just outside the swim area. Was able to see the white buoys some of the time. The real test will be when I try to sight the orange buoy a week from today. I’d like to go swimming as many as I can before that. My goal is to regularly do at least 10 loops.

Don’t remember thinking about much except for whether or not my legs were cramping up or if water was getting in my ear or if there were any fish below me or boats approaching or how my yellow backpack was doing propped up against the big light post. A few times the waves in the water looked like other swimmers.

Swimming/Sarah Arvio

“Our relationship to you is the same as
that between abstraction and metaphor,
between the idea of a clear lake

and the citing of the lake to describe
the clear idea,” one said with a laugh.
Oh, I said then, what a fine idea

and now what lake will embody its fact?
And this: Aren’t we tired of comparisons
to the natural world? Then this: “And what

world isn’t natural?” “Only the world
of the mind is unnatural.” And this:
“It defies nature and defines nature

and won’t be defined. The life of the mind.”
“But its death“ one punned: “Perish the thought.”
“In the deep all these questions sink away,

and only the swimming matters: water
sliding around the head and heart and hip,
arms cresting and curving, with not against;

carried along on the roll and the rush,
a good swimming knows water won’t resist,
swift or even slow but yes, effortless.”

“Are these words merely pretty? No, my dear.
Water is the principle of pleasure
and of pain, the receiver of the touch,

for the cells and tissues are waterbound.”
With the splash of a smile one turned to me:
“What bodies do we choose? A glacial lake,

cold as ice, aqua-blue and vaporing,
on which one red leaf is a gash of joy,
a sultry southern sea warm as a bath

and carrying its weight in liquid salt.
We covet water through which light will ride
and you, my dear…” Here his words drifted off.

may 31/BIKESWIM

bike: 8.6 miles
lake nokomis and back
swim: 100 yards?
lake nokomis

Yes! Open water swimming is here! Well, not officially until June 11th when open swim club starts, but I briefly swam in the lake today so I’ll count it. Water temperature was probably 65 or 70 degrees. It was pretty cold and my goggles were fogging up so I only did a quick swim out to the white buoy and back. Unlike last year, the water was not clear at all. Guess it must be because of all of the rain and flooding? I was hoping to get freaked out by seeing everything. Oh well. When I got out I felt a bit dizzy. Was it because of the cold? Not enough food? I hope it’s nothing to worry about. I’m hoping to swim a lot more this summer. 4 or 5 times a week.

Still thinking about prose poems. Here’s another one. Wow, does it get dark.

She Spent a Year Hallucinating Birds
BY JILL ALEXANDER ESSBAUM

They perched on roofs and fences and sills. They posed statue-still on catenary lines. They aligned along cables like prayer beads on rope. They amassed en masse on the cemetery lawn and marauded the broad, yawning fields like cattle. Their cackles were black. Each shadow dove and pecked. They nested in chimneys and chirped at the chime of the church bell. They worked in shifts. Clocked out at odd hours. They laid their eggs in the Vs of trees. They teemed on the dry-baked banks of creek beds, streams the sun had overseen. They teetered on the bed-knob tops of flagpoles. They pitched like pennies into founts. They pitched like babies into wells. They thumped at doors then skulked away like hoodlum teens. They jabbed her. When she cried they did it faster. Everyone knows what happened next. Some grew big as sunflower stalks, others tall like bonfire flames. Or moving vans. Or the sick, brick houses people die inside of every night. Their hatchlings canopied the sky. Was it her fault, then, when they pinned her to the ground and thrust their feathers down her throat? Or wormed between her legs in bad-man ways? Or rattled plumes and whooped and beat her body with their wings? Or locked their talons to her thighs and tra-la-la-ed that ditty from the old-time music box? Or forced their whiskies past her lips? Or put her in the pillory? This was foreplay, in a way. They rolled in rabid packs and woofed like dogs. She couldn’t throw a bone. The meat was gone. They chased her and they named her and they boiled her tears and bathed her. Then they ate her.

may 9/BIKERUNBIKE

bike: 20 minutes
run: 1.2 miles
basement, bike stand/treadmill
raining and 25 mph wind

Cold and windy today. There was a possibility of snow, but thankfully it never happened. 2.5 hours north in Duluth they got 8.5 inches. Glad to have the treadmill and my bike in the basement. Soon the bike will be liberated and we will travel to lake nokomis–open swim starts in a month!!–but not today.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the Mississippi River and my running routes along it, wanting to create a collection of poems highlighting landmarks on my run. Here’s a poem about the Mississippi River Gorge for inspiration (I don’t think I’ve posted this before.) Did you know that the Mississippi River Gorge, 4 blocks from my house, is a National Park? So cool.

And the Old Man Speaks of Paradise: a Ghazal
Wang Ping, 1957

Do not move. Let me speak of a river in paradise
A turquoise gift from fiery stars that is paradise

How do you measure a river’s weight, color, smell, touch?
How do you feel the veins of sand in a breathing paradise?

Eons of earth story, long before rocks, plants or bones
Bulging with flesh and blood in every corner of paradise

You call me Old Man, 12,000 years old, but really I’m a baby of
River Warren, swollen with glacier water flooding the paradise

My torso sloughed by old ice, two cities on sandstone bluffs
Headwaters of a 2350-mile road towards the gulf of paradise

A walk along the beach, a bag of rocks, fossils and agates
Each tells stories of the river, land & life—a kinship of paradise

Come to me at dawn or dusk, by foot, canoe or a single shell
To greet eagles, cranes, fox, trees…a ten-mile gorge of paradise

Gar, bass, goldeye, redhorse, bowfin, stoneroller, buffalo, drum, sunfish
Sickleback, darter, walleye, dace, mooneye…in the waves of paradise

The St. Anthony Fall that walked up 10 miles from Fort Snelling
Clams and shells in Kasota stones—layered history of paradise

Put your fingers into the bluff, and pull a handful of sand
From the Ordovician sea, each perfect to make a paradise

From time to time, I take you into the amniotic womb
A reminder of our origin from a black, red, white, blue paradise

Do not dam me. To move freely is to evolve is to live
Lock feeds fear feeds hate feeds violence to the base of paradise

The Mississippi, temple on earth, home of all living things
Would you tread with love, through the heart of paradise?

We are water—H2O—two hands under an open heart
Pulsing, dissolving, bonding the earth to a green paradise

Stop seeking before or after life, for a paradise
Already in us, in each cell of being that is paradise

april 10/BIKE

28 minutes, bike stand
basement

After running four days in a row, decided to bike in the basement. Watched another Father Brown episode and had fun pedaling faster as Father Brown chased the murderer on a train. Before biking, took the dog for a walk on the Winchell trail. Before we got there, I looked up in the sky and saw a huge bird soaring high in the sky. After studying the Birds of the Mississippi River Gorge, I’m pretty sure it was a turkey vulture. Close-up this bird would probably not enchant me, but I loved seeing it’s wing span way above me. I stopped walking, looked up and stared until my neck hurt. Of course I briefly wondered what others might think of me, looking up so intently into the sky.

It is snowing right now. All the sun’s hard work, melting the snow for weeks, undone. No one is quite sure how much we will get. 3 inches? 5? A foot? Will it stay snow or turn into rain?

I’ve been working on a series of eye chart poems. Today I had a revelation. Sometimes images don’t make sense to me. They’re unformed. But how to explain what this feels like? Then it hit me. Sometimes images are only a cluster of dots, like standing too close to an impressionist painting–a Monet or Renoir. This sort of thing usually happens when I’m trying to make sense of a billboard image.

I love this poem by Jane Yeh. The overzealous/Cockatoo of her impatience/Flap flap. So great!

Bel Canto
BY JANE YEH

The opera
In her head

Runs with no interval,
A lot of people singing tunelessly

About the same things.
An overheard

Comment like
A rotting peach.

The overzealous
Cockatoo of her impatience,

Flap flap. The slab
Of blue behind her

Is a sea of
Her doubts. The squirrel

In her stomach
Trying to get out—

They say you have to be
Twice as good. They say

There are pills
For everything now. Enamel

Eyes to see all
The better with, my

Dear. Fur coat
For your tongue—

And, since it’s snowing in April, I decided to find a “snow in April” poem. There are many. Here’s one from 1941 that I like:

Snow in April/Leonora Speyer

I watched the blind attack,
The white invade the green,
I saw the green strike back,
A bough shake off the foe,
While on the ground below
The sharp young blades of grass,
A million strong,
Surged up and through . . .

The battle was not long:
I seemed to hear a shout,
And all the flags were out!

april 4/BIKE

basement, bike stand
30 minutes

I wanted to run today but decided to rest my back and bike in the basement. I suppose I could have biked outside but its only 42 and windy and I’m not ready to take my bike off of its stand yet. I was planning to write about how I’m struggling today, worrying about my back and what might be wrong with it, but then I remembered: Taking a walk with Delia, I heard a wedge of geese (more on wedge in a moment) flying above me. Dozens or more. So high in the overcast sky. Then I heard another, smaller, group. So cool to watch. So exciting to see because they signal warmer weather.

About wedge: I was wondering what to call the group of geese so I googled it and found this wonderful answer:

If you come upon geese on land, you would refer to them as a gaggle. Gaggle, as we learned last time, was also recorded by Juliana Berners in the Book of Saint Albans to describe a group of swans. This is much the same as we would use ‘herd’ for a group of cows or deer. We can also refer to a group of geese on the ground as a herd and a corps.

If the geese are on water, they are a plump.

If in flight, geese are referred to as a skein. The online resource Dictionary.com defines skein as: a flock of geese, ducks, or the like, in flight.

A skein of geese would be a random in pattern in the sky – perhaps small clusters. If geese are in flight, and flying in a V formation, you would refer to them as a wedge, probably inspired by the shape.

Collective Nouns for Birds Near and Far

This small moment of beauty/joy/distraction/wonder reminds me of one of my favorite Robert Frost poems:

Dust of Snow
BY ROBERT FROST

The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.

And, this idea of small delights, reminds me of Ross Gay’s new book of essays (which I just requested from the library): The Book of Delights. Thinking about of all of this has made me feel so much better–less anxious, energized–and I have decided that finding ways to avoid darker thoughts by marking and meditating on the joys is what works for me. Maybe I should buy the Ross Gay book so I don’t have to wait a month or two for it to be returned? While I try to decide, I’ll read his essay in the The Paris Review, Loitering is Delightful.

jan 15/BIKE

biking on stand, 26 minutes
basement

No running today, but indoor biking and 2 walks with the dog. Began reviewing year one of my log. Thinking about writing some sort of summary of it. Was planning to do this anyway, but now that I’m planning to run the marathon again in October 2019, I’m even more interested in revisiting what I wrote and thought about running in 2017. How much has my thinking changed? Were there any hints that I would get injured and be unable to race? So far, the entries are optimistic about the power of running slower for preventing injuries and maybe even running faster. This time around, as I think ahead, I have one goal: to make it to the starting line. I’m thinking that a lot of my writing this year might explore my complicated relationship to my body, especially my fear of it falling apart.

dec 13/BIKE

I ran on Tuesday and Wednesday so in an effort to not aggravate my back or knee or hip or IT band or whatever it is on my left side that is happy now but wasn’t for most of November, I did not run today. Even though I wanted to because the path is clear, there’s not much wind and no snow or ice. Instead I biked in the basement, which was fine. Biking in the basement is useful but rarely (if ever) exciting or beautiful or transcendent. I don’t really enjoy trying to pay attention to the hum of the heater or the dust as it creeps across the floor or the light as it filters through a dingy window, half blocked by cobwebs and a bush that should have been trimmed before fall was finished. But, as I write this, maybe I should start paying more attention. What sort of strange poetry could I create?

After biking, I started working on a poem about the versions of the wind that I experience out by the gorge. I re-visited the Beaufort wind scale and had fun thinking about wind that’s a 6 as causing wires to whistle and umbrellas to be difficult to open and wind that’s a 7 making walking inconvenient. I also learned that white horses are another term for whitecaps. Cool.

In continuing with my research on wind and poetry, I came across Theodore Roethke (because a name of one of his collections is Words for the Wind) and then discovered 2 of his charming children’s poems. I wanted to post them here to remember.

The Chair

A Funny Thing about a Chair:
You Hardly Ever Think It’s There.
To Know a Chair is Really It,
You Sometimes have to Go and Sit.

The Ceiling

Suppose the Ceiling went Outside
And then caught Cold and Up and Died?
The only Thing we’d have for Proof
That he was Gone, would be the Roof;
I think it would be Most Revealing
To find out how the Ceiling’s Feeling.

Here’s another poem I’d like to remember–I should memorize it–by Christina Rossetti, found after typing “wind” into the search box on the Poetry Foundation’s site:

Who Has Seen the Wind?

Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you:
But when the leaves hang trembling,
The wind is passing through.

Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I:
But when the trees bow down their heads,
The wind is passing by.

Another random thing found in my research:
sibilant: having, containing or producing the sound of or sound resembling an s or sh–like in sash. I discovered this word in the phrase, “sibilant drift of dried leaves” in Winter Journal: Wind Thumbs through Woods by Emily Wilson from her collection The Keep, which I am hoping to find at the library.

oct 25/BIKESWIM

bike: 7.5 miles
to ywca and back
50 degrees

My last bike ride of the fall? Could be. Pretty sure it’s my last bike ride to the Y. My membership ends when October does. No choice, I’ll have to run outside all winter, which is fine with me.

swim: 1 mile/1850 yards
ywca pool

This could also be my last swim of the year at the y. Don’t know if I’ll get back there before next Thursday when my membership ends. It was a good swim. I noticed the sounds–so loud! Everything amplified by the water. Sloshing and thumping and splashing. I need some better words. At some point during the swim, I imagined swimming next to a younger version of myself. Then I imagined all 6 lanes filled with differently aged-Saras, younger Saras and older Saras. What would we think of each other? Strange and magical. I liked imagining a Sara-filled pool. Later, I noticed the shadows of the trees, just outside, dancing on the pool floor. It looked like the pool bottom was alive. I liked being in this world, free of gravity and the need to see anything too clearly.

sept 27/BIKESWIM

bike: 8 miles
to the ywca pool

I always bike on the river road to the greenway then over the Sabo bridge,until I reach lake street and the high school where my son goes. I turn left, bike on the sidewalk for half a block, carefully turn in the narrow gate and I’m there, at the u. Today for the first time, maybe ever, I saw a train on the tracks beside the greenway trail. Usually the tracks are empty or, occasionally, someone is walking their dog on them.

swim: 1 mile/1800 yards
ywca pool

Changing into my suit, I overheard a woman talking about swimming in the locker room. “People ask me why I swim. Isn’t it boring, just swimming back and forth? And I tell them that it gives you time to think. I’m always thinking about work stuff, planning what I need to do. I should get paid for my time in the pool because I’m working!” I like locker rooms and the rituals around either getting ready to work out or winding down after you’re finished. I don’t always like talking to other people, but I enjoy listening to their conversations. Frequently, they’re happy and positive, about how great it is to work out or when they started working out or answers to the question of where they got their lotion/socks/shoes/shirt/shorts. The best conversations are between the older women (the silver sneaker set) between 9:30 and 10:00, after they’ve finished the aqua blast class. So much laughing and giggling and joy. They feel good, working their bodies in the water.

Only swam a mile today because I think all the flip turns are messing with my kneecap (I’ve displaced it before, pushing off the wall). I could stop doing flip turns, but I’d rather stop coming to the y and run outside this winter. Swimming is something I’ll do in the summer. Noticed that the blue tiles that make up the plus signs on the walls at either end of the lap are in blocks of 6. I tried thinking about different things while I swam, most of which I don’t remember. Lots of thoughts about my stroke and the catch, push, pull, recovery of it. And, one fun idea about a writing experiment I’m doing right now about my many Sara identities (the Saras): the Sara with a smile not the Sara with storms brewing in her eyes.

Discovered a wonderful poet who is also a swimmer the other day: Maxine Kumin. In her poem “To Swim, to Believe” she writes:

Each time I tear this seam to enter,
all that I carry is taken away from me,
shucked in the dive.

Where have I come from? Where am I going?
What do I translate, gliding back and forth
erasing my own stitch marks in the lane?

What a beautiful way to describe how swimming takes away/erases your thoughts/worries/sense of self!

sept 14/BIKESWIM

bike: 8 miles
to the ywca pool

The hill up to the Sabo bridge was easier today. Could this be because I’m biking it more?

swim: 2 miles/3520 yards
ywca pool

Swam slightly less than on Wednesday, but I did it. 2 miles. I’m hoping to do this twice a week this fall/winter (at least). Might need to mix it up with some sets because an hour of lap swimming with so many flip turns gets a bit tedious. Today I put in a quick set of 4 X 100s on 1:45. Still not enough variety. But, even though it was tedious, I enjoyed doing it and felt good during and after. The main thing I remember about the swim is the beginning. Swimming underwater, my nose almost touching the white tiles, as I swam at the bottom for 3/4s of the first length. Swimming underwater without breathing until I reach the line marking the deep end has been my ritual at the y pool for several years now. Rereading this last line, I’m wondering: is there actually a black line at this point or does it just drop off? I’m doubting my memory now. I’ll have to check next time I swim. It always starts my swim.  I also remember how the choppiness of the water when all the lanes were full and the woman next to me was vigorously kicking. No waves making it hard to breathe, like on the open lake, but a gentle rocking. Oh, and at the beginning of the swim, when I was still getting used to breathing with my nose plug on, feeling the sting of chlorine trapped in my nose, burning. I thought about stopping to adjust the plug but I figured it would stop bugging after a few laps (it did). And the older woman in the brightly colored suit swimming next to me, her body halfway between horizontal and vertical, bobbing and kicking and hardly moving forward. Strange and fascinating and beautiful to watch. And the feeling of power and strength as I plowed through the water after increasing my speed for 4 100s.

Before ending this entry, decided to google, “swimming pool poetry”. Here’s the first thing that popped up:

Swimming Ool
BY KENN NESBITT

Swimming in the swimming pool
is where I like to “B,”
wearing underwater goggles
so that I can “C.”
Yesterday, before I swam,
I drank a cup of “T.”
Now the pool’s a “swimming ool”
because I took a “P.”

This poem reminds me of sign at a nearby Middle School with a pool. Someone removed all the ls so instead of “pool, pool lobby,” it says, “poo poo lobby.” It makes me laugh every time I see it.

sept 7/BIKESWIM

bike: 8 miles
mississippi river road north/midtown greenway/sabo bridge/ywca

What a glorious early fall day! Sunny. Clear. Slightly cool. The view of downtown from the Sabo bridge was beautiful.

swim: 1.36 miles/2400 yards
ywca indoor pool

96 laps. 96 flip turns. Surprisingly, so many laps and turns didn’t bother my mood or my knee today. I felt strong and swift and glad to be swimming again after almost 2 weeks off. The water was so clear. I could see every tile below me. Such a different experience from the lake where I couldn’t see anything. It was also nice not to have to worry about sighting the big orange buoys or getting off course or random debris getting stuck on my hand or my head. I still prefer open swim, but I’ll happily swim in this pool a couple times a week this fall/winter/spring.

sept 6/RUNBIKE

run: 2.5 miles
62 degrees
mississippi river road path, north/south

This is my fourth day in a row of running. Feeling good. Woke up to 53 degrees. Fall is here!

bike: 9 miles
lake nokomis and back

Was planning to swim at the lake today but I got there just as a boat was taking out the last buoys. Last year, they kept the buoys in until the beginning of October. I’m sad but slightly relieved to know that it’s over–no more doubts about whether or not I should try biking over the lake to swim. I can’t, it’s closed. See you next summer, beloved Lake Nokomis.

aug 19/BIKESWIM

bike: 8 miles
lake nokomis

swim: 3.4 miles/5 loops/6000 yards
lake nokomis open swim

5 loops for the first time ever! Maybe I can swim 6 on Tuesday? Felt strong and not too sore. Such a great way to start the final week of the open swim season.

aug 16/RUNBIKESWIM

run: 2.2 miles
mississippi road path, north/south
69 degrees/90% humidity/dew point 66

With my lingering cold and the thick air, it was hard to breathe. Mostly I managed short, jagged breaths. It doesn’t help when the temperature and the dew point are almost the same!

bike: 4.3 miles
to lake nokomis

I only biked to lake nokomis because Scott gave me a ride home. Two things I especially remember: 1. I can “see” the path much better than at the beginning of the summer. Is it the light that makes it better? Am I actually “seeing” it or have I just memorized all the curves? 2. Too many acorns on the path. Sometimes they crunched loudly under my wheels, sometimes they popped and went flying across the path. I was worried my wheel would hit one wrong and I’d crash, or a popping acorn from someone else’s bike would hit me in the face.

swim: 2.72 miles/4 loops/4800 yards
lake nokomis open swim

This is the best open swim season I’ve ever had. I’ve swam 4 loops 5 times this month (so far).  I only swam 4 loops once last summer, on the final night of open swim. The water was warm and calm and buoyant–at least it seemed more buoyant to me. I felt powerful and happy. Swimming back to the big beach, into the sun, I couldn’t see the big orange buoys at all. I swam mostly blind, occasionally glimpsing a stroking arm or the top of the building or a light pole or a lifeguard. I wonder if everyone else had as much trouble as I did or if it was my messed up central vision? I keep planning to stop in the middle of the lake and take a minute to pay attention to the light and the feeling of being immersed in water, but I don’t. It’s hard to stop pushing myself to the other shore. I’ll be happy if I manage to do it just once in the final week. I’m ready for summer to end, but sad that swimming in the lake is almost over too.

aug 14/RUNBIKESWIM

2 miles
dogwood coffee run
75 degrees/77% humidity/dew point 67

Scott and I decided to run together before going to vote in the primaries. So thick outside! Everything felt heavy, especially my lungs and my legs.

bike: 8 miles
lake nokomis

It’s amazing how much easier it is to bike when you have your tires pumped up all the way!

swim: 2.72 miles/4 loops/4800 yards
lake nokomis open swim

Open swim is almost over and I will miss it. 4 more regular sessions + the 2.4 mile race on the final morning are all that’s left. What a great summer. Things I remember about my swim:

  • so many weeds and twigs to swim through, some almost like webs or nets
  • something warm touched my foot, before freaking out correctly decided that it was another swimmer’s hand and not a fish
  • lots of planes flying above
  • such opaque water!
  • several swimmers swimming way out, almost past the edge of the course, others swimming straight, from buoy to buoy
  • glimpsing something out of the corner of my eye–a swimmer? a duck?–decided it was just a wave then suddenly a blue-capped swimmer popped up, someone swimming breaststroke, surfacing only for a second before hiding underwater again–good thing I didn’t swim over them!
  • realization: I love choppy water

aug 7/RUNBIKESWIM

run: 4.5 miles
mississippi river road path, north/south
71 degrees/87% humidity

Dark green tunnel above the gorge. Leaves blocking out my view to the river and the sky. Later, past the old stone steps, I could see slices of the blue gray water. Lots of roller skiers. Some behind me going slow enough that they never caught up. Some ahead of me, slowing down enough that I could pass them. Why so many skiers this week? Ran to the Franklin bridge and then stopped to watch some rowers passing under the bridge. Felt pretty good, even if I walked a few times. Too many discarded acorns on the path crunching and twisting my foot. Why so early with the acorns? Will fall and winter come too soon this year?

bike: 8.6 miles
lake nokomis

A typical bike ride. Not too fast, on the river road. On the way back, looking out through the trees at the river, I felt lucky to live here and be able to bike on this trail so often.

swim: 1 mile
lake nokomis main beach

Looped around the white buoys ringing the big beach. 5 or was it 6 times? The water was gray and calm and cool. My arms felt strong cutting through the water, my legs powerful as I kicked. Several kayaks paddled through the swimming area, too close to me, so I spent much of my swim always looking out for clueless boaters. Swam for a little over 30 minutes. So glad I fired up to bike over. I’m going to miss these long loopy swims when I’m in the pool this winter doing countless flip turns, hoping my knee doesn’t slide out of its groove.