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.

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.

oct 9/RUNSWIM

5.75 miles
franklin loop
47 degrees/raining

When I started my run, it wasn’t raining. But within minutes I felt some mist and by the time I reached the east side of the river it was raining. At first I didn’t feel the rain. I only heard it gently falling on the leaves. Such a comforting sound. Soon enough it was raining and I felt it on my face. I don’t mind running in the rain, as long as it’s not freezing, which it wasn’t today.

What else do I remember?

  • the squeaking sound the wet leaves made as I ran over them
  • the once yellow now glowing orange leaves near the lake street bridge
  • avoiding the cracks in the path just past the railroad bridge
  • looking down at the river as I crossed the Franklin bridge, remembering run across it in the race 2 days ago
  • hearing the trickling of water below the gorge on the st. paul side
  • hearing a dog’s sharp bark down in the gorge
  • seeing a runner up ahead on the franklin bridge and slowly getting closer, finally passing them before the meeker island sign
  • smiling as I ran back across the lake street bridge
  • seeing the Daily Walker up ahead, dressed only in a short sleeved shirt, passing him
  • running past 2 walkers with big umbrellas at my favorite part of the path near the end of my run
  • seeing red yellow orange leaves
  • encountering only one spazzy squirrel

swim: 1 mile/1800 yards
ywca pool

Until my membership expires at the end of the month, I’m swimming a mile at the y after band rehearsal on Tuesday nights. It felt good. I felt strong. And, amazingly, swimming for 30 minutes straight wasn’t boring or tedious.

oct 2/RUNSWIM

5.5 miles
franklin loop
50 degrees/96% humidity

Misty. Humid. Cool. Fall colors are appearing. Greenish yellows. Reds. Oranges. Greeted the daily walker. Felt good, relaxed. After stopping a few times to deal with a phone call in the first 2 miles, was able to run the rest without walking. Running over the Franklin bridge was beautiful. Admired an inverted image of the railroad bridge in the water. Ran around 20-30 seconds faster per mile than my last run. Saw a rafter of wild turkeys on the St. Paul side. Maybe a dozen of them just hanging out on the lawn of the Shriners Hospital. I love that I can see wild turkeys in the middle of the city. Heard water trickling down the side of the gorge. Felt water trickling off of my face. Wondered how long it would be before all the leaves would be gone and I could see to the other side. Thought about the 10 mile race I’m running this Sunday. My goal: to enjoy it and to not take it out too fast.

Anything else I remember?: cars rushing by on the river road, the gorge looking gorgeous in dark green and rich brown, the grit crunching under my feet by the lake street bridge, the yellow leaves on the trees right by the marshall bridge almost all gone already, squirrels darting frantically, no rowers, no roller skiers, any bikers?, no ducks quacking or geese honking, no bugs buzzing, no sirens wailing, no eagles or hawks soaring, no runners or walkers or bikers or drivers irritating me, my knee hurting only slightly and not too often.

swim: 1 mile/1760 yards
ywca pool

After band rehearsal, walked a few blocks to the y for a quick swim. 8:45 is a great time to go to the pool–no one else is around! There was one other swimmer a few lanes over. Far enough over that I couldn’t really see her for most of my swim. My mile went fast. So fast that I wondered if I had miscounted. But I didn’t. I often miscount, thinking ahead too much. The only way I don’t lose track is by mixing up my stroke count. I break the mile up into 200s with a 50 breathing every 3 strokes, a 50 every 4, a 50 every 5, a 50 every 6. I don’t remember much about the swim except: staring down at the blue line in the middle of the lane and then counting the tile of the other blue line that marks the drop off for the deep end: 3 tiles; looking up every so often, noticing the lifeguard walking around; trying to quickly glance at the clock as I swam by but having trouble; and noticing that there are at least 3 clocks within view as I swim, none of which I could see that well.

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 19/SWIM

swim: 2 miles/3600 yards
ywca pool

Pushing off from the wall for my first lap, swimming at the bottom, my face inches from the tiles, it hits me: the line down the center of the lane, the one that is 6 tiles wide, is blue. Last week in an entry, I think I called it black. And, as I wondered in this entry, there is a line marking off the deep end, but it’s blue not black. On the wall, at either end of the lane is a blue plus sign made out of tiles. Maybe next time I swim, I can try to count them. The rest of the tiles are white. Less white this week, than a few weeks ago, right after the pool had its annual cleaning. During the first mile, my goggles were slightly fogged up so I didn’t see as much but when I stopped and quickly cleaned them out with pool water, they were clear for the second mile. This (somewhat) clarity of vision got me thinking about a paragraph I read the other day in an essay about swimming entitled “Buoyancy.” William Spiegelman writes:

Swimming, unique among physical activities, diminishes and almost eliminates the sense of sight, our primary means of engagement with the physical world. You see the sides of the pool, the bottom, the lane markers; you get momentary glimpses of the world as you breathe or raise your head above the water as you turn, but by and large, vision is kept at a minimum.

I guess this is true for a pool, although much more true for open water swimming, but I felt like I was seeing as well as or better than I usually do outside of the water. The water was very clear and I could see the tiny bits of mildew or grout (or who knows what) in the corners of the tiles. I saw other people, floating, kicking, crawling. Brightly colored suits. Yellow fins. A red-shorted, looming lifeguard talking to a woman in a black suit. The timing clock ticking down seconds. A word about the lifeguard: she was fascinating. Walking up to a lane to swim, I overheard her recounting to another woman about all of her aches and pains and the chair yoga class she was taking (or leading?) at another fitness center. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an older lifeguard. Cool. Now I’m wondering if I’m confused, but I’m pretty sure she was the lifeguard.

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 12/BIKESWIM

bike: 8 miles
to the ywca pool

Biking over the Sabo bridge on this beautiful day, I felt lucky to be pedaling hard on a bike and not trapped at the light in a car.

swim: 2 miles/3600 yards
ywca pool

I swam 2 miles in the pool. One mile without stopping, then a few quick breaks during the second mile. Felt pretty good although I’m tired now. The water was clear and, looping so many times (144 flip turns) and for so long (60 minutes), I was able to stare at the bottom of the pool. Pretty clean. Only two things that I could see. Even after all the time I looked at them, I still have no clue what they are. Fuzz? A barrette? Definitely not a bandaid or anything gross. What else do I remember about the swim? Mostly, I remember the other swimmers. All slower than me except for the one guy that started out faster for a lap or two then slowed way down. I like being the fastest swimmer in the pool. And I often am, especially at the time I go swimming: mid-morning. Usually the only other swimmers at this time are retired 60 or 70-somethings. I know that there are 70 year olds that can swim faster than me but they are never at the y pool when I’m there. I can’t quite decide if this desire to be the fastest is a good or a bad thing. Are the swimmers in the other lanes as competitive as me? Probably some of them are. I never actually try to race anyone else, I just like being faster.

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 26/SWIMRACE

2.4 mile swim race
bde maka ska
open swim classic

Third time’s the charm. The first year I tried swimming this race, I had just been diagnosed with juvenile macular degeneration and the lake was too foggy for me to see anything–they almost cancelled it–so I had to drop out. The second year, I displaced my kneecap and my physical therapist advised me not to try swimming it. This year I almost wimped out because of sore legs, but I didn’t. I thought about how much I’ve wanted to swim this race and how I wanted to set a good example for my daughter and I did it. I swam it. I couldn’t see anything because of my vision and all of the water in my goggles, but I found someone else to follow and we made it all the way around the lake. I think she might have led us off track–my watch shows that I swam an extra 500 yards–but we made it and, according to Scott, I got 4th place.

What do I remember about my swim:

  • googles, filled up with water
  • rocks mixed in with sand on the beach floor
  • shallow water–starting the race and walking for the first 15-20 seconds. Heard one swimmer joke, “I thought this was a swimming race, not a walking race!”
  • clear water, checking out the Eurasian watermilfoil just below me
  • not being able to see anything but water and an occasional buoy
  • feeling like I (and the 2 other swimmers I was swimming with) were the only people in the lake
  • having no idea how far I had gone or how much farther I had to go
  • the swimmer next to me and the pink shoulders of her tri suit and white rims of her goggles
  • thinking: I’m actually doing this! yay me!
  • the shocking cold of the water as I entered and the feeling that I couldn’t breathe
  • watching the swimmer ahead of me stop to look where she was going and thinking: please don’t stop, I have no idea where I’m going or where the next buoy is!
  • before the race, overhearing a woman with a cast on her broken feet telling another swimmer: “I broke it at my daughter’s wedding. The doctor told me I couldn’t swim in the race and I thought that was unacceptable, so I’m here and I’ve rigged up something for my foot so I can swim.” What a badass.
  • feeling strong and proud and tired and happy to be done
  • a slightly aching shoulder

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 9/RUNBIKESWIM

run: 6 miles
austin, mn
73 degrees/88% humidity/dew point 70

Hot. Humid. Sunny. Difficult. Ran with Scott through Austin on a loop that was almost entirely nature trails winding through woods and fields. Nice, except for when the path was in the bright sun.

bike: 8.6 miles
lake nokomis

swim: 1.3 miles/2 loops
lake nokomis open swim

In the early stages of some sort of sickness that involves achy muscles and sore throat so I didn’t want to swim too much. Swam the first loop with goggles that were completely fogged up. I could barely see the little beach. Swimming mostly by memory. Switched to my other pair of goggles and was able to see for the second loop. Halfway through the second loop, my nose plug slipped a little, enabling air to get out on one side. Such a weird feeling.

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.

aug 5/bikeswim

bike: 8.6 miles
lake nokomis

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

Such choppy water! Big swells that messed up my stroke on the way to the little beach and then crashed into me on the way back to the big beach. Wasn’t into the swells that rolled in behind me, but I liked crashing into the short wall of waves. Fun! After one loop I thought the most that I would manage was 2 loops, but I just kept swimming. I’d take a break at the beach for 30 seconds and then start again. I’m wiped out, but it was great. I’m proud of myself for not stopping, not making excuses for why I shouldn’t swim another loop. Things I remember:

  • The spray of the water, shooting up, as it hit a swimmer ahead of me.
  • The silver shimmering of the over-turned rescue boat on the shore of the little beach.
  • The lone duck swimming out in the middle of the lake.
  • Not being able to see anything but a quick glimpse of an arm out of the water.
  • Almost hitting the floating dock on my way into the little beach because I couldn’t see it until I was almost on top of it.
  • Hearing a swimmer tell another swimmer that she saw something swimming below her out in the middle of the lake but just tried to ignore it.
  • Feeling strong powerful tough as I swam straight into the waves without stopping

aug 2/RUNBIKESWIM

run: 3.3 miles
mississippi river road path, north/south
57 degrees!

A cooler morning. No headphones. Lots of bikers, not as many runners. Focused a lot of attention on my arm swing again. Saw some rowers being dropped off under the lake street bridge, above the Minneapolis Rowing Club. Maybe my daughter Ro should try something like that? I bet she’d be great at it. I think rowing on the river would be really cool. Don’t remember much else from my run. No roller skiers. Not too many birds. Only one or two dogs.

bike: 8.6 miles
lake nokomis

The bike back was cool but beautiful. The sun starting to sink. The trees on fire. The light, pink. Biked with Ro and Scott.

swim: 2 miles/3 loops/3600 yards
lake nokomis open swim

Open swim is the best! The clouds before I started were puffy streaks, like someone had raked their fingers through them. The water was still. Not many people around. 2 kids swinging, entertained me with their toddler talk and their songs–including Santa Claus is Coming to Town. The air was cool but the water was warm. My feet felt like they might cramp and so did my calf so I was a bit wary of swimming too much or kicking too hard. Decided to only do 3 loops instead of 4. On the final lap, stopped in the middle of the lake, did some breaststroke and then listened to the silence. So amazing! Next time, I’d like to do an extra loop where I just swim out into the middle of the lake and tread water, experiencing the calm and the strange feeling of being out in the middle of the water.

july 31/RUNBIKESWIM

run: 4 miles
mississippi river road path, north/south
72 degrees/75% humidity/dew point 63

I was going to write that last summer I had no problem getting up at 6 am for a summer run but then I checked my apple watch and saw that almost all of my runs in June and July from last year were at 8, so I guess I’ve been running this late for a few years. It would be easier to run earlier. Cooler. One problem: it’s cooler but much more humid with a higher dew point. Which is worse: high humidity with a lower temperature or lower humidity with a higher temperature. Can I get up early enough to find out? Heard the rowers on the river and my feet striking the ground. Worked on my arm swing and raising my knees. Encountered some fast bikers and a roller skier slowly passing me. Didn’t listen to music. Avoided the direct sun, which was already hot. Glanced at my shadow. Happily ran past the cars stopped at the stop sign, briefly wondering if they noticed me and wished they were out running.

bike: 4.3
to lake nokomis

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

Another 4 loops! This time the water was choppy. So choppy that I had to breathe on one side. And it was crowded. So many swimmers swimming across and so many people hanging out that lake. But, I did it. 4 loops! 1 hour and 16 minutes which probably means it was slightly less than 4800 yards but it was still 4 loops. I felt strong and powerful as I cut through the choppy water and lifted myself up to see the buoys. When I was almost done with the last loop, my foot suddenly started to cramp up. Instantly, I stopped and shook it out until it felt better. Crisis averted. No repeat of the calf cramp from hell that I got 3 years ago. Other random things about the swim: almost ran into several people. Was attacked by weeds that got stuck to my cap and stayed there and by a stick. Was wary of a menacing sailboat that looked like it wanted to cross over, right through the swimmers. The slightly setting sun was blinding on the way back to the big beach. The water felt warm–76 degrees.

july 30/RUNSWIM

run: 3 miles
lake nokomis

Thought about running around the lake twice, but it was too sunny and hot. My legs felt sore. What do I remember from the run? Not much. Not enough shade. Lots of walkers and dogs. A few runners. Saw two roller skiers right at the end–always a good omen. Not sure if I’ve ever seen roller skiers at the lake before.

swim: 1 mile/5 little loops
lake nokomis main beach

What a morning for a swim! Warm. Sunny. No waves. I’m so glad I made it to the lake and swam. Got into a rhythm, breathing every 5 strokes. Didn’t see any fish but had a few run-ins with lake debris–floating weeds wrapping around my arms. Saw one other swimmer and a bunch of paddle boarders. One rower. A group of kids taking swimming lessons with the lifeguards. Felt relaxed and peaceful. Heard sloshing in the water and a bit of splashing as my arms broke through the surface. Thought about my stroke: bending my elbows, doing a strong pull under the water, sometimes touching my hipbone as I brought my arm in, legs kicking slowly then quickly. Had no problems seeing the white buoys with my peripheral vision. Only thought about Jaws and the girl at the beginning swimming then being attacked once, for less than a minute. Didn’t worry about anything lurking. Heard some planes flying above. No seagulls or ducks around. I’d really like to try and swim everyday this month.

july 29/BIKESWIM

bike: 8.6
lake nokomis

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

4 loops! The goal for the rest of the summer is to swim at least 4 loops as many times as I can–and also try to swim the full 2 hours at least once a week. It felt great today. The water was refreshing and calm. Hardly any wind and no waves. The sun was blinding on the way to the little beach and I couldn’t see the orange buoys at all, but I kept swimming straight and was confident enough to know that I’d make it over to the floating dock without straying off course. Payed attention to the sloshing sounds as my hands cut through the water. Thought about how many years I’ve been doing open swim (5) and how much work I’ve put into feeling confident and strong and happy as I swim back and forth across the lake. Didn’t think about much else–except how wonderful the water is for erasing my memory–I can’t remember what I thought about–and starving the strength of my anxieties–I can’t hold onto a thought long enough to turn it into a worry. I don’t (over) think in the water, I swim glide cut through slice pull stretch float crawl kick sight breathe count strokes.

july 24/RUNBIKESWIM

run: 1 mile
lake nokomis

Attempted a training run with Ro around Lake Nokomis but her resistance to accomplishing goals won out. Her ability to resist is impressive even as it’s disheartening. I will continue to believe that one day she will learn to harness her superpower in ways that make her (and the world) better, more just, more joyful. Some days it’s so hard to be a parent and let your kids be who they need to be. It was a beautiful day at the lake. Sunny. Breezy. Bright blue water. Even as I was angry and frustrated, I was also annoyed at myself for not being able to let go of it and enjoy the beautiful morning. Our plan had been to run around the lake and then swim out to the dock for the first time this summer. We walked around the lake and then left before swimming. Bummer.

bike: 8.6 miles
lake nokomis

A beautiful afternoon. A very slow bike ride with Ro and Scott. Right at the river, past the falls, over the moustache bridge, beside the creek, up 2 hills, down to the lake. Then, after the swim, back again.

swim: 1.36 miles/2 loops/2400 yards
lake nokomis
water temp: 73 degrees

Another great swim. Every swim, I feel more confident about not being able to see much and every swim I feel stronger. On the way back from the little beach, the sun was so blinding that I couldn’t see anything and the water was choppy enough that I had to mostly breathe on one side, but I didn’t care. Swimming out to the little beach, I kept seeing the white sail of a boat beside me. Also saw the red of the kayak and (sometimes) the orange of the buoy. The only think I remember hearing were the shouts of the lifeguards as they yelled back and forth to each other. After the swim, I met up with Scott and Rosie at Sandcastle–the restaurant at the lake. I had a beer, listened to the bluegrass musician and watched a few sailboats moving across the lake. The perfect summer evening. Recognized and celebrated. Redemption after a difficult morning.

july 19/SWIM

.68 miles/1200 yards/1 loop
lake nokomis open swim

Thunderstorms were expected, but this week, unlike last, I lucked out. Only a strong wind and a light drizzle that briefly turned into a heavy downpour when I was halfway across the lake. As I waited for the lifeguards to set up the buoys, I chatted with a fellow swimmer. Joyfully, he talked about how fun it was to swim in the wind and rain last week. He said, “I can handle it. I grew up swimming in Lake Ontario!” I was there last week too, but I was out of the water and on my bike by the time it was pouring. I would have liked to stay in the water last week and experience all that rain, with the dark sky, but I had biked to the lake and was hoping to get home before the storm hit (which I didn’t, but that’s another story).

Swimming in the rain is strange. If it’s a light drizzle, it’s hard to tell it’s happening. Today’s rain was heavier. I could see it coming down when I lifted my eyes out of the water to sight the shore. For some reason, in these conditions, it’s much easier to see the buoys and the beach and other swimmers. Why? Not sure. But I love swimming in the rain.

Found a poem with the title, Swimming in the Rain by Chana Bloch:

swimming in the rain

Swaddled and sleeved in water,
I dive to the rocky bottom and rise
as the first drops of sky

find the ocean. The waters above
meet the waters below,
the sweet and the salt,

and I’m swimming back to the beginning.
The forecasts were wrong.
Half the sky is dark
but it keeps changing. Half the stories
I used to believe are false. Thank God
I’ve got the good sense at last

not to come in out of the rain.
The waves open
to take in the rain, and sunlight

falls from the clouds
onto the face of the deep as it did
on the first day

before the dividing began.

Roger Deakins writes about swimming in the rain too–in Waterlog: A Swimmer’s Journal–but I didn’t write the passage down so I’ll have to either buy the book or go back to the library to find it. Something about the drops on the surface.

At the little beach, I decided to stop and readjust my nose plug. Big mistake. It fell off. I almost caught it before it tumbled to the sandy bottom. But then it was gone. 3 nose plugs sacrificed to Nokomis in 2 years. Maybe I should attach them to a cord? The worst part: I had to swim back across without a plug, knowing that, with my allergies, my nose might be completely stuffed up all night (thankfully, it wasn’t). I swam as fast as I could. So strange swimming without a plug after 3 (or is it 4?) years. I’m not sure how fast I swam, but it made my shoulders ache warmly for several hours after I was done. I like that feeling.

july 17/BIKESWIM

bike: 8.6 miles
lake nokomis

Watched a replay of stage 10 of the Tour de France this afternoon. So many mountains! The eventual winner Alaphilippe went at least 80 kph down the side of a mountain, sharply turning, hovering on the edge. I can’t imagine biking this way–meaning, I don’t know how I could ever do it, or why I’d want to. But I love watching it. For almost 10 years, Scott and I have looked forward to July and watching the Tour. My bike ride over to lake nokomis was much slower but seemed to have its own dangers. Not treacherous mountain descents but sharp turns, speeding cars that drive too close to the path and runaway surreys.

swim: 1.36 miles/2 loops/2400 yards
lake nokomis open swim

A beautiful evening for a swim! The lake water was warm: 80 degrees! It was calm. Very few waves. And it was bright. It no longer looks like green pea soup, but yellow lentils–maybe? Still opaque, but lighter, brighter, glowing yellow. The buoys were hard to spot, but I kept swimming, knowing I was on course. I felt strong again, trying to work on pulling my arms more quickly and powerfully through the water. In the second loop, my googles seemed to fog up which made it harder to see all the other swimmers–and there were a lot, a couple 100 maybe. So I stopped after 2 loops.

july 15/BIKESWIM

bike: 8.6 miles
lake nokomis

80 degrees with a dew point of 72! The air was so heavy, even biking was difficult. Scott was planning to run 8 or 10 miles but had to stop after 2 when he almost passed out. Glad I wasn’t running today.

swim: 2 miles
lake nokomis open swim

It was hazy and bright and difficult to see but the water was warm and smooth. The lifeguards put the first buoy so far out that it was over halfway across the lake. I was worried I would get off course before I got to it but, surprisingly, I was fine. I swam straight to it. I remember the third loop the most. Something about the light–a mix of clouds, a blueish gray sky–made it very difficult to see anything in front of me, especially the orange of the buoys. I also remember noticing the slapping of the water as I cut through it and how it sloshed as it went over my head. Thinking more about the orange of the buoys: Scott reminded me that the most difficult color combination for my central vision is blue background with orange. Somehow the orange often disappears against the blue. So a blue sky with orange buoys is hard–it’s amazing that I can see the buoys at all! I must really love swimming in open water to be willing to swim across a lake when I can’t see. I do.

july 12/RUNBIKESWIM

run: 3 miles
mississippi river road path, north/south

bike: 4.3
lake nokomis

swim: .36 miles
open swim
18 mph wind/choppy water

Even though severe rain/thunderstorm was coming, decided to bike to the lake and try to swim a little before we were evacuated from the water. So choppy! And such a dark, ominous sky. Purplish gray. Managed to swim out to the second buoy, about halfway across the lake, before turning around. A little less than 10 minutes in the water. Got out just before lightening was spotted. What a bummer. Still glad I went. I will remember that sky for years and how choppy the water was and the image of the orange buoy as I rounded it. I’ll also remember getting caught in the rain–suddenly the clouds unzipped–and walking my bike in the downpour to the awning at Nokomis Beach coffee then calling superhero Scott and waiting for him to drive over and pick me up.

july 7/BIKESWIM

bike: 8.6 miles
lake nokomis

swim: 2 mile race
lake nokomis
59 minutes/1st place 35+

Today I swam in my first open swim race. And I won for my age group. So cool! I can’t quite express how proud I am of myself. Not so much because I won–which is great–but because I did the race at all. Since I was diagnosed with a macular degenerative eye disease 2 years ago, I’ve been nervous to do an open swim race. Whole sections of my central vision are gone and I have a lot of trouble sighting the buoys. I was worried I might get too far off course. No problem today. Lots of other swimmers around me for the first section. Then, I swam behind another swimmer for the rest of the race so I didn’t have to worry about looking for the buoys. I tried to do an open swim race 2 years ago, right after my diagnosis, but it was too foggy and I was too overwhelmed by my new lack of vision. I tried again last year but a month before the race my kneecap displaced and I couldn’t walk without a brace for 2 months. Now, finally, after overcoming injury and my doubts about my very bad vision, I swam and loved it.

I got to swim all around the lake, not just across it. Past the little beach, the overlook on the small hill, the big bridge and the boats. Didn’t encounter any fish, but I did swim through some milfoil. Again, the water looked pea green. Don’t remember thinking about much except for staying close to the swimmer ahead of me.

july 5/RUNBIKESWIM

For some reason, I’m resisting writing in my log this week–maybe because I’m nervous about my 2 mile swim race on Saturday? Instead of forcing it, I’ll just add the distances in my log with no entries.

run: 3 miles
mississippi river road path, north/south7
76 degrees

Needed the run to change my attitude after becoming too frustrated with the kids for not wanting to do their training this morning. Listening to Lizzo helped. She’s great. Do I remember anything from my run other than trying to stop thinking about how irritated I was by my kids? No.

bike: 8.5 miles
lake nokomis

Biked to the lake for open swim. A beautiful late afternoon. Now that I’m used to it, biking is much easier, although the early evening sun and the shade on the path made certain spots very difficult to see. Did I think about anything while I was biking other than trying to stay on the path and not run into anyone or anything? Not today.

swim: 2 miles/3 loops/3600 yards
lake nokomis

I feel ready for my swim race this Saturday even though I’m really scared. What if I can’t see the buoys? Trying to calm myself down by asking and answering, “what’s the worst that could happen?” If I can’t see the buoys, I can stop and look until I find them or wait until a lifeguard finds me and points me in the right direction. I’ll be fine. Even so, I’ll be happy when this race is over. It’s been stressing me out. Today I looked down at the water below me and I’ve decided it looks pea green, almost like pea soup. I don’t like pea soup but I don’t mind it as the color of the lake water. Noticed lots of planes flying above me. Rarely was able to see the orange buoys, but that didn’t stop me from staying on course. Felt the best in my third and final loop after I had already been swimming for 45 minutes.
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