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