River Swimming 

12 October 2015

Who knew that rivers other than the Hudon could be so much fun?! Okay, that is sort of a joke. I am totally bias to the sweet Hudson but I can’t deny the good times I’ve had in other rivers, especially this month. 

A few weeks ago Kathleen Wilson put on a wonderful Swim Around Charleston event! It is a relatively new swim event but one that I’m excited to watch grow. What could be better than a 12-mile swim, surrounded by dolphin, set around a beautiful city, and run so well that the start is almost early it is so on time. I wasn’t a swimmer for this event this year, I had the pleasure of hanging with Kathleen on the official boat all day, but I fully intend to jump in to complete this swim in the very near future! I’d recommend it to anyone. https://m.facebook.com/pages/Swim-Around-Charleston/180662841996941

This weekend I went back to Chattanooga to participate in the Swim the Suck 10-mile swim down the Tennessee River Gorge. Now this is a little hidden gem I’ve known about! I participated in this swim two years ago and loved every aspect of the event! From Friday night’s dinner cooked by Hank Hill, race director Karah Nazor’s father, to the local brew kegs at the end, and every second in between. This is another event I have to give huge kudos to the race director for because through all the chaos, she smoothly runs an event that makes everyone feel as though they are family and keeps them coming back. http://www.swimthesuck10mile.com

Enough preaching about how great the events are in general, which goes unsaid if you have been to either of them but a little more about this weekend in Chattanooga.

I arrived Friday afternoon a few hours before the pre-race meeting/dinner so I headed to the Brewhaus to meet my CouchSurfing host for the weekend, Caleb. Don’t worry, it isn’t as sketchy as it sounds – and I have survived each of my CS experiences with a smiling face. I met Caleb and chatted for a bit, then headed down to the river to jump in for a splash with Victoria (always love seeing her – and she was the reason I came to Swim the Suck my first year!), Randy (I’m working on getting this guy into the cold), and Caroline! After a quick stretch out swim we headed up to Outdoor Chattanooga to check-in. The incredible Karah presented a PowerPoint highlighting the key bits. I won one of the raffle drawings which was entry in to 2016 Kingdom Swim in Vermont! Stoked for that. 

    
  

Victoria and I! 

The Vermontster Ice Swimmers meet again!   
 My assigned kayaker never showed to the event so a dedicated floater kayaker stepped up and offered his service. Now, I won’t deny my unease and he totally knows this because we joked about it after, but in talking with Erich at the dinner he informed me he had never piloted a swimmer before. I was a little hesitant because I’m used to putting my trust in my kayaker (thanks for spoiling me, dad and Lizzy and Alex and Terry and Pat and Margareth and all you other kayak swim support pros!), but all reservations went out the window quickly as we made our way down the river side by side. Erich could not have done a better job and I am so grateful for his incredible support and talent. 

   

 Our finisher awards were hand crafted cutting boards stamped with SUCK and bottle opener key chains, appropriately since swimming is all about the eating and drinking. Karah also designed awesome Suck hoodies! Another important aspect of the sport – the swag. 

 
Erich is in the white kayak and I’m the bobbing head next to him, just after my finish.   
 
It was a rainy but wonderful start. 

   
Met some more of the amazing Palmetto Masters swimmers. 


Thanks again for everything, Karah! And this is Alex Meyer, Olympian beast who competed in the London OW event. 

   
I am really happy with how my swim went thanks to carbopro, jolyn, earth’s best (because broccoli should always be a part of marathon swimming), and speedo. I felt no pain and I remained steady and strong the entire swim!

I have so much gratitude for the open water swimming community and am glad to have the feeling of home in each of the people I’ve met along the way, and in so many beautiful bodies of water. 

Swim happy, everyone! 

Cold Sweet Cold

I keep saying how I want to be better at posting more. I never finished writing about Honduras, nor did I finish my Iceland posts. Maybe I will get back to them at some point, but for now as I find myself sitting in my new apartment in Charleston, I was inspired going through pictures of Argentina. I wrote a poem today influenced greatly by my experience at the glacier. I can’t reiterate enough how wonderful it is to find yourself with a group of people who not only make you feel endless love but who offer you a sense of belonging. I’m grateful for my marathon swim family but my cold water swim family has taken me somewhere completely different, somewhere I love so deeply for its uniqueness. Here is my poem (please excuse the language, I don’t often curse but the water sometimes does that to a person), inspired by my time spent in the waters of the Perito Moreno Glacier in Argentina. It didn’t transfer quite right so imagine a break between each third line (ugh).

  

 

A Glacial Love Affair


The cold burns as you dip that first toe

A little bit further you slide the other toes in, then the foot

“What the fu*k am I doing?” you whisper to yourself

Slowly the water separates and invites you in

It clings to your epidermis as you accept its invitation

Into the frigid water

The temperature plays on the line of freezing

Your breath quickens; your body tightens

“Fu*k!” you quietly scream

No mercy is shown for he who tempts nature’s chilly pool

As the pain grows, so does the smile creeping on your face

How could you not love this pain?

When Mother Nature offers herself

Raw, cold, and unyielding

You must embrace her, for her beauty is innocent

Your entire body is submerged in the icy water

Your heart beats faster

Oh, to know you are alive!

Further in you slither

She drinks you as if nothing were more planned

Then to be here in this place, now

Your chest, your neck, your head

They sink below the door of the surface

The numbness sets in as the smile grows

It’s time to breathe

Your head breaks her wall

As your hands stab through

All you need to do is move forward

Just touch the other side

And then you can end this pain

But why would you want to?

Your muscles swim by memory

As your body is too cold to be meticulous

When you reach the other side

The smile is the only thing everyone around you sees

The real pain has only just begun

Getting out of that glacial water is necessary

But you know within

That water is where you are at home

🙂

The Good Kind of Hurt

You know that feeling you get when you push yourself so hard that every muscle in your body aches? That feeling of pure exhaustion and over exertion that hinders you natural flow? That feeling that makes you want to collapse and scream in agony, yet somehow you also want to smile because you earned that level of pain? I love that feeling. 

I can’t honestly say I was prepared for what I took on this past Saturday and Sunday. I didn’t dedicate a fraction of the time or effort most of my sea friends committed to their training because life got in the way and I let it.  

This weekend I participated in Stage One and Stage Two of the 8 Bridges swimming event in the Hudson River. This is by far one of my all time favorite events – as a swimmer and volunteer. It is also by far one of the absolute greatest open water events in the world, and is in fact the worlds longest stage race. The event is well organized and enjoyable, and takes place in an amazing location. I completed Stage Three a few years ago and loved every second. Since the first year of the event I’ve wanted to do more stages. This year I went for it and registered for the first two stages, with the ultimate goal of making my way all the way down the Hudson soon enough. 

Swimming in the Hudson is like magic. If you’ve never done it then you’re missing out. That might sound strange to most people, and I’m sure I present somewhat questionable having said that, but it’s the truth. An amazing waterway with breathtaking views, I like to think of the Hudson (particularly the 8 Bridges swimming aspect) as an escape. Where else can you transcend reality and societal norms in such a way as to put your head down for hours on end and see nothing but the silhouettes of mountains, the shapes of playful clouds, and…well, your kayaker, because let’s be honest you need them there with you and you see them at nearly every breath you take. It is therapy for the soul. 

Upon arriving upstate in preparation for this event I surprised myself in that I am not sure I’ve ever felt less nervous for an event. I was sort of waiting for it to hit me that I’d be taking on this challenging journey down the river but that slap in the face never seemed to come. I think this has something to do with how great the event is in its entirety. To be surrounded by so many talented, genuine, spirited, generous, and loving people is a special thing, and that’s what this event gives you. I don’t believe the nervous ever set in for me because of the people, my people. Like so many great open water swim events, it is easy to feel a sense of belonging that you might lack in many other aspects of life – at least that is how I feel. This same feeling came over me when I was in Vermont for the Ice Swimming Championships, the feeling of pure bliss in knowing that each individual around you shares the passion you have or nonetheless carries the desire to support that passion in you. 

  
I digress. Stage One was beautiful. We started off with a perfectly calm and peaceful morning picking up just a bit of chop on the second half. To be frank, I don’t have much else to say about day one because it was so great in all aspects. Oh, but I will mention how wonderful it was to finish strong with John smiling on one side, gliding through the water on the paddle board and my amazing kayaker Lizzy on the other side, with a smile on her face as she’d had all day. 

  
Day Two on the other hand was rough. Having been in a car accident less than two weeks ago and experiencing whiplash, I was slightly hesitant in the conditions we were experiencing. The Hudson sure likes giving us a true washing machine adventure. Hour after hour I kept waiting for the moment the river was going to calm down and the sun was going to shine. It didn’t. Despite my neck pains though, it was a fun ride! Maybe not ideal for 7+ hours of swimming but even in those testing conditions, how could one not love being toyed with by the very element in which they came to play? I love it. Toward the end of day two the current changed after only two swimmers reached the ending point, the Mid-Hudson Bridge. All the rest of us who hadn’t made the choice sooner to get out were pulled, as the speed picked up against our favor. That’s how the river works, like magic. 

  
Open water swimming is a test to withstand anything the elements so choose to throw ones way. It’s the price of admission to enjoy the waters and I would happily pay that price any day. Though I was a part of those pulled just shy of the bridge, I have to say I’m pretty happy with myself for swimming nearly 40 miles in two days. I wasn’t sure how my swims would end – now I know, and the worst of it is sore muscles – and I would do it again like that in a heart beat. Maybe with a little extra training time though next year. 

🙂