Swim MS

Swimming to support those with Multiple Sclerosis

MS Awareness Life

For those of us connected to Multiple Sclerosis May is usually a pretty busy month!  There are information sessions, awareness campaigns and usually several volunteer opportunities.  This year was no exception, in fact it may have been the busiest month we have seen here in BC!  Most communities in the province held their annual walks in May, and four out of five Lower Mainland/Fraser Valley Walks occurred just this past Sunday. 

Now that I am working at the MS Society I am learning that our busy months end only to make way for even busier months!  But I love it!  See I believe that we will find the cause of MS...maybe even a cure in my lifetime.  I truly believe that this discovery will take place in beautiful BC.  Every time we complete an event or launch a new campaign I think to myself "this is one more step forward".  These days my time has been limited to running between office and meeting and event after event.  In transit I hit the pool and stop by swim meets to recruit relay teams for SwimMS.  I feel sometimes that when I speak with people I mostly speak about my work, and my mission.   I know some folks may be getting a little tired, but I'm not!  It's not that I want to tire anyone.  I believe in what I am doing.  For the futures of my friends and my family member - I believe in my work.  Some people may not know anyone with MS, or maybe they don't know them well enough to see how the disease affects them.  I like to think I help them see.

This year SwimMS has so many changes.  It's going to be a far different event, but I feel it is still important.  Last year my team and I created lots of excitement with our lofty goal, but this year we bring the mission closer to the community by calling on our friends and fellow swimmers to join us.  For the purposes of this initiative, once again I must thank May. 

A week ago our beautiful outdoor pools opened.  Between all the other stuff going on I found peace and calm at Kits pool.  The salty water refreshed me.  Being able to swim in the crisp water of the pool while looking out to the ocean, the sky and the mountains eases my fears.  Following my first Kits pool swim this year I took a moment to stand in the sunshine and enjoy my surroundings.  I closed my eyes and listened to the noises around me and felt the breeze and the sea water.  I love kits pool! 

This May also marked my earliest open water training swim!  On Saturday my fiance and I drove to Sasamat Lake in Port Moody.  It was a dull and chilly day.  We arrived to a parking lot which was empty except for a few cars.  White Pine Beach was almost entirely vacant.  An elderly fisherman sat at the end of the beach on a stool.  He watched as we strolled down to the waters edge in our wetsuits and slipped into the black water.  Never before have I set out in the ocean or lake in May.  It felt great!  The two of us made our way to the opposite end of the lake where a small group of people sat on the bridge taking in the scenery...and watched the crazy swimmers.  I also love lake swimming!

The past two years has gotten more and more exciting.  I feel lucky that I have taken the steps in life to get me where I am today.  I am thankful that I felt ready to get back in the water.  I am thankful that I knew when to leave my career in Dentistry and that I learned the valuable lesson of patience while I waited for the right fit.  I am thankful for the people I have met and the support and encouragement I have received.  I am so happy to be back out under the clouds and equally happy to be nearing the second SwimMS in August!

May is MS awareness month, but for myself and many of my friends, we have chosen a lifestyle which is based on awareness.  We as a community know that important strides are being made and we will continue to work towards those moments.  Those days on which we can say "THIS is what causes MS" and "This is the cure".

-I can't wait to say those two things!

It's all coming back to me now....

Ok.  I know what you are thinking....I wrote some strange fluff piece about kits pool and respecting one another and then disappeared.  I am not going to lie.  It happened.  The truth is that I have been a little bit stuck lately.  I think I am experiencing this for a several reasons. 

  • Last year was amazing, and scary, and I suppose there was an assumption that the second time around would somehow be an easier experience
  • My mind has been wavering in and out of preparation, perhaps because I swam so much last year and part of me wasn't ready to commit again
  • I am working.  I found this very difficult last year too, which is why I quit my job around this time and started working part time at the pools (very convenient)
  • Life is just....tiring.  This isn't meant to be sad, but things have been really busy.  I am selling my place, learning the ins and outs of a new career, and my iron levels have been way off.

This isn't meant to be a laundry list of complaints.  It's my confession.  I have been off my game.  needless to say, I recognize this, and I am so eager to snap out of it.  And remember that fear I mentioned?  Can you believe it - it's still here!  Only now I am afraid of not living up to a high standard I have set for myself.  I am afraid of the possibility that I wont raise as much money for MS research as I did last year, and that I won't find as many relay teams as I had hoped for.  Let's face it, I am still scared of the cold water for 12 hours....I don't think you ever start looking forward to that part!

Over the past couple weeks I have had some good chats with myself.  I have reflected on my goals from last year, my goals for this year, and the impression I want to leave on the world when I am no longer here.  I am tired of being tired darn it!  I made a promise that once I had my iron and nutrition taken care of, once I was off the couch, I would live every day changing things for the better.  Even in some small way.  I am lucky that I now work at the MS Society, because I accomplish this almost always.  The challenge is to look outside of my regular 9-5.  I want to go above and beyond what my job description says and I want SwimMS to really become something!  So - this very moment I am changing mindsets.  This very moment I am back on track.

Thanks to everyone who has provided support this year!  I am so excited to continue moving forward!  Together we will #endMS!

Anyone else looking to raise funds for the Multiple Sclerosis Society can create their own initiative at www.ichallengems.ca

It's the Kits Pool Count Down (dodo dooooodooo - dodo do do do)

Holy smokes - I cannot believe it is nearly April!  So far it seems as though our late winter simply switched positions with Spring, but here's hoping the sunshine comes out again.  While training in the pool has been wonderful it is always uplifting for a swimmer to know that sun kissed swims at Kits Pool are just around the corner.  Particularly as a distance swimmer!  Kit's 137.5 meter lengths are the closest simulation of open water swimming, while staying chlorinated.  Swimming aside, another great thing about outdoor pools is simply the atmosphere.

For the most part Kits pool is a magnetic force drawing happy people to join together in the fantastic bond that is sharing a giant bath.  Unfortunately there are those who can turn even this experience into a war zone with fellow pool goers.  Some things to remember:

  • There is only one lane however it is quite wide, so please give each other as much space as possible (assigning the outskirts of the lane to those with a leisurely pace)
  • Kits pool can be EXTREMELY busy!  When this is the case ignore point one and cut people some slack if they bump you (we all just want to exercise and get our Vit D)
  • Most important:  If a conflict arises talk it out and go together to ask a lifeguard to clarify the rules (a lot of well intentioned folk have been known to pass out the wrong information, but I absolutely appreciate the enthusiasm)

I don't mean to be cheeky.  In fact my intentions are the opposite.  As both a swimmer and a lifeguard at the outdoor pools I can see how the negativity affects not only those involved in the conflict, but everyone around them as well.  I truly love Vancouver's pools and beaches.  Thinking about our summer season gives me the warm-fuzzies and I want others to enjoy them as well! 

Clearly I am ahead of the game on my two-piece training suit day dreams, but hey... no harm in planning for the future!  Cheers to those who frequent our amazing outdoor pools!  The count down is on - see you in May!

Tis the season to swim!

Two months before the SwimMS marathon took place I left the field of dentistry.  My summer gig of lifeguarding at Kits Pool was waiting for me, and for too long I was a sad person.  Well, I don't know if sad describes it.  I was over worked, under appreciated, and stressed...everyday!  The stress never seized to exist.  I left my job and committed to a slower lifestyle (temporarily).  My last shift at the pool was September 12th and currently I don't have a new job.

The break has been amazing!  For the past several months I have felt grounded.  I have been relaxed.  The time has also given me an opportunity to find out what it is I really want from this life.  I have been volunteering, brushing up on my professional skills, and recently said 'YES!' when the man I love asked me to marry him!  Life is pretty good!

Another pleasant side effect of not working is that I have been able to get into the water quite a bit lately.  I have tried to maintain my regular Monday night and Wednesday morning masters practices, but have also made a point to swim on my own.  I can feel it paying off - slowly but surely.  Several weeks ago I made it back under 1:10 for a 100 push.  I have made an effort to swim three times a week, and I usually run at least once a week as well.  While I don't yet have a strict end goal this year, I have some ideas.  Either way, the feeling I have in the water (well, most days) is amazing!  Swimming.  Floating on the surface of the clear water is like flying.  When you really commit to getting in the water you begin to experience a weightlessness that cannot be reproduced.  I love swimming and with the start of the new year, I am excited to see where 2015 will take me.  Hopefully it will include a new job soon, but I know that this year will lead to even more happiness and personal development.  It's easy to think this way in January.  New Years resolutions have us all motivated and re-inspired.  Why not every day?  Every day we should be able to wake up and feel like new again.  Each morning is an opportunity to try again at being successful, being healthy or fit, being a better version of me than yesterday.  I am willing to take on that challenge.

Starting with SwimMS I will continue to improve on my yesterdays!  Feel free to join me!  Create your own goals, and if you find one day that you fell off the wagon....tomorrow is a new day.  Get back on!  In 2015 SwimMS will continue to raise a voice in British Columbia.  I invite anyone who wants to get involved to leave a message.  We will be thrilled to have you!

Happy New Year BC!  We look forward to working with you!

Nap's Over!

Good Morning!  While I realize that it may not be morning when you read this, it feels like morning to me.  After my twelve hour dip at Kits Beach I went into a comfy slumber, free from the pool and free from strict schedules. 

My body recovered from the 36km much quicker than I had anticipated.  It was my mind that needed a little extra time.  While I don't like to admit it, I have a hard time bouncing back from long commitments like SwimMS.  I don't at all mean that I don't enjoy the commitment, or that I can only focus for a short period of time... what I mean is that I do like to take advantage of down time when it is earned. 

The last year of my life was focused mostly on my swim.  At times I felt as though it was hard to think or talk about anything else, especially when summer arrived.  I was extremely lucky to be able to travel to Disney Land with my boyfriend and step-son, but this included early morning swims at the hotel pool and spending one of our park days napping and pampering some sun stroke.  By July I was swimming six days a week.  Following August 16th I swam twice in September, solely to take advantage of the sun.  This weekend I finally jumped back in and now the slumber is over.

On Friday, UBC held it's annual Alumni meet.  AT this event the current swim team and us old folks dual in the pool.  At this particular event, our tired old bodies get the advantage of false starts, tagging out when we get tired, and referees who turn a blind eye. It sounds bad but it's tradition!  It's also the only way to guarantee we keep coming back.  I swam a mixture 50's and finished the night off with shared memories over a pint.  This day is always one I look forward to.  Alumni from various years come out and meet the current team.  It's a great opportunity to catch up, but also to pass on wisdom and experiences to the young swimmers hoping to continue our important traditions and our legacy.  Every year I cherish this event and the memories it allows me to revisit.

In addition to getting back in the pool, I have been working as a part time fundraising assistant with the MS Society.  This position is volunteer and happens one day a week.  I love Wednesdays!  The wonderful thing about the volunteer program at the MS Society is that they truly incorporate you as part of the team.  I am involved in fundraising meetings, out of office events, and get to help organize some of the important events the society hosts to raise funds and awareness.  At the start of SwimMS I acted due to my relationship with my cousin.  Growing up she really helped shape me.  She is goofy, likes to sing, and always has a smile on her face...I like to think that she rubbed off on me (although my mom is similar as well).  I have always looked up to my cousin, and still do.  My intention in all of this was to help fund research for a cure.  Currently my cousin had relapsing remitting MS, as form which is less debilitating than other progressive forms.  This form can become progressive.  Those living with progressive MS often have to leave work.  Many become wheelchair bound and have issues with their dexterity and vision.  I wanted to stop my cousin from potentially experiencing any of this.  I still want to prevent that.  Since starting my journey with the MS Society I have met so many others with MS.  I also have some close friends, from before creating SwimMS, who live with the disease.  I see the affects of Multiple Sclerosis differ so greatly from person to person.  This makes treatment and diagnosis so challenging.  While the disease is overwhelming and it's effects on my community make me angry, I also hold a large amount of optimism for the future.

On October 9th, the research and treatment facility at UBC invited me out for a tour.  I was able to meet with the talented individuals who use our funds to find a cure.  I had a chance to see the treatment rooms and learn a little bit more about the process.  This meeting was really important for me.  I felt like I saw where the $15,400 from the summer would be going.  I saw the rooms where some would experience tests and receive scary, earth shattering news.  I walked through the bright treatment rooms where MS patients sit and dream of a future without MS, where hope grows.

The future of SwimMS will be filled with hope, and while I continue to work with my cousin in mind, I also recognize that SwimMS exists on behalf of all those living with MS.  To those who have left a positive footprint in my life, those who are scared, and those with hope.  Even if I do not know you, SwimMS is for you. 

A Fast Year

I have spent a lot of time looking back on the past year.  It seems like I had just started telling people about this crazy idea I had, and now here I am.  When I first dreamed this swim up, 12 hours didn't so long but today I spend a lot of time thinking about what Saturday will be like.  I will be spending the better part of a day in the ocean.  Thank goodness I got that ipod!  In all honesty as much as Saturday excites me, it scares me as well.

In the beginning I was talking with a fellow named Simon Donato, who competes in running ultras.  He passed on a lot of wisdom which I have carried with me over the past months.  He said not to visualize the whole swim, but moments - significant portions of the swim.  I do this to the best of my ability.  I imagine entering the water for the first time and getting into an easy groove in the first few minutes.  I imagine exiting and entering the water surrounding my short breaks.  What lies between those moments will hopefully feel like a comfortable trance, lost in my under the sea tunes!  Simon gave me advice about food prep and a few little things.  The biggest and most useful piece of advice I received from him was that in order to stay motivated and accountable, I had to make the event bigger than me. 

Since chatting with Simon I have become very vocal on social media, I have reached out to other media outlets and garnered some press.  I have made the event bigger than me.  I have absorbed myself so much in the community that I feel the support.  I truly believe that the find words, support, and generosity shown by my community will keep me in the water when I start to struggle.

As the day gets closer I find myself in battle mode.  There is a constant battle between my mind and my body.  Often when my body is exhausted, my mind is working over time to keep myself from losing my positive mentality.  On the other hand, when my body is in peak condition I become worrisome waiting for a tweak of the shoulder.  As of right now, my body feels awful.  But, there is no more time to worry.

As Saturday nears there is a greater emphasis on health - go figure.  I am in massage and physio mode.  At least once a week I check in with my mechanics who loosen this or adjust that to ensure I wont run out of steam.  Although there are more aches and pains these past weeks, I trust that the next 3 days will see vast improvements.  I expect that with my shorter swims, stretches, and body work that I will feel like a new woman come Saturday.

Over the past 2 weeks, particularly, I have taken the extra time to reflect on my actions, my aspirations, and the journey.  It is very bitter sweet that the road is ending.  I will be able to vary how I spend my free time a little bit more, and my conversations will revolve less around the pool.  I am conflicted, however, with the closing of this huge dream I began years ago.  The time spent on this goal has motivated and matured me.  I feel as though I am different than I was a year ago.  Not much, but just enough to appreciate certain things that I would have previously overlooked.  I am extremely moved by the community and by the people I have met through the MS Society, and I am excited for the future.  Ideally that future will still involve SwimMS - but hey, one step at a time!  I am thrilled to now come face to face with the challenge I have been chasing.  Thanks to those who have been part of my journey, and I invite you all to join me at Kits Beach on Saturday!  THREE MORE DAYS!

Accessorizing is for athletes

Ok ladies (and gents - heck it is 2014), we all know how important it is to have the right accessories for an outfit.  We never feel an outfit is complete with out the right shoes, that fantastic watch, or a new purse/murse.  Accessories make us feel special.  They add a little excitement to a classic or everyday outfit.  The same is true for those of us who prefer to sweat while we socialize!

I think it's safe to say that style has been part of the sports world for a while.  Come on, I am not the only one who has noticed the flourescent themed wall of shoes at the Running Room.  The fun purple ones never fit me!  Gym clothing is all so colourful these days, and shows off our fit bodies a little more as well.  Then there are the new toys made for a gadget-crazy population.  Arm bands that hold ipods, watches that count our steps, and computer programs that share our workout details on facebook.  The greatest thing about these accessories is not what they look like or that they are just that much better than the model before it, it's that finally technology really is getting people more excited about working our - and hopefully outdoors.

Last week I received my new toy in the mail...a waterproof ipod shuffle from Underwater Audio.  I know I said looks aren't important, but it's purple and it's gorgeous!  Well, really it looks like any other ipod shuffle, it just has a sneaky hidden talent.  The ipod clips onto the strap of my goggles and can be fully submerged in water.  In fact, I emailed the company prior to purchasing the ipod and discovered that it will stand up to salt water and waves.  Plus it's 2GB storage holds over 12 hours of music.  I was told that the battery should last 12 hours, but that I'll have to confirm after Aug 16th.  This particular company sells a few different packages.  You can buy the ipod on its own, or select one of a few different headphone options.  I ordered two types of headphones, not knowing which would be best.  On Monday, I tried it out for the first time.

The sun was shining, the air was warm, and the water was even more inviting than usual.  After a short stretch on the deck I hit the play button and Adele joined me.  At first I was afraid to get in.  I checked the headphones a couple times to make sure the were fully plugged in and I wasn't going to ruin anything.  Finally I leaped into the pool.  I was grinning like a school girl.  I started to swim and still the grin wouldn't leave my face.  It must have looked very strange to anyone watching - to see a woman smiling underwater.  It was just amazing!  The time definitely went by faster, and the whole experience was just...awesome!  I am certainly going to be amused during the 12 hours I will spend at kits beach.

The other wonderful accessory I recently started using is my Adrenaline wetsuit, brand new from Synergy Wetsuits.  I have never had a long sleeved suit before, but given the amount of time I will be in the ocean, I would rather be safe and go all out.  The shoulders are nice and thin to allow for easy movement in the arms, which I will absolutely need.  The suit is nice and toasty...not to mention sleek.  Every time I put it on I feel amazing.

In the end, our accessories do a great job of keeping us motivated.  I love putting my synergy suit on.  I feel like a rock star.  And, I love being able to listen to music while I swim.  My new toys are getting me really excited to finally accomplish this goal.  After over a year of planning and training, the new gear gets me in the water when I feel like I need a break. I am so thankful to Synergy for the much needed suit.  I think twelve warm and musical hours are in my future!

Oh Canada Day Swim

Since I was a little girl the Vancouver Open Water Swim Association has held the Canada Day Challenge swim race at Sasamat Lake in Port Moody.  I would always compete in the 1.5km and wear my brothers old wetsuit.  This year, I signed up for the 4km race and yes, I still had that very wetsuit with me!  Surprisingly enough, however, I ended up swimming with no wetsuit!  The water was gorgeous, clear, and warm! 

The race takes competitors around the lake twice before hauling up the beach and through the finish.  When the race began I jumped ahead of the pack, with two other women leading the way beside me.  One of those women fell behind as the race went on.  The second quickly got ahead of me, and within the first 200 meters of the race she was gone.  I kept thinking I would pace myself and eventually catch up to her, but I never saw her again.  She was a power house!  For the next 3,800 meters I was on my own except to pass the odd swimmer from the earlier mens heat.  I ended with a time of 1 hour, 1 minute and 9 seconds and a second place finish.  It was a nice challenge.  My arms began to feel tight rather quickly, but because I decided to pace myself I was able to hold a very steady speed without burning out.  Vowsa also gives away awards and draw prizes at each event, which is lots of fun!  The next race I am singed up for is the Kitsilano Challenge on August 2nd.  This is a 6km and is held at the very beach where SwimMS will take place.

August 2nd will be a very different experience.  This is partly due to the fact that it is 2km longer than the Canada Day swim.  Also, because it is only 2 weeks before SwimMS I will need to be smart and avoid injury.  I plan to be less competitive and simply use it as an opportunity to be in the ocean.  After all, during SwimMS I won't need to swim fast but I will need to endurance.  So far the summer has given me fantastic opportunities to train and prepare for the open water-gotta love Vancouver!  There is now just about one and a half months till I jump into the ocean for SwimMS.  It's scary, but exciting.  The preparation makes me confident that my support team and I will be able to accomplish our goal!


Dundarave Dip

Training is going better than ever!  I am feeling fast and light, and I am always dying to jump in the water.  In fact, on Friday I saw an amazing opportunity.  I had taken the afternoon off from form to travel to Sechelt for a friends birthday.  My boss and I had finished early with our patient, and I had my wetsuit with me.  I threw on my gear and waddled down to Dundarave beach.  The sky was grey and so was the water.  Grey and angry!  I played it safe and swam back and forth within the bay, only about 10 meters off shore.  Since I have already braved the ocean at kits I thought this would be easy enough, and I jumped in rather quickly.

...I cannot breathe.  I gosh I can't breathe and my face is going to fall off!  It seems dramatic but this was my reaction to the first ten minutes of my swim.  It took quite a while to feel as though I could really put my head down and swim.  At first a would take a few strokes then stop to calm myself down, and repeat. 

I ended up in the water for about half an hour.  The water finally began to feel good, and I had to remind myself that there was a ferry I needed to catch.  I could see that a few small groups of people stopped to watch from time to time.  I was the only nut in the freezing West Van water on a mucky afternoon.  At one point a man slowly got himself to the water and dipped his hand in.  He shook his head and walked away.  When I got out of the water a family of geese had decided to stop and take a rest by the water.  I had my bright pink towel resting on my flip flops and the geese chose this as their area.  Maybe they were watching the crazy lady in the water also.   I wanted to jump out of the water grab my towel and run to warm, but I didn't want to frighten the two parents and their gosslings.  Shivering, I tiptoed widely around the wee ones and aimed straight for the towel.  I whispered to the geese that I was only getting my towel, and they didn't seem bothered at all.  One of the adults and I made eye contact for a moment before I ran up the beach...I think they were watching my things for me or maybe playing lifeguard while I swam!

When I changed and tried to warm up my hands were bright red and my fingers an empty yellow colour.  I could not feel a single finger.  I will want to swim in Dundarave again, even if just to get used to the cooler temperatures.  Thank goodness for the delicious hot chocolate at Delany's afterwards!

In an Octopus' Garden...

Well folks...it's getting real!  Today myself, and about 50 others, braved the early June waters of Kitsilano beach!  Twice a week the Vancouver Open Water Swim Association holds practice swims along the bouys.  Yes that's right, the very bouys along which I will be swimming for twelve hours!  I won't lie, I was quite nervous as I pulled my wetsuit up.  It was all about the temperature.  I couldn't help but think - if it's too cold today, for an hour, I am done.  The massive group of us ascended the sand towards the water.  I hung back a wee bit and watched the fleet take off.  By the time I finally felt ready to face the music I was one of six people sauntering in.  At first it was cold.  Quite cold.  However, after a few moments I realized that I had expected much worse.  It was actually quite nice.  In fact, the temperature was one of the only wonderful things about this swim.

Somehow I didn't notice the red tide until I was submerged in it.  Under the water it seemed as though I was a small bug flapping around in a dark muddy puddle.  The water was brown, or orange in certain light.  I knew right away and struggled not to swallow any of it as the waves crashed into my face.  I was mildly successful.  The strangest thing about the water was that I couldn't even see my own hands entering the water in front of me.  I was swimming blind - into drift wood, the bouys, the legs of other swimmers.  Gong show!

All the challenges aside, I ended up swimming twice around the bouy course.  That took about an hour, so I imagine in twelve hours (with sunblock breaks) I can get in about 20 laps.  A hand full of others joined me in the second lap, which was even more difficult as you couldn't look up and follow the pack...the sunlight and waves made searching for the small bouys a where is waldo adventure.  Eventually you always find him! 

For the first ocean swim of the season I am pretty happy.  I cannot tell you how great it feels to have gotten to this point.  And I haven't gotten sick from drinking the red tide!

Happy June! Until next week...I'm going to swim 3 laps.  Who wants to join me? 

Taking full advantage of a good thing

Since the opening of Vancouver's amazing outdoor pools, I have had the pleasure of swimming outdoors almost every day since May long weekend!  And, believe it or not... I may be getting a tan.  Ok freckles.  It's not easy being indoors all day long at work, especially when the weather is as amazing at it has been.  Being at the pool makes me feel like I am finally breathing, after being deprived of oxygen.  I love it!

Mostly I have been swimming at Kits.  I thoroughly enjoy going on my own, jumping in and swimming without stopping for an hour or two.  This type of training simulates what I will be doing on Aug 16th...only much shorter!  Tonight I had my first outdoor training session with my coach, John.  He has moved our team to New Brighton on Monday nights.  This pool is like a small gem tucked away in the least suspecting place.  There is a unique juxtaposition between an incredible view of the North shore mountains, primarily Seymour, and the near by ship yard and train tracks.  The pool is nestled in the middle of all of this industry, yet has the peace of the mountains, the ocean, and the family oriented park surrounding it.  If you haven't been here for a dip, I recommend it.  The pool is generally set up in short course meters, but from time to time they change the lanes to make 50 long course meters.

I know I have said it before - I love Vancouver in the summer!  I love swimming outside!  I feel so energetic!  I just needed to share it again.  For any of you who are looking to catch some rays in one of Vancouver's scenic pools, I am at New Brighton Pool on Mondays at 7 and at Kits pool every other night, usually around 6.  On Thursdays, however, I am going to start training in the open water at Kits beach.  The Vancouver Open Water Swim Association holds practices at my SwimMS course twice a week at 6:30pm.  Come join me!

Hello Summer!

Okay, so it's not technically summer yet, but in Vancouver summer starts May long weekend.  Why is that, you ask?  Kitsilano Pool is open, of course!  Growing up in Point Grey, Kits pool has always been a major part of my summers.  As a young girl it began with play dates in the shallow end.  Next came the big step of going to the pool without my mom or dad..so grown up!  At some point kits wasn't a play ground anymore, but an arena for elite training.  In this stage of my life, my coach Steve would gather the distance group on the east deck for Saturday morning practice.  It was a welcome change to train and get a tan!  Not to mention the training benefits of those long flip-turn-less lengths.  The most significant shift in my life at Kits Pool was when I got hired as an outdoor lifeguard, with the city of Vancouver. 

I began working quite frequently at Kits pool.  What a treat... getting paid to enjoy the outdoors and that gorgeous view.  It was so easy to hop in the pool during my lunch and take advantage of my surroundings.  In fact, it was jumping in for a mid-shift cool-off that probably kept me from giving up the sport during the years following my 2004 Olympic trails misery. 

These days, I look at kits pool and I see happiness, freedom, and optimism.  The water contains part chlorine and part salt, meaning I can absorb lots of vitamin D, with less chlorine after-smell!  Remember that feeling I described about swimming in Hawaii - the playful freedom of swimming with endless ocean, visible all around me.  Well pretend that the ocean is 137.5 meters long, and instead of tropical fish, I run into the odd swimmer who hasn't quite figured out how the lane works.  I feel free and playful at kits!  I love the long lengths.  I love feeling the warm sun on my back, and seeing the fluffy clouds dancing in the blue sky.  I love that when I stop to take a break I see a shimmery navy ocean stretching out to tall, strong mountains (and maybe I will head over for a hike after).  I also see the arena in which I will be swimming for 12 hours.  Just beside the pool is Kits beach.  When I go to the pool for a swim, I am constantly thinking about what is to come on Aug 16th.  I have swam at this beach before;  Open water swim practices, short 1k races.  Never have a had the opportunity to share 12 intimate hours alone in the chilly water.  I say alone, but the seals will be with me!  Once June comes along, I will jump in the ocean as much a possible (only one more week).  But..assuming the water wont have warmed up enough quite yet, I will also play in the pool!

Kits, as well as Second Beach Pool and New Brighton, will be open until September.  Go play - Go for  swim!

Three More Months!

Today started the most important phase of preparation so far!  I am officially three months away from the swim day, I finally got back in the water this morning after a back injury, and the out door pools open tomorrow!  The past month has been a struggle.  There has been a slight hiccup in my self confidence, but in addition, I went from being sick to having a bad back.  Not to mention the pool space in North Vancouver has been pretty unaccommodating for someone who works from 8am-5pm.  I did still manage to swim every week but one!

This morning I got up at 5am and drove to my 5:30am practice.  The back wasn't feeling 100 percent, but I was just so happy to be training again.  My flip turns were quite goofy, as it's still slightly painful to bend.  I went to kits and met with a friend for a coffee.  I got there slightly early and took a moment to check out my swim zone!  We then ended up sitting beside the pool and beach to enjoy our coffee.  And tomorrow, I get to jump into Kits pool nice and early for my lifegaurd exam....that's right folks!  Kits Pool opens tomorrow!  What does this mean?  Training is about to become so much easier!  Kits, Second Beach, and New Brighton pools are all a bus ride away, and have plenty of pool space.  As a swimmer, Kits pool is a huge staple in my summer.  Training at kits, with the amazing view is so freeing and motivating.  When I have the opportunity to swim at that amazing pool, I am filled with happiness.  I love it!  One more fantastic thing about kits pool is that one length is 137.5 meters!  That's right, almost 3 times the length of an Olympic sized pool.  This means fewer flip turns, and a work out that more closely resembles open water swimming.  Yes, I don't get to tackles the waves and cold temperatures, but it's still far more useful than being in a 25 meter pool.

While Kits Pool will be my primary training spot for the summer, I am also keen to jump in the ocean soon!  I do get cold, and generally the ocean doesn't heat up much until July, but perhaps some shorter dips to start!  Who wants to join me on June 1st?  Bring your wetsuit!

Back in the pool, but Oh my back!

I was out of the water for a week with a really bad cold/flu.  This week I was so excited to get back into the swing of things.  As my afternoon coaching sessions have come to an end, I am on my own.  I got in an hour on Monday, trying not to go nuts on the first go.  I attempted to do a work out similar to one John would have made for our group...not as easy without my buddies with me!  It felt pretty great considering I was forced to take a break the week prior.  My plan was to swim Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday this week.  But my plans

On Wednesday I woke up with awful back pain.  I toughed it out at work and though a light swim would really help me loosen up.  I swam for an hour and had a good long sit in the hot tub.  The back was feeling much better.  This morning, putting on my socks felt like one of the most impossible tasks I have ever faced.  Can't I just wear flip flops to the dental office?  Perhaps it will be the new summer casual trend in medical uniforms!  Somehow I made it out the door, and through an 8 hour temping shift.

Needless to say, I did not get in the water today.  I am hoping this is simply a short period of bad luck...No more coaching, out sick, and now a bad back.  With SwimMS happening just over 3 months from now, I am excited to get in as much quality training as possible.  The past couple months have probably seemed the longest.  With spring came excitement for the summer - Kits pool and ocean swims.  While Kits pool opens in roughly a week, the ocean swims may take a wee while longer.  I have been in such a state of anticipation that I started talking about Kits pool weeks ago.  One more to go!!  Here's hoping the back is back in action by then!

Fluids fluids fluids...just no chlorine

The group I swim with, is losing their evening pool time.  Last week was my last chance to jump in the pool for my distance workouts with John.  My plan was to take full advantage of the week.  Monday was great!  Nice hard set, mixed with fins which always gets my heart going.  I was so excited for Wednesday, as I am going to be on my own a lot more soon.  Perfect time to get sick, right!  I have been quite sick, ever since Tuesday.  My throat was sore and burning by the end of work on Tuesday, and it has not gotten any better yet.  Unfortunately I haven't been in the water since that Monday workout-don't worry, I still bathe.

As Aug 16th is getting closer, it makes me anxious to be out of the water.  I have made so much progress in the past year, and I don't want any of it to go to waste.  When it comes to deciding whether or not to try to train lightly and possibly be sick longer, or just be sick and get back in at full power (hopefully soon), I went for the latter.  I am hoping that this awful pain goes away soon so I can get back to it!  I do recognize that a week away from the pool wont be so bad.  After all, I only train 3-4 times a week.  Back when I was training 10 times a week for UBC, things may have been different.  One positive is that the extra insulating layer I need for the swim is starting to appear around my mid section!  I may be sick, but I still love my food.

For now it's vitamin c, halls, soup, and tea, to accompany my athletes appetite!  Once I am ready to go again, I am going to test myself with some more long sessions, and possibly an open water dip in the near future!  3.5 months now!

A Small Step for Man, a Giant Leap off a Bridge!

On Friday, my family and I decided to go on a spontaneous trip to Whistler.  My boyfriend suggested that while up there, we look into zip trekking, or bungee jumping.  I had always wanted to bungee jump, but had never taken the time to do it.  We thought maybe we'd go on Sunday, but on Saturday, we went to go and check it out.  We thought maybe it would be nice to see what it looked like and see how busy they are. 

From the parking lot, the bridge didn't seem as high as I had thought.  We watched one or two people jump, and walked up to get a closer look.  After seeing someone jump from the upper viewing area, we realized that we may as well do this today!  It was sunny, and we didn't know what the weather would be like on Sunday.  So the three of us walked over to the hut to sign our paper work....which included a section that said if negligence occurs, you can't sue.  Why did I read through it?  I already knew it said I could die.  What's the point in reading it?  I did....darn it! 

Upon reaching the platform, the guides suggested I go first.  They knew I was getting closer and closer to backing out.  Before I knew it I was in my harness.  The boys were suited up as well, and watching just to the side.  I had witnessed one of the guys lightly guiding a girl off the platform before and was quite certain I did not want him touching me.  "Don't push me", I said.  "I promise I will jump, but it just may take a minute".  He agreed, and said that he doesn't actually push anyone.  I very, veeerrryyy slowly got myself out near the edge of the platform.  Suddenly I felt disgusting.  My stomach was in my throat, my whole body was shaking, and I just wanted to go home.  The man helped me let go of the platform and stood right behind me so that I couldn't turn back.  He counted down 5. 4. 3. 2. 1.  I didn't budge.  "No no no", was all I could say.  He took my arms and shook them to loosen me up. 5. 4. 3. 2. 1.  Nope.  I felt like I was dying.   I realized I was in trouble and said to the kind and understanding man behind me, "I think I need you to push me".  He doesn't actually push.  He came even closer behind me.  His foot was tucked right in behind mine, and slowly his knee put a wee bit of pressure behind my legs.  I remember paying attention on to my balance.  I wasn't in control.  I was letting him do all the work.  Suddenly I realized that my balance had shifted too far forward to be able to change my mind, but it still seemed to take a while for me to fall. 

I screamed.  Not as much as I thought I would.  I was too terrified to scream the way that you would on a roller coaster.  The first fall lasted forever; like one of those dreams when you are falling and it will never end.  The feeling of having the cord pull tight and having some weight again was amazing!  But then you snap right back up into another fall.  At this point my eyes may have been closed.  I was gripping onto this soft squishy pillow they attach around the cord.  The second fall sucked just as much as the first one.  It was awful.  I didn't feel okay until I had taken a few bounces. 

After me, the boys both went, no problem.  They were amazing!  To be honest, if Matthew didn't still have to go after me, I may have backed out.  I didn't want to make it any scarier than it needed to be for him.  Apparently I didn't have to worry about that, because he fell off the platform as if he does it every day!

In the end, I think the experience made me far less worried about attempting a 12 hour ocean swim.  I will never willingly bungee jump again - I would rather swim for 12 hours!  And pretty soon... I will be able to say I have!