Hey friends! I have been experiencing a very busy summer between keeping up both of my podcasts and my other responsibilities. I haven’t been as involved in open water swimming in the last 2 years as I once was but I still really love the sport. Last year I didn’t do the swim at Deer Creek and I really regretted it. It’s such a terrific event and there’s no pressure as far as time because we all have support and the 10 milers (I still can’t believe there are 10 milers!) give me plenty of time to finish before things are done.
Even though I really wanted to, I was nervous about participating this year because of my terrible sleep schedule and my lack of training. I knew I wasn’t as ready as I should be but I felt I could still do it if I could wake up in time. I gave it some thought and decided to go for it. Then 3 days before the swim my paddler had to cancel and I thought that might be the end of it. However, to my joy my friend Lisa agreed to paddle for me, which I am super grateful for.
Last night I was actually able to get to sleep at a decent hour! It wasn’t all REM but I got a good 5-6 hours which is great for me so I woke up nervous but excited. Then I started in on the race and the water felt great. Half of the race is mental because it feels like you aren’t making any progress and it can get very discouraging. Luckily I had support and I just keep swimming (as Dory says!). It got harder towards the end because there were more boat waves but I kept going and eventually finished. It was a slow but I did it.
You can watch it all in the above video. Another race has come and gone- 12 races in total for me. Now I just want to get even more ready for next year! What a great experience!
Hi! I’m excited to tell you another open water swim is in the books! This is my 11th swim and unfortunately my only race for 2016. I was hoping to get 2 in this year but with my travels it just didn’t work out. Hopefully next year will get a few more in.
I will be honest with you I felt a little under-prepared for this race and like I always do I got very nervous this whole week before the race. What if this is the swim that I can’t finish? I feel like it is eventually going to happen one of these days but so far it hasn’t. As I got my Dad and drove up to the race I felt nauseous and began to wonder ‘why do I put myself through this?’. Even as I got in the cold water (it seemed colder than last year) I wondered if I could do it.
But then I start swimming. I got about a 1/4 mile and I really was doubting my abilities. The 1/2 mile marker seemed like a million miles away. It seemed impossible I would ever get there. But I divided it up into small amounts, 100 strokes, 50 strokes, even 25 strokes and I kept going. Finally I made the 1/2 mile marker and wished the race was over but I had to keep on going.
I did several 100 lap batches and at the 3/4 mark there were a lot of boats so the waves get large and difficult to manage (especially when you are tired from swimming for nearly an hour). But I just kept going. My friend Etsuko was my paddler and she helped encourage me and boost my spirits. When I finally saw the finish line I knew it was almost over. I had almost done it and I could feel the adrenaline sink in. I gave one more push and hit that buoy with conviction! Wahoo!
So I am a finisher! My 11th race is done and it was an amazing experience. My Dad also finished which is an awesome accomplishment especially for someone who can’t swim freestyle.
In the end, it was an amazing experience and I’m so proud of my medal. I know it is an Olympic medal and I was one of the last ones to finish our little race but it feels good to watch these Olympians and know I did something physically hard today too.
The big race has come and gone and I finished!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It was such an awesome journey. I still can’t believe that I actually did it. It was so exhilarating.
The day started early in the morning. Having taken some serious sleeping meds I actually got a pretty good sleep. Then I ate my traditional pre-race breakfast bowl and headed to meet Michele. Michele is my trainer and kindly agreed to kayak for me at the race. For having only kayaked a couple of times she did great and was very encouraging.
We drove down to Deer Creek Reservoir and met up with my swim family. Some of them couldn’t make the race because of other commitments and some were overseas helping Gordon Gridley swim the English Channel (great job Gordon!) . But a lot of my friends were there and I really can’t say enough about the bond I feel with so many of the other swimmers. They are just the best, cheering me on, waving in the water, hugging me when I finish. It is so wonderful to be a part of.
It took a while to get everything started but at about 8:40 we were in the water and on our way. I did better keeping with the main group than I’ve ever done before (and I didn’t finish last! 🙂 ). The water was like glass, beautiful and it is a gorgeous lake. The only challenge was it was hard to find things to sight to because the buoys were small and not a lot of large trees or formations to look at.
I made it to the 1/2 mile length fast and was surprised at how I clipped along the first half. I’m not sure what my time at a mile was but I’m sure its the best I’ve ever done. There was a bit of confusion for me at the 5k turn around but Michele touched me with the paddle and let me know I was going the wrong way!
At about that point I got cramps in both my legs. My legs felt tight the whole morning and I was honestly waiting for the cramp to come. I could feel it dying to come out. I was scared when both legs started cramping but I was able to wiggle the cramps out and keep on going. Honestly swimming was the best thing for the cramps. It was only when I stopped that their mischief started.
I did 2 feedings during the 5k eating gel packs. They are so gag inducing but do help with the cramps. I also had a vitamin water this time and I love that! It was sweet enough to give me energy without spiking my blood sugar more than it already was from so much exercise. It also has electrolytes and other vitamins to help with the race. It definitely helped me finish.
At about the 2:15 mark I made it back to the 1/2 mile buoy and as crazy as it sounds that last 1/2 mile was definitely the hardest. There started to be more boat traffic and the big lumbering waves boats make are tough (tough both for me and Michele!). I felt like the finish line was never going to come.
Then I saw it and I pushed and pushed, practically sprinting the last 50 yards. To finish you had to smack the finishing buoy which I did in enthusiastic fashion. Done! I had done it. Me the overweight girl from Draper had just swam most of a lake. 5k! I still can’t believe it!
It honestly was one of the best days of my life. Every swim I do is one of the best days of my life. I’m so grateful to have such an awesome sport in my life and to be considered an athlete. Who would have thought?
Thanks to everyone for your love and support. It may not be gold but I guarantee you no Olympian has worn a medal with more glee than I wore my finishing medal today. Hurray!
I’ve sat down to write this post several times but each time I’ve struggled to find the words to describe my experience in my first open water swim. When I try to sound triumphant it seems cloying, when simply describing the event it feels ordinary.
Nevertheless, I will do my best to give you an idea of what the day meant to me.
Walt Disney once said that “the real trouble with the world is too many people grow up. They forget. They don’t remember what it’s like to be 12 years old.” While this may be true with some adults, it is not the case for those of us who grow up overweight.
Believe me we remember what it is like to be 12 and fat.
I wish I could forget the searing images of being bullied and called terrible names. I wish I could forget being looked over and marginalized because of something that I had little control over.
How might you ask did I emerge from childhood with a happy disposition (the blog is after all called Smiling LDS girl!) and confident demeanor? There are many answers including most importantly my faith but one small answer is that I found swimming.
I have always loved to swim. In fact, anything with water has, and always will, make me happy- whether it is boating with my family or spending the afternoon at a neighborhood pool there is something about the water that is freeing. It was also the only athletic activity which I felt competitive and that did not flair up my asthma/bad feet.
When I was in high school I decided to join the swim team and thankfully they had an open enrollment policy- meaning every student who wanted to participate could. In my 3 years on the team I learned how to do strokes properly and competed in races where I actually turned in decent times. (I was one of the only girls that was willing to swim butterfly so that became a bit of a specialty for me!). Its amazing how once those strokes are in your head you never forget them. I still do my freestyle in the S shape that Coach Cowperthwaite taught me (yes, that was her name!). In fact, it is very difficult to change any part of my stroke because it is so ingrained in my body.
Seared in my memory is also the feeling of weightlessness (a big thing for a fat girl to experience) that would overtake me upon entering the water. I still love nothing more than diving into water, and I agree with my sister who once said- “swimming is the closest thing to flying we have on earth”. It is freedom, it is lightness, it is happiness!
In my sophomore year I took a life guarding course and believe it or not obtained my certification. I can’t explain what that meant for a fat girl- to complete a certification in something so difficult. I remember in particular we had to tread for 10 minutes with a 10 lb brick, and I did it!
Anyway, back to Saturday.
I awoke bright and early to face my challenging swim. I was a mess of nerves and emotion- what if I failed, what if I got a cramp mid-race and had to stop, what if my paddler didn’t show up or what if they had to cancel the race? (You get the idea).
As a nod to my former self I wore my old high school swim team jacket. (Yes, for once my pack-rat tendencies paid off! I have my old swim cap also but it has a rip).
After arriving at the race I met with my paddler who was amazing. Despite having never met, he seemed to get my story and believe in me. I am so grateful for his sacrifice of a Saturday morning sleep to help me. I told him he was my ‘guardian angel’ for the day.
Everyone associated with the race was wonderful and encouraging. Again, they seemed to all get that this was more then just a routine event for me. (All together I think there were about 65 racers- plus paddlers to accompany them, so it was a pretty big crowd).
Once we gathered to begin the race the day started on a good, surprising note! They had a raffle and I won the big prize! (I tell you fortune was smiling upon me the whole day!). I won a kayak! It is a one person seated kayak that will be great for future races and trips to the lake. I never win anything! (Thank goodness I have a van to take it home in. :))
Then the 10 mile swimmers started (can you believe that! 10 miles!), 10 k, 5 k (most popular) and finally it was time for my race. There were 10 other swimmers for the 1 mile swim including a little girl who proudly announced “I’m going to win. My sister won and so will I”. I think she came in second but still I admired her confidence.
With the sound of the whistle into the water I went swimming with all my heart. I was significantly slower than my competitors but that didn’t matter to me. I had the encouragement of my paddler and a lifetime of love for the water pushing me forward. Plus, I could just feel the prayers and thoughts of my family, friends and trainers who have invested so much in getting me in that water.
An open water swim is both a mental and physical game. I had done one mile swims before but never one quite like this. About 1/3rd of the way through it felt like I would never get to the 1/2 mile marker, and the same for the last stretch. It almost seems like a mirage and the end does not feel real until you are minutes, mere feet away. Thankfully I had my paddler and cheerleaders on the side pushing me to keep going.
When I finally crossed the finish line I was overcome with emotions and actually started to cry. The ending could not have been more sweet if I had finished first.
(Btw, I did make my goal to finish in under an hour by 6 minutes. 54 minutes!)
It was as if I was giving a high-five to the 12-year-old and 16-year-old me- saying we did it! I can tell you one thing- never was any medal more well-earned or more proudly displayed than the one I received for simply finishing!
At the risk of sounding cheesy I would just like to say something to the young girls out there who feel they are without worth- you can do great things in your life. You are valuable and important. If I can swim a mile today and could pass that life guarding test years ago, then you can do whatever you dream of doing. Just set a goal, gather a team to help you and go and do it.
There is no doubt that the year and half of this fitness quest has been full of difficulties but Saturday made it all worth it. It was truly one of the best days of my life. Thank you to everyone for your support and love. Now on to the next race- Slam the Dam in Vegas on October 1st. Life is good!
Thank you also to everyone who worked hard to make the event a success. Thank you especially to my paddler Neil and to Jim Hubbard who went out of his way to make sure I could race, as well as organizing the race for everyone else. Thank you so much. (Also, thanks to those who donated the kayak!)