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.
Today my friends I am a finisher, 10 times over! Yes, I finished my 10th open water swim at Deer Creek and I couldn’t be more thrilled (and tired!). If you’ve been a follower of mine on the blog you might recall my very first race back in 2011. In fact, after my first open water swim at the clinic that year I posted “Yesterday was the best day of my life!” I hope that everyone is able to find something they love like that in their life. Once was all it took to get me hooked!
What a journey it has been since that first attempt. 10 races have come and gone and they all are treasured memories.
Like always today’s race had its fair share of challenges. I went in to the race feeling pretty confident. I felt strong at Bear Lake and then did a practice swim on Thursday that went very well. My plan was to break up the swim into sets of 100 strokes and then do 25 strokes of breaststroke. The problem was for some reason my asthma was bothering me and I felt pretty wheezy. It didn’t seem like I could get enough air which was causing me to get a lot of water up my nose and in my mouth. This is not the ideal way to swim by any measure. But I kept going…
This race was really neat because my Dad swam it with me. Typically my family and I don’t share a ton of common interests and so it was really neat to share this experience with him! He did the entire race alternating between breaststroke, backstroke and sidestroke but finished and did very well! It’s been a cool month for me with the swim with my Dad and doing the book videos with my Mom. Both meant a lot to me.
It’s the weirdest thing when you are swimming open water because it feels like you are on a swim treadmill. No matter how fast you go it feels like you aren’t making any progress and you will never reach the darn buoy. Then you do and it is so exhilarating! You would think after 10 races it would get less exciting but it is still such a thrill.
My time wasn’t good on the race but the important thing was I finished. I’m very proud of that as I am for all of my finishes.
I’d like to thank my paddler Michelle for taking time out of her busy schedule to help me achieve my goals. She couldn’t have been more encouraging and wonderful. It was so great to catch up as she isn’t my trainer at the moment since I left that gym.
I also want to say thank you to Jim Hubbard and everyone at Salt Lake Open Water for being such a wonderful community that nurtures all types of swimmers. I couldn’t be more grateful that I am accepted and cheered on at every race.
I’m still in a lot of pain but that has become fairly normal. What makes me sad is missing my race. For the last 3 years the Deer Creek Open Water Swim has been one of my favorite things to do during the entire year. I looked forward to it like Christmas, maybe more so, and now it is out of the question.
I was able to sell my spot which is good but it is still a serious bummer. I was just reading a post on facebook and it all sounds like so much fun. I guess they have awesome finisher medals and are doing the kayak raffle again. I’m sure they will get a good turn out like last year.
If there was any way I could do it I would, but I can’t even stand straight right now. Moving my leg hurts let alone kicking in the water.
That’s it. I’m just sad.
But there is a lot to be grateful for. I’m grateful for good friends who have been so supportive. I’m grateful for all the prayers from family, friends, and my internet community. I’m grateful to anyone who has given me a ride or helped me out especially my friend Stacia and my roommate Regan.
What do you guys think I should do Saturday instead of just stewing on my missing the race? I don’t have many options and everyone seems to be busy. Any creative ideas?
I remember thinking in June that my life was going so well and wondering how long it could all last. Well, July threw me a curve ball I wasn’t expecting. Sometimes that’s the way life is. The Lord builds you up so you are ready for something hard (and I realize in the grand scheme of things my hard thing isn’t that hard but still it’s been tough for me).
Open water swim #6 has come and gone! It was a great day. This is my third year doing the Deer Creek swim and last year I did the 5k and I thought about doing it this year and probably could have but was worried about my training ability this summer. I wanted to have fun and enjoy the day so I signed up for the 1 mile and I’m glad I did. It was a great day and I felt quite pampered.
The day started with an early wake up and meeting Renee and Tania. Renee kindly agreed to be my paddler for the race and Tania came along for support. It was so nice to not have to drive and just relax. Plus, I almost never have any spectators at the races. The only other people who have come were my Aunt and Uncle in Las Vegas (my next race is slam the dam in October!)
It was really nice of Tania to drive me and load up my kayak into her truck. I hope she had a good time and is inspired for her first open water swim race in October. She’s become my favorite swim buddy (along with Renee and Kate) and we are both working towards a strong finish at that race.
Anyway, we got to the lake and they were running behind but it gave time to stretch and get ready. I was a little worried about the cold water because its been a little cooler and we swam Blackridge pond last week which was freezing, so I thought Deer Creek might also be cold. Luckily it was the perfect temperature and they did a great job keeping boats out of the way. It wasn’t until the very end of my race that I felt any boat traffic at all.
Our group was the last to start and I felt strong in the water. My form has really improved this summer, which is good because my cardio has suffered with my back treatments. I worked in 50 stroke segments throwing in 25 strokes of breastroke when I got tired. I even did a couple sets of 100. The race went quickly and I ended up with a time of 1 hour, which isn’t my fastest but it isn’t my slowest mile swim. To compare my time at GSL was 1 hour 24 minutes (that shows you what a difference current makes!)
I felt a rush of pride fill me as I pushed the finishline buoy. Its a huge accomplishment and a lot of fun also. Renee was great- a very encouraging paddler and friend. The whole thing was awesome!
I hope that someone reads this and thinks ‘If she can do that, I could do ……”. I want to encourage you all to find a worthwhile physical activity and embrace it, push yourself, NO MATTER YOUR SIZE. If I can do it, anyone can. It just takes hard work and the right support with a little bit of luck thrown in. I can’t imagine my life without open water swimming and I’m so grateful it came into my life in 2011.
After I got home from the temple I went with my friend Tania to the Deer Creek Open Water Clinic which is held every year before the Deer Creek Open Water Marathon Swim that I am participating in for the 3rd year next week! Last year I did the 5k but have less training and am doing the 1 mile this year.
For some reason there was a small turnout so basically Goody, Josh and Gordon put on the clinic for Tania and I, which was super nice. They could have cancelled seeing it was just the 2 of us but they went ahead anyway and I was grateful (aren’t open water swimmers the nicest?). It was Tania’s first time swimming outside of Blackridge pond in Herriman and she was pretty nervous, but she did great!
I felt pretty good but my stamina is nowhere near what it was last year. 😦 However, I swam about 800 yards and it was good practice for Saturday. Thanks to Josh and his boys for kayaking as I swam. That was super nice.
I was thinking the other day- Doesn’t it seem like I’ve been open water swimming my whole life? Its hard to imagine my life without it, and yet its only been 3 summers. I first heard about it in July of 2011 and my friend Jim Hubbard took me to the Deer Creek Clinic and I was nervous just like Tania was and look how far I’ve come. Pretty cool! https://smilingldsgirl.com/2011/08/05/deer-creek-clinic/
If you look at that post from my first swim it says it all:
“I did it! I did it! I did it! I swam in open water for a mile and held my own with people who had all done it before without a wetsuit. This is the best day of my life!”
I think Tania was feeling some of that as we left. That’s what makes open water swimming or anything worth doing in life. Its the people. I know so many great people. I always said I must have helped an old lady across the street in the pre-earth life because I don’t know what I did to deserve such great people in my life. I watched my friends help Tania and was truly moved and thought of my long journey over 3 years and how great it has been.
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!
So just got back from a tough workout with Coach Dave- 1500 yards in 300 intervals each time going faster. My best time was 7 min 14 sec which I feel really good about. I’m going to keep training and working hard for the Great Salt Lake Swim that which is coming up on June 9th. Its a 1 mile swim but the water will be pretty cold so it will be a challenge.
I have also signed up for the 5K at the Deer Creek Open Water Swim! This is the longest I have ever attempted but I have close to 6 months to prepare and I know I can do it. I figure most of my friends did the 5k last year and I can hold my own with most of them. My Dad might be able to come and be my paddler which would be a great experience together. Its so motivating to have a race to look forward to. Thanks in advance to all who are working to make both races happen. They need volunteers for simple tasks if anyone is available June 9 or August 11th let me know. Can’t wait!
I also am determined to get below 250 if it kills me. Ok maybe not kill me but you get the idea. I’ve worked so hard and last week I had a weight gain. Was totally bummed out but I’m using it as a catalyst to try even harder. I decided to sign up for a fresh meal delivery service here in Salt Lake that will help me get a better idea of portion controls and limit my diet with greater ease (with my new freezer this is even easier). Its not something I would want to do forever but I think to help me get ready for the race it will be worth trying out. Plus, the company does not have auto-renewal so to try it out for 2 weeks can’t hurt.
I’m also continuing with the bountiful baskets and between my freezer, portion controlled meals and lots of fresh produce I figure I will be doing all I can to eat right.
Sometimes in my quest for greater success I can forget how far I’ve come. Take a look at these 2 photos one is from 2010 and one taken today.
I admit in 2010 I had hoped for a more dramatic before and after but I can tell a difference. I certainly can feel the difference. It feels good to be able to say I tried as hard as I could to take care of my body and despite what felt like the gates of Hell opening up after me last year I am still pushing forward.
I also had a good experience today at the gym. There is a lady who is in my ward who also goes to my gym. She seemed sweet but on the surface not someone I would have a ton in common with (wears a ton of make up, dresses in designer clothes etc).
I was just in a good mood and went up to her and said ‘we should work out together sometime. I’m sure you’re way ahead of me but it might be fun. I’m kind of a lone warrior here.” She said she would love that and asked if I did other things besides swimming. I said ‘I’m not the most coordinated person in the world (huge understatement) but I will give most anything a try. I like kickboxing, yoga, spinning, working out on the machines. “
She seemed really happy that I talked to her and afterwards texted me saying “Can’t wait to work out with you :)”. Just goes to show you shouldn’t judge by appearances. You lose out on a lot of friends that way.
She also said ‘you always seem really positive at the gym. I think it would be great to work out together.’ This made me happy that people are watching me and maybe even a little inspired despite all my moaning and groaning!
I’m also thinking about buying a bike. The idea is to find a bike that I can tottle around Draper on turning everyday experiences into an active experience. I need a bike with a seat that is large and frame that’s easy to mount. Most bikes I don’t feel balanced enough on or that it can support me but this one looks very interesting. Its called a Trek Navigator 2.0 and has 21 gears, low frame, big seat, front shocks and the local bike shop price is actually lower than I’ve found online.
So far the reviews I’ve read online are really good. Thoughts?
One last thing. Yesterday I was without a car because I have a company car and on occasion the company needs to use it! My friend Jill was super duper nice to let me use her car so I could make my voice lesson (which was awesome. I’m learning Defying Gravity and it is so thrilling! I’ve come so far and feel the song encapsulates the last couple years of my life. ) . Anyway, after dropping her car off I got to walk home in the beautiful Spring weather. Everything is lush and smells delicious.
I snapped this quick pick with my camera phone (all of these photos were taken with my camera phone. Not bad hah!). I’m so grateful to live in such a beautiful place and that God gives me glimpses of His grandeur on occasion.
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!)
Yesterday was the best day of my life! As you all know I have been working to complete my first mile open water swim. The actual race is next Saturday but yesterday was the official clinic, and my first open water swim. I think my facebook post says it all:
I did it! I did it! I did it! I swam in open water for a mile and held my own with people who had all done it before without a wetsuit. This is the best day of my life!
If you read my last post you know that I was very worried about not fitting into a wetsuit but it turned out my worries were ill founded. There was no problem. In fact, the water felt good. The hardest part was keeping in a straight line (or they call it citing). You have to hold your head slightly out of the water to see the spot in front of you and stay straight. This takes more energy and will take some getting used to but I think I had a pretty good start yesterday. I was slower than everyone else but like I said in my status they all had more experience than me. For me it was just awesome to participate and finish.
Its hard to explain what swimming in this race means to me. I don’t know if I can put it into words. Its part dream of the last 18 months and dream of a high school swimmer who tried so hard to be good at something athletic. I remember the day I got my lifeguarding certification in high school. That was a big accomplishment for a fat girl. I felt a similar serge of emotions yesterday. I did it! I did something really hard and I know next week will be even more amazing. They said that each participant will get a medal and normally I think participatory medals are lame but this is one case where coming in last deserves a medal. It is a lifetime of work, a lifetime of struggles, a lifetime of loving the water all rolled up into a mile of Deer Creek Reservoir. I am more grateful than I can say to have found this opportunity and that I started this journey. Wow its been tough but moments like yesterday make it all worth it. Its so worth it!
If you have any tips for racing- what to eat, how to train this week before, how to pace myself etc I would really appreciate it. I need all the help I can get.
Is this not a happy face?:
The other exciting thing about yesterday is everyone was so nice. I am very grateful to have stumbled upon this open water swim if anything for the contacts it will give me of other intense swimmers. Everyone has been so accommodating including giving me a ride, coordinating a paddler and kayak and giving me advice for the race . Thank you so much! I am so excited for the race. If anybody is available I would love to have a friend at the race next week. I found I was so tired yesterday that not having to drive was a welcome relief. Plus, it would be nice to have someone to cheer me on. It starts early (we have to be there by 7) so I understand if no one is interested.
Here’s a video of us swimming:
I can’t wait for next week! It will be super hard but I know I can do it.