Tag: open water swim

Open Water Swim

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.

me in high school swim team photo. We changed uniforms my sophomore year which is why I got to take home the jacket I still have.

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).

this is my old high school swim team jacket. It says Middletown Knights on the back.

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.

My paddler Neil.

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).

Me with one of the awesome swimmers Erin

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!)

Deer Creek Clinic

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!

By the way, you can still register if you want to participate.  Its too late to get a t-shirt but you still can.  Go to http://www.deercreekopenwater.com/.

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.

I HATE Athletic Wear

athletic wear- the haven for the skinny

Hello fashion world- I would just like to vent to you for 5 seconds.  In your eyes all women are exactly the same and need to look exactly the same.  (or if they’re different.  It is the same way of looking different).  Want some fashion advice? Check out this post.

I’ve seen the look of horror on your face at the  fashion shows when you meet a plus size women.  How can you possibly be expected to design for such an atrocious creature? On Project Runway the designers panic and run for the exits when given a ‘real woman’ challenge.  It makes me wonder what type of woman are they designing for- the fake woman?  They might as well be for how many women fit into their clothes.

In a great article in the Los Angeles Times Emili Vesilind calls plus size women “Fashion’s invisible woman”.   Despite 14 being the AVERAGE size for women in America most designers would rather cater to their ideal woman, deluding themselves that they are somehow encouraging those fatties to get in line. Here is a quote:

“ When Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld, who spent most of his adult life battling a serious weight problem, created a capsule collection for H&M in 2004, the newly svelte designer was incensed that the retailer manufactured the collection in larger sizes. “What I designed was fashion for slender and slim people,” he said. And in an interview in the March issue of Harper’s Bazaar, he sniffed, “The body has to be impeccable . . . if it’s not, buy small sizes and less food.”

Another ‘fashion editor’ from Australia criticized the use of plus size models because they encouraged such laziness and disgusting body-types.

“While these women might make us feel better about our bulging butts and guts, the truth is, few women over a size 14 are in a healthy weight range.
And many need encouragement to lose weight instead of being told to feel good about being overweight.
Seeing big girls might give us healthier self-esteem, but it might not encourage us to lead healthier lives.”

Did it ever cross your mind that maybe these women need both- they need to feel good about their body and be encouraged?  Why are the two mutually exclusive?  It truly makes me crazy.
Some may counter that the market speaks and plus size doesn’t sell.  I find that hard to believe when again it is the AVERAGE size of women in America.  Surely there is a market to tap into there but the fashion industry doesn’t want to pander to fatties?  How do you explain the huge success of plus size chains such as Lane Bryant and Torrid?  I think the fashion industry wants to promote a particular type of woman and those that don’t fit can be left with their mumu’s and fast food at home.
Even if you buy their idiotic views- here’s the rub- try to find athletic gear in plus sizes and you will have a tough road on your hand.  Think you can roll into Big 5, Sports Authority, Cabellas and find plus size active wear- not so much.  What about target or Lane Bryant- nope.  It is practically impossible to find active wear for plus size women.
The only way is to turn to the internet and even that, on occasion, fails me.  In order to find something as simple as a sports bra I had to dig through websites until finally I found one on Old Navy.com.  Sometimes I am forced to buy men’s active wear (not with teh sports bra, of course!) but that is usually very unsatisfying and like a cloud around my body.
After much digging I finally found a plus size active wear bathing suit on Lands End and even though it was expensive I bought it because there was no other choice.  Socks, running shirts, yoga pants, workout tanks, anything ‘gym chic’, are all nearly impossible to find in plus size.
Which leads me to my next question- how do you, fashion designer, expect us to ‘lead healthier lives’ if nobody sells clothing to help us do just that?  Are we supposed to stay in hiding until we magically come out of the cocoon of fatness?  Then you will adorn us with your precious athletic wear.  It really makes me crazy!
triathlon wetsuits are my enemy. I hate them!
What has gotten me particularly fumed about this topic is I have been working for weeks trying to swim in the 1 mile open water race at Deer Creek Reservoir.  My swim times are good, my training has been intense but you know what could stop me from swimming- clothing!  That’s right stupid clothing.  Normally beginning swimmers use a triathlon wetsuit which is slick on the outside and breaths more than a traditional wetsuit.  The water is pretty cold and having a wetsuit helps your legs from freezing up and your arms from feeling heavy.
Unfortunately the stupid wetsuit manufacturers only make a woman’s size up to 160 lbs.  160 lbs!!  I still can’t believe that is their biggest.  It will probably take me 2-3 more years before I am close to 160 lbs.  I have to admit the whole incident was very discouraging.  Its one thing to not be able to do something because you are out of shape, but I’m in shape.  I can do the stupid race!  To be stopped by something as dumb as clothing makes me nuts.  I cried and cried when I first found out.
Even the man’s size was too small (particularly for my bust, there’s a shocker!).  So, my friends I am going to attempt to swim the race without a wetsuit.  We will see how my trial run goes tomorrow.  Its going to be hard but all I can do is my best.  I can’t control the stupid wetsuit situation but I can give it my all in that cold water.
Hear is my plea- PLEASE put out some athletic wear that we can actually use to help us lose the weight you find so unsettling.  PLEASE  put out socks that fit, running shirts, sports bras that support, high performance products and even a few cute gym outfits.  I know I would buy it- what about all of you? For goodness sakes I was willing to spend over $300 for my wetsuit but no.  Nobody makes one even close to what I need.  Nobody wants my money!
Maybe if enough of us could show interest we could do some type of petition to the major athletic wear labels?  It would certainly be nice to be able to compete when we’ve actually done the training and not be thwarted due to improper clothes!  So please make a comment, send this post to friends, twitter it and let’s see if we can get something done.
I will let you know how my trial run goes tomorrow. Let’s hope I can brave the cold!
Here are 2 sites that are pretty good:

http://www.junonia.com/home.htm

http://oldnavy.gap.com/browse/category.do?cid=5647

More Random Thoughts

Today I have a lot on my mind, so I’m afraid this will be another one of my random, all-over-the-place posts.

1. I just watched Say Yes to the Dress and it has me all fired up.  There is a girl who is a 20 (which is still a touch smaller than me).  She can’t fit into any of the sample plus size dresses (this is the Atlanta show which doesn’t seem to have the plus size selection of Kleinfelds).  Anyway, as she fails in trying on the bridal dresses the upset woman says “Its not that bad.  I’m not that big.  I’m not this horrible person”.  What is wrong with our culture that big girls feel their size is not just a health concern but a sin, an evil- that it makes you a horrible person.   It is a classic example of the prevalence of fat stigma in our culture.  It makes me crazy!

2. So the former political science grad  in me has been eating up this recent debt ceiling debate.  I find it fascinating to watch the back and forth and try to guess what is going to happen (not only now but in 2012 as well).   It is a source of pride for me that the principles I helped fight for in the tea party rallies are being instituted by both parties.  Of course, I am the biggest fan of the cut, cap and balance bill but I think any spending cuts are a step in the right direction.

I’ve also given it a lot of thought and I don’t know what I would do if I was in Congress.  I respect the representatives that are sticky to pure principles but I also understand those that are accepting a practical compromise. I will be very curious to see how everything plays out. What would you’all do and why?

the government listened to my sign! 🙂

3. Today I made delicious whole wheat banana bread.  It is really good and actually good for you.  Here is the recipe:

1/3 cup grape seed oil

1/2 cup clear agave

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 eggs

1 cup mashed bananas (2 large bananas, 4 small bananas)

1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 cup hot water

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Directions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).
In a large bowl, beat oil and agave together. Add eggs, and mix well. Stir in bananas and vanilla. Stir in flour and salt. Add baking soda to hot water, stir to mix, and then add to batter. Blend in chopped nuts. Spread batter into a greased 9×5 inch loaf pan.
Bake for 55 to 60 minutes. Cool on wire rack for 1/2 hour before slicing

4. Relationships are so confusing.  Its like the great mystery of life.  How does anybody get together in the end?  It happens every day so we just accept it but it seems impossible sometimes.  We hear a million talks in the church about how great marriage is and how we should all get married- if someone would please tell me how to do that I will be glad to oblige?  Anyway, finding love is hard  and that’s all I have to say on the topic.

5.  I am in need of good book suggestions.  I just finished reading the July-September book club picks (Life as We Knew It, All Creatures Great and Small, Anne of Green Gables- 2 out of 3 were terrific).  I figure I can’t read the October book so quickly (I’ve read it before, the Book Theif, but I want it to be fresh for book club).  Anyway, I am looking for engaging, creative, whimsical books.  They can be sad or even tragic but it just has to be something with likable, interesting characters.  I like historical fiction, classics, high-quality chick literature, poetry, and even some fantasy.  Please send me your recommendations.  Even if you think it is not my cup of tea please let me know what you have enjoyed and I will give it a shot.

6. My quest for the open water swim is going well.  As I mentioned in a previous post I had a great effort last week.  It was exhausting but thrilling. I did 5 tough work outs in one week.  However, this week was not quite as successful because of some stomach upset.  I have stepped up my dosage of victoza and once again my body did not like it.  I was doing so well for weeks that I thought I could up the dosage but not so much. Anyway, we will see.  Including tomorrow I will get 4 workouts this week which is pretty good considering I had 2 sick days.  I just want to be ready for the swim.  Next Thursday I will do a practice swim so that will be a good test to see if I am prepared.  If not, I can wait for the October swim but I hope I can participate.  Wish me luck!

7.  Today is the end of week 1 for the cpap machine.  It has been a hard adjustment but I’m improving each day.  Its difficult to get used to sleeping with a mask and it is hard to keep it from leaking.  I also miss being able to read before going to sleep.  Thank goodness for ipods.  (Also, thankfully I am not in a couple because the mask is not a romantic look!).

this is at the sleep lab but my mask is basically the same. Darth Vader here we come!

So that’s my random thoughts.   Love you guys!

A Perfect Week

Today is Friday and I am watching Say Yes to the Dress and putting my feet up after a long week.  A perfect, but long week.  How was it perfect- you ask?  Well, the main reason is I worked out like a maniac (as this photo shows!).

On Monday I did a tough weight routine, Tuesday I swam a mile, Wednesday did a boot camp with my trainer (need I elaborate that a boot camp was difficult!), Thursday I swam a mile and Friday I met with my swim coach and did 1500 meters worth of interval drills (we did 250 meters fast and slow, 200 meters fast and slow, all the way down to 50 meters.).

I wish I could say I feel full of energy from all this exercise but sadly I feel like a pile of rubber.  I’m so glad I have no other major responsibilities beyond work, church and exercise because I honestly don’t have the energy. (Most of the time I heat something up or eat a sandwich because I’m too tired to cook).

The truth is that many people respond to exercise like me.  In fact, I read an article about the ‘myth of endorphins‘.  It discusses a study of the brainwaves of highly trained athletes after work out.   Their results amazed me and confirmed what I had always seen in myself:

“When researchers set out to determine whether killer workouts could produce enough of the opiate-like hormone to bring on that buzz, the notion turned out to be another fitness Sasquatch”

Another researcher goes on to say:

“Endorphin has also been identified as the reason people sometimes appear to get a ‘high’ from exercise or even become addicted to it. Yet no compelling scientific evidence backs any of these claims.

The idea that endorphins flood our brains in sufficient quantities to create a druglike buzz is virtually an article of faith in gym conversations and numerous fitness publications. ”

Don’t you love it when science backs up your own personal theories? 🙂  Exercise is hard and painful for most everyone!  Hurray! I’m not alone!

That said- I have seen significant improvement in my over all mental and physical health.  I feel tired but good (or perhaps whole and complete are better words)  if that makes sense.  There is a new sense of potential within myself and after surfing a sense that I can do anything- I am a champion and I’ve never been that before.

I have enrolled in an open water swim which is a mile long in cold open water. It is a huge challenge but again if I can surf, I can enter this race.  Even my trainer noticed a new sense of confidence in me.  On Wednesday she said “I’m so glad you went to Hawaii.  It was very good for you. You have a whole new enthusiasm”.   My goal is to finish the race and then hopefully enter many future races.  I have even aquired a wetsuit and a swim coach to help me (who ever said getting in shape is a cheap has another thing coming!  I look at it as my new hobby and it certainly takes up more time than most hobbies).

All I can say is this week I did what I never saw myself doing- I did intense workouts every day.  Who is this person?  I hardly recognize her but the knowledge of her existence makes me happy.  The knowledge of this perfect week makes me happy.  I did it!  It was super hard but I did it.

Now I am going to hook up my cpap machine for my sleep apnea (just got that this week! I’m like darth vader at night!) and enjoy a well-deserved slumber.  Is there anything better than a well-deserved slumber?

Btw, I also met with my endocrinologist for a check up and everything looks good!  I think after all I’ve been through my body is finally on the mend!  Hurray!  (This is kind of a random post but that’s the great thing about a blog.  I can do however I wish!)