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February 22, 2010

I have a superstition.  It started before my first English Channel swim.  I can't exactly remember how it started, but it did and I actually have a lot of fun with it.  It is getting close for me to choose my fun toe nail polish.  I have a few options coming into play.  Two colors that I'm considering are "Summer Sea" and "Berry Fast", but I will check the store to see if there is another contender.  Now my superstition doesn't run along the lines of the the color of the nail polish.  It has to do with the name of the nail polish.  Granted this causes some very crazy looks when I'm at the nail salon as I pick up every single color, quickly turn it over and hope that the name speaks to me and what I have coming up in my swim.  Picking a color has taken upwards of 15 minutes and the pedicurists are stumped as to help me pick a color. 

So the next week, I'll be contemplating the toe color as that is a fun and crucial part of my swim.  If you happen to have any great ideas on nail polish colors for any of my upcoming seasons swims, please pass them along.

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The Holiday Letter

January 1, 2010

I’ve never done a holiday letter ever.  I get them.  I really enjoy them, but I’ve never sent one myself.  I couldn’t exactly figure out what to say.  For the past 4 years, my life has pretty much revolved around swimming and work.  I get a new plant every now and again and I kill one or two by accident, but that is about it.  Plus then there is the blog which pretty much updates anyone that wants to read it.   Then the light bulb went off, a blog holiday letter!  So here it is the first installment.

This past year has been a tumultuous one to say the least.  It started off with a bang as I traveled down to participate in the Triple Lake Taupo Relay crossing.  It was the race that wasn’t really a race.  A team of 5 men swimming alongside (against) a 6 person female team.  We finished less than 5 minutes apart which in a 60+ mile, 33 hour event is more than amazing.  Mostly I remember the laughter and new friendships that have continued to blossom over this past year.  Unknown to me at the time, we apparently set a new Guinness World Record with this swim too.  YEA US!

The rest of the winter months were spent in my normal routine; sleep, workout, work, eat, sleep and repeat.  There was a new plant, which quickly became an old plant.  But other than that not much was going on. 

I was in a peak training weekend the weekend of May 15-17, 2009.  My task was to swim 3 x 10hr swims.  One on Friday, one Saturday and the remaining 10 hrs on Sunday.  I made it through the Friday swim very well.  Except that I was so tired that I didn’t take my normal evening call with my mom.  She left me the best message.  She was there cheering into the phone “ONE DOWN BABY!  WAY TO GO!  KEEP IT UP! YOU CAN DO IT!”.  As I smiled and laughed to myself, I pressed the delete button and promptly went back to my afternoon of resting, eating, and sleeping.  The next morning I woke up early and my friend came to help kayak as I swam 6 hours outside at Hagg Lake and then transferred back into town to finish up in a pool due to the cold water temperature.  Another friend was waiting for me at the pool, I thought it odd, but thought maybe she too was here to cheer me on.  Unfortunately no, she was there to tell me to call home.  I did and my dad gave me probably the hardest news he has ever had to do “Your mother died in her sleep.  It was peaceful and it was quick”   Life from that point on for me became measured in the Before Death and After Death. 

I’m sure that at that point I didn’t know how to process things, so I kept on swimming and moving towards my goal of completing a triple crossing of the English Channel.  As many of you have followed, I completed a solo crossing of the Channel on June 30, 2009.  My crew provided the heart that I needed to make it that far and I can’t thank them enough.  Then after that swim, I did go back to my beginning of Pennock Island.  I did have fun, but fun felt so much more different these days.  It didn’t last as long and it is only recently that I began to understand why.

My parents aren’t just my parents.  My mom and dad are/were great.  They are my team members and my cheerleaders.  I spoke to my mom every day and I mean EVERY day.  She made it possible for me to have a dual life where I worked a full time job and swam full time.   She was the person that drafted my fundraising letter for the past 3 years.  She has written countless sponsorship letters which resulted in many of my sponsorships.   She created a sponsorship video to include with letters to businesses, which was an amazing feat for my non-technical mom.  She would fly out to Portland every 6 – 12 weeks and spend the weekend cooking and ensuring that my freezer was full of single serve home cooked meals.  She also cleaned, did laundry, decorated and made my home feel more like home.   My dad is my travel agent and helps me make financial decisions, mostly helps me say yes when a unique opportunity comes my way and helps me figure out how to stretch my money to make it happen.

And now After Death, I’m trying to figure out how to get all this Mom stuff done.  For those of you that are wondering, yes I do know how to cook.  Yes, I can do laundry and clean.  Yes, I can write letters and fundraise and talk to potential sponsors, but my mom made all of these things easier.  She helped to carry my load.  But mostly…I miss our everyday talks.  Sure I still talk to her, but she just doesn’t quite talk back.  I miss that, even when we were getting on each others nerves.  I miss that last phone call of the day.  I wish that we could still talk.  I wish I still had that voice mail from the last night. 

But I do have a lot to be thankful for this past year, my friends from all over have been incredible.  They provide the joke when I need the laughter, the shoulder when I need to cry, and often have provided that last phone call/text of the day. 

I have accomplished some great swims, met some amazing people and I continue to have a job that is challenging in a mostly positive way.  I have welcomed a new nephew into the fold which brings my cool auntie status up to 5 nephews and 1 neice. 

On the fundraising front, we have raised over $18,000 for Macyswim for a Cure – In honor of Dr. Kathleen Macy.  We are almost to the halfway mark of our $50,000 goal.  Watch for upcoming posts on new ways to donate.

I have learned that my mother gave me the skills to move forward.  I may not be able to recreate her beef stew or soup, but she gave me so many other gifts.  Now it is just uncovering those deeply engrained skills and putting them to work.  And it starts by me making it successfully out of bed each day.

I hope that all of you that follow this blog had a wonderful year, where you challenged yourself to move outside your comfort zone.  That you cherished your loved ones and made new memories.  And I hope above all that you laughed and loved to your fullest.

Happy New Year.

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Vizzini says…

December 29, 2009

Ok so I’ve never really expunged about the fact that I love the movie The Princess Bride. I can pretty much recite all the lines from it. If I have the opportunity to work those into everyday conversation I consider it a good day (Hey it’s not like these lines really fit in everyday conversation). However, while swimming my 4th Pennock Island Challenge in Ketchikan Alaska the words of Inigo Montoya came rushing into my head.

I know you are probably thinking of the lines from the boat after Buttercup launches herself into the sea. No it wasn’t the following:
Inigo – I can’t swim.
Fezzik – I only dog paddle.

It was the point where Inigo is drunk in the village yelling at the Brute squad. Forgive me as these are rough quotes. “I’m waiting for Vizzini. Vizzini said if something went wrong to go back to the beginning. So I have.”

The Pennock Island Challenge is my beginning. In August 2006, I took my first leap into cold open water marathon swimming and I never looked back. I was the only out of state swimmer and everyone just took me in. Since I was a pretty lonely open water marathon swimmer in Oregon, I was beginning to believe my friends that maybe I was crazy. Then there was Alaska and a whole family of swimmers who just loved the water. No one was crazy or at least we weren’t crazy alone. It was fantastic. I still have that feeling 4 years later.

I’m sure that Willie Schulz didn’t think I would make it through after the safety meeting and his very strong precautions about hypothermia I walked up and asked “Um, so what are the signs of hypothermia?” He thought briefly that I was kidding and then this look of dread came over him. Nope not kidding. He gave me some high level overviews and then probably went to my kayaker and told him to watch me closely. I made it through and Willie was at the finish when I touched the buoy. “What did you think?” My reply “I’ve never hurt so much or been so happy in my entire life” Thus a cold open water marathon swimmer was born.

As you all know, these past 6 months have been a rough one. I’m still trying to navigate the waters, so it was time for me to “return to the beginning.” Every trip back to Alaska brings a renewed sense of purpose for me and cold water swimming. This year was no different. In a way it is like returning home to my first cold water swimming family (which has grown so much in 2 years 🙂 ). Per usual, I made the quick trip up and caught up with all my friends. The trip is never long enough and I never have enough time to talk with everyone, but each moment is cherished. 

Plus after 4 long years, I accomplished another goal.  I finally saw a black bear in the wild.  It was a magnificent creature, but much smaller than I anticipated.  I was watching it fish in a small stream when all of a sudden a saw a small dog bolt from a house barking.  I thought for sure I was in for a true Discovery channel moment, but alas no.  The black bear took one look at the dog and took off running.  I was a little disappointed.  First here was my first look at a black bear in Alaska and then just as soon as it started it was over.  Hmm…maybe more to look forward to in 2010.

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Stuff in the News

March 1, 2009

So much has been going on lately, that I thought I would share some of it. 

Another family member is making headlines these days, my brother-in-law.  His latest business venture, a brewery (aren’t I lucky), is doing very well.  If you check out the picture of the guy with the pitcher of beer, that’s Dan, my brother in law.  The arcticle goes onto the second page where they get to the details about Lift Bridge Brewery’s selections.  In the words of Rachel Ray, Yum-O.

You all remember Lucy Roper from the New Zealand adventure.  Well, she has been constantly been told to write a book about her adventures/mis-adventures in sports.  She has affectionately called it “A Life in Stitches”.  She has been kind enough to let me share a portion of the hopefully future book.  You all have to help me convince her as I was in tears from laughing and then I found that her experiences weren’t all that rare.  A Life in Stitches – Chapter 1 and A Life in Stitches – Chapter 2.

An article about a swimmer’s attempt at swimming Lake Wakatipu in New Zealand South Island.  Lake Wakatipu swim

Julie Bradshaw’s account of the Lake Taupo Triple Relay Crossing.

I think it is so great to see all the different accounts of the same swim.  While the main themes remain the same it is fun to see the swim from another’s perspective. 

As always, I’ll share more when I have it.

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Who were these people anyways?

February 1, 2009

Now I didn’t know a ton about all these swimmers before I headed down to New Zealand, but I learned a ton.  Below is a very very brief resume of the swimmers.

Penny Palfrey:  one of the main organizers of the Taupo swim.  Swims include: 2 x English Channel, Cook Strait, Gibralter Strait, 2 x Manhattan Island Marathon swim, San Miguel to Mainland – Santa Barbara Channel, Tampa Bay Marathon, 8 x Rottnest Channel, Pan Pacific Italy.  Motto: Swim, Swim, Swim, Love it, Live it, be safe, have fun and kick ass!  Penny has a passion for swimming and she is a supporter of all swimmers and helping them achieve their goals.  That and she is an amazing chaser.  I think given the chance she could chase down Michael Phelps.  For more information visit 

Chris Palfrey: one of the main organizers of the Taupo swim.  Swims include: 2 x Manhattan Island Marathon swim, Tampa Bay, 8 x Rottnest Channel, Santa Barbara Channel, Gibralter Strait.  Motto:  No I’m not swimming backstroke 🙂  I can’t wait to see what Chris accomplishes when he semi-retires.  I thought I had a list of swims to do.  I think Chris’s list is 10x as long as mine.  But he has some amazing determination, so I know that given the time those swims on his list will be ticked off one by one.

Julie Bradshaw: one of the main organizers of the Taupo swim. Started marathon swimming career at the eary age of 14.  She has followed her passion around the world and participated in many world first marathon relay swims.  In addition, she is hte current world record holder for swimming the English Channel butterfly.  For more information visit

Steve Junk:  Swims: Rottnest Channel too many times to count including a double, Gibralter Strait, Sydney Harbor to Manly, 2 x Manhattan Island Marathon swim, Ederle Swim, Torquay Bay swim in England, English Channel Relay, Swimming between the Cinque Terre villages in Italy.  Apart for traveling the world for swims and work, Steve is a connoissuer of wine which he is taking to the next level by purchasing a winery.

Stephen Spence: Swims: Magnetic Island swim Queensland (Dude this was done in a shark cage…scary man)., too many 2k – 8k swims to list.  Stephen has an unusual story as just last year he was diagnosed with leukemia.  The strength that he has to overcome leukemia and then say “Yes” to the very persuasive Chris Palfrey.  I don’t know if you remember but 2 swimmers unfortunately had to drop out at the last minute.  Chris was in email conversation with Stephen and proposed he join us for the Lake Taupo Relay swim.  I don’t think anyone can turn down Chris (see my hiking account earlier).  Stephen did an amazing job and I would have never known about his previous battle.  He is a true inspiration.  Here is a great story in his own words – pages 6-8 swimmers_news_-_december_081

Mark Cockroft: Now this guy is completely crazy.  He with Steve Junk for the English Channel relay.  Plus his list of triathlons, marathons, marathon swims, etc.  Way too long to list here.  I mean he was so crazy that he after this swim he competed in an ironman just a mere 2 weeks after this swim.  I don’t have his results from this event…sorry.

Dougal Hunt: A relative newcomer to swimming and he jumped in big with marathon swimming.  In the past 2 years since starting swimming he has accomplished the English Channel and the Gibralter Straits.  In addition, he has raised $64,000 for cancer research.  In addition to swimming, Dougal has a passion for traveling.  As we speak he is trekking around South America for 6 months.  I can only imagine the adventures and probably swims that he will do.

Barbara Pellick: Barbara like everyone has a long list of swims on her resume including; 22 x Rottnest Channel including the first double.  This makes her the queen of the Rottnest Channel a title that she humbly accepts.  English Channel – Solo and Relay, Manhattan Island Marathon Swim, inaugural winner of the 10k Lake Argyle swim, etc. etc. etc.  Barbara is also just a strong supporter of the team.  On the boat it was Barb who helped me after my last leg and helped me put everything in perspective.  I am eternally grateful for that support.

Heather Osbourne:  I don’t think that there is a swim in New Zealand that she hasn’t completed or attempted.  As I’ve said she immediately gained my admiration by choosing to swim behind the boat.  I don’t have the same mental fortitude to always feel like I was chasing after the boat.  I think that Heather’s swim resume will soon include a solo crossing of Lake Taupo.  In addition to swimming, Heather has a knack for having anything and everything that anyone would need in her car.  Need something for a quick lunch, she has chips and dips in the car.  Need a scissors…it’s in the car.  How about some olive oil?  Yep its in there.  I would have loved to see her on that TV show where to get on the panel you had to provide the host with whatever he asked for.  The name of the show escapes me right now. 

Lucy Roeper:  Now trying to get Lucy to tell me about her swim and other history was like pulling teeth.  In fact, I’ve got nothing on her.  I do know that she has participated in another world first relay swim besides this one.  She is one of the best hikers I have ever seen in my life.  If we do another hike, I’m totally hitching a ride on her back.  I’m sure she would still motor through.  She has competed in marathons, triathlons and many other adventures.  She is also an amatuer boxer and has one all of her matches under the fighting name of Razer Roeper.  She says there are YouTube videos, but I couldn’t find them.  I think this is more my search skills rather than them not being there.  She has a wit that sneaks up on me and has me laughing for days afterwards. 

That’s the swimmers and then we had the shore crew of Peter and Michael.  When we would get in the water for our morning swim, this father and son duo would head out for a quick run.  Now we were only ever in the water for 40 minutes tops.  Peter and Michael would already be back from their run.  I of course assumed they had maybe run 3 miles.  I asked once and they looked at me and mentioned that they had run probably 6 miles.  WHAT?  6 miles in 40 minutes.  That and they nonchalantly state that it was an easy run.  You have got to be kidding me.  Geepers I can’t run 2 blocks let alone at least 6 miles in 40 minutes. 

Besides the running, Peter and Michael were there all the time for the swimmers.  They let us talk and talk and talk about all the different swims around the world and they geniunely seemed interested.  I partially think that Michael thought we were all nuts.    And I guess in our own ways we all are Peter and Michael included 🙂

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One year + a day

September 23, 2008

Yesterday my mother emailed me and reminded me that one year ago to the day I was toiling my way through the English Channel.  Funny I didn’t even remember it.  I did wake up and think hmmm September 22nd, why does this day seem like something important.  It was sort of the same feeling that I get on September 11th and remembering something big happened.  However, unlike September 11th I could exactly put my finger on what “IT” was.  Until the email.

One email and my emotions took a major roller coaster ride.  The huge ride of the exhiliration of achieiving a dream, the sadness that it is over, and the calm that comes with knowing that I went after it.  I guess in a way I found myself in that inky black water.    There were parts of me that I found that I really liked as in the part that found my passion.  And there were the weak points too, but I found that I can overcome those with some determination, a little grit, and some good support thrown in.  That and I’m so glad that I just tried. 

Funny to think that I couldn’t remember the actual day, but every day I wear a small rock from France that I’ve had fashioned into a necklace.  My own little rock.  I believe that it is the Greeks that have a superstition that you collect a rock from those places that you want to return.  Maybe it isn’t the Greeks but that has stuck with me.  I have rocks from all over the world, but somehow this small one around my neck seems the most important.  

I’m rambling.  I know, but I think I’m just not sure what to say.  The feelings are so strange.  Some days I pinch myself to know its true.  Other’s I sit there and think while I’m in a conversation “I bet you don’t know you are talking to one of the few Channel swimmers.” (Forgive me I know that is very egotistical) Most days it is life as usual, but with the added ritual of hooking my rock around my neck as hopefully a reminder to GO, PARTICIPATE, and LIVE.  

That’s all for now.  

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Alcatraz weekend

September 1, 2008

The last weekend in August, I met up with my family in San Francisco California for the Alcatraz Challenge.  (Wait this was the last weekend in August…oh well you know what I mean). 

My mom, dad, sister and brother-in-law made the trip to California.  Now they arrived in town on Friday 08/22 afternoon.  I arrived a little later and of course I took public transportation into town.  Public transportation in San Francisco is amazing, except when you are lugging a 50 lb suitcase and a 20 lb computer bag.  BART was an easy trip, but it was the trolley and the walk in Fisherman’s Wharf that got a little hairy. 

One of my swimming friends, Jessica Sullivan, was super nice and helped to get the South End Rowing Club to put on a good swim on Friday afternoon.  Unfortunately, I missed the swim.  I was supposed to be there at 5:30pm, but with the public transportation and the gradually rising crabbiness I decided it wasn’t the best option to make a first impression with some potentially new open water swimming friends.   Katie (my sis), Dan (her husband) and I did go to South End to meet people for happy hour.  I LOVED this place.  It was like a museum and a sports club all in one.  And everyone was so nice.  I of course asked if any were participating in Saturday’s swim.  They politely laughed and said “No, we can swim Alcatraz for free.”  Now they did have a point.  I’m hoping that someday I get back there soon to actually partake in a swim.

Saturday morning came pretty quickly for me, but I wasn’t dealing with jetlag like my family.  Dan graciously said he would take Katie and I down to the start at 5:15am.  God bless him.  We quickly checked in and I believe my sister was seriously beginning to contemplate why she had said yes to doing the run portion of the relay.  For me, it was just great to have everyone there and do an event with my sis. 

As the sun started to come up, we started to see all the other Barracudas.  Jim Teisher, Martin Held, and Laurie Kilborn had all made the trip down for the event.  Of course I think Joe Oakes probably had a hand in some persuasion.  Dang that old man!  Jim and Martin were doing the swim only, but Martin was crazy and was going to do it all butterfly.  Jim was tackling his first-ish cold rough open water swim.  Laurie was nuts and was doing the whole thing.  We boarded the trolley for the ride to the ferry.

After a quick briefing and some waiting, we all boarded a Blue and Gold and started our trip.  Martin was a big hit on the ferry as he had a large tub of vaseline.  It seems many of the competitors had forgotten to lube up to avoid the chaffing.  Too bad he couldn’t charge people.

The ferry out to Alcatraz is really pretty quick and unlike the Sharkfest swim last June, there was a timing pad at the door of the ferry.  As soon as you hit the door, your time started.  I wished everyone a good swim and then I took off.  I did spend some time gazing around and enjoying the sites.  The South Enders are right there is no view of San Francisco and Alcatraz like one from the water. 

There wasn’t much of a current during this swim which was kind of nice.  The water was pretty flat as well.  About halfway through the swim, I noticed another fellow swimmer looking back towards Alcatraz.  I thought his face looked a little concerned so I stopped and asked if everything was ok.  He assured me it was, but I was still a little confused.  Then he came out with it…he was relieving himself.  I just started to laugh and then gave him a wide berth.  I’ve heard that guys sometimes have trouble peeing and swimming at the same time.  I think it just goes to show that men weren’t designed to multi-task.  (sorry guys!).

Coming out of the water, I decided to run.  I know…I know…I don’t run, but my sister was waiting.  I went up through the chute and there she was ready to hit the road.  We exchanged the timer and Katie was off towards the Golden Gate bridge.  Dad and I stayed behind to warm up and change (I changed and my dad held my stuff).  Dan and my mom headed up to the Golden Gate to hopefully see Katie on her journey. 

We didn’t have to wait long for Katie to return.  She was back in just under 1 hour and 10 minutes.  It was a killer time for her first long run.  Plus with the stairs up to the bridge…WOW!

After we were all back together, I had the opportunity to introduce my family to Joe Oakes and the other Barracuda swimmers.  We had some great times and then it was back to the hotel.

Saturday afternoon we took off on our holiday.  It was off to San Luis Obispo to visit my great aunt and see her home.  Talk about the best place in the world.  Her home is amazing and very rejuvenating.  I spent all day Sunday sitting and reading a book.  Now typically I can only sit in the sun for about 2 hours.  So I grabbed my book and only did some strategic sunscreen placement (I left my legs unprotected).  I wanted to recover some vitamin D stores and my legs can usually withstand more sun.  After what I thought was 2 hours I looked over at my dad and asked “Dad, it’s gotta be like what 12:00pm?”  “Um, no Michelle it’s like 3:30pm.”  Oh this was not going to be pretty.  In my relaxing mode of reading and looking out to see apparently 5+ hours had past and I have now learned how to turn my legs into jerky.  Ah good times.

Monday morning we again enjoyed the house and company before heading back up the coast to Santa Clara to visit my uncle and aunt.  They too have just a lovely home and it was great company.  Man did we have some great laughs.  Plus I got a promise that I would get the super good super yummy homemade marinara sauce recipe from my aunt.  I’m telling you this is huge.  Her family comes from Sicily so you know it is good.  I’m sure I’ll manage to botch it up somehow.

Tuesday we spent the morning enjoying a clear beautiful San Francisco morning and having lunch at Scoma’s.  By far the best meal that I had this weekend with the exception of the home cooked meal in San Luis Obispo.

Now I’m just trying to get back into the swim of things and prepare for Catalina Channel in October.

Swim Notes:

  • If the event is early in the morning consider when the sun rises as you may want to pack a headlamp.  Trying to use a Honeypot in the dark is not…I repeat NOT a fun experience.
  • Don’t forget your rash guard!
  • If you see a guy treading water and he is ok, chose a wide path.
  • Learn to multi-task.  Practice makes perfect 🙂
  • Plan to take some holiday time to recharge the batteries.

Here is a really inspirational video that my friend Jessica Sullivan put together of her Channel swim.  She didn’t make it due to a rough day out in the Channel, but man she put in one hell of a swim!  She even landed herself in the ER (A&E for those in the UK) from battling so hard.  I receive so much inspiration from the people that just go after their dreams and just TRY regardless of the outcome.  You may want to grab a tissue before watching.


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September 1, 2008

Meeting the polar explorer, Ann Bancroft. What an amazing experience!!!
june 2008 167

Me training in Minnesota in June.  Ok really this is just me fishing with the boys.  Notice that I’ve got my 4 year old nephew’s Tigger fishing pole.


The Manhattan Island Marathon Swim.  The photos are taken by Susan Egan and David Nager.   I’m #12 and my 2 kayakers have my number on them, plus they are also both in orange kayaks. 

By the way, who knew that posting pictures could be so easy if I used my flickr account.  As my friend Leroy says, I’ll turn into a computer geek yet.  I personally wouldn’t hold my breath.


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From Sea to shining Sea

August 19, 2008

Yep as people keep reminding me, I’m way behind on the blog.  Let’s see if I can catch up.

The weekend of 08/02 I flew to Boston MA.  I spent a less than 48 hours in town.  Talk about a quick trip.  I arrived at my hotel on Friday at 2pm after a red-eye flight.  I took a quick nap.  Then I went to the quick safety meeting at 7pm.  Here I got to finally meet Elaine Kornbau-Howley.  A swimmer that has provided some great advice over the year and also been a great contact for the Boston Swim.  She is preparing for Catalina this year and the English Channel in 2009.  Yep there are few crazies out there like me. 

You will notice a theme of everything being quick. 

At the safety meeting, it was great to be there with Joe Oakes, a living legend.  He has done numerous open water swims including one in the Bering Sea from Russia to the US (the reverse of Lynne Cox’s swim).  He has done a non-motorized circumnavigation of the globe earning him appointment to the Royal Geographic Society.   As if that weren’t enough, he is known as Alcatraz Joe for starting the Alcatraz swims/triathlons/aquathons/etc.   Then there are his books and of course he is an excellent artist.  Yeah, I’m pretty star struck and I’m lucky that he considers me a friend.  And for For some articles please see the links below.

Ok safety meeting is over and it is back to the hotel for a quick sleep.  Joe is going to be my crew for this swim and my pilot is Bill Gildea, who escorted a swimmer last year.  Bill wants to meet at 5am on Saturday as we are towing another boat out to the start. 

We got to the South Harbor Yacht club at 5am as requested and found the doors locked.  We waited until 5:30am before the door was opened.  We quickly loaded the boat and we were off.  At this time I had the chance to get to know Laura Collette better.  She is a swimmer from San Francisco that recently relocated to Boston.  She was a riot.  I enjoyed spending time with her.

The trip out to the Lighthouse on Little Brewster island was slow going and the fog was thick.  Luckily the water was flat and clear.  I wouldn’t be swimming through the stuff that I saw in Manhattan and for this I was thankful. 

Out to the start and the swimmers and escort boats were all there.  The swim started and we just got under way.  The water temperature was perfect.  The water was flat.  And the fog kept me from looking around at other swimmers.  I just got down to the business of swimming.  And I was back to having fun.

As the sun started to come up, the fog started to lift and the day turned beautiful and clear.  Again the race was going very well for me and surprisingly I was leading up until the last 2 miles.  I really wasn’t focused on racing this event.  I just wanted to clear out the bad vibes from Manhattan and that was going well, which I think helped with my position.  At a feeding Joe mentioned that he felt the 2 guys got a better current line and were going to pass.  I replied “I really don’t care”  In my head, I was just glad to be feeling well.  My shoulders felt good, my stroke felt good.  The only thing giving me trouble was my neck, which has been acting up lately. 

On into the finish, I finished as the 1st female in 3rd place.  The 2 guys, Ray and Seb, tied for first in 2 hrs 44 minutes and some odd seconds.  I swam in at 2 hrs, 47 minutes, and some odd seconds.    Finishing 2nd for the women was Joni Young from Oregon.  Yea Oregon taking 1 and 2.  I hung out on the beach watching swimmers finish and trying desperately to catch up with friends that had made the trek to the beach (Special thank you to Elaine, Jim, Elise, Declan and Sarah for taking the time out of your busy schedules to come say hello.  I just wish it didn’t have to all be so quick). 

I didn’t get to see all the swimmers finish, but I heard that they all safely did, as I had to get back to the hotel to shower, change, pack and check out.  Yep I was back at the airport at 4pm to catch a 6pm flight.  Told you it was a quick weekend. 

All in all a beautiful swim. 

Then the following weekend it was off to Alaska.  I managed to stay just about 48 hours in this state.  For anyone looking for a great open water swim…this is it.  The organization, the commutity and just the whole event is fantastic.  That is why I went back for my 3rd year and probably will be back again next year.  I arrived in Ketchikan at 12pm August 9th and got to watch a kids soccer game.  Only in Alaska will you see a kid playing soccer in wellies.  (Note: I managed to talk my friends into letting me stay with them and their family for the weekend.  1. It allowed me to catch up with them.  2. It saved me some much needed cash.  Hopefully that explains the soccer game).  Then it was a quick run back to the house for lunch and getting ready for the safety meeting.

The safety meeting was wonderful.  Basically it is a chance for me to catch up with all my friends, ones that I have met in person and those that I finally got to meet in person (Note: In the swimming world you spend a lot of time making friends via email and it is great to see them in person).  Man did I mention how much I love this race and these swimmers!  If you don’t remember 3 years ago it was this race and these people that showed me that I did belong somewhere and that cold open water swimming wasn’t crazy.  For that I will be eternally indebted to them. 

Sunday the race started at 10:15am and I was again paired with Mike Rath as my kayaker.  He is the most even going guy in the world.  Plus he has this amazing hand built wood kayak which is a pleasure to look at for over 3 hours.  As always he kept an even keel and kept me on track.

The race this year was cold…I mean VERY COLD.  The guesstimate at the end was maybe a high of 56.  Plus there was little tide, which meant no push.  And the wind bashed us in the head for half the race.  Still it was good, but definitely the hardest Pennock Island Challenge that I have competed in.  I managed to be the first woman and first non-wetsuit person.  I was 3rd overall 3 minutes behind leaders with a 3 hr 31minute and some odd second swim.

Good News:

  • I finished.
  • My lats hurt like hell.  I know how is this good news?  It is because it means my back is carrying more of the load rather than my shoulders.
  • The hot chocolate, rhubarb bars and other goodies on the Osborn’s boat is worth the swim.  Thank you Pat and Chuck!
  • I got to spend the day hanging with some of the best people ever.  I don’t want to list names as I’ll forget someone and that won’t be cool.  But you all know who you are.
  • I met some people from Southern California that are connected with the Catalina Channel and I know that they will help me through this swim in October.
  • I met Sue Free who kindly switched me from a solo non-wetsuit competitor in the Alcatraz Challenge to a relay team so that my sister and I can do it together.  Thank you Sue!
  • I got to catch up with my friends…oh wait I said that already, but seriously the BEST!

Bad News:

  • My neck still hurt like a well “pain in my neck”.  Working on getting this addressed.

After the banquet, I was quickly back on a plane to Oregon.  One of these times I’m going to add a day or two so that I can actually do some fishing and site seeing in AK.

This last weekend I just trained in Oregon.  Nothing to special and it was pretty quiet as my friends were kicking butt and taking names at the Long Course Nationals meet.  Rumor has it that PRs were had and WR were broken. 

This weekend I’m headed down to San Francisco for the Alcatraz Challenge (yep the one that Joe Oakes started).  I’m doing the swim and my sis is doing the 7 mile run across the Golden Gate.  It should be a blast.  And then for 2 days I’m staying out of the water completely.  I need a little break and what better way than to spend it with my fabulous aunt in San Luis Obispo.  My mom, dad, sis, bro-in-law and I are invading. 

If I get my schedule sorted out, you all will hear about Alcatraz before October.  I’ve vowed to make a New Year’s resolution to be better at blog posting, but until then we will all have to grin and bear it. 

And yes, I still know there are photos to be seen and yes I will post them…someday.


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Last weekend before MIMS

July 1, 2008

It is the last weekend before Manhattan.  Thank goodness for tapers!  I only needed to do a 3 hour swim and 2 hour-ish respectively.  Since we are now on summer hours at my job, I typically get in one of the swims on Friday afternoon and the 2nd weekend swim on Saturday.  This allows me to have Sunday off which is a nice luxury for me. 

Before getting into the Friday afternoon swim, I needed to make a complete ass of myself.  I received a few questions from Steven Munatones and it was signed “open water enthusiast.”   Now I try to respond to everyone that has questions on my blog, because I feel we open water swimmers need to stick together and share as much information as possible.  I know that there were a ton of swimmers who helped (and continue to help me) me when I joined the community.  Per normal, I started answering Steven’s questions.  I tried to be as detailed as possible to give the full picture.  I went into the details around marathon swimming, the cold and how/why the body loses so much weight.  I also took time to check out Steven’s website, which I was already pretty familar with due to his listing of top 50 open water swims and the Ocean’s 7.  However, I didn’t see a whole lot about Steven’s open water history.  At the end of my response to Steven, I asked “What is your connection to open water swimming?” 

Steven responded very quickly and started to explain his open water history.  As he detailed the over 30 swims and his professional swimming career my brain decided to kick in…”Oh crud, you are that Steven Munatones.”  Just so you all know I went on to explain in detail open water marathon swimming to one of the great marathon swimmers (one that is inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame no less)!  Ah yes, my foot tasted wonderful.  Steve was a great sport and really an overall good guy.  I recommend checking out his site if you haven’t already  There is a ton of useful open water swimming information in there. 

I can’t thank my friend Courtney Remes enough about convincing me to do this blog.  It has introduced me to so many wonderful people around the world, even if I do make a complete arse of myself sometimes. 

Back to the training, so Friday I decided on a 3 hours swim.  Tim and I went back out to Hagg Lake which has warmed to 72 in the top 12 inches and about 66-68 in the bottom layer.  It was a comfortable swim.  Nothing to out of the ordinary until…the dark shadow appeared.  Tim and I were taking our normal bobbing break.  Ok I was breaking and Tim was humoring me when all of a sudden there was this huge shadow in the water coming right towards me.  I had visions of jaws running through my head.  Where to go?  What to do?  Then I remembered we were in fresh water.  It must be the Loch Ness monster relocating to warmer territory.  I quickly screamed and kicked and swam for broke.  I’m sure I would have beaten Gary Hall Jr.  As I started to dart away I got a good look at “Nessie”.  It was this huge monster of a salamander out enjoying the lake.  (Ok ok it was about 3 inches long and one of the cutest things once Tim grabbed it by the tail).  We spent some bonding time before we watched it swim off.  I began to get jealous of it’s tail as it swished and vanished into the murky waters.

Back to swimming again.  We were on the other side of the lake in our “pier to pier” swim.  (Side note: I misrepresented one of the names of the locations on the lake.  It is not Balthazar, the 3rd of the 3 wise men, but Balder which I don’t have time to google to explain).  Ok so we were over by Lincoln and there was this woman on the boat that kept waving at us.  Now I thought is was my good friend’s mom, Cary, but she was just waving and not saying anything.  I did the required safety check at this point.  Am I still swimming?  Yes.  Am I moving? Yes.  Is Tim still swimming and moving?  Yes.  Are we about to get run over by a boat? No.  Am I bleeding? No.  Is Tim bleeding? No.  Ok all systems are go, what is going on?  Finally Cary did say “Michelle” and with that I knew it was her.  We swam over and spent some time chatting.  It was really a nice little break even if we were treading water.  The rest of the swim was very uneventful if not warm.

Saturday Tim and I drove down to Nehalem Bay at the coast.  It was time to hit the salt water at least once before Manhattan.  I was just going to use this swim to stretch out and warm up.  1-2 hours tops.  As we walked down to the water and stuck our toes in we both realized it was back to the cold water.  Nehalem was running about 52-54 degrees.  Yowsah – that was cold after yesterday’s 72.  But swim we did.  Unfortunately the water was a little cloudy so I didn’t see nearly as many crab as I hoped.  Tim did see them doing their normal dance, which made me very happy.  1 hour 15 minutes later we climbed out of the water and drove over to the showers.  One great thing about Nehalem is there is a campground nearby where we can shower and gradually warm up after our swims. 

Those were the weekend swims.  Nothing too exciting.  Well except for Nessie. 

Monday I awoke with a pain in my right ear.  Not NOW!!!  I quickly scheduled an appointment with the Dr.  It is either swimmers ear or an ear infection neither of which have I had for years.  Oh well, we are treating both and hopefully it will be calmer before I hop on the plane Wednesday night.

Another thing I wanted to mention.  I think I may have to continue to do these crazy swims just to receive Dave Radcliff’s crazy packages.  He is so creative.  My kit included: a surgical mask to keep the water away from the mouth, surgical gloves with strainers attached to sift through anything in the water, Baby Ruth’s so I can study the difference between the good and the bad brown clumps, and a few other humorous items.  I don’t have photos at this time, but I’ll try to post.  It definitely broke some of the tension that I was experiencing last night. 

I believe that Jane will be contacting my Mom through out the swim and Mom will be updating the website.  So keep your eyes peeled.

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