Preparing for my first swim workout. Early on, I learned to always approach the pool with swagger. This lets the pool know who’s boss.
Actually, I never was a swimmer. Growing up, I was never really taught how to swim. What I’m trying to say is I’m not that strong a swimmer. As kids we spent every summer at the shore, so our pool was the Atlantic Ocean or the back bays. We spent hours riding waves and fighting surf. Or, after my mom would load us up into the station wagon and drop us off at 23rd St. dock with our rubber Hawaiian Punch rafts, we would float lazily back to 8th St. on the outgoing tide. Of course, this was the Eighties. Along with being “drown-proof”, you also had to avoid hypodermic needle punctures on the beach and E-coli in the bay. So while I never swam a lap as a kid, I always loved being in the open, salty water.
I finally started lap swimming in a pool when I was pregnant with my second daughter, otherwise known as Miss Kelly Belly. Or Kel-bel. Or Midge:
Jumping into the same bay. Much less E-coli now.
While pregnant, I had lousy back pain for months which took me from running to walking to crippled. I bought my first pair of goggles and a nylon cap and a size 96 maternity swim suit, and the pool at the YMCA was became my happy place. I swam all the time. One time I got to the Y and realized that I had forgotten my swim suit, and I sat in the locker room and cried. (I’m an emotional mediocre triathlete. So sue me.)
My first triathlon was a dare. A friend had signed up for the Sunset Sprint and said, “You’re doing this with me.” We were running partners, so I knew I could handle the 5K, and I’ve always loved to ride. I figured I could hit the pool at the Y a few times and survive a 1/2 mile lake swim. And thus, a mediocre triathlete was born.
Now I can’t get enough of open water swimming. Whenever I see a body of open water I think, “Can I swim in that? What’s the temperature? Is there strong current? Are there creepy things lurking?” On race day, I’d rather re-enter the water upon exiting than get on my bike. And it’s much too hot in the summer for running fast (and that’s exactly why I don’t run fast.)
It’s open water swimming season now, and I’ll be in the water several days every week with the swim team. I learned early on that triathlon is not about the swim, bike or run. Not the race day swag or post-race food (depending what’s on the menu). It’s about the people. Since starting the sport, I have made an amazing group of friends. Along with being fast, they are humble, generous, and adventurous. Best of all, they will do whatever I tell them. (In that way, they’re like robots.) I tell them to jump off bridges, and they do it.
This was on “Bridge Jumping Is Legal” Day. No laws were broken.
They swim on Mother’s Day Weekend with double caps, booties, and gloves.
They swim from one point, aaallll the way to another point 3 miles away, drop cars at the finish, caravan back to the start, and have fresh donuts waiting. Imagine all of these people swimming past you as you’re fishing from a pier.
A pod of Avalon back bay dolphins.
Finally, they hear you say, “I want to swim around that island.” And they will not only agree to do it, but they make t-shirts, recruit lifeguards, and open on-line registration so 100 swimmers can join you on your bucket list swim.
Let me just make one thing perfectly clear: ALL OF THE PEOPLE YOU SEE IN THESE PICTURES ARE WAY FASTER THAN ME. And by “way”, I mean “waaaaaaay”. But that’s the best thing about having
robots friends who swim with you. They wait for you. They float around, maybe do a little backstroke, maybe talk to a person on a kayak, maybe fend off a shark. All so you have time to catch up. Isn’t that sweet? I’ve programmed them so well.