The Swim

No it’s not a race re-cap. I hate race re-caps. They all sound the same…they might as well have the same sentences with a drop-down menu – “The swim was…. (pick one)  EASY, Choppy, Sucky, I DNFed”.

I cannot recall truly my first time in a pool or lake, but I know my parents made sure I was comfortable in water. There are family photos. Me in the row-boat at two or three with a life-vest on, fishing with my dad. Me at Lake Erie with my cousins playing in the warm, shallow waves and going out FAR from my worrying mom on my dad’s shoulders to a sand-bar to where I was able to stand up and the water barely coming up to my knees.

I was fortunate enough to grow up in a small community with a pool that was open from Memorial day to Labor Day. Six days a week you could find me there with my friends, sisters and my dad, who worked for extra money as an assistant manager. He trained the high school lifeguards (I started noticing how cute they were in 4th grade!), and I helped him vacuum, skim out the bugs and plop in the chorine tablets after hours. Lunch was maybe a peanut butter sandwich my mom had packed and as much penny candy from the concession stand as 25 cents could buy (actually 25 pieces of candy!) Sunday evenings we would have a late dinner, wait until dark and swim naked.  It was the most wonderful of times.

As I became older, and we moved from that little community, dad participated in a fitness program at the local University. He swam laps at lunch and ran before or after work. Sometimes I got to go with him to swim. These were pre-goggle days. The lunch-time lap swimmers logged in their mileage and I practiced holding my breath from one end of the pool to the other.

Out neighbors to the back of us had an in-ground pool that us kids were allowed to use if we helped keep it clean (their kids were grown and gone). These were the days before automated vacuums-and I painstakingly would move the giant pole across the floor of the pool, sucking up all the yuck and then cleaning the filter afterwards. It was hard work for a ten, eleven year old, but my reward was great. I got to swim! Sometimes I was over there for hours-many times by myself, my mom checking on me from her kitchen window on the hill as she did dishes, cooked, or worked in her garden in the back yard. My challenge for myself was to see how many times I could go from one end of the pool to the other, underwater, holding my breath. For some reason the number ten comes to mind. It wasn’t a big pool, but I remember feeling accomplished at my “feat”.

They say you never forget how to ride a bike once you learn, and I guess it’s the same for swimming. I was never on a team. My high school built one a few years after I graduated. I wish I could have been a “SeaRider”, but maybe I wouldn’t enjoy swimming as much as I do now, had I been coached when  younger. My stroked is laughable by those who “know” swimming and have been coached the proper way to navigate through water from a young age. I don’t care. I have tried to change it, but I am unable to. What I do know is that I am comfortable in water. Any kind of water. Lakes. Oceans. Rivers. Rapids kinda scare me and I don’t like being upside-down in a kayak while moving through cold water with rocks on the bottom. Wasn’t my sport. I respect water. It’s powerful. I love watching proficient swimmers MOVE water. It’s poetry. I don’t call myself a “swimmer”, but I like doing it. I sometimes win medals and trophies in open water swim competitions. It’s a great group of people and it’s fun.

I swam this morning. It woke me up and helped me start my day.  Keep swimming.

Advertisements

Bone and barbed wire

I took a photo today while mountain biking. It spoke to what I am all about when I am in the desert early in the a.m. with myself or with one other person. I like things at their wildest. Animals jumping out from behind bushes only fascinate. Snakes on the path only invite. Tarantulas are meant to be photographed and sometimes held. Javelina are cute-but don’t mess with them if they have young with them. Mountain lions and bobcats usually are skittish and run before you can get a good glimpse. Coyotes are lopers and look back if they know you mean them no harm. Bats do not dive into your hair-but I have been hit in the helmet by one who seemed to have temporarily lost his echo-location early one morning.

These créatures don’t care if I am old. If I have wrinkles and no makeup on. They could care less if I am wearing threadbare bike jerseys and shorts and have mud splashed up to my knees and up my back. That I have dried spittle on my chin and a nutrition bar blueberry stuck between my two front teeth. One of many fond memories were the polar conditions of heat/cold on a raft trip in the Grand Canyon. Baking in the sun on the rafts during calm, quiet water only to be drenched with bone-chiliing splash as we rode the rapids.  I prefer to be in conditions that challenge, that break my bones, suck the marrow out and leave them to whiten in the relentless sun. I love experiences that almost stop your heart but yet you continue to move forward.  That’s when you know you are truly living. Take a chance. You probably won’t die. We all die. Make your life worthwhile.

 DSCN5410

Ride on. Run on. Swim on. Walk on. And leave the animals alone.

Still Standing

I have found myself standing on mountain tops and at the edges of mile-deep canyons.

I have found myself standing on top of swing sets and willow trees.

I have found myself standing on stages and podiums in front of applause that didn’t mean a thing.

I have found myself standing on false pedestals, only to be pushed off  or cause myself to fall.

I have found myself standing in shadows of abuse and power disguised as “love”.

I have found myself standing next to an incubator in an Intensive care unit for new borns touching my daughter and praying to angels.

I have found myself standing in my own back yard looking towards the heavens and talking out loud.

I have found myself standing in shallow lake waters and on the beaches of oceans.

I have found myself standing on my father’s feet as he danced.

I have found myself standing on my pedals as I push up hills and mountains out of breath.

I have found myself standing next to the love of my life.

I have found myself.

I am still standing.

The Pull

Have you ever felt it? It’s visceral. From the center of you. An ache almost combined with complete awe, wonder, and joy.

I have felt this as I ran barefoot to the large tree with the big swing after a rainfall in summer, the drops falling heavily from the leaves and branches sparkling in the sun.

I have felt this pull as I was allowed to walk or ride my bike to school in first grade. Swishing through fields of tall grass. Crunching through fallen, dead leaves, emptying my boots of snow from drifts higher than my knees and dodging raindrops. Sundays meant a picnic if the weather permitted and a hike on trails around the reservoir. Or a fishing trip with my dad. Or up to the lake for family get-togethers where we would swim from sandbar to sandbar far away from the shore, amazed that the water only came up to our knees.

Even as a child I wanted to keep hiking, keep riding, keep swimming out, keep finding if there was anything to discover at the next big rock, tree or pond. I had to know. Everything was an adventure.

Everything still is.  Embrace the mystery. Go find out.

Chasing boys

I hung out with them a lot growing up. Not exclusively. I still liked playing with my Betsy McCall doll occasionally, but once I found a friend who loved to climb trees and make houses in the long field grass as much as I did, well, we were besties of course! But I liked their energy. Their quickness. Their daring escapades. 

I climbed as high as they did in the trees, only to almost fall more than 20 feet on a couple occasions. That feeling of having the branch break under you, sliding down the trunk, the pit of your stomach coming up into your throat and the prickle of complete relief as you landed on the next branch further down…I still remember it. Well.

I loved  being outside. I didn’t care what the weather was. I told my mom to “go to hell” in 4th grade as she yelled at me for running out the door barefoot as soon as the snow melted.

I could stay out building snow forts far into the evening until I could no longer feel my fingers/toes.

I would cry headed home from a toboggan outing.

I would hang out at the city pool in the summers. All day. Every day and ate candy from the concession stand for lunch.

I chased the fastest boys in school and kissed them when I caught them. (Maybe they let themselves be caught…?)

After racing the high school neighbor kid who just made the track team, I announced to the admiring parents that I, too, was going to be on one.  My dad touched my shoulder and said that girls didn’t run track in high school.

I did. And they do now. And I still run to this day.

Keep on being what you want.

 

In the beginning…

May as well start here.

I remember the day well. Four female teenagers in a too-small rented house, with my mom who had virtually been abandoned by my well-meaning father. He was living a few hours away while working on his PhD so that he could eventually work at the local college and provide us with that higher education he cherished so much.

My mom was not extremely happy. She couldn’t keep us from hanging out with undesirables who smoked and drank after school, made out at the end of dark dirt roads, but she washed dogs so that we could have material to sew prom dresses and kilts for homecoming. She took control over her life somewhat by learning about health foods and subscribing to “Prevention” magazine.  She introduced us to wheat germ and we grew our own vegetables in the summer. At a very young age I became aware of what was healthy to put in my body and what was not. And although I loved my mom’s macaroni salad and lemon bars, I decided at 15 I was going to live differently than most of my friends.

I don’t know what guided me. It could have been because it was the late 60s and women were crying out for equality in everything. It could have been that I read an article in Sports Illustrated, in my high school library about Gayle Barron or Bill Rogers. It could have been just watching the guys on the cross country team take off one fine fall day into the orange-gold leaves in the woods behind the school that made me say to myself “I want to do that”.

So I started running.  After school.  With the “boys”.

To be continued….