My Dolphin Pod

I’ve had a bit of a breakthrough in the last few months when it comes to swimming. All along with swimming I knew that the big problem with my lack of progress had to do with my lack of LOVE for the water. This wasn’t due to feeling uncomfortable in the water, I feel safe, I can breath, really I’m a pretty good swimmer for someone who didn’t know how to swim as a kid (“swim” as in the strokes….I had a wicked doggie paddle though). In 2007 I learned “freestyle” and now, I would say I’m a pretty decent swimmer for having learned as a 28 year old adult.

But the process was a painful one. Every year since 2007 I have spent all winter busting my butt to crank out the yardage. I would do anything I could to get myself into the pool. I would promise myself post swim treats, beg other people to show up with me, buy new suits, new caps, new water bottles, new toys, new bags. I never resorted to the swim-mp3 player, but the only thing stopping me was ego on that one. And honestly, I thought about it a few months ago. Every year was a new tactic and a new motivational strategy to get in the yardage (err meterage?). And I made progress this way…I think…sorta. Okay, my Kona swim never got faster but I would have glimmers of hope here and there.

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I would drag myself there all winter and then my swimming would slowly peter off as the season got underway and biking and running took priority. That may happen again this year, I don’t know, time will tell. By Kona that winter swim fitness seemed to be gone, and then I would swim the same crummy times in Kona and get all “motivated by negativity” and would get back in the pool all winter trying to find the secret sauce.

Well something started to happen a few months ago. I was doing my typical back in the pool behavior because I swam 1:10 in Kona, one of my slowest times, blah blah blah…broken record. I started going to Masters a little more regularly simply for motivational purposes. I love the Swim Smooth program (I love the Beeper) but that means I have to swim on my own. And sometimes swimming alone means I won’t go swimming. So masters it was.

Well magic happened for me this winter. I found the secret sauce I think…

I found my dolphin pod. And I must thank Jessica really for being pod-mother (like den-mother but for dolphins) and uniting us. For some reason, and I’ve never seen it in all my years of swimming in different Masters programs, but we have this absolutely phenomenal lane of women (there are occasional guys too, but we have mostly scared them off). Jessica and I are the SAME EXACT SPEED and she’s a long distance swimmer (like 13 mile swims, and a go at the channel some day..2019) and we take turns leading.

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Our pod started with a main little group but throughout January the pod got growing, now there are like 8-12 of us. Not all in the same lane, but close enough in speed that we can all swim “about” the same intervals. And the ladies come from such a variety of backgrounds. Some are still expanding their swimming boundaries, and some have been lifelong swimmers. We have all types! Some swim 3X a week and some swim 10X a week! And…I am the only triathlete in the pod!

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I look forward to Masters every day I go now, which is pretty much every day. I have had so much fun in the pool over the last few months, it doesn’t seem right. There have been hard sets, really hard sets, where some of the dolphins almost puked…(not me) and there have been slow cruiser days too. No matter what mood anyone is in, they are accepted. If I want to put on my fins and swim in the back of the lane, that’s A-ok. If I’ve had a flat-white from Starbucks and I need to lead the lane to GET OUT ALL THE ENERGY then that’s welcome too. There’s no competition amongst the pod, just fun and positivity. YAY SWIMMING!!!!!

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A few fun things the pod has been up to:

A few people in the pod (ahem…yes me) signed up to keep track of our mileage for the year in the US Masters “go the distance challenge” and now we are constantly swimming a little extra here and there to jump up in the daily rankings. So bad, and yet so fun. I have swam (swum?) 80 miles this year so far!

On January 1st we swam 100×100 and it was A BLAST. Different lane leaders, a great set, and Nicole made brownies! Then after doing the Go The Distance challenge for January, I thought it was nice to start the month out with 10k, so I asked if anyone wanted to do 10K on Feb 1st. They were like “you are crazy” then the next day 4 of them were like “we’re in!” Do you see what I mean….dolphin pod!!!!

Feb. 1st we swam 10K, and I loved it. I felt much stronger than Jan 1st and the set was a really good one that was broken up nicely. And Jessica made chocolate chip muffins, and I brought YAY! Swimming car magnets! Is there one on my car?….um yes…there is one on my car. YAY….SWIMMING!

Naturally on Feb 1st the pod started thinking about 10K on March 1st, but half the pod was headed to San Diego to have fun (swimming included) so the pod asked if I wanted to come and we could swim 10K from La Jolla Cove on the 1st! I booked a ticket on Southwest. Because…Ummm….yes!

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Lastly, and this is so far out of my comfort zone, but here we go. I’m going to swim in a meet. The state meet is in about a month. So I have spent quite a few sessions over the last few weeks learning the legal way to swim the different strokes. Again, learning to swim as an adult, I don’t know the proper legal turns and starts for the strokes, and diving off the blocks is a HUGE work in progress for me. But the dolphin pod is teaching me, and I am so thankful to learn new things. I swam the 1650 in the state meet a few years ago, because that seemed like what a triathlete would do, but this year I’m going to swim actual EVENTS, like the 50 fly…. maybe… I still have to figure out what events, but I’m GOING for it. It’s all part of the fun.

Making Swimmer Muscles!!!

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This post is mostly silly, because I’m just really excited and happy about swimming, but if I get a little more serious for a second I want to talk to those of you who toil away at the swim leg of triathlon. My athlete Ellen said to me recently (she is on her own swim quest because it’s needed if she wants to visit the Honu in Hawaii)  “I never liked swimming because I never though doing more of it made me any better.” It’s a really common sentiment. Swimming is one of those things that you can do a lot of and not get better, you can do a little and not get (much) worse. I’ve done that and everything between. I asked Ellen a few weeks ago “where is the motivation?” because I have learned that even if you are swimming the big yardage, if it’s coming from a place of “my swim sucks and I’m losing races because of it” that yardage isn’t going to get you far.

The athletes that I see who are making progress in their swimming, or who are swimming at a high level in the open water….well they are swimming a lot. But, it’s not just that. They love their swimming! They love their swim buddies, they love the programs they swim with, they love their hard crazy workouts, and they really love the water. I think there are different ways to find that pure love depending on your personality, but finding it is the main objective if you want to get better. So rather than toiling away and upping the yardage this winter, instead I would suggest you take a personal journey and try as many things as you can to cultivate a deep love for the water.

We all know triathletes that excel in one discipline over another, and when I look at them I usually see that they also enjoy that discipline. Ellen loves her bike, Mikki loves to run, Mo loves the pool, etc etc. But it can seem like a chicken or the egg situation. Is Mikki good at running because she loves it, or does she love it because she’s good at it? I know the answer. She’s good at it because she loves it. Bottom line. I’m willing to go out on a limb and state it as pure truth. Love it, and you’ll make progress. Don’t love it? Well, roll the dice, the odds are against you.

I know a dolphin pod full of ladies that are going to get a ton faster this year….

Trail Racing in Los Osos

After #girlscamp was over, Ellen flew home and Mikki, Mo and I were off to our next adventure. I spent 6 years when I was young (10-16) living in the town of Los Osos. If you have never been there, don’t, it’s horrible. Haha! It’s such a hidden gem in California and I have oodles of fond memories of this place. I saw that they had a trail race the week after the Coast Ride and I knew I wanted to do it. I signed up for the 50K, but then after the knee went berserk they let me drop down to the 8.3 mile race. So saddddd.

Mikki, Mo, and I made it to Morro Bay just in time for the sunset and it was amazing. We went to the backside of “The Rock” and watched the waves crash over the jetty as the sun set over the ocean. Life was really good. I think this was the first time I took a really deep breath and just exhaled the events of the week. I was in a place I truly truly love, like love deeply in my soul.

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And with two people that I adore just as much.  When I look at this photo I feel the joy of the moment. It takes me right back!

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We headed from Morro Bay into Los Osos where I had booked us rooms at the Back Bay Inn. Again, I want to say this is a horrible place so nobody will ever go there, but it was amazing. I lived 3 blocks away from this place growing up and I had always wanted to stay there. This was the perfect opportunity and I booked “The Cottage Room” because it would sleep all of us. WELL, the Cottage Room actually turned out to be the little white cottage up on the little grassy hill that I dreamed about growing old in when I was little. If I could retire to one place this would be it. I remember a little old lady living in it when I was growing up and when she passed the Inn bought it. The surrealness (not a word) of the situation was ridiculous. Mikki and Mo didn’t even stand a chance, I called dibs on the front room, bay view bed, where I slept and dreamed the most wonderful exciting dreams. I meditated each each day here and could not have been happier. Total “did not want to leave” BLISS!

IMG_0903 The Inn had wine happy hour, we hit that up, then went two doors down to La Palapa and had the best girls dinner, complete with Margs and table side guac. Life was so so good. What race??

Bright and early the next morning we were off to the races. Mikki and Mo were running the 25K. If you do this race, I suggest the 25k since the 50k is just two loops of the 25K. I really wanted to be running the 25k because I only got to run half of it and felt like I was missing out on good views. But, I’m trying to be sorta smart here, and so the 8 mile it was! I realized after arriving that I forgot my race hat. I was wearing my favorite purple Coeur shirt and wanted to match it with my Coeur hat, but I forgot it. Took my warm hat off and my hair was CHICKEN HAIR. Oh no, this would not do. I ambled around looking for someone who might have a second hat, Mikki and Mo laughing at me and my hat problem. Then I saw the race organizers were wearing hats and I decided I would ask to buy their hat. I decided I would offer $50. That’s how desperate I was for a hat.

So I went up to the table and right then a guy said “Do you have hats for sale?” and she said “YES” and I promptly got in line and bought one. It was only $15 and I was HIGH AS A KITE! I was so so so happy and skipped around telling Mikki and Mo “THE UNIVERSE WILL PROVIDE” which is one of my favorite lines!

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We lined up on a hill and all together for a mass start. The race director briefed us on which color flags to follow and then said GO!!!! OFF I went. And with it, OFF went any rational thoughts about being nice to my knee. I have a problem. I can not NOT race. If it’s a race, I’m racing. At this point I have run a grand total of 16 miles in the last 30 days, 14.5 of those in the 5 days prior, but it’s a race and I’m leading it.

I’m huffing and panting and running WAY too fast, and the girls behind me are chatting. Totally chatting, not breathing. The first 2.5 miles this is pretty much your view (this was taken at sunset, but you get the picture).

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Then the course turns uphill and all at once in mass three ladies pass me like I’m standing still. Oh man, I’m panting and the self talk starts knocking at the brain door. Too out of shape, went too fast, too steep. And I just said “Hush, this is amazing” in my head about three times and all went quiet. I focused on running up the hills as efficiently as I could and tried to run the flatter stuff fast. The third girl that had passed me was creeping out of sight and the first two were long gone. I also figured that all three of these ladies were running the 25k or 50k due to their chipper sounds as they passed me.

We climbed up Valencia Peak, a peak I climbed many times with my high school friends growing up. It’s steep and there was some walking. I had a 14 minute mile in there and I got passed by about 4 more guys on the climb, BUT I was RUNNING, and I was in my SPORTS BRA, and the weather was AMAZING, and so life was really really good. At the top you picked up a rubber band to prove you made it and I stalled there trying to decide what color to get. Finally just grabbed orange and started back down.

Now so far I have zero knee pain and so, in my infinite wisdom I decide to just bomb the downhill. I mean, it’s easier if you just do that right? I love downhill running and about half way down I have passed the three guys back and caught back up to the 3rd lady that passed me. She lets me by and I keep bombing down but I can hear her right there too. So now I start thinking “is she doing the 8 mile?” “why would she be right there if she was doing the 25k, there’s no need” “Oh no, we are going to have a sprint off” So I’m running as fast as I can, my arms are flailing all over the place and I finally hit the road and the finishing stretch. I haul as fast as I can and whew, there’s the finish line. YEaaaaaaah!

Then I see the lady come through the other direction meaning she’s doing the 25k. So I just sprinted from a lady doing double the distance. Party Foul (again hangs head in shame)!

The first lady, who beat me through 8 miles by like 5 minutes, was actually doing the 50k….she won that…overall. The second lady and then the last I was near both were 1-2 woman in the 25K, and yes, I am now the Montana de Oro 8.3 mile champ….although I should have given my champion coaster to the 50k lady who beat everyone to every check point. Amazing!

And, the real winning moment? No knee pain! Now, my quads were brutally sore the next day from bombing the downhill but my knee was totally happy! Maybe it prefers abuse?

I walked up the course to see Mikki and Mo come through. They both did great and had top 10 finishes in the 25K. I’m so proud of them!!!

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After refilling with burgers and fries, shopping for new hats, and eating ice cream we said goodbye to Mo and she drove back to San Jose to fly home. Mikki and I had a pretty hilarious rest of the night. We went back to Montaya De Oro and went tide pooling. This made me extremely happy. I love me some tide pools. I have no idea why I didn’t go into Marine Biology. I sure love it. We watched the sunset out there and it was kinda magic. It had this way of completely resetting the both of  us. That final sunset on that final night, completely fulfilled in that moment and focused only on the good in the world. It was magic.

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Then we went for a hilarious steak and rib dinner at the Madonna Inn. Pure hilarity and we had a GREAT conversation. If you have never been there it’s worth the stop, built opulently in the 1950s and not a single thing has changed. It’s theme color is pink. They have themed rooms too, I’ve always wanted to stay in the cave room. Maybe next time! Then we were off to the hot springs for some soaking time before we tucked ourselves into bed for the night.

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The next day we slept in, went for walks, basically acted like we were retired folks, made friends with the locals. It was true bliss. The cherry on top was lunch with Amy and Christine where we laughed and laughed and laughed until I almost peed my pants. Good friends, good times. And dinner with Mud and Barbara before our late flight. We are so lucky!

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All in all the Coast Ride, Camp, Trail Race week long excursion was just what I needed to get back on solid ground. It was the unofficial start to the 2015 season and gave Muddy and I the chance to plan the races for the year. I came back feeling motivated and excited to get to work for the years races. The beautiful weather of California was so awesome and the many sunsets over the water were liquid gold. Life really is pretty amazing!