I want to be a “Scilly” swimmer too!

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The swimmers gather with their groups. Photo courtesy of Linda Burns.

I feel like I am standing still in cement while I watch my swimming friends fly off without me. I barely make it to the pool more than twice a week lately–and I’ve had to start completely over this year due to knee surgery.

Meanwhile, my Piranha Swim Team Masters’ friends are getting faster, stronger and swimming longer workouts. Not only that, they are taking on challenging open water swims like the Tiki Swim in Oceanside and the Scilly Swim Challenge in the United Kingdom, 35 miles off the coast of Cornwall.

My friends Linda and Karl, who were former Piranha and St. Theresa parents with me, swam the Scilly Swim Challenge for their second straight year. This swim challenge is a 15k swim combined with a 10k walk.

Event organizer Dewi Winkle said, “We are on year five now and 10th Challenge just completed. Nick Lishman and I came up with the idea in 2013 and we thought the islands are so beautiful and the attraction of swimming between them would be well received. We started in 2014 and have now built to three events a year with up to 150 people per event.”

Dewi said their plans include a race around St Mary’s as a relay event and a test event in Croatia in October. Currently, they have a two-day and one-day swim in September and a Spring Swim in May.

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A map of the Isles of Scilly and route courtesy of the Scilly Swim Challenge.

From the Scilly Swim Challenge website

Swim and Walk the Islands over one or two days

6 swims averaging 2.5 km (total 15km) and 6 walks averaging 1.7 km (total 10km) completed as a group with full safety and logistical support.

Whether you choose to complete in one or two days you will experience  the amazing swimming and beautiful scenery Scilly has to offer.

Route

The event will start and finish on St. Mary’s, the main island, visiting St. Martins, Tresco, Bryher, Samson and St. Agnes.

It’s not a race and the emphasis is on everyone getting round safely.

While you’re swimming we will transport a bag for you which will be available at the next island. You will then carry it to the start of the next swim.

Full safety support is included.

There are food stops at the end of each swim.

Wetsuits optional.

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The Kestrel, Linda and Karl’s ride for two days, at Hugh Town. Photo courtesy of Karl Siffleet.

According to Linda, her second year was easier than the first. “Coming out early to get used to the water was helpful,” she said. The water temperature was 15 degrees Celsius (59 degrees Fahrenheit). In contrast, we swim in a pool with a temperature of around 80 degrees! Yes, she wore a wetsuit the entire time.

Linda and Karl signed up for the one-day swim but arrived several days early and volunteered to help out or “crew” for the two-day swim. The two-day swim allows a more leisurely pace than the one-day challenge. Linda and Karl checked swimmers in and out of the water and helped with the baggage boat. Linda said the support staff is incredible and includes “30 kayakers—they were awesome! Five safety boats (power cats) and a baggage boat.”

Swimmers can swim as much or little as they want. If they need a break they can hang onto a kayak or climb aboard a boat and go to the next island. In between, they are fed snacks and drinks.

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Photo courtesy of Linda Burns.

“There was tea, coffee, other hot drinks. Cakes, soup, salads, rolls, candy bars. Diet Coke, homemade pastry and Cornish pasty,” she said.

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Hot tea after a cold swim! Photo from Linda Burns.

The swimmers pick which one of three groups they want to swim with according to their speed. “We swam in different groups and nobody keeps time. You can swim as much or as little as you want.”  She said the groups are “Red, amber, green. Swimmers self-select which pod to swim with. Red is fastest. Karl swam amber and I swam green. I was much happier swimming in the front of the green than the middle of the amber.”

I’m sure a lot of the appeal on taking on a challenge like this is the camaraderie. The swimmers must feel so much accomplishment and bond together after their swims. I know it motivates Linda and Karl to keep swimming year round and a goal to work towards in their practices.

Like I said, my friends have been getting stronger and faster. Linda said she felt great swimming. “I felt good. I got into a good rhythm for sighting and really enjoyed it—except the several times a wave broke over me as I inhaled and I thought I was going to cough up my lungs.”

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Photo from Linda Burns.

Someday, I’d like to take this challenge, too. I don’t think I’ll be strong enough yet in May, but perhaps in a year or two. In the very least I’d like to travel to the Isles of Scilly and see this quaint, quiet and beautiful area for myself.

What motivates you to get out of your comfort zone and try something incredibly challenging?

 

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Photo courtesy of the Scilly Swim Challenge.

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17 Weeks, Four Days and Counting…

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I looked at a calendar to see where I’m at in my recovery from surgery. Not that I’m counting the days and hours, but I know I’m stronger and in less pain than a few weeks ago. I go to my last follow up appointment with the orthopedic surgeon next week.

I’m still going to physical therapy, but my therapist has switched me from twice a week to once weekly. I need to do my exercises at home which can be tedious, but I need to hang in there and do them. Like right after I post this I need to do my workout.

The best part of my post-op days is swimming. I rejoined Masters and I started the first two weeks only making it two mornings per week. This week, I’m proud to say, I went four days in a row! I think swimming is a life saver. Literally, because it’s the only activity I can do right now that gets me really tired and exhausted. After being laid up for more than six months, the past few weeks of swimming have been a highlight. I love the feel of the cool water against my skin, the gorgeous mountain view and listening to the sound of swimmers splashing and moving through the water. I also like reconnecting with all my fellow swim friends.

I feel like I’m starting all over. When I started Masters a few years ago, the goal was initially to be able to complete the 1000-yard warm up. I’m able to do that again, but not much more. I wore fins all the time when I first started–they were like my security blanket or training wheels. After knee surgery, it’s not recommended that I use fins, so I’m managing without. Also, I can’t turn, so I stop at each wall and turn myself around. It’s kind of funny to go so far backward, but I am making progress and feeling good and tired every day. I’m thankful to be strong enough to swim again. I realized a few months ago it was a struggle for me to make it across the living room on crutches or even get in and out of the shower. I’m grateful for my health and everything I have in my life—family, friends, and those two fur babies that are driving me crazy. It’s a good time to reflect on the little things in life.

What are you thankful for and appreciate in your daily life?

 

 

Get out of Your Comfort Zone and off the Blocks

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Do you ever look back at what you were doing a year ago? Or a few years ago? This blog allows me to review a snapshot of what I was feeling and doing during any month since 2015. Two years ago this week, I made a huge commitment that was totally out of my comfort zone. If I wasn’t injured today, I’d be swimming in my third meet next weekend. Here’s what I wrote in late January 2016:

I started swimming in April last year with US Masters, with my kids’ team Piranhas. It was my New Year’s Resolution to take the big plunge in 2015. I am embarrassed to admit that it took me until April to start on my New Year’s Resolution.

Eventually, I jumped in and I think it’s one of the best things I did for myself in 2015. You can read about my first days of Masters, here.

I equate joining US Masters to how I believe swimming was one of the single best things my kids did growing up. To a non-swimming family, this may sound crazy. But, there are so many benefits to swimming that changed my kids’ lives. Read more, here.

Biggest example—swimming changed my son’s health. He was, as his favorite coach termed, “A Secret Garden Child.” He suffered from asthma and chronic illness and swimming doubled his lung capacity. His asthma doctor became a big advocate for him to swim.

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My daughter diving in her senior year of high school at Super JOs, East LA.

I can go on and on about what a great thing swimming has been for my kids. I write about it regularly on SwimSwam and my blog. Here are links to a few of my stories.

So, what am I doing this year to push myself and what’s my New Year Resolution? One thing I’d like to do and I’m not 100 percent successful with is to get up an hour earlier each morning. I’m getting better, but it sure didn’t start off well. I have noticed, though, that I’m more productive with an hour earlier start.

The other big thing I’m doing to push myself out of my comfort zone is I signed up for my first swim meet. YIKES! I said it. I signed up for a Masters meet hosted by Piranhas. I’m scared to death. But, actually not as frightened as I was my first day in the pool last April.

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Piranhas on the blocks.

I practiced going off the blocks twice and it wasn’t pretty. When I was a kid, I learned to dive with a flat, almost belly flop “racing dive.” Old habits are hard to change. I’ve decided it might be best if I push off from the wall at the meet. But then my 83-year-old dad said, “I’m not going to come and watch you race if you push off the wall!” I’m not sure if he’s kidding or not!

In any case, I’ll let you know how it goes. If I show up or chicken out. If I dive off the blocks.

 

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My daughter with her first swim instructor.

 

What have you done to get yourself out of your comfort zone and get off the blocks?

 

A Word of Advice for Sports Parents: “Chill”

 

 

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Our gorgeous Palm Springs pool.

I volunteered a couple hours at my swim team’s big November meet. It’s been three years since I’ve had a swimmer at that meet and the distance of time allows me to look at parents and swimmers through a different lens.

Wow. Do parents ever get worked up watching their kids swim! I observed some parents running around the pool deck, yelling and visibly shaking. I was worried a few would have heart attacks. I acted exactly the same way years ago and I still get nervous and worked up. But I don’t show it as much, anymore. I believe it’s newer parents who are the most anxious because it’s all new to them and confusing. Give them a few years, and they’ll probably relax a bit.

One woman frantically came to the admin tent and said in a panicked voice—bordering on hysteria—“I can’t find my son! I don’t know where he is! Help me find my son!”

My friend, who was running things for the parent volunteers under the tent, asked in a very calm voice, “Please, tell me how old is your son?”

“Twelve.”

“Twelve,” my friend repeated. We managed to keep straight faces. If it was a child of say five or six, there might be a reason for a mom to panic. Well, not a real reason to panic, but the anxiety would be more understandable.

“Do you know where he is supposed to be?” my friend, who is also a psychologist, asked. Her calm approach led me to believe she faces many hyped-up parents in her practice. The frantic mom said he was swimming the 200 fly and she couldn’t find him with her coach or warming up. She asked us to have him paged to report to the admin tent.

“Do you want to give him a little time? If we announce for him to come to the admin tent to meet his mother, he’s going to be embarrassed,” she told her.

“Really? Why would he be embarrassed?” the mom asked.

We didn’t have an answer to that. We had a deck marshal assist the mom walking around the pool deck and into the men’s bathroom to help find her son. I never heard a word after that, so I’m assuming her son made it to his event and back to her side.

Another thing I noticed this past weekend was that the space behind the blocks can get really hectic. That sign that says “Swimmers Only” means just that. It doesn’t mean “Swimmers Only and Me the Swimmer’s Parent Because I’m an Exception to the Rule.” It’s amazing how many parents ignore the sign, have to be told to leave the “Swimmers Only” area and a few want to argue about it. Once again, it’s interesting to look at this from a distance, when a few years ago, I was the one trying to stand behind the blocks with a water bottle and towel for my kids.

I’m reminded of advice I received from Ref Paul on more than one occasion, “Relax, have fun. It’s just a swim meet.”

 

 

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The pool deck during a meet with the “Swimmers Only” area behind the blocks.

 

Why do you think we get so worked up over our children’s athletic performances?

 

 

 

 

 

What a difference a pool makes in a community

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Our gorgeous city pool, home of the Piranha Swim Team.

I’m researching the history of our swim club because it’s the 50th year since the Piranha Swim Team began. Plus, a big chunk of our family life centered around the pool and the Piranhas beginning with mommy and me classes, learn to swim, through the kids’ years with our team and their high school. Now my husband and I both swim Masters.

This project has been fun because it’s like putting together a complicated puzzle. I talk to a variety of people and learn about their love of swimming and how the team and city pool has impacted their lives. I’ve spoken with an “original” Piranha, who joined the team at age six from day one of the team when it was called the Palm Springs Swim Club. I’ve talked to a coach from the ‘80s who grew the team from a dozen swimmers to more than 150. 

I learned about a woman who was one of the team’s early coaches, Pearl Miller, who was greatly loved and respected by many—and found her US Masters records online. Coach Miller competed in her 70s through age 92! She began coaching the team at age 74 and held a contest to name the team. The top two names were Palm Springs Sunfish and Palm Springs Piranhas.

One of my longtime writing friends told me she moved from Montreal to work as an assistant coach for the Piranhas in the ‘80s. She said her career as a freelance writer and her marriage all came about because of her years on deck. She became close friends with several swim families including her future husband’s. Another swim family’s dad worked as the sales manager for KPSI, a local radio station, and hired her as a copywriter that spurred her career of decades.

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My kids and Angus the Guide Dog flunkie who inspired my son to fundraise at the city pool.

I remember with pride my son’s second-grade birthday party when he invited his class at school plus his swim friends. I was stressed about where we could host 50 kids.The pool at the time charged less than a dollar a kid and a pool party it would be. Then my son surprised me when I said he couldn’t have presents, because 50 presents were ridiculous. I thought about the nightmare of watching him open a stack of presents and what to do with them at home. He was okay with that and asked if he could request donations for the Guide Dogs of the Desert in honor of our Guide Dog flunkie Angus. He ended up raising close to $2,000 for Guide Dogs from the pool party, not only from his friends, but news spread and people showed up at the pool to donate.

Every year our Masters team raises money for Angel View’s Crippled Children’s Homes thanks to local CPA Steven Erickson who started the event. It’s a New Year’s Eve lap swim of 10,000 yards where we adults ask for sponsors and pledges. The pool is not just for kids, but it’s part of our adult community, too.

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Two of my friends swimming their 10k for Angel View.

 

The pool sees visitors from all over the world who enjoy lap swimming in our gorgeous pool while on vacation. The Piranhas host meets several times every year with literally a thousand families traveling from throughout the southwest United States to compete at a single championship meet and stay in our vacation resort town.

I think of all the kids who learned to swim at our city pool. It must be in the tens of thousands. Pools in backyards and condos are common in Palm Springs, where summer temps hit 90 to 126 plus degrees. Because pools are in backyards everywhere, children die from drowning. The city pool offers learn-to-swim and water safety classes. It’s literally a matter of life and death, not just recreation or sport, or a way to open doors for college. Think of those lives our pool and swim team have impacted.

From the World Health Organization:

Drowning Fact sheet
Updated May 2017:

In the United States of America: drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury death in children aged 1–14 years.

Access to water

Increased access to water is another risk factor for drowning. Individuals with occupations such as commercial fishing or fishing for subsistence, using small boats in low-income countries are more prone to drowning. Children who live near open water sources, such as ditches, ponds, irrigation channels, or pools are especially at risk.

Teaching school-age children basic swimming, water safety and safe rescue skills is another approach. But these efforts must be undertaken with an emphasis on safety, and an overall risk management that includes a safety-tested curricula, a safe training area, screening and student selection, and student-instructor ratios established for safety.

How is the community pool part of the fabric of your life? 

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When Is it Okay to Do Too Much for Your Kids?

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When they were young and needed me.

The sad truth is that my kids don’t need me as much as they used to. My days are no longer spent driving to school and the pool, volunteering in the classroom, packing lunches or helping out on the swim team.

I used to do way too much for my kids. All the time. I drove forgotten homework to school, suits to the pool and all the little things to totally incapacitate my children’s development to grown-up adults.

So, when my daughter called and said she got an email and her classes were going to be dropped on Friday—if tuition wasn’t paid—I didn’t exactly jump to take care of it. I’ve learned from my prior mistakes and write parents tips on how I wished I’d have parented for SwimSwam.com.

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This spring at Open Water Nats. Photo thanks to Ref Paul.

Next, she begged me to call the school. I held firm that she should handle it by herself.

She asked me why I hadn’t paid tuition? That one stopped me. We don’t pay tuition. She earns it through a swim scholarship and she must certainly be aware of that fact. I guess she was really worried and upset. She is in her major and excited about her classes.

I assured her there wasn’t anything to worry about. The financial aid office was probably processing scholarships and hadn’t gotten to hers yet. She’s had lifelong experience at being a W and at the end of the alphabet, after all. Her classes were not in danger of being dropped. Still, she was concerned and wanted me to take care of everything.

I finally broke down and called. While I sat on hold for 30 plus minutes and got transferred around from office to office, I wondered why I was doing it at all? The times I’m asked by my son or daughter to help them are few and far between. I’m thankful for that. So, when she did ask for my help, I decided to go against my better judgment and experienced “parenthoodness” and pampered her.

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Now they don’t need me so much….

In the end, there are FERPA things and I couldn’t help her anyway. What’s FERPA you ask? Once your child is in college and you want to make calls, or check out their grades, etc. you’ll learn that you don’t have any rights to do that—unless your child fills out a form and gives you those rights.

“The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) (20 U.S.C. § 1232g; 34 CFR Part 99) is a Federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. The law applies to all schools that receive funds under an applicable program of the U.S. Department of Education.” http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/ferpa/index.html

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What used to be my typical day–drive to school, pool and piano.

So, a good thing to think about is that if you’re doing everything for your child and they leave for college and need your help—you just might not be able to help them.

When do you think it’s okay to do too much for your children? How do you overdo it in the parenting arena?

5 Tips to Beat the Summer Heat in Palm Springs

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A view from my morning walk.

It’s been a hot week and the “but it’s a dry heat” comment doesn’t cut it when the thermometer hits 122 degrees. I’m tired of breathing hot air and it’s been less than one week of extreme heat. I miss the days of hanging out at the beach with the kids. Those were the days!

Exercise is important. You have to get moving every day or you’ll go nuts. I think it must be similar to living in a wintry, snowy place during winter and experiencing cabin fever.

Here are my tips for keeping cool:

Get up early.
I moved my morning walk up by an hour and a half. It’s still hot, but bearable.

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Palm Springs pool.

Swim.
The Palm Springs pool is a cool place to be. Masters with Piranha Swim Team ensures that I get my workout in and I feel great afterwards! There’re workouts offered six days a week at a couple different times, so no excuses!

Tram Pass.
The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway offers a summer pass for only $75 May through Labor Day. We go several times a week to enjoy a fresh, cool breeze. On Sunday morning at 8 a.m. it was 68 degrees, while it was 100 at home. Elevation 8,500 plus with more than 50 miles of trails. 

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PS Tramway — 50 miles of hiking in cool weather.

Movies.
There’s nothing better than sitting in a dark, air-conditioned theater in the afternoon to beat the summer heat. We’re fortunate to have the Regal Palm Springs Stadium for the first-run films and the Camelot Theatres for indie movies.

Backyard Pool.
We float and kick in the pool every evening until we’re water-logged. IMG_2176 (1)

How do you stay cool during the summer heat?