I’m back with my team!

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View of our pool with Mt. San Jacinto in the background.

Yesterday I swam with my Masters team. I can’t believe how much better and stronger I feel today. I used to whine about “having” to go to practice — and skipped all the time. Getting back in the pool after so many months of not being able to reminded of  how I used to say, “I don’t have to — I get to.”

Our pool was closed March through August and teams were unable to practice until a few weeks ago in September. I now understand how lucky I was in the past. I could leave home at the last minute and dive in — at any time. I had the option to swim laps or swim with our team. Today, I need to reserve and plan ahead. And for months, I had no option at all.

We aren’t back to normal yet, but our coach has the pool for one hour 15 minutes Monday through Friday afternoons. He can have 20 people in the pool for practice at once, each of us in our own lane. So, although I didn’t get to see all my swim friends, I saw several of them, and appreciated chatting and talking before and after practice — chatting while doing my kick set.

It’s a welcome change to have a coach push me a little bit — but not too much — so I’ll return again.

I really missed swimming, my friends and my coach. I remember at my first meet (where I was the swimmer and not my kids) a fellow swimmer told me “Swimming is the secret fountain of youth.” I really believe that because I feel great today! In addition to the low impact workout, and increased oxygen to my brain — I truly missed the social interaction with a diverse group of people I might never have known outside of our common love of swimming.

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Where I swim. View from the deep end.

What activities have you been able to return to that you missed because of shut downs? What are you excited to return to once again?

 

 

Why Salt Lake City?

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Scenic walk from our airbnb to downtown Park City.

Salt Lake City has been in the spotlight because of the historic vice presidential debate last night. Salt Lake City is a vibrant, clean, friendly yet small city that I fell madly in love with while my daughter went to the University of Utah. During her four years as a student-athlete, we took many trips to watch her swim meets and enjoy the gorgeous sights in SLC and surrounding mountains resorts.

We were impressed by the community spirit of rooting for the Utes. Everywhere there are “Go Utes!” murals, flags and signs. The football stadium is always sold out–rain or shine. The gymnastics team is the most attended women’s sport in the country with more than 15,000 fans in the Huntsman Dome.

When my daughter graduated and moved out of Utah, I really felt sad. I thought we’d never visit Utah again without her there. But, instead we rented an airbnb in Park City the past two summers. I love it more than ever. It is such a healthy, beautiful place to be to beat the desert heat.

A friend asked my daughter and me to put together a list of things to do in SLC for her niece who’s a freshman at the University of Utah. Most of our things to do revolved around food. But, all in all it’s a list of our favorite memories during four years of being Ute fans. Here’s our Salt Lake City guide for UTE students, parents and visitors:

 

Hotels

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A view of the Grand America from the pool deck of the Little America Hotel.

The Grand America Hotel — nicest in SLC, fun to walk through, even if you don’t stay there. I never made it to Sunday Brunch, but it’s supposed to be amazing.

The Little America — same company, Sun Valley Company, owns both the Little and Grand America hotels. It’s very nice but a little more low key than the Grand America. Restaurants are great, try the Coffee Shop for comfort food and amazing hot rolls with butter. I loved the gym and pool and big rooms at a great price. Our home away from home in Salt Lake City. 

Restaurants

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A sandwich and salad at Les Madeleines.

Valter’s Osteria — fine Italian, special occasion, delicious and great atmosphere. The owner Valter is so personable!

Market Street Grill — Pacific Northwest seafood flown in daily. Great for big parties or family lunch and dinner.

Sushi:

Takashi My favorite sushi restaurant. They have an excellent menu with many hot dishes, too.

Sapa My daughter’s favorite sushi restaurant. I think she and her friends liked the “all you can eat” special. Plus it was exciting because you aren’t allowed in unless you’re with someone 21 years old or older.

Casual:

Les Madeleines — small Parisian bakery/cafe for breakfast and lunch. I love the tomato basil soup with salad!

Freshies Lobster Co. — Park City must! Casual restaurant that started as a food truck serving lobster rolls and lobster salad, amazing! The best meal I ever had in Utah! So simple but delicious. Here’s a review by the Salt Lake Tribune which says they opened a Salt Lake City restaurant blocks away from my daughter’s former house!

delicious lobster roll at Freshies

Amazing lobster roll at Freshies in Park City.

Italian — Antica Sicilia and Doce Sicilia. Recommended by Matteo Songe,  a teammate of my daughter’s from Italy. He said this was authentic Sicilian. The Carbonara pasta is prepared with flames in a cheese wheel table side!

Aristo’s — family-operated Greek. Delicious. Outdoor seating on the patio in the summer.

The Pie — pizza hangout for students.

Copper Onion and Stoneground Kitchen are two other restaurants we went to a lot that were always good.

Kat’s breakfast list and what to order:

Blue Plate  — Benedict omelette

Ruth’s Diner — Anything! Have the biscuits.

Finn’s Cafe — Eggs Benedict

Eggs in the City — Literally anything, if you want something sweet get the cinnamon roll pancake

Park Cafe — Michigan hash

Bruges Waffles & Frites– amazing waffles and fries. Only order a size small of the fries though

Kat’s shopping list

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City Creek Center

Love Street Apparel — super cute boutique and not expensive.

City Creek Center  nicest mall with the most stores including Nordstrom, Lush, Apple, Sephora, etc. Shop on  Friday or Saturday if you’re there for a weekend, since the entire mall is closed on Sunday!

Patagonia Outlet in SugarHouse

Things to do:

hiking under chair lifts.

Park City hike on the ski slopes.

Liberty Park — beautiful city park for walks or running.

9th and 9th — small area of shops and restaurants you can walk to and from Liberty Park. Thursday nights 9th and 9th at 9 pm bike ride.

Sugar House — more shops and restaurants

Salt Lake City and County Building — historic 1890s building with 2002 Winter Olympic display.

Temple Square — interesting to walk to and around. We never made it to find our geneology, but that is supposed to be available to the public.

Park City — day trip to walk and shop — or perfect summer or ski vacation spot.

Deer Valley — chair lifts in the summer. Spectacular views and hiking.

Skiing — Alta, Deer Valley, Brighton, Park City, Snowbird, Alpine skiing at Brighton has beginning to more advanced, plus rentals.

Hiking

 

 

Living Room Hike

Fifth Water Hot Springs

Sports at UTAH — go to football, gymnastics, basketball, swimming, etc. The crowds at football and student MUSS section are so enthusiastic. Red Rocks Gymnastics is a top five NCAA team consistently and they have 15,000 plus in attendance — the most attended Olympic sport for collegiate women in the U.S.

Church — CenterPoint in Orem. Pastor Scott McKinney. Scott and my husband were best friends from grade school through high school. It was so nice to reconnect with Scott and his wife Sara. They provided our daughter with a home away from home. 

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Downtown Salt Lake City, UT

Where your favorite places to visit and do you have any recommendations? 

 

Taking a break from Facebook

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Waffles sad face.

I used to enjoy Facebook to catch up with friends from my small home town in Washington and other family members and friends around the country. I also like the memory feature where something I posted years ago pops up.

But lately, Facebook is driving me nuts. I get aggravated that so many people are using Facebook to gripe and complain. It’s a very depressing place to go on a daily basis –regardless of your political or religious beliefs. I get upset when I see misinformation being spread and I feel a need to correct it. This hasn’t earned me many heartwarming responses.

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That’s me diving off the blocks in my first swim meet.

Yesterday morning, I made two decisions. First, I decided to go back to the pool. I joined a couple friends for lap swimming with new protocols in place. We got our temperatures checked, we entered and socially distanced as we soaked ourselves in the outdoor showers before walking with masks on to the far side of the pool. We swam for 45 minutes when the lifeguard blew the whistle and we exited, masks on once again. I struggled but managed to eke out 1,150 yards. Not bad for my first time in the city pool since shelter in place last March. I loved being back in the water. I was sharing an experience live with my real friends. Not looking at posts from Facebook friends.

The second decision I made was to take a vacation from Facebook. There’s enough stuff on the news that I don’t need to see my friends and friends of friends discussions over it. Hash and rehashed. So I’m on day two of life without FB and I’m not even tempted to peak. I won’t delete my account, I just will take a break for awhile. My blog posts will still automatically post there so my friends who follow me can see my posts. I can tell that I’m already in a better mood.

Now my daughter said to give up the news altogether. I’m not sure I can do that.

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Now I’ll have more time to spend with Olive the cat.

Have you ever decided to take a break from Facebook and how did it make you feel?

If I could go back in time, I’d do this instead…

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My young Piranhas.

If I could go back in time, say 15 or 20 so years, I’d do things differently as a parent and a swim mom. I’ve loved every minute of being a swim parent and truly believe that signing my kids up for our local club, the Piranha Swim Team, was the single best thing we’ve done for them. Sticking with the team through ups and downs was a plus, too. Not only did my kids become crazily physically fit and skilled swimmers, they learned to never give up through tough times—whether it was an illness, a plateau or learning what a new coach expects.

So what would I do differently? Here’s my list:

One
Not focus on performance.

Sometimes, I get way too caught up in big meets and best times. I wish I could kick back, relax and enjoy the little moments more.

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Medals at a meet.

Two
Not get involved in parent drama.

Like most sports today, where you find a bunch of enthusiastic and involved parents, there’s bound to be some drama. If I could do it over, I’d never take sides or get involved. At times, I didn’t have a choice because of being on the board. But, the drama and problems we lived through don’t amount to beans, anymore.

Three
Realize everybody is different.

Not every swimmer has the same drive or goals. Not every family is going to focus their lives around the pool. It’s okay for some kids to skip practice and have other interests besides school and swimming. I’d be less judgmental if I got a do over!

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Signing day.

Four
Not compare my kids to others.

When my kids were young and new to swimming, it was common for us to compare their progress to other swimmers. That led to upset feelings all around. Looking back on it, things that seemed so big at the moment, were only a fleeting moment in time.

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My son learning to dive with the swim team.

Five
Enjoy every moment of the process.

The years go by so quickly. The friends made with other parents, coaches and officials are ones to treasure. Enjoy it all.

What would you do differently as a swim parent?

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Back when my daughter liked her green fuzzy robe better than the team parka.

How Michael Phelps Is Fighting Against the Stigma of Depression

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A few years ago, I got to hear Michael Phelps speak at a fundraiser for Barbara Sinatra Center for Abused Children. It was very enthralling and I couldn’t believe the darkness he had gone through on his quest to become the GOAT (Greatest Olympian of All Time). Also, It was special to me because I was present at the groundbreaking for the Barbara Sinatra Children’s Center held on Frank’s 75th birthday (yes, that Frank!) during my tenure as a PR account executive for Cliff Brown Associates. Today, Phelps continues to work to help others who are battling depression and other mental illnesses. HBO is releasing “The Weight of Gold” documentary starring Michael Phelps and other Olympic athletes that details the mental health struggles they experience. Here’s my post about my experience hearing Michael Phelps open up about his battle with depression:

I sat with my Piranha Swim Team fellow swim moms and Masters swimmers at a fundraiser where Michael Phelps was the keynote speaker.

He had some really good stuff to say and seems incredibly happy with his life. As he said about his comeback from retirement and Rio Olympics, “I got to show the world who I am.”

He said he wouldn’t trade anything in his life because even the struggles have made him who he is today. What an amazing person he is and has become. Not only was he speaking at the Barbara Sinatra Center for Abused Children, he spent time with our local Piranha swimmers and other high school swimmers before the event. How special will that memory be for those kids? It will definitely be a day they’ll remember forever.

 

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Alex Flanagan interviews Michael Phelps. Photo from Steven Erickson, Piranha Masters swimmer.

Sitting for an interview with NBC’s Alex Flanagan, Michael was relaxed and comfortable. Accompanying him were his wife and baby Boomer, who could be heard crying occasionally in the background.

Phelps said all his many accomplishments and discipline were “all in my heart.” He said, “I started with a goal and a dream. I wanted to do something. I wanted to become the first Michael Phelps, not the second Mark Spitz.”

When he talked about his darker days and struggles with depression, Phelps explained that he “said affirmations every time he walked through a doorway.” He said, “If you keep track of how many times you walk through doors in a day, it’s a lot.”

He said it’s important to “not be afraid to ask for help and talk about things. You can’t do everything yourself.”

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A lot of his strength, he attributes to his mom Debbie Phelps, who he called “the most powerful mom. She single-handedly raised us. Growing up, I learned about hard work and dedication from her.”

Abut his coach Bob Bowman, “He has been there all the steps of the way. He taught me how to drive. The two of us get along so well. We’ve been together for 20 years.”

On his return to swimming for Olympic Trials and Rio, Phelps recalled that he called Bowman to tell him he wanted to come back. Bowman was skeptical and said it wasn’t going to happen. Phelps waited and called him back the next day, and Bowman agreed so long as he bought into his program and did it completely his way. It worked out well.

With his parents separating when he was young, Phelps found the pool to be an escape. His coach told him to “leave everything at the door and focus on swimming for the time he was there,” whether it was one and half hours or two. “That stuck with me. If you look at anyone great, they find the time to do their best under any circumstance.”

Phelps is enjoying his time as a husband and father and looks forward to a growing family. He’s focused on his brand MP and his foundation that is saving children’s lives through water safety.

Although Phelps Olympic career is over, as the most decorated Olympian in history with 28 medals and 39 world records, he said “The pool is very relaxing for me. It’s very Zen.”

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Our local USA Swimming and high school swimmers meeting Michel Phelps.                      photo from Piranha Swim Team 

 

 

 

Six Things Parents Love About Swim Meets

I wrote this six years ago. It seems like a lifetime ago and it definitely was a different world back then! Today is a good day to remember the good times.

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One of my favorite parts of being a year-round swim parent for the past 14 years has been swim meets. Not home meets, but traveling to meets. Don’t get me wrong, the home meets have their unique qualities that I’m sure I’ll miss — but, travel meets — I’ll definitely miss more.

kat at a meetThis past weekend, we were at a meet in So Cal Thursday through Sunday. Other swim parents posted photos and wrote on Facebook about how much they enjoyed the weekend and meet. My age group swim parenting days are numbered — 40 days and nights to be exact — but who’s counting? With my daughter leaving soon for college, I’m nostalgic about why I and other swim parents love meets. kat meet

My top six reasons why I love swim meets include:

  1. Spending time together.  When you are away for two to five days with your swimmer, you have a captive audience. There’s no distraction of 8 hours at school, followed by 3 hours of swim practice, and hanging out with their non-swim friends. Spending lots of time together, unfettered with household, work, and daily school responsibilities is refreshing. Enjoy your little bubble of time, treat it like a mini-vacation. Play cards, sing songs, go to the beach, have fun! You’ll look back on these days as precious memories.kat girls
  2. Nap time. When your swimmer is older, and in age groups that have prelims and finals, you’ll find yourself in your hotel — with your swimmer — for three to four hours in the middle of the day. Your swimmer needs to be off their feet and resting, so going to the beach isn’t a good choice. Nor is shopping. Bring in lunch, relax, and enjoy some of the best naps you’ll ever have!50Free
  3. Walking. Being at a meet for days on end, without cooking, cleaning, working, etc. allows plenty of time to walk. I walk during warm-ups and warm-downs. I walk with my husband, with friends, and by myself. I look forward to checking out the areas by the pools on foot. Walking gets rid of my nervous energy and walking for hours and miles has to be good for me!kat shelby
  4. Friendships. You’ll spend lots of hours with team parents under the pop-up tent. Mostly, swim parents are generous, encouraging and have the common interest of your team and kids’ successes at heart. I’ve made great friends with parents from other teams and I look forward to seeing them at the away meets. I had a great conversation this past weekend with a parent of another graduating senior. Our daughters are in separate towns, on separate teams, yet they are both swimming in college next year — and going through the same excitements and anxieties. I’ll look forward to seeing these parents in the future, during our college phase of swim meets.kat medals
  5. Watching your swimmer race. What is it about watching your child race that is so rewarding and exciting? I’m not sure, but if you have the answer, please let me know. It’s so exciting when they do well. I love that feeling when I see their hard work pay off and watch their growth as a person and an athlete.kat relays
  6. Sushi. We eat lots of sushi at swim meets. I consider myself a sushi connoisseur and I’ve scouted for the best sushi restaurants near pools throughout Southern California.  My daughter likes to eat sushi at meets, too. It’s healthy, light, provides her with the right fuel to race. My top three favorite Sushi restaurants include: bake-lobster-roll_resize

O Fine Japanese Cuisine, Laguna Beach and Irvine, CAojc_00100_resize

Zen Sushi, Lake Forest, CA, and Orange Roll and Sushi, Fullerton, CA.sunset-laguna-roll_resizeAre you a swim parent, or a sports parent? What are your favorite things about going to away meets?

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Can We Make Our Kids Swim Faster?

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My daughter swimming in college.

“Dad! It Doesn’t Help!” is a sports parenting book to “Become the Ultimate Sports Parent” by Mark A. Maguire. Although the book is based in Australia with a dad figuring out how to be a better sports parent for his son with USA Major League Baseball dreams, I could relate as a swim mom.

Maguire explains in his book: “The title came about after my son used this phrase when I asked him how he feels when I holler out at his baseball games. His response stunned me. His response and my first blog must have stunned a lot of sports parents and coaches, because it was read and shared during 2017 (through the COACH UP website in the USA) over a million times.”

So what did his son say that stunned him? Here’s an excerpt from the first chapter:

During the baseball season a few years ago I asked my eleven-year-old son what do all the kids in the dugout think when their parents urge them on with instructions and encouragement as they are playing the game?

He said bluntly: “they don’t like it.”

I further pressed him. What about when I call out some last second reminders just before you bat, you know, the things we’ve talked about during the week and to help you remember what to do.

Again, he didn’t mince his words and said, “Dad, it doesn’t help.”

He went on to say: “When I’m in the batter’s box I follow the instructions from my coach. I put myself in the zone to block out every other noise. It doesn’t help me, or any other kid when our parents are yelling things out.”

Okay. That one struck home. As a swim mom who used to search frantically for my kids before each one of their races to impart some last minute instructions, I am frankly a bit embarrassed. I honestly thought that whatever wisdom I was going to tell them right before they got on the blocks was helpful. Not only helpful but would be the determining factor on whether or not they won their heat, got their coveted cut to the big meet, and would earn a college scholarship. Well, I’m exaggerating a bit with the outcomes, but I thought they wouldn’t do as well without my input.

In truth, I was probably a distraction. An annoyance. A royal pain in the behind. My stress level was running high, I was climbing over parents, pushing through crowds to grab my kids and do our little last minute good luck ritual. Ugh. Yes, that was me. Eventually I calmed down. Or at least I wasn’t so obvious about my nerves—and let the coaches coach while I sat in the stands or at the end of their lanes and cheered.

I asked my daughter what she thought when we yelled and screamed for her. We’d yell at the top of our lungs “Kick!” “Keep your head down!” or my husband’s favorite “Go now!” — like she wasn’t doing all those things without us screaming. It’s funny today looking back at it. I wonder if she heard us when she was under water. She said, “Yes, dad is really loud. But it didn’t help.”

I do think cheering has some small affect on our kids’ sports. It shows our enthusiasm for the sport. Cheering helps us release tension. And it shows we care.

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Teammates cheering at PAC-12 Women’s Championships.

What things have you done as a sports parent that you’d never dream of doing today?