Thursday, September 4, 2014

2014 Lap Swim Awards Night

I am the first person to tell you that I welcome the end of summer every year. My favorite seasons are the fall and winter, and for the record, I was into pumpkin spice well before it became a fad! Anyway, this summer could not have ended on a better note!

Wednesday August 27th was the annual lap swim awards night. Swimming friend Jia Jung brought me as her plus one to last year's awards night, and it was how I discovered the amazing parks lap swimming program! It is a huge party complete with catering from Katz's Deli, a 4x200m relay race, awards, t-shirts for those who swam 25 miles or more, and is a great change to socialize with pool friends as the season comes to a close. 

The night started off with the 4x200m relay. Each session (Early Bird and Night Owl) from each pool selects 4 people to compete. I can't stand sprinting, but love relays and being a member of a team, so I was honored to swim! The Lasker Early Birds consisted of two South Africans (Richard and Ted), one Brit (Paula), and one American (me, in a Wonder Woman swimsuit). Our order was strategic: Ted (build the lead), me (hold and build the lead), Paula (hold and really build the lead), and Richard (get us to the wall as fast as humanly possible). We were in the 4th heat, so we had plenty of time to watch all the other teams swim. Eventually it was our turn! My stomach in knots at the prospect of a dreaded 50m sprint, I jumped into the pool and waited for Ted to touch the wall. I pushed off the wall like a spring, and breathed about 5 times for the next 50m (Francis said he's never seen me swim that fast). I thought I was going to DIE the last 10 meters! Slammed the wall with my hand, and Paula took off, increasing our lead. Then it was time for our anchor to bring us home! No one could come anywhere near the tall and speedy Richard, and we won our heat by several body lengths! We were so excited! After getting some dinner, they finally announced the relay winners. We came in a SECOND PLACE! Go Lasker Early Birds! It was so exciting walking up to that podium with such a great group of swimmers.

I should also note, that Lasker had two fabulous in water cheerleaders, Magdalena and Amy! We were on an outside lane, and they were walking along in the lane to our right. They contributed to our success big time, and were a great addition to the great people cheering from the pool deck!

The night concluded with the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place distance awards. I came in second after a very dedicated swimmer named Valentina. Catherine, the mayor of Lasker came in third. 

This was the perfect capstone to a very busy summer of swimming. The NYC swimming community is truly something special. It is full of supportive, energetic, and truly caring people that I feel honored to call my friends. Whether I am at a CIBBOWS or NYC Swim event, a Lasker picnic and pre-work swim session, I find myself feeling so thankful to be a small part of such a fantastic community. While it is lonely during the winter when I have my 5:45 AM workouts, this support system is there when I get out of the pool, and some may just even be there next to me at the crack of dawn this year. It is something I treasure most dearly, and love about New York. This city gets a bad wrap for being lonely, empty, and soulless. And while that may be true in some ways, its swimming community is full of amazing people who make the big city seem more like an idyllic Walnut Grove (minus Nellie Oleson, of course). 

I have one more race this summer, the Little Red Lighthouse 10K, and then it will be back to training for some marathon swims next summer. And also plenty of Lasker gatherings throughout the fall and winter months. 

Happy Pumpkin Spice Season! So far, I have had three pumpkin lattes, two servings of pumpkin soup, pumpkin salt water taffy, and pumpkin fudge. 

Hold Fast,

Warming up for the relay!
2nd place Lasker Early Birds! Paula, Ted, me, Richard
Richard and I Right after we won our heat! Picture courtesy Nan Melville.
2014 Lap Swim Awards Night. Picture courtesy Nan Melville.
The Lasker Early Bird distance winners! Andy (third man from the left) swam further than ANY of us! He is a tank! Picture courtesy Nan Melville.
My distance trophy
Me and Jia! She got first place at McCarren pool. Thanks to her, I found this amazing program!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Swim Footage

Kayaker extraordinaire Terry O'Malley sent Charles and I some amazing footage of our swims! This is amazing since it is a perspective that I never get to see! 

This is a long video of the end of the swim. It gets kind of foggy due to the temperature change from being in the open water to hitting land. 

Click here to view

Hold Fast,

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Sandy Hookers-Ederle Relay 2014

On August 10, 2014, I swam home for the first time.

For those not keeping score at home, I swam as the anchor of a 2-person relay from Battery Park to Sandy Hook, NJ. This was not a long expected swim. Swimming buddy Charles Bender reached out to me early in July and asked if I was interested. Of course, I could not turn this down! Two hours on, two hours off. Nothing neither of us could not handle.

And handle it we did! 

The day started at North Cove Marina. Picture perfect day for a swim. Of course, I was terrified that my swim was going to turn out like Stage 6, with waves slamming me for 6 hours. But there was good news! The picturesque supermoon was going to help us out! We could expect fast tides in our long as we made it to the Hook in time.

I had to start the relay, so I said goodbye to Charles and our crew pretty early in the day. We had a great crew for this! Terry O'Malley kayaking (lead kayaker for the day, may I add), and an experienced observer and boater.

A little while after the boat departed, the swimmers boarded a zodiac and headed down to the battery. My dad works in midtown on Sundays, and I had given him directions to where he could potentially see the swim. Neither of us thought the stars would align so that he could see us off. But surprise was on our side (Master and Commander reference). All of a sudden I heard someone yell, "Louie!' He has called me Louie since I was a baby, a derivative of "Laura Lou" and "Lulu Bell" which my mom and grandmother called me. Well, there he was standing at the battery right next to the race director, Morty. Pretty awesome! I got a little verklempt. A good omen for the day!

My first hurdle was to get us the heck out of New York Harbor. The harbor is a madhouse of boat traffic. Think about it: Statue of Liberty ferries, Governors Island ferries, Staten Island Ferry, Seastreak Ferry, Circle Line, Water Taxis...and these are just the ones off the top of my head! I kept telling myself to sprint. Hold fast, and get us to the open ocean! Morty counted us down, and I took off. I dove under and dolphin kicked to give myself some momentum. This worked really well, and I got away from the two other swimmers flanking my right and left. I found Terry very quickly, and we found our rhythm. Out of the corner of my eye, all I could see were these gigantic vessels. I knew I was safe, but I could not help but hope and pray that I did not become fish food at the hands of their mighty propellers. But let's not think about that!

Sprinting to Buttermilk Channel

We made our way around Governors Island through Buttermilk Channel. It does not taste like buttermilk. Bummer. My feeds were quick, as I wanted to build us up as much of a cushion as I possibly could. Can't waste time! While swimming a relay is easier in the sense that there is more than one swimmer, you are really giving it your all for the two hours you are swimming so that you don't disappoint. Charles jumped in, and  I finished the first leg about a mile or so from the Verrazano Bridge.

Then the trouble began...

When I found out that the boat had a head (nautical term for toilet), I decided not to bring my No Flash towel (a handy poncho like device Coach Bonnie invented to make deck changes easier) to save some space. Well, the head was located in the hull of the boat. That is prime area for seasickness. I also rushed getting up onto the boat and getting situated. Your body also goes through a huge blood pressure change when you go from being in the water to land. Between the blood pressure change and changing in the hull, I was TOAST. I proudly did not throw up, but boy did I think I would. I only managed to eat a few grapes, water, and some Nuun. I spent most of the leg laying down and trying to do what George Gallagher told me to do: keep my eyes on the horizon. The support crew around the boat was great. No one made a big deal about it, which would have really gotten inside my head. I felt bad that I could not cheer on Charles more as he was in the water! He had a great leg and swam under the Verrazano like a champ. Miraculously, about 15 minutes before it was time to start my leg I felt better. That plunge back into the cool water felt like heaven!

The second leg started out great. We were getting super close, and I felt much better. But we were not out of the woods (kelp forest? I need an ocean version of woods) yet. I hit a major wall around Roamer Shoal light, about 2 miles from land. It was a long, long, long, long, 2 miles. The water gets "confused" around Sandy Hook, with it traveling in different directions (ebbing and flooding). If you have ever tried to get up onto a sand bar at the beach, it feels a lot like that. It was an excruciating couple of miles. I really wanted to walk up on that beach and finish the swim, but I thought Charles was going to have to come in. It was as big a mental challenge as the end of Stage 6. Thankfully, a second wind hit as I saw the beautiful sand and trees of the Hook. I knew exactly where I was. I could see the hill I grew up on. The water felt the same. Everything started to come into place. A hot shot boater created these huge waves that I saw approaching behind me. Years of bodysurfing came in handy, as I went into the streamline position and road them several feet. I realized this could actually happen!

Somewhere out there...

In the same instant that I saw some brown sand, I heard Terry yell "Stand up! Stand up!" I stood up and there I was! HOME! Sandy Hook! The place where I sang "Castle on a Cloud" in front of a huge audience when I was 7, went on Girl Scout picnics, dissected two sharks at marine biology camp, listened to a Hurricane Sandy prophecy 10 years in advance, learned to drive, visited my friend Sam when she was a park ranger, got wiped out by waves that crash right on the shore, watched for humpback whales migrating south when I was an angsty teenager just wanting to get out of high school. The list goes on. It felt somewhat primitive to step on that wild part of the beach. Like I was the first woman to ever have seen it. A new world, vastly different than the one I was just in.  It was also kind of like the scene in Gravity when Sandra Bullock finally reaches shore. Charles swam out to me and we both soaked in the excitement of completing the swim. We each took a shell from shore, and made our way back to the boat for the ride in.

Foggy due to temperature change, but I am standing on the tip of Sandy Hook!

My parents met us for dinner where we were presented with our Top Relay award! We came in with a time of 5 hours and 52 minutes! Sixth swimmers to hit the beach! I did roughly 12 of the 17.5 miles. It is always such an experience gathering with swimmers, kayakers, volunteers, and loved ones after an event like this. Everyone has great stories and there is such a buzz and energy in the air! You're in desperate need of a shower, and in my case, something to help drain the water from your sinuses, yet you can't help but be upbeat and want to stay forever. It is so surreal and goes by in a blur.

My night ended in as great a way as possible: pumpkin beer (the first of the season), Shark Week on the Discovery Channel, and Francis. 

BIG thank you to Charles Bender for recruiting me to be a Sandy Hooker. Kevin, for being a great crew member and helping when I could barely move on the boat. Davien for being an amazing observer, and snapping the money shot of the day (also my cover photo for a forthcoming album of Bon Jovi/Springsteen cover songs).

Jersey Strong.

Thanks to Terry O'Malley for being such an awesome kayaker! Truly the best! Thanks to my family for the support and great messages. They also helped big time on the boat. Thank you Matt Gurry for the great tweets from a Sandy Hook ferry! And thank you to Francis, for everything from spending money to take an Uber car home from a BBQ on Saturday so he could be with me to keeping my family updated while I was swimming. Thank you to Lori and Coach Bonnie for continuing to be such an awesome support team. This is a highly individual sport that is impossible to do alone. 

I will post more pictures and some awesome video once I have them compiled. And once I get some more food in my system. Bareburger will take care of that :)

Hold Fast,

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Ederle Realy 2014! Woo!

Happy Summer! I hope these lazy, hazy days have been relaxing and full of fun!

Just after the 4th of July, I was full into my "swimming, but not training" mode. I started the early bird lap swim at Lasker Pool which is really fun! The pool is over 50 meters long, kind of has a current/chop, and is filled with interesting and dynamic swimmers. 

Then, a message on Facebook....Charles Bender, my friend and fellow 8 Bridges swimmer asked if I was interested in a 2-person Ederle Swim relay. As much as I wanted to coast the rest of the summer, the minute this opportunity arose I knew I could not say no! I talked it over with Francis (just to make sure this would not disrupt anything having to do with his triathlon), looked into some logistics, and said YES! This is a great way for me to preview the course and really prepare for next year's solo attempt. Plus, I LOVE being part of a team, and will love cheering Charles on during his legs of the swim!

In a marathon relay, you alternate 2 hours on 2 hours off. The faster swimmer (not sure who that will be yet. The race director decides) starts and ends the swim. I am so excited! Our team name is.....wait for it.......The Sandy Hookers!! There is an awesome and respectable tri-club in Monmouth County is of the same name, but there is no copyright on the name. 

I could not be more excited about this opportunity! I was feeling slightly lost and a little bit directionless without an imminent swim, and this is giving me the ability to keep motivated without the long wait until getting to actually swim. 

The swim is Sunday August 10th, so it is not that far away! It is exactly one week after Francis' first triathlon, so after my swim we can both actually relax/have beer together! 

Going to be a great couple of weeks!

Hold Fast,

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Reflections on Stage 6

Two days have passed since I jumped off a boat under the Tappan Zee Bridge and set off to swim to the George Washington Bridge. Two days of processing and thinking and sharing and recovering from what is easily one of the best days of my life.

Most of you already know that we faced very tough conditions, and I came only one mile short of the bridge before being pulled. In all, only 4 AMAZING swimmers made it the full 15.7 miles out of the 12 of us who jumped in. There were times when I turned to breathe, and waves would wash over my head giving me only small pocket of air in which to breathe. Other times, I would crash back down of a wave and let out a little "Woo!" which amused Teddy (my kayaker). Now, I don't mind a little chop. I grew up letting myself get pummeled by waves, and love the feeling of being carried up into them. This chop, however, created by a 10-15 MPH southeast wind severely diminished the tidal assist of the swim and made the event unusually difficult. 

First, let me get out the negatives of those last few miles. I had to come to terms with the fact that I would now have a DNF on my otherwise untarnished record. My arms hurt a lot. I had to deliriously ask for a song, and Francis and an awesome swimmer named Mike Gemelli sang my second favorite sea shanty (yes, I have a ranking of sea shanties. I am an old salt at heart). All I wanted to do was climb aboard a boat and curl into a little ball. I wanted to sing a very sad Paddy Reilly song about the Great Hunger (Irish Potato Famine of the 1840's) called "Fields of Athenry". I immediately called myself a failure, to which Teddy sternly corrected me. He reminded me that I had just swam 14 miles in awful conditions, and for all intents and purposes had a successful swim. Even after this pep talk, I still responded "NO!" like a petulant two year old when he went to take this picture, while we waited for the boat to come get me.

A forced one smile. The best performance of my acting career.

But then, something changed. I realized that Teddy was right. I had just accomplished something incredible. While it is not what I originally intended, the goal and plan had changed when I hit that washing machine like Hudson River. I swam further than I ever had before, kept my stroke rate at 68 and above (even when I hurt), and did not quit until I had to for safety. Roy Malinak pulled me on Launch 5, and kept me from crying by affirming that I really had done a great job and gave it my all. I really do not like crying in front of people (there's no crying in baseball!), so I am grateful that he helped me keep my pride. Then, I got a huge hug from Janine Serell. Andrew Malinak assured me that no matter what happened that day, I still had my amazing Pawnee Porpoise shirt (Porpoise Call!). My swim mom Eileen Burke told me how proud and excited she was that I performed so well in those conditions. Could it really be that I did okay even though I did not achieve the rest of my original goal? 

That is both the beauty and the beast of open water swimming. You plan and train and plan and train. The Beast: Something as simple as a change in the wind will keep you from achieving a fixed goal. The Beauty: You can take from that change a different goal and accomplishment and use it to become a better swimmer, and all around human. I listened to this while walking to the pool before every workout. It is the intro to the 2000 Olympic games in Sydney. It features the vocal stylings of James Earl Jones and music from The Perfect Storm score by James Horner. My dad has been an audio engineer with NBC for over 30 years, and I used to pitch him songs to use in various pieces. In 2000, I was really into the score from The Perfect Storm. Much to my 11 year-old delight, the editors used my music suggestion! There is a line towards the end that speaks to what open water swimming and all endurance sports truly are- "Where a people value most dearly, not the triumph, but the struggle. Hold high any who dare reach for greatness."  I am currently in touch with the writer to explain to him just how much his beautiful piece means to me.

Now for the positives:
* Swam further than ever - more than twice as far and more than twice as long.
* Gained more of an understanding for people I interview as part of my job since I was interviewed by a news crew right before splash time
* Stoke rate was between 68-70 THE WHOLE TIME!
* Completed a marathon swim (10K+)
* I have a text message string of comedic gold! Francis was on a boat and was keeping my family up to date.  The way my family deals with anything nerve wracking (like me swimming in a wild body of water) is with humor. 
* Bonded even more with my amazing open water community
* Wore a great orca hat

Hat made by Bobcat Hats.

* Did not give up until I had to
* I communicated with a very important person in a unique way. I usually talk to people who are not there in the water. Everyone from my grandmother to people from work to my dead cat, Edward. Francis' father passed away a few months before we met, so I never got to know him. At one point in the middle of the swim, his face came into my mind, and I asked him for some help. It was a very poignant moment.
* I'm more amped than ever to keep this up! Even though it hurt, I am ready to keep training and going onward to the next challenges. 
* My Hold Fast stayed on the whole swim!
I tell ya. The Devil's at the wheel of that there phantom ship. You better hold fast.
* Francis and Mike Gemelli singing to me from the boat. 
What do you do with a drunken sailor? What do you do with a drunken sailor? 
What do you do with a drunken sailor?  Early in the morning?
Put 'em in a long boat till his sober. Put 'em in a long boat till his sober. 
Put 'em in a long boat till his sober. Early in the morning.
Woah, hey, up she rises. Woah, hey, up she rises. 
Woah, hey, up she rises. Early in the morning.

* Francis on a jet ski! I didn't get to see it, but wow!
* Camaraderie. Have a mentioned that the open water community is AMAZING!

The Thank You List
*Coach Bonnie. Without you, I never would have made it this far. Thank you for the rides to the beach, workouts, phone calls, and blintzes.
*Lori King. The big sister I never had. Thank you for the phone calls and constant pick me ups. I could not ask for a better training partner. I also must add that Lori totally crushed Stage 7! She's amazing!
*Ted Gruber for being a great kayaker and not letting me give in!
*Francis. You have gone above and beyond the role of supportive boyfriend. Thank you for dealing with my training brain, rubbing my sore muscles, and almost always saying "have a good swim" when I got up at the crack of dawn to head to the pool or beach.
*My parents. Thanks for being there at the end of the swim! I was really happy when I saw you on the dock, even if I did not look it right away. 
*David Barra and Rondi Davies and Launch 5 for running such an amazing event. It is so much work, but you guys make it look easy.
*Erica Pepitone for decorating my desk at work! What a great surprise when I got to work today!
*CIBBOWS for giving me an extended family.

So, what is next? Well, a week of no swimming. Then, I am going to try to be in the top 3 female early morning swimmers at Lasker Pool in Central Park (right down the street from my apartment!) because of the sweet trophy. More open water swimming with CIBBOWS because, duh, they are awesome. Plus, Francis' triathlon is about a month away and I want him to be ready for the Hudson. Swimming in the fall when Coach Bonnie makes her triumphant return from Cali. Training hardcore for more 8 Bridges next year and Ederle. Maybe add in some lifting/dryland activity. I hate both of those things, so that will be...interesting. 

Planning a few other related blog posts, but until then....

Hold Fast,

Friday, June 20, 2014

Feed Plan

In case you were curious as to what my feed plan looked like, here it is! A feed plan is the schedule of what I will be eating every 30 minutes in the water. I have it mapped out for 6 hours. Hopefully, I will be finished before that! Yes, it is color coded. 

Splash Time- 10:30 AM
What’s In The Bag?
Green Bottle- Water
Orange Bottle- Water with Gu mixed in
Blue Bottle- Peanut Butter M&M’s
Chia Vitality
Gu Gels- Chocolate and Vanilla

Feed 1 (0:30)- Chocolate Gu
Feed 2 (1:00)- Water with Gu
Feed 3 (1:30)- Chia Vitality and Water
Feed 4 (2:00)- Applesauce and Water
Feed 5 (2:30)- Vanilla Gu and Water
Feed 6 (3:00)- Applesauce
Feed 7 (3:30)- Peanut Butter M&M’s and Water
Feed 8 (4:00)- Applesauce
Feed 9 (4:30)- Chocolate Gu and Water
Feed 10 (5:00)- Applesauce

Feed 11 (5:30)- Vanilla Gu

The applesauce is a very sentimental for me. I grew up eating delicious homemade applesauce that my great-grandmother, grandmother and great-aunt used to make to go with pork chops and red cabbage (and really almost any other dinner). I now go apple picking and make sauce every fall with the same recipe. While I am using store bought applesauce in little individual pouches because they are easier in the water, having applesauce be a part of my swim makes me feel connected to them in a way. I also think about my paternal grandmother who passed away right before the open water season last year, and how she used to go "Oh Blessed Mother!" when my dad would tell her about my swimming. She said this a lot when he would tell her that I had absolutely no fear of waves when I was only 6. They all loved the water as much as I do, and while I often wish that they were here to see me become a marathon swimmer, I know that they are still here with me. 
Nanny (my great-grandmother) and I reading Mother Goose. April 1989.
Senior Prom 2007. My shoulders were a lot smaller back then. Great-Aunt Alice (left), Grandma Kay (right)

Mmmmmm. I can smell it now!

Hold Fast,

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Origins: Hold Fast

Less than one week to go before Stage 6! Today was my last 5:45 AM pre-work swim! Francis hummed "Pomp and Circumstance" as I deleted that alarm from my phone. I am incredibly proud that I did not once give in to the temptation to take one of the many available cabs that gather outside my building so early in the morning! I am overjoyed that I can stay up past 9 tonight, even thought I know that I will probably not make it much past 10.

Today's post is an origin story of sorts. 

Every open water race, Francis writes the phrase "Hold Fast" on my fingers like so...
Hold Fast is a nautical term that was used to help sailors persevere in storms and battles. Sailors had to hold tight to the riggings to help their ships weather storms, so this was also a call to hold on. It comes from the Dutch "avast" (think Pirates of the Caribbean) meaning to stop. I first came across this phrase in high school when I saw and read Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World.

Old Joe Plaice (the one who has brain surgery on board, for those of you familiar with the movie) has hold fast tattooed on his fingers. He also says one of my favorite lines from any movie: "I tell ya. The Devil's at the wheel of that there phantom ship. You better hold fast." My friend John and I were obsessed with this movie! We both used to cantor and sing with a group that did music for the 9 AM mass on Sunday mornings (nerd alert!), John was getting nervous before doing his first solo psalm. Before mass, I grabbed a pen and wrote Hold Fast on my fingers. Before he went up to sing, I put my fists together so he could read the message, which made him laugh. He went on to deliver an exquisite performance of Isaiah 12: "Cry out with joy and gladness, for among you is the great and holy one of Israel.'

Hold Fast to me means persevering through struggle. It is my in-water reminder to focus on my swimming and not the pain, push harder, and make it to the finish. Hold Fast, along with the tried and true "Just Keep Swimming" from Finding Nemo, and the new "Let It Go" from Frozen are my three mantras that will hopefully keep me going to the finish at the George Washington Bridge, Sandy Hook, and whatever other open water challenges are on the horizon.

Hold Fast,

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Cold Never Bothered Me Anyway-2.5 Hours in 57 Degree Water

Less than one month away from Stage 6. Some days, I feel like I could swim it without any problems, and other days I find myself wishing I still had several months left to train! I know I am ready, but uncertainty is always lurking behind every door. The only way to calm this uncertainty is to just get out there and swim!

Thursday May 29th is a day that I will always remember. I took a personal day from work, and woke up at 4:30 to head out to Brighton Beach with Bonnie and Lori. I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes, made some coffee, kissed Francis goodbye, and before I knew it, there we all were staring at the beautiful Atlantic. 

The hills in the distance are the towns of Highlands and Atlantic Highlands, NJ. AH is my hometown! Always a great comfort out in the water!
The air temperature was a chilly 55, and the water temperature a "balmy" 57. On the beach, Lori and I figured out a feeding plan and a basic ideas for the swim. My plan was to go as long as I could go, but no less than 1.5 hours. We procrastinated as much as possible, but at 6:30 Lori and I were in the water! 

It felt amazing! Cold, but as usual, I stopped feeling it after a while and was just able to focus on my swimming and enjoying the gift that is the ocean. I did my first "feed" alone about 40 minutes in. It was a delicious salted caramel GU gel that I had tucked into my cap. I have done several of these feeds before, but this one was particularly hard because I lost a lot of my dexterity and ended up tearing it open with my teeth. Another 40 minutes went by, and I met Bonnie closer to shore. I had some water and applesauce, and was able to "keep everything down" (no puking). Bonnie also told me that I was holding a great stroke rate of 70 strokes per minute. 

A special shout out here to the fabulous Barbara Held (who I observed during her amazing Ederle Swim last summer). Barbara, when Bonnie told me my stroke rate, the first words out of my mouth were "Are you kidding?! That is Barbara Held high!" Thought you would like to know.

Just that little bit of encouragement and knowledge that I did not look like an uncoordinated duck was able to keep me going. My stroke rate dropped slightly in the next set...but that was due to some fear. A huge flock of seagulls were swarming really close to me. I know enough about marine biology to know that means there is something really tasty right underneath the surface of the water. My question was what was exactly chasing those fish UP to the surface?? Not cool! Luckily, they stopped and I regained some focus. 

After another feed, I was able to get my stroke rate back up. 2.5 hours later, I was still going, but getting kind of cold and tired. The main way to make sure your body is not too cold yet is to see if you can move your pinkie to your thumb. I was able to on my right hand, but my left pinkie just wanted to stay extended. I have an amazing coach who knows exactly where to draw the line between a tough workout and hurting myself, so she told me to come on out. Being the perfectionist that I am, I wanted to keep going towards 4 hours sub 60, but I also would rather not hurt myself this close to my swim. It was an indescribable experience! I had successful feeds, remained strong, and most of all, thoroughly enjoyed myself!

After the swim, the three mermaids went and did what all good swimmers do: EAT WAFFLES...and talk about swimming! A swim family is really crucial since it is such a lonely sport day to day, so what better way to bond than over waffles and swapping "my worst swim" or "my best swim" stories.

Bonnie and I then went to the New York Aquarium where we saw penguins sunning themselves, seals swimming through the water with grace,  and the most adorable sea otter ever taking a nice little snooze right at the glass. These sea creatures are a big source of inspiration.
I named him Bill.

Now, there was one big instance of pain. But it is not what you think... I forgot to put body glide on my neck and that combined with a suit that was a too loose led to this "suit hickey" for the record books.
Kraken-1. Laura-0.
Wish I could say that I got in a fight with the kraken, but no. It hurt a lot. Plus, I had to go to work the next day, and did not want this showing. I busted out that concealer brush and his it the best I could. Slightly embarrassing sharing this oh so beautiful picture, but it will ensure that I never make this mistake again! Several applications of Aquaphor and Desatin later and it is almost completely healed!

Big thanks to Coach Bonnie and Lori King for being the best big swim sisters a lady could ask for. I am amped and feeling really ready to tackle this and any challenge, all thanks to an early morning, friends, some cold water, and waffles.

Hold Fast, 

Monday, May 12, 2014

Two Big Milestones!

Stage 6 is quickly creeping up on me! Time certainly seemed to stall this winter, but suddenly, green buds began to appear on the trees in Central Park AND it suddenly became lighter at 5:30 when I am getting to the pool. Just that little bit of extra light really makes the 5 AM wake ups much easier to deal with. 

I have been keeping up with the same sets, and noticed that I was coming in much earlier on the pace clocks. I am now able to hold a 1:20-1:25 pace per 100 meters! This is really big. I was holding an average of 1:40 in February. Difference of 20 seconds from my time trial in February. It is really hard to see if I am making progress during the day to day grind, which is why recording my times is absolutely crucial. I really can't believe that I was able to shave that much off! 

Another big milestone involves temperatures! On Saturday, I went down to Brighton Beach with Coach Bonnie, another awesome swimmer named Caroline, and of course, Raven the Puppy! The water temperature was finally in the 50's, and it was time to do some cold water immersion. I have swam in low 60 degree water before, but temperatures in the 50's seemed really daunting so I avoided going to the beach. This is something I have to get used to in order to become a better open water swimmer. But as Elsa sings in Frozen "the cold never bothered me anyway"! We met up with a very brave swimmer named Lori who is training for Stage 7 and the Catalina Channel. After a lot of chatter, apprehension, and perfecting the "The Flamingo" (where you are standing one foot while the other is out of the water), I dove in. It felt amazing!! Pain at first, but eventually I went numb, and it felt really good. I understand now why people swim in colder water. I was also pretty proud of myself for being the first in the water. My mom was not surprised, as that happened basically every time we were at the beach when I was a kid. The endorphins in cold water are pretty amazing.  I lasted close to 100 strokes, the goal of the morning. As is common in open water, the mental challenge was  tougher than the physical. I think I could have stayed in longer, but some fear and apprehension I got out. Official water temperature was 52 degrees, a heat wave compared to what the Coney Island Polar Bears and Winter CIBBOWS swimmers encounter! The key to warming back up is getting that suit off as quickly as possible. Luckily, I have the amazing No Flash Towel (pictured below) that my coach invented which makes it really easy to change quickly, without being arrested for public nudity.  I can't wait to get back out there this coming weekend! Defiantly ready to get out of the chlorine and into the salt water. Staring at the black line in the pool is driving me banannas.

Hold Fast, 

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Easter Basket

Happy Belated Easter!

Easter has always been my favorite holiday. I always liked little things (buttons, beads, Polly Pockets, Beanie Babies, etc.) and anything colorful as a kid, so a holiday where everything was small and in bright colors really spoke to a young me.

Instead of doing anything big for Valentine's Day, Francis and I decided to do Easter baskets. He came up with an amazing basket stuffer: a bunny shaped hot/cold pack! Pain comes with the territory of training, so this gift is not only adorable, but really functional. We saw it at the Container Store (of all places!) a few weeks before Easter, and he went back to get it right before Easter. The bunny is named Barry, and he has already come in handy! For the record, I got him a cool action figure of Leonardo from Ninja Turtles and a Guinness pouring spoon :)

Hold Fast,

Barry the Soothing Bunny

Thursday, April 3, 2014

So, What Is This Stage 6 You Keep Talking About?

On June 24th, 2014, I will be attempting my first marathon swim. 

A marathon swim is considered to be any swim over 10K (6 miles). I completed my first 10K in September, The Little Red Lighthouse Swim (72nd Street Boat Basin in Manhattan to 207th Street). I swam it in an awesome time and felt really good afterwards, so I decided that this was the year to really start to go for my longer swimming goals. 

My first marathon swim will be Stage 6 of the 8 Bridges Swim. 8 Bridges is an event put on by my swim team CIBBOWS (Coney Island Brighton Beach Open Water Swimmers). The swim strings together the Rip Van Winkle, Kingston-Rhinecliff, Mid-Hudson, Newburgh-Beacon, Bear Mountain, Tappan Zee, George Washington, and Verrazano Narrows Bridges (Credit: 8 Bridges).

My stage is Stage 6: The Tappan Zee Bridge to the George Washington Bridge. I selected this stage for a few reasons:

1. When I was 10, my mom took me to an awesome science enrichment program (aka nerd camp) sponsored by Johns Hopkins at the Maritime Aquarium in Connecticut. We went over the Tappan Zee Bridge on our way there, and I was completely mesmerized! It is the widest area of the Hudson River, and therefore, one of the most scenic.
2. In terms of distance, it is close to the Ederle Swim (15 miles compared to 17.5)
3. It is the easiest stage to to get to, and offers a great tidal assist
4. My first apartment in Manhattan was right by the GW in Washington Heights. It is also awesome to end up right where my longer distance swimming career really began, since the LRL Swim ends about a mile north of the GW.

Coach Bonnie will be in a kayak right next to me, and Francis will be on a safety support vessel. I also know many of the swimmers in this leg, so there will be no shortage of safety and emotional support on this one!

Stage 6 Info

Stage 6 Map

It is going to be a challenge, but I like to think of a great line from "A League of Their Own" when I contemplate this distance: 'If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great."

Hold Fast,

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

New Sets

Here are the sets I am currently working on. I usually mix up the main sets to keep myself from getting bored.

400 Warm Up
6 x 50 kick (with a board) after warm up before your main set. (Work up to 10 of these)
Main Set

 *Work with 1:45 per 100m pace.

1.  10 x 100 on 1:45


2.  5 x 400

        1.  400 swim on  7:00
        2.  2 x 200  on  3:30
        3.  4 x 100  on  1:45
        4.  8 x 50    on :50 
        5  16 x 25   on :30  (desc* 1-4, 5-8, 9-12, 13-16)
*Descend = get faster on each 25 in groups of 4.  so, if you go :25 on the first one, then you should go :24, :23, :22 on the next 3.  You can drop more time on each one, but you must drop each time.  Number 5 could go back  to around a 25, and repeat.

3.  500 on 8:45
400 on  7:00  1 x 100 FAST on  1:55
300 on  5:15  2 x 100 FAST on  1:50
200 on  3:30  3 x 100 FAST on  1:45
100 on  1:45  4 x 100 FAST on  1:40 ("touch and go" is ok)

Finish with some hypoxic:  either breathing patterns, no breathers, etc)

Pretty fun! 

Also, this is the number of bananas Francis and I went through last week alone. Not a single banana went bad! This is what happens when a girl training for a 15 mile swim and a boy training for an Olympic triathlon cohabitate. 

Hold Fast, 

Sunday, March 30, 2014


As marathon swimmer and aspiring aquarium animal Andrew Malinak announced to me via Twitter this week "Our names are on the internet!"

The swimmer list for 8 Bridges is up! There are still some more slots open in other stages in case any of you want to jump in!

Check it out here-

Hold Fast,

Early Mornings and Kickboard-ing

Well, I have certainly neglected this blog for a bit! In my defense, March was a bit CRAZY. I moved to Morningside Heights on March 15th, and also helped my parents get their home of 28 years ready to hit the market.

I've made a lot of strides (or strokes, to be more accurate) this month in training. I'm doing intervals, kicking really hard, and also making sure that I am eating more. My schedule is Tuesday-Friday from 5:45 to 7:30, and then one light swim on the weekends. There is no way that I can get to the pool Monday mornings once Game of Thrones starts on Sunday nights :)

My favorite drills have been the 50 meter kickboard sprints. They are really challenging, and there are times that it feels like my heart is going to explode, but they are so fun. I have always been a strong kicker, and this is just going to be another weapon in my arsenal as I race the tide in the Hudson.

The hardest part is the early wake ups. I am naturally an early to bed early to rise kind of girl, but making sure that I get those 7-8 hours of sleep is tough. I've tried to function on less, but it is just not conducive to my training at the moment. Luckily, I have an incredible group of supportive friends  who understand that I can't always be out late, and help make my weekend free time really fun.

Hold Fast,

PS- If you read my previous rant about pants, you should know I FOUND AWESOME PANTS!

Friday, February 21, 2014


Well, the 2014 Winter Olympic Games are almost over. I was completely CRUSHED yesterday when the U.S. lost to Canada in women's hockey again. I didn't even have all my adult teeth the last time they won gold! The game was so close! But hey, silver is amazing and I think much more pretty.

I recently saw an article on skiers that caught my eye as a swimmer. Sarah Lyall of the New York Times wrote about how skiers have a difficult time finding pants that fit.  A link to the story is at the bottom of the post. 

Watching the skiers come off the slopes after their runs here at the Winter Games is to see a parade of superconditioned lower bodies whose every powerful contour ripples graphically underneath what are essentially very expensive tights.“Yes, we have derrières,” said Chemmy Alcott, a British skier. “We’ve got booties. I’ve spent 28 years squatting in that squat position, and I’m really proud of it. It would be a lot easier for me to be a skinny normal person. I have to work really hard to get this muscle.”Skiers say that they need big legs and rears to get them down the slopes as quickly and forcefully as possible.

Well, I immediately wanted to jump up and yell "YES!" Open water swimming is a sport that allows people of very diverse body types to compete. Come to a swim, and you will see people of all shapes and sizes competing in the same field. A very common complaint, especially from female swimmers, is the thunder thighs. Trying on a pair of pants at the Gap is excruciating! they will be completely cutting off the circulation in my thighs, and then be 2 sizes too big in the waist. It is a never ending quest to find pants that are flattering, yet fit the muscles that have only been growing these past few months.  My biggest takeaway when reading this article was a wish that some fashion designer could make pants specifically for people with athletic legs. There has to be enough demand between swimmers, skiers, and gymnasts! Body image issues run rampant in sports. It caused me to quit swimming once before, and to this day it can be a struggle. I even let the thought "I want to quit swimming so I can wear smaller jeans" enter my head this week. Thankfully, I was talked off the ledge by three awesome people. If just one clothing company could help design pants that we all felt comfortable and confident in, I honestly thing that it would help combat all of those negative thoughts! 

Well, another way to combat negativity is a 3,000 meter work out like today's. That will make anyone feel amazing no matter what the jean situation is!

Hold Fast,


Link to New York Times article-

Link to my story on the BMW bobsled (you know, for self promotion)-