Hey guys! So I finally have an open water swim in 2017 to report. It’s very sad but I haven’t been in the water much this year for a variety … Continue reading Deer Creek Open Water Swim 2017
Today my friends I am a finisher, 10 times over! Yes, I finished my 10th open water swim at Deer Creek and I couldn’t be more thrilled (and tired!). If you’ve been a follower of mine on the blog you might recall my very first race back in 2011. In fact, after my first open water swim at the clinic that year I posted “Yesterday was the best day of my life!” I hope that everyone is able to find something they love like that in their life. Once was all it took to get me hooked!
What a journey it has been since that first attempt. 10 races have come and gone and they all are treasured memories.
Like always today’s race had its fair share of challenges. I went in to the race feeling pretty confident. I felt strong at Bear Lake and then did a practice swim on Thursday that went very well. My plan was to break up the swim into sets of 100 strokes and then do 25 strokes of breaststroke. The problem was for some reason my asthma was bothering me and I felt pretty wheezy. It didn’t seem like I could get enough air which was causing me to get a lot of water up my nose and in my mouth. This is not the ideal way to swim by any measure. But I kept going…
This race was really neat because my Dad swam it with me. Typically my family and I don’t share a ton of common interests and so it was really neat to share this experience with him! He did the entire race alternating between breaststroke, backstroke and sidestroke but finished and did very well! It’s been a cool month for me with the swim with my Dad and doing the book videos with my Mom. Both meant a lot to me.
It’s the weirdest thing when you are swimming open water because it feels like you are on a swim treadmill. No matter how fast you go it feels like you aren’t making any progress and you will never reach the darn buoy. Then you do and it is so exhilarating! You would think after 10 races it would get less exciting but it is still such a thrill.
I’d like to thank my paddler Michelle for taking time out of her busy schedule to help me achieve my goals. She couldn’t have been more encouraging and wonderful. It was so great to catch up as she isn’t my trainer at the moment since I left that gym.
I also want to say thank you to Jim Hubbard and everyone at Salt Lake Open Water for being such a wonderful community that nurtures all types of swimmers. I couldn’t be more grateful that I am accepted and cheered on at every race.
Thank you and on to 10 more!!
Here is my youtube update on the race.
Hey guys! I got back today from my little vacation up at Bear Lake. For the last few years they have had an open water swim up there but I have always had a family commitment. Well, this year I didn’t so I decided to go for it. (Plus, they were doing a 1/2 mile swim which was super nice of them). I found the only motel in town which looked like something out of Bates Motel but it was somewhere to sleep and headed up there Friday afternoon. (I also saw Ant-Man and Mr Holmes this weekend so make sure to check out the movie blog for those reviews).
It’s kind of a weird tourist destination because aside from the lake there isn’t a ton to do. There are only 4 or 5 restaurants and a few little shops. No movies, bowling, or other activities for tourists. I guess the lake is more than enough but Friday and Saturday afternoon it was raining and so it dragged a little. I don’t know if I would want to get a place up there because when I couldn’t swim it would be kind of boring.
But luckily this trip the rain didn’t stop the race and I did get to swim. You can see from the photo up above I finished and got my medal! With the weather it was very choppy waters and so I was glad I went with the 1/2 mile instead of the mile. I finished in 39 minutes which I was proud of. I know technically it is slow but for me that was a pretty good time. Here I am in the water:
It was a small group of 1 mile swimmers but everyone was so friendly (as is always the case in open water events). It was neat about 10 minutes into the swim I noticed a girl stopping and it didn’t seem like an ordinary stop. She was gasping a little bit so I stopped and asked her if she was ok. She said she was swallowing water and her asthma was bothering her. I’ve been there so I told her to do some breaststroke for a little while to get her confidence back and calm down the nerves. She did and she finished the race! Afterwards she told me my encouragement had meant a lot to her. That’s what is great about open water swimming- the community spirit that accompanies the sport. Even though I am far from a typical athlete I probably was the best one to encourage someone like her to finish her race. As I always say ‘if I can do it so can you!’.
Here’s a picture of all of us swimming the 1/2 or 1 mile races:
I made this little video after the race. It’s what I call old school- just my laptop and chatting, so don’t be too tough on that part of it. The internet was very bad up there so I would have done more if I could.
Here I am showing my medal to Jim Hubbard who first introduced me to open water back in 2011 (I call him my open water missionary).
After the race we all chatted for a bit and then I went back to the hotel room and had some breakfast and a good nap. Then later on in the afternoon the sky cleared up so I decided to go back to the beach and wear my glorious sun hat I bought a few weeks ago.
The lake was beautiful and the sun felt great. I wish I could have laid out in it even longer! But alas the sun went down and this morning I had to drive back home. Still, it was a nice little break and I hope to do the Bear Lake Monster Swim next year and hopefully eventually get up to the 7 mile full race instead of just 1/2 mile. My next race Deer Creek Open Water Swim will be my 10th open water race! Can you believe it? I can’t.
I’ve been thinking about writing this post for some time. Everyone who reads this blog is probably aware of my distaste for weight loss in the media. I know many find shows like the Biggest Loser to be encouraging but for me they are the opposite.
What bothers me is they paint fat people as bad, and reformed fatties as good and that just isn’t true. As I often say, ‘a lot of people lose weight in prison’… Losing weight is hard enough without having these types of morality judgments thrown in our face.
So that’s media but this post is a slightly different take. I would like to talk about how we as a culture often couch weight loss in heroic terms and how this is almost never helpful.
Just the other day I was watching a show and the reporter asked the man how he had ‘overcome his heroic battle with weight loss’. This is not uncommon phraseology for our average conversation. All of us, including myself, have used such phrases when talking about weight loss.
What’s wrong with that you ask? I mean losing weight is really hard. Why is that not heroic?
Well, let’s start with some definitions-
Over on about.philosophy.com author Kendra Cherry asked her readers How Do You Define Heroism? Pretty much every response is something like this:
“A hero is a person who would risk life and limb just to save people or a person. these people standout as brave intelligent and loving. these people need to be recognized”
So what are the elements of being a hero:
1. They are brave
2. They are worthy of recognition
3. They are loving
4. They risk their own safety to help other people
It is this last aspect that is the most common thread in all the responses. Another reader says:
“Heroism is when you act out of the kindness of your heart. Whether you’re helping someone on homework, or helping someone who got hurt, the main thing is that your helping someone who is having a hard time”
So, heroism clearly involves being unselfish and serving your fellow men and women especially when doing so is difficult.
How does weight loss fit such a description? I can’t think of any other change of appearance that is lauded in such ways. For example, if someone gets a face lift they are often derided, criticized but I’ve rarely heard that when gastric bypass is done. Why is one surgical enhanced change heroic and another isn’t?
You could say that gastric bypass is required where a face lift is not? Well, the research from the Health at Every Size movement would strongly disagree with that assertion, but even if you accept that gastric bypass is necessary I don’t see how it is heroic? If I break my leg and have surgery on said leg (essentially fixing a problem in my body like GB) does that make me a hero? No, it makes me a person with a broken leg that was fixed.
I can see no part of weight loss that involves risk to help other people. You can help people get in shape or encourage them to enter a race, but that’s not really the weight loss, that’s your service in the community and amongst your loved ones. Anyone should be lauded who serves others no matter their size. That is worthy of the hero label.
What about athletes? Who are they serving and we call them ‘sports heroes’? One could argue such a term is misapplied to professional athletes but I would counter that most athletes are participating in a team or cause greater than just themselves.
For example, an Olympian is certainly worthy of individual applause but also their gift of performance on behalf of their country makes it worthy of the hero label.
There are a few sports like golf that are truly individual events and then I would say they aren’t really heroes but simply exceptional. We like them because they are good at something and we are not. Nothing wrong with that!
But I hear you saying ‘Rachel it’s so hard. Shouldn’t we be encouraging?’. My answer is ‘of course, we should’. However, there are lots of hard things we do in life that aren’t really heroic. If I am a PHD candidate and I complete my thesis am I lauded as a hero? I’m encouraged, congratulated, cheered but unless there’s a disability or something extraordinary I rarely hear the kind of language we apply to weight loss for any other ‘hard thing’ in life.
Why? Because the diet industry in America is a 20 billion dollar industry. They want you to spend money and what better way to get someone to spend money than to either make them feel really good or really bad about themselves. A tepid, lukewarm person never bought anything. They have a vested interest in convincing us that we need to change and that if we make said change we can be the hero.
Now, you might suggest that I am focusing on mere semantics and poor word choice. I would argue back that according to the Huffington Post the average American woman has dieted 61 times by the time they are 45 and that’s starting at 16 (I would start much younger- 81% of little girls in America have dieted before the age of 10).
Assuming some marginal success in most of those diets, the average woman has been the hero 61 times, and then fallen sometimes quite speedily off of her pedestal. Then to make matters worse 35% of women gain more than they lost on said diet.
So, now we aren’t really a weight loss villain (to use the cannon of terms) that is probably reserved for sinful foods and the companies who pedal them but we are something even worse- the fallen hero. I mean think about what that means. 61 times the average woman not only feels let down with her own frailties but is no longer the inspirational tool for her family and friends. I’ve felt it and I bet most of you have too. It is devastating.
I actually remember one time my sister telling me ‘you can’t gain the weight back because then you wouldn’t be this person that we admire’. She was very little and didn’t mean to hurt my feelings but is that not what all of us go through on the roller coaster of weight loss? 2012 I was at my peak of fitness and weight loss, then I had a personal crisis, chronic pain and a herniated disk in my back. Things changed and so did my body.
I’m not making excuses. That’s just what happened. I felt guilty for a long time. Like I’d let everyone down, which is insane when you really think about it. What had changed was something in my body. My other actions were exactly the same. I still swam my races, I still blogged. I still worked. I still held book club and spent time with my friends. I still traveled. All of it. I can’t think of one thing for other people I could do in 2012 and couldn’t or didn’t do in 2013. So why did I seemingly let them down?
Because I wasn’t the hero anymore.
That’s why this language about our bodies is so important. It can have devastating repercussions that can make us feel like failures, and we already feel that way because of the way we look. The language just piles on. And sometimes it is not just language. I have friends who’s parents were vocally disappointed in them for their weight loss struggles. Instead of sympathy and encouragement they received pity and disgust. (Luckily my parets have always been pretty good about letting me live my own life)
What worries me most is if being the fallen weight loss hero is hard for adults, imagine what it must feel like for a child who has so little control over his or her bodies in the first place? That I do know. I remember vividly the feeling of disappointment after diet, after diet, not only frustrated at not looking the way I wanted to, which is hard enough for a young girl, but letting everyone down in the process. For goodness sakes, now these kids are even letting down the President.
So, in a perfect world where everyone took all of my advice what would I suggest? How would I encourage others in this hard thing called weight loss? I would treat it like the accomplishment of any other worthy goal. ‘that’s great’, ‘I can see you worked very hard’, ‘great job’, ‘congrats’, ‘I’d love to go jogging with you’, or any number of responses without vaulting the person up as a hero because of the way they look.
What do you guys think? Have you felt like you were letting down people when you gain weight or fail to lose? Do you think the hero narrative is helpful or hurtful? Please share your experience, as this is just what makes sense to me. Love you all!
Open water swim #6 has come and gone! It was a great day. This is my third year doing the Deer Creek swim and last year I did the 5k and I thought about doing it this year and probably could have but was worried about my training ability this summer. I wanted to have fun and enjoy the day so I signed up for the 1 mile and I’m glad I did. It was a great day and I felt quite pampered.
The day started with an early wake up and meeting Renee and Tania. Renee kindly agreed to be my paddler for the race and Tania came along for support. It was so nice to not have to drive and just relax. Plus, I almost never have any spectators at the races. The only other people who have come were my Aunt and Uncle in Las Vegas (my next race is slam the dam in October!)
It was really nice of Tania to drive me and load up my kayak into her truck. I hope she had a good time and is inspired for her first open water swim race in October. She’s become my favorite swim buddy (along with Renee and Kate) and we are both working towards a strong finish at that race.
Anyway, we got to the lake and they were running behind but it gave time to stretch and get ready. I was a little worried about the cold water because its been a little cooler and we swam Blackridge pond last week which was freezing, so I thought Deer Creek might also be cold. Luckily it was the perfect temperature and they did a great job keeping boats out of the way. It wasn’t until the very end of my race that I felt any boat traffic at all.
Our group was the last to start and I felt strong in the water. My form has really improved this summer, which is good because my cardio has suffered with my back treatments. I worked in 50 stroke segments throwing in 25 strokes of breastroke when I got tired. I even did a couple sets of 100. The race went quickly and I ended up with a time of 1 hour, which isn’t my fastest but it isn’t my slowest mile swim. To compare my time at GSL was 1 hour 24 minutes (that shows you what a difference current makes!)
I felt a rush of pride fill me as I pushed the finishline buoy. Its a huge accomplishment and a lot of fun also. Renee was great- a very encouraging paddler and friend. The whole thing was awesome!
I hope that someone reads this and thinks ‘If she can do that, I could do ……”. I want to encourage you all to find a worthwhile physical activity and embrace it, push yourself, NO MATTER YOUR SIZE. If I can do it, anyone can. It just takes hard work and the right support with a little bit of luck thrown in. I can’t imagine my life without open water swimming and I’m so grateful it came into my life in 2011.
Here’s some photos:
After I got home from the temple I went with my friend Tania to the Deer Creek Open Water Clinic which is held every year before the Deer Creek Open Water Marathon Swim that I am participating in for the 3rd year next week! Last year I did the 5k but have less training and am doing the 1 mile this year.
For some reason there was a small turnout so basically Goody, Josh and Gordon put on the clinic for Tania and I, which was super nice. They could have cancelled seeing it was just the 2 of us but they went ahead anyway and I was grateful (aren’t open water swimmers the nicest?). It was Tania’s first time swimming outside of Blackridge pond in Herriman and she was pretty nervous, but she did great!
I felt pretty good but my stamina is nowhere near what it was last year. 😦 However, I swam about 800 yards and it was good practice for Saturday. Thanks to Josh and his boys for kayaking as I swam. That was super nice.
I was thinking the other day- Doesn’t it seem like I’ve been open water swimming my whole life? Its hard to imagine my life without it, and yet its only been 3 summers. I first heard about it in July of 2011 and my friend Jim Hubbard took me to the Deer Creek Clinic and I was nervous just like Tania was and look how far I’ve come. Pretty cool! http://smilingldsgirl.com/2011/08/05/deer-creek-clinic/
If you look at that post from my first swim it says it all:
“I did it! I did it! I did it! I swam in open water for a mile and held my own with people who had all done it before without a wetsuit. This is the best day of my life!”
I think Tania was feeling some of that as we left. That’s what makes open water swimming or anything worth doing in life. Its the people. I know so many great people. I always said I must have helped an old lady across the street in the pre-earth life because I don’t know what I did to deserve such great people in my life. I watched my friends help Tania and was truly moved and thought of my long journey over 3 years and how great it has been.
Great people=A Great Life
Hey just wanted to share with you all the links to our SLOW (Salt Lake Open Water) and Utah Masters summer newsletters. I helped collect, edit and write an article for the SLOW newsletter so check it out. It is a newsletter chock full of personal experiences and profiles. Pretty inspiring (including an article from yours truly)
S0 it got to be 103 degrees today. Let’s just say SUMMERRR is here! I have been having a great time. Summer is always so much more fun for me than Winter. Just the addition of open water swimming makes my life better. (Swimming in an indoor pool just isn’t the same). I’ve been able to see all my swim friends that I somehow miss in the winter.
Here are some highlights
I’ve been to plays including Wrinkle in Time at BYU which was mind blowing and Tarzan at Scera which was good.
I’ve been working really hard at my new job with Poler.
I’ve been reading a lot, especially rereading Jane Austen to get ready for book club. Its funny because I talk about them a lot but I haven’t actually read them in a long time. They are just as brilliant as I remember.
I’ve been swimming up a storm. I wish I could go everyday but with work and other responsibilities there just isn’t time. Went last Saturday to Deer Creek and today to Blackridge Pond in Herriman.
Other fun things…I performed in master class on Wednesday and sang Wishing You Were Somehow Here from Phantom of the Opera. I’m no opera singer but it was fun to let my diva out.
Speaking of diva’s Drop Dead Diva started on lifetime which made my BFF Emily and I very happy. We had dinner together and a little diva watching party. It did not disappoint. Great season opening. I think made even better by the fact that it almost didn’t happen.
I also made flank steak for the first time to great success
I went to a Josh Turner concert with my friends Emilee and Rachel M (I know a lot of Rachel’s and Emily’s!). He was super entertaining and has the most sexy voice I think I’ve ever heard. Its low and he has an old fashioned southern drawl. His band was really good too. It was a great night.
All in all its been a great summer! Hope you all have a great 4th and enjoy the hot weather as much as I do. 🙂
Today I went visiting teaching and told my girl about my swim. Her response was ‘Wow! I could never do that!’. I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that response in the last 3 years (crazy that I’ve been open water swimming for 3 years btw!). It can actually be quite discouraging because I want to inspire people to do as I do, not make it seem impossible.
If you haven’t noticed I’m not exactly the typical athlete with a svelte figure. Every swim I’ve done I’ve weighed between 275 and 310 lbs (yes, I just admitted that to the world. Deal). I’m a big girl and always have been. It wasn’t all that long ago that just the idea of swimming for a mile felt impossible but I had a gentle friend put in my path who never wavered in his support of my seemingly impossible first swim back in 2011, and I did it!
I’ve faced other challenges besides my weight such as a fall down the stairs, chronic pain/fibromyalgia, PCOS, hormone problems, diabetes scare, and more, so training isn’t always easy or even possible. I’ve faced personal challenges, heartaches and disappointments, which have felt like a fall down the stairs. I’ve spent a greater part of a year looking, building, buying and moving into a new house. I have at times dealt with crippling anxiety and even panic attacks that can make goal setting difficult and self acceptance challenging.
I’ve had all the challenges any of you face and yet I’ve completed my swims.
I don’t want to sound like a great hero. In fact, I am trying to prove the reverse- that there is nothing particularly special about me. If I can do it, so can you. Even people with minimal swimming experience have made amazing strides with consistent practice. I have seen people barely be able to cross the length of a pool, swim a mile in the GSL 6 months later. I’ve seen people conquer fear of water, waves, being submerged, etc and do great things.
The way I see it you have 2 choices in life. You can either take chances or watch as other people take them. Even if its not an open water swim, I am sure there is something that you look at and think ‘I could never do that’. I guarantee you ‘THAT’ is the thing you ‘NEED’ to do! There is nothing more satisfying than doing something you never thought you could do. It could be singing a solo in public, painting with watercolors, running for public office, starting a small business, writing a novel, entering a triathlon, giving blood. Whatever. Find out what that is and DO IT!
Now you may not succeed. My friend Goody had a goal to swim the Catalina channel in California. He was in the water for 16 hours and eventually it had to be called off. It was devastating but he took it like the trooper he was. You know what he had to face this year? Cancer. I can only imagine the fighting spirit he developed in that water and setting a bold goal helped him in his victorious battle. He also became the first Utahn to swim an ice mile in below freezing water. So, your victory may come in a different way than you had planned but it will come.
Part of the reason I know all of you can do what you dream of doing is because I face the same doubts and fears. Every time I swim I face anxiety about whether I’ll be able to finish. Not just before the race but many times while I’m swimming. I got to the point in the last GSL swim where I could hardly move my right arm. The current was killing me and I could do about 20 strokes and I’d be pushed inside. I had seen a woman give up early in the race and I wondered again and again if it was going to be my outcome. I guess I decided I wasn’t going to let the lake lick me and it didn’t and that is the real victory!
I have a quote on my bookcase by the divine Nora Ephron that says ‘Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim’. Stop saying ‘I could never do that’. Stop it! Think of things you can do and haven’t tried and do them. Go for it!
I can think of so many times when this advice has benefited my life. Because of a demon of a choir teacher, I was petrified of singing in public for years. I even refused to lead the music on my mission because I had been so humiliated as a teen. That said- I always knew it was something ‘I wish I could do’ but thought I just wasn’t made for singing.
In 2006 I was so miserable with life that I sought fulfillment in anything and signed up for voice lessons. My first recital my hands were shaking and my skin was pale, but you know what I got through it and 7 years later it turns out that singing in public is actually something I’m quite good at. I’m not saying I have the greatest voice in the world but the acting and performing is a strength. That’s the blessing of doing hard things, of pushing yourself. You find out what you are made of and it constantly surprises you!
Last year I had a goal to introduce someone to open water swimming. I felt it had done me such good and I wanted to share the favor. Unfortunately I come in contact with relatively few new people so I didn’t know how I would complete this goal (speaking of impossible goals!) but I had faith and even made it a matter of prayer. Well, in April of that year I discovered #ldsconf on twitter and made a ton of new friends while watching General Conference. One was a girl from Washington State named Abby.
We still have never met but she read about my prep for the GSL swim and my race last June and one day she asked me if I thought she could be ready for the race on the Columbia River in September. “Sure!” was my gleeful reply. I remind you I had never met this person and yet I felt confident she could do it. Later I remember asking myself ‘You don’t know this person. What if she has a terrible experience and then blames you?”
Well, fortunately she swam it and had a wonderful swim with a great time. Life is usually like that. We need a little encouragement to do hard things and then we pass that gift on to other people. We are the heroes of each other or we should be. That’s the great thing about doing hard things is it inevitably puts you in the path of other dreamers, and your life is so much the richer for those relationships. When I think of the people I have met through just swimming and singing I am blown away. The decision to try seems self evident for the friendships alone.
Like the poet says: