Ithaca 5 & 10, I’ll take the 5 Thank You.

IMG_8853 (1)When Scott and I started out running, we started out running 5K’s, and then quickly worked our way up to doing marathons.  After that, we took up triathlons.  So….when I finished up this school year overweight and out of shape, some goals had to change a little.  Only 3 triathlons this summer, and we backed off to the sprint distance, thinking, “Let’s cut back a little, get back in shape, and focus on doing a BETTER job on our races.”  As we got deeper into the summer, we decided committing to a few more races might “keep us honest” and help us stay motivated to keep our training going even though school is back in session.  So, we registered for a couple of things, including the 5 miler of the long-standing Ithaca 5 & 10.

The past couple of weeks, I kept thinking, “I wish I had signed up for the 10 miler.  I can slug out ten miles, and no one expects me to go TOO fast for that distance.  Running 5 miles, I think there are higher expectations!”

Trail running all summer has helped me lose some weight, get stronger, but I wasn’t sure about speed.  I went into the race with very modest hopes/ goals.   1.  I want to FINISH in ONE PIECE.  2.  It would be nice to run faster than I do on the hilly trails.  That’s about it.

When we checked in, I got friendly welcomes from FLRC “family”, including Shelly Marino.  She had kind words to say about “getting back into racing”, after experiencing my first DNF on a trail race a while ago.  So nice to have generous of heart friends.

So, we mulled about for a while, I chatted with Sarah Harrigan a bit, and we waited in the comfort of our warm car.  When we were 20 minutes before the start, we got out into a slight drizzle and warmed a bit.  YES!  We’ve turned into THOSE people that we used to scratch our heads about!  When we started running, we would see people running before the race, and didn’t quite understand why they would voluntarily extend their distance!  Now we know.  Old bones, joints and muscles need warming up!  (Well, so do young ones…)

We started to flock at the start, and I noticed quite a few headphones.  I tried to explain to folks that they could get DQ’d (disqualified) if they were seen running with headphones.  Some headed my warning, others shrugged their shoulders.  I don’t wish ill for people, but the Justice side of me hoped that they would get caught.

The start horn almost took me by surprise, but it didn’t make my heart leap–I felt rather calm.  I had positioned myself towards the back, and I searched my repertoire of paces to find one that was lively, but one I thought I could sustain for 5 miles.

Each intersection DID have volunteers there, just as promised.  Even though it was a road race, there were plenty of variations of texture:  roads scraped down for further paving, flat smooth asphalt, some concrete sidewalks, a patch of mud near the Youth Bureau.

I tried to gauge my speed by the mile splits, but I got confused with the multiple mile flags, meant for the various races underway.  So, I tried to listen closer to my breathing exertion. I felt strong in the first couple miles, and I know I started slipping into a fog around mile 3-4.  All the time, I tried to keep more on my toes.  It seems that slight uphill or fatigued times were when I fell more to flat-roll feet, but I self-coached myself out of it.  I headed into Stewart Park, and was so happy to see Scott there.  I wished we could high-5, but he looked like that wasn’t what he wanted right then, so I happily shouted, “I LOVE YOU!” Sarah Harrigan was just moments behind Scott.  She lamented, “I couldn’t keep up with him!”  I encouraged her, “He’s right up there!  He’s not too far away!”  I continued making my way around the park, nostalgically thinking about how we had run Pud’s Run here once upon a time.  Keep going.

As I approached the turn to head towards the campus (and closer to finishing) I spied Jenny Henion and Christina Luglan.  They were running together, and looked like they were just comfortably eating up the miles.  I said “Hi Jenny” and then a brain block kept me from getting the K of Christina out, and it took an extra attempt to send a greeting to her too.  Such a feeling of “duh” for me.

Once I made the turn, I could see the parking lot, the tennis courts, the high school building–I started to smell finish line!  Right then was when Katie Durrant sailed by, running the ten miler, and greeted me.  This is one of the things I love about races–it’s a reunion of our Running Family.

I got closer to the turn into the parking lot, and I tried to pick it up a little.  I searched my inventory–yup.  I had a quick sprint in me, so I did.

I actually remembered to stop my wrist watch, and I got one of the cool silver FLRC anniversary pins!  I looked at my watch, and I was both happy and disappointed at the same time.  It read 50:48.  I had averaged 10:10 miles!  Much better than my summer trail slogs of 11, 12 and 13 minute miles!  But–oh!  So close!  Almost 10 minute miles!

Perhaps this makes it easy to set a goal for next time!

Scott had finished his race with sub 8 minute miles–much better than he has seen in a long time. He was pleased that he ran this race pain free!  The previous day, we got to see our son Austin deftly manage half of his cross country meet–his first race after healing from a fibia fracture he sustained this past May while training for outdoor track.  It was such a beautiful sight to see–Austin looking strong and competitive.

So, the Voorhees family has had a very good weekend on our feet.  Methinks that we will try to enjoy meeting with our Running Family a little more often this next year!   🙂

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Lucifer’s Crossing at Treman on the Lord’s Day

Lucifer's Falls pic  Two years ago, I ran the Thom B race, and resulted in my very first DNF–EVER.  I was very disappointed, and my pride took a definite hit.  Scott and I didn’t participate in any more trail races that year, nor the next.

So, last night, Scott suggested, “Hey–why don’t we try this trail race–at Treman?”

I started wondering, “Will I get lost?”  “Will I DNF again?”  Time to put on the “big girl panties” and give it another go.

When I woke up this morning, my stomach didn’t feel great, and I ended up not eating any breakfast.  I would have to run on “previously stored fuel”.

We drove out to the park and saw race signage here and there, registered, and scoped out the start/ finish.  Scott wondered if I would “cop out” and go over the bridge at the start or plunge through the fiord in the first few tenths.  I thought I would take the bridge option and keep my feet dry, but at the last minute, I decided, “carpe diem” and took the shallow plunge.  Squish, squish, squish.

As we headed into the coverage of the trees, I felt at home, but felt most of the field of runners passing me, as I am NOT very good at uphill passages.  That’s ok–I know I can make up some time on the downhill, but I kept telling myself that my goals were to 1. Not get lost and 2. Finish.  (‘Not getting injured’ was floating around my mind as a good goal too.)

Scott is able to run at a distinctly faster tempo (even on uphill), so I just kept working away at whatever pace I could muster.  I’ve been running with music all summer, and here I was without–so I keep thinking of favorite songs here and there to lift my spirits as the sweatfest set in.  I became very happy that I had decided to bring a small bottle on my water belt.

Early in the race, a woman was describing to her friend behind her each rock, twig, branch and root.  I thought, “I can’t stay here.  I gotta get out of here.”  So I tried to pick it up a little to put some distance between us.  I found myself yo-yo-ing with Maria Constanzo, a talented runner friend of mine.  She always bests me on the uphill, and I enjoy the downhill.  We came to a spot where the course was supposed to go straight, and there was a bridge to the left.  Some folks around me were tempted to go on the bridge.  I went ahead and shouted back, “I THINK we are supposed to go straight!”   (I believe that the race Maria did yesterday went over that bridge.)

Continued with the up, up, up…lots of stairs going past the falls.  People around me were stopping to take photos, taking it very casually.  I just kept plugging away, looking forward to when I would “get to the top”, visit the water station and start The Descent.

Well, I never really got a good sense when I was at “The Top”, but I definitely recognized the water stop (hard to miss a fold out table with a person serving water and a big orange cooler).  I asked, “How much father from here?”  She replied, “You’re about halfway.”  My heart sank, because I THOUGHT that the water stop was at mile 4, so I would only have 2-3 miles to finish.  I ALSO thought that it was mostly downhill after the water stop.

How can it be that downhill even felt like uphill?  Could this race be defeating physics, and it’s uphill ALL the way?  No..it was just more gentle downhill than most trails I’ve been on.  Or–maybe I’m just still trying to get in shape.  Whatevs.

I started yo-yo-ing with Robert Kerns…I was right on his heels on the downhill, but he would pull away on the uphills.  “Flat” portions we were comparable.  So, eventually, he let me pass and let me lead for awhile.  Eventually I came to “The Sharp Left” that Ian Golden warned me about that was near the finish.

Through the trees, I could see campsites.  Ah ha!  Civilization!  And a finish line would be likely to be near!  A few moments later, I saw the Red Newt signs, and the playground, so I knew we were REALLY near the finish!  TIME TO SPRINT!

As I came into the finish, Joel Cisne was ringing a cowbell, and my dear supportive husband was cheering me on, “Green means go! (The finish line banner was green.) You’re doing great!”

I made it through the finish, and answered Gary McCheyne’s question, “How’d you like the race?”  with, “I’m glad it’s fn over!”  (I managed to not completely swear on the Lord’s Day.)  I doubled back and met up with Scott.  He had finished about ten full minutes ahead of me, in spite of two tumbles–one that left his knee impressively bloody.

I enjoyed a juice pack and a ripe, fresh peach.  Nothing like its juicy sweetness dripping down your chin (much better than sweat)!

Looking over the results, I finished pretty much midpack in overall females and within my age group–the most populous women’s age group in this race.

So–first trail race in over two years.  Did NOT get lost, finished, and I didn’t fall.

It was good to come back to an activity Scott and I both love.  Maybe this is the first of more to come.  🙂

Finish line sprint, with my cheerleader hubby, Scott!

Finish line sprint, with my cheerleader hubby, Scott!

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Cayuga Lake Triathlon 2015

after CLT 2015 CLT 2015 bike CLT 2015 Scott and bikeI haven’t done a race write up in a while…I guess partly because I have felt sheepish about the fact that we “eased off” and decided to only do three triathlons this summer, and the sprint distance, at that.

I finished off the school year feeling overweight and slow, and completely out of shape. I craved exercise, and felt a little bit of resentment about the fact that I finish each school day too exhausted and brain dead to do much of anything. Summer has been very enjoyable so far, but I haven’t seen the results I had hoped for in my races. Big picture time.

Yesterday, I didn’t feel very well. I wondered, “Is my body going to get its act together?” I did feel a little better this morning, but still not great. I wore my “Stand Up To Cancer” tri top, with the dedication on the back to my mother-in-law Carol, and my dear friend Dianne Sherrer. Whenever I start to feel whimpy and whiny, I try to remember that there are people who are facing or who have faced much bigger challenges—with admirable bravery, to boot.

So, I headed to the race with modest goals: finish the race, be safe, do your best.

On race day, it’s kind of like a box of chocolates: you never know what you’re going to get. Today it (the lake) was wavy. I knew this would make my swim more challenging, but waves don’t bother me much. I worried about Scott and Victoria: waves tend to bother them more. Nothing you can really do about it, but wish them well! I changed my breathing pattern so I wouldn’t get cascaded in the face by incoming white caps. Out on the swim course, I looked for Louise Adie. I happily spotted her on the return part of the course. I waved to her, and it looked like she was taking my picture! (yes!) I was thankful for Louise’s cheerful support, and grateful for the inland pull I sensed from the waves.

Getting out of the water, I went into transition and headed out on the bike, thinking all the while the Queen song, “I Want to Ride My Bicycle”! I have been dreading the notorious hill heading out of the park. My breath, as predicted, was heavy and labored, but I just kept chipping away, and somehow (miraculously!) it wasn’t as awful as I had been rehearsing it in my mind. People passed me pretty regularly, including cheerful Amy Dawson. I knew that with her great training and fitness, she was going to have a great race!

I kept a lookout for Victoria and Peter. I knew Scott would be behind me, and would likely see him after the turn around. I missed spotting Peter, but when I saw Victoria, she taunted, “Catch up to me, Mom!” Trust me—I tried! Since I saw her just a few minutes before the turnaround, I figured that I had made up some time in the swim and/or the bike.

Eventually, I earned my downhill into the park, and I flew down the hill and never used the brakes until dismount.

I headed out for the run, and yeah—although I entered the world of triathlons as a runner who learned to bike and swim, it’s the run that I am especially slow-going. I seem to have developed into a two-pace runner: Gosh-awful slow and sprint. So, I used the first gear for most of the race. As I trudged along, I passed by my volunteering family out on the run course. It was great to hear their encouragement, and as I went up the teeny hill that sets you on course for the Gorge Trail, I thought of how hard my mother-in-law has fought against thyroid cancer over and over, and I powered up the hill. As I entered the trail, Karen Ingall told me “I just saw your daughter a few minutes ago!” I figured it would be a while before we would see each other on the out and back course.

When I DID see her, she greeted with me with another playful taunt: “You can’t catch me!”

I blew her a raspberry! And no—I knew I wouldn’t be able to catch her, but it did inspire me to keep trying!

I love Taughannock Falls trails. I know them like close friends. As I continued on, I tried to get into a more “personal groove” and I thought of the song “On Top of The World” by Imagine Dragons. I love the one lyric that goes, “I’ve been payin’ my dues to the dirt.” I feel like I HAVE been payin’ my dues—it just hasn’t been long enough. But…I got to go out and do something I love today. I know people who can’t….like my son who is recovering from a broken bone, or my friend Dianne who bravely fought cancer and died a few years ago.

She would have said, “Cowgirl up, Laura! Bust an ovary!”

So I stopped the complaining and tried to change my form a little, and changed my mental sound track to “Don’t Stop Me Now” (Queen) –with the poignant line “I’m havin’ a good time, I don’t want to stop at all!”   I saw my husband Scott, and we quickly exchanged a greeting and an encouraging hand slap.

Soon, I had the finish line almost in sight. There’s that moment close to the finish where I start to gather myself, and assess what kind of energy I have left, and when I might be able to put on a finish line sprint. I turned the corner, and I had about a 50m dash ready. I heard the announcer say, “and here she comes, well known for her finish line sprints, Laura Voorhees!”

I finished, gratefully took a cold water bottle and waited just a few minutes for Scott to finish.

A lady named Ellen came up to me shortly afterwards and said, “I was behind you for most of the race, and you were inspiring to me! I have done relays the past few years, but this is the first time I did the sprint in like, 6 years!” I warmly congratulated her and introduced myself. Then I wondered why I inspired her?

Had I turned into one of those overweight athletes that people look at and think, “Good for you! Good for getting out and getting some exercise!”

Whatever it is, I am happy to have raced. I am grateful to family and friends for being there as volunteers and athletes, and sharing your joyfulness out on the course.

Racing changes you, and I am glad to be changed today. swim at CLT 2015

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Cayuga Lake Triathlon–my backyard race

ImageOne of the advantages of doing your “hometown race” is the chance to sleep in!  By “sleeping in”, I mean that we headed to the park at 6 AM this morning, instead of having to get up at three or four in the morning to drive to the race site.  There was a certain calm about this morning:  no wondering if the race would be “wet suit legal” (our first intermediate tri two weeks ago was on the brink of not wetsuit legal—but a cold evening fixed that quickly!)  Scott and I run at Taughannock Falls a lot in summer, and have trained on the nasty bike course a little this summer, so we knew what to expect.  There’s a comfort in knowing the course!   But some of the “unexpecteds”  made for a slightly more challenging day:

  1.  Wind kicked up on the swim, and made me nervous about Victoria’s upcoming sprint experience.  We haven’t had many wavy training swims this summer. 
  1.  The wind didn’t seem to be helpful on the bike ride either.  Scott and I thought, “Well, when we turn around, we should have the wind helping us at our backs!”  Nice thought. 
  1. Not sure why, but I think the State Park staff thought they were somehow improving the gorge trail by covering it in a thick layer of crushed rock.  Not really:  it became more like a shifting beach sand experience, and I don’t have the body to rock a Bay Watch bathing suit on the run. 

But something seemed to make up for all those little things that were thrown our way, and that something was PEOPLE! 

Another advantage to being on our “home turf” if knowing lots of encouraging people.  Right from the moment we entered the park and started making our way to the transition area, we saw lots of folks we know:  fellow athletes, friends, colleagues, current and former students, and family—lots of family!

When my swim wave finally went off on the canon, I knew somewhere out there was Louise Adie patrolling in a kayak.  I took a quick glance at each kayaker, but in the first half, did not spot her.  I was happy to keep up with speedy Brenda Michaud.  She was doing the breaststroke and I tried to steer clear of her kicking froggy-legs, but I got nailed a couple of times.  I stuck to my crawl stroke, since that’s what I’ve practiced the most, but the wind pushed a wave or two into my face, resulting in a small gulp of water.  Well—gotta look on the bright side—it solved hydration problems!   Once I made the swim turn around, the waves picked up even more, and I worried about what Victoria’s (age 16) sprint swim would be like.  I knew she would be wearing her wetsuit, so that calmed my fears, but it’s a mother’s job to worry at least a LITTLE!   A little further, and after lots of cross current and wave nudging, I zig zagged my way to where Louise was stationed.  I shouted out, “Louise!”  She scooted a little closer to me, and I waved at her with one of my strokes, then assured her, “I’m ok!”  I could feel my pace pick up from the happiness in seeing her! 

I worked my way towards the beach, and headed into the transition chute.  I heard a few people say “go Laura!”  But had a hard time picking out individuals among the mass of people lining the chute.  I did manage to see one of my middle school students, who shouted “Go Mrs. Voorhees!”  and then my heart smiled when I then saw right near her Victoria, cheering for me.  She tried to give me a hand slap, but I think I gave her my standard sign language “I love you” hand.  I’m such a geek.  I can’t even get a handslap right!

I headed into transition, and managed everything reasonably smoothly, including downing a Gu packet.  In years past, I’ve had trouble with orientation in the transition corrals, but I think I am getting the hang of it. I ran out with my bike and headed out onto the course—ick.  That uphill is such a bear!  

As I headed out, I began to get passed by women I had bested in the swim.  All through the bike and run, I end up looking at calves:  ones with “S” for “sprint” I thought, “Well, they’re only doing half as much –it makes sense if s/he passes me.”  Then it hurts a little more when someone in your age group passes you.  I decided that I would compete with MYSELF instead—aim for a 15 miles per hour pace.  I trudged along, and after just a few miles, I came upon my brother and sister-in-law Peter and Amy, who are both Ironmen.  They knew exactly what I was going through.  I made sure I waved to them early, because I know from volunteering at their races that it is really difficult to identify people on a bike—even if they are your family!   Again, that awesome surge from seeing loved ones on the course.  I sure needed a boost after tackling the uphill!  As I passed the sprint turn around, I thought, “Wow.  That doesn’t seem so long anymore!” and I continued on to the Sheldrake Descent.  As I neared the bottom of the hill (thankful for no rain), I saw Gary McCheyne and Maria Costanzo, friends through music and running.  I shouted out to them, “Hi Gary!  Hi Maria!”  and they responded with shouts of encouragement. 

All along Sheldrake, people on their porches and in their yards kept cheering for me as I passed.  I responded to each one with a “WOO HOO!”  and an occasional, “Sheldrake, you ROCK!”  As I neared the four-way stop to head back uphill (UHG!)  I made sure I downshifted a little, so that the sudden climb wouldn’t kill all my momentum. 

Back up on Route 89, I saw a dead deer to the side of the road—still with its spotty dots,  and then a little later—a dead BAT. That is the closest I ever care to get to a bat.  As I headed further into the course, I saw a canopy over two spectators in their front yard.  Yup!  There was Cheryl, who was one of the custodians at South Seneca when I was teaching there.  I shouted out to her as I approached, “Hi Cheryl!  It’s me—Laura!”  Cheryl and her husband bounced in their seats a bit and cheered! 

Awhile later, it was time to start the awesome descent to the park.  As I neared the left turn, a car got in the way—the car owner kept moving forward, and thankfully a volunteer directed him to STAY and let me by.  I flew into the transition, and made sure my feet weren’t cemented in my shoe cages.  I think I tend to scare people in the transition chute.  I’m pretty good at stopping fast and dismounting successfully.  Unfortunately, several women I had caught up to in the transition were at the dismount line, and one simply fell over.  Good grief.  I jumped off my bike and started hauling it to my transition spot.  Bike up, helmet off, glasses off, head out.  I managed to do it in :45, which was the fastest in my age group, third fastest woman, and 9th fastest if you included the guys.

I was happy that my legs didn’t feel TOO much like lead, and my feet weren’t terribly numb.  As I headed out on the run, I took water from the first aid station “Hawaiian theme”, and cheerfully said, “Aloha!”  I worked on finding a pace—as usual for me, it was a fairly slow one.   As I went along, I started thinking about how I would soon see more family out on the run course.  My mother and father-in-law Carol and Bob, sister-in-law Connie and her eldest daughter Courtney, brother-in-law Rob and my son Austin were all at the water station by the route 89 bridge.  With so many family members on hand, which hand do I take a cup from?  As is turned out, they were on the return side of the run course, so I would look forward to seeing them a total of four times during my run, and I enjoyed their enthusiasm each time.  They always spotted me when I was a distance away, so I could feel their energy pulling me in.  I also had runner friends Jenny Henion, Bob Talda, Karen and Tim Ingall, Becky Harmon, Shelley Marino, and the super energetic Joel Cisne out there cheering me on.  It seemed that I really didn’t have far to go before I came along someone else to perk me up! On a few of my passes by the family assisted water stop, my son Austin splashed me with a cupful of water—once by surprise just as a photographer captured the moment.   I was so happy to see Scott out on the run course, and relieved when I finally saw Victoria as well.  I could see our calculations coming to fruition:  it looked like Scott and Victoria would cross the finish line at about the same time.  (As it turns out, they worked it out so they DID cross together!)  

One trip out on the Gorge Trail, I noticed that one woman passed m with SR on her calk (sprint relay)—so that likely meant that she was just running the run portion, 3.1 miles. Then I saw that she had earphones in (couldn’t she run that far without music?) which is against the race rules, which were even spoken at the pre-race directions by the triathlon director.  I said to her, “Headphones are not allowed!” and she replied, “No, I’m only doing this for my own time.”  I interpreted her response to mean that she thought she would not be in competition for awards.  I said to her, “It’s a RULE, not a SUGGESTION.”  It frustrates me when people think the rules don’t apply to them.  I noticed that her earphones were hanging down after she crossed the timing mat out at the Falls—I suspect the official there said something to her too.  FYI:  her bib number was 513, and her team didn’t receive any penalties.  Good thing she didn’t do the bike course, because perhaps she would think that wearing a helmet is just a suggestion too. 

OK—enough on the rule-breaker.  Back to finish line….it finally came, and friends near the finish encouraged me to find that sprint gear.  I was happy to find it, and had a good strong finish. 

Now as Scott and I look back over our results, I’m pretty pleased with what I find—I’m doing pretty much the same paces (and in some cases better) than my sprint triathlon times, and this is with extending to the intermediate distance, which doubles most of the legs’ distances.  We still have one more triathlon coming up in September, but I know we have something special in what we experienced at our Cayuga Lake Triathlon—nothing can replace the energy you get from pinballing from person to person; each one giving you the gift of their encouragement 

 

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Women Swimmin’…Women Livin’

Swimming with Diane in my heart

Swimmers “do” Women Swimmin’ for numerous reasons:  mine was to swim in memory of Diane Sherrer, who spent her last days on earth at HospiCare of Ithaca, and passed away two years ago.  Diane was my mentor and friend.  She would have loved to see the wondrous sight this morning:  hundreds of women participating in a life-affirming athletic activity, supported by their loved ones in kayaks and on shore. 

This was not only a swim for Diane, but as it turned out—one for me too.  I have recently lost my job due to budget cuts, and also been unsuccessful gaining another teaching position.  I needed a good reason to get out of bed this morning, and Women Swimmin’ was a good one.  I put on my swimsuit, pulled on a pair of ESG windpants, and with a Sharpie marker, inscribed “Diane” on my left hand and “Sherrer” on my right.  With each stroke, I would remember my friend. 

I arrived at the Ithaca Yacht Club with my family-they would see me onto the boat, and then Victoria had to leave for work.  Scott and Austin would be there when I arrived back to shore from my swim. 

I wasn’t really scared facing the distance of the swim.  I have been training for triathlons, and I knew that at our leisurely pace (and wearing a wetsuit) I would be able to do it.  There was also comfort in knowing that I wouldn’t be alone.  I would be just one of 300 women swimming across the lake this morning! 

The "Nauti-Gals"

My podmates and I gathered, and eventually boarded the Columbia to traverse to the other side of the lake.  I was trying to keep a stiff upper lip.  I was dealing with my own despair about my life’s circumstances as well as holding Diane’s memory especially close to my heart today.  As I looked around at all the women on the boat, I knew every single one had their own story.   I recalled how valiantly Diane fought to live; I knew she would not approve of the defeated attitude I have been displaying lately with my unemployment struggles.  I thought, “Diane would not be pleased with how I have been acting.  I owe it to her memory to face MY challenges with the same bravery she did.”

Our pod was the last one to board the boat; first one to enter the water.  A few of my podmates jumped, and then it was my turn.  I wondered if my goggles would stay atop my head when I jumped in-they did.  I sculled out of the way so that the next person could enter the water.  I spotted other red swim caps from my pod, and started swimming towards the orange triangular buoys which created a wide lane for us to aim for.  One big red balloon attached to the dock at the Yacht Club gave us a little “finish line” pinpoint.  What a small red dot! 

The Columbia, transporting us to the East shore of Cayuga Lake

At first, I swam a slow tempo, thinking our pod would try to stick together as a whole.  Within our pod we had quite a variety of swim tempo abilities, as revealed when we had a practice swim together a couple of weeks ago.  I saw that two of my friends were up ahead swimming at a more brisk speed—that’s where I wanted to be, so I informed the kayaker near me and sped ahead to catch up.  Soon enough, I was alongside them, and they welcomed me.  Laurie was wearing little flipper fins, and Nancy used no assistance—not even a wetsuit.  When I was close by Laurie, I could see her yellow flippers –they reminded me of ducky feet!   Nancy flanked me on the other side, giving encouraging words every once in a while.  Occasionally the three of us would catch our breath and shout back over the water, “Go Nauti-Gals! (our team name)  Go RED!” (our cap color)

It was very strange—as I sighted in the water for the fins, I kept seeing a pair of ladies legs off to the left side.  I would raise my head to see who it was; but no one was there.  The logical side of my mind says that it was probably a shadow produced from wearing a new pair of goggles with a different contour on the peripheral part of my vision.  The more spiritual side of me thinks of it as Diane being close to me (spurring me on as she would have, “Get going! Kick harder!  Pop an ovary!”).

As we continued, that red speck of a balloon appeared larger and larger, and we could see the dock we were aiming for, and see the crowd waiting for us on shore. 

I had the thought, “I may not be a teacher anymore, but right now I am a SWIMMER.  I am a WIFE to Scott, I am a MOTHER to Victoria and Austin…and that is enough.  It is ok.”

I approached the dock with a newfound happiness.  I was leaving some of my low self-esteem in the water, and emerging with a little smidgen of peace.  Volunteers welcomed me onto the dock with a hug, congratulations, and offered a blanket.  No thanks, in my wetsuit, I was plenty warm—the water was 75 degrees this morning.  My eyes immediately began searching for my boys on the shore. A few photos with Laurie and Nancy, and then I was heading into the arms of my family. My mother and father in-law had come to share the moment too!  I apologized each time I hugged anyone, because I knew it would leave them a little damp! 

Laurie (holding her yellow duckie flippers), Speedster Nancy and me

I found myself smiling (for the first time in days).  I turned my attention to the dock, waiting for more teammates to arrive.  Each time they did, it was a time to shout out a “woo hoo!” and hug them as they joined the growing crowd on the shore. 

The last of our podmates were Tricia and Robin—another Story of Victory.  Robin had her own life challenges, and she was super determined to prove to naysayers (and herself!) that she COULD make it across the lake.  Tricia was a steadfast companion, and stuck with Robin all through the journey.  When I saw the two of them climb up onto the dock, I smiled at the sight:  this swim just created another life-affirming experience for a woman. 

Tricia and Robin: Victorious!

 

It is amazing to me that a fund-raising event to support a service that assists people facing life-ending illnesses helps so many people find strength and affirms the life that we are living now. 

What was intended to be a swim to honor the life of my friend, morphed into a swim that concurrently helped me rediscover the value of my life, complete with all its twists and turns, disappointments and surprises.  My daughter Victoria noted later in the day,

A new person arrived on the other shore

“Mommy, you came out of the water a new person!”   I am hoping to swim again next year—to support HospiCare, who took such sweet care of my friend Diane, and perhaps next year I can also celebrate it as an anniversary of me rediscovering my intrinsic value. 

Thank you to so much to all of you who supported HospiCare by donating and encouraging me on my swim.  I appreciate you!!

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