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swimming

Winter Swimming is for Masochists

I’ve never doubted that I’m a masochist. Between being a gymnast, going to law school, getting 14 piercings, and now being a triathlete, I’ve put a lot of time and money into torturing myself for fun.

Winter swimming is definitely in the category of being an act of masochism.

This is my pool – steam coming off the water at 6am.

I live in the desert. Compared to the rest of the U.S., it usually doesn’t get that cold here in the winter. As a result, my blood has thinned since I lived in the Pacific Northwest. When it gets cold here, I feel extra cold. When I walk my dog on these chilly mornings, I’m bundled in running tights, jeans, socks, long sleeves, a sweatshirt, and a hat. I don’t wear that many layers to the pool, instead opting for sweatpants, a long sleeve shirt, sweatshirt, and a hat over my swim suit, and only flip flops on my feet.

When it’s 45 degrees outside, going to the outdoor pool is chilly experience. When the temperature is in the low 30s, it’s almost painful. It’s basically a reverse polar plunge to strip off my outer layers and jump in the water.

Recently, I went to the pool when it was 36 degrees outside. As I waited for the staff to open the door at 6am, I shot a quick video to send to my coach:

It’s 36 degrees outside.

I’m wearing flip flops.

My lips are blue.

I’m going swimming.

Fuck you, David.

Don’t worry it’s not offensive. My coach has a not-so-secret goal of making his athletes curse his name. I enjoy the challenge of training, so it’s rare that he gets me to curse. I’m sure a giant grin spread across his face when he saw this. (Every masochist needs a sadist.)

Coach David and Athlete, Post Swim at the Atlantic Ocean (July 2018)

The pool itself is heated, but it’s not hot. Typically, when it’s this cold, it takes about a lap before I can fully feel my hands and get used to the temperature. The other day, a fellow masochistic swimmer jumped in the water before me.

“Is it warm?” I asked.

“It’s refreshing,” he responded.

That means “No.” I put on my goggles and jumped in, submerging my whole body. When I resurfaced, I looked him and said, “It’s infuriating.”

By the time I finished my first two laps, the water felt fine, but the experience of getting to that level of comfort shows how much we really want to be there.

Of course, getting out of the pool is the reverse experience – going from the comfortable heated water back onto the freezing cold pool deck, this time soaking wet. I stay outside only long enough to step into my flip flop, throw my towel around myself, and head inside to the family bathroom.

In the summer, when I get out of the water, I pull on my short over my wet bathing suit and sit on my towel to drive home. That is not happening in the winter. I want to get out of that wet swim suit and dry as soon as possible. I usually peel of my swim suit and throw it across the room to the sink before toweling off and pulling on my warm sweats. I wrap my wet suit in my towel and drive home with the heat blowing through the vents.

Why do I go swimming outside in the winter (besides being a masochist)? I’m training for my first Half Ironman, and training doesn’t take a day off because it’s cold. Seeing consistent improvement in my time and technique makes it all worth it.

Undeniable Recap of 2018

It’s been a busy year, and I’ve barely blogged a thing. Sorry about that. I’ll do better in 2019.

I’m glad I keep my jar of happy memories next to my bed to remind me of all the good things that happened this year. Sometimes with everything that was happening in the world, it was challenging to remember that everything doesn’t suck all the time. So many good things happened that I had to do more than a top five list:

Top 5 Events

1. Non-Binary Birth Certificate: I am officially legally non-binary! I had my California birth certificate corrected and re-issued, so now it states that I’m non-binary. For now, I can’t get a non-binary driver’s license in Arizona, but I’m working on it. I hope to influence the State to pass a bill that will allow non-binary birth certificates and driver’s licenses next session. Having a non-binary birth certificate also makes me want to go to states that have passed “bathroom bills” and ask where my restroom is.

2. First Marathon and Triathlon: I finished a marathon this past January. By Mile 20, I was hurting but also planning for my next race (which will be in February 2019). During the off season, I had Coach David add biking and swimming to my workouts for cross training. A few months later I signed up for my first sprint triathlon – just to see if I liked it. Less than 100 yards into the swim I thought, “Yeah, I like this.”

3. Christopher Creek Lodge Vacation: I shipped Rosie and myself away from society for a few days to stay at a cabin with bad wi-fi. We spent a lot of time reading, watching nature, rejuvenating, and getting my creative energy flowing again. It was what I needed.

4. Open Water Swim with the Jewish Swim Club: When I started swimming this year, Coach David asked, “What’s the goal?” I responded that I wanted to hold my own “with the Jews.” (Note: When I started my swim workouts in April, the furthest I could swim the first day was 75 yards.) During the summer, David and his friends swim in the ocean off Brighton Beach, sometimes a mile or more.

By the end of June David asked when I was coming to visit. I did a whirlwind trip, flying across the country on Thursday, to go swimming at 7am on Friday, and be back home in less than 24 hours. It was an awesome trip, including the swim. This was my first real open water swim, and I had a bit of a panic attack at the start. Once I realized I would never find my cadence in the waves, I was fine.

5. I Became an Oggy:  A few months ago, my sister had a baby. (I can’t wait to meet the little human.) If they don’t post photos of the little one for seven days, I send my sister and brother-in-law an email that says, “Send proof of infant.”

I had to figure out what I am to my nibling (collective term for niece/nephew). There is no gender-neutral term for aunt/uncle. I adopted a term from another non-binary person: “Oggy” (rhymes with “doggy”). I like being “Oggy Ruth.”

Honorable Mentions

Seeing Dan Savage Live: If you ever get the chance to see him speak, go.

Blind Rosie: Rosie went blind a few weeks ago, and we had to remove her other eye. She was in surgery a few hours after waking up blind that day. When I brought her home, she was bit freaked out by the protective cone she had to wear, and she refused to walk. My neighbors, Sarah and Thomas, came to my rescue and helped carry Rosie into the house when we got home. Since then, we’ve both adjusted to blind basset life. She’s such a trooper.

Rescue Dogs at CMWorld: Last year at Content Marketing World, I asked for rescue dogs in the expo hall. (Everyone loves dogs, right?) This year, they made it happen! One of the happy hours was “Yappy Hour” where, for a donation, we got to pet adoptable dogs from City Dogs Cleveland. I hope it becomes a standard part of the event.

Skateboarding: Last year, the crew at Content Marketing World bought me a penny skateboard. This year, I learned how to ride it – with lessons, pads, and the whole she-bang. I also bought a proper board. I love riding my board. When I’m skateboarding, I literally can’t think about anything else, otherwise the risk of falling is too great. I’ll tell you the whole story next year.

Firsts in 2018

Fostered a dog for a week – and learned that Rosie’s meant to be an only child.

Peleton class – at the flagship studio

Ebay listing – sold my BarBri books

Rubber bands on my Invisalign trays

SlotZilla Zip Line

Settlement conference

Deposition

Garmin watch

Amazon affiliate link

Seeing Chicago’s Second City perform

Visit to Bart Simpson Bust

Being told I look like a young Richard Gere by the clerk at JJ Hat Center

Swimming in the Atlantic Ocean, Lake Erie, and Tempe Town Lake (Yes, I was up-to-date on my tetanus shot. No, I didn’t get super powers.)

Events: Intelligent Content Conference, American Alliance of Museums conference

Attempts to be a Better Human (affiliate link): Reusable produce bags and jars, Bringing my own container to the store for Rosie’s chicken, Zero waste deodorant, Bamboo toothbrush, Menstrual cup

Foods: Making beans from dried, vegan pancakes, Daiya Cheddar Style Cheezy Mac (not bad), Lenny & Larry’s The Complete Cookie – Chocolate Chip (not worth it), overnight oats, Just Desserts vegan chocolate midnight cupcake (delicious but soooo sweet), chia seed pudding (meh), Café Indigo vegan carrot cake (yum)

Celebrity Sightings

Margaret Cho

Elizabeth Smart

Dan Savage

Tina Fey

In Memoriam

Stephen Hawking

Harry Anderson

Larry Dolan

Kate Spade

Anthony Bourdain

Aretha Franklin

Elena Shushunova

John McCain

Mary Sigler

Burt Reynolds

Jay Bottomlee

Stan Lee

Penny Marshall