The No-Nonsense Restart

I’m back!  Not necessarily better than ever, but I’m out of the hole I felt like I was in, and am pushing forward.  All is good.  So…what better way to re-start than take a swim in my other home pool (my real home pool is closed until next May)?  Good for the spirit and the body.

It wasn’t too long ago when I made that initial call to reserve my lane at the “Y.”

This new normal of swims came with strict rules, of course, starting with those questions – like – “have you traveled outside of the United States in the past 14 days?”

Really?

Then came the temperature check and the wait in the hallway until the group is allowed in.  Just like cattle, you are herded into the pool area where you place your “stuff” on a chair that is a safe distance from the others.   But if you picked the Lane 3 Chair, you swim in Lane 3, and so on.

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At exactly 45 minutes after the hour, in you go!  This leaves very little time for stretching and “getting used to the water” – probably my biggest quirk since college. Ugh, the water gets colder and colder as I get older and older.  However, now that my son gave me an Apple Watch, it helps me get my fanny in and get going.  It’s also a game-changer.  This amazing device knows what strokes I swim and the exact distance.  It takes my heart rate too – so I know when I’m huffing and puffing too much.

AppleWatchLog

There is also no socializing.  As much as I miss chatting with a few of the regulars, I totally get it.   Time is of the essence as people just want to get in, squeeze in their swim, and get out before the lifeguard sternly looks down in your lane and tells you it’s time to get out – so they can “sanitize.”  Sanitize?  Pool water is beyond clean, so the focus is on the pool deck, chairs and locker rooms.  They spray with disinfectant, using the Ghostbusters-type backpack. Remember that?  It must be so Slimer doesn’t show up anywhere.

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Slimer in Columbia Pictures’ GHOSTBUSTERS.

If nothing else, this no-nonsense approach of swimming is a good way to start getting back into shape.  I had been hanging onto the fitness bandwagon this spring and summer, mainly walking, then walking, and then some walking.  Yawn.  Golf league came and went for the season, and although it was not played with much finesse and expertise, it helped with the long depletion of social interaction.

As for the pool, I must admit, having my own lane is pure Heaven.  No one to share it with means no bumping hands or arms, no waves, and no “hugging the lanes” if the other swimmer decides to swim his or her half in the middle of the lane.  Not my idea of a good time.

CatPool

Let’s just be thankful that pools and gyms are starting to open, and we seem to be returning to some sense of normalcy in a year that most of us would prefer to forget.  Forever.

If lap swimming is now allowed in this part of the world, then tolerating the small things in life is O.K….and that includes putting up with the snarky lifeguard, who I may rename Dr. Peter Venkman just for fun.

I guess this no-nonsense attitude can be kind of, well, amusing…

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Dan Akroyd, Bill Murray and Harold Ramis in “Ghostbusters” (1984)

The Changing of the Emoji Guard

BZZZT!!! (Now a long tone sound…) We interrupt this normally cheerful Blog for a temporary change in mood…

In the past 3 days there has been quite a “shift” in the most used emojis on my phone from texting friends and family.  The top emoji had been the “LOL” – with the smiley-faced hard laugh, the closed eyes with tears of joy coming out of each side.  Last year, a survey showed that was the most used emoji by the public, both young and old.

With COVID-19 in the picture for way too many months now, on my “Frequently Used” section of the Top 30 emojis on my phone, there are now various crying faces with teardrops flowing, the pray symbol, numerous hearts in colors, and a broken heart.  They have replaced the clinking beers, the birthday cake, the girl swimmer, and also the dancing girl (I use that one in conjunction with the clinking beers).  How come the sudden shift?

On Monday, a friend posted on Facebook that her daughter lost her struggle with an aggressive form of leukemia, leaving a husband and young child.

Many, many Crying face emojis.

And on Wednesday, I read in the local news that a 24 year-old made a tragic decision when he jumped off a cliff while swimming with friends, and never resurfaced.  Turns out, he grew up right down the street and attended school with my kids.  His mom and I have been in the same Book Club for years.  She, her husband and this boy’s younger brother are without question the nicest, kindest people on the planet.  Just a few weeks later, one of my daughter’s longtime classmates chose to end his life.

An infinite number of Crying faces, Praying Hands and lots of Heart emojis.

No words can help, and no actions can heal the big hole in these families’ hearts and make some sense of these sad deaths of three young people.

This is being written for them, yet writing about it really doesn’t make me feel any better, either.

Broken Heart emojis everywhere.

This Changing of the Emoji Guard will hopefully shift back to its happier and more positive list as time goes on, but right now, it’s a tough period in this corner of the world.

We now return to our regularly scheduled Blog, and hope that brighter, happier days lie ahead for everyone.

You know you’re a Competitive Swimmer when…

OlympicPool

I’ve often wondered what qualifies a person as a lifetime, die-hard competitive swimmer.

Here is my Top Ten:

  1. The second you walk into the pool area, you smell chlorine, AND. YOU. LOVE. IT.
  2. You watch every single race, every single day of The Summer Olympic swimming competition.
  3. You found a way to swim during COVID-19, even if  you had to swim in a horseshoe-shape in your backyard pool (without touching the ends) or in cold, weedy, open water.

    person swimming on body of water
    Photo by mali maeder on Pexels.com
  4. You see cute blond-haired children with the “shimmer” and “the green tint” in their hair and know they are swimming competitively – someplace – and you’re jealous.
  5. When you meet someone who was a former competitive swimmer, you talk for 5 minutes, and then you both agree you’re practically family.
  6. You shudder when people can’t recognize names like Matt Biondi, Janet Evans, Mark Spitz, Dara Torres, Michael Phelps or Katie Ledecky.JanetEvans1MarkSpitzswimmersgreenhairKatieLedecky
  7. You teach children (and adults) that the term is “Freestyle” and not “The Crawl.”
  8. It’s a sad day when you start to “see through” your favorite practice swimsuit (usually in the butt!) and hope you can order the same, exact one online.
  9. You refuse to accept your “New Normal”  which basically means you use your college-best 100 Free time as a baseline in a Masters meet – even though that was 40 years ago.
  10. Swimming a 25 yard Fly…in the middle of a workout…because you can.

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If you have any others to add to my list…please share! 

Puck

We’ve said goodbye to our dog Puck. He was an English Black Labrador Retriever and lived a very, very long life. At 15 1/2 eventful years, he was off the age charts for his breed.

He was a unique guy, as most labs seem to be.

He was surrounded by Golden Retrievers his entire life. He was kind of like a Golden Retriever sandwich – with 2 layers of Golden on the top, and 2 on the bottom, he was the “filling.”  First, he was “the baby” of the pack, pestering our elder Golden Corky and then his nephew, Bailey. Puck and Bailey formed quite the relationship.  Like peas and carrots?

Not really –  they were more like Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid.

The pair collaborated and ran off together when Puck was a mere 9 months old, probably one of the most traumatic days of our lives. Happily, and after lots of praying and several hours of searching, we found both of them. Temporary tie outs, a try at invisible fencing and finally, a large fenced-in backyard deterred Puck and Bailey from their encounters with all that nature had to offer.

Since he was a classic “water dog,” we thought he could swim.  He hated it, even though his webbed feet could’ve easily taken him across our pool and back.  

Since labs are known to love just about everything, so Puck, in his unique fashion, also disliked getting into the car, and the impending ride. Our vet office was only a 3-minute drive into the village, yet you would’ve thought he was being somehow traumatized in the back seat. No barking, but he’d utter a distinctive whine with some occasional grunts. He didn’t like stairs either, and one evening it took 3 of us to get his then-100-pound mass back upstairs when he refused to come back up from the basement. He remained on level ground since that day, but left us hysterical at how ridiculous the scene was.

When Bailey passed, Puck was the “lone dog” for a little while, and would do whatever he could to gain attention.  One spring day, when the lawn sprinkler workers came to “start things up,” Puck walked up to one of the workers who was bent down to replace a sprinkler head, and promptly removed the red bandana he wore on his head. We’ve never seen a bunch of grown men rolling on the lawn and crying from laughter while watching the bandana-less worker chase our naughty guy throughout the yard.

He constantly sniffed everything, and would raise his head over the tiniest noise, then would transition into a straight point with that thick tail.  He tolerated our daughter’s cat when most of our Goldens would not. His coat was of 2 extremes – his waterdog fur resembled quills, yet his ears were as soft as his puppy coat, and still felt just like velvet in his older years.

Along came “the puppies,” siblings Pumpkin and Bear, two more Golden Retrievers which automatically gave Puck that title of Dog Patriarch, The Alpha. He enjoyed their company, especially with Bear. Bear is the male and self-proclaimed Lover of Everything and Everyone On The Planet. Pumpkin simply wants her tennis ball to chase – and occasionally chew to smitherines. She helped keep him young, as his curiosity would prevail over his weakening legs.

With Bear off to college with his “father,” who is our son Sean, Puck developed an interest in Pumpkin, trying to follow her on her zigzag route in their big play pen. For a few years, they were quite the trio.

(L-R Pumpkin, Bear and Puck)

Now Puck has crossed the Rainbow Bridge, he is likely playing with his bestie Bailey and “Uncle Corky.”  He will be missed very much, yet we know there will be that time when we will see them…all running free together. 

Wuzzes & Willbees

While visiting Costco and the park the other day, I looked at all the eyes behind the masks. Some of the eyes were expressionless, other eyes appeared determined to get more toilet paper, and a few seemed just O.K.

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Photo by Gustavo Fring on Pexels.com

But behind every mask, there is very likely – a case of The Wuzzes.

That sounds kind of Dr. Seuss-ish, but it classifies most of us…here are just a few samples of what the Wuzzes might be saying:

“I was just about to land this huge new account, but they had to temporarily close.”

“I was supposed to go my Senior Ball last week.”

“I was headed to visit my elderly mother in Florida, but can’t.”

“His collegiate ___________ (name the sport) team was going all the way to the championships, but they were cancelled.”

“My building project was put on hold, so there goes some future income.”

“My daughter was supposed to get married next month, but they postponed everything.”

man in black suit jacket and woman in white dress
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Everyone has an “I was…” tale or two…or likely thirty or them! They are mostly sad events, stories or moments, which cannot be rescheduled or replaced. My own “Wuz” consisted of not seeing our son graduate from college in early May, nor swimming in a US Masters meet – last weekend. Those were 2 events I’ve been looking forward to for ages. What a Bummer for all of us Wuzzes.

BUT…..

Now that COVID-19 appears to be at its plateau (at this writing), it’s time to bid “Adieu” and “See you later” to the Wuzzes!

It is time to evolve into a Willbee. Yes, I know… now it’s sounding more like the “Who Moved My Cheese” author, but it IS pretty simplistic…and maybe you’ll get the point here.

Ask yourself – What I WILL BE doing in the future!!  There are still many unknowns, but shouldn’t we at least do some verbal planning? Talk about that trip you WILL BE taking with your spouse or significant other. Pick up the phone and reach out to your customer, and tell them “I WILL BE seeing you soon.” Prepare yourself to say “I WILL BE attending that game, match, or meet.  Do that Zoom Meeting with family members you’d plan to see a couple of months ago (down South-or someplace really nice) and inform them you WILL BE paying an extended visit – when this crazy, mixed-up, surreal time in our lives is past us.  Time for some optimism, it’s sorely needed right now.

baseball match
Photo by Garret Schappacher on Pexels.com

Simply Surreal

COVID-19 has everyone on edge. All of us have been trying to come to grips with this silent, invisible monster. Pretty obvious.

It isn’t easy. And it’s just so odd.

Sheltering in place, homeschooling our kids, risking what seems like life and limb to pick up groceries at already-busy supermarkets like Wegmans (a recent visit there freaked me out, and I won’t be returning any time soon), and living in paranoia is taking its toll on us.

So, finding bright spots in this dark time are seldom, but they’re out there. Take your neighborhood for example:

Young moms and dads playing street hockey in the driveway with their elementary school age kids…who they likely spent time teaching them ABCs earlier that day.

Many people are walking their dogs. Good for them, good for their dog.

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Or my favorite – the teenage brother and sister playing a game of “HORSE” under the hoop – and getting along?!

This time reminds me of a throwback to the late 1960s, when Sundays were really a day off. Except for church and a quick trip to the drugstore before it closed, on Sundays, we were home.  While at the drugstore, my mother faithfully picked up the New York Times for my father and would treat us to a Milky Way bar. Then – everything closed, and wouldn’t re-open until Monday morning.

I think our parents and grandparents were grateful for that time.  

I’m just grateful. Period.

Case in point – When making a prescription delivery to my mother-in-law, I saw a large hand-built sign on the front lawn of a nearby house:

“Thank you Healthcare Workers”

There are so, so many other “thank yous” that need to go to a new, special class of workers who’ve joined the brave doctors, nurses, attendants and researchers on The Coronavirus War Front Line. Gas station attendants, postal workers, grocery and convenience store clerks, child care workers, pharmacists, trash collectors, restaurant owners, and all the delivery people who transport our produce, our meds, and yes, our toilet paper – all need to be lauded. It’s so nice to hear people thanking them for simply working, but what important jobs they have right now. They truly are warriors.

To the manufacturers who’ve changed equipment over to produce masks, gowns, plastic shields, and “PPEs” (I had to throw that in, as our world abbreviates now) to distribute to hospitals and other first responders:

THANK YOU!

That’s another throwback…to the 1940s wartime production.  Factories were in high gear producing all kinds of equipment, but we are certainly waging a much different war.

Financially, it’s going to be (and already is) a struggle for so many of us.  We are saving some money here and there by not driving, paying tolls, airfares, and not shopping for extravagant items or raiding Marshall’s for bargains. We are cooking at home and have resurrected the family dinner, a virtually lost institution.  We are communicating more than ever – and NOT texting, but talking, face-to-face, via Zoom, Facebook, Facetime, or just the good old fashioned landline.  That’s good stuff.

We will get through this, surreal as it is.  Just remember some of the positive experiences you may have encountered during this strange path we are all taking.  It will make us all stronger in the long run 🙂

Inspiration

Do you ever wonder how or why you develop an interest in a hobby, a sport, or if your parents or friends were possibly the inspiration of your career?

I just sent a letter to the Editor of the Syracuse Post-Standard today, as it occurred to me that my love for writing was likely inspired by my mother, whose writing was inspired by a man named Dick Case. Dick was a columnist for decades at The Syracuse Newspapers, and passed away recently. In a story about his passing, the reporter asked readers to share a favorite column that Dick Case wrote. Instead, I sent a tribute piece to the editor. Here it is:

To The Editor:

There are simply too many wonderful columns that Dick Case wrote over the years, so instead, I wanted to share a memory.
My mother, Jackie Coley, was a columnist at The Herald-Journal/Post Standard for 2 decades, and joyfully wrote the “Social Notebook” column. 
Jackie felt truly humbled to be in the ranks of reporters, editors, sports guys and columnists like Dick Case, Brohmann Roth (and his daughter Anne), Don Pickard, Bob Haggart, Sean Kirst, Lois Vosburgh, Arnie Burdick, Pat Spadafore, Stan Linhorst, Hart Seeley, Margie Chetney, and Bud Poliquin, to name a very few.  There were so many other reporters and columnists that she would mention to me during my childhood, so forgive my memory lapse, but I’m hoping I have most of them listed.
And, oh, the articles and columnists’ clippings she would cut – so many of them – especially from Dick Case. Mom would even make a trip up to the Fayetteville Free Library to make photocopies of them – for preservation’s sake, and to place them on the kitchen table for all to view in passing.
Jackie said she never took herself too seriously as a journalist, yet she worked very hard to produce a column that was informative, enjoyable to read and beneficial to the charities in Central New York. 
She mentioned that Dick and the aforementioned colleagues were “A-listers,” and they would often run into one another from time to time upstairs in the large white building in Downtown Syracuse (and so beautifully decorated during the holidays).
(Photo by John Berry)
She thought the Herald-Journal and Post-Standard staff were just “tolerating” her. After all, she got paid to attend parties and write about them, a common mis-conception about what her column was really all about.

My most vivid memory is that one day, probably 1990-something – Jackie called me and was simply ecstatic. She said that Dick Case paid her a compliment on a recent column, and that his genuine and heartfelt words to her “was like winning a Pulitzer Prize!”  She went on to say that he was always gracious to her, a valuable trait that she always wanted to see in others.  Now, Jackie and Dick did have a common thread – she was a child of Skunk City, and Dick wrote a column or two about the area, which happily struck many sentimental nerves – especially with the Irish-American community.

Mom considered Dick Case the “Dean of Columnists” in Central New York, and he was the very essence of who a journalist should be. She also felt that Dick inspired her to do her homework carefully, making sure every name and detail were accurate. 
I’m quite confident Jackie Coley is introducing Dick Case to all in Heaven, and perhaps they are sharing the news of what a wonderful place Central New York is.

‘Tis The Season to…decompress

Oh, the weather outside is frightful

But the pool is so delightful

Thanksgiving food-filled to the brim

Gotta swim, gotta swim, gotta swim!

My “normal” swim workout 3 to 4 times per week has been somewhat upended due to the holiday season. Be it end of the year doctor appointments, or traveling like a boomerang on the NYS Thruway for work, my time in Lane 3 has been limited.

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What, me worry? Alfred E. Newman was right.

This time of year my goal is NOT to put pressure on myself. It doesn’t matter if it’s working out, or preparing for Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, or Christmas. We all seem to develop that stress during the holidays to suddenly become Betty Crocker, Mr. Clean (anyone remember “The White Tornado?”) or even Martha Stewart (sans that insider trading thingy). Wonder Woman I am not.

lighted christmas tree
Photo by Brett Sayles on Pexels.com

“Caroline, did you get your Christmas tree up and decorated the day after Thanksgiving?”

“My shopping is almost done and my 100 cards (that I also hand-addressed in calligraphy) are already sent out, how about you, Caroline?”

Oh, please…..

I was just emailed a winter/spring US Masters swim meet schedule, and as much as I’d love to swim in all of them, it’s just not happening.

And I’m OK with that.

My point is…at this time in our lives, we’ve likely already done so much for family, friends (and often people we barely know) that it’s NOT a crime to say “no” to party invitations, over-decorating your house (unless you’re into that kind of thing), or making yourself swim 3,000 yards rather than your normal 2,000 since you missed a few days.

Swimming is definitely my favorite exercise as well as my refuge from life, but I can also hop on an exercise bike at home or run around the snowy backyard with the dogs as a workout.

Snowdogs

My holiday decorating comes in spurts, so I’ll grab what I can carry up from the basement – when I have time – and when I feel the motivation to do so. The tree and the trimmings will go up, but not when others tell me when they think it should.

So, my friends, please pace yourself, try not to get caught up in the whirlwind of the holidays and make the most of each day – your day, that is. If you can swim or workout somehow, that’s great, but do not beat yourself up because you ran out of time or are just too tired. The superheroes are out there, just let them do their thing.  Cheers!!

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Photo by Element5 Digital on Pexels.com

Summer Swimmin’…had me a blast

In the early summer of 1972, my adolescent wisdom directed me to competitive swimming.  Certainly not the fastest, nor the most coordinated 10 year-old girl in other sports, I just loved being in the water since I was a toddler.  So, I joined the summer swim team at our country club pool, which didn’t open until school let out in mid-June (yes, mid-June) and would abruptly close Labor Day weekend.  Not too long of a season, I thought to myself, so hey, this might just work for a kid like me.

Every weekday morning at 8:30, I’d ride my bike up to our club for practice by 9 a.m.  We had a 25-yard, 4-lane pool, which looked so big at the time.  Swimming in crowded counterclockwise circles and looking up at the rising sun with each breath, I thought it was pretty “neat” to swim outside.  The water would glisten from the sun’s rays in the deep end, and often, I would dream about diving down to the bottom and pick up pennies rather than completing my laps.

OGCCpool
The OGCC Pool – still 4 lanes, but a very nice upgrade from the 70s!

Practice ended at 11 a.m., and we had to wait 1 long hour for the pool to open for the day.  Just like summer camp, we spent that time laying on the lounge chairs wrapped in damp towels, gossiping about boys, weaving boondoggle, or playing games of pitch around the white-painted metal tables.  There were many, many great families – with plenty of siblings who swam, some as large as 5 in a clan.  Among those families included my wonderful cousins who lived right near the club.  Our golfing parents would look over the fence to check on us while they were passing by on Hole # 5.  And sometimes – if we were lucky, Dad would slip us some cash for the snack bar.

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What a bunch – The Onondaga Golf & Country Club swim team. And for local golf trivia buffs, behind that hedge is Hole #5 – the oldest hole in Syracuse in its original condition.

Home swim meets were extremely fun and quite exciting, especially for the little kids.  Held in the early evening, we’d help Coach Ed set up lane lines, flags, and the four cumbersome, wood-constructed starting blocks (which would give me slivers every time).  We hollered at our teammates to GO...while we poured red Jell-o down our throats for “energy.”   Our parents would venture from the golf course or the clubhouse to cheer us on, while enjoying a Tom Collins in a plastic cup.

For a few years, we proudly wore those VERY cool stars and stripes swimsuits – just like Mark Spitz wore in The Olympics in 1972.  We were all inspired to win 7 gold medals that year.

MarkSpitz
Mark Spitz – my sister had the famous full-length poster in her room

We traveled to other country clubs for away meets, and each opposing pool had different shapes, widths – and sometimes length.  Our team especially had “pool envy” with one particular club’s pool – and of course, was our arch-rival. The Cavalry Club* boasted an Olympic-sized pool that was T-Shaped and had an enormous team.  Therefore, the meets seemed to be crazy-long since the coach (and the parents) wanted to give every kid the opportunity to swim.  This era in the 70’s was really the infancy of age-group swimming, so learning the fundamentals – strokes, starts, turns – and rules – were quite important.

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The Cavalry Club pool.  So big!

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Another big meet was known simply as City/County.  That was held at what we thought was the “Mother-of-All-Pools” – the City of Syracuse-based Schiller Park Pool.  We would camp on the side of the large hill overlooking the pool and the City of Syracuse.  There was always a huge turnout for this meet, which is where I learned what a “heat” was.  We would swim against anyone and everyone in Central New York, and we would often cheer for our club rivals to beat the kids who we’d never seen swim before.

SchillerPool
Schiller Park Pool

At the end of the summer, which for us was usually the 3rd or 4th weekend in August, we participated in the 2-day “Interclub” meet.  Interclub was usually hosted by one of clubs with larger pools (like The Cavalry Club, which could handle the numerous club teams – and also did a great job of moving the meet along).  It was always our final barometer, a measurement of our improvement from the start of the club season to the last lap.  It was also a bittersweet ending before school began after Labor Day.

Swimmeet

My OGCC teammates, cousins, and friends would return to their home territory – and their surrounding school districts – Cazenovia, Jamesville-Dewitt, Henninger, and Fabius-Pompey to name a few, but they were always a phone call away.  Sometimes, we would see each other at off-season club functions and dinners – but barely recognizable since we had to get dressed up – and bundle up – since most often we’d visit the club during the chilly winters and soggy springs.

Many of us have remained friends and/or acquaintances throughout the years, thanks to our time spent at OGCC.  Many of my teammates stuck with swimming and continued to swim competitively.  I’m quite certain that my cousin took up diving for the entertainment of it all, doing some crazy stunts with his summertime buddies, but pursued diving a bit more seriously and ended up enjoying a successful high school tenure on the board.  Some of us evolved into “frenemies” since we remained competitive swimmers – and had to swim against one another in high school.  But no one can ever take away the fun memories of our team, the early practices and meets, and all those boxes of red Jell-O.

*Just a note about the Cavalry Club swim team – as great and as dominant as they were, one of the young swimmers from Cavalry Club disliked swimming so much, she would sneak away from the pool – in just her swimsuit – to the nearby driving range to hit golf balls.  Today, Suzy McGuire Whaley is President of the Professional Golfers Association. 

Weedfest

A fundraiser to fight breast cancer – and to have the opportunity to swim in open water – took place recently. Since 2012, the Gillie Girl Triathlon is held close to my neck of the woods at an area known as Gillie Lake Park. Now, Gillie Lake really isn’t a lake, it’s a man made pond, yet its size is sufficient for the triathlon to work. The Gillie Girl is a “sprint” triathlon, so the swim is a half-mile, the bike ride is a 14-mile jaunt on rural roads toward the western edge of Onondaga County and back, then the run is a 5K around the lake, out of the park, down and up a large hill, and back to the finish line.

Since my biking and running skills are sub-par, I have always chosen the relay team route. My cycling sister Melissa drives up annually from New Jersey to bike, and a local friend, Mary Jo, is our amazing runner. Together, we are called “Shanna’s Warriors,” in honor and memory of my sweet high school classmate, Shanna Cunia McCoy, who died from breast cancer almost 2 years ago.

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I’ve been in this event since its inception, and have worn the same, black, kneeskin swimsuit, which works fine. Laughing to myself each year at the dozens of women who choose to wear a wetsuit for this “short” swim, I could never understand why they’d want to wear something so cumbersome in 77-degree water. In its defense, a wetsuit does provide buoyancy and security to swimmers who aren’t comfortable with open water events.

So, it’s always been a fun event. Until this year.

You see, Central New York was inundated with spring rain, which left lakes, rivers, streams, vegetation, farmlands and anything you could think of saturated beyond belief. It took at least a month for water levels to recede and as a result, thick weeds have plagued lakes…including Gillie Lake (oh, did I mention it’s really a pond?). From staring out from the beach area, one could see the weeds floating on top of the water, directly in the path of the scalene triangle swim course.

It won’t be that bad, I thought to myself.

My dolphin-style start into Gillie Lake was fantastic and I got ahead early – just second behind an Aqua-bike competitor who wore a “tri-suit” which is similar to a wetsuit. Then came the first patch of weeds…a rather small patch, but all along I told myself that I could get through it.

GILLIE3
(Second place on my way to Marker #1… so far so good!?)

(Drone photo by Alexander Mainville)

At the first marker turn, which becomes the widest part of of the triangle, was a swath of weeds a machete couldn’t cut through. My years working as a Water Safety Instructor, or WSI, reminded me to not panic. Feeling concerned for the women who weren’t comfortable swimming in the first place, I hoped that no one would panic from the green, spaghetti-like abyss.

A streak of jealousy then emerged to all the Wetsuit-ers who had protection from the sneaking and crawling weeds, most of which easily relocated into my suit. It became so ridiculous that I flipped over and swam few strokes of backstroke just to fend them off. Sadly, this was not going to be a pleasant endurance swim with my usual “distance finesse,” this was just survival! So much for improving my time from last year, I sighed.

With the 2nd marker past me, and the homestretch in sight, and with one more patch to wriggle my way through, there was just one other problem… Did I mention that Gillie Lake is a pond – and not a lake at all? In order to complete the swim, one must go around twice – TWO TIMES – around the scalene triangle.

Ugh! Déjà vu! More weeds!

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The Jungle Section!

(Drone photo by Alexander Mainville)

I crawled out of the water, pulling weeds out of my suit the whole time, ran around a lifeguard chair and back into the watery garden. As luck would have it, some of the weeds had been chopped up a bit, but the swim remained tedious.

All. Done. Hallelujah! With a fairly substantial lead, off I ran to the transition area, and Mary Jo secured the timer chip on Melissa’s ankle. Melissa gleefully rode away on her 14-mile journey through the Central New York countryside. While waiting for her return, I poured a bottle of water down my suit in an attempt to rid myself from the weeds. A couple of other swimmers helped pull them off my back where I couldn’t quite reach.

Melissa returned (still as gleeful) and away flew Mary Jo, lightning fast, and ended up smoking past 2 relay runners and bringing it home for our relay win! Yay!

During the 15-seconds-of-fame awards presentation, all I could think of was heading home and taking a shower. Then burning my suit. That Sunday victory came and went – along with that long, warm, soapy shower.

On Monday morning, however, there IT was…on my chest, my ribcage, and my abdomen. I’m quite certain I actually heard the attack theme from Jaws….bumbum-bumbum-bumbum-BUM-BUM… I had “Swimmer’s Itch”…a.k.a. DUCK ITCH!  Red and white bumps were all over me, Eew! Then – it started itching a day or two later. If you look Swimmer’s Itch up, the “experts” claim it will last just a few days.

MEDS

Two weeks later – and 2 types of medicines later (there’s that one stinky cream I still can’t pronounce), the itch is just about gone. Even my doctor was surprised it lasted so long.

For now, I’m taking a lengthy break from open water swimming. My body is done with the rash, and I’m happily back swimming in Lane 3 at the Skaneateles YMCA. I may even consider buying a wetsuit for my next encounter with weeds, things, creatures or suspicious lake water in general. Who knows? Maybe I’ll get the last laugh for wearing it.

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