Posted by: forgingahead | May 18, 2008

Icy Dip

I mentioned Morgan yesterday…world-class marathon swimmer and my open water swim coach. Well a few days ago we met at Aquatic Park in San Francisco for my first lesson. When we last left our intrepid novice she’d successfully donned her wet suit. Wait a minute, why am I talking in the third person in a booming voice? Stop that.

Ok, I’m back. After the wet suit came the three (yes three) swim caps. First a nice silicone cap that won’t pull my lovely red hair. Then a newly purchased neoprene cap complete with a fashionable chin strap (really, how’s a girl supposed to look fabulous with a chin strap?) And then yes, a third cap to keep all that icy water out and my sensitive brain warm. We want those brain cells working at full capacity while in the open water. Ear plugs for this purpose too.

So I’m dressed and ready to go. I feel a bit like Rocky as we stroll through the boat house and down the ramp into the sunshine and onto the beach. I’m feeling oddly giddy at this point. Which is when Morgan turns to me and says there are a couple things I should know before we enter the water. Since she’s been educating me about the water and the process for the last hour I’m curious about what’s left.

Turns out it’s about my ankles and their ability to convince the rest of my body of the imminent danger of icy water. Apparently we have to go into the water fast enough to prevent the ankles from stopping the brain from stopping our forward progress. Well, that gives me something to chew on. But only for about 10 seconds, because then she drops her second piece of wisdom.

Water this cold tends to make the process of breathing rather tricky, at least initially. Morgan says make noise. She doesn’t say scream, but that’s my plan if it comes to that. I can do a good yell. Because when you’re making noise, you have to breathe.

Time for a quick aside for all those equestrians out there. I had a real sense of deja vu when Morgan said this, because my dressage trainer Anke said the very same thing the day before. How weird is that? She was teaching me and Now Voyager (my trusty steed) something new. As usual when learning something new on my horse I feel like a total novice again until I figure it out (sometimes this lasts for weeks by the way). So Anke kept telling me to “pat him” and “talk to him – tell him a story” while we were going round and round and round on a 10 meter circle.

After we finished riding I asked her about the storytelling thing and she said, “well, you were getting tense and holding your breath. If you’re talking, you have to be breathing.” Ahhh. Clever. We now rejoin our regular programming…

So, one, two, three and in we go. I LOVE my wet suit now. So warm and floaty (did you know they make you super buoyant?) But my face, my goodness, my face really hurts. Can you imagine if I was doing this in a bikini like Morgan? Hey, I better look over and see how she’s fairing. I do believe that girl is smiling as she’s swimming in 55 degree water. What an inspiration! I get over my stunned face quickly after that.

We swam a bit, then stopped to check in. I flipped onto my back and took in the fact that I was in SF Bay on an unseasonably warm Thursday morning doing something I’d never done before. And loving every minute. We picked out our next target and started swimming again. The water was an opaque shade of green with a touch of brown. It felt a little like swimming through a forest.

We swam for about 40 minutes and went less than a mile, but it was over much too soon. Morgan taught me about the tide – which carried us quickly at one point. She taught me how to look ahead while swimming to stay in a straight line. She encouraged me to take in the beauty of the city from this new vantage point. And she pointed out how close Alcatraz looked. Morgan Filler is a natural and gifted coach and swimmer and she made this day perfect.

More photographic evidence of the day courtesy of Hubby…I’m the black speck on the left. Morgan is next to me with the yellow cap.



  1. ‘How’s a girl supposed to look fabulous with a chin strap?’

    Funny you should say that. When I was showing your photos to a co-worker (who’s also an open water pilot), she commented something like ‘Wow, she looks really good in a swim cap. Most people can’t pull that off…’

    You go girl!

  2. Thanks Michelle (and co-worker) for the vote of fashion support! The girls in the locker room at the South End Rowing Club were asking about my neoprene cap – it’s new from Desoto and more streamlined than the Barracuda caps they all wear. Open water fashion tip of the day 🙂

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