QUOTE OF THE DAY (OR MORE): "No, no. You don't understand. This is an '89 Calico. I'm pretty sure that exceeds the Kelly Blue Book value. The cat's totaled." --A comedian whose name I forget talking about a vet who presents a $3,000 bill for a 12-year-old cat

Monday, August 17, 2009

A lesson in cross-training

I fully intended, was all prepared, to do my 17-mile long run Sunday morning at the beach. Instead, my alarm clock malfunctioned (that's my story and I'm sticking to it) and I awoke too late to get my 17 miles in. The rest of the day's heat would prohibit it. I decided to make it a cross-training day or short run day instead and do the 17 miles Monday.

The ocean was lake-like, so calm there was barey a ripple, and the water was also relatively warm. I decided, brilliantly, to cross-train by swimming in the Atlantic; it would be my first open water (non pool) swimming experience.

I have always loathed swimming, never quite sure at any moment that I'm not going to inhale with the wrong timing, choke down a sizeable gulp of water, and drown. I also never mastered, or even got by with a decent flip turn, so that I always feel a little silly swimming laps at the gym's pool. Lucky for me no one can tell who I am, anyway, with my gorgeous swimming cap and goggles rendering me incognito. Notwithstanding my personal abhorrence of swimming, one can unfortunately not deny its benefits as a cross training exercise (or main exercise for non runners); it is great cardio exercise with no impact and can be done on a hot day with, literally, no sweat. I have thus persevered, and with practice I've gotten a little less prone to death. Still, though my strokes are somewhat better now, my revulsion for swimming continues, due to its unfathomably boring nature. In what other sport does one move one way for 25 meters, then abruptly switch directions and move back the other way for 25 meters, back and forth, back and forth, repeatedly until one caves in from the tedious monotony. No new sites to see, no music, no hills, no turns. Just the same 25 meters, one direction... and then the other direction. Poke a sharp needle in my eye, please!

Swimming in the ocean, I surmised, might be more physically challenging but it would be infinitely less boring. I searched around for the one-piece bathing suit that I usually use to swim and discovered I had not brought it with me. oops. I decided I could probably manage in my bikini; after all, the Atlantic Ocean is fairly opaque. I took my cap and goggles down with me in my beach bag, telling only the husband of my silly plan, and read my Runners World magazine on the beach for awhile. My 11-year-old kept hauling in tiny little harmless jelly fish, piling them at my feet, but the boys said there weren't any big jellies out there. Just the little ones with no tentacles.

12:54: I gather my swimming cap and my goggles unobtrusively and wander down to the water's edge, feigning a quick dip.

12:56: I have made my way out past most wave jumpers and slip the cap and goggles on, ignoring the chortling chuckles of observers.

12:57: I begin swimming northward in the Atlantic, not very far out from the shore. The ocean is fairly warm.

12:58: I'm doing okay; the challenge is that I can't see anything with my goggles underwater (opaque ocean), and I breathe to my right side (I'm not at all skilled enough to breathe on both sides), so I can't see what's in front of me. I have to keep stopping momentarily to make sure 1)I'm not swimming straight into shore 2) I'm not swimming straight out to sea and 3) I'm not running into a person.

1:00: My right hand, on its pass under me through the ocean, strikes a large jellyfish. I am officially freaked out. I jump, squeal, and move as far to the left as I can to make a wide swath around the creepy creature. I have reacted as girly as I possibly could. I am grossed out. I tell myself it wasn't that big; dont' be a wimp. It's not going to happen again. Listen to Dory and just keep swimming....

1:02: I start seeing shapes in my goggles in my freaked-out condition, worried that every little thing I see is part or whole jellyfish. I admonish myself for my wussy behavior and keep swimming, stopping here and there to make sure I'm swimming straight north.

1:04: My stomach feels a little tingly and itchy - as if something had stung it. I think a jellyfish may have stung me back there when my hand hit it. I think to myself: "I HAD to wear a bikini."

1:05: I strike another jellyfish with my right hand. It feels pretty big. I squeal again, stop, scoot away from the scene of the contact, and tread water for a few moments, contemplating whether to keep going. I am pretty grossed out. Again I urge myself to keep going, telling myself I am really overreacting.

1:07: I am paranoid as I swim northward, sure a jellyfish lurks ahead of me with each stroke.

1:10: My paranoia pays off as I hit another jellyfish. I lurch backwards, laugh at myself, and swim toward shore. I take off my cap and goggles and make my way back to the beach. I have only swum about 5 or 6 blocks, but I can't take the jellies...

I walk southward back to the family posse on the beach. My stomach itches, as does my wrist.

As I approach my family, I describe the swim and explain why I'm back so soon.

"Did you get stung?" the thirteen-year-old questions, "your stomach is all red."
I can handle bugs on a bike ride. I cannot handle swimming with the creepy crawlies. I will NOT be doing that again....


  1. Oh how I love the ocean...but Jelly's, crabs, and stingrays really freak me out. I'm not a girly girl but when any of those touch me I freak out.

  2. I was reading along, loving the idea of being as cool as you...
    ...as active as you...
    ...as adventurous as...
    Strike that.

    Once I saw what the kids were collecting I would've cancelled my swim.

    I'm not a big fan of being able to see ANYTHING in/under the water.

    I got stung once and now I'm a big wuss when it comes to jellies.

    You might want to buy some Sting Ease (sp?) before you leave the shore.
    I could've never bought it here, and I was greatly in need ~ 2 weeks post sting. The site burned, itched, blistered and ...[gross]

    Other peeps got stung, but didn't have the same reation. (More Sting Ease for me.)

    I agree with Jennifer; I love the ocean, but fear the creepy crawly things.
    Freak out indeed.

  3. I'm sorry, I stopped reading at bikini. Damn I need to get back to the gym.

    But jellies would have freaked me the f*%k out too.

  4. I love, love, love, swimming (my unwillingness to even TRY the flipturn not withstanding) AND the ocean, but Im afraid I would have stopped the first or second time I came into contact with the transparent beasts.

    Well, did you get stung? Or was it something else? Do you know? Inquiring minds want to know...

  5. I HATE Jellyfish!

    I'm proud of you for swimming in the ocean. I'm sticking to the 25 meters in the pool, pausing to gasp and then attempting another 25. Repeat until arms fall off, to cough and sputter, or to catch my breath again and again. I have been practicing breathing to both sides, rotation breathing, kicking drills, and a triathlon turn (forget the flip turn for now).

  6. You were brave to attempt it and all for the sake of exercise! I completely agree with you about swimming being tediously boring. I like to go in to get wet and then come right back out to my magazine and margarita!

  7. ONLY 5 or 6 blocks? No way! I can't even dream about swimming without drowning. Don't beat yourself up. First of all, the jelly already did it for you; secondly, YOU ROCK!

  8. Did you hear me? I was applauding you at bikini.

    I was all squeamish reading this with jellyfish all over the place. Eewwwwww.

  9. I tried swimming in the city pool's lap pool two years ago. I could only breathe on the right side and a lot of that breathing would have better been described as "drinking."

    A friend just returned from Myrtle Beach and mentioned that the whole family got stung by jelly fish multiple times. I think I'd get stung once and then never get back in the water.

    I was just in Vancouver and the jelly fish up there seem to be harmless to the point the kids scoop them up. Or maybe they were dead jelly fish. Or maybe Canadians are just tougher. I didn't get near them... just in case.

  10. HOLY CRAP!!!

    i keep thinking that i am going to be a decent triathlete so i train and train running and biking and swimming. and i think i do pretty well.

    that is until the first time i have to get in the ocean to do one. if there is a word more powerful than mortified, thats what i am like in the ocean. i have a fear of sharks that can only be described as...well i dont know what it can be described as but its awful. you are infinitely braver than i and i know one day i will have to face my fear.

    my fear isnt with jellies so much. my fear is the governing triathlon body DQ'ing me for walking on water if i see a shark.

  11. Great scenery . . . and I'm just starting to figure out your artwork...is there some sort of iEtch-a-Sketch program?

  12. DId your boys offer to pee on you to relieve the itch?

  13. My parents and my cousin and his family live in Rehoboth so we visit the shore a lot. I hate jellyfish, seaweed and cold water. I can only manage to stick my feet in the ocean. I prefer to just sit on the beach and eat Thrasher fries :-)

  14. Oh, I just took a trip down memory lane. I grew up in Virginia Beach and I remember the JELLYFISH. Everywhere. And them things hurt...(Not that I talk that way)...

    You, funnyrunner, need to rethink your career. I see a future in cartoons. or comics. Or whatever you call 'em. Would you please send me a signed original before you start charging for them? Puleaze? Pretty Puleaze? (I really like the jellyfish one from today.)

  15. I would have been out of the water at 1:01. The mere thought of a Jellyfish would have sent me barreling out of the water for dry land.

    What? No sketch of your red tummy? I'm bummed.

  16. Thanks for the comment on my blog, do you just randomly look at it? My husband is in the Air Force. This story cracks me up, I am a triathlete and I have yet to do a race in ocean water for the same reasons. I was training for a marathon and broke my ankle on my 17 mile long run, due to too much cross training. Good luck with the Boston goal, that's awesome, you go girl!

  17. Things live in the ocean. They sting and bite and sometimes can eat you. Don't go in the ocean. Nature is your enemy. How will you run your marathons if a shark eats one of your feet?


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