Thursday, July 13, 2006

Heard a great quotation:

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do, than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." Mark Twain.

Friday, June 09, 2006

St Jan

Coral Bay


Francis, Lille Maho, Maho

Visiting Merry

The donkeys dem...
New visitors center at Cruz Bay

At L'esperance...

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The race on May 28

As we lined up that morning, I felt really calm, and thought to myself: "I can do this, this is what I do. I'm a swimmer. I can hold my own amongst these other swimmers and I have done the training." The other swimmers were friendly and of all ages. I'd already met up with Merry and met her friend Steve, they were both swimming assisted. The long course group started first. Once in the water, I didn't get kicked or hit! It reminded me of swimming in a lane with 5 or 6 high school kids when I used to work out with the swim team. I took it easy, for this was my warmup. We rounded the first buoy and I felt a little high-heart beat, so tried to take it easy. Soon I got into my pace and mostly cruised the rest of the way. All the way out of Maho, I was swimming next to Mr. Yellow Fins, who later turned out to be John Holden probably. It helped to have someone to swim beside for I didn't have to sight so often. It is an odd sensation, for one is just beneath the surface and can't really see what is going on, such as how many swimmers are ahead or behind. Suddenly someone will just come up from behind. And you can't really see the scenery as you go except for underwater. A few times I did a couple of breaststroke kicks to see ahead and behind, but got right back to the freestyle.

We rounded the point and started into Cinnamon Bay, and I lost Mr. Yellow Fins. Saw the orange bouys to go between, and saw the water boat but didn't need water then. As I started out of Cinnamon Bay, I saw the notch in the hill to sight on: good thing, because the bouys were few and far between. A guy and 2 girls came swimming up beside me and we all swam along together almost into Trunk Bay. They were good swimmers. Found out later they were the winners from the previous 2 years. They swam pretty close to Trunk Cay whereas I stayed well away from it, and then I lost them. Turned out I passed them and they were behind me the rest of the way.

There was a lot of current at Trunk Cay, felt like I was standing still even though I was swimming hard. Even leaving Trunk I felt some current but that was replaced by a little chop but not too bad. I saw some of the underwater snorkel trail markers. Never saw the 2nd water boat but didn't want to stop then anyway. I was on kind of a swimmers high by this time, cruising along, feeling my arms working, willing them to keep pushing, enjoying the bouyancy from the salt water, seeing some coral and fish. My arms felt like big wings or fins.

I was alone by now, not seeing any bouys, but sighting on the point of Thatch Cay as directed. This was a long leg. I saw Peter Bay on the left and almost thought it was Hawksnest and began to get excited, but realized it wasn't over yet. The bouys around the next point at Peace Hill were way out from the rocks, and it seemed like forever until I came to the bouy for turning left. Thank goodness for the kayakers pointing the way. I rounded into Hawksnest and saw the bouys ahead. I felt like slacking off but remembered my book which said that fatigue is a sign to work harder. Plus I thought, "I didn't spend all this money to fly down here and slack off now." I had seen some heads behind me but didn't really know where we all were in the race. I had an idea, though, that not a whole lot were ahead of us.

Made the last turn through that gate and headed right toward the finish. That part is a blur, seemed to take me forever to get to shore. I stumbled trying to run out of the water. I didn't know my time or place until later, though the 2 girls I'd passed came over and said I must have won the age group. They were so nice, we all congratulated each other. Martha and Becky were there taking pictures, hauling my stuff, cheering me on. I was grateful to have my good friends there.

The Friends group put on a great picnic and awards party over at Oppenheimer Beach just next door. We talked to Merry and John, had some Virgin Islands Pale Ale and hamburgers. I won a lovely original fish painting with plaque saying 3rd overall women's long course solo, a restaurant gift certificate, and a bag full of Hawaiian Tropic stuff. Then I got to meet Watergrrl, or Kendra! And her husband. Turns out they live on St. Thomas and have swum in the 5 mi. race in St. Croix. She is so cute and nice. She and her husband each won 1st overall in the intermediate solo!

I feel happy to have set a goal, followed through with the training, and finished the event. I feel that I did well and have joined the ranks of open water swimmers. I've come out on the other side. It was a good challenge. I'm not sure what I'll train for in the future, if anything. This was an approx. 3.5 mi race and my time was 1 hour 38 min. This swimming distance is equal to about a 14 mi. run or a half marathon. I'd like to swim in some more races, but those St John waters have spoiled me. Dirty rivers and lakes in TN? Yuck. So I'll keep up my pool training, do probably 3 days a week, 3000 to 3500 yds. each time.

I'll put up some more photos from our trip soon, then end this blog.

More photos from the race day

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Back home

It has now been a week since the swim, but seems like only yesterday. It was a great trip, we had a blast. The race went well; I felt really good and confident and my stamina held up. What a new experience, swimming all that way with no flip turns, other swimmers around, seeing sand and coral and fish below me, sighting on things to keep on course. The water was so beautiful, so clean and bouyant, and I didn't get that sick chlorine aftereffect.
My time was 1 hour 38 min. 34 sec. I came in 3rd overall for women. There were 11 women and 26 men in the long course solo categories, total 37. I was 8th out of those 37. I was also the fastest in my age group (35 - 49) although they didn't score it like that. There were 142 swimmers in all doing various lengths of the course. The race results in PDF are at this address:
I stumbled a little in the soft sand coming out of the water (a clumsy emergence), but there was lots of clapping and they handed us each a medal and water. Well more about the race later, I'll put up some photos from the race and the rest of the trip soon.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Last swim at Y

Swam about 2,000 yd at lunch time with Lynne. That's it now until we get to St. John. I hope I have planned this training well and that I will have the endurance needed on Sunday. Guess it's all over but the shouting now.
Got some last minute grocery needs and Power Bars, picked up some cash. Now I'll check in online and go get packed. There are no computers at Maho, I would guess, so I'll have to blog when I return.
Below- Hawksnest Bay, the site of my emergence, as real distance swimmer Diana Nyad says. After the long hours, pain, fatigue, and loneliness, she says " emergence is what it's all about."

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Hawksnest Bay

An aerial shot of Hawsknest Bay where the race will end. The "Christ of the Caribbean" statue stood on Peace Hill (peninsula at left of bay) next to a windmill; I read that the statue was toppled in a hurricane.

Mon. May 22

Did about 2500 yd. Only 5 days until the big day. I only hope I can finish and enjoy it, not have the "piano fall" or "die" or whatever the lingo. I suppose I'll eat my usual cereal, plus a power bar and some gatorade that morning. It will be a shocker to someone who trains in pools. But then, I did learn to swim in those bays over 30 years ago....

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Friday I swam about 2900 yd. - did 500 wu, 2 X 400, 4 X 200, 8 X 100 some pretty fast, long rests. My bod was saying, this is nothing, lets keep going. Am feeling more rested now.
One week until the big day. Have been making piles of clothes and stuff to take, readying to pack. Can't wait......

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Williams story

Back in February I read Haunts of the Black Masseur (see March 3 post) because I'd heard it had lots of swimming information. And it did, mainly the history of swimming and bathing, particularly in literature and amongst the romantic poets. I noted that the allusion of the title was to a short story by Tennessee Williams, "Desire and the Black Masseur". I finally got around to finding and reading the story at the library. Whew, not a swimming story. It had to do with a wimpy little white guy getting massages by a big black man in an underground sauna at a NYC health club. The story was about torture, self-hatred, and mutilation. I was sorry I'd read it.

I much more enjoyed the stories in Splash, a compilation of writings about swimming given to me by my friend Betty. I loved "Wet" by Laurie Colwin and "The Swimmer" by John Cheever. Must go back and read that collection.

Wed. May 17

Swam about 2800 yd today: 500 wu, 5 X 100, 4 X 200, 3 X 300 then some kicking. Still feeling kind of tired. Looking forward to those sharks.... maybe they will make me swim really fast. The Sea Huntresses will come in handy.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006


We lived at the top of the old road leading down to L'Esperance, a Danish sugar plantation in the late 1700's and early 1800's. This link has a description of the hike.
The "foundation of an old house" mentioned is our old pre-fab national park service house foundation, the house blown away in a hurricane. The text doesn't mention the graves at L'Esperance; a large flat marker for Hendrick Tonis was there. My brother Bill mapped the whole area and cleared out saplings so that one could see the foundations of the old buildings and mills. We looked down on the royal palm from our house.

Tuesday May 16

Had to work 2pm to 8 pm today, so I swam at the lunch time lap swim. Lynne was there, too. I did about 2500 yd: 500 wu, 500, 400, 300, 200, 100, then about 500 kick. Arms kind of tired feeling still since Sat. Had some fun by doing some spinning dolphin playing with my fins on. Glad to hear from Watergrrl! And got some other comments from several anonymouses. Nice to get some compliments on my blog. So here is a nice picture to further beautify my blog. That is Jost Van Dyke where we'll be stopping on our boat rides.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Monday May 15

Turns out I am more tired today than I was yesterday, so must rest today. Will get back in the swim tomorrow.
I wonder where is Watergrrl? Have not heard since the first training swim. Hope all is well.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Saturday May 13

I did it! I swam 6200 yd (3.5 mi). I divided it into 3 X 2000 yd and drank water treading water at 2000 and 4000. Took one hour 44 min. At 3000 yd my left hand got weird, kind of weak feeling, but that went away. Around 5000 my triceps down to my lats (my wings) got pretty sore. My calves started to feel crampy, I think from pushing off the wall. But I felt pretty energetic, esp in the last 500. Norma came in and got in my lane, wouldn't you know it, but not a problem. I pictured where I'd be in the swim, like "I'm rounding America Point now, heading into Cinnamon Bay " etc.
Now I can slack off some and rest up. Upcoming schedule:
May 15 - 5000
May 17- 4500
May 19 - 4000
May 22- 3500
May 24 - 3000
May 26 & 27- paddle around in Maho Bay
May 28- the race

Friday, May 12, 2006

Thurs May 11

Swam 4500 yd: 1000 wu, 1750, 1000, 500, 250 breaststroke and kick.
I've come a long way since January when I started my training in earnest. Back then a 2500 yd workout seemed like a lot. Hope I can keep my conditioning reasonably good into the next half-century....

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Leatherback turtle seen on St. John

An endangered leatherback turtle story in Tradewinds: she began to make a nest at Caneel Bay during the daytime, then left to swim over to Trunk where she completed the nest at night. See story at link.
She was beach to beach power swimming.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Virgin Islands food

Market Square on St. Thomas, a block from my high school, Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic School.
What do I recall about foods of the VI: At home, we pretty much ate as we had in TN, after bringing the groceries across from St. Thomas on the ferry. Had to keep a lot of it in the freezer due to humidity. But Bob Nose would sometimes bring up lobsters that he had caught and grill for us.
At my high school cafeteria, we supposedly had goat! And there was also fungi, a cornmeal mush kind of thing. Everywhere was chicken leg and johnnycake. The chicken was delicious, very spicy, as at Joe's Lunch wagon on St. John. St. Thomas had some Trinidadians selling East Indian inspired food such as roti. I often got tamarind sno-cones on the street after school. There were lots of fruits, such as mango (little wild ones picked right off the tree), genip, mami apple, sugar apple. There'd be fish frys to eat and dance at on St. John. We didn't do much fresh fish buying tho, wish we had. I recall sitting with Phyllis at the park visitor center as she ate her lunch of things like pumpkin, callaloo, sweet potato (white ones), dashin (?). She was of Carib descent from Dominica.
There was a drink, maubi, sold at the market in St. Thomas, a reddish brown liquid made from roots and herbs, who knows what. Non-alcoholic. Alcohol? Rum of course which was .99 cents for a bottle of Cruzan. Guavaberry at Christmastime.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Sat. May 6

Today I did 5600 yd. or 3.2 mi. I did a 400 wu then a descending ladder of 1000, 900, 800, 700, 600, 500, 300, 200. 100, 100. Felt pretty wiped out by the end. I must be crazy. I'll be lucky to finish in the 3 hours they are allotting. I expect pool times to mean nothing in the sea with waves and everything. If I am done in 2 hours I'll be lucky. But I still can't wait. In 3 weeks I'll be back on my beautiful St. John. Been gone too long.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Wed, May 3

Today I did 4000 yd.: 800 wu, 1 x 800, 2 x 400, 4 x 200, 8 x 100. Trying to fight burnout. Going ok, feel good in the water. Will do short swim Fri. then long one (5600) Sat.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006


Here's Stephen multitasking; maybe studying his German or looking at ebay, talking on the phone at the same time. The babies: Molly, Sadie, and Sparky and Andy.

Monday May 1

I swam 5000 yd: 500 wu, 1750 yd (1 mile), 500 kick, 1750 broken, 500 kick.
Counting down to May 13. Am fighting the chlorine and black line doldrums. What a rush it will be to finally be in those beautiful bays again.

We got emails from Delta saying a few of our flight numbers had changed, no biggie we hope.
I ordered a sun hat from LL Bean, ordered a white shirt from Pam, got film,- I'm about set. Need to borrow Sandra's suitcase.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Sat. April 29

Swam 5300 yd today: 1100 wu, 3 x 1000, 400, 300, 200, 100, 100 kick, 200 kick.
Just got to get through the next 2 weeks of increasing yards. 2 weeks from today is the last continuous swim, then I taper. I keep longing for the taper......

Friday, April 28, 2006

The Girls

Becky, Julie, Martha

Here we are! the foxy Caribbean babes. In the second picture, Debbie is on the left. She is staying in the States this summer with her new hubby since they just went to St. John last summer on their honeymoon. We were having our "Spring Fling", drinking Bellinis and wine.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Caribbean music

Ok so like I am so far behind, no telling what they are listening to now there. I read that Bob Marley's son Damien had a big record, Jam Rock. Very rap. When I was there it was all Exodus and Natty Dread and Rasta man, stay off the swine. Plus Jimmy Cliff, Ram Goat Liver, How you jammin so, I come out to play, Sparrow, Bass Man, Flag Woman, Shift Your Carcass. I went to carnival in St. Thomas 73 or 74, a cop shoved me off the street and I shoved him back and he about hit me. Carnival on St John was milder, I rode on the park service float and we threw genips at people. My prom was at the big hotel Frenchmans Reef at the harbor in Charlotte Amalie, we had some calypso band and got down. I went with Chris O'Dea, such a sweetie, who went off to MIT and I never knew what happened to him. My big crush was on Denis, the brother of my friend Benedicte. They were French, from Martinique, their parents worked in perfumes at AH Riise. Then there was Francis. So much for my love life.

Thurs. April 27

Dear diary-
I went to the Y today to finish up what I began yesterday and got stormed out. I did about 2500 yd. ( like my old self before distance training). Included 10 x 100 rather fast, came in under 1:30, heart rate kind of high. Felt great. I want to swim everyday. I'm psyched.

Have been remembering life on St. John. It had to be hard for my parents, their teenage children going wild in the tropics. We'd all have blender drinks before dinner, daiquiris or pina coladas, then I'd try to study for school. I went to St. Peter and Paul HS on St. Thomas. Mom, Bill and I would have to get on the ferry at 7 am, arrive Red Hook in 30 min, then ride a taxi (often with Eddie- "okay, okay") into Charlotte Amalie. What a place, with us all coming from middle Tennessee in the early 70's, what a consciousness raising. I'd ride the public bus from town to Red Hook and be the only white girl on the bus. I became a fan of the beautiful Caribbean people and their music, food, language, even literature.

More to do on St. John

Another thing that Becky, Martha and I may want to do is stroll around at Caneel Bay Plantation to see the beautiful plantings. They used to have lots of exotic tropical plants and trees with signs labeling them.
We might wander out to Turtle Bay, have tea or planter's punch at one of the bars, lie in a hammock for a while. I guess security could have changed since 30 years ago. I used to babysit for the managers kids, go with my folks to parties there for national park families, hear steel drum music in the bars, steal cookies and strawberry frappe from the afternoon tea tables, use their sunfishes to sail in the bay. Once the wind was down and I could not move and the ferry was coming in... very embarrassing.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Wed. April 26

Found some distance workouts on the USA Swimming site. Did 400 k + 1200, 100 back, 300 fr, 100 back, 200 free, 100 back, 100 fr, then 600 reverse IM kick, 200 kick drill; 400,--
then there was a storm with lightning and they made me get out. So it was a short day. only 3700.
Probably I should have some short days mixed in but with only swimming 3 days a week I have to get a lot of yards in then.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Monday April 24

Swam 5000 yd today: 2000 warmup, some kicking, pulling, 5 X 100 quickly, drills. Then did 2 X 1000, then 500 plus 500 kick. I'm taking a day of leave one hour at a time so I can leave work at 4:00 several days to get the yardage in. Worked great today, got home by 6:45.

I'd have thought with all this swimming I'd be skinnier by now, but there is this pesky 5 lbs or so that isn't going anywhere. I still have thunder thighs and a big booty and tummy. Helpful for flotation.......

Am breaking in my new Speedo poly endurance suit which I hope will stand up to the salt water and the chlorine for a long time. Those lycra suits don't last long.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Sat. April 22

I did 5000 yd Sat. (500 wu, 1750 in 28 min, 700, 600, 500, 400, 300, 200, 100) When I got to the pool the guard said that there was going to be a pool party and he'd have to put in a rope across the middle. I said, I must have a lane I've got to do 5000 yd today. He did give me a lane, and another lap swimmer came in too. I was on the gutter. But I got it done, and it looked like only 17 screaming idiot kids, so they had plenty of room. I resent the Y renting out the pool to parties when people need to do laps.
I heard from Watergrrl that there was a training swim from Maho to Cinnamon today in St John! Can't wait to hear about that. Sure wish I was in those beautiful bays. She lives down there, I'm jealous.

Friday, April 21, 2006

St. John Archaeology

These students are writing about their internship doing archaeology on St. John, working for Ken Wild, the National Park Service archaeologist. There have been some excavations going on at Cinnamon Bay in recent years. More info at Friends web site.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Snap out of it!

All right- attitude adjustment. Got to get my motivation back up. I'm feeling up again this morning. I'm happy to be in good health and have this chance to train and prepare for such a distance event. I've been looking for such a challenge for years. There isn't a lot of time left and I'm going to enjoy it, concentrate on my stroke, think up interesting workouts, do some timing and heart rate checking. Remember 2 summers ago when the pool was closed for 5 or 6 months for repairs, I was miserable. I've got 3 rough weeks coming up, but I want to be prepared and feel confident flying down there that I've done the training and can do the event.
Here's Grant Hackett for moral support. He says Julie you wimp, 5000 yd. is nothing.

My schedule coming up: Sat. Apr. 22 swim 5000 yd. (or 2.8 mi.)
Week of Apr. 24: up to 5300 yd (or 3 mi)
Week of May 1: up to 5600 yd (or 3.2 mi)
Week of May 8: up to 6200 yd (or 3.5 mi)
Week of May 15: Taper! 4000 yd
Week of May 22: 3000 yd
May 26: Fly to the VI
May 28: The Beach to Beach Power Swim