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Monday, June 27, 2011

Update From Virginia

Hello Again Blog Followers!

It really is quite terrible how long it has taken me to post again and I sincerely apologize. Fortunately I have been much more faithful to the training than I have to recording the experience, and I will try to summarize what I have been up to the past few months.

So much to write about, I don't even know where to start! This summer I am interning at NASA Langley Research Center so I am fortunate to be close enough to home to have the support and help of my family; I really don't know how I would do this without them. My mother has taken on the title of coach, although defers to my father the "head" coach when they are telling me to do something I don't want to (like taking a cold bath...ugh). The two main aspects of training I am focusing on currently are racking up some yardage (kind of obvious I know) and cold water acclimation.

Getting in yardage actually isn't the hardest part, its finding a cold, or even cool, place to swim! All of the pools in the area are at minimum 83 F, more than 20 degrees warmer than what the channel will be when we swim in August. The times I get to swim in the river are a joy because it seems to average a temperature in the mid 70s - nice to swim in but still much warmer than ideal. Unfortunately this means I have to resort to cold showers and baths to acclimate my body to the cold. I made the mistake of "treating" myself to a warm shower a few days ago and boy do I regret made going back to the cold twice as hard.
As for building up my endurance, I have found that it is very difficult to swim significant distances during the week when I am exhausted from work and the commute, so I limit weekday practices to only a few miles, never more than 4 a day, swimming at the local YMCA. On the weekends when I have more time, my parents and I drive out to a friend's house on the Chickahominy river to get in some open water mileage. We have tried swimming at several different times during the day and find early morning to be by far the best. There is minimal boat traffic, the sun hasn't come out in all its scorching glory, and no one has plans at 6 in the morning. This does mean I have to get up earlier on the weekends than I do for work (especially on Sunday when I have to be done in time for church at 10), but it's worth it and I get to nap in the afternoon.

Ah the Chickahominy of the rivers Pocahontas would have frequented in her day, but let me tell you in reality it is not nearly as pristine as Disney's version. It is so full of dirt that while swimming I can never see past my elbow when I take a stroke. In a way I guess the lack of visibility is nice, if there is any trash or human pollution contaminating the river I can rarely see it. I did run into a rotting banana peel once because I couldn't see it until I was already upon it, and another time I found a wad of duct tape in my suit, but I don't think anything in the river is toxic so until I start growing an extra limb this is my training location. Not all of the river is gross however and the flora and fauna are quite beautiful. There are countless osprey nests and the babies are just hatching, so cute! The parents used to get nervous when I would get near, but they seem to accept my presence now. There are quite a few fish as well, but I can only see them when they jump or are unlucky enough to be snatched up by the osprey. We also have seen some herons and snakes...The first snake we saw was right when I was exiting the water and helping my parents pull out the canoe. A long black snake suddenly appeared not a foot from the canoe and swam underneath it. After doing some googling we decided it was probably a harmless northern water snake, but it was a reminder that the rivers here are home to cotton mouths as well. I can only pray that we never run into one of those.

I want to give a special thank you to the Felkers who helped me with my training when they came out to visit. You guys were great! Mr. Felker with all his expert canoe knowledge helped out my mother and Mrs. Felker was awesome, going out on the water for several hours despite getting motion sick. I can't wait for you guys to move back to Virginia!

I feel like I haven't even scratched the surface of everything I have done, but I am going to wrap this up before this post gets too long. Thanks you all for your support!



  1. I totally agree with you on the low-visibility thing. I'd so much rather be blind to all of the stuff I'm swimming over/through.

    How exactly did you get a wad of duct tape IN your suit without noticing?

  2. So when all the dirt gets in my suit I get super itchy... I thought the duct tape was just a large clod of dirt or something lol