The new gold standard

Two years ago, it was a cold summer, which doesn't usually keep me from the pool, but I was newly pregnant and so exhausted getting through a day wasn't easy. And when I did make it down to Sunnyside, I'd swim for a half hour before I'd be too hungry to keep going. 

Last summer, I swam a lot more, but I had an infant, so my swims were tucked between frequent nursing and naps and whenever I could beg my mom to meet me by the lake and walk Jack up and down the boardwalk. My Sunnyside swims were beacons in the hazy muddle of new parenthood, but they were short and hurried. (I know it's impossible, but I swear I could hear Jack crying from under the water). Needless to say, there was no post-swim lingering on the deck.

So this weekend's Sunnyside swim felt like the biggest gift. I swam for an hour (AN HOUR!) without worrying if someone was hungry, or needed me. Back and forth and back and forth, watching the leaves at the bottom of the pool shift, trying to follow the crack in the cement to keep going me in a straight line. I don't even know what I thought about -- and that is precisely why I love swimming so much, why I crave it, my busy to-do list mind suspended and floating and drifting and meandering without holding onto any one thing.

There was no clock ticking down my free minutes, no blinding exhaustion, just me and the deep end and a breath every three strokes or so.

(And if that wasn't enough, I then I lay on the deck in the sun with a book and read till I was dry).
  • Lindsay
  • Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Times You Don’t Go In

You know how sometimes you go on a little trip, and you find out in advance that there's a swimming hole there (a pool, a pond, a lake, a river hole, a moat, a sea), and you pack your bathing suit and have grand daydreams of what your swims will be like?

And then you get there, and you don't go in.

Maybe it's raining. Maybe it's freezing.

Maybe the water looks gross. Maybe there are jellyfish. Maybe there are leeches (horror).

Maybe it's your time of the month and you are eating EVERYTHING and there is NO WAY IN HELL you are putting on a swimsuit.

Maybe you stand on the second rung of the ladder looking at the water for about 25 minutes and then decide, after all, that you really don't feel like it. Docktail instead. Maybe a hammock ride.

There are a lot of legit reasons to not go in.

I have just returned from England, where I lived in a castle that I waited THREE YEARS to go live in (a bona-fide 16th C castle, the very same one that Lady Jane Grey lived in before she became Queen and they chopped off her head. It's much nicer now, I swear.)

Three years gives you quite a long time to daydream up some pretty elaborate swimming hole plans. Add to that the fact that sometime last fall, we three swimmers found out about the English PHENOM called Wild Swimming, so my imagination went nuts. I was going to be a Full-On British Swim-Venturer.

I packed my favourite black bikini top and the pink paisley bottoms that are a little fancy, because, you know, it was a CASTLE for pete's sake.

And then, at last, I was there. I walked from the castle over the bridge across the moat through the cow pasture and underneath the big umbrella trees, and introduced myself to Astley Pool, a lake that has been around since at least 1501. 

And as soon as I got there, I knew.

No WAY was I going in there.

Astley Pool is picturesque, no doubt about it. It has watercolour & poetry potential in spades.

But the EW factor was way too high. There were lily pads. Like, thousands of them. Which means (in my mind) that there were probably long dangling tendrils tangling up the water underneath, ready and willing to catch your feet and drag you under. There were FOR SURE leeches in there, and probably a few seaweed creatures with dinosaur teeth. Maybe a few unsolved 16th C crimes of passion hidden in the depths, and to be honest, the ducks looked kind of aggressive. 

Anyway, I didn't have to linger long, deciding whether to go in or to not go in. Somewhere up at the castle, Pimm's Cups were being made and a nap was calling my name.

This is Astley Castle. Wonderful place, even without a swimming hole.

  • Laura
  • Thursday, June 30, 2016

Saturday's first Sunnyside swim

Saturday marked the year's first Sunnyside swim, a week after opening day. (And yes, I still regret missing the season opener, though I was swimming in a lake, which was a pretty dreamy consolation).

It was a hot day and the water was the perfect temperature, and still clear blue (without the slick of sunscreen on the top, that'll come later in the summer). We got there minutes after it opened, so there was still prime deck space, and the water wasn't crowded, not even in the lane swim area.

Things I had forgotten but remembered in an instant:

1. If the fast lane is full, swim along the rope next to the fast lane. It is pretty much like having your own lane.

2. The signs insist you swim the opposite way to every other pool in the universe (clockwise instead of counter clockwise). I feel dizzy after 3 lengths and always wonder if this is how you swim lengths in Australia...

3. Always bring an extra quarter. The day you don't, the locker will eat your quarter and then you'll worry about the car keys going missing the whole time you swim.

4. Sunscreen, and then more sunscreen.  That sun off the water makes for super intense sun.

5. Speaking of sunscreen, it's not just about shoulders. Make sure you put that stuff on your armpits or you're going to have some uncomfortable burnt parts. Ahem...

6. Tinted goggles (See point 4). And while you're at it, don't forget this life changing fog-free trick!

7. Flip-flops. Remember your flip-flops!!!  I don't even want to get into why.

8. And most importantly: End every swim with the big back float in the deep end. Preferably in the very centre. Stare at the sky, then scull your way so you can see the lake over your toes. Revel in the most perfect summer moment.

Aaaaand, not only was Saturday my first Toronto pool dip of the years, it was also my 16-month-old son's first time at Sunnyside! Verdict: Took him a while to remember what this whole swimming thing was all about, but once he was in, he was IN. 

To a summer of Sunnyside dips!

  • Lindsay
  • Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Swimming Hole Season has officially begun!

We three swimmers are delighted to announce that Swimming Hole Season is officially here! (Because all three of us have now officially jumped in a lake).

 Please see Exhibits A, B, and C.

Exhibit A:

Laura's Georgian Bay swim

Exhibit B:

Rhya's hazy and fresh Wasaga Beach swim.

Exhibit C:

Lindsay's Lake Ontario dip at Sandbanks

Now that it's official... stay tuned for this year's road trip guides... and new docktail reports... and fashion reports... and other meditations from all the swimming holes. We are so excited!

  • Lindsay
  • Friday, June 24, 2016

Cue the confetti cannons: My first outdoor swim of 2016

I woke up at 6 on Sunday morning, which isn't that strange given that I have a toddler, but the toddler was at home learning to cheers with his beloved nana and I was on a farm in wine country and should've been exhausted from the day of biking from winery to winery (with oysters!) to winery.

But it was 6am and I couldn't go back to sleep, because I was going to swim outside for the first time this year.

Is there anything better than wearing your bathing suit under your clothes with the anticipation of lake-swimming?

Last year I went to Sandbanks for the first time and it exceeded all of my expectations – the rolling white sand goes on and on, and Lake Ontario is so big it looks like an ocean and it feels like you're anywhere but  2h from Toronto. But the first time I went was in May, and the water was so cold it made my shins ache. 

But this year, I went swimming and it was absolutely glorious. You can walk out for at least 200m before the water reaches your thighs. It is surreal to be standing in the water that far away from shore, so used to deep Ontario lakes am I.

The sand was so soft, and the waves so gentle. It could not have been a more perfect day to swim.

And so the year's first outdoor swim took place under a huge blue sky, with waves pushing me into shore. It really couldn't have been a more perfect day.

Next up: Sunnyside!
  • Lindsay
  • Tuesday, June 21, 2016

PSA: Sunnyside opens this weekend!!

A very important Swimming Holes We Have Known PSA: Sunnyside Pool opens this weekend (and 9 other pools, too, but Sunnyside has my heart!)

I'm not sure how I overlooked my VERY favourite day in Toronto, the day I look forward to all year, especially in the darkest days of February, but I booked my first trip away from my kid and am going to miss it (WAAAAAH! I also overlooked Father's Day, whoops!) So please go on my behalf and revel in the sunshine of that beautiful deck, and lie on your back in the middle of the deep end and squint into the sun and welcome the glory that is summer swimming in the city.

(PS: bookmark this gem: a map of all the public pools in Toronto!)

  • Lindsay
  • Friday, June 17, 2016

Leeches, seaweed and loons

Swimming hole season fast approaches. (Laura has already been in for the year's first dip!) We swimmers have some amazing near-Toronto road trips planned this summer (like this one!) and these days I'm constantly scanning maps for nearby blue.

Swimming in lakes/rivers/quarries is one of my very favourite things to do, and I always forget until I am mid-swim how many things terrify me about swimming in bodies of water that aren't pools.

It began with the shark-shaped driftwood under the floating dock at my grandparent's cottage.

And then my dad told me that pickerel have teeth. (Of course, I imagined piranhas and a National Geographic photograph of a cow's thigh bones picked clean).

I am still afraid of pickerel, all fish, really. And I have to not think about them when I swim, singing this song to myself instead.

And seaweed, because what if it tangles around my feet and holds me under the water.

And leeches. (Shudder!)

And loons. I love loons, their song, their speckled backs, their solid, not hollow bones, their calm, but after they slip under the surface, who knows where they go, with their razor-sharp beaks and red eyes.

And bears. Crazy, I know, but there was a cottage, once, and I had a hunch there'd be a bear on the far side of the lake. It made my daily swims terrifying and fast (and apparently, there were bears spotted exactly where I imagined them!!)

But the murky greenish-blue that filters the light in diagonal beams, the sun-warmed surface and the floating in the middle of a lake, staring at the sky, trump all of the things I'm scared of.

I am off to find a swimming hole or two this weekend, leeches and seaweed be damned...

  • Lindsay
  • Thursday, June 16, 2016

Holy Water

I keep thinking about my grandmother’s 1980s pool, tucked away in a corner of Rochester, NY.

An above ground beast, with a pool deck badly in need of repair. A pool deck that I fell through, a fall that left my legs skinned and scraped, and found me wedged between pieces of rotted wood, dangling above the pool waters, toes skimming the surface. Waiting to be hauled up while the thick humid summer heated up my injuries.

My grandmother passed away last month. She was a fantastic cook, a woman of great composure and strength, and a staunch Catholic.

I grew up in a very liberal household when it came to religion. My parents felt one should find their own spiritual path, yet also taught us to respect the choices of others. My brother and sister and I were thus not baptized, it was left as an open-ended choice for us to make of our own accord when we were older.

My Eastern European grandmother did not love this idea as much.

To me baptism is such a beautiful and powerful ritual. A ceremony where one is immersed in water that symbolizes purification and or regeneration, concepts that are at the core of why I swim, why I sink into water in search of something healing, hunting for rejuvenation and hope.

I mean yes, also in search of a workout, but I’m sure there are other swimmers out there that would agree with me about this “other” level of enchantment or energy that being in water adds to one’s experience. And though I’m not religious, water is a holy place to me, where I can go to be held up, weightless in a sea that mirrors the sky. It almost sounds like a version of heaven.

So I’ve never worried too much about not being baptized, because in a sense, every swim for me is a baptism.

My grandmother probably would not have agreed… there is of course much more to a proper baptism then just diving into a lake.

But I keep thinking of the chlorine heavy water from her above ground pool, stinging my scraped skin as I slipped into the blue. Thinking about how the cool wet element took away my pain and cleaned my wounds and let the healing begin.
  • Rhya
  • Saturday, June 11, 2016

Swimming PSA: Foggy goggles be gone!

I have been swimming since Tiny Tot class with my mom before my first birthday. And I probably starting wearing goggles when I was about five or six which means I have had foggy goggles for the last 30 years...UNTIL LAST WEEKEND!

Here's the trick: one tiny drop of tear-free baby shampoo in your goggles. Spread it around, wipe any excess off, and I swear your goggles won't fog up for a whole swim. It is actually a miracle.

I must thank my triathlete friend who not only let me in on the tip, but provided the tear-free baby shampoo for the clearest, bluest, most fog-free swim I have ever had.

Tear-free baby shampoo: it's going to change your life, I promise.
  • Lindsay
  • Wednesday, June 8, 2016

A return (ish) to butterfly

It has been 19 years since I have done butterfly. Maybe 20.

I was never very good at butterfly, and I was definitely not good at diving (I am still scared of those racing blocks!) but I could do butterfly. 50m of it anyway. So somehow, on my high school swim team, I got roped into doing butterfly for the Midget Girls relay. And even though I was all of 13, I also got roped into doing butterfly on the Junior Girls relay team, and on the Senior Girls team because no one else wanted that daunting task. Little 13-year-old me doing butterfly with 19-year-olds. Amazing. 

(Needless to say The Martingrove Bears did not win any relays).

And as soon as there was someone else to fill the butterfly spot on all three swim teams, I bowed out and stuck to back crawl (no diving with back crawl!)

Butterfly is so hard. And that is an understatement. It is so hard.

But I love it. I really do, especially when actual swimmers do it. It's so beautiful, and the rhythm is so perfect – two kicks to every stroke. It is just a wonder.

My triathlete friend at the pool is trying to learn butterfly. She practises her dolphin kick while I do my last-10-minutes-of-the-swim sprints. So on the weekend, when we had the pool to ourselves, I joined her.

I only made it to the deep end, and it wasn't pretty, but it was fun and impossibly hard and we laughed and laughed at our half-drowning, terrible butterfly.

(I can't stop watching that Michael Phelps video. 200m of butterfly in 1:51:51. Epic. Just, epic!)
  • Lindsay
  • Wednesday, June 1, 2016

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