Big South Shore Waves

This is the last week before the quarter ends, so school teachers aren’t calling in sick and substitute teachers like me are not getting called to work. What a gorgeous day to be outside! Hot. Hot. Hot. But beautiful. There is nothing like living in Hawaii. Nothing.

After we drove along the Ka Iwi Coast taking in the sights, and getting a video via Instagram, we came back home for a cold lunch. Cold wheat linguine for me dressed in sesame oil, shoyu, sesame seeds and green onions; target-rich tossed salad for him. Naps.

I was craving an ocean fix so bad. I couldn’t go out at Sandy Beach because it was too big. My hair was a big ball of fuzz, and the best remedy for that is an ocean swim. I decided to go for a swim at Kaimana Beach in Waikiki before I had to pick up Kid2 at school. Hot. Hot. Hot. Parking was easy at 1:30 p.m. In fact, if you run the Honolulu Marathon, there were like ZERO cars parked along the finish. The waves are too big on the South Shore for most surfers and definitely not a swim to the windsock kind of day.

The clown goggles. Seriously, these TYR goggles are polarized, so great for a sunshiny day. One earplug for my right ear. This year's WRS cap.

The clown goggles. Seriously, these TYR goggles are polarized, so great for a sunshiny day. One earplug for my right ear. This year’s WRS cap.

Put on my fins, my Roughwater Swim cap, and my clown goggles and headed out toward the windsock. The waves were deliciously rambunctious. I love swimming up and down and under and over, swishing around loving the sea foam, diving under to check out the fishies. But I wasn’t confident to swim all the way out to the wind sock. Waves were breaking big outside — they looked easily to be 6-8 feet. The wind sock pole was always in a wave. And besides, no one else was out there. Not that I ever swim with a buddy, but when there are other swimmers, then we’re all buddies.

Nope. I noodled around inside on my back, on my side, under and over, freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke, a few butterfly kicks and under again. A half hour to myself. Instead of mom time or wife time or sub teacher time or maid time, it was Me Time.

It was cool.

Infrared Yoga and Recovery, Healing and Optimism

Before I get to the yoga part:

On Saturday, September 6, I swam in the inaugural North Shore 5k Swim, finishing in less than two hours, and in third place women’s fin division. What a great finish to a great race season. The week before my finish in the Waikiki Roughwater Swim was considerably slower, thanks to the current. That swim really beat me up. But, I absolutely adore swimming in the ocean. I will confess I spend the first third of an ocean race wondering if I will be a meal. Then, when I start passing other swimmers, I gain confidence and find a comfortable pace. My final third is usually quite charged with enthusiasm. I haven’t been eaten, I passed a few other swimmers so I won’t be DFL, and I rise out of the water having accomplished one more great thing.

Triathlons and triathlon training push me beyond limits I ever thought possible. Coaches demand more and I try to deliver. As a result of that, and as a result of aging, I feel like my body would prefer to be in a constant state of rest. But try telling my mind that! Try telling my ego that it’s time for me to sit on the sidelines! It won’t happen.

The Yoga Part

I decided to take up yoga during the offseason to improve my flexibility, ease the aches of arthritis and combat the osteoporosis that is turning my bones into brittle mesh. My research and the timing of a great Groupon deal resulted in my signing on with at the Aina Haina Shopping Center. So far I’ve gone to six sessions, and last night I completed my fourth day in a row. It is getting easier, but it’s always challenging.

I put my mat and yoga towel down in a spot away from the infrared lights and wait for the class to begin. I have found that the more crowded the class, the harder it is for me to complete all the exercises. Maybe I am wrong, but it feels as though there is less oxygen when there are more bodies.

Everyone advises that when you attend yoga, you check your ego at the door. It’s easy for chunky chicks like me to check it. But it’s really hard to not look around and feel so outclassed and so far behind the lithe and limber superhumans that fill the room. I don’t even meet eyes with anyone. Four years ago I burst my right Achilles tendon. After it was surgically reattached, that tendon is a little shorter than the other, making it difficult to do some of the yoga poses symmetrically. No one knows that, so I figure I look lazy.

For me, yoga will not only have to help me get my body to that flexible and ready point for the next triathlon season, but it will also have to work on my spirit and mind. I have to give myself permission to feel worthy enough to say hi and enjoy what others bring to the class.

Years ago I took yoga at The Oahu Club with yogi Vishnu, a black dude with long dreadlocks, who taught at a variety places. When he left Hawaii, I had no desire to practice with anyone else. I tried, but I had developed a habit that got thrown off by the styles of other teachers. This time I’ve decided to not get too hung up on a teacher but to go with the flow.

I don’t know when I’ll be able to hop with my two legs out of downward facing dog, as I just gingerly step my legs up so I don’t fall. I don’t know if I’ll ever get my stomach flat enough that my forehead rests easily on my knee, massaging my internal organs and creating all kinds of great results with my digestive tract. At the end of class, I look like I got stuck in a downpour. This girl doesn’t prance out looking all spiritual and glowing. So far I have resisted the urge to go to the Starbucks next door or through the McDonald’s drive-thru across the parking lot after yoga. Yay me.

Another thing I’m looking for in my yoga practice is developing more patience and forgiving myself for all the things I think I do wrong. Because one of the things we’re asked to check at the door are all those things that are bugging us in the world. What’s past is done, and there’s nothing left to do about it. What’s in the future is unknown, so there’s no reason to worry about it. All I need to do is be present and welcome this one-hour gift.

Health, Happiness and Relevance

My triathlons for 2014 are behind me. The 2014 North Shore Swim Series is complete. I’m still feeling the effects of Labor Day’s Waikiki Roughwater Swim, thanks to some Portuguese man-o-war jellyfish stings on my left arm and torso (into my suit?) with an itch that’s hard to resist. One more race in 2014 to go, the inaugural North Shore 5K Swim, from Sunset Beach to Waimea Bay. I’ve decided to participate in this one using fins. So this morning I went to Kaimana Beach and tested my new TYR fins that I got at Boca Hawaii, swimming to the windsock three times and back. I definitely feel I can handle this, but I’ve never had to get fins on or off during a race, so that’ll be a new factor. During ocean swims, especially when doing triathlons, I don’t kick much because I need to save my legs for the bike and run. So putting these fins on and actually using my legs was super fun. I couldn’t get over how much faster I was. I think that every time I go into the ocean from now on I am wearing fins. Wheeeeeeeee!

Since I am now in my off season for triathlon training, I bought a Groupon for yoga. I’ve been thinking about how stiff I am, how hard it is for me to sit on the floor, to get up, even to get out of the car after a long drive. I’m not ready for my body to seize up and age in place (like a pillar of salt?) when my spirit has no intention! Last night I went to Sun Yoga at the Aina Haina Shopping Center for my first class of hot yoga. Sun Yoga incorporates infrared lights and it really heats things up. I couldn’t fully participate. I’m not sure what was happening. I would get dizzy and I’d have to sit or lay down while everyone else was posing. I felt very conspicuous, but I realize that I’m new at it and there will be adjustments. I am optimistic. I’ve been told the first class is the most challenging. I expect the first week to be the most challenging. Every bone, muscle and joint in my body resisted the yogi’s directions. While there were a few women who had been practicing for a little bit longer than me, two thirds of the class were lithe, striking beauties, some of whom I doubted were out of their twenties. There’s really no point in comparing ourselves with a younger generation, right?

I used to take yoga when the girls were tots. We belonged to The Oahu Club and I attended sessions taught by a yogi named Vishnu, a black guy with long dreads and a mysterious background. When he left Hawaii I stopped going to the yoga classes there. So it’s been about six years since I was in a yoga setting. Add the trendy heat factor, add my being about six years older, add my right foot being about 1/4 inch shorter than the other and add absolutely no elasticity in my joints, and you don’t have to wonder why I spent a good third of the class trying to breathe and not faint.

But I survived. The instructor, Michele Santos, was very nurturing and I felt safe. I slept really well last night, and didn’t wake up until after 5. Usually I wake up between 2-3 a.m. and what a party that can be, especially if the cat is on to me.

I don’t know if I have depression or what, but there are times when I feel irrelevant and that life isn’t worth living. I’m pretty sure it’s because I don’t have a real job. I am also very realistic, so I think the freelance writing and the substitute teaching are perfect for me because they offer so many variables: different stories to write, lots of different people to talk to about their projects, different subjects to teach, several classes of students a day, finishing in the afternoon and having me time or family time after hours.

Fortunately, I always think about my family and that keeps me from doing something foolish. They are worth living for. We always try to see what lessons the universe is teaching us in times that suck. For me, I think, it’s to live simpler and love fully.


Waikiki Roughwater Swim 2013: Hard.

A tagged monk seal woke up to a few thousand people on the beach for the Waikiki Roughwater Swim.

A tagged monk seal woke up to a crowd on the beach for the Waikiki Roughwater Swim.

Labor Day 2013 at Kaimana Beach was calm. The ocean appeared gentle, no waves barrelled up against the shore, no white caps popped on the horizon. It was deceptive. I should have taken a cue from the monk seal we discovered snoozing above the shoreline at about 7:30 a.m. When it realized there were about 2,000 people on the beach, half of whom were getting ready to swim 2.34 miles, the seal slid into the drink and away from the cameras and commotion. Pretty sure I saw the seal again as I was swimming from the sixth to the seventh buoy on what felt like an amazing swim to nowhere. Heh.

Smooth as glass. How hard could it be? It was hard.

Smooth as glass. How hard could it be? It was hard.

Swimming the Waikiki Roughwater Swim is like giving birth. You train for months for this marathon ocean swim, it’s a huge pain in the ass, and when you finish you swear you are through. The End. Finis. But while you might take a few months to warm up to having another kid, the very next day you’re telling your loved ones how NEXT YEAR I’M GOING TO DO IT BETTER. Loved ones roll their eyes knowingly, because they knew already. I’m that swimmer. Find me again, probably in wave D, trying to bust my ass to surface at the Hilton Hawaiian Village in under two hours. A year older, 20 minutes faster? Could it happen? I have to believe it will.

Here’s my results via Garmin:

Me and the sign.

Me and the sign.

Looks like I went wide around the first buoy, wove in and out of buoys 2-9, and turned this 2.34-mile plan into a 2.75-mile swim. My husband calls me an overachiever. LOL. Like I said, it seemed flat, the trade winds blew briskly from east to west, and
it felt at first as though it would be a quick swim, much like the last North Shore Swim Series 2.4-mile swim from Pipeline to Waimea Bay, which I did in 01:32:52. I mean, why couldn’t I expect to finish this in less than two hours?!

But let’s talk about the differences between this swim and last year’s. This year I was always within sight of other swimmers. Last year I was alone a lot, surrounded by blue and wondering if I was being watched by big sharks. This year, I wondered the same thing, but most of the time I didn’t worry about it because I was amazed at all the fish I was seeing! It was amazing! Black, blue, yellow, parrot fish, humuhumunukunukuapuaa, brainy coral heads, turtles! Some swimmers saw a hammerhead, but I didn’t. We have plenty of those in Maunalua Bay here in Hawaii Kai, they’re harmless and pretty cool to look at. I got a really bad charlie horse cramp in my right leg as I was approaching the finish. It was so bad I had to stop and stick my foot up and out to give it a stretch. It was horrible! I was worried I wouldn’t be able to walk, let alone run, up the beach across the timing mat. But I did and it was AOK. I worked so hard in this swim. My arms felt like jelly for hours afterward.

While I was out there swimming my little 2.75-mile marathon, I thought of Diana Nyad, who was swimming from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage and with a University of Hawaii scientist in her crew who is an expert on jellyfish. I’ve encountered my share of box jellyfish and manowar jellies, and I can appreciate that.

I also thought about small-kid time on swim team at Riverdel Swim Club in Riverside, N.J. Every summer, we’d be at the pool by 7:30 in the morning for swim team practice that went until 9 a.m. Then we’d stay all day until afternoon swim team practice at 4 p.m. After the big Tri-County meet, we’d spend a few weeks on Long Beach Island, working on our tans, riding the waves, beach combing, our hair bleached by the sun, our noses peeling.

Now I wear sunscreen. But I still have fun being an ocean girl. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t bother.

Duke’s Ocean Mile 2013


Waikiki Roughwater Swim 2012 commemorative swimsuit fits in 2013. Yay.

Three times a charm. Deep breath. Pleasantly surprised that among the hits to the blog were a handful of people looking to read about the Duke Kahanamoku Ocean Mile. They probably hit on the last two years’ entries. Here is the entry for 2013.



Beach starts are my husband’s favorite to photograph. The bodies, the swimsuits, the waves, the sand, the sky, the clouds, Hawaii. It is truly beautiful. Swimmers in all shapes and sizes and ages come out for these open-ocean swims to test their mettle against each other and against themselves. I’d like to report that I improved on last year’s time, but I didn’t by nearly two minutes, which I think I lost when I had to dodge here and there to get around the thrashing arms and legs in the bottlenecks at the start and around the buoys. My time was 00:38:03, and I’m actually quite pleased with that. I came in 26th in my age group of 50-59, of 35 women. This should tell you how kick-ass women over 50 are. OMG. Competitive much?

Men first, women second. It always feels good to pass a few guys on my way in.

Men first, women second. It always feels good to pass a few guys on my way in.

I am certainly in better shape than last year for having trained in the spring for the Ironman 70.3 that occurred in early June. I continued my training with TryFitness for the Hawaii Tinman, I now train with my masters team at The Oahu Club, and I’m also getting coached by Rachel Ross through Runspo. I’m now back on an aquajog regimen to get that plantar fasciitis healed once and for all. That’s on the left foot. My right knee is a pain in the ass and it keeps me from having a good night’s sleep. Cortisone and SynVisc-One injections alternate throughout the year. Might be time to see Dr. Chun at the Kaiser sports clinic pretty soon. I was going to do the Marathon Readiness Series, but it’s time to respect the healing process. Next up? Waikiki Roughwater Swim and the Na Wahine Festival. I’m doing the Swim and Spin event because those are the things I love the most. Swim, bike, SUP, fun.

No matter how big a buoy is, I have a hard time spotting them while swimming.

No matter how big a buoy is, I have a hard time spotting them while swimming.

Did I say SUP?  Last week when the winds were scarce and Maunalua Bay was glassy, I took out my million-pound SUP three times and got back into the groove. Wobbled a bit at first, but it wasn’t a disaster. Enjoyed it even. Maybe I will dust off the surfboard one of these days.

Waves wash away our footprints.

Waves wash away our footprints.

Gaining traction with my freelance writing assignments. My life is changing. You’ll probably want a garden update soon. And we have Comet’s ashes in a beautiful koa box. There’s a lot to appreciate.


Photos by John Bender. 

My First Waikiki Roughwater Swim


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Labor Day weekend was full of pain for me, but it was also full of joy. The Ride: Joy. On Saturday I joined my TryFitness Hawaii Na Wahine Festival training group for our 2-3 hour workout. It was primarily a … Continue reading