The Hiker Mating Call. And Other Stories.

First, allow me to explain that I have six brothers.  My oldest brother is 34, my youngest brother is 14.  As second oldest, I’m not as close to my younger brothers as I am to the two brothers who are closer in age to me.  We didn’t grow up together, so it’s hard to connect.  One of the things I’ve wanted to do since my successful English Channel swim is to spend more time with my family.  So far, I’ve been taking my youngest brothers hiking once a week.  It’s been full of shenanigans and hilarity – as any Bosch encounter would be!  Here are some of the best moments from our last three hikes.

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Gideon: I name this Three Ginger Trail.

Hike 1: White Rocks Ice Beds

We hiked the White Rocks trail to the Ice Beds.  I figured it was a short enough trek that Gideon could probably handle it.  The entire distance was 1.3 miles.  He did a great job and it was great for him to feel the sense of accomplishment of getting all the way to his destination and then back.  He was already talking about the next hike as we were leaving.  Here are some of the more memorable quotes:

Gideon: You went to college didn’t you?

Bethany: Yep, for two years.

Gideon: What do you get for going to college for two years?

Bethany: (pausing) In my case, nothing.

Gideon: Nothing?

Bethany: Yep.

Gideon: Well, that’s a dumb deal!  ‘Thanks for wasting your time, here’s nothing.’

This is Gideon.

This is Gideon, 14.

Gideon: …Did you just call him ‘soldier’ and then squeeze his knee?

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This is Micah, 17.

Hike 2: Halfway to the Top

We started up the White Rock’s main trail.  I was nervous that Gideon wouldn’t be able to handle the steep terrain.  Even the Forest Service guide has the main trail to the outlook (part of the Appalachian Trail and Long Trail) labeled as “Moderate to Difficult”.  We only made it 0.7 of a mile up before we turned around and headed back.  It was pretty tough.  But Gideon was already declaring that next time we were going to the top.  Here are some more of our priceless moments:

Bethany: Micah, tell a joke.

Micah: There was a man in the woods with his brother and sister.  His sister told him to tell a joke…

*dramatic pause*

Micah: But he had no joke.

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… this is about right…

Bethany: Just so you guys know, I did a hard core workout yesterday and I’m way sore.  So I might complain.

Micah: Are you going to stop to complain?

Bethany: No, I’ll keep going.  I can usually do things and whine at the same time.  I am a girl.

*pause*

Gideon:  I find that offensive.

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Hiking Buddy!

Bethany: So Gideon, do you like any girls?

Gideon smiled nervously, averting his eyes, and blushing all while giggling slightly.

Bethany: Oh!  So you do like a girl!

Gideon: Wha-? How do you know I like a girl?

Bethany: You were just giggling.

Gideon: Guys don’t ‘giggle’, okay?  Guys laugh.  Girls giggle.  I was not giggling.

Bethany: Okay.  So are you going to tell me about that girl?

Gideon: I’m not prepared to discuss this subject.

Bethany: Okay.  That’s okay.  I won’t tease you.  What about you, Micah?

Micah: (flatly) No.

Gideon:  He goes to public school.

Bethany: What does that mean?

Micah: All the girls are dangerous. REALLY dangerous!

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Some of the best times!

Hike 3: The Hiker Mating Call.

I’m glad to report that we finally made it to the top of the White Rock’s outlook and were able to view the stunning Vermont landscape.  It took us over 3 hours to make it the 3.6 mile round trip.  It had rained and everything was slippery.  The trail head parking lot was deserted.  Gideon was trembling with every step the last half mile, but what a trooper!  We were all exhausted, but felt awesome for having made it all the way to the top.

My Marble Valley

The view from the top!

We stopped for a break at Mile 1 on the way up the mountain.  As we stood or leaned or sat along the trail, I started to make a resounding call.  It was high note, I repeated it twice, and it filled the woods around us with the sound.  My brothers looked at me askance, but we get pretty giddy on these trips and it wasn’t that weird for any of us to make noise for no reason.

By way of explanation, I said, “That’s the Hiker Mating Call.”

Both of my brothers were flabbergasted.

“Wh-what?!?”  Gideon asked.

We tumbled into doubled-over, belly-aching laughter at such a preposterous notion.  From there, the conversation fell to a Wookie sound making contest and other equally intellectual pursuits.

Not ten minutes later, Guri started barking.  We all turned to look behind us and paused.  A man was coming up the trail behind us.  He was well-dressed in a fine button up shirt and khaki slacks.  He was clean shaven and well kept.  We pulled the dog away from him and he continued on up the trail.

After a moment, Micah looked over at us.  “That just happened.”

I was busy trying to figure out why somebody wearing business casual was hiking on such a muddy, wet day, when Gideon leaned over to me, quietly.

“So… how’s that mating call working out for ya?”

The Top Gideon

Love this kid.

The Top

Such an accomplishment!

The Crowley Half

There I was, June 14th, 2015 – running my first half marathon.  It never occurred to me that I would ever be capable of running 13.1 miles.  A snapshot of my 12-year-old brain reveals my expectations for my life were: get married in the year 2010 (I have hope for this), because by then I will have graduated college (I still have hope for this, too) and have a decent job in an office (I’m sure I meant trailer on a construction site).  There were no athletic aspirations.  None.

I hated to run.  I hated to run because it hurt.  I was always slow.  I never made any teams.  I just tried to not be the last person to be picked in gym class.  At least I wasn’t the last one.

It was surreal, the idea of running a half marathon.  I’m not sure it made as big of an impression on me as it probably should have.  I mean, after swimming the English Channel, running any kind of a distance didn’t seem impossible.  People do these things all the time.  Ironman Lake Placid had more registrants in 2012 at that one event than there are successful English Channel swimmers in the history of the world. (Like, EVER.)

My point is that people do this kind of stuff.  People.  Regular people.  With the right training and commitment, they do it.  I’m a people.  I can do it, too!  And I was super busy with regular people things – school and work and dating (this is me trying to be normal) – and didn’t train as much as I needed to, either.  I did manage to get in some long runs.  I didn’t have a strategy.  I didn’t have any real notion of what I was doing.

Just run!  Just run with Judy and be happy.

At registration, I stood talking to Kathrine Switzer.  I was telling her about my English Channel swim.  I listened to the story of the Boston Marathon.   It was like we belonged in each other’s company.  I guess maybe we do.

Kathrine Switzer and I

In the company of greatness!

Then I was hovering at the starting line.  I stood in Judy’s easy bubble of confidence and pleasant energy.  I said hello to Julianne from Masters.  We waited.

Then, a funny thing happened.  The race began and I started to run.

And I just kept running.

Wilson Castle

Wilson Castle!

I was glad for Judy’s company.  She made the miles disappear.  My dad showed up to cheer us on.  David met up with us at various locations.

The water station between miles 2 and 7 vanished, or maybe it was never there to begin with.  I was glad I had my water bottle with me.  I knew I wasn’t drinking enough.  It was so hot.  Blistering.  Sweltering.  Hot, hot, hot.

Mile 7 was awesome!  Water and Gatorade and friendly faces encouraging us along.

Gatorade

Gatorade was the best thing in the WORLD just then!

“Aren’t you that girl who swam the English Channel?”

“Yes,” I replied.  “Actually, I am!”

“Oh, well this is nothing compared to that!”

Around mile 8 or 9, my friend, Chris, rode by on his motorcycle, backtracked and parked near us.  He jumped off and gave me hug.  Poor courageous soul, I was absolutely drenched with sweat!  So gross!

… But it made me smile.

And when the final few hills were hard and long and got steeper… Judy reminded me that it wasn’t that far to the finish.  Right at the top of a particularly brutal hill at Mile 10… we were immediately rewarded by a wonderful group of cheerleaders!  How fun is that!

Cheerleaders

Cheerleaders!

And my feet kept going along.  I never felt like I had to walk.  I just kept trudging onward and upward.  Until I could see the finish line… and I sprinted to the end!

Finish Line

FINISHED!

Something happens when you train for something – you transform into somebody who can do it.  No matter what ‘it’ is.  You can do it.

I did it; the most unlikely thing.

I ran that whole half marathon.

I crossed that finish line.

Unlikely.  Improbable.

Awesome.

I’m an Athlete

I woke up at 4 am today and I ran.  I ignored the impulse to hit the snooze button.  I pushed through the hard of the warm up and the first mile.  I ran over 3 miles using 3 minute intervals of fast and slow.    I focused on the strength I felt deep in my core.  I pictured myself gliding forward, not lumbering along.  I shook the sweat from my chin, and stole it out of my eyes.  I sang along with the music and marveled at the waking Vermont farmlands.  I could smell the earth, cool and musky.  The vanilla sunlight made the blue sky seem unconvinced.  But I was convinced.

I’m a runner.

I woke up at 4 am today and I swam.  I ignored the impulse to hit the snooze button.  I pushed through the awkward first couple hundred yards while my body got used to the watery world.  I swam hard and fast.  I swam easy and slow.  I focused on keeping myself moving through a channel my body created through the water near its surface.  I pictured my arms anchoring as leverage for my core to sling me forward with each stroke.  I marveled at the steamy fog rising off the pool to mix with the perfect morning air.  I smiled as the sun finally peeked out over the Green Mountains and lit the sparkling clear water of the outdoor pool.  The lush, green world warmed up to the light and the prospect of facing another vibrant summer day.  I was all confidence, too.

I’m a swimmer.

I woke up at 7 am today and I lifted weights…

I woke up at 6 am today and I took my dog for a walk…

I woke up at 4 am today and I did yoga…

I woke up at 10 am today and I climbed a mountain…

I woke up today.  I got out of bed.

Today, I will leave the world behind. Maybe I will leave my phone behind.  Maybe I will take it with me.  I might rest.  I might try not to rest.  I will push myself.  I will take it easy. I will definitely keep going until I find whatever prize I pursue – my goal, the finish, the top, the end, or my own end.   I will stretch, reach, hope, hurt, smile, laugh, and do what I set out to do.  I will close my eyes and listen.  To everything.  To nothing.  To my mind and my heart and my body.

I’m an athlete.

I didn’t do one great thing once.

I am great every single day.

Simple as Swimming

It was like losing a bee hive from between my ears.

Slipping into the green black water of the lake melted the madness quietly away.  The familiar cadence of my arms moving in circles, pulling me forward, returned.  The voice of correction – reminding my hips to float, reminding my chest to press down, reminding my giant head to work for me and not against me – was soft and sweet like an old friend, not like the taskmaster it had been last summer.

The business and the transition and noise of my life and the decisions and the emotions now slipped away.  I felt strong again.  I felt beautiful again.  I felt certain.  Confident.  Like everything was simple.

The water.  How I missed the water.

How I missed her quiet, serenely solitary silence.

The silence that comes from every cell overloaded with the touch of the Lake.  The cocoon of safety that protected me from the outside world.  The goal that sheltered me from a normal life and provided me with an extraordinary existence.  Learning to fight the enemy in my head and finding there doesn’t have to be an enemy at all.

Me and the water and that brown dog by my side:  simple as swimming.

I found the tears I needed to cry and I cried them until my goggles were full.  I found the laughter I needed to laugh and I laughed into the distorted darkness.

Don’t you remember, Bethany?  I asked myself.  Don’t you remember?

The silence shouts at me from all directions, sound and sight together; they are still.  The darkness.  The stillness.  The quiet; so loud!  I remember the stars and the moon and the salt water and a black ship with three lights and four shrouded faces and England so far behind and France so near…

I remember.

I can do anything.

Introducing Marble Valley Masters!

Masters Swimming is coming to Rutland, Vermont!

Beginning June 22nd, this is your chance to get ready for that triathlon, work on your stroke, improve your overall fitness, get in shape, and just become more comfortable in and around the water.

Monday, Wednesday and Friday  6:30AM – 7:30AM

Northwood Pool in Rutland Town.

$8/drop in. Or $60/10 punch pass.

Marble Valley Masters

Inaugural Open Water Swim at Lake Bomoseen!

Want to get some open water experience with a group or buddy watching out for you?  Join the merry band of misfit swimmers on Thursdays at the Chittenden Reservoir!

Chittenden Reservoir, Leffert’s Pond Side

Thursdays 5:30AM-7AM and 5:30PM – 6:30PM

FREE

Contact me at missadventureswim@gmail.com to be included in weekly email updates about swimming opportunities in the Rutland, Vermont area.

Confession: I’m Running a Marathon

I am taking an official break from marathon swimming* for the year.

*I am not taking a break from ice swimming, adventure swimming, competitive swimming, night swimming, ocean swimming, open water butterfly, assisting newcomers in open water endeavors, coaching, swim coaching, floating, play swimming, swimming with my nephews, or skinny dipping.  Just marathon swimming.

Basically the reasons are as follows:

  1. I fell on my shoulder on the ice over the winter. This opened my eyes to the fact that my shoulder hasn’t been in good shape for a long time.  I have swum until there are bruises all down both of my arms.  I’ve put them through a lot of hard work, and I applaud their resilience, but it’s time to give them a much needed break from hours and hours and hours of swim training. I’m giving my body a break.
  2. I am coaching and helping my community build swimming programs and fundraising to build an indoor pool.  This cuts into my swim training time, anyway, and it’s just time to share all I’ve learned and give back to my community.
  3. I need more time for Adirondack Adventure Swimming! Shorter, valiant, risky, crazy, gorgeous swims in wild and natural environments that are AWESOME!  Can’t wait.
  4. …I have other so much other stuff I have to do.

Oh!  And I’m running a marathon.

FAQ:

When is the marathon?

November.  I have plenty of time to train for it.

Where is it?

Florida.  Nice and flat.  But hot!  That will be different.

Why are you running a marathon?

It seemed like a good idea to sign up for one after I ran a 10K.

Plus, I can’t do any major swims this year and I can’t afford to purchase the gear for biking or hiking.

When did you decide you liked running?

I choose to like running every time I run.  It’s not naturally a happy thought for me – too much baggage from childhood, I suppose.

How did you get into running?

I began running as cross-training for swimming. I ran with different people, but when I ran a race with my friend, Judy, something changed for running for me.  She smiled the whole time.  To me, that was the most amazing thing!  I didn’t know anybody could love running.  Ever.  I didn’t think it was possible.  So I decided that maybe if she could love running, maybe running could be lovable.  And maybe I could love it.  So I keep running.  Sometimes you fall in love and sometimes you grow in love.

What’s the farthest distance you’ve run?

I ran a half marathon just this past weekend.  That was awesome!  I still can’t believe that I’ve run farther than 13 miles.  To me, that is a huge thing.  It’s almost impossible.  But doing it was just so satisfying!  I remember being a kid thinking I could never really do anything athletic and it’s so cool to tackle the things in my head that tell me I can’t.

You should do an Ironman.

Everybody says this, but it isn’t actually a question.

The Four Purposes of Food

In addition to learning how to swim myself across an ocean, the past four years have afforded me many life skills.

One of the ongoing challenges has been nutrition.  What began as a month long experiment fast became an exploration of food in general.  I dove head first into understanding nutrients, exploring the emotional and intellectual facets of my appetite, and learning about where food comes from and what it actually is supposed to do and be.

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I took this picture and sent it to my nutritionist with the caption: “..I have no idea what I’m doing…” I was joking. But he didn’t know that and called me to make sure I was okay.

The most important revelation for me was understanding the purpose of food.  I can remember my nutritionist asking me what I thought that was and my reply;

“…for energy?”

“Spoken like a true athlete,” he replied.  “Food actually has four purposes.”

Food has FOUR purposes.

Goodness… four purposes.  Four of them.  For really real.  And I know one.

But the truth is – I’m a good test taker.  I can answer questions on tests and get high scores and never ever actually understand the subject matter.  This trait has frustrated me from time to time over the years when I wanted to understand things but didn’t – trying to tell my teachers that, in fact, I didn’t quite get it and having them looking at my straight A’s with question marks in the bubbles over their cartoon heads.

So even though I got one out of four correct – I didn’t even understand that one.

Nutrition: Fail.

But the good thing is that I’ve learned a lot about food’s purposes since then and I’ve learned a lot about navigating it based on those things.  I decided to share some of what I’ve learned with you for your education and betterment.

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Lemon wild cod on a bed of mushrooms with broccoli. SO tasty!!!

Food is for Energy, Medicine, Social Connection, and Pleasure.

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