Posted by on Mar 24, 2014

Caitlin Burke is a true Renaissance woman: she swims, runs, lifts, rows, does archery and yoga… It may, in fact, be easier to list the activities she doesn’t do. Be sure to follow her on Fitocracy and get inspired. This post was originally published on her personal website.

I did a ton of swimming over the course of about a year after I had some trouble adjusting to running. I am still having trouble, but every time I come back to it, I have a slightly different problem, which I step back and resolve, eventually to uncover a new problem. (At this rate, by the time I can actually run regularly for more than a few months at a time, I expect to have among the most perfectly balanced physiques and flawless mechanics known to humanity.)

Swimming was a way to get deeply engaged while recovering from some of the problems I had, and San Francisco makes it easy. I am a little claustrophobic in a pool (as I discovered during the coaching sessions I did to help me develop a clean freestyle stroke). San Francisco has a park in the bay with a nearly 300m buoy line, and I probably did more than 99% of my meters there, starting right after my first coaching session by going outside to do my homework instead of trying to figure out the pool’s schedule. I got a lot of the same environmental pleasure from swimming that I got from running (much of which I did on trails within Golden Gate Park) – a slight sense of isolation makes me feel good, and the occasional sea lion sighting or near-miss with another swimmer was no big deal.

I had a mini-panic of documenting places I’d spent a lot of time as my move date approached. This isn’t a great photo of Aquatic Park, but I was running out of time.

I did a mix of wetsuit only and with fins, in part depending on distance. I found after a mile or so that it was easy to add distance from a physical point of view. I am basically an aerobic engine with cyclist legs, so this was particularly true if I had fins on – it was practically a case of “lie down and watch the miles go by.”

As I prepared to move to Baltimore, it was pretty clear I wouldn’t be able to continue swimming as conveniently and pleasantly as I could in San Francisco, and I gave a little thought to what I wanted to be sure to do. Fitocracy has in-site challenges for various distances for the triathlon sports – the longest swim distance is 10km. Challenge accepted.

I doubt I ever really believed I would swim that far. I was pushing my distances out, and I was joking with others about 10km being some kind of obvious benchmark, but I was never a fast swimmer, and the sheer time commitment posed risks such as getting so chilled I couldn’t operate my car afterward. Also, I never quite adjusted to how much more I needed to eat to support swimming – I struggled to maintain my weight as my distances climbed. (I’m not complaining exactly, but it was challenging enough to make me suspect swimming was not a long-term thing.)

Of course, as soon as I committed to move away from SF, I started seeing stuff like this all over the place! And it didn’t hurt that this was a typical view from my bike commute to work.

When I got my move date more or less nailed down, I looked at the calendar and figured out how many weeks I had to bridge the gap between my longest swim so far and 10km, which by then had firmly settled itself in my head as Important. In May, I had a little over 2 months to work up from around 6km, so there was a very real possibility I would fail. I tried to swim about twice a week – 1 short swim + 1 long one – and then I don’t remember what happened, but I got busy or distracted and ended up out the water for almost a month. When I got back in, I figured I’d try for 8km but give myself a pass if I only made it 5, and then give myself 2 more tries to hit the full 10km.

June 16 was a beautiful day, and as I approached 7km, I was happy to just stay in the water. I had “only 3k to go” – no problem, as I had just done it twice and then some.

I was ready to move.

I never did visit this place when I lived there. Maybe I can go as a proper tourist sometime.

All photos from my Instagram stream.

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