Prepping, a Piano, Planning, and Procrastinating


It’s the nicest evening of the year so far in northwest Oregon. Temperatures are still hovering near 70 degrees, with a mainly blue sky enveloping the late, amber sunshine. Rather than swimming in Hagg Lake (where I could be found every day of the previous two weeks), I’m on the couch waiting for Jeopardy to start to see how much money James Holzhauer has won after tonight’s show. I have pressing plans to clean up the dinner mess and prepare for this weekend’s swim, beginning with removing price tags and then washing my newly purchased open water feed bottles, on the commercial breaks. That is, if I don’t get interrupted by a call or text informing me the tennis team is back at the high school, from their away tournament…

This weekend, I will be attempting my first 30km (18 mile) swim by swimming around Hagg lake three times. It will likely take me about three hours per circumnavigation (9-10 hours total, and will then be my longest swim ever). This is not a group event, but a solo training swim to prepare for the North Channel. I thought securing three sets of support paddlers (each set accompanying me on a different 10k loop) and coordinating their anticipated start times was the end of my preparing, but thanks to a wise Yeti leader, it has come to my attention that preparing the kayakers was just part of the planning. I apparently have lots more to cram in after work, these few remaining days until the swim.

It was suggested that: my feed bottles were short-distance feed bottles (5-7 hour swim size); I shouldn’t be using insulated thermos’ to keep my drinks warm, as I could burn myself, and won’t be taking advantage of the warmth to my hands that squeezing a plastic bottle provides; my paddlers won’t be able to add hot water to smaller, plastic bottles to mix new feeds like a crew on a larger, motorized boat can; I will have to pre-make all my feeds ahead of time and find a way to keep them warm as long as possible; I should buy insulated “fisherman” coolers (one for each set of paddlers/each loop of my swim) to hold these bottles; I should stock up on cheap Rubbermaid plastic bottles with a plastic loop so the bottle can be thrown to me, yet easily attached to a rope connected to the boat (these bottles were said to be easy to find at Target and Fred Meyer); I make a decision and choose feeds for Saturday with adequate carbs/calories (rather than wait to the morning of or night before like I typically do); I buy new goggles as I frequently state that mine are too foggy and scratched to see where I’m going; I send a thorough written plan of my wishes, and emergency plan to each of my paddlers. Definitely excellent recommendations!

As of now, I have: three insulated bags; about half the necessary bottles (I spent 45 minutes post an after work vet appointment, following up on healing from earlier this month, unsuccessfully looking for Rubbermaid water bottles before buying five 60% off sport bottles, that I may or may not be able to open when I have mild-to-moderate hypothermic fingers. This is a great time to figure this out now and not in the Irish Sea); Hot Chocolate, Chai Tea, Mint Tea, Positive Energy Sweet Tangerine Tea, Carbopro to add to these teas, and an Arbonne during workout energy drink. I hope to pick up a new pair of goggles, find Rubbermaid bottles like what were recommended to me to use, purchase an armful of break apart hand warmers to keep the fluids warm in their bags, and send my written plan to my paddlers tomorrow afternoon. Next week, I will resume prepping for the North Channel by connecting with more potential sponsors, and buying my return plane ticket.

A Piano:

Early Easter Sunday (four-days ago now), I get an email as I’m running to Barre3, about an upright piano needing a home. Two days prior, the day I was going to buy my return ticket from Dublin to Vancouver, BC, I was held back by an emergency, expensive car repair (I may not be returning to North America from Ireland at this rate). The piano is in Forest Grove and is owned by a friend of a friend. Pianos are obviously not in the forefront of my brain, but until a few years ago, I had a loved, but neglected grand piano, where my parents’ dining room table should have been, in Bellingham, WA. Also only a couple of weeks ago, my son Tiernan informed me he wanted to learn to play the piano. I immediately shot this idea down as he has given up every sport and musical pursuit he has ever had, I had recently sold my piano (that he never was interested in playing), and I was in the midst of severe hand, finger, and wrist pain. We live in a townhome and have a shared wall, which is why the grand piano never made it here. However, the right-sized upright could potentially fit, and guess what? This one is free. I just have to move it. 

I decide that if I can squeeze in a viewing of the piano around training, work, prepping, and home life this week, I will. What’s one more item on my agenda? I’ve been pain free for six days now so the potential “wait and see” autoimmune arthritis’ are also not affecting my judgement. The owner of the piano calls on Tuesday and we agree to meet when I get off work that night. He offers to meet me at BJ’s one of the local coffee houses, with his son, or at the storage unit (which happens to be on my street). Given I don’t personally know these men and the weather is decent (an after work swim was consuming my pre-frontal cortex as I arranged the showing), I choose to meet at the storage unit. He gave me the address and told me to look for the “two old guys.”

The piano is beautiful. It is an 1897 Mason & Hamlin upright from Pennsylvania. It was originally bought in 1897 for the owner’s wife’s mother, the year she was born, with the expectation that she would learn to play it when she was old enough. It has travelled the country and been in the family ever since. They are downsizing and no longer have the space for it. Both father and son were delightful and had fond memories to share, as well as important details about the piano (e.g., where the tuning mallet is located). As we were leaving, I wished we had met up for coffee and more conversation before hand. 


Well I guess I’m getting a piano! In addition to pricing out movers, I need to experiment with living room furniture arrangement, and make sure the neighbors that I share a wall with won’t mind. I’ll think about this Saturday while I’m swimming for 9-10 hours. I was hoping to draft out my swim plan for Saturday in this “planning” section, but it’s late and I need to prepare the most immediate things still tonight: Complete today’s hydration prep work by finishing my pot of herbal tea; Meditate/visualize finishing three successful Hagg Lake loops; organize my swim equipment for a 6:00am sunrise swim in Hagg before work tomorrow. A 2,000m swim tomorrow will contribute to a 36,000m week, if I’m successful Saturday.

Yes I missed the nearly 70 degree evening swim today, but I did Barre3 at 5:45am Monday and today, and feel like I can easily be up to swim at sunrise when it is 44 degrees out. We called these Polar Bear swims at camp when I was a child. These days, I don’t consider the water to be cold enough for a Polar Bear. Tomorrow morning will be closer in temperature to Saturday’s predicted 57 degree overcast high, and very likely closer to temperature conditions of my North Channel swim day. Maybe tomorrow I won’t have excuses and will get to writing the safety plan for Saturday’s Hagg Lake 30km swim challenge!                              

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