Guest blog: Coach Dave Ling on long distances, coaching and getting sunburns

I met Dave Ling in the early 00s on the decks of the University of Toronto Pool where he was a guard and I spent all of my spare minutes swimming through undergrad essay conundrums. He swam on the Varsity team and was the first long distance swimmer I'd ever met. He's now the coach of the St. John's Legends Swim Club and a most inspiring swim chum. (He also answered all sorts of my swimming questions during the Olympics!)

Your race was the 1500m. What drew you to long distance swimming?

My best race in the pool was the 1500 and I also swam quite a few Open Water races 10km and 25km marathon stuff.  I swam distance because it became quite apparent in my early teenage years that I didn't have natural "speed" and every time I kept swimming distance events I'd have better results... eventually it just became a pride thing, I loved swimming, I loved racing, the best way for me to be "relevant" in terms of the Canadian swim scene was to swim the distance freestyle events.

I tried to swim for 2h this summer, but got kicked out after an hour and a half and was astounded by how boring it was. How did you not get so bored? Additionally, what's the longest you've ever swum at one time?

I swam some 25km open water races that took the better part of 6 hours... did I get bored? Sure.  But my competitive urges were significantly stronger then the momentary boredom.  I loved the challenge of the distance stuff, I took pride in doing things other folks would not dare to even try.

You used to swim competitively, training for hours every day? Do you miss it? What do you miss? What don't you miss?

I swam for 17 years, loved every year, finished with my final season being my best season.  Training a lot, it was a major part of the lifestyle.

I miss the feeling/the confidence I had in my abilities to do anything in the water.  I miss getting to see my best friends (teammates) every day for 2-4 hours a day.  And most of all I miss the competitive outlet it gave me in my life, even if the person I was most competitive with was myself most days.

I don't miss the constant body ache and the chlorine sweats...they were the worst.

What have you taken from your swimming life into your coaching life?

The primary thing would be the understanding of the process... what goes into a long and fulfilling swimming journey and knowing it's a marathon and not a sprint.  So many families bring their kids to our sport and want immediate results and get incredibly emotionally invested in the early years of their child's development and then the kids end up "burning out" because too much is being asked of them by their parents and their coaches... it's sad and unfair.  As a swimmer, I never felt the sport was ever unfair to me so it's important to me as a coach to do all in my power to be fair (which takes on many forms) to my swimmers and their goals.

What are some of your favouriting swimming/coaching moments?

My favourite swimming moment was probably when I first qualified for Sr. Nationals in the year 2000.  I was not a young superstar, I was 20 years old, I wanted to qualify for Olympic Trials, my coach Linda Kiefer was the best guide and mentor I could have ever hoped for to get me there.  I was at the CIS Championships at the University of Guelph swimming the 1500FR.  There's usually a final lap bell that comes at 1450m of the race but in my race the officials were a little confused and rang the bell at 1350, 1400, and 1500...but not 1450...thankfully my UofT education taught me how to count, I managed the race properly and earned my qualifying cut.

What made the situation even more enjoyable is that I was informed by my teammates that Linda was angry and yelling at the officials while they were messing up the counting of the race and at the end of the race Linda had to apologize for being cross at the meant my swim mattered, it meant she cared, it's symbolic of what makes Linda a great coach to this day.

As a coach, my favourite moments come about 3-4 times a year watching kids go an important breakthrough time after putting in the work to earn that swim. It's the best feeling, it makes the year long grind worth it, and then some.

What's your favourite advice to give swimmers?

I have a favourite diagram I draw for my swimmers about 3 or 4 times a year called 'the Learning Process' and it goes into the 7 different stages that go into achieving goals.

If you're looking for more practical advice for ANY on your swimming from the outsides-in.  That is, become a better kicker and become more away of what your hands are doing at the top of your stroke. If your hands aren't right at the top of the stroke then they will never be right at any point in the stroke and you will just be reinforcing incorrect habits every time you swim.

After training in dance, people often ask me if I now take classes "for fun" but there's no way. It would feel ridiculous to not be able to take classes at the level I was used to. But tons of people do. Do you swim recreationally?

I feel 100% the same way you do about dance.  I occasionally like to get in the water and move around but I have zero interest in "swimming laps" or swimming in a Masters program.

If you're at a cottage, or pool party, what do you do? (I don't really know how to do anything except front crawl and always feel so awkward...!)

Right now I usually sit around and get a sunburn.  I like getting in the water with my sunglasses on, taking a few strokes and fooling myself into thinking the only reason I'm not "swimming" is because I have sunglasses on.  The other dorky swim thing I do is I scull my hands in the water a lot and try to fool myself into thinking I still have good "feel" for the water.

You married a fellow swimmer! Was your wedding held underwater?

If I was in the kind of shape I was when I was a swimmer, I would have been all for that.  

We had an incredible number of swimming friends at our wedding, we held the wedding at Knox Presbyterian (across the street from the UofT pool), and we held the reception at a venue we would not have known if it were not for swimming... so in a way our swim lives were all around our wedding and in a funny way a large part of our love story. We hold our swimming experiences in a fond place in our hearts.

Thanks so much, Dave! You're so inspiring!

Dave Ling swam for 17-years with the COBRA swim club, Brock Niagara Aquatics, and the University of Toronto.  In recent years Dave has taken on a coaching career that saw him serve 8 successful years at the Toronto Swim Club as an assistant and starting this Fall he has taken over as Head Coach of the St. John's Legends in St. John's, Newfoundland.
  • Lindsay
  • Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Back in

I have never been so thrilled to see these grotty tiles and worn wooden bench as I was this week. It had been 16 (looooooong!) days since my last swim and there were skylights instead of sky, and the water was so warm it was more bathwater than pool water, but it was still amazing. Back and forth and back and forth. It was exactly where I needed to be.

The most incredible part of the swim though was the elderly man who walked onto the pool deck mid-way through the hour. He took slow deliberate steps to the pool deck, limping in a way that suggested he had maybe had a stroke. He slipped into the water, ducked under the lane rope to the fast lane and proceeded to tear up the pool. Full on blazing. He swam circles around all of us. It was incredible.

And then I worked and worked and worked all afternoon, my skin still smelling of chlorine. I biked across the city for a meeting with goggle marks still ringing my eyes and biked home in the early dark, and arrived home to mail (YAY!) and if that wasn't exciting enough, it was a pass to one of my favourite pools from one of my new swimming friends, Lindsay of Masters' Swimming fame! Swimming pals are the best pals. 

  • Lindsay
  • Friday, September 23, 2016

A Swim Hole Enthusiast's Guide to Surviving Winter

 Winter is coming… here are some tips on how you can beat those chilly non-swimming blues…

1. Mourn The End Of Summer
Have a good cry in a pile of beautiful pile of fall leaves. Accept the end of summer, move on and prepare yourself emotionally for the long winter months to come. That means, pull out the comfy pants (Hello #TrackPantsClub), stock the pantry with stew ingredients and hot bevies... mmm cider! And have blanket fort supplies always on hand! Let the sad tears fall and then accept the start of snuggle season!

2. Do Your Research
Start researching and crafting your INDOOR pool strategy now. Star all the local pools in your neighborhood and start collecting their schedules as soon as possible, so you can have them on hand in a bind. If you are visiting family or friends out of town (and still in a winter climate), research the area before you get there! Be prepared, know the schedules before hand so you can plan some out of town swims! An indoor swim is a great way to mix things up. And there are some amazing swimming complexes all over the place!

3. Discover “Slow Swimming”
The winter is a great time to focus on some “slow swimming” aka SPA swimming. A favorite of mine! I’ll be headed to Body Blitz for certain this winter to float around that salt water heaven, smoothie in hand. I’ll also be taking some dips in the tiny cold pools at my other favorite pastime - Sauna-ing. Steamul has an awesome cold dunk pool that you can actually cannon ball into after an insanely hot sauna. And Banya offers a more rustic option… though standing room only (quite shallow). AND spas like the Scandinave have outdoor hot pools that you can relax in during the winter season. It’s a divine experience, except for all the heavily enforced “no talking above a whisper” policies. I, without fail am always shushed at these types of establishments… but the excellent outdoor soak is worth a wee bit of shushing.

4. Go On Vacation!
Obviously this is budget dependent. But if you can swing it, nothing like hitting up an ocean for a week in a far away land. Or you can just do what I did this winter and drool over photos of said oceans on the internet.

5. Create and build a “Swim-spiration Board”
What is a “Swim-spiration” Board? It’s a simple idea, essentially a mood board modified to reflect all things swimming. The idea is to collect anything and everything that makes you happy about swimming and put it together in one place. It could be as simple as a Pinterest board or you could use a cork board. I’ve started one on a big white sheet of paper. To start I’ve been listing places I would love to try swimming next year. Collecting samples of the color blue and making notes on great swimming scenes I see in books and movies. And making notes about swim crafts and badges I may want to achieve over the winter season.

Hopefully this tiny list brings some happiness to all of us swimmers out there who are walking past our favorite outdoor pool, now empty and haunted with summer ghosts, or driving by our favorite bodies of water whose warmth is being stolen away from us by the fall winds.

Winter does not have to be all that bad. And before you know it… summer swim season will melt before us once again, all full of potential and watery adventures.

But for now we hibernate and wait.

Oh and here are a few bonus ideas for the winter:
Try some swimming crafts!
Who is up for a float?
How about a polar bear swim… I’ve thought about it… but not sure I’m ready yet.
Head to Iceland, jump in a dry suit and take a dip between two continents!
  • Rhya
  • Saturday, September 17, 2016

Missing (be warned: melodrama ahead...)

I miss swimming. I type that out and it looks so small on the page, but it feels enormous. I really miss swimming. I miss it so much that I stopped my bike the other day just to watch U of T's swim practice (which of course made the missing worse!) My local is closed until next week and it feels like an eternity.

I read something the other day about a swimmer feeling like she's a plant without water when she hasn't swum in a while and I will admit I had the pinpricks of tears in the backs of my eyes, nodding. Yes. Yes. I am a plant without water, a swimmer without water.

Melodramatic? Yes. But also true. It's been 12 days since my last swim and I am at a loss. My body feels different, my brain is so cluttered.

It's partly because I had such an incredible summer of swimming. It was such a scorcher and I was in the water at least four times a week, if not more. My body has never been so strong. My hair has never been so permanently matted. I explored new pools and stuck with my favourites. The missing peaks on the hot days like today where nothing would be better than a dip, and an hour or so of lengths, back and forth and back and forth, the meditation I crave more than anything else.

I've been out walking (my dance-injuried version of running), but it's not the same, even with the sun on my face and podcasts in my ears. I know what I need to do is swim (and I will! Monday! MONDAY!), but in the meantime, I'll be tweeting with my new UK Twitter chums – Tanya of @lidowriters, a writer-in-residence at the UK's oldest outdoor pool and Clare (@loveswimming) – both swimmers and lido* aficionados (my people!!). They're both going to a lido conference this weekend and man oh man, I wish the teleporter was working!

So, until Monday, I'll be here, two-piece packed away until next summer, scrolling through old swim posts, and the turquoise blue-tones photos on my phone...

* Lido = pool! I'd never heard the word before this summer - for us non-Brits, it's pronounced lie-do!

  • Lindsay
  • Friday, September 16, 2016

Farewell, beloved outdoor swimming

Labour Day Monday marked the last day for swimming outside in Toronto, and with air show madness down by the water, it almost didn't happen. But I persevered, and on attempt 2, I made it into Sunnyside's beautiful turquoise blue. It was totally packed, deep end to shallow end and every square inch of deck space and it was mayhem in the lane swim area, but it was still such a perfect final dip.

I swam back and forth, dodging late summer flailing arms and untamed kicks, reflecting on this most incredible summer of swimming. And what a glorious summer it has been complete with:
- kicking off the swimming season in Lake Ontario
- a swimming road trip with my swimming ladies
- my very first midnight dip
- CLIFF JUMPING – and celebrating a year of swim blogging
- the best swimming-centric family vacation, complete with a playpen on the dock!
- learning to jump into water, instead of taking forever on the ladder
- being so inspired by Penny Oleksiak (who started school today - ha!)
- knowing that my hero Mark Tewksbury read this blog (I might have wept!!)
- learning about, and swimming in the silkiest black water
- tackling my longest swim yet (also the most boring!)
- the second round of swim badges
- swimming with my kiddo all over the west end of Toronto
- sharing my love of Toronto swimming with CBC radio's Matt Galloway

Fittingly, at the end of my dip, my favourite beach towel, the one I've had since 1998 when I was lifeguarding indoors (worst!), tore. Sob. And now the pools are closed for the season (except for a few hours a day at Alex Duff pool!), and I will have to relive this glorious summer in turquoise photos and scraps of float-y poems I've penned on the edge of pools and lakes and rivers.

  • Lindsay
  • Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Water’s Touch

One of the wonderful things that has emerged from my participation in our swim blog is that it has forced me to stop and think about one of my favorite things, water.

One of the byproducts of writing about swimming so much is I’ve become obsessed with identifying the how each new body of water I swim in feels. I jump and think “how would I describe this water’s touch?”

For example:
Pool water (chlorinated) - Sharp and clean, a hard water to cut through with hands pointed and with purpose.
Lake water - Alive and rich, broad surface begging to be broken by dock side dives, or to be delicately navigated across while floating with arms stretched wide.
Pond water - Earthy and slow, a thickness I like to not think about too deeply.
Salt Water - Light, tacky, and a bittersweet sting to the eyes.

This is a very generalized list, each different swimming hole has it’s own unique profile, which brings me to my main focus of the this swim story, The Gatineau River! 


On our swimming road trip earlier this summer one of the main purposes of the adventure was to spend a good amount of time immersed in the Gatineau. And I have to say it was worth every kilometer we traveled.

My first swim in the river was at the tail end of dusk, with night falling fast. We all jumped in at once, holding hands, because that is what you do when you are grown a#$ women who love to swim. The minute I hit the water the first feeling that came flooding my way was… I’m covered in silk! Yes, silk! A deep, dark, silky black pool of water. It was night, so of course the water was black, but it felt extra dark, like black hole dark! I felt as though I was being swallowed up when I opened my eyes underwater. I felt everything and nothing all at once. It was right and good.


I remarked on the silkiness of the water out loud and our fantastic host and resident Gatineau expert Patrice, let me know that I was not imagining it, that in fact the Gatineau River is actually a particular type of river, a blackwater river!

Obviously, interest peaked!

Turns out there are all these different types of river water like whitewater, or clearwater and just plain old black mud river water!
The key properties of a blackwater river are:

  • A river with a deep slow moving channel that runs through swamps or wetlands
  • Tannin rich waters, due to vegetation decay leaching into the water
  • A darkly stained, transparent and acidic water that resembles my favorite morning bevy (minus the cup of milk I dump in it) - black coffee 


Patrice also explained that the Gatineau was used as a logging river for years and logs would often sink to the bottom, and that was where the tannins heavy water developed. Which of course made me think of the classic Log Driver’s Waltz animation, because all Canadian children of the 80s know this film, and it’s still a must see in my opinion! 


The next day there as more swimming, or really more jumping. And I got to see the blackwater more closely in the daylight. It was still incredibly dark! You could barely seen your toes looking down while tredding water! Incredible! Later that evening we went skinny dipping, because guys, that water feels like SILK! I know I’ve already said it a million times! But I had to feel it once against naked skin, and it was amazing.


On our final day, I pulled out the GoPro loaned to me by my brother. A tiny technological dinosaur now, compared to newer models. No viewfinder and low low res. But it was apparently waterproof and I was dying to try taking photos underwater! The photos in this post are the result of that sunny day photo shoot. They are haunting and surreal and I love them all! And they almost capture the mysterious and decadent swims we had that weekend. Almost. My memories though, have these moments locked up safe in my watery heart for life.


Bonus note, turns out I have been swimming in tannin rich waters once before at a most wonderful Shebeshekong Bay, and it too possesses the same silky texture, though maybe not as dark.

Either swimming hole though, is a win! 

  • Rhya
  • Thursday, September 1, 2016

Grown-up swimming badges: Part II

I must begin with the caveat that summer is not over. I REPEAT, SUMMER IS NOT OVER. But as it's the last week the outdoor pools are open in Toronto, I figured it was time to celebrate some of our swimming accomplishments in embroidered badge-form:

This summer's grown-up swimming badges (clockwise): 
- Laura Queen of the Docktail's Swimming Sommelier Badge (featuring a perfect vinho verde, a boozy watermelon rosemary lemonade, an aperol spritz and an epic red).
- Patrice's Swimming Sustenance Badge (featuring her roadtrip clambake)*
- My Jumping-In Bravery Badge (because this summer marks the first I haven't hung off the ladder for HOURS)
- Rhya's Director of Underwater Photography Badge (because of her hauntingly beautiful river photos!)

And I couldn't let our epic Swimming Holes We Have Known collective cliff jump go unrecognized! CLIFF JUMPING BADGES FOR ALL!

Check out last summer's badges here!

* please note the French knot shrimp. THEY KILL ME!!
  • Lindsay
  • Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Guest blog: Lindsay Sutherland + the University of Toronto's Olympic-sized pool

The internet can be a magical place, and through my Twitter posts about this swimming blog, I e-met a kindred spirit, Lindsay Sutherland – another swim-and-book-loving Lindsay. I love following her swim-ventures and we're lucky enough to have her guest post about her swimming world – Master's swimming, recovering from injuries and returning to swimming (that sounds familiar!)

Welcome, Lindsay!

Where did you swim: I swim at the Athletic Complex at University of Toronto, in the Olympic sized pool.

Do you swim here often? 
I swim here weekly – with the Toronto Masters swim team (technically we are called 'Toronto Masters of the Universe', or ‘TMU’ – but the whole name is kind of embarrassing!)

How did you first learn about this swimming hole? 
I've been coming to the U of T pool since I was 13 years old - I used to train with Ajax Aquatic Club and our Sunday morning practices were held here.

What was it like? 
Very cold and chlorinated - just like I like it!

Water texture/temp/colour: Clean, blue and in the 70s

What colour is your bathing suit (or was it a skinny-dipping situation?)
Crrently my ‘indoor pool’ swim suit is a plain black TYR training suit.

Sand/rock bottom? Weeds/no weeds? 
Lovely tile with lane lines and TORONTO spelled out below me.

What is your swimming style? 
My preference is mostly freestyle – but with some backstroke lengths when possible within a practice.  I am also a sprinter as opposed to a distance swimmer – so I prefer to train in sets of shorter, faster intervals than longer distances.

How did you get into the water? 
I dove in from the edge, after waiting a respectable 7 seconds after the swimmer in front of me.

What's your swimming story?
I have a love-hate-love relationship with swimming.  I was always the kid who dreaded going to swimming lessons, until the moment I got into the pool – then I never wanted to get out. 

Summers and vacations were spent playing with my little sister in pools and just having fun – doing handstands, holding my breath for as long as I could and ‘flipping’ our hair in fun styles. 

When we moved to a new town when I was in 7th grade, I tried out for a swim team instead of taking more lessons, not knowing I was getting into a competitive atmosphere.  It turned out I wasn’t too bad at it, so I stuck with it.  From age 11 to age 18 I moved up the ranks of the club until I was training 9-10 times a week with Olympic hopefuls under a very strong coach who had been with Anne Ottenbrite when she represented Canada at the Olympics in 1984. Swimming took over my life and the practices took over most of my days, but I loved my team mates, I loved going fast in the pool and I wanted to win big one day. I wore my swim coat proudly and was known as ‘the swimmer’ at my high school – who almost always had wet hair.  When I was 17 my body started protesting more than the usual sore shoulders – and I started going to a chiro and physio more and more and swimming less and less as I tried to heal.  When I was able to go to the pool, I dreaded practice – all it meant was pain and frustration with my self, my coach, and my body.  When it was suggested by one of my doctors that my body would not recover while I was still training, and when I was kicked out of one too many practices for being unable to complete a butterfly set, I made the hard decision to leave the sport. 

In my mid-20s I realized that I really missed swimming and decided to look into masters swim clubs.  I found out that the University of Toronto Masters team swam out of the same pool where I spent my Sundays as a kid – and so I signed up and in no time was racing again. I don’t swim 9 times a week anymore (sometimes I am lucky if I get one practice in!), but it gives my life some balance and the beauty of it is that it’s (mostly) pain and injury free.  In 2014 I went to the World Masters Championships in Montreal, QC – which has been the highlight of my ‘adult’ swimming life so far.  

Whether out at DD Summerville Pool for outside summer practices, or inside at UofT, I feel completely at home in a pool.  I am lucky enough to have some great teammates and coaches that make each practice fun and make me feel like I am 16 years old again.  I hope I keep swimming and competing for as long as I can – it’s a sport that never gets old and keeps you young.

Thanks so much, Lindsay!! This totally inspires me to join a Masters Club one of these days...

Lindsay Sutherland is a backstroke and freestyle sprinter who swims with TMU, and is a proud member of the TCLES relay team.  She also is a proud mom to a 4 year old who just successfully swam a whole lap of his teach pool unassisted!  She is most at home in chlorine and most scared of weeds tickling her feet in lakes.
  • Lindsay
  • Saturday, August 27, 2016

My top 6 Toronto pools for swimming with kiddos

I love (LOVE!) swimming, but since having my kid 18 months ago, I've realized how much more complicated it can be to swim with a kid (especially solo).

I've learned to strategically pack a bag (towels on the top for quick post-swim-shivering-kid access!) and to make sure there are snacks for both of us to combat the post-swim hangries.

Pools with big, wide benches in the change rooms, warm (at least not freezing) water are key, with extra bonus points for super shallow steps/area for littles to splash around in.

With nap schedules and a toddler who despises being strapped into a car seat, especially on hot summer days, I've only been able to explore west-end pools, but here are my favs:

#1: Alex Duff Memorial Park at Christie Pits

It's taken me until today to get to this west end gem (and it did open late this season), but I am a convert! There are FOUR (!) pools here: three shallow ones, including a wading pool, wide steps, and a really wide, slow entry for timid swimmers (and a deep end and a twirly slide for big kids).

There are even universal change rooms (in addition to men's and women's), and there's stroller parking on deck! The shallow pools are also super warm AND it's even TTC accessible.

AND the hours are amazing: M-F 10am-9pm, S/Su 10am-8pm until Labour Day, the THEN there are extra hours from Sept 6-18: M-F 4-7pm and S/Su 12-4pm. So much swimming left!

Amazing, right?!

#2: High Park Pool:

The photo at the top of the post is from High Park Pool. The hours aren't great with Jack's nap schedule, but it has a really shallow wade-in for littles, and a mini splash pad next to the pool. (Oh, and a twirly slide for older kids). There are two connected pools: one shallow end and one deep end, which means the rowdy cannonballing older kids aren't plowing into little guys. It's a chilly pool, so it's best appreciated mid-summer, in the middle of a heat wave

Also, there's an amazing wading pool/splashpad combo nearby (that is open in the afternoon window the pool is closed) and it's near a subway station (and bikeable from my house – extra points).

Oh, and the rows and rows of lockers in the change room makes for great entertainment while you get changed...

#3: Lambton Kingsway Pool at Dundas W at Prince Edward Dr.

This was the first pool I took Jack to, and I guarded at this pool briefly, so I'm definitely biased, and it's open until 4:15 for public swim, which makes for post-nap dips. It's not particularly transit-friendly, BUT, there's a family change room and long ramp into the shallow end makes for great kid-entries. It's surrounded by parks and tennis courts and baseball diamonds, and grass (which makes for the perfect place to change a toddler...!) Be warned: the change rooms are tiny (and there is currently a cold water alert on!)

#4: Giovanni Caboto Pool at Lansdowne and St. Clair

This one is a big huge, beautiful pool. The change rooms here are SO great for getting a wriggly toddler in and out of a suit – big benches, lots of space. It gets busy, but there are wide steps that are great for water-timid toddlers to get their feet wet.

And after the pool closes for an hour from 4-5, don't take off your kid's suit – just head over to the wading pool in Earlscourt Park. A brilliant summer afternoon!

I've already waxed poetic about Park Lawn Pool, the pool that holds my entire childhood so once again, I'm far from objective, but it's a quiet pool (this year at least!). It's next to a small park with swings and a slide (and my sister's amazing backyard is close by...!) 

It's not particularly transit friendly, but it's open till 4:15 (which is great post-nap for us!) and there's a huge parking lot. Note: there is a "family change room" though it's nowhere near the pool, and is less a change room than a room with a bench. 

#6: Sunnyside Gus Ryder

I love Sunnyside because it's big and huge and always busy. It's right by the lake, with extra points for being beside the dinosaur park and near the Lakeshore Blvd, (and if your kid loves trucks/buses/cars half as much as mine, it makes for entertaining viewing!) It's got wide steps and a ramp in the shallow end. Note: you can't bring bags out on the deck, which can be tricky with littles.

The best part about Sunnyside is that it's open every day from 10-3:45, and then again from 5-8. Is there anything better than a morning swim? (And morning swims always make for solid afternoon naps!)

Aaaaaaaand when naps are long, or bathing suits are MIA, there's always the backup "pool":

  • Lindsay
  • Thursday, August 25, 2016

The longest swim and a fire at the pool

My goal this summer was to swim for as long as my arms could carry me. It's not the easiest thing to carve out a full morning but I was inspired by listening to all the training stories of Olympic atheletes and I finally managed to find the time. I hit the start button on my phone and hopped into the pool. I figured I had at least two hours in me. Even though I usually do a half hour warm up, it took forever to hit 30 minutes, knowing that would be a only a quarter of my swim. My mind wasn't wandering the way it usually does, too keyed up on how much time had passed, or not passed. 

It was boring. Way more boring than I anticipated. And even though the day was a hot one, and the water was the perfect temp, I was cold (I'm always cold when I'm swimming these days!)

BUT I finally got into a rhythm about an hour in, and at an an hour, fifteen I wondered if I even had more than two hours in me. 

At an hour and a half, the lifeguards started blowing their whistles—a long clear-the-pool blast. They were shouting into their megaphones. Get out of the pool. Clear the pool. Everyone out. I was an hour and a half in. I wasn't ready to stop. My arms weren't the least bit tired. I had even overridden the boredom. But lifeguards were running down the deck, telling swimmers to get their things and leave through the gates. Don't change, they insisted. There's no time.

And then the wail of sirens started coming closer. Not one fire truck, not two, not even three. There were five firetrucks lined up on Lakeshore Blvd. by the time I got out, still dripping. 

There was a fire in the pool (well, an electrical fire in the boiler room).

No one was hurt, and the pool re-opened later that day (thanks for the update, Twitter!) and the morning felt like a strange dream. 

I wasn't tired, that afternoon, or the next day. My arms weren't sore, or my legs – something I find quite astounding.

I had thought about trying again and actually hitting the two hour mark, but there are other things to do, like read on pool decks and explore new pools before the summer is over and re-watch Penny Oleksiak's gold medal race, so I'm going to have to wait till next summer to see how long my arms can swim...

Oh, and to make it through a morning without having 487894 snacks the way I usually do, I downed this epic smoothie pre-swim: avocado, coconut cream, almond butter, chia seeds, flax seeds, raspberries, maple syrup and almond milk...mmmmmmmm!

  • Lindsay
  • Monday, August 22, 2016

Swimming intel from Coach Dave

Vaughn Ridley/Getty (more photos here!)

It's no secret that we three swimmers have been glued to the Olympics over the last two weeks. What an amazing showing by the Canadian women. Penny Olesiak is truly a marvel.

And making the experience even better, was Mark Tewksbury's reporting and insight, and having the amazing Canadian swim coach, Dave Ling, answer all of my swimming questions on Twitter throughout the races!

I met Dave once upon a time at the University of Toronto pool. He swam on the Varsity team and lifeguarded, and I tried to swim in the fast lane. Now he's new coach of the St. John's Legends Swim Club and former assistant coach at the Toronto Swim Club (where Olympian superhero, Penny Oleksiak trains! He chatted with CBC here!)

Here are the things I learned over the last few weeks:

On bilateral breathing during freestyle (because, as Rhya noted, in both the sprints and longer distances, the swimmers were breathing on one side): 
DL: As swimmers get older they typically choose to breathe to 1 side based on comfort.  Coaches try & teach breathing on both sides.

On strategy for pacing a long swim (like the 1500m):
DL: Depends on the coach & the kids will tell you that we try and descend 1/3s 500-500-500

On kicking + long distances (because, did you notice the lack of kicking during the 1500?) 
DL: Legs take up A LOT of oxygen so the legs will really come in the last 400m.

On relay takeovers (and the the other team members do NOT tell the 2nd swimmer when to go, ahem, Park Lawn Piranhas!):
DL: As long as the entering swimmer has contact with the block when the swimmer in the water touches then all is legal.

On butterfly technique (I was always told that your knees had to stay together, turns out NOT SO!):
DL: (You made it up) … or otherwise a rule much older then your years.  Sounds like bad teaching back in your swimming lessons years.

Dave also inspired me to watch the 10km open water marathon swim and I couldn't believe how compelling it was! A pack of white water for nearly 2 full hours. And it turns out it's a crazy mind-game filled/physical race under the water (more here – I had no idea!) The photo finish was bananas! 

Thanks, Dave!

Additional Olympic+swimming reading: 

Why Simone Manuel's gold-medal swim in Rio was so historic by Andray Domise. This is a vital, important read. 

On potential currents in the Rio pool. 

On why there are so many ties in swimming (hello three-split silver!)

  • Lindsay
  • Saturday, August 20, 2016

Guest blog: Patrice Hall + the Gatineau River

The biggest, splashiest welcome to our very first guest blogger, Patrice Hall! She has been instrumental in our summer of swimming, hosting we three swimmers for an epic weekend on the river, filled with cliffjumping, skinnydipping and docktails and general swim-y merriment.

Here's Patrice and her beautiful river:

Where do you swim?
River *

Do you swim here often?
I swim in it as often as I can from May to September

How did you first learn about this swimming hole?
One day I woke up with a horseshoe in my a** and came to find myself living on the most beau-ti-ful river in Chelsea QC. I’m still uncovering all its nooks and crannies and the special little swimming holes it hides. 

What is it like?
Other: It’s complicated

Water texture/temp/colour: 
The Gatineau is black water due to the tannins from decomposing trees (it was a logging river after all) and it has a silky texture that I love. 

What colour is your bathing suit (or was it a skinny-dipping situation?) 
I’m all about the no-suit salute! You’ll find me down at the river almost every night after dark. 

Sand/rock bottom? Weeds/no weeds? 
The Gatineau River has it all and I enjoy it all.

What is your swimming style?
Head up breaststroke *
Michael Phelps-style butterfly

How did you get into the water?
If I’m not being silly (which is a lot of the time), a long shallow dive is my most favourite entry.

What's your swimming story? 

Swimming’s been a constant – from backyard lessons to lifeguarding to summer camp. Now, it keeps me sane and whole. A dip in the river washes my stress away and connects me with life’s simple pleasures.
  • Lindsay
  • Thursday, August 18, 2016


Lindsay: For years I've wanted to take advantage of the Extreme Heat Alert late night swims, but for all sorts of reasons—cottage trips, family emergencies, friend emergencies—I've always managed to miss night swimming. Until last weekend. It was face-meltingly hot, and Twitter confirmed Sunnyside was open and I zipped down to the lake after the sun set.

(It was the first time I haven't had to remember to wear sunscreen to an outdoor dip!)

It was way more full than I expected, and the flood lights were so, so bright it felt like the middle of the day. There were kids playing Marco Polo in the shallow end and couples making out in the deep end, and because I'd been watching Olympics non-stop, I had to start with a few quick lengths (working on my flip turns because...PENNY OLEKSIAK-SPIRATION!)

It was the most glorious, most long-awaited swim. The water was cool, cold even, such relief from the 43 degree humidity. The clouds were too thick to see the Perseid meteor shower, but the moths were lit by the flood lights and looked like shooting stars as I floated in the deep end. (And I saved the day for a kid by moving a ginormous cicada off his towel).

And then, of course, I listened to REM's Nightswimming on loop until I fell asleep and had the most perfect turquoise dreams.


 Meanwhile on the north side of town... 

Rhya: I too was blasting Nightswimming through my headphones... because it's one of the top ten ultimate swim songs (note: need to make this list and post here!) It wasn't on repeat though, as I was also floating in Wheat Kings and other Tragically Hip faves in honour of their Toronto concerts that were happening this weekend. So I was pretty much drenched in nostalgia by the time I got to the pool. 

The change rooms were quiet. I moved through them fast and headed to the pool deck.

I decided to go for the spontaneous swim because night swimming is like the chlorine soaked unicorn of the Toronto summer! You just have to hit one up when you see that tweet announcing that pools will be open late due to an extreme heat warning.

The JJP was lit up and splashing! There was a real mix of people, from teens canon balling into the deep end, to parents with newborns taking turns floating in the shallow end. I was alone for my swim. I dove in and did some very relaxed lengths. There were two others like me. A woman with her swim cap perched high on her head and an older gentleman whose noggin never dipped under the water...not once. We loosely crowded together on the south side of the pool and did lazy laps, back and forth from the edge of the deep end to the edge of the shallow end.

I kept stopping to people watch. There were kids practicing handstands on the deck, lots of people  bobbing about chatting and laughing, and tons of fancy flips happening into the deep waters. 

At one point I was almost bowled over by two young boys locked in a very messy race of front crawl. Let's just say there were crazy arms and someone swallowed too much water, and just way too much splashing. It was a riot to be under the city sky, surrounded by life, floating and swimming through that magical night.

I'm glad I caught the unicorn this year!

  • Lindsay
  • Monday, August 15, 2016

Road Trip: The Secret Grotto

I'm not actually supposed to tell you about this swimming hole. It's supposed to be a secret. It doesn't even have a name.

That, at least, is what the locals (whom I am sworn to not name) told me when they put the directions into Google Maps on my phone.

When I arranged to do a design presentation up in Caledon, Ontario earlier this week, I packed my little swim bag with a bathing suit, a towel and some play shoes, and decided to go find this secret swimming hole after my meeting was done.

I'm not supposed to tell you, so don't tell anyone it was me.

But this place is AMAZING, so here's a little destination guide, in case you decide you want to go too and not tell anyone you were there. I may or may not have made you a map. (*Read to the end to find out if I did or didn't.)

* * * * * *

Step 1: Get yourself to Caledon, Ontario

Have you been to Caledon? It's BEAUTIFUL!! Big rolling hills, rivers and hiking trails, gorgeous farmland, big poofy cloud skies.

From there, head west and drive through Erin, a cutie-pie small town. They have a good bakery there called Holtom's. I didn't go there, but you could and tell me how it is. When you get to a corner with a stoplight and see the Tin Roof Café, turn right there and head towards Everton.

* * * * * *

Step 2: Finding the right path

When you get to Everton, you turn off the highway and drive through the tiniest collection of houses. When you see the Everton church, you're almost there.

Soon after you pass the church, you'll approach a bridge, and you can park on the side of the road where the shoulder is a little wider.

And now here's the trick. My farmer friend said "Park and then just look around for the path. It's not marked."

Oh boy, is it ever not marked.

I found a wee opening into the trees where there was a sock dangling off a weed, and thought "This must be it!" I walked up into the very lovely forest and there was a trail marked with red dots so I thought, yes, this is it. But a little way in I met Matt, a green-tshirted guy with his little daughter who were in there for a walk and he told me I was going the wrong way. The swimming hole was on the OTHER side of the road.

So I went back and looked again. There's an old red barn there and if you look just beyond the guard rail on the bridge, you can see the tiniest foot path. That's the way.

* * * * * *

Step 3: Follow the sound of the waterfall

I should mention that this is a really beautiful little hike. Take a second and breathe it in, because it is glorious. But I recommend proper shoes because you have to climb around a little. I had changed from my design-presentation-shoes into sandals but they were not really sturdy enough. I also recommend that you change out of your design-presentation-skirt. But I managed ok, I just hiked it up when I needed some leg range and showed my butt to the forest a lot. Ahem.

Because this trail is not marked, and because you have no idea where you're going or how far it is, all you can do is follow your nose and follow the growing sound of a waterfall.

And then, all of a sudden, you're there. The secret grotto.

* * * * * *

Step 4: The Swim

I'm not really sure what to tell you here, other than that this swimming hole felt like magic, and I felt lucky to be the only one there. The water is cool and refreshing and you can paddle around, and float, and explore the different nooks and crannies of the grotto. You can look up at the sun filtering through the ring of trees on the cliffs, you can eat the juiciest Ontario peach (which is what I did), or bring a bag of chips and a book and hang out on a rock for a while. You can marvel about the waterfall gushing into the pool, or you can hike through a little further and enjoy the forest. Then put your play shoes back on and head home.

And that's it for the Secret Grotto. Let me know if you go. Bring me back a cookie from Holtom's.

  • Laura
  • Friday, August 12, 2016

Phelps Face

Apparently #PhelpsFace is a thing, aka the official Olympic meme of #Rio2016.

As all of us swimmers here at #SHWHK are HUGE Phelps fans, how could we not create a list of #PhelpsFace worthy moments that every swimmer has faced at some point in their life... or if you haven't just take notes, because these things will happen to you!

*Small side bar: Please share your own swimming related #PhelpsFace moments with us via Twitter or in the comment field of this post so we can add them to our list. We would love to hear them!

Now without further ado, here is our list:

#PhelpsFace Moments That Anyone Who Is A Swimmer Will Understand!

When it's 40° and the pools aren't open late!
When it's winter and everything is frozen!
When you are about to dive in and see nothing... but WEEDS!
When you do dive in and find nothing... but WEEDS!
When you get out of the pool and realize you left your undies at home!
When you forget you motha’ flippin' bathing suit at home!
When you realize your bathing suit is just too see-through to pass (and has probably been too see-through for the last several swims.) 
When the sign says “Pool Is Closed” but the website said open!
When there has been a fouling 💩!
When someone mentions the presence of a dock spider!
When someone is swimming horizontally across all lanes during length swim. (I mean seriously, that is CRAZY!)
When someone is peepin' you under the water!
When you see fast swimmers in the slow lane, and slow swimmers in the fast lane!
When you are promised swimming and there is no swimming!
And for the finale, I gave my own #PhelpsFace a try to accompany:
My attitude towards all WEEDS in general!
  • Rhya
  • Thursday, August 11, 2016

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