Tragic Sandwich

Food. Family. Fun.

Archive for the tag “swimming”

Splish, Splash: Pools I Have Known

Sunset pool at ucla

I love being in the water. Love it. I once announced that I was pretty sure I could live in the shower in my parents’ guest bathroom.

But pools are better.

When I was a kid in southern California, we had some kind of above-ground pool that my dad almost never assembled. I remember playing in it, but not very many times.

Then we moved across the country. I’m sure someone had a pool in their back yard, but I don’t remember any. Instead, you joined a pool. There were wait-lists. It helped to know a member. After a year we joined one–although it turned out not to be the one most of my friends from school belonged to–and for years we spent lots of time during the summer at the pool.

The year I was eight, I was on the swim team for that pool. We would compete at other area pools against their swim teams. No one had Power Bars back then; between heats, you’d eat powdered Jello mix for energy. Lemon or lime was best. (Do not substitute a Twinkie. A Twinkie will hold you back. Even though it seems like a Twinkie is mostly air, experience suggests that it must really be Dark Matter.) I competed in the 25-free and 25-back. How did I do? Pretty much every time, I’d get third in free and first in back. Was that 25 meters or 25 yards? I don’t remember. I just know that if I could swim backstroke, I could beat everyone else.

Winters were wintery, but that didn’t keep me out of the water. How? Indoor pools. For several winters I would sign up for Winter Swim. I’ve always been good at swimming; whenever the instructor wanted someone to demonstrate a technique we’d just learned, he or she would ask me to show everyone.

Full disclosure: I have never been good at flip turns. Thus my success in 25-free and 25-back. I guarantee you I would not have won in 50-back, much less in 50-free. I was probably never asked to demonstrate a flip turn in either direction.

My other main memory of Winter Swim is a round of bullying that, unlike others, I was unable to deflect or derail. I carpooled with two boys from my elementary school who took it upon themselves to torment me. I have uncertain memories of them spitting in my hair during the car ride home. I loved swimming. I hated the ride to and from.

(I also hated my sweatsuit, which was some horrible 1970s attempt at–microfleece, maybe?–it was sort of fuzzy and when it pilled I wound up with little red fuzzy bits stuck to me, because it is impossible to truly dry off after Winter Swim. Even the locker room is humid.)

We moved to Texas. And, oddly, this is where I stopped swimming. Or not so oddly, if you think about it. We joined a pool that was within walking distance of our home, which meant that our mother wasn’t inclined to drive us. (Although I maintain that “walking distance” in a South Texas summer is about the distance from the front door to the car door.) Also, I was in high school, which meant that the pool and swimsuits seemed fraught with . . . well, fraught with something. I’m not sure I could have articulated it even then, but I stopped being willing to run around in a swimsuit, even at the pool.

In college, we’d go to the pool–but only to sunbathe. This, by the way, is a terrible plan for a redhead, particularly in an era when SPF 10 was considered to be a lot of sun protection.

Years and years and years later, I married Mr. Sandwich. We drove from our wedding in San Antonio to Los Angeles, and on one of the days before we left for our honeymoon in Hawaii, we went back to that college pool. I swam the length of it (this one I know–50 meters), clung to the side gasping, and then swam back. And while I was done for that day, I later spent many evenings in that pool training for triathlons.

Also, I am still lousy at flip turns, so it’s a good thing that when I compete, it’s in the open water with a noticeable lack of walls.

Now we live in the San Fernando Valley. When we moved there, I said, “I don’t need a pool–I don’t want one, too hard to maintain–but I do need air conditioning.” We have air conditioning, and I will admit that now that I’ve experienced a few Valley summers, I could also do with a pool.

Fortunately, we live within an easy drive of one of the city pools. It’s been closed for several years due to maintenance issues, but they finally repaired it and re-opened it this summer. While I am sorry that it’s now closed for the season, I’m glad we were able to go several times–and at $2.50 an entry ($2.00 with a library card, for whatever reason), I think it’s a much better deal than building, filling, and maintaining one in our back yard.

You know who else loves the pool? Baguette.

It must be genetic.

Photo by samk, via Flickr.


Well, That Was Exhausting

Yesterday afternoon, J and I drove down to Redondo Beach. The day before a race, we like to do a practice swim and practice bike ride, to get more familiar with the course. I suppose we could do a practice run, too, but that way lies madness.

So we got to the beach and I decided very quickly that if the surf didn’t go down by morning, I was going to skip the race. It wasn’t stormy, but the water was pretty choppy. I really didn’t think I could cover 1/2 mile under those conditions.

And I was probably right. The water was much calmer this morning–the waves were breaking fairly close to the beach, with rolling surges beyond that. It turned out, though that the rolling surges were much more rolling than I thought. In spite of the short distances, this was the toughest of the triathlons I’ve done, and that’s all due to the swim. The ocean was cold, murky, and dynamic (and it tasted bad–I don’t know what’s in the water in Redondo Beach, but it can’t be good).

When I finally emerged from the water, it was with the slowest time I’ve gotten (30 minutes in the water, and my official time will be longer than that)–and a charley horse. My calf muscle loosened up over the bike portion, but then I developed a stitch in my side. Everything evened out a bit during the run (which I walked all of, except for the finish chute), but on the whole I’m amazed that the right half of me was able to finish the race.

Of course it helped that I had a lot of support. My dad and stepmom and J’s parents came out in the wee hours of the morning to cheer us on, and after he finished his race, J walked the run with me. Interestingly, the run may have been my favorite portion. The company, of course, was excellent, but the course was fun too. It wound through the Redondo Beach pier and by the neighboring lagoon, which has been turned into a saltwater pool with slides.

After the race, we all adjourned to the Redondo Beach Cafe for brunch. The service was really slow, but everyone seemed happy with their various entrees. I was quite happy with the Kitchen Sink Omelet, which had cheese, avocado, ham, and onions; other dishes at our table included French toast, multigrain pancakes, a tuna melt, a chicken-salad croissant sandwich, and a French dip. The whole wheat orange pancakes and the crepes sounded good, but what I wanted most of all was protein.

In the end, I finished dead last with a time of 1:52:35–but I finished.

Not bad for someone who, after waking up this morning, was so tired that she couldn’t focus her eyes.


The meatball sub was delicious.

I may be a bit too content, however. My goal for the evening was to pick out clothes to wear to my luncheon tomorrow, pack swim and bike gear for our test runs tomorrow, an outfit to wear to dinner with my dad and stepmom, all of the race gear for Sunday, and another change of clothes for after that.

But what am I doing instead? Blogging.

Swimming and Biking and Cupcakes, Oh My!

One of my friends describes a cupcake as “the perfect ratio of frosting to cake,” and I think she’s got a point. She also describes my brother as “a sweet little cupcake baked by the devil,” and I think she’s got a point there, too. Someone’s got cupcakes on the brain, and I’m keeping her company.

A few weeks ago I made a trip to Sprinkles for cupcakes. Today I continued my unofficial cupcake tour of Los Angeles with a visit to SusieCakes on San Vicente. Our refrigerator now contains three cupcakes–one vanilla, one lemon, and one coconut. I, on the other hand, contain one vanilla cupcake. SusieCakes describes their cupcakes as “frosting-filled,” and based on the one I’ve eaten so far, I have no idea what that means. It was delicious, though, and I’m looking forward to the other flavors.

The cupcakes came on the heels of a strenuous afternoon. J and I did our first ocean swim in preparation for the triathlon (less than two weeks away! Aaaaagh!).

Here’s what I learned today: sixty-degree water is very cold. It’s extra, extra cold when you leave your wetsuit at home. But I steeled myself to the cold water and swam. I actually did get used to the temperature, but I missed the buoyancy provided by the wetsuit.

After that we went biking on San Vicente, which has excellent bike lanes–even for me and my fear of biking downhill. San Vicente is not at all steep, but I’m a downhill wimp. I admit it. Oddly, I’m not bad on the uphill portions.

Oh, yes, I earned these cupcakes.

Stumbling Around

I’ve been exploring those little widgets that a lot of sites have at the bottom of articles. Not all of them turned out to be particularly interesting, but I’ve become instantly addicted to one.

StumbleUpon lets you identify your interests, and then shows you websites that correspond to the topics you’ve chosen. In one day, I’ve been introduced to the Encyclopedia of Spices, Writing Realistic Injuries, and the Random Title Generator. Now I want to write a book titled “Darkness of the Misty.” I think it’s a guaranteed best-seller.

It wasn’t all stumbling today. J and I were planning to go to the pool, and then in the late afternoon we got a thunderstorm. Now, it does rain in Southern California, in spite of the song–generally in the winter, which is our traditional rainy season. But thunder and lightning are very rare at any time of year. This afternoon we got downpours, noise, and a light show. Naturally, the pool was closed. And then the storm passed, and by the time we got to the pool it had re-opened. It turned out to be a wonderful time to swim, because very few people were in the pool.

Now the air outside feels cool and clean, and inside I have lots of websites to explore. What could be better?

I Should Be Working Out

But I’m not. However, that still is one of my goals for this afternoon, while J is off on a road bike ride in Malibu.

It’s been a busy weekend, and it’s barely Sunday afternoon. Yesterday we decided to see Iron Man, so we headed over to the theater to buy tickets. However, we soon found that between us and the theater was a huge traffic jam, due to a nearby car show. We decided to continue with our errands and go to a different theater once we were done. The next stop was at the Goodwill donation point, where I gave away the first item for the 29-Day Giving Challenge–a lawn bag full of clothes. Now, there were probably more than 29 items in the bag, so I suppose I could have doled them out over the course of the Challenge. But that doesn’t seem to be in the spirit of much of anything, so I’m counting the bag as one item.

Next, we went to the pool, where I swam 900 meters and J swam 1100. I’m hoping to be swimming twice a week, and doing 1000 on one of those swims for at least a few weeks before the triathlon. We also need to do some ocean swimming, and I still need to get on the bike. Well, not this weekend.

After the pool, we ate at The Stand. This is probably the fanciest hot dog stand you’ll ever eat at. J had the Chili Dog and I had the Kraut Dog. The sauerkraut didn’t have the tang I was hoping for, but the hot dog and bun were quite good. This is a little splurgy for hot dogs, but I’d come back. Oh, and they have Thomas Kemper cream soda on tap, which is very nice.

We made a brief stop at home, where we learned that the car show was over, and headed out for Iron Man. The movie was a lot of fun, and Robert Downey, Jr., did a great job as Tony Stark. I’m still not all that taken with Gwyneth Paltrow, but I think the problems I had with Pepper Potts had more to do with the writing than with Paltrow’s performance.

Back home again, I said, “How do we not own Raiders of the Lost Ark on DVD? Check TiVo and see if it’s showing tonight.” J did and said, “Believe it or not, it’s starting in 10 minutes.” So we watched Raiders (as edited for television) for the umpteen-millionth time. It’s always good.

Today has been a little slower, although of course there was plenty of laundry to do. When J left on the bike, I headed out with a grocery bag full of movies on VHS. We’ve been replacing our VHS tapes with DVDs wherever possible, and the stack of outbound tapes was getting pretty high. This seemed like a worthy second day of giving for the Challenge, so I dropped them off at one of the local libraries.

I’m not sure how I’m going to fulfill the Challenge during the work week, but I’m sure I’ll figure something out. I do know that I need to get up off the couch and work out!

Madness, I Tell You, Madness

I’m starting to think that’s what got me into this triathlon. Sure, I did two last fall (one as a relay, in which I only did the swim). So logically I could do another. But somehow I’ve done almost no training, and I’m starting to wonder just how badly I may do, when the race is only a month away.

I’m not too worried about the bike and the run portions, because the race distances are so short. Still, I need to get on the bike a few times before the race, and I ought to do some walking.

The swim, though, is another matter. We’ll be swimming 1/2 mile, which is manageable when I’m training properly. But right now I’m not training properly. On Saturday we went to the pool, and I finished 600 meters. I’ll have to do 800 in the race, and that’s assuming that the course is accurate. To be on the safe side, I should be doing 1000 in the pool. I also need to get in a couple of ocean swims, although the 58-degree water temperature is not very inviting.

Now, I hope you’ll excuse me as I eat a vanilla cupcake from Sprinkles.


So if you go to Google and type in “Tragic Sandwich,” guess what comes up first! Of course you didn’t need to know that, because you’re already here. But I think it’s pretty cool, because the old Tragic Sandwich, which was on the Google-owned Blogger, never came up at all. Now I feel famous.

Last weekend was fun, although I still wish I’d been healthier, so that I could have enjoyed it even more. This coming weekend will also be busy, because we’re getting together with friends who moved out of town recently and are back for a visit, and we need to actually do more swimming. The triathlon isn’t coming up immediately, but we’re behind schedule in our training. Lousy colds. But by this weekend we both should be healthy again, and ready to swim…well, as many laps as we possibly can.


We’re training for the Redondo Beach Triathlon in June. The race itself is pretty short, with a 1/2-mile swim, 6-mile bike, and 2-mile run. The bike and the run portions should be fairly easy, but I do need to work on my swimming

Yesterday was my first time in the pool since training for the Catalina Triathlon in November. I did 400 meters in my usual swim-100-gasp-for-a-minute style, and feel pretty good about it.

It was hot yesterday, but nothing like today. The temperature was supposed to be 97 at one point, and I can believe it based on how uncomfortable the apartment is. I stayed indoors, but J went for a mountain bike ride and the heat hit him pretty hard. Fortunately the heat wave is supposed to be pretty short-lived; for the rest of the week the highs are supposed to ping-pong between the mid-60s and the upper 70s.

Putting it Together

100m breaststroke + 700m freestyle = 800m

And I did them in 100s! (Well, not the breaststroke lap. Still gasping at midpoint on that.)

Post Navigation