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Notes on Swimming, #2
ESSENTIAL ITEMS: Gear List
THE FOLLOWING LIST of gear represents trial and error over a lifetime of open water swims. Like everything in art and life, the routine is important. I have the same things in my pack every single day, and I swear by them:
1. Aqua Sphere Vista Pro Tri Mask. I’ve tried nearly every goggle on the market. I like this one for a few reasons. It offers full peripheral vision because the lens piece wraps around to the temples. The mirror tinting is great for keeping the glare down from the sun. The outer piece extends beyond the goggle so it creates really good mask seal.
2. Tow Float. I resisted using these for years. I thought they’d be uncomfortable or create drag. But after a couple close calls with a boat and a jet ski, Juliane insisted. Bill Meier, head coach and director of the local Pacemakers swim club, had been strongly urging me to wear one as well for a while. Now I wear it every time and I don’t even know it’s there. The added bonus, besides making you visible to boats, is that if you ever get into trouble in the middle of a body of water, you can grab onto it and rest. There’s also a dry pocket for a phone, or keys, a whistle, or energy gels.
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3. Bull Frog Gel. There are so many types of sunblock. I’ve tried everything: Lotions, spray cans, various SPF’s and price points. I’ve settled on this one. It’s a clear gel, similar to the consistency of aloe, and goes on easily, and as the label indicates, dries instantly. And it actually stays on.
4. Rash Guard. When you’re open water swimming, there’s no way around the fact that your back gets direct sun, cumulatively, for hundreds of hours per year. A few years back I started wearing a rash guard. I couldn’t find one on the market that was comfortable enough, so I took a cross-country ski base layer that I like and just cut the arms off. Works great.
5. Zinc Oxide. For the nose. Self explanatory.
6. Ocean Grease. This is an anti-chafing lubricant made especially for open water swimmers by a company in Australia. I’ve tried many, and this one’s the best. Without it, as any swimmer knows, the repeated motions eventually cause irritation and pain, mostly where your arms hit your body doing the crawl stroke.
7. Swim Cap. Having this on your head keeps your body warm, more significantly than you’d think, especially at the beginning and end of the season. But at the hottest part of the summer, it also keeps the sun off your head. I get the extra large size for long hair.
8. Footwear. To get from the car to the lake where I swim, there’s about a 30 minute hike up the Appalachian Trail. For that, I wear New Balance sneakers, gray 990’s, the same kind I’ve worn for many decades. Thongs, for walking to the water and back to where I change.
9. Nose clip. Thru-hikers on the AT tend to use trail names. Even though I’m not a thru-hiker, my honorary name is Nose Clip. I always have one, and often drop them. It seems like they’re everywhere; in my car, house, washing machine, pockets, driveway, and scattered around the studio. They’re essential to keep the lake allergens and just generally the water from getting into my sinuses.
10. Podcasts. There’s another Essentials List in the works about which specific podcasts I listen to religiously. But for now, I’ll just say that the headphones are a must for the hikes to the lake. They tend to get a little beat up. Note the duct tape.
11. Water Bottle. It’s easy to get dehydrated, and you don’t always notice when you’re surrounded by water for over an hour. I drink water before and after the swim, and then throughout the day.
12. Cashews. Roasted, unsalted, from bin 189 at Guido’s Market in Great Barrington. I bring extra to feed to the chipmunks.
13. Nomadix Towel. This one is very thin, very absorbent, lightweight, I think even resists bacteria or something. Juliane got it for me at Barrington Outfitters.
14. Swimsuit. Pretty basic. This one is comfortable.
15. Backpack. It’s all about the pockets, to keep the wet stuff away from the dry stuff. I bring lots of extra dry clothes in case I get caught in rain. It’s important to get dry and get warm after a long swim. This is a great pack by Speedo made for triathlons.
16. Walking sticks. Never used these until this year when plantar fasciitis struck. Super painful. These help alot. I’ve grown to like them on the hike, though, and will probably keep using them even after the heel heals. I got these from Arcadian Shop in Lenox.
17. Absolutely Essential: Coffee. Extra large hot cold brew from Fuel in Great Barrington. Dash of milk. I buy it and drink it in the car on the half hour drive to the trail head.
18. Weather Apps. If you see me looking at my phone, I’m probably checking the weather. I’m always plotting out the best schedule for the next day’s swim. I check multiple apps obsessively, morning, noon, and night, watching for lightning, incoming storms, rain, wind, and intense sun; but the main concern is always lightning. The funny thing is, they’re the same apps I use when we’re in production, because all the same things that make it impossible to swim also make it impossible to shoot.
19. Garmin Swim Watch & App. I know this isn’t for everyone. Some people just want to be in nature and let go of things like keeping track of time and distance when they swim. For me, the stats are part of it. The slightly comical thing is that the map, distance, and time are almost exactly the same every day, down to the strokes per minute. So why do I need an app? Because for me, routine is essential.
Editorial note: This piece was written by Juliane based on conversations and interviews she did with the artist.