Thursday, August 24, 2006

Breaking News: I still suck at swimming [PLUS A CHANCE FOR DO-GOODERY AT THE END]

We interrupt your irregularly, long-delayed, unscheduled updates with this breaking news bulletin.

Travel- and erstwhile running-blogger, Naomi, has returned to the pool. After three separate visits, the conclusion appears incontrovertible: Naomi swims like a drowning pigeon. Witnesses report snickering, pointing, and a collective shaking of heads.

It’s true, my friends. You might think that months and months of *not* swimming, except for sporadic bouts of sea-bathing and flouncing around tiny pools, would be a recipe for miraculous improvement. But you’d be wrong.

The cleverer among you will have been following Rose’s blog, and therefore will already be aware that she has taken an endurance challenge: she is going to swim in a 5 km race between mainland Dakar and nearby Goree Island.

In support of this goal, and because I still harbor dreams of triathlete goddesshood, I decided to join in the training. I never doubted my complete inability to swim the 5 km race. But I thought it’d be a good excuse to break out my Serious Person Swimsuit again, and see what I could do.

On the plus side, the floating issue seems to have been resolved. I have conveniently lost significant muscle density, rendering myself pleasantly buoyant. I’m trying to be happy about the benefits to swimming and the fact that I had muscle density to lose. It’s not working.

On the downside, just because my body is able to float placidly along the surface of the pool doesn’t mean I can’t fuck it up with my flailing. And so, chubbily and floatily, I still bounce up and down through the water in a picture of ineffectual movement.

There’s actually a fairly simple solution. I can either stop breathing or use a snorkel mask. Because my stroke is getting pretty good, and I can stay level and move forward pretty well, as long as I don’t mess it up by trying to take in extra O2.

I know it should be totally natural to turn my head into my shoulder with my stroke, gulp in a bit of air, and continue onward. But I always want to pick my head up too high or try to crane my neck forward, in which case my whole body sinks, and I have to wait to float back up. Or else water gets in my nose or my ear or I forget to actually BREATHE in or who knows what, and all of a sudden I’m gulping for air and treading water in the middle of the pool.

I’m damn stubborn, though, and so I’m not giving up. Swimming a half kilometer three times a week (as I did this week) feels fairly impressive. And against all evidence, I think I’m making progress. Plus my arms are pleasantly sore, so I feel like that can only mean good things.

And as long as we’re talking Project: Get Back in Shape, let’s not forget to mention that in addition to swimming three times, I’ve been running, and had dance class twice. Goal: run twice more before the end of the week. Who’s with me?



I have this idea. And I’m hoping all you running bloggers can help me.

I haven’t talked much about the fitness scene in Dakar, but it’s pretty cool. Every afternoon, you see scores of people running along the sides of the road and doing push-ups and running (bizarrely tiny) laps on the beach. There are amateur volleyball leagues and impromptu soccer matches, and all manner of “entrainement.” It’s mostly boys, but there are women out there as well, and that’s extra cool.

I think it’s great. I especially like how many people run. I even kind of, secretly, despite myself, enjoy how when I’m running, all the boys shout “courage!” and “allez!”

But here’s what kills me. Almost none of the runners have proper running shoes. They run in these horrific, cheap, plastic sandals. These jellies are such the standard for athletic shoes that when I was away in a village last week and hadn’t brought my running shoes, my friends immediately offered to go with me to find myself my own pair of plastic knee pain for $2.75.

And thus, finally, my idea. Runners in the states go through A LOT of shoes. We put them through a lot, and expect a lot out of them. But after 500 or 700 or even 1000 miles, when we retire those shoes… What do you do with yours? Mine sat in my closet for months (including a pair that had less than 200 miles on them, because they had never been comfortable for me). I couldn’t bear to throw them out, because they were still practically brand new. But I couldn’t use them for running anymore either—they hurt my knees. Eventually, when I cleaned out my closet to move here, they were stuck in the bag and dropped off at the charity bin.

So okay, they’re no longer optimal running-support machines. But better than plastic jellies? I think yes. And I know a lot of people who would leap at the chance to trade in their jellies for some second hand Asics.

This is where you all come in. If you’re like me, and you have some shoes you’re not using anymore, would you consider donating them? Anyone who is interested can email me for a mailing address in NY. Then, when I come back to the States next month for a visit, I’ll collect any and all shoes, and bring them back here.

Crazy? Or so crazy it just might work?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I enjoy the idea that do-goodery might result from the visit we're inflicting on you.

Know any Senegalese with fat feet? I know someone with several pairs of lightly used (while Buffening) sneakers, but they're 4Es...

yer sister

7:34 AM  
Blogger a.maria said...

awesome idea, it'll totally work, i'll put the word out.

you rock, and damn i miss the regularity of your blog!!! :)

10:28 PM  
Blogger Irene said...

It is an awesome idea! I'll post the link to this blog post on my blog, just to see if you can get more response. It occured to me that you could TRY and contact a larger running/athletic shoe store just to see if, perhaps, they could help you out. Good luck with this!

7:26 PM  
Blogger Jessica Deline said...

This could be an awesome program. Great idea! Count me in. jess_at_lpld_dot_com

8:49 PM  
Blogger Simlin said...

"Recycled Runners" is very active in Australia...see link:

This might be able to give you some help or advice

6:52 PM  
Blogger Cassie (TIGGS) said...

awesome idea N, I've got several pairs of girls and guys shoes to headed your way.....

6:59 PM  
Blogger Bex said...

Most excellent idea. I have at least two pairs of running shoes - one pair that's BRAND NEW (they fit my feet poorly) - to give. An email is coming your way.

1:26 AM  
Blogger Noames said...

Simlin--thanks for the link. What a cool organization!

And thanks to everyone else who's been sending me emails about donating. But I need some more boys to send shoes! So spread the word.

5:12 AM  
Anonymous Running Blog Webring said...

Your shoe donation idea is a great one. There are several groups that already collect shoes and donate them to worthy causes. I generally bring all of my old shoes to The Running Room - they donate them to homeless shelters. I know other groups send them to runners in Africa. Your idea is terrific for helping out your area. :)

2:43 AM  

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