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Back to Where It All Began for Me

Lake Moraine: not a grand lake, but I felt grand after my swim there. (Photo taken post-shower on our way out of town.)

When women we meet at races or on our Facebook page mention their “runiversary” (the anniversary of their first run), I get a little envious. I’m a big record keeper, but I don’t remember the first time I ran for exercise. I’m pretty sure I was a junior or senior in high school, but I can’t say with certainty. While I don’t have a date to celebrate, I do have a location with great sentimental value to me.

My personal ground zero, the place where I became an athlete, is Lake Moraine, a small, manmade body of water in central New York. Three slightly uphill miles from my (and Dimity’s) alma mater of Colgate University, Lake Moraine is where the Colgate rowing team practices. The run out to Lake Moraine wasn’t my first, as I’ve said, but it was the first recurring run that sticks out in my mind. I signed up to row as a freshman more out of boredom than athletic drive (and lust--the captain of the men’s team was a hottie!) so the run out to the lake was tough for me. But running there, then learning how to row, ate up a good chunk of those otherwise-dull autumn afternoons—and the guys and gals on the team quickly became my closest friends. Lake Moraine quickly became the epicenter of my college experience.

So when Jack and I spent a night at Colgate two weeks ago, I was drawn to the lake. I love few things more than open-water lake swimming—it’s my ideal mix of liberating and slightly daring. With Jack soundly asleep in our hotel room, I drove our rental minivan out to the far end of the lake. I had been looking forward to this swim ever since I dreamt it up a few days prior, but standing on the shore, I felt gun shy. Other than a canoe with three boaters about 200 feet away, the lake was deserted at 8:15 that Sunday morning. But I knew the remorse I’d feel if I bailed would be greater than the trepidation I was currently feeling, so I tucked my hair under my swim cap, licked my goggles, and started walking down the boat ramp. The water was surprisingly warm. I took a calming breath, then my first stroke. I immediately felt at ease yet energized.

Left, right, left, right, breathe. As I crawled straight out away from shore, rowing memories flooded my mind. Mental movies of following Patty, Jill, Lisa, and Lindsey, experienced, upperclass rowers, in an attempt to learn proper technique. Of crazy Coach Phil yelling at me to get my shoulders down from up around my ears. Of breaking ice with our bare feet as we carried our boat into the water for a “spring” practice. Of heavy rain making the wooden oar handles slick and callous-making as we practiced for sprint races. For a moment I thought how foolhardy it was to be swimming with no one watching me and Jack nowhere near, but I felt strong and confident, filled with memories of my athletic birth.

Wanting to end the swim on a high note, rather than exhausted and panicky, I turned around after 15 minutes and made my way back to shore. The sun felt warm on my dripping body as I pulled off my cap and goggles, and I radiated pride. As the cherry on top of this athletic sundae, I changed into my running clothes in the van, then ran the 4-mile loop around the lake. I might have harder workouts this summer, but even as they were playing out, I knew this swim and run were going to be my best session of the season.

26 responses to “Back to Where It All Began for Me

  1. I know I’m late to the party, and maybe someone’s already asked this…. but what did you do AFTER the run, Sarah? ; )

  2. Go ‘gate – Class of ’86.

    I did not make my reunion this years so thanks for providing me a few minutes to have my own Lake Moraine memory moments. There are certain experiences that stick clearly with you. A fantastic late spring / pre finals day with several firmly bonded new freshman year friends comes to mind. We spent the whole day at Lake Moraine having a private and unauthorized picnic and swim. Topped it off with a drive UP the steep walkway between the old student union and the hill.

    Good times.

  3. Your swim sounded lovely, Sarah! I did my first triathlon in May and I was terrified of the swim, despite being a competitive swimmer in high school and college. It was the “open water” part that I was afraid of. But the day of the race, the moment I put my face in the water everything felt so peaceful. Reading this brought me back to that morning. I’ll never forget it.

  4. Just beautiful…as a runner, rower, and swimmer, I’m with you all the way….and now working on that last part of the morning….just got to kick the last kid out of the bedroom to make it happen more often!! LOL! My runanniversary would be the running laps around the outdoor pool in my hometown that we’d run on the colder mornings before diving into 65 degree water for 5000 yds. 🙂

    1. BRRRRRR, that must have been BRUTAL, Kerry. Fun to know there’s another runner/rower/swimmer out there. (Dim is one, too. MUCH better rower and swimmer than I could ever dream of being.)

  5. Very nice, thanks for sharing.

    I am envious of those who *can’t* remember their runiversary, I feel like such a newbie.

  6. Lovely. I am hoping to go back for a run in my NJ hometown next year. Won’t be as delicious-sounding as this swim/run brick, but it will bring back memories for sure. And this is just a guess, but… I think I know what happened when you got back to the hotel room 😉

    1. Good memory, Alison. Let’s just say the, ahem, juices were flowing. (For the sake of my beloved co-author, I didn’t rehash THAT part of the morning’s workout…) hee, hee

  7. This was lovely to read this morning in my quiet house of sleeping kids. I have not read many blogs lately but I’m always grateful for good writing when I do read them. I loved this…the image of you licking your goggles (such a must for me before swimming), and the line : “but I felt strong and confident, filled with memories of my athletic birth.” Thanks for sharing this memory and for writing it in a way that made me feel like I was there. Makes me want to go swim in a lake!

    1. Thanks, Amanda. Co-authoring the book with Dim has made me such a better “scene-setter.” We aim to be evocative, and she helps make my writing more so.

  8. That sounds wonderful! I love trips down memory lane. My running ground zero is a rails-to-trails path called the MKT in my hometown in Missouri. I pounded out so many 2 mile runs there with my dad, starting at age 12. I had a clunky tape-playing Sony Walkman and would play Paul Simon’s Graceland album. The buttons on the Walkman would slip under my sweaty fingers. To this day, whenever I hear “You Can Call Me Al” I want to run. Similarly, damp air and the mossy smell of a Midwestern creek makes me think of those days.

    1. Great memories, Terzah. I think one day we all need to go on a run with our original Sonys–radio ones, tape player ones, and Dim has a Discman.

      1. Discman… I remember 10 mile runs in high school with my Discman. It could never quite handle the running, and it would skip and jolt through my CD for the whole 10 miles. What a far cry from the shoe-mounted, satellite-connected, iPod doc-a-ma-bobbers we have now.

      2. I’d run with my Sony if I could keep it to the two miles I used to do back then! You were badass even before you were a mother runner if you ran 10 with a skippy Discman. :^)

  9. Love this! I was a coxie in high school, my first taste of team sports. Your recollection of rowing brought back a flood of memories for me. However, the ‘lake’ we rowed in is quite filthy and it was a test to never get ‘dumped’ in there. The things they found in there would never draw me back for a swim down memory lane.

  10. I totally know the feeling. That is how I feel just stepping inside the Northern Arizona University Skydome ( the indoor football stadium of my alma mater.) Spending more hours working out there for cheer practice , although a debatably sport, than my own dorm room were by far the most impacting years of my life. Lake Moraine looks idyllic !

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