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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Queen

A propos of nothing, I happened to turn on the telly last night and got sucked into the annual Kennedy Center Honors.  I always enjoy the tributes, but I wasn't prepared for Aretha Franklin to blow the roof off the house with her rendition of this Carol King classic:



 As my brother put it, she could rock that mink at a PETA rally and still get a standing ovation.

It has nothing to do with the water, but - to some extent - this blog is about channeling inner strength, finding my voice and authenticity, and the Queen of Soul is my inspiration as 2015 draws to a close and 2016 brings a milestone birthday for me.  I listened to this 5 times this morning and then sang along to RESPECT as I did some work.  Silver lining -- my singing kept the cat clear of the computer keyboard...

Health and happiness (and hopefully some new aquatic antics) in 2016!

- MM


Sunday, November 15, 2015

And One Time, At Mermaid Camp...

So, I have really been neglecting the blog.  The day job has been requiring a lot of time and mental energy this year.  Working on some fun stuff but putting in a lot of hours.  I REALLY need to clean my house today (edging toward a cameo on "Hoarders" at this point), in preparation for my Thanksgiving Prequel party next weekend.  Perfect opportunity to procrastinate and do a little blogging.

Mermaid Camp!!

In early October, I finally made it to mermaid mecca -- Sirens of the Deep Camp at Weeki Wachee Springs in Florida.  I almost didn't get there -- Hurricane Joaquin was threatening the east coast and there was a nor'easter the day I was scheduled to fly down to Tampa.  Everything worked out and I had a really fun weekend.

Weeki Wachee Springs is a state park in Florida, about an hour north of Tampa.  "Weeki Wachee" means "little spring" or "winding river" in Seminole.  We swam in a spring that goes into the Weeki Wachee river, which eventually flows out to the Gulf of Mexico.  The water was a chilly 74 degrees, and we shared the spring with some fish and turtles, as well as the professional performers who swim in shows several times daily.  In cooler weather, there are manatees (sadly, we didn't see any during our camp weekend).

The park was started in 1947 by Newton Perry, a former Navy diver, who developed a method of breathing underwater using an air hose. Perry built the original underwater theater and the park was a popular tourist destination in the 1950s.  The park was purchased by American Broadcasting Company, in 1959.  ABC build a 500-seat theater, embedded in the side of the spring, 16 feet below the surface (ABC no longer owns the park).  During its heyday, the Weeki Wachee mermaids were local celebrities -- our teachers told us amazing stories of their days as performers.  Mermaid Vicky (now in her 70s and looking amazing) even performed with Elvis at one point.

Weeki Wachee offers the adult camp several weekends per year.  Our teachers were the "Legends" -- former professional mermaids who volunteer to teach the camp.  They were fabulous and definitely made me want to keep swimming (they were all in GREAT shape).

We assembled for the camp on a cool Saturday morning in October.  There were 8 campers from across the country -- a nurse from Oregon, a NASA engineer, two fabulous sisters from Georgia on a girls weekend with a friend (they even had official mermaid names), an aquarium diver, a veterinary tech, and me (lawyer by day, mermaid at heart).  A great group of women.  We put on our tails when we first arrived, and posed for some photos.  Putting on the tail is difficult.  There are fins wedged into the bottom, and the tails are basically like giant Spanx.  You kind of pull them up from the ankles like panty hose.  Once you're in, you can either shuffle like Morticia Adams or hop around.

Here I am, in all my mermaid glory (breaking the Internet):



Here are a couple of group photos of the campers and our teachers.


This is our "graduation" photo with the "Legendary Sirens of the Deep"

The spring is pretty chilly (74 degrees) and there are professional mermaid shows every hour during the day, so we would go in for approximately 30-45 minutes at a time.  We did a preliminary swim without the tails, to get our bearing.  The "stage" and theater are about 15 feet down.  There are speakers underwater, so when the performers were practicing beneath us, we'd dive down and catch random stage instructions -- at one point I dipped under water and heard someone shouting "kiss the prince."  Too funny.

Here I am, learning some mermaid moves.  


No photos
Diving
More diving...

Doing the "mermaid crawl" is kind of hard -- requires core strength.  It's basically like trying to swim with your legs tied together.  It was a great workout.  My one big mistake was not bringing nose clips ... I kept getting water up my nose which made it a little challenging to dive and pose under water.

Once we got the hang of swimming in the spring, we put on our tails.  Here is one of the only photos of me actually wearing the tail in the water.  My teacher, Mermaid Rita, basically dragged me out to the middle of the spring by my fins.  Our great mermaid camp photographer, Andrew Brusso, perched on the roof of the theater to take the overhead shots.



So, my attempt to swim in the tail was fairly disastrous.  After these photos, I managed to flip over, get tangled up in my fins, twist my knee (in a bad way), and inhale a ton of water.  I grabbed onto a floatation device, gave it one more try and then ditched the tail for the rest of the weekend.  Most of the other campers were more successful.  I still had a lot of fun.

In addition to swimming in a tail, I mastered the art of posing for underwater photos without looking like a chipmunk, by the end of the weekend.









We learned some formations (or attempted to):  

Organized chaos
Demonstration by our teachers
I think this one was called the "flower" -- it was like being in an Esther Williams film

We watched a couple of professional shows (here are some of the current performers):

video 

Here are three of our teachers showing us their moves:

video

And here is Mermaid Susie drinking a Coke under water.

video

I am really glad I went to the camp.  I got to hang out with a lovely and interesting group of women, I learned a lot about the park from our fabulous teachers, I got to see the secrets of how the mermaid shows are produced, and I got some great exercise.  So I met one of my goals for the year.  I also decided I don't really want to do an open water swim at this point (I got a little panicky, even swimming around in the spring) but I am going to sign up for synchronized swimming class after the new year.  I forgot how much I enjoy swimming, and the underwater ballet moves are a great workout.

Weeki Wachee offers adult camps approximately nine weekends per year.  You can get additional information here.  You need to watch their site and Facebook page in early January.  The camp sells out really fast (I was too late to sign up last year).

- MM

Sunday, August 2, 2015

The Mermaid Resurfaces

I've been on a slight hiatus from the blog ... mainly due to the demands of my day job (all good, just super busy).  I'll be back soon with some great information from the AEA conference in May and in preparation for my upcoming trip to Mermaid Camp.  My knees have been behaving (thankfully).

I am enjoying my summer -- here I am sampling the official beverage of Metropolitan Mermaid during a trip to Coney Island with London friends.  Nice of the city to name an avenue after me :-).







-MM

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Little Mermaid

Sorry to have been a bit MIA.  The freezing winter was a little much for the Mermaid this year, but spring has sprung.  I have some new activities coming up, including a trip to the upcoming International Aquatic Fitness Conference (IAFC 2015) in May, where I look forward to meeting aqua fitness experts from around the world.

In the meantime, I am happy to report my good influence on the White Rabbit's daughter (the Pink Rabbit) -- who is following in the fins of her Auntie Metro Mermaid!



She is rocking that tail!

Happy Easter and Passover!

-MM

Monday, February 2, 2015

Guest Mermaid -- Jackie Blue (Part 2)



Thanks to Jackie Blue for her guest mermaid posts. This week, in Part 2 of our virtual interview, Jackie shares some practical advice for open water swimmers.

I know that you had thought about doing a marathon and instead decided to focus on swimming.  What is your training routine to prepare for a 1 mile swim (how much time does it take to prepare)?  


I didn’t really “train” much to do my first one mile race. I was already swimming fairly regularly in the pool, for at least 30 minutes at a time, and I nearly hit a mile in that 30. So even though open water is harder, I didn’t feel like it took that much more effort. I did train more for my first 5K, since I don’t often get that much pool time (my gym limits time if there’s a wait) - so that meant putting in some 2-3 mile swims on the weekends at the beach.


What kind of cross training do you need to do?  What is the time commitment?

Honestly, I didn’t really cross train. I stopped running last May to focus on swimming, and although I should add a weight routine, I haven’t found time yet. Time commitment for a one miler wasn’t much - about 3-4 hours a week perhaps.

What advice would you give to someone who is a good swimmer but has little experience with open water swimming — what is the best way to start, and what are the critical things to do (i.e., how do you learn how to orient yourself, etc.)?

First off, find someone to swim with. I don’t recommend that someone who hasn’t done open water go out alone. Start close to shore - if you’re at a beach with jetties, like Coney Island, do laps between jetties before venturing out further and doing distance.


Sighting is VERY important out there - to make sure you aren’t heading too far out, to avoid hitting jetties, and to keep boats and jet skis in your vision. I recommend using landmarks - like a particular building, to keep in your sight and make sure you’re heading the right direction. Learn to look up without lifting your head out of water, assuming you’re doing freestyle stroke. It’s usually just a glance up in the direction of your landmark. Also - practice bilateral breathing. I’m still terrible at that - but you want to be able to breathe on either side to avoid waves crashing into your face.


Do you have any recommendations for resources in the NY area (swim groups, good races/swims for beginners, equipment/good places to buy equipment, nice pools to train in)?

There are many good resources around NYC for swimmers - a lot of Masters teams where you can get really good coaching and team workouts - I plan to join a Masters team in January. It’s going to take my pool swimming to the next level. I haven’t found a great pool in Manhattan yet. Asphalt Green is probably the best, but it’s expensive and not at all convenient to where I live.


For open water swimmers - there is CIBBOWS, which I have already mentioned - and NYC Swim holds a lot of swim races - unfortunately they are cutting down on all the short distance swims and focusing mainly on marathon distance swims.

A great race for beginners is Grimaldo’s Mile - it’s short (just a mile) and a lot of fun. That’s a CIBBOWS race.


I buy most of my swim gear online - swimoutlet.com is my favorite - but there’s a good shop near me (Leisure Pro, on 18th St.) that has a lot of gear. Paragon Sports is good for swimsuits and goggles.


What events have you done this year or plan to do next?

This past October I traveled to Bermuda with several CIBBOWS friends to swim the 24th Annual Round The Sound swim. It’s varied distances from 0.8K to 10K - I was going to do the 4K - but for the first time ever the race was CANCELLED because we had a hurricane that day! It was a huge bummer, but I did learn that nothing keeps swimmers down - we swam in the bay by our hotel in the midst of 50mph winds. Crazy? Yes. Tons of fun? Definitely. It’s an experience I won’t forget - and yes, I do plan to return to Bermuda this year to try again. This time I might go for the 10K!


In January I will do my first indoor event - a Masters swim - called the One Hour Postal Swim. Basically you swim for an hour and see how far you can go. The results are compared nationally with other Masters swimmers.


The one shorter distance NYC Swim is keeping is called the Little Red Lighthouse swim which is a 10K in the Hudson - I plan to do that in 2015. Looks like I have some training ahead of me!


Thanks, Jackie!

- MM

Monday, January 26, 2015

Snowpocalypse 2015

Gearing up for the first major storm of the season in NYC - no swimming for me today.  Instead I'm channeling my Winnipeg roots ....


Arctic Mermaid
.... and my inner Elsa!

Stay warm!

-MM

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Guest Mermaid: Jackie Blue Swims in Open Water (Part 1)

One of my goals this year is to complete an open water swim.  I have a ways to go, but luckily I have lots of people to turn to for advice, including my aqua fitness coaches and friends who have completed triathlons.

In trying to figure out where to start, I turned to my friend "Jackie Blue."  Jackie is a graphic designer, foodie and nascent guitar impresario.  She is also a lifelong swimmer and completed several open water swims in 2014.   In addition, she is my inaugural guest mermaid.  We sat down for a virtual interview.  Here is Part 1.

When did you first start swimming?  

I can’t remember when I first got in the water.  It was probably as an infant with my parents, but I was certainly playing the pool when I was as young as 2 or 3.  The building I grew up in in Coney Island has an Olympic sized pool, but also a kiddie pool that is no more than 2 feet deep. I was always in the water in summer.

When did you decide to start doing open water distance swims/races?

I didn't decide to be a serious open water swimmer until I started doing some races last year, actually. I swam out in the ocean at Coney every weekend for a very long time, but it was short distances, and only recreationally. Sometime a couple of years ago, I realized I wanted to pursue this as a sport, and looked into open water groups.

How often do you swim (in the pool and the ocean)?  

Life has been a bit hectic lately, and I am lucky if I get to swim more than once a week.  I went 3 times last week and it was fabulous.  In the summer I usually swim both Saturday and Sunday in open water, and at least one pool evening during the week.  I hope to up that in 2015.

Do you swim year round?

I do swim year round. It used to be I stopped going to the beach on Labor Day - no more lifeguards, the beach officially closed, and the Parks department used to kick people out of the water off season. A couple of years ago I joined a gym with a pool so I could continue swimming in the “off season.” Now, as a member of CIBBOWS, I know there really isn’t an off season.  These people swim in the winter all the time.

Why do you love swimming?

I don’t know.  I’m not even a water sign.  I just grew up near the water, and it has always made me happy.  Also, I’m fairly good at it.  It feels effortless - something running never felt like.  That was work.

What is your favorite place in New York to swim?

Coney Island/Brighton Beach, of course! I love the ocean, it’s my happy place. When life is getting me down for whatever reason, I just have to get in that water, and I feel so much better.  My “home base” used to be Bay 9 in Coney - I now swim mostly at Bay 4 in Brighton because that’s where my peeps (CIBBOWS) call home.

Tell me a little more about the group you swim with -- the CIBBOWS.  What is the benefit of training with a group?

I wish I knew about the Coney Island Brighton Beach Open Water Swimmers ("CIBBOWS" -- www.cibbows.org) years ago.  I found out about them at the tail end of summer 2013, and vowed to join them the following year - which I did.  They are started out as just a small group of friends who would meet at the same lifeguard chair every weekend.  The lifeguard there at the time, whose name was Grimaldo, was very instrumental in getting the other lifeguards to accept that there was this group of swimmers who swam past the jetties (it used to be prohibited) and would hold races there. Grimaldo unfortunately passed away a few years ago at a very young age - but the chair will always be “Grimaldo’s Chair” and there’s a race named in his honor.

It’s an amazing group of people. All ages - 20s to probably 70s. Many of the members are seasoned marathon swimmers who have done epic swims like the English Channel, Catalina Island, and the Manhattan Island Marathon Swim (MIMS) - those 3 make up the triple crown of marathon swimming. Some people are relative beginners to open water. The benefits are comradery, and tons of inspiration. It isn’t really an organized training group - although members do get the benefit of some organized training workshops - mostly it’s a “meet on the beach and jump in” kind of thing. You can swim alone and come back and hang with the group, or you tend to bond to a few people who swim your speed and then you go out together. There’s always someone to watch your stuff, and to push you to go farther.


For you, what is the best thing about open water swimming?  What is the worst?

The best thing is the feeling of freedom, like it’s just you and nature and you can accomplish anything. It’s serenity. The worst? Maybe it’s the various sea life that can wreak havoc on your swimming. It’s their ocean, we are just borrowing it, but it’s still no fun being stung by jellyfish or various sea lice type critters. I spent a good portion of last summer being VERY itchy.


In Part 2 (coming up next week), Jackie Blue offers some practical advice for open water swimming.


-MM

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Workin' the Pole

The holidays have flown by.  This has not been my favorite year, between a tidal wave of year-end work (thankfully completed, with a day to spare) and Christmas week emergency root canal (thankfully now finished but it lived up to its reputation - bleh).  I feel better, the work's done and I finally have a little time off to catch up with friends and family.  I've fallen off the nutrition/exercise wagon a little.  I guess it's good to remember that I'm not perfect.  I will get back to better habits after New Year's Day - I think I've earned a cocktail or three this week.  I'm working on a post on open water swimming, but in the meantime I came across a couple of fun aqua tidbits.

Aqua Pole

I have been fairly obsessed with the Acqua Pole, since I first heard about it.  I confess that I've been fascinated by pole dancing since watching the Sopranos.  Yes pole dancing is kinda (very) exploitative, but it seems like a great workout.  Several gyms in NYC offer classes, but I would never have the nerve to try it on dry land.  The water is another story.

An Italian company developed the Acqua Pole but it hasn't been available in the US until recently.  So I was really amused when I came across this video from USA Today, of all publications, promoting aqua pole dancing as exercise for seniors ("you want me to do WHAT?").  


Right now, aqua pole classes are only available in two locations in the US:

Hopefully it will catch on -- it looks like a really fun workout.

S'WET

I've blogged about the fabulous Jenni Lynn's S'WET class (see The Mermaid S'Wets with the Boys (December 2013).  Jenni has had a great year, growing her fitness empire and getting engaged to her lovely boyfriend along the way.  She updated her website with an online booking system for her S'WET classes, which are held at a great pool on East 86th Street in Manhattan.  Her class is one of the few I've taken that has a lot of male students, and Jenni has even written an article on motivating men to get interested in aquatics.  She put together a really fun video of the S'WET experience, which is available below and on her Facebook page, S'WET by Jenni Lynn Fitness.

Happy New Year!  I'll be back with more adventures in 2015.

-MM







Thursday, December 11, 2014

Giving Thanks and Resolutions

The holiday season is flying by.  December is my busiest month at work -- I have been getting to the pool at least a couple of times a week, but have been neglecting the blog.  Mea culpa.

Thanksgiving(s)

I hosted my annual pre-Thanksgiving "prequel" for my friends the weekend before actual Thanksgiving.  I have it down to a science at this point.  The food was ready, my apartment was clean (ish) and I had a full 30 minutes to put my feet up before the mob descended.

We had quite a feast.


I remained relatively calm amidst the chaos.



The Angel (who normally makes the Mac and Cheese) had temporarily fled the country.  My friend Ah Q stepped into the breach to make the Mac and Cheese and got a rave review.


video

I was especially chuffed that my friend Magnolia came in from London and my friend Hulu brought her family up from Virginia for the party.  Everyone had fun.

I seemed to have used up my culinary good karma on the Thanksgiving prequel.  My attempt to make a bourbon pumpkin pecan pie for my family's Thanksgiving was uncharacteristically disastrous.  I used an untried recipe and managed to blow out the motor on my food processor on my first attempt at the pie crust (and the actual crust fell apart when I tried to roll it out -- the proportions were out of whack).  I almost caved and considered pulling the Pillsbury crust out of the freezer, but I was determined.  I consulted my baking go-tos (Rose Levy Bernbaum, Dorie Greenspan and the Barefoot Contessa).  My second attempt blew out the food processor again (I bought a new one on Cyber Monday) but the crust held together.  By this point it was fairly late on Thanksgiving Eve and I was covered with flour and somewhat rattled, so I abandoned the pie and cracked open the bourbon -- a smart call.  I made the pie the next morning -- not my best effort but my family enjoyed it.  The filling was tasty - bourbon is a nice accent to pumpkin.

I am thankful for good friends, my family (2-legged and 4-legged), good food, and my health.  I hope you all have many reasons to be thankful.

Resolutions

So, a few of my friends are swimmers/triathletes, and we had a good discussion about open water swimming after the crowd thinned out at the prequel.  My friend Jackie Blue has done a number of open water swims this year, and I'm going to interview her for an upcoming blog post - she had lots of helpful information.  I decided to get a head start on my mermaid-related resolutions for 2015, as follows:
  • Train for and complete an open water swim next summer (my knee has been behaving so I am determined to do a one-mile swim);
  • Start training to become a certified aqua fitness instructor -- I want to have a little more information for the blog and I might actually do some part time teaching.  The training involves courses and an exam, so it will take a little time; and 
  • Go to mermaid camp at Weeki Wachee in Florida.

Mermaid school is apparently becoming quite trendy.  In addition to Weeki Wachee, there are apparently programs in the Philippines, and Germany (as reported by NBC News):





Who knew?  Perhaps I'm onto a trend.


-MM