Ithaca Tri Club Canoe Clinic

It is almost time to get into the lake and practice swimming! Last summer when I freaked out during the CLT swim for hopefully the last time, I made a promise to myself to work on my swimming once and for all.

After a full year of pool lessons with Master Total Immersion coach Shane Eversfield, I am ready to make good on my 2nd promise; to actually practice in the lake!

The Ithaca Triathlon Club offers evening swims on Monday and Thursday evenings. Their only requirement; you must take the Canoe Clinic. This clinic gives participants basic canoe safety knowledge and teaches you how to steer the boat, save a swimmer, right a flipped canoe and more.

A couple of days before the clinic I read the ITC Canoe Safety Clinic they sent us. There would be a quiz! Scott and I studied it together the day of the clinic but still I figured I’d learn more when I got there. There were a couple of things I wasn’t quite sure about. I spent a lot of time canoeing in my childhood, but never steered the boat and honestly didn’t pay much attention to safety. My best canoe memory was a weekend camping trip with my father. It thundered and poured and we had to canoe across a very choppy lake in a storm to get home. He lost his hat, we wore garbage bags over our bodies, and our canoe did not capsize!

The Wetsuit


The lake is 52 degrees right now, so wetsuits were recommended. Luckily I have my wetsuit that I got from friend and fellow 2014 FLRTC Ambassador, Allie Taisley. I haven’t put the wetsuit on since I tried it on, and I was nervous about this. About 10 minutes before heading out, I started putting it on. I was out of breath and worn out by the time it was fully zipped. Scott laughed saying, “Why don’t you just put it on there? You are going to burn up!” Well, burn up I did, but I didn’t have to have any witnesses to me struggling with the suit either.

Quiz & Drills


We arrived and took our quiz, chatted about wetsuits, lube and temperature and other swim things. I heard at least one person say that he had taken Shane’s class when asked if he was a swimmer. I couldn’t help thinking that it is like a badge of honor to have taken his class. He has a great following! Pretty soon it was down to business.

The instructors (Francesca & Kent) are members of ITC and they generously offer their instruction and their house as the location. Amelia Frye, head of the ITC led the event, and Francesca & Kent demonstrated the basic strokes and explained the drills. Spouses should not be in the same boat! Fighting could occur. Scott and I got in the same boat anyway; we never fight. My friend Anne and her friend Katie (the amazing level 3 swimmer I blogged about when I was in level 1) hopped into a canoe together. Steve Ryan (my kids’ ski coach when they were little) and his friend were in a boat near us. All in all there were 10 or 12 of us. Everyone was friendly and it was fun.

Ann & Katie

We started our drills. First we were to sit in our canoe for 2 minutes without paddling and observe where we drifted. Then, we were to pick a spot that we’d like to stay for 2 minutes and paddle as needed to remain there. After this, we picked a spot across the lake and paddled for 4 minutes, turned the boat around and headed back. All these drills required the person in the back of the boat to steer. I opted to take this spot first, and I did ok with it. Scott has a lot more canoe experience than I do, and he did some coaching. I was grateful for his guidance and couldn’t help thinking, “Wow I’m lucky that I’m in a canoe with Scott because anyone else is going to think I’m a complete moron.”

Scott in his rented wetsuit from Finger Lakes Running & Triathlon Company

We switched positions and then repeated the entire sequence before taking turns jumping out of the canoe and getting back in, before finishing by “rescuing” our bucket of water that we threw overboard.

Two brave souls demonstrated how to right a capsized canoe. They had to actually swim and be in the freezing water longer than a minute. We were grateful to them for volunteering!

What’s Next

Lake swims!! They don’t have a set start date but will begin when the water is 64 degrees. There is a 1 hour cut off for the 1.2 mile swim across the lake (or up the shore). As someone who still struggles with a .5 mile swim, 1.2 miles with a 1 hour cut-off sounds daunting. I am heading to the pool this weekend to get a 1 mile baseline swim in!!





  1. Oooh I love it when I make the blog! Love the write-up, and great seeing you both. Too bad canoeing is kind of solitary. 🙂 I will be scared and cold right there with you this summer.

  2. It was great to see you too! And I was surprised to figure out that the canoeing part could be just as challenging as the swim part for me!! Yikes. That means these evenings will be hard – so glad you are going to be there too.

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