Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Movie Review: On a Clear Day - by Rachel Wagner



In the world of sports movies the majority feature either baseball, football or basketball.  Occasionally you will have a hockey movie or a random track and field theme but rare is the film that features swimming, and even more rare is open water swimming.

There is however a real hidden gem that you should all check out. On a Clear Day (not the closely titled Barbara Streisand musical) is a 2005 Scotish film starring Peter Mullan, Brenda Blethyn and Sean McGinley. 

Mullan plays a man named Frank Redmond who loses his job as a shipbuilder along with several of his friends.  This causes him to become very depressed and he begins to dwell on the drowning death years earlier of one of his sons.  His wife and him are close but they both have their secrets.  His remaining son is a stay at home Dad who feels a lot of guilt about his brother.

Frank has a panic attack and decides to use his time at the gym to start training to swim the English Channel. He enlists his friends to help him train and it becomes a group adventure and a chance for Frank to deal with the drowning of his son.

I was looking at the reviews and it is certified fresh on rotten tomatoes at 67% which is ok but I would give it a much higher grade.  Most of the critiques is that it is sentimental.  Well, as someone who has set open water goals there is something inherently a bit sentimental about the journey.  It’s crossing a body of water for goodness sakes.  How can that not be sentimental?   If you read my blog posts after a race I talk about God and prayer and overcoming challenges in every one so it is part of the experience if you ask me.

I think for us in the open water community On a Clear Day is a huge win.  First of all, they get so many of the small details right.  Everything from the rules of the swim, cost of the boat, the way the food is given and getting greased up for a swim.  I appreciated that and it looked like Mullan’s is really swimming and sighting as he swims. 

I also loved the group feel to Frank’s project.  It’s not just his victory but his entire group of friends who all gain confidence from his success. I thought all of the group felt genuine and had enough of a unique personality to feel like they could be real people not just a sports movie trope.  As hopefully any SLOW member can attest the group element to open water swimming is crucial (and one of the best parts) and I thought they got that just right.

I also loved the deeper meaning of the loss of his son and how he finally was able to get some healing through being in the water.  I relate to that.  I had a terrible year in 2012 and there were many days when I would dive in the water and cry while I swam and something about the water brought me peace.

It also is a very realistic depiction of a marriage that has gotten a bit lazy but still has love and the complicated relationship that still often exists between adult children and their parents.  All of that was just right.  Brenda Blethyn is so good as his wife.  She is a woman with small dreams like passing a bus driving test but in her own way it is as great a challenge as swimming the English Channel.

In many ways On a Clear Day is like the recent wonderful sports movie McFarland USA.  They both take sports that are perhaps not the most movie friendly (open water swimming and cross country respectively) and use it as a canvas to talk about people, life and a community.  Both are movies that are great for watching on a Sunday afternoon when you want to be inspired and feel good about the world.  Nothing wrong with that!

Overall On a Clear Day is an immensely satisfying film especially for those of us that have embraced open water swimming.  I guarantee you will see pieces of your own swim story in Frank’s and perhaps it will help your loved one’s understand what is so great about the sport? Even if they hated swimming it is a heartwarming story about friendship, grief, marriage, dealing with depression, forgiveness and personal victories. I highly recommend it.

It unfortunately is not available on blu-ray but currently it is on DVD on Amazon.com for only $5.91!

Overall Grade A   


It is rated PG13 for some mild language and tense family scenes.

SLOW Swimmer Profile - Jill Wilson



Hello! I am Jill Wilson and I have lived in Salt Lake City for about 10 years now. I’m from Texas originally and have lived in Boston, Nashville and Memphis. In my first career I was a professional musician and played in the Memphis Symphony for 15 years. I moved to Salt Lake with my now-husband in 2005 and we got married on a ski run at Alta in the middle of a blizzard on April Fool’s day in 2006.  No foolin’! Currently, I work at the U of U in the Biochemistry department with the administrative staff team there.

My swimming career began when I was 3 years old at the Lee High School swimming pool in Midland, Texas. My dad set me down on the pool deck and told me not to move, so of course as soon as his back was turned I plopped right into the water. Every father’s nightmare! Not long after that, my sisters and I found ourselves enrolled in swimming lessons. That was back in the old days when they taught the S-pull and the frog kick. I’m sure none of you are old enough to remember that!

Having grown up mostly in East Texas where the lakes are murky and filled with snapping turtles and water moccasins, I didn’t know open-water swimming was a “thing” until after I started doing triathlons.  My first tri was the Women of Steel in 2011 (pool swim) and from that moment I was hooked! One little problem though: I am primarily a runner, but like many triathletes I was an abysmal swimmer.  Thus began my quest to improve as a swimmer.

Over the past couple of years I have done several open-water triathlons, including Daybreak, Echo and Jordanelle. In 2013 I graduated to Olympic distance events and did four of them! I’m contemplating a half-iron this summer, the one in Utah Lake. We’ll see if there is enough water there to swim in by August. Back in February I did my first swim meet ever, the QUAC meet. What a blast! I came in dead last in the 200 but beat the time goal I had set for myself, so I was happy. At the moment I am preparing for my third Boston Marathon on April 20, but that won’t really help my swimming much.

There have been several swimmers and coaches who have been instrumental in building my confidence and helping me improve. The folks in the Fairmont Masters team and coach Max Hunter come to mind, also Becky Black, Jamie Hubbard, and of course the wonderful and supportive members of SLOW. You are all my heroes! It’s interesting how sometimes a big breakthrough can come from a casual gesture or a comment from a fellow swimmer. My friend Cheryl from Fairmont Masters gave me her extra pair of fins. She didn’t need them anymore, but I have gotten so much use out of those things! I am finally starting to break the habit of allowing my legs to dangle down like jellyfish tentacles.

Utah is such a beautiful place to live and there are so many great swimming places to explore. I love swimming at Echo reservoir and Jordanelle.  Bountiful Pond is…well, it has some cool pelicans and it’s easy to get to from work or home. I would have to count my most memorable swim as the 2013 Echo Triathlon because it was the first time I was able to let the anxiety melt away and just enjoy the water. This summer I plan on swimming in the Great Salt Lake for the first time, so count on me being at the Spring Cleanup! 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Support Crew Appreciation Day is on Friday April 17th

Where would we be without the support of those who keep us safe during our swims?  This Friday, April 17th we would like to celebrate those who have kayaked for us, have crewed for us and been there to cheer us on when we really need it.  

Let's hear your stories, or tributes to those who have helped you along your way.  Either add a comment to this post, or write up your own post on your blog and add a link.

FRIDAY, April 17th - Support crew appreciation day!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Open Water Swimming = Adventure

I recently had the opportunity to be interviewed for a project at the American West Center at the University of Utah. The Great Salt Lake Oral History Project is seeking to document current experiences with the Great Salt Lake. In my interview with Becky Lloyd, the word that I found kept coming up when I was talking about swimming was “adventure”.

For me, that’s what open water swimming is all about. Sure, it’s fun to see how fast and how far you can go, but the big draw for me has been swimming in new places and in new conditions.

It was Gordon and I seeking adventure that got us out to swim at the Great Salt Lake for the first time. That experience is what solidified our desire to bring back the historic race from Antelope Island to Black Rock.

My most memorable swims are not the ones where I swam fastest, but where I experienced new things. I think often about the year the big storm came through during the Deer Creek race. I had so much fun riding the swells and getting rained and hailed on.

Open water swimming is about a lot of things: endurance, being out in nature, pushing yourself to your limit, adapting to new conditions, etc. But at the heart of it all, at least for me, is adventure.

In an effort to help the club seek out new open water adventures, we have created the SLOW Check-Off Challenge. Basically, it is a series of 16 open water related challenges to be completed throughout the year, with an emphasis on trying new things and getting involved with the club. We encourage you to participate and hope that you will have many new adventures along the way.

Details about the SLOW Check-Off Challenge can be found on our website:


Monday, March 16, 2015

Mini Triathlon Clinic with On Hill Events

Event organizer, Joe Coles, of On Hill Events gives some final instructions before the start of the mini-triathlon.

First swimmer ready to go.
Last Saturday SLOW swimmers Sarah Jones and Josh Green assisted with the swim portion of a mini-triathlon clinic organized by On Hill Events.  SLOW swimmer Jill Wilson was also in attendance and participated in the clinic.

The clinic was held at the RUSH Funplex in Syracuse and consisted of four presentations (swim, bike run, triathlon) and a mini-triathlon at the end.

It was a great experience to help many first time triathletes with the swim portion of the clinic.

In case you weren't able to attend, here is an outline of some of the things we covered.



Monday, February 23, 2015

SLOW Check-Off Challenge

We are announcing a new club event for 2015: the SLOW Check-Off Challenge.

It's a fun way to get involved with the club and try new things.

The idea is that you download the check-off sheet (similar to a BINGO board) that has 16 different open water related challenges. Once you complete a challenge, mark it off on your sheet and record it here.

You don't have to be a SLOW member to participate, but awards will only be given to registered members at the annual awards dinner.

The challenges were designed to be attainable by newbies as well as seasoned swimmers.  Only one challenge can be checked off at a time!

We look forward to hearing about your adventures and seeing you check all of the challenges off.

Have fun!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Endurance Sports Show

SLOW will be participating in the Endurance Sports Show on Friday February 20th and Saturday February 21st at the South Town Expo Center.

The show should be a lot of fun with vendors, clubs, clinics, seminars, a free 5K, and even several endurance sports movies. SLOW will be offering special discounts on registration for our three open water events.

We have acquired some free tickets if you are interested in checking out the show. Use the code GOSLOWTOESS during checkout.

We are pretty well covered, but if anyone is interested in helping staff our table, please add you name and availability to this document.

Thanks! See you there!