Iron Mike's Marathon Swims The life so shorte, the crafte so long to lerne

USMS destroying open water swimming

September 17, 2017 | Coaching, Spirit of Marathon Swimming | Permalink

The U.S. Masters Swimming organization is now meeting in Dallas for their convention. One of the proposed amendments (link pdf…go to page 179) to the USMS rule book was contrary to the tradition of open water swimming:

303.3.2 Swimmers may receive the following assistance from any escort craft:
A. Food or drink may be passed from escort craft to swimmer as long as deliberate contact is not made between the two.

303.3.3 Swimmers shall not receive the following assistance from any escort craft:
A. Swimmers shall not receive flotation or propulsion forward progress from any escort craft nor make intentional contact with any craft.

Those strike-outs are significant. What that means now is that swimmers can rest by holding onto a support craft (boat, kayak, SUP) during USMS-sanctioned open water events. The rationale behind these two rules’ amendments is to align them to rule 303.9.5, which has been amended in Dallas to:

303.9 DISQUALIFICATIONS
A disqualification can be made only by the referee, the starter or a judge within whose jurisdiction the
infraction has been committed. Swimmers shall be disqualified if they: …
303.9.5 Receive assistance Make forward progress by pulling, pushing, or resting, or maintaining contact on physical features and/or craft on or near the course, other than the bottom near the start and finish and at specified locations. Incidental contact shall not be a basis for disqualification.

The rationale of this proposal, according to documents and a couple people present at the convention, is that it “removes resting on a stationary object as a disqualifying offense, for swimmer safety.”

There it is. “…for swimmer safety…” Because we’re all children.

Apparently, swimmers who have never swum more than 3k in training sign up for 5k and 10k swims en masse, thus they need to be protected. (In my experience, no one signs up for half or marathon swims who have never swum even half of that in open water already. Those distances are just too far for most, without training.) Because sure, resting in the middle of an hour or more-long swim event isn’t an aid to the swimmer.

The spirit of open water swimming is that the swimmer completes the distance solely under his/her own power. In fact, it is kind of a bragging point for most of us. “Yes, I swam 10k from location X to location Y. No, I didn’t get in the boat to rest. No, I didn’t hang on the side of the kayak when I got tired. I swam the entire distance without touching the bottom or holding on to anything. Yeah, I’m bad-ass.” You know, kind of like when pool swimmers complete a 500m swim. They swim 5 or 10 laps solely under their own power. Not stopping to rest on the lane lines.

In fact, the first 5k event I swam was kind of a big deal…to me. I had swum that far in a pool, but after swimming that in open water, water with currents and salt, with other competitors running into you, salt rash under the arms, well, you kinda feel invincible. I remember returning to the airport the next day, seeing a sign on the highway announcing that the next town was 5 kilometers away, thinking to myself “My God, I swam this distance yesterday.” Sure, the taxi only took 5 minutes and I took significantly longer than that. But seeing the road pass by, the hills and ground, trees and signs pass by, it cemented in my brain that I did something significant. This rule demeans all of that.

In the UK during my first 10k, they had two “comfort stations,” one at 4k and the other at 8k. They touted tea and biscuits. I thought that would be great, as I knew the water would be cold. When I got to the 4k comfort station (really just a big raft), I noticed it was surrounded by swimmers hanging off the sides, like barnacles. I thought to myself, Why would I waste minutes I could be swimming waiting for a small cup of hot tea? I can just put my head down and get done with the remaining 6k and have all the tea I want, reveling in the feeling of being done with swimming 10 whole kilometers on my own power.

No sprinter in his right mind would sign up for a 1500m pool event if he wasn’t ready to swim the entire distance. No swimmer should sign up for a 5k swim, which takes us mere mortals at least an hour and a half (closer to two hours for me), if he isn’t ready to swim for a couple hours. He should know going in that he can’t stop and rest halfway through the swim.

One delegate, a marathon swimmer, voted yes on this proposal. Her reasoning? New swimmers who enter open water events may be nervous or anxious in open water. If that person gets kicked in the face, s/he can rest on the boat to recover. Therefore, for the swimmer who has never swum in open water, s/he can now rest while the other swimmers actually swim the entire event.

Why’s that matter? Well, if you’ve ever been in open water, swimming like the wind trying your hardest to pass the swimmer in front of you (regardless of whether or not s/he is in your age group), you know that swimming in open water takes training and practice. You work your heart out to swim fast and straight. You want to complete the distance solely under your power wearing a cap, goggles and suit.

But what if one or more of the swimmers in your age group swims his or her hardest and is 100s of meters ahead of you? Why, that person can simply rest for a bit hanging on to the side of a boat. Catch his breath. Take a few minutes breather. Then start fresh. Or at least, fresher than you, who have been swimming at your race pace since starting the event.

Why not just let him wear fins? Or use a pull buoy? This is similar to giving one basketball team more time to bring the ball past half-court than the other. You know, because one team is new to basketball, and might need 60 seconds (instead of 10) to bring the ball from their end of the court to their opponent’s.

I’m reminded of an incident several years ago (2013?) where a woman got sponsors to help her pay for her English Channel swim. She planned to swim the channel for charity and did actually start. However, a few miles in she got on the boat, put on a wetsuit and fins, and “finished” the swim. In publications she touted herself as an English Channel swimmer. Um, no. You’re not. You cheated.

To their credit, one delegate proposed that the rule include a rider that a race director can state in the race rules that touching a support craft is disqualifying. That passed, thank God. Still, that is up to race directors to include in their event’s rules. And in my experience, I think many USMS events in the future will allow holding on to a boat to rest. And this is too bad, as the USMS hosts several championships every year, in distances ranging from one mile to ten. My guess is those events now will allow people to rest on boats mid-swim. Those events won’t get my money.

Pictures from Issyk Kul Swim Challenge

September 16, 2017 | 2017 Season, Spirit of Marathon Swimming | Permalink

Lake Issyk Kul Swimming Federation doctor and observer, Olesya, sent me a batch of great photos from the swim challenge held on 6 August 2017. Thought I’d do a post with them as many of them are perfect to show you how beautiful this lake and country are. Take a gander.

The inevitable wait for the boat

Beautiful morning on Issyk Kul

Here comes the boat!

Of course you have to warm up

Kayaker and crew meeting

Swimmers getting ready

It’s not an official federation crossing without the flag picture!

And of course the pre-swim prep

Can’t have a swim like this without a great crew!

Starting spot. Note the snow. (This is August, remember.) Didn’t I say this place is beautiful?!

The traditional arms up ready!

Look at that beautifully flat water.

Look at that view!

Miss that lake

Last guy coming in!

Finishers!

Great weekend of swimming

September 4, 2017 | 2017 Season, Coaching, Spirit of Marathon Swimming | Permalink

Managed three days at the lake over this wonderful 3-day weekend, 9.12 kilometers. Even better was that I had company each day! Open water is definitely more fun with others.

On Saturday and Sunday I took my friend Jen back to the lake. She’s a glutton for punishment, having done three days of “boot camp” (basically CrossFit horror), which made her sore all over, and a day of pool swimming, then two days of lake swimming with me. Saturday was way colder than last week, with the water probably in the 16-17C range. But the sun was out which was nice. As usual, within a minute or so of swimming we didn’t feel the cold.

That’s our Saturday. We hung by the coast there in the south, so much so that we ran (swam?) aground at one point. I knew we were in trouble when I looked to the right and saw a fisherman about 5 meters from us standing in the water…water up to his knees. Looking at us like we just ruined his fishing. So of course I said good morning and we went on our way. By the time we headed back, he was no longer at that spot. Done or moved? No idea.

There were tons of folks out that day as it was so pretty out. As you can see above, the air temp was 21C, which is warm enough even for Russians to be out in bathing suits and bikinis sun-bathing. Even saw two people (!) in normal skimpy suits swimming! Say it isn’t so! My daughter came with so she could get a long run in, and Jen and I remembered to get a pic by the water.

Sunday the weather was crap. At least in the morning. Cloudy, windy and kind of cold, about 12-13C air temp. We both were regretting our decision to go swimming. As usual we walked in our suits from parking to the lake, getting looks along the way. And it was quite breezy. We brought sweatshirts for after.

Toe-dip thermometer, however, reported an increase in water temp since Saturday. It actually felt like it was 19-20C. Very inviting. In fact, by the time we were done, we didn’t want to get out as it was way warmer in the water than out! Anyway, Jen wanted to do at least an 1:15, so we went a little farther than Saturday. As we were turning for home, we didn’t go straight in. There were some fishermen whose lines we wanted to avoid, plus we thought we’d have to swim past our entry point to get to the full time. Turned out we’re either slow enough or misjudged our speed because as we got close to the start, we had had enough time so took a sharp turn left and swam in, as you can see below.

Sunday we spent less time gabbing and stopping for boat-watch, so our “moving time” average was 2:00 per 100 meters, which I’m very happy with for an OW practice session. I’m also getting a bit better at sighting as the summer progresses, which might help at the end of the month when we swim in Sochi.

The weather got better later in the day. But during the swim, it was cloudy and overcast. Very few people at the lake and no one without a thick jacket (Russians get cold when the air temp falls to 60F). We did manage to get a pic of ourselves in front of the “Swimming forbidden” sign.

Labor day! Jen had other plans, but Sabrina, our teammate for the upcoming 3 x 1000 in Sochi, wanted to go to the lake, so I had another partner! She is a triathlete, so I honestly figured she’d swim with a wetsuit. I was happy to see she didn’t bring one! Actually, turns out she doesn’t even have one, so that’s a good sign.

We did the same route as Jen and I on Saturday, basically. The water was a bit colder than Sunday but not that bad, maybe 18C. And the sun kept peeking out from behind the clouds, which was nice. We even had some of those MChS (Russian coast guard) boats go by, but they didn’t even care about us. Most likely that’s because I listened to them a month or so ago when they said to not swim through the middle of the lake!

Sabrina’s shoulder was giving her pains, so once we got back to the sunken houseboat, we bee-lined it straight back to the shore. On our way coming in, I stopped to let her catch up and I saw a passel of grandmas and grandpas (babushki and dedushki) with their little charges up on the shore staring at the strange people in the water. I yelled to them “good morning” and waved, and they all waved back, the kids laughing. Very sweet and very Russian. My daughter went running again today and got a picture of us swimming in. (And that’s it on pics, as I forgot again to get one of us by the lake.)

So it was a great swim-weekend. Great swim week as a matter of fact, since I swam Tuesday and Thursday as well. Not a lot distance-wise (13.8-ish km) but good in-the-water time. And since the 26th of August, 24.2km. I’ll take that!

What a difference 3.3 inches makes

September 1, 2017 | 2017 Season, Science! | Permalink

I’ve made a concerted effort to make better use of my daughter’s school’s pool this year. It is right next to where we’re living, a whole 300 meters away maybe. How can I pass up a SCM pool that close? Especially when the alternative is the weirdly-shaped Russian one that requires three laps to do 100.66 yards?

Fact of the matter is the pool isn’t open for laps that often. One Saturday per month for four hours (and twice last year they close early for lack of lifeguards, yet my lifeguard-trained daughter sits here at home not offered a job?) and Tuesday and Thursday nights for two hours. Unfortunately the weekday nights are 19.00 to 21.00, and frankly by the time I get home (between 19.00 and 19.30) I just want to eat and sit.

But that’s lazy. And I’ve got a supportive wife and daughters, so I should just go swim. So this week I swam both weekdays till 20.00 (and did an 8k workout last Saturday). That meant 45 minutes one day and 50 the other, but still. I got in the pool and worked on my stroke, in a SCM pool! Fewer laps and fewer flip turns!

Last night I did a CSS test. Figured I should since I plan on swimming in that pool more often. My last CSS in the small Russian pool resulted in a CSS of 1:32 for that pool. I’m happy with that time, yet know that it is fast compared to what I’d get had I tested in a normal SCY pool. After all, I’m getting 6 flip-turns for every 100 instead of 4.

Well, yesterday I discovered what that translates to when I test in an actual SCM pool. My CSS in the school pool is 1:50! That extra 3.33 inches per meter sure adds up when you’re swimming 400 meters (6:56) and 200 meters (3:17). Next week I’ll do some CSS workouts to see how I feel in that pool. (I have to set the tempo trainer to 27:38 now for each length.) I look forward to improving my times over the fall and winter!

Introduced a friend to Russian open water

August 27, 2017 | 2017 Season, Swimming Anthropology | Permalink

Today was a beautiful sunny day in Moscow. Partly cloudy by the time I got to the lake, but the sun made several appearances, which was welcome. Brought my friend Jen to the lake at Strogino today. We forgot the water-side selfie, but we managed to take one by the tank that fronts the entrance to the park area.

Unseen is we’re still in our suits, getting respectful looks and comments from Russians walking in the park bundled up against the 15C air temperature.

The water was wonderful. With all the rain on Saturday, I figured the water would be cold, but it really wasn’t. I’m guessing in the 20-22C range. Jen brought her shorty-wetsuit, but I told her the water would probably be ok. She toe-tested the water and decided not to go running back to her car and to just swim in her normal, English Channel-legal suit. She was glad she did. Within only a few strokes we were both plenty warm, with or without the sun out.

The lake was also practically empty. We saw two boats, and they were going very slowly and the drivers apparently saw us in our bright yellow swim caps with my bright orange tow-float. Having learned from the MChS boat a month ago, I had us stay near the shore. None of those ministry boats were out patrolling, but at one point we both realized the bottom was getting closer and closer (like a meter or so from the surface) and we stopped, and noticed a fisherman standing in the water looking at us like we’d just ruined his catch. I apologized for us and we took off, going a bit farther from shore.

Jen is just getting back into swimming, so when we were a bit away from our proposed turn around point, we stopped, right around the entrance to the Moscow river. I’ve seen boats come screaming out of the river into the lake, so I wanted to warn her about keeping our eyes open. She was really interested in keeping today’s swim to around a nautical mile. We had already passed a kilometer (I set my Garmin to warn me every k), so we decided to turn around right there and repeat our route.

I forgot to start the Garmin at first, so we’re about 50 meters shy for the total. No biggie. About a mile and a half in total, not bad for all the stopping we did. Everything goes well, we’ll probably swim there again next weekend. We’re two members of the three-person team going to Sochi at the end of September to swim at an open water festival in the Black Sea. Jen, Sabrina and I will each do a kilometer loop in a 3 x 1000 relay race (эстафета, in Russian). Jen and Sabrina will also swim the nautical mile event and I’m swimming the 5.5k. We will of course report from Sochi.

Great swim today

August 26, 2017 | Uncategorized | Permalink

The school SCM pool finally opened back up today. So happy. Decided to do some “distance tolerance” today. What that meant for me was 8000 meters, long and slow.

500
1000
1500
2000
1500
1000
500

See? Very simple. Two hours 50 minutes. Nice and slowly. But damn my arms felt dead when I was done. Heavy, like lead. I’m going to feel this tomorrow.

In other news, read the latest post from my friend Katie, about her latest SwimRun competition. Katie’s a sponsored professional triathlete, and she’s just taken up this swimrun thing. So of course I had to read up on it today.

Where do I sign up?! Swimming and running from island to island? Reminds me of rogaining, or my dreams of a swim rogaine! I wonder if one can do a swimrun and just walk the “runs”? I’ve been reading about them in Outdoor Swimmer recently, and now my friend is excelling in them. Perhaps I will have to try one soon, eh?

Pictorial tour of a mussels farm

August 16, 2017 | Uncategorized | Permalink

Today we took a different kind of tour: All you can eat mussels, swimming and a tour of Our Lady of the Rocks church. Kinda costly (50 euros per person), but in the end, worth every cent!

We got picked up in downtown Kotor and were motored to a mussels farm in Drazin Vrt. Four of the lines belonged to the owner of the restaurant we ate at. We were able to sit, swim, enjoy some homemade wine (so good) and play with the kayak.

That basket at the bottom of the second picture is filled with oysters. My wife knocked back 10 like a pro. A bit after taking that picture, a sea bass about a foot long stupidly swam into that area. The Russian woman cooking for us netted it easily with a small toy net about 7 inches in diameter. That poor fish I’m sure is by now someone’s lunch.

The kids played around with the kayak. I have a newfound respect for kayakers; it is not easy steering those things. We also found three jellyfish in the mussel farm. Upon coming home and doing some expert Internet research, we discovered that they were from the Cotylorhiza tuberculata kingdom and phylum, better known as the fried egg jellyfish. According to the wiki, its sting has little to no effect on humans. Not that I want to run into one, but that is comforting since we’ve seen lots of them when we were boating in the middle of the bay. All I know is before our next swim-able vacation, I’m buying a waterproof camera. Those things were so beautiful from underwater.

We ate about 200 mussels between the six of us eating them. Our youngest isn’t a big seafood fan so she ate the local sausage, ćevapčići, which itself is so dang good, and 30 euro cheaper for her!

We hung around the mussel farm, swimming and enjoying ourselves, petting the local cats, until it was time to head to Our Lady of the Rock church, a 500+ year old Catholic church on an artificial island in the middle of the bay. Quite a beautiful stop on our way home from stuffing ourselves with mussels.

Not really a swimming entry today, I’m sorry. But I did want to write about the beauty of this place. Highly recommended, two thumbs up!

Note to self: Cruise ships are no joke

August 14, 2017 | Swimming Anthropology | Permalink

Great swim this morning, 3.6k with lots of practice swimming into the wind and current, very strong today. I don’t mind swimming into current and wind, knowing that I’ll get to take advantage of those same conditions on the way back! It was beating me up though. And here I am seven hours later with a sore back.

This time I made it past those sailboats. Maybe it being Monday helped. None of those sailboats looked like they were intent on moving. I went maybe 3-400 strokes past those boats and started pulling over. I saw an old fellow looking at me from his pier, so asked him if it was private, and he replied that it was. About 50m beyond him were some stairs so I asked him if those were private and he told me no. So there I swam.

I guesstimated 1.5k by that point but the Garmin said 1.81k. Nice and perfect. So I jumped back in and swam back. This time, however, I aimed to swim as straight as possible. On the way out, I kept coming up to boats moored offshore and would have to swim out and around their algae-covered ropes. I’m sure my track is zig-zaggy.

On the way back I was aiming true. I saw trees way off in the distance that I was sure were close to where I entered the water. Swimming straight took me far into the bay, maybe 300m off the shore. No biggie. Not a lot of boats were out this morning. I put my head down and got to work.

Not sure how long I was swimming as I wasn’t counting strokes but at one point I spotted something white in my peripheral vision and Damn! but there was a cruise ship right behind me, maybe 600 meters. I stopped and looked at it. All I could see was the front of the ship. Not either side. The ship wasn’t moving left or right. Just like a tornado, the ship was either coming right at me or directly away from me. And it wasn’t there earlier, so there was only one answer.

Sharp right, swim! I swam like the wind. It was a good number of strokes before I started to see the side of that huge ship. Over 950 feet long! After that, IronMike spent the rest of the swim hugging the side (~50m) swimming zig-zaggy back to his start point! (Yes, Kelley, I think I need you to escort me!)

But that wasn’t the end of the fun. Now with my heart-rate back to normal workout mode, I calmly swam back, taking advantage of the current pushing me. (But with the wind pushing my rescue buoy up over my arms occasionally.) All of a sudden I swam into something soft and fleshy. Surely that’s not what jellyfish feel like, is it?

Nope, that’s a human man’s foot. Some poor guy was floating around on his back minding his own business, enjoying his morning swim, when I ram right into his foot. We both say Sorry. We both laugh. I tell him I’m happy he’s not a jellyfish. He laughs more. His wife/girlfriend/whatever asks him something in a language I couldn’t identify, and she laughs. I get back to work swimming.

I finally see the water polo goal that marks when I’m within about 100m of the finish stairs. I get out and check the Garmin: 3.6k. Nice work. My lady friend is sunning herself again and we do the whole “good morning” exchange and laugh. I sit for a while, watching the cruise ship get pushed around the middle of the bay by the wind. The tenders all float well away from the ship waiting to be able to go in and collect the tourists. The ship finally gets settled (during my time sitting there, I saw all four sides of the ship), and the tenders hurry into the ship like mice running into their home in your baseboard. All in all an enjoyable, if slightly nerve-racking, morning!

Montenegro swims

August 12, 2017 | Swimming Anthropology | Permalink

Been vacationing in Kotor, Montenegro, a beautiful historical bay town in the Balkans. Really was not hard to decide on this location when I saw pictures like this.

The picture above is taken from the side of one of the mountains here, on which you can see medieval walls and churches. The mountains are steep, but the wall can be climbed due to stairs carved out of the rock. It’ll take you about 30-40 minutes depending upon how many times you stop to catch your breath. Frankly, not worth it to climb all the way to the top as it is dusty and dirty (trash everywhere) up there and the view isn’t as great. About 2/3 of the way up the view is incredible.

And of course when you’re that high above a beautiful bay, what else can you do but jumpography!

Swimming has been done here, too. Not just sightseeing and jumping. Got two solo swims in so far, along with several “noodling” type swims with the family. One daughter and my wife like to go out with me and swim along the shore, watching the beautiful old houses go by, the fishermen come in, the locals sunbathing. We cover about two km each time, one down one back, just lazily enjoying the water, heads up breast with some freestyle thrown in. Yesterday we rented a boat and went to Sv. Marko island, over by Tivat. We swam around for about an hour, playing games with the kids, drinking wine and Radlers. It was enjoyable.

Today I did my second solo swim, along the coast of Muo to the marina, about 1.4 km or so down. I wanted to go farther, but it wasn’t safe. I was swimming along minding my own business, counting strokes, keeping an eye out for jellyfish (we saw smacks of jellyfish all over the bay yesterday while boating), when I heard the tell tale sign of a motor boat nearby. I looked up to see one of the small tourist submarines coming right in my direction. It was still maybe 300 meters off, but it wasn’t moving left or right, despite me being only about 20 meters off shore. I swam towards an empty space among the dozen sailboats at the marina. At the same time, I noticed a catamaran right in front of me preparing to pull out of its parking spot. The captain was motioning to another sailboat coming in (both these boats were about 70 feet long). I caught the captain’s eye, pointed to the sailboat coming in then to the empty spot I was treading water in front of and he nodded “Da.” Great. So I’m swimming right in front of the parking place this incoming boat wants to go to.

I immediately turned around and headed back home. So much for my idea of doing 4k this morning. I stopped a little after and noticed the catamaran that was pulling out was now pulling back into another spot, and yet another sailboat was preparing to leave. Maybe Saturday morning isn’t the best time to swim there!

No worries, I swam back, hopping out at one of the stone piers near the house. An older lady was sunning herself and she said “Dobro jutro” (good morning) with a smile. Then I realized that she was there two days ago when I swam my first solo! She smiled and watched me unhook my bright orange buoy, remove my rash guard (I burn easily) and doff my cap and goggles. Nice and bright early morning swim, totally 3km with my zig-zagging. Delightful.

Four new Issyk Kul swimmers (maybe five!)

August 9, 2017 | 2018 Season, Grand Plan, Swimming Anthropology | Permalink

(Edited 11 Aug to add water temperature data.)

I got info and observer notes from the Issyk Kul Swim Challenge that happened on the 6th. The Lake Issyk Kul Swimming Federation now boasts six official crossers of the historical route, the one based on the Kyrgyz myth of Toru-Aigyr (Тору-Айгыр).

The swimmers above, Denis Kochenkov, Chingiz Alkanov, Almaz Koychiev, and Nazim Turdumambetov, each swam from the southern shore of Issyk Kul near the village of Kara Talaa to the northern shore village of Toru-Aygyr. Times varied:

In the list above, the order of names is: Koychiev, Alkanov, Kochenkov and Turdumambetov. Times are not too bad, but Peace Corps volunteer Sarah D’Antoni still holds the record for the crossing with a time of 4:43.38.

These swimmers were mentored all along by Lake Issyk Kul Swimming Federation co-founder and federation medical officer (and certified observer) Olesya Pakseleva. The Challenge began with 10 interested swimmers. Initially, they all wanted to swim in wetsuits, but Olesya talked them out of that, citing the universally accepted rules of marathon swimming. (Olesya knows the rules backwards and forwards!)

On the day prior to the swim, as all 10 swimmers and their support crews assembled at Hotel Aliya in Balykchy, Olesya took this picture of the lake.

That picture, combined with the weather forecast for the next day and the water temperature, scared off six of the swimmers. Four stalwartly individuals stuck to their guns and committed to meeting Bakyt and his boat at the hotel pier the next morning at 0400.

Then is when the trouble began! Bakyt overslept! Olesya had to find his home address and go wake him up. He and his boat didn’t arrive at the pier until 0700. The swimmers were very nervous, but Olesya calmed them down, assuring them they’d be ok. At 0715, they set sail for the southern shore of Issyk Kul and the village of Kara Talaa. At 0915, all swimmers started.

The swimmers were each accompanied by a kayaker, with Bakyt’s boat being the base of operations. Unfortunately, no one had a GPS, and the lake still has spotty coverage so no one was able to use their phone for tracking either. Olesya ensured that the swimmers started at the same location Sarah and I did last year, as well as finished at the same spot.

The swimmers averaged between 45 and 55 strokes per minute during their crossings. Their feedings were about every 30-45 minutes. Some of them listened to the wise advice of Olesya and put diaper rash ointment in certain areas of their bodies, some didn’t…and are suffering now. (Lesson learned!) Water temperature was 22C near the shore and 18C in the middle of the lake. All four who started finished. None of them touched the boat or kayak, none got support from another person in the water, all entered the water dry and exited the water dry under their own power.

One swimmer, however, did wear one of those full body suits that aren’t technically considered wetsuits. In other words, for a triathlon whose water temperature is too warm for wetsuits, this body suit would be legal. (Chingiz is the president of the Kyrgyz Triathlon Federation.) Sadly for Chingiz, that suit is not legal for marathon swimming. He still swam across Issyk Kul and will have his name listed in the records of the Federation, but his time will not count as far as any lists of the “X-number of fastest crossings” or anything like that. Olesya tried to talk him out of wearing the illegal suit, but he wore it anyway. Perhaps next year he’ll try it again, only then wearing a proper marathon swimming-approved suit!

Additionally, two days after these four men swam across the lake, I received a link to a news story about yet another person who swam across the lake over this same route, the day prior to these four swimmers.

Russian-Kyrgyz Development Fund Board Member Erkin Asrandiyev swam across Issyk-Kul lake. The idea to cross Issyk-Kul came to him last year when he saw in the TV news that Peace Corps volunteer Sarah D’Antoni and U.S. Embassy officer Mike Tyson swam the lake following the route of the legendary horse Toru-Aigyr.

I’m trying to get in contact with Mr. Asrandiyev to find out if he had anyone observe his swim. Frankly, there is only one person not certified by the Federation who could have observed his swim and the Federation accept the results, and that person is Akhmed Anarbayev, the first person to ever swim across lake Issyk Kul. Mr. Asrandiyev never contacted the Federation, didn’t contact Olesya or any other person associated with the Federation. For now, his results will be absent from the list of successful crossings.

Dear reader(s) remember that one of my goals for swimming across that wonderful lake was to get the locals interested in using their natural resources for swimming events such as these. I was happy when I heard about their Lake Issyk Kul Challenge and will remain happy as long as I hear more wonderful stories like this. Next year they will repeat the Challenge, and hopefully have more and more swimmers, including, perhaps, an American who is missing the magic of the world’s second largest alpine lake.