Iron Mike's Marathon Swims All I am is a body adrift in water, salt and sky

So friggin’ impressive

October 6, 2016 | Iconic marathon swim, Spirit of Marathon Swimming | Permalink

For two days now, FOR TWO DAYS, I’ve been following my friend Sarah Thomas as she swims 82 miles (yes…MILES) in lake Powell in Arizona.

EIGHTY-TWO MILES. For my non-swimming friends, that’s 50-60 hours STRAIGHT. Yes, she’s swimming without sleep or rest for more than two days.

At publication of this blog post, she’s already been up for almost 51 hours, she’s swum 117.5 kilometers. She still has 11-odd miles to go. AND SHE’LL DO IT. She’s simply incredible.


Once she’s done, she will have swum longer, unassisted, than anyone else. Ever. She’s following English Channel rules (one cap, one pair of goggles, one non-porous suit), unlike another famous (infamous?) swimmer out there.

Simply unbelievable, Sarah. You are a wonder.

Lake Issyk Kul is on the Map!

October 2, 2016 | Iconic marathon swim, Swimming Anthropology | Permalink

NPR wrote up a great article about Sarah’s successful Issyk Kul swim back in August. It’s a great write-up, pointing out the basis for the crossing, the legend of Toru-Aygyr. It also does a good job covering Sarah’s reasons for doing the crossing: to persuade the Kyrgyz to pursue a healthier and more active lifestyle.

Heart disease and high blood pressure are common problems in Kyrgyzstan. Another problem in that country is nutrition: fully 17% of Kyrgyz, across all socio-economic classes, are malnourished; most of them children. (Carbs make up a super-majority of the Kyrgyz diet, and not the good carbs.)

Sarah’s swim also showed the Kyrgyz that women are just as capable as men. There’s a funny exchange between one of the boat crew (Bakut? Kuban? Which was it Sarah?) and her that is very illustrative of the attitudes of Kyrgyz men as far as women are concerned. (Not necessarily bad, but ignorant.)

And I must say it is very nice that Sarah made sure NPR included me in the article. Thanks Sarah, for what you’ve done for your country and host country, and for what you’ve done for swimming in Kyrgyzstan!

The obscure endurance sport women are quietly dominating

September 14, 2016 | Iconic marathon swim, Spirit of Marathon Swimming | Permalink

NY Magazine recently did a great article on marathon swimming. More specifically, the article was about the phenomenon seen in marathon swimming with respect to men’s vs. women’s times for major-distance swims. It appears that when you add distance (and water), race results are quite contrary to common “wisdom.”

When you talk running, even ultra-distance runs, men are still about 12% faster than women. But when you add water and time (basically we’re talking races of 6 hours or more), then “on average, the best women were 12 to 14 percent faster than the best men.” Researchers looked at the Manhattan Island Marathon Swim (MIMS), a 28.5 mile tide-assisted marathon around, you guessed it, Manhattan.

Now, dear reader(s), we’ve talked about MIMS before, most recently when discussing integrity (or lack thereof) of a certain well-known (to marathon swimming history/spirit/rules illiterates) personality/celebrity/”national treasure.” As MIMS is tidally-assisted, it is hard to compare things like “fastest man” and “fastest woman.” Where this article and the referenced study excels, though, is that the study researchers looked at 30 years of MIMS times. When n=about 500 swimmers (or more?) then things like tide are factored out. Another study looked at 87 years (!!!) of Catalina Channel swims, and the results were that women, on average, completed the 21-mile channel swim 52:54 faster than men.

But you know what this article and all these studies really show us? The importance of rules, standards, record-keeping! It is because of rule-following and record-keeping that we know DN lied on her FB or Twitter or whatever that picture is that I linked to in the last post. It is the reason why I founded the Lake Issyk Kul Swimming Federation. It is the reason more swimming groups are springing up around the world now.

Anyway, it is a great article, even though it misnames the MSF. Give it your 3-4 minutes to read, and pass it around your friend-circle. Thanks Melissa Dahl for a great article.

Integrity first

September 3, 2016 | Spirit of Marathon Swimming | Permalink

DN Manhattan Lie

Yep, she-who-cannot-be-named-without-owing-a-beer-to-your-fellow-swimmers has reared her head again. Just days after NYC Swim closed its doors, shifting responsibility for the Manhattan Island Marathon Swim (MIMS) to the able hands of New York Open Water, Diana Nyad posted the above to her FB. Right there in black and white she states that she was the first woman to ever swim around Manhattan when, in 1975, she completed the swim in 7:57.

Only problem? She was beat to the “first woman” title 59 years previously by Ida Elionsky.

1916 first woman manhattan

For those of you with eyes like mine, here’s the article zoomed in:


Not only was she wrong by decades, but she wasn’t even the second (or third, or fourth) woman around the island. In fact, she was the seventh. What she was absolutely honest about in that post (from only a week ago…keep that in mind) is that she did beat all the men (and women) with that sub-8 hour time. (But what most marathon swimmers understand is that MIMS is a current-assisted swim, so times don’t really reflect the speed of the swimmer; you could have a good current day or a bad current day.)

Nyad’s FB post disappeared when some commenters pointed out to her how wrong she was, but thankfully it is preserved by the magic of the internet. What’s most telling about her, integrity-wise, is this old blog post of hers, that she has also deleted from her blog but is still alive in the Interwebs:


The most important parts of her blog post is at the very beginning, where she blames her misunderstanding upon the NY Times and other publications. (Later she became a journalist…ponder that.) The BS part of this statement is that anyone who’d gone through all the work to set up a solo Manhattan swim, talking to the Coast Guard, for one, would of course research to see who else swam around the island and how fast. She’s stated many times that she’s a feminist, so one would expect she’d ask the “have any women swum around the island” question, also.

Even more important in the above is the date she posted that in her blog. Five years ago she admitted she was not the first woman to swim around the island. So why the recent FB post saying she was?

Because she’s a pathological liar! The founder of NYC Swim interviewed the boat captain for Nyad’s 1975 swim, who stated that Nyad held onto the boat during the swim. That is a clear violation of marathon swimming rules, not to mention contrary to the spirit of marathon swimming. She has a history of lying about her swims, which is why those of us with integrity are always skeptical of anything she claims to have done.

The rare times my interlocutor even knows what marathon swimming is, s/he will invariably bring up Diana Nyad. Usually the look on my face tells him/her what I think of her. If you want to understand my puke face at the mention of her name, all you have to do is read this short thread at the MSF forums. (There are other longer threads about her if you search her last name.) This thread explains why integrity is so important to those of us in the marathon swimming community. At the very least, read the first post and the definition of integrity from Sarah Thomas, marathon swimmer extraordinaire. It is worth your time.

Sarah did it!

August 24, 2016 | 2016 Season, Iconic marathon swim | Permalink

OK, so if you’ve followed the Marathon Swimmers Federation FB page, you know that Sarah has successfully swum across lake Issyk Kul in Kyrgyzstan. She killed it with a time of 4:43.38, destroying my time for the same crossing by more than 76 minutes.

Screenshot 2016-08-24 at 20.02.01

This makes Sarah only the third person to ever swim across Issyk Kul, the second person to cross this route, the first female to cross Issyk Kul anywhere, the second American to cross the lake, and the fastest time across this route.

I’ve said it before, but Sarah’s got a much better audio-visual crew than I ever did. Check out her video (don’t worry, she doesn’t speak Kyrgyz for the entire time):


Sarah’s swimming Issyk Kul now!

August 23, 2016 | 2016 Season, Iconic marathon swim | Permalink

My friend Sarah is about 5KM across Issyk Kul now, 0252 GMT, 23 August. She is set to destroy my time across the lake.

Screenshot 2016-08-23 at 05.45.41

In case you’re wondering about the start icon a bit off of shore, it looks like the crew might have forgotten to click on the bootprint on the Spot Gen3, which starts the little GPS wonder tracking Sarah’s location. To keep track of where Sarah is, go to her tracker page.

I know what I’ll be doing today. How about you?

Peace Corps Volunteer to Swim Issyk Kul!

August 15, 2016 | Iconic marathon swim, Spirit of Marathon Swimming | Permalink

Dear reader(s) already know my friend and former crew-mate Sarah. She’s the Peace Corps volunteer here who helped me with my recent crossing. As you know, she’ll be swimming the same route at the end of this month.

Well score one for Sarah and the Peace Corps art team. Her announcement is awesome!


Isn’t that cool?

Here’s the rest of her announcement:


Good luck Sarah!

Issyk Kul crossing coming up in about 10 days

August 13, 2016 | Iconic marathon swim, Spirit of Marathon Swimming | Permalink

This is a follow-up to my last post. Sarah, peace corps volunteer and member of my crew last month, Florida International collegiate swimmer and 2011 NJCAA National Champion in the 200 Fly, scholastic all-American and top-10 scholar athlete, will be crossing Issyk Kul’s “historic route” at the end of this month. Sarah’s window starts 23 August at around 07.00 local time, which is 01.00 GMT time and 21.00 eastern time and 18.00 pacific time the evening of 22 August in the U.S. If 23 August doesn’t work, she also has the boat reserved for 24-25 August.


Sarah’s got a tracker online, using the same service I did for mine, The page for her particular site is already set up here, so bookmark it and set your alarm so you can follow her! More at the Lake Issyk Kul Swimming Federation on Facebook.

Sarah is an incredible swimmer and a great person. I fully expect my weenie time of 6:02.45 for the crossing will be destroyed by Sarah!

Another Issyk Kul crossing on the horizon

July 25, 2016 | 2016 Season | Permalink

My friend and crew member from my swim Sarah will be crossing Issyk Kul in August. Dear reader(s) will remember that she came in and swam with me for a bit during my swim. She swam heads-up breast while I was churning the water with my adult-onset-learned technique. She’s gonna kill the crossing. I only wish I could help by crewing for her.


Sarah timing me.

sarah and flag

Sarah and the Kyrgyz flag