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

Multiplying like rabbits

May 19, 2017 | 2017 Season | Permalink

A keen observer of my FB comments sent me a message yesterday

Hello Mike!
I believe you were interested in OWS events in Moscow – here’s another new series

And sure enough, I clicked on the link (probably not safe from a computer security stand-point) and found FOURTEEN MORE OW SWIMS IN RUSSIA!

I mean, really. Holy crap. First thing I thought of when returning to Moscow after a four-year hiatus: Wow, the sidewalks are so much cleaner and wider. (They used to have kiosks and cars all over the sidewalks, but that ended a few years ago during the “Night of the Long Shovels.”)

My next thought after a couple weeks: Wow, Russian craft beer has really taken off. (Previously, you had the choice of Baltika or Baltika. No, really. And all the numbers except 6 and 8 were horrible. Sure there was also Ochakovo porter, but that was hard to find. Seriously, this city was such that celebrated the opening of a beer pub because it had, wait for it…eight beers on tap. EIGHT. WHOLE. BEERS. Yeah. That was news in 2010. But now…beers are plentiful and tasty.)

But never, ever, did I think that I’d be able to swim so much here. And I mean open water. Here as in not only Moscow, but in other cities in Russia! My last time here there was one open water swim annually, and it was a nautical mile. That’s it. My discovery today ,with the help and support of my new Russian friend, has brought the total number of Russian swims happening this summer to 45. Forty-freaking-five! Seriously! How is that possible?

So for the purposes of documentation, here are all the Russia swims I’ve found so far:

Same rules apply: italics are the ones I’m attending, and the bold is the event I’m swimming. Look at that list! Holy jeez, there are so many swims. In fact, I’m seriously considering postponing my planned Gibraltar swim next summer to simply swim as many of these swims as possible next summer. I can always swim Gibraltar, it’s harder to swim in Russia, what with visa requirements and all that. Perhaps next summer I’ll simply swim every weekend that I can, see how many swims I can do before leaving.

Another one in the book

May 14, 2017 | 2017 Season | Permalink

Yesterday I attempted a 12,000 meter swim. I say attempted not because I failed, but because I ran out of time.

The school’s pool is open some Saturdays for “Family Splash.” Normally it is a time of kids and parents all over the place, splashing around having fun. It was nice and sunny yesterday, so there weren’t as many kids or families as usual, which worked out great for me, except for the fact that I missed out on a sunny day. (I’m writing this on Sunday, where I can report that it is again sunny and beautiful. I see a nice long bike ride in my future!)

A few weeks back I did a nice 10,000 yard workout, based on Evan Morisson’s awe-inspiring 25,000 meter workout. My 10,000 version is simply his cut down to 40%

400
4×100
400
2×200
600
2×300
600
3×200
800
4×200
800
2×400
600
2×300
400
2×200
400
4×100

The embassy pool is super-short yards; I did the above workout in 3:07. I wanted to add an hour to that workout, but knew I couldn’t do 13,000 meters in 4 hours. 10,000 yards is 9144 meters. 10km would have taken me around 3:30.

So I added 2000 meters to the above for the swim at the school pool, which is SCM. I thought if I started immediately when they open at 13.00, then I’d be done when they close at 17.00.

I got to the pool early, started chatting up the coach and mentioned my big workout today. “What? Are you serious?” Yes, I responded, asking if I could go claim a lane even though it was 10 minutes till Family Splash started. “Go get started. The lifeguards are here.”

So I got to start at 12.53. (I had to explain to two lifeguards who came up to me that yes, the coach said I could start already.) So I began this:

400
4×100
400
2×200
600
2×300
600
3×200
800
4×200
1000
2×500
800
2×400
600
2×300
400
2×200
400
4×100

The first hour went great, and I was just finishing 3100m when hour two started. Then I began to slow down. I wasn’t hurting anywhere, I just got tired. I hit around 5800m at hour two. At that rate, I might not make this.

The 1000 felt really good. You know how sometimes you feel like you could swim forever? Like you are still breathing in after your face returns under water, like your lungs are still filing with air? That thousand felt like that. It went by really quickly. The 2×500 after that actually felt fast. Those three sets got me through hour three.

But boy oh boy, that 800 after that sure was tough. I was extremely tired. Didn’t want to quit or anything like that. But my arms were so heavy, I couldn’t wait for hour four to be done.

The 600 felt great. I got a second wind. Felt strong and clean through my pull. Wow, I could swim forever. But that wind only lasted through the 600. The 2 x 300 took forever.

Then a third wind through the 400 and 2×200. Even the next 400 felt great, but it was getting closer and closer to 17.00. I ended up having to cut the last 400 to a 300, but it was a nice, strong 300, even with some sprinty-like lengths. I stopped at 16.58, total time of 4:05 for 11,500 meters.

Even though I didn’t succeed with the 12km I set out to do, I feel like it was a successful swim. Two long swims 23 days apart. I have a 10K swim up near St Petersburg in 36 days. And 20 Bridges in 71 days. Might have to squeeze another 4 hour swim in there somewhere. Hmmm…

Issyk Kul again?

April 29, 2017 | 2018 Season | Permalink

As the weather gets better, my brain starts thinking up swims that I’d like to do. Oh, to be independently wealthy. Anyway, I was recalling how much fun Issyk Kul was last year, and I began to wonder…

…could I swim there and back? No, not from Russia. I mean, the route I took last year (Kara-Talaa to Toru-Aygyr). Could I swim that twice? It would “only” be ~17 miles. And I’d get a bit of a rest when I complete the first half. I could stuff my face, maybe get a hug or two, then get back in the water.

Nothing like this could happen this year, what with Manhattan being my biggie. But why not next year? Bishkek is a short, inexpensive flight from Moscow. I still know people there. I could go over a long weekend. The boat captain would probably love to escort me again. Might even be able to bring some of my crew (son and daughter, Talas and Olesya) with me. Hmm…I’ll have to think this one through. (I’ve already written to Talas and Olesya about talking to Kurbat, the boat captain. My question to him is which direction should I swim first and when should I start. We’ll see what he thinks.)

10,000 yard swim complete!

April 21, 2017 | 2017 Season, Grand Plan | Permalink

Had a great workout today. Great because I did it. Great because my niggling elbow didn’t bother me. Great ’cause it’s my birthday!

I wanted to do something big for the big 5-0. I did 50 x 100 for my wife’s 50th, but I wanted/needed something longer. So I took 4 hours off from work and went straight to the pool. I did this work-out:

400
4×100
400
2×200
600
2×300
600
3×200
800
4×200
800
2×400
600
2×300
400
2×200
400
4×100

This workout I created from a 25K workout that the incredible marathon swimmer Evan Morrison did prior to his incredibly successful season back in, I think, 2010. My workout, however, is only 10,000, or 40% of Evan’s. My pool being SSCM (that is: short-short course meters), where it takes three laps to do 100 yards (100.67 yards, to be exact), that means 300 laps for the above workout. For that I have a lap counter for my finger.

The workout starts out easy with the base-400 sets. But by the time I’m past the base-600 sets I’ve already done more than my usual weekday workout. The middle four, base-800 sets, is about what my usual workout is, distance-wise.

Going into the workout, I had in mind a concept that was suggested to me by another awesome marathon swimmer, LBJ. He had done Manhattan in the past, and he told me about the transition from the East river to the Harlem river. Apparently, after some time spent with the current pushing you in the East river, you get hit with current against you all of a sudden when you swim into the Harlem. His suggestion? Swim for two hours, then sprint for 10-15 minutes.

Sure enough at around the two-hour mark, I thought I’d try it. So the first of the 2 x 400 I really pushed it. By no one’s definition would it be called sprinting. But I certainly did increase the heart rate. I’d say I went from 50% effort to 75%. I sure was breathing hard after it. But I felt great! It’s at this point I realize I hadn’t swum beyond two hours straight since last July in Issyk Kul. I wondered how my elbow would do after this point. It did great! In fact, I “sprinted” all the multiple sets from that 2 x 400 on, except not the 4 x 100 at the end. Those four were spent doing backstroke and (very) easy free.

Nutrition-wise, at around the two-hour mark I started to get hungry. I had plenty to eat prior to swimming, so it wasn’t that. I just think it was calories burned in those first two hours. I brought three small water bottles with me and drank two of them. The water started getting boring pretty much from the start, so next time (in a month?) I’ll use my calorie-free powder to give the water some taste. I was missing or yearning for salt at a little over two hours, too. When I was done swimming, I went to the front desk and called the embassy cafeteria and ordered chicken nuggets, so they’d be ready for me when I was showered and dressed. Damn, did they ever taste good!

So, 3 hours and 7 minutes after starting, 10,000 yards complete (10,067 to be exact)! In one month, perhaps I’ll try 13,000?

All the Russian swims I can find for 2017

April 16, 2017 | 2017 Season | Permalink

OK, so swims in Russia are coming out of the woodwork, and I hope to do as many of them as I can. I recently remarked on a FB page about one of the swims,”Wow, a swim only 15k from my house?” Another swimmer responded that there are many more in the Moscow area, more so than I may know. And he sent me a link to a calendar.

Well, yes, there are more. What follows is a list of all the swims not too far from Moscow. I’m doing three of them this summer, and hopefully more next summer. (The swims I’ve signed up for are in italics and the distances I’m doing in bold.)

  • 21 May, Fat Penguin, 3 x 300
  • 27 May, Champions Cup, nautical mile, 3k and 5k
  • 27-28 May, Oceanman Sochi, 1.5k, 5k, 10k
  • 4 Jun, Titan, 3K
  • 17-18 Jun, Seliger Swim, 5k, 10k
  • 17-18 Jun, Iver Mile, nautical mile
  • 18 Jun, Champions Cup, nautical mile, 5k
  • 24 Jun, Amur Swim, 1k and 12k
  • 24-25 Jun, Champions Cup, nautical mile, 6k
  • 1 Jul, Swim Cap, nautical mile, 3k, 5k
  • 1 Jul, tour of 3 bays, 1.9k, 3.8k, 5k
  • 1 Jul, Amber Wave, 1.9k
  • 2 Jul, Titan, 3k
  • 1-2 Jul, Iver Mile, nautical mile, 5k
  • 8 Jul, Night Express, 3×300
  • 8 Jul, A1 Swim, nautical mile, 3k, 5k, 10k
  • 15 Jul, Volga Swim, 1k, 3k, 5k
  • 15 Jul, Half Marathon in the river Tom, 2.3k
  • 22-23 Jul, Champions Cup, nautical mile, 5k
  • 29 Jul, Kronstadt Island, 25k
  • 29 Jul, Crossing from Engels to Saratov, 3.5k
  • 29 Jul, Swim Batyr, 1k, 2k, 4k
  • 29-30 Jul, Baikal Swim, nautical mile, 5k
  • 5-6 Aug, Iver Mile, 1.9k, 5k
  • 6 Aug, Onego Swim, 1.5k, 2.5k, 5k, 10k
  • 12 Aug, Nautical Mile across Gelendzhek Bay, nautical mile
  • 12-13 Aug, Arctic Swim, 1.85k, 3.8k
  • 19 Aug, Amberman Wave, nautical mile, 3k, 5k
  • 19-20 Aug, Iver Mile, nautical mile, 3.8k
  • 26 Aug, Amberman Wave, 1.5k
  • 27 Aug, Big Water, 5k

I mean, really, holy crap! So many swims! There are so many in that list I want to attend. How do I pick?

They’re multiplying!

April 7, 2017 | 2017 Season | Permalink

OK, so Russian swims are multiplying over here. I just keep finding them! I am so freaking excited. Such a difference from last time I was here.

Last time I was here (2009-2012), I had heard of a nautical mile swim just outside of Moscow from the lifeguard at the embassy pool. I tried twice to participate in that swim, but the organizers never answered my emails. Fine.

But now, holy crap! I’ve found 6. SIX! Seriously, awesome! Swims from a nautical mile to 12k, from Moscow all the way east (nine time zones away!) in Vladivostok. I mean…wow! So nice that the Russians are embracing open water.

Only issue so far is wetsuits. Two swims are organized by an organization whose rules about wetsuits are kinda lame. Bottom line: if the water is 20C or under, wetsuits are mandatory for their 3K and 5K swims. Yuck. I hate wetsuits.

But…their nautical mile swims are wetsuit-optional. Even better, the organizers said I could sign up for the mile and if the water is above 20 on swim day, I can switch to the 5K. So that’s my plan for 27 May, which is perfect as that swim is only 15km from my house! The swim is in a rowing venue, artificial lake created for rowing events.

I am so damn excited. Even better, the organizers are so excited to have a foreigner take part in their events. I hope to make some Russian friends through these swims. What an exciting time to be stationed in Russia!

The pool was fast today!

March 31, 2017 | Uncategorized | Permalink

So, two days in a row of good swimming. I love it!

Today I did another CSS (critical swim speed) test. If you don’t know CSS, click the link. I really love the Swim Smooth method; it’s worked the best for me. Anyway, the theory is that you swim a 400 time trial (after a warm-up of course), record your time. Cool down slash easy swim for about 10 minutes, then time trial 200. Then some math is done at Swim Smooth’s website and you come up with the time you should be able to swim to maintain per 100 for 1500.

Back in October, my 400 was 6:15 and my 200 was 3:03. Then in December I improved my times: 5:58 and 2:48. Not too bad, right? Since December I’ve had issues with my elbow, so I’ve been swimming slow and steady, at the most 3x a week. My yardage has been 9-12k a week, not too much.

Well, after yesterday’s great workout, I thought I’d do another CSS test. Hadn’t realized it had been so long. Anyway, I swam the 400 and 200 today in 5:50 and 2:46! I think my times were so good because I’ve been swimming slowly and steadily. I feel wonderful. My new CSS time is 1:32 (from 1:36 in October). So theoretically it means I should be able to do 1500 in 23 minutes. I’ll take that!

Great swim today

March 30, 2017 | Uncategorized | Permalink

Can’t believe what a great swim I had today!

So today I decided to just do an easy 3 x 1000. I pulled my hamstring yesterday, or perhaps just got a cramp. Anyway, my leg hurt. So I took it slow. But when I finished the first thousand in 17:00, I started to get concerned. Holy crap, I usually swim that in 17:45 or 18 minutes. Why so fast today? I wasn’t even trying!

So I took my usual 10 seconds rest, then started my second thou…

…and finished 2000 yards in 35:00. Never, ever have I swum that fast!

I didn’t even feel like I was going fast. I did feel like I was very efficient. So I started my third thousand, and finished it at 50 and some change.

Normally, that takes me 57-58 minutes! What the hell is going on? Granted, it’s been a while since I’ve timed myself, but holy wow.

What I’ve decided after today’s wonderful workout is to swim a CSS test tomorrow. The last time I did the CSS test (Dec 13th), I ended up with

CSS test
5:58 for 400
2:48 for 200

New CSS Pace:
1:35/100yd

I really think I may have dropped my CSS time. I’ll report back tomorrw!

Seliger Swim

March 26, 2017 | 2017 Season | Permalink

So the Seliger Swim, which I just discovered and blogged about, is about a five-hour drive from Moscow. The swim offers several options, including a 5K and 10K. I signed up for the 10K, figuring that would be a nice “long” swim prior to my Manhattan attempt.

As far as I can tell from the race description, this looks to be the route that the 10K will take:

The lake itself is a series of lakes, and learning that, my mind began to wander. Hmm…how long could I go in this lake?

Or maybe this?

I’ll have to check out that lake this June and see what possibilities there are. I’ve already excited the organizers (I’m the first American to sign up…Jaimie? Come join me!), so I’ll try to get with them during the swim and ask about possibilities in the lake. Maybe finding an escort boat would be easy? Who knows. Would be exciting to do something big here before I leave à la lake Issyk Kul.

I’m terribly excited that the Russians have embraced open water swimming. When I was last here I had found out about a nautical mile swim somewhere between St. Petersburg and Moscow (perhaps in this same lake?) and attempted to contact the organizers to join the swim and never got a response from them.

But now, the Russians have swims all over! Including lake Baikal! (I’m definitely doing that one next year.) Also all the way out in Vladivostok. I put that on my 2018 list!

And Vladivostok!

March 22, 2017 | Swimming Anthropology | Permalink

Holy crap, yet another Russia swim.

There is a 12km swim out in Vladivostok, 8-hour flight/7 time zones east of me. Apparentely, that swim has been going on for a few years now. It’s in the Amur river, and this year will be on 24 June 2017.

Vladivostok marathon swim

Sadly, this year I cannot attend. But I’ve got it on my list for 2018!