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

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.

Issyk Kul tomorrow!

August 5, 2017 | Grand Plan, Swimming Anthropology | Permalink

My friend Olesya took some pictures from lake Issyk Kul today.

Tomorrow, one year and one month after my successful crossing, four intrepid local Kyrgyz will attempt to swim from Kara Talaa in the south to Toru Aygyr in the north.

Unsure how many will be with and how many without wetsuit. We will see. This is a great first step for Kyrgyz swimmers and I hope this will herald great swims on this beautiful lake in the future. Good luck! Жакшы ийгилик!

Eurasia Swim Cup and Cup of Champions Changes

August 2, 2017 | 2017 Season, Swimming Anthropology | Permalink

Recently, the two major swim series here in Russia have changed things up. Both involve the beautiful town of Sochi!

The Eurasia Swim Cup, the wonderful folks who gave me one of their t-shirts and who welcomed the crazy wetsuit-less foreigner with open arms, had a swim on their schedule in Sochi, set for 17 September. Unfortunately, that swim is now missing from their schedule. It hasn’t been replaced by anything, it is simply gone. I was looking forward to that swim as I haven’t ever been to Sochi. The closest I’d ever come was the lovely town of Gelendzhik, some miles up the coast from Sochi.

But Sochi may not be out of my plans completely. Just announced today is the Cup of Champions’ new event on their schedule: The Sochi Swim Festival. The Festival will run from Friday, 29 September through Sunday, 1 October. They will hold workshops throughout the weekend, in the pool, in open water, and in classrooms. But there’ll be lots of swimming, too. On Saturday, there’ll be a 30-minute and a 60-minute swim for distance in the pool. There’s also a team event: 3 people swim 100s for 15 minutes, trying to out-distance other teams. These seem to be popular over here. This organization has a whole series of these pool swims throughout the winter. I might have to try my hand at the hour swim, or find two friends to do the 15-minute event with.

Sunday is open water day! They’ll have three individual events: 5.5k, nautical mile, and 1k. There’s also another 3-person event, 3 x 1000. Swim map below.

The yellow is for the 1k course. The red loop for the other two events: one loop for nautical mile and three loops for 5.5k. The timing is such that I might be able to do both the 5.5k and the 1k, or maybe even the 3 x 1k! Unknown what those green arrows are, but probably they are where the workshops and host hotel are. The host hotel looks nice. It’s the Imeretinsky Resort. These types of resorts are very popular here. You pay one price for room and board (2 or 3 meals a day) and live in a communal and social (ex verbo socialism) environment. This is the type of place I stayed in for my Cyprus swim all those years ago.

For now, decisions decisions. Can I go? Can I find two friends who want to swim with me? We’ll have to see.

More pictures from Manhattan

July 30, 2017 | 2017 Season, Iconic marathon swim | Permalink

Finally downloaded pictures from my kids’ and wife’s phones from our NYC trip. This’ll be a picture-heavy post, with comments along the way. Enjoy!

Beautiful sunrise to start the day

Magdalena appreciating the weather at the start

Rounding the southern tip of Manhattan

Strangest building

Nice view of the southern skyline

Not sure which bridge I’m going under here. Brooklyn?

Ditto. Bridge #3?

More in our series of “strangest building”

I passed the United Nations at some point…blissfully ignorant

The point of my restart, Wards Island footbridge (#5)

Entering the Hudson

Passing under the last bridge. Only 11 miles to go!

Passing the High Line

This is the cove the NYPD made us wait in while the cruise ship was pulling out


U.S.S. Intrepid

Port view of the Intrepid. Is the Nicholas Cage up there?!

Another strange building candidate on the right

I thought I’d never get to the One World Trade Center

Of course, marathon swimming is a team sport. I couldn’t have done it without my crew.

Agnes, the best kayaker a swimmer could ask for. Whatcha doing in two years?

And my kids, the best crew a dad could ask for.

Sam and Maggie

Crew’s gotta eat, am I right?!

…and sleep

The family and I did more than this swim during our NYC trip. Can’t visit Manhattan without seeing some stuff!

We met the Dalai Lama

And Lady Liberty

We had great Chinese food

And good local beer!

We rearranged some sculpture

Caught some great views

And of course, you can’t have a trip with IronMike without jumpography. Lots and lots of jumping!

Sadly, I have no pictures of the boat pilot, Paul, or of my observer, Hsi-Ling. Will have to remedy that the next time!

Lessons learned and way ahead after 20 Bridges

July 29, 2017 | 2017 Season, Iconic marathon swim | Permalink

Today marks a week since I attempted to swim around Manhattan.* I’ve been thinking of little else since. What could I have done to get past Hell Gate? Did I really push it enough, or did I hold back? Should I have stopped and asked Agnes what’s up when I saw both jet skiers come by to talk to her?

Initial thoughts? I should have been prepared to go 70 strokes per minute (SPM) for about an hour, an increase of 15 SPM over my usual. However, after talking to a swimmer I admire and trust, and after reading the Bible of open water swimming technique, I don’t think that would have helped. My technique isn’t what it should be; it certainly is not as effortless as my daughter’s. I work a couple times a week on getting my technique correct. More often than not, my technique suffers after either a long time in the water or my mind wandering. I sometimes go back to the sloppy “keyhole” technique I, and most kids in the ’70s, learned at the Y or in Scouts. I’ve worked over the years to erase that technique from my mind and I think I mostly have. What suffers most is my catch. When I’m not paying attention, more often than not I will all of a sudden throw in a pause right before the catch and/or push down rather than back when I start the catch.

So I think by working on my technique for longer periods, I will improve my distance per stroke (DPS) which could help me get through Hell Gate next time. In fact, my speed had improved over the last year while training for 20 Bridges. I did three CSS tests in my weird Russian pool (3 laps equals 100 yards): October my CSS was 1:36. Six weeks later in mid-December, it improved to 1:35. Three months later a vast improvement to 1:32. I think what I’ll do in the coming years is continue to test my CSS, but do it in my daughter’s school’s pool (SCM). The problem with the Russian pool is that for each 100 (yard) set I get six push-offs vs. four in a normal pool. My initial results will be probably in the 1:40’s since I’ll have fewer flips and meters vice yards, but that’s ok.

Two areas of my swim were absolutely on point: nutrition and injury prevention. Nutrition-wise, I stuck to my usual plan: let me swim for an hour before you give me anything to drink. I need that hour to get the nerves out and brush away the cobwebs. In that first hour I knocked out almost four miles, and it felt great seeing three bridges zoom on by me. My feeds consisted of Crystal-lite flavored water, Justin’s nut butter samplers, little bite-sized pepperonis from Whole Paycheck Foods, little Babybel cheese. I didn’t want my first feed till 2:00, and it would be a nut butter (always Agnes’s choice of flavor). When I didn’t get a feed at 2:00 I should have known I was in trouble. When the nut butters got boring, I asked for something different. “Agnes,” stroke stroke “pepperoni,” stroke stroke. She seemed really excited that I had cheese and meats as feeds; perhaps I was the first swimmer to not just give her a bunch of bottles of carb mix? I should add here that at the end of the swim, Agnes complemented my kids for always having the feeds ready for her, so I can say that my crew was also on point.

As for injury prevention, this was, frankly, the most surprising to me. I tried to keep it quiet in my social circles, both online and IRL, but my funky elbow has been giving me troubles for the past four or five months. First, for those who only know me through this blog, a picture of my fukt-up elbow.

From top to bottom: elbow from the outside (posterior?); elbow from the inside; elbow extended as much as possible; elbow contracted as much as possible. (Btw, the marks on the mirror are from white-board markers; we use the mirror as a message board!) Even thought my elbow looks horrid, I don’t think it affects my stroke at all, or at least not much. I have no problem with the elbow during the catch phase. I guess the only affect would be when my hand enters the water as I can’t reach as far with the right arm as I can with the left.

However, for the last few months my elbow’s been giving me trouble. Pain has ranged from the bony deposits on the olecranon (in picture one, the topmost part of my arm you see is not my elbow (medial epicondyle, technically) but the bony growth on my olecranon). I think technically it is known as an osteochondroma, but can’t be sure. The medical records covering my elbow surgeries are in St. Louis in the military archives; I never made copies, unfortunately. All this bony growth has led to arthritis. Interestingly, when I had my military retirement physical, an orthopedic surgeon took x-rays of my elbow, and spent a great deal of time looking at the films. He seemed genuinely interested. His only comment, and this from a doctor who looked to be in his mid- to late-50’s, so probably with a few decades experience behind him: “I’ve never seen elbow arthritis, but I imagine if I ever did, it would look just like this.”

So I knew five years ago that I might have trouble with this in the future. And it reared its ugly head months ago. But that’s not all! No, not all. I was lucky enough to get tendinitis as well! At least, that’s what my extensive WebMDing came up with. The pain started in the brachialis, and would get severely painful, almost hot. (Climber’s elbow?) I would feel it swimming when I extended my arm in preparation for the catch. It affected my swimming so much I’d have to shorten the reach of my right arm. More often than not, the pain would be so great I’d have to cut my workout short. Then, normal things like walking, with my arm hanging naturally, would hurt those tendons. I bought one of those elbow braces that are really just a warm snuggly hug on your elbow, thinking that warming up the tendon prior would do the job, but no. It still hurt. My wife’s had tendinitis before and found that continuing to use the tendon, cautiously, was the trick. So I cut my workouts back but still did them. I was okay for maybe two days then it didn’t matter. More pain. I took an entire week off. Still hurt just walking around.

I decided to stick to one plan and see how it goes. I took ibuprofen when the pain necessitated it. I swam an hour a day, two days on, one off. That seemed to do the trick. (I managed to do two long swims during this period, 10,000 yards and 11,200 meters, with low pain.) It still would hurt when I did speed work, and after my first open water swim here in Russia (5.8k), it was very painful for the rest of the day. Ibuprofen again.

I came up with a plan for 20 Bridges with the help of my crew chief cum doc from Issyk Kul: 800mg of ibuprofen 30 minutes prior to the start of 20 Bridges, then the equivalent of 800mg in Children’s Motrin (40ml) as needed during the swim, not to exceed 2400mg in 24 hours. Therefore I knew I had two doses I could take while swimming. (I put the 40ml into a water bottle with about 4oz of water. Doesn’t taste good, but it gets the meds into my system quickly.)

Well, during the swim, maybe around 4:00, I started to think about my lower back. I knew the minute I had anything even approaching pain, I had to get the meds down my gullet. So, another stroke stroke “ibuprofen” to Agnes, and somewhere around four hours into the swim I took my first dose. And never took another one.

It was an incredible feeling. The last thing I expected was to not have pain in my elbow. Not sure why, but I’m thanking God (and my training?) for nine-plus hours of swimming with no elbow pain. My left shoulder a couple times, however, went “Ouch” really loud. It would be when I wasn’t paying attention and my catch would slip. I rarely have shoulder pain, so this took me by surprise. But it really wasn’t anything for me to worry about during the swim. The next morning, while on our way to see Lady Liberty, I pointed to something with my left hand, back behind myself. Imagine, if you will, locking your elbow to your side, lower arm parallel to the ground, and rotating your lower arm away from your body keeping your elbow glued to your side. I did that movement and made it maybe three inches before extreme pain in the front deltoid. Weird. Within a few days, I had full motion again with no pain.

But, most important, my elbow never hurt during the swim nor after! The day after my Issyk Kul crossing last year I was in the car and reached with my right arm to open the glove compartment and BANG extreme pain in the elbow. Remembering that, I brought a sling and my elbow brace with me to NYC. Used neither. It was wonderful.

Finally, the mental game. You sometimes read or hear marathon swimmers mention how this sport is so-and-so much percentage mental. I really believe that. I spent the last eight months or so imagining myself swimming the whole thing. (I should have visualized myself swimming through Hell Gate!) I had all these great things I was going to do after. I was going to consider myself a “real” marathon swimmer. I was going to write up a short article for a work newsletter. I was going to get an iconic swim next to my name in the long swims db. Maybe The Seafarer tattoo I’ve wanted for so long?

Granted, I didn’t swim around Manhattan. I’ve already discussed that. But boy oh boy, did mental toughness ever get me through the second ‘half’ of the swim. So many times I wanted to quit. But I really didn’t have a reason. I wasn’t cold. I wasn’t nauseous. I wasn’t in pain. At times I was bored, or really, how to describe it…tired of being in salty water? Weary of the tedium? Running out of things to think about? Praying for the Hudson to push me even faster? Not sure, but I couldn’t quit. I came way too far, in air miles, in $$$, in training. Just couldn’t do it.

I guess that means three areas were on point: nutrition, injury prevention, and the mental game. Good. Now I can concentrate on my speed. Hell Gate, I will conquer you! See you in 2019?

*Coincidentally, a friend of mine just completed 40 Bridges today. Yes, she swam around Manhattan twice non-stop. Granted, she’s renowned for how incredible of a swimmer she is.

Garmin tracks for my 20 Bridges attempt

July 27, 2017 | 2017 Season, Iconic marathon swim | Permalink

Got home about an hour ago and of course had to sync my Garmin. Below is the map from my 20 Bridges attempt on 22 July.

So how about that pace? That’s the fastest you’ll ever see for Iron Mike. Of course, 1:10 per 100 meters over 9+ hours is a function of those little white areas among the blue. That first white area, from about 2:18 to 2:33, is when a boat came and picked up Agnes and her kayak and ferried her up to the Ward’s Island footbridge to meet me. (Recall that my Garmin was attached to her kayak.) I got there pretty quick from being picked up (I guesstimate at 2:13 or so) to getting to where I’d start again (a few minutes before Agnes showed up). I’ve heard a half-hour is how long I was out of the water, but not sure that is correct. Will have to wait and see when I get Hsi-Ling’s observer notes. Sometime after 2:33 elapsed time is when I put my head down again and re-started my swim (or started my second swim).

From the footbridge I am technically in the Harlem, but I really get the benefit of the current about 3:20 when my pace really speeds up. At some points I’m swimming at less than a minute per 100 meters! That’s probably the area where the Harlem thinned out and I saw the walls zooming by. What a feeling! Even into the Hudson, at about 6:30 I’m going super fast, around 0:47 per 100. The weird thing was that I didn’t feel like I was being pushed. Once you pass bridge #20 it is hard to gauge your speed. Plus the choppiness (Ari, jet skier #2, said the Hudson was calm my day. Oy!) made it feel like I was going incredibly slowly. Not true at all as the 11 miles in the Hudson sped by in about 3:30.

That second white area at about 7:26 was when the NYPD pushed over into the cove to await the cruise ship. That was longer than I thought, at about six minutes. Then it was the long drag into the finish, which I hit at about 9:14.52. Agnes kept the Garmin running for the quick trip back to Pier 25 where we got off the boat.

Total time on the Garmin was 9:34.04 with a moving time of 9:04.16. Not sure how much of that Δ is when I was swimming in place in the East river. I understand part of it is when I had to be moved up the East river (Google map estimate is that they moved me 1.5 miles up river), and the time waiting for the cruise ship, but otherwise I think it’s not too bad. Looking at it as two different swims, I did a little less than seven miles in about 2:13 before being moved. Then after starting up again, I swam 20 miles in about 6:40. I’ll take that.

Upcoming this weekend, I’ll go over lessons learned and way ahead if (when?) I attempt this swim again in the future.

Pictorial tour through my 20 Bridges

July 25, 2017 | 2017 Season, Humor, Iconic marathon swim | Permalink

I’ll have more pictures in the coming days, but for now, here’s a few from my attempt at 20 Bridges.

We had to be there at 0500, so this is me sitting and waiting…and being nervous…

I’ve already spoken elsewhere about how wonderful this marathon swimming community is. While I was sitting there, my right hand shaking like a leaf (“…but this is my swimming hand”), I got hugs from people I’d only ever met online. Really helped with the nerves, as did the requisite pre-swim jumpography.

Before I knew it, we were on the boat and motoring over to the start at Pier A.

Wow, do I ever look nervous!

Before long, it was my time to start, and I was so relieved to just jump in and get this swim started.

The first hour flew by. Not sure how far I got, will have to wait until I get back home and sync my Garmin.

This is one of the first few bridges I swam under. I told my crew my cardinal rule: Never tell me how far I’ve gone or how far I have to go. I told Agnes, my kayaker, to also not tell me what bridge I’m on. That didn’t mean I didn’t count as they were going by. Turns out by the end I was off on my count, thank God.

Then came the tough part, the decision to quit or get moved and go on, even though the swim wouldn’t count. I chose to continue, of course, and here is where they dropped me and Agnes and I started up again, the Wards Island Bridge.

Lots and lots of bridges passed me by in the wonderfully-cooperative Harlem river. Before long, though, I passed under what I thought was bridge #19 but actually #20.

Now the tough part. Had no idea it was about 11 miles from this point to the finish. So glad I didn’t know. En route, I passed a bunch of things I had no idea I passed.

And of course, through it all, my crew was there.

Thank the river gods, I finally found the finish. Longest DQ ever!

Compare this picture to the one at the start. So glad to be done!

Came out of the water, waving to my family at Pier A. So thankful to be done. Had to return some water back to nature first. (Of course, one of my kids just had to take this picture.)

The kids and I cleaned up at Pier 25 and took a very short taxi ride back to Pier A to meet up with family for a nice après-swim dinner.

Only later after getting back to our tiny lower East side walk-up did I really appreciate how wonderful my family was, none of them ever commenting on how horrid I looked. (Pictures below are from three days after the swim!)

Once we get back to Moscow I’ll post the Garmin tracks and my lessons learned. For now though, this is IronMike signing off from Manhattan!