Hot Feeds Part 1

It has been suggested that taking warm/hot feeds during a marathon swim has more of a placebo effect than actually helping to keep a warm core. This may be technically true, I mean,  to what degree can 12 oz of warm fluid really warm 180 pounds of “pure muscle”?

Well, I can tell you from experience that when things are getting chilly, nothing feels better than hot stuff landing my stomach, and if feed time is set at 20 minute intervals, hot feeds can extend a swim by many hours.

With a luxurious support boat, a crew may be able to leisurly microwave each feed as needed. For a swim with more primitive support craft, a more creative solution is needed.

A few years back, I purchased a few 64oz Stanley thermoses. My feed plan consisted of having  my “muthalode” mixed to a 2X concentrated level, and my crew would add 50% hot water to the feed bottle just before feed time. This system is not without flaws, and has failed on several occasions. The problems I had were 1. the thermos failed to keep the water hot for the duration of the swim, and 2. complete failure of thermos.

Stage 3 of SCAR hit us with chilly water and a bit of a breeze. Since each swimmer had a kayak as their primary support, no hot feeds were available.

For Stage 1 of 8 Bridges last year, we experienced a unseasonably cold spell on the days leading up to the start, and as a result, the water temperature was a full 10 degrees F lower than predicted. Some quick improvisation enabled the crews to warm up feeds for the swimmers, but I ‘ve been planning to come up with a better solution since then.

So… it seems that we are faced with a choice between two options;                                                                   Option 1 – Crew mixes as needed and can control feed temperatures or;                                                     Option 2 – Pre-mix and decant into single serve bottles that can be loaded into a kayak or other support craft. The go-to single serve vessel seems to be a flip-top, wide-mouth, Rubbermaid bottle. They work great, but will not keep things hot.

What is needed is a single serve (12oz) thermal bottle… and I found one, but it is not without some issues. My next post will describe how I intend to address these issues, and also provide the cooling rate results of this bottle up to 10 hours.


2012 Swim Schedule

Well, I’ve planned a season of mostly under the radar swims, but I’m still quite excited to explore some new venues, and (hopefully) revive some old ones.

My OW season opened in Arizona with invitations from Kent Nicholas and Gia Kolack to swim part of each of their lake series swims. Though there is a lot of overlap in each of their visions, each series is quite different and offers unique challenges. I hope they both are inspired to turn these into annual events.

Gia’s series consists of 6 lakes; 10 miles in each lake. The courses were marked out by GPS. From the starting point, the support boat would cruise out 5 miles and drop anchor. Swimmers turned around the boat and headed back to the starting point. Janet and I joined Gia for Roosevelt Lake on May 6th. It was the third or fourth lake in her 6 x 10 mile series.

On May 4th and 5th, we swam with Kent in Saguaro Lake and Canyon Lake. These courses were determined by the lakes themselves, and we swam the lengths… dam to dam. the S.C.A.R challenge continued on to Lake Apache, and will conclude with a night swim at Lake Roosevelt.

I’ve been quite busy planning events in the Hudson, so haven’t gotten in any long swims since… a broken rib (slipped on the trail to Saguaro Lake) had me on the sidelines a bit as well, but… the show must go on!

2012 Swim Schedule

May 4th Saguaro Lake, Arizona +/- 9.5 miles
May 5th Canyon Lake, Arizona +/- 9 miles
May 6th Lake Roosevelt, Arizona 10 miles
June 30th 8 Bridges Stage 5, Hudson River 19.8 miles
July 21 La Traversee du Lac St Jean, Quebec 32k
July 28-29 Lake Inari, Finland 20k
August 4 Vidostern, Sweden 21k
August 21-23 Cape Cod Bay, MA 20 miles
???Sept 9 Memphre, Newport, VT 25 miles Committed
???Oct ??????????????? (a few ideas in the works)

Pilgrim’s Regress

Today, I drove to Plymouth MA to pick up a Zodiac hull that I will be outfitting, over the next couple of months, with a new motor, new tubes, new electronics, and a customized top designed to store a variety of safety gear and facilitate the clear display of warning/caution/swimmer banners slightly above eye-level. This seems to be the logical progression for a swimmer obsessed… have boat; will/can travel. Of course, there is the tiny detail of needing willing/able/capable pilots… more on that plan soon.

Since I have been thinking about a swim from Plymouth to Provincetown for some time now, I decided to take a small detour to White Horse Beach, which would be the logical start for this swim. Taylor Road runs parallel to the beach and is fairly close to the high water line, but there are many beach cottages, at times crammed four deep between the pavement and the sand… some on stilts, and only a very few appeared to be set up for winter occupancy. To say the neighborhood was quiet on this Saturday in January would be an understatement. Still, there were a few dog walkers on the beach, and as I was on somewhat of a recon mission, I was determined to have a chat with anyone who might provide a bit of info. Mr. Black Lab – iPod was in a bit of a hurry, but did stop long enough to point in the direction of Provincetown. He was also kind enough to add that it would probably take days to swim that distance… thanks… you can go now… Fido is getting restless…

Cape Cod is a rather narrow and low-lying strip of land that extends from the mainland in a counter-clockwise sweep to the terminal fist that is Provincetown. As the horizon is somewhat less than the 19-20 miles between W-H Beach and P-Town, there was no visible land, but the Pilgrim Monument , at 252 feet tall, is the only thing one can see in the distance.


I thought this was a stretch of water begging for a first crossing, but have just recently learned that it has, in-fact, been swum once successfully and attempted several times. According to my friend, (and director of the Boston Light Swim Greg O’Connor:

I did find that many people have attempted the swim from Plymouth to P-town or the reverse, but only Russell Chaffee of Sayre, PA has succeeded. Chaffee was known for his long river swims such as the Susquehanna River (250 miles). He would swim 30 or so miles during day light and get out at night, much like the 8 Bridges.

He swam from Plymouth because of the counter clockwise rotation of the current in Cape Cod bay.

Chaffee made his swim on Wednesday August 14, 1968. He started from Manomet Beach in Plymouth at 4:00AM. This timing coincides with the height of the ebb tide in Plymouth on that day. He finished at Herring Cove Beach just south of Race Point in Provincetown at 6:40PM, about 14 hour and 40 minutes. The distance is about 18.5 miles. He wore no cap, but just goggles and blue swim trunks (or a “skirt” as my friend Pam would say).
Before starting he ate a breakfast of eggs and ham (not green) and during the swim he drank 8 cokes and ate a box of sugar cookies. The tide was still going out when he got to P-town and he had to “work like mad” to finish. Chaffee was 41 at the time.

The first reported attempt for a bay crossing before Chaffee was in 1915. On a bet (most marathon open-water swims back then involved a lot of boasting and money to back it up) Henry Sullivan of Lowell (1st American to cross the EC!) and Samuel Richards of S. Boston left Nantasket way up in Hull and swam for P-town. Charlie Toth of Boston (3rd man to swim the EC) jumped in at the last minute. Richards quit after 5 hours, then Toth after 10. After 14 hour, with 9 miles to go, Sullivan got out.

There were several failed attempts in the 1950s to swim from P-town to Plymouth.

Now, I have to say that this bit of history really adds to the allure of the swim for me, and having a few more friends with an interest in reviving the route is exciting and reassuring.

How many days until summer?

Planning 2012

This is the season…. almost daily, reports are posted of “the last swim of the season” on blogs, tweets and FB. Photos of shivering swimmers under bare trees or skipping through the snow to a sacred splash site are popping up as well.

Though I haven’t been in the OW since Oct. 22, I have plans to get another couple of Coney Island swims in before December hits. Still…. thoughts are deep into the 2012 season.

Rondi and I have begun planning the 2nd annual 8 Bridges event, and we have an updated website.

Plans to open the stages to more swimmers this year will likely mean that I spend a few of the days on the water coordinating swimmer safety with our boaters and kayakers. I am excited to be able to offer OW swimmers the opportunity to experience the beauty of the middle and lower Hudson from our unique perspective.

So… not knowing exactly how much swimming I’ll get in during that week, I’ve started looking more seriously at a few things that have been on the back burner for a while. Logistically, its fairly easy to book a swim with a well established federation and approved pilot. There may very well be a long waiting period, but the process is a given, and one can draw upon the experiences of others to measure expectations. On the other end, planning a new route requires research and on site recon test swims and observations. Without the enthusiastic support of other swim-explorers, I couldn’t imagine spending all the time and resources necessary to realize these swims that have yet to be done.


Though NYC Swim’s MIMS is a leg of the Triple Crown, the northeast of the US really doesn’t have a swim to compete with the English Channel. California has Catalina, and a bunch of other possible swims from the chain of islands that make up the Santa Barbara Channel, and so with that in mind I started to look for something that would be as challenging. After a little research, I think I found something that might work. The Cape Cod Bay sees water temps that might reach the mid 60’s in the summer, and from what I’ve read, a current that swirls in a counter-clockwise direction which could make the finish “interesting”. I have the enthusiastic support of two swimmer friends (both who spend a good amount of time on the Cape) Mo Siegal, and Eileen Burke. Both have been talking about about a swim across the bay, and so with our combined effort, I think we can make it happen this year. Though we haven’t formulated our plan yet, this mission will take at least a couple of slow boat rides along the planned route to measure current speeds at different stages of the tides. The good thing about this is we don’t have to wait for the water to warm up to “swimmable” temps, and I think late winter/early spring would be a lovely time to be floating around in a dinghy in the middle of the bay. As the “founders” of the swim, we will also have to decide where the start and finish should be. There appear to be a couple of more obvious options for the start: Whitehorse Beach to Provincetown is just over 19 miles, Gray’s Beach to Provincetown is 25+ miles. I think we are all leaning toward the latter which will put the start a few miles deep into Plymouth Bay and Kingston Bay. This might give the swimmer a couple of hours of tidal assist on an outgoing tide until they exit Plymouth Bay… then the whole anti-clockwise swirl will begin, and we might need to follow a heading due east in order to ride the sweep north to the “fist” for the finish. This is all speculative at this point, and I won’t really know how this all works until we spend a little time on the water.


The number of Finger Lakes is either 11 or 12.

I’ve only swum in one of them… Canandaigua for a 2 mile USMS national championship a couple of years ago. Due to a lightning event, the race was cut short and results relied heavily on the honor system. A few revisions were made days after the event, but still, I’m pretty certain I was robbed… I won’t name names. Moving forward…..

Originally, I was trying to put together a plan to do all 11 (or 12) of them, but after last year’s 8 Bridges, I am pretty resolved to limit my efforts to just a week.

Luckily, there are 6 big’uns so my thoughts are to swim one per day with a break in the middle:

  • SKANEATELES – 16 miles
  • OWASCO – 11 miles
  • CAYUGA – 40 miles
  • ***rest day***
  • SENECA – 38 miles
  • KEUKA – 20 miles
  • CANANDAIGUA – 15.5 miles

I have a ton of legwork to do, including finding boat launches, training crews, water temps, prevailing wind directions, etc

There are a few other swims I’m looking at, but I’ll save them for another post. I’ve also been spending a lot of time looking at support equipment (boats), so stay tuned………….

8 Bridges

Though my blog has been idle, don’t think that I haven’t been hard at work putting together another mid-life crisis swim season.

8 Bridges will be the first event of the season. I’ve wanted to do this swim for quite a few years, but to be honest, the planning is exhausting and I didn’t have enough knowledge about all the many factors until now. Still, the process of applying for a marine event permit is mysterious, and I’m learning that just filling in all the blanks on the applications is only enough to get in the door… not invited to the table. I did get said application in on time (135 days prior to event) but still need to follow up with a detailed safety plan and a more accurate timeline; especially for the last two stages where we will be swimming through a busy commercial zone.

Rondi has been incredibly helpful and enthusiastic, and we now have an all-star team coming together to provide support and information.
Salme, a grad student at The Stevens Institute, is working on the swim model. We are scheduling a couple of test stages in the spring to check our pace predictions. Most importantly, we need to know if we (mainly I) can cover the distance of each leg during the ebb or if I will have to start earlier and swim against the end of the flood for a couple of hours.

John Lipscomb, captain for Riverkeeper, just gave a talk on the water quality of the Hudson River. Rondi and I attended. I was pleased to learn that most of the problem spots are rather localized, and though is no way to guarantee that we won’t encounter areas of elevated pathogens, we can certainly make some evasive maneuvers that will give us the best odds of traveling through clean water.

I just had a long conversation with Captain Greg of Launch 5. It looks like we have a cracker jack pilot and safety boat! (huge sigh of relief!)

yeah, yeah, yeah…… been swimming too. I attended the OW safety conference in SF. A great event. I didn’t take any notes because they promised to post video of all the discussions on the USMS site, but it was great to see so many old friends and make a few new ones. I didn’t get banned from anything.

I was able (with the help of Leslie Thomas of Swim-Art) to put together a little 5k swim from the Golden Gate to Aquatic Park. Brisk 53 degree water and joined by forumites Robbie D, Chicken of the Sea, Ourswimmer, E=H2O and (non-forumites) Cristian, Nico, Charlotte, Willie + Julie on the boat and 4 kayaks and 2 zodiaks made for a nice pre conference splash.

……and I got to meet Ahelee too!