Winter Snivel

February is typically the month where I like to turn it up a few notches and log a couple of big swim workouts. Friends have been posting workouts and photos from the full olympic schedule (including prelims) set, to the obligatory 100×100’s to Bill Shipp’s 30k in 3 days, to Suzie Dodds’ 24 hour relay, and on and on….

I was planning a 49x 100fly birthday set, but tweaked my back shoveling the mountains of snow out of my driveway that I couldn’t manage a single lap of butterfly, and crawled a very slow 2500yds recovery paced swim with (oh the shame) open turns.

The seasons snow totals have been rather impressive, and the x-c skiing has been great, but with the storms come pool closures and dicey driving conditions.  Local skiing is one of the reasons I live in the Hudson Valley, and when conditions are this good, I try to squeeze it all in. Regrettably this last week was a total bust for me. The third goal of my misery hat trick is a nasty bit of bronchitis (not quite pneumonia).

Well, I have my meds and seem to be on the mend…. still 11 days left, and 4 weeks until Eleuthera.



Though I took my first plunge early this year… 1/1/12 at Brighton Beach, and (as always) some hard-core CIBBOWS swimmers continued the weekly ritual without break, I don’t consider myself fully in that NY-OW state of mind until the mercury reads 50+.

I thought it was a possibility this past Saturday, so after a very brief 1500 yards at Gunks Masters, I dressed and drove the 2.5 hours to Brighton Beach. I missed the 11 AM meet-up, but there were a good dozen or more swimmers either in the water of just finishing up their swims.

Ritual is a very personal thing, and it makes it hard to plan a group swim when the water is a bracing 46 degrees. Some take a long time wading in slowly to “warm up”, others do a heads up breast-stroke, etc. I like the shock of a quick plunge.

I swam to the end of BB and back… about 1 mile, and tried something new to warm up. No towel, no parka, just a 1 mile run, repeating the same path that I just swam.

On the way back I noticed a swimmer still out there… Brad Mc Vetta was in the home stretch of the standard Coney Island 5k loop. Total time 1hr 50min (I was impressed)

The water was cold and clear, and a few days later, Janet and Hannah would witness the invasion of the spider crabs
I have only witnessed this event once at Brighton Beach and it was indeed breathtaking. I’m not sure what triggers this activity, as I’ve swum through many seasons without seeing a single one.

Today, I had the pleasure of swimming in a small local pond that sits in the shadow of the Shawangunk cliff formation known as the Trapps.…Trapps_-_1.jpg

My friend and frequent training partner Willie has been inviting me to join him here for a while, and when he claimed that the water temp was up to the mid 50’s, I didn’t really believe him. It was actually high 50’s today… quite comfortable. We got in around 5:45 and the sun set behind the Trapps after about 15 minutes into our swim. Without a winter to speak of, the local lakes won’t be fed by snow melt, and I expect that water temps around the region will hit the 60’s by mid April.

We’ll be in the Hudson in no time!

2012 – Day 1

Nothing like starting the year off with a bang…. and a PR!

I would have been content with a nice long 10,000 yard pool set… a standard 100×100… or maybe something a little more creative, but since no pool within 50 miles was open today, I decided to join CIBBOWS for a New Year celebratory ocean swim. An unseasonably warm winter so far has brought the ocean temperature slowly down to 45 degrees… only 5 degrees colder than my last Brighton Beach swim the weekend before Thanksgiving, so I was feeling rather positive that I could swim for at least a mile… maybe more.

I got in the car at 8:00 AM. Outside temperature 31 degrees… a little frost on the windshield. Ten minutes drive I was in New Paltz… grabbed a cup of coffee and headed for the NYS Thruway… outside temp: 36 degrees. This is looking good.

XM radio deep tracks and coffee house kept me company until I was within range of WNYC (one of new york’s public radio station)… classical music… not in the mood… switch to some Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds cd’s… that’ll put things into perspective. Over the George Washington Bridge, the Hudson looks flat. The sun is shining… outside temp: 42 degrees… open moonroof. 30 minutes later I’m at Brighton Beach. The streets are empty but there is a lot of activity on the boardwalk. I’m the first swimmer to arrive… outside temp: 46 degrees.

I pace around a bit wondering if anyone is going to show up here, or head down to Stillwell Ave to marvel at the invading swarm of humanity gathering for the annual Polar Bear dip. The water near the Coney Island Pier is busy with Police and Fire boats, even though the Bears aren’t scheduled to plunge for a few hours. Hsi-Ling and John H are the first to show up, and soon 20 others spread their gear out at the usual spot. There is no hurry to suit up and get in, but there is a lot of discussion about it! Brad and I formulate a plan to swim to the white building (at the east end of BB) and back… a distance of one mile. He warns me to give him a head start as he is slow getting in… knees then hips then shoulders then a little heads up breaststroke… I don’t know how people do it like that. I’m a kamikaze.

Brad starts his entry routine, I already have my earplugs in and a silicone cap on… check to make sure my goggles are seated well… parka off and to the water. Brad is up to his waist. I start to wonder if this is a good idea. Its three degrees colder than I have ever swum in before… a measurable difference for sure, but I’m a little older (yes) and wiser (debatable) now…

I turn my back to the water, and facing the boardwalk, close my (goggled) eyes… taking deep breaths, I talk myself through the doubt. “Its a perfect sunny day”… “Its only a mile”… “Its only 3 degrees colder”… “Etc”.

Eyes open, turn around. Brad is breaststroking; the final stage of his entry ritual. Its go-time.

I run in up to my waist and dive in. It hurts. Its cold. It feels like someone slapped my neck, both sides simultaneously just below my jaw line, I gasp for air, and again until it becomes a steady rhythm. Breathing left (beach side) I soon pass Brad who is still doing breaststroke… sorry, can’t stop now, I’ll have to double back when things even out a bit more. After a few minutes I am able to settle into a comfortable pace. My hands and feet are getting cold, ironically, I look forward to this sensation as a sense of inner warmth always follows. Some say a loss of dexterity is a sign of hypothermia, but I’ve found that this happens so early into a cold swim for me that it is more of a sign that my blood is staying in my core… where I prefer it to be. I turn back often to see where Brad is at… always about 25 yards back and swimming steadily. I get to the white building, swim back to Brad, and we continue to the white building again together. I feel good now, but its no time to chat so we start right back west.

With Brad on my left (ocean side) I alternate breathe all the way back. When we are a few yards from our starting point, we are greeted by another swimmer heading east. It takes me a moment to realize that its Rachel. A hug and a frozen faced, bells palsy-like mumble of apy ooo ere, and I decide to join her for a round trip to the large rocks east of Grimaldo’s chair… probably 800 yards. We pass the jetty and head back. With a little more than 150 yards to go, a dreamy feeling paid me a visit, so I headed for the shallows. My face was pretty frozen, and I wasn’t closing my mouth after each breath… taking in a bit of water each cycle. I found it cool and refreshing. This I took as a sign to get out. I exited the water and ran on the beach for a few minutes before joining the rest of the gang.

A little over 40 minutes @45 degrees! (a new low!)

The after drop hit me and so the shivers began. Lots of hot tea made its way around, and the sun was still shining, so the warming process was uneventful. Everyone started making their way west to Stillwell to join the Polar Bear festivities.


The past week was a bit of a logistical roller coster for getting my 1000 miles completed. My main pool is closed for the break, another pool across the river is plagued by lifeguard shortages (another college pool) during the break, so I hoped that it would be an easy fix during my visit to Bklyn with several pools within striking distance, and a couple set up for LCM.

Dec 24 was a travel day, so I woke up at 4:30 AM on the 25th and headed to Riverbank (the pool that is never closed). It was closed, so I headed cross-town to Asphalt Green which was a complete ghost town except for a lifeguard and a security guard who stated “the pool is open, but nobody is here but you”. I’m OK with that, so I asked for a drop in pass…. no dice. he wasn’t authorized to fill out the proper forms, and since no members were present, I couldn’t get in as a guest either. SOL

Time was running out: 22 +/- miles to go and 6 days left to the year. Two days would be lost to New Years closures and they were predicting a major snow storm. Clare decided to head upstate early on the 26 to beat the storm, I secured a swim date with Kenn L at Chelsea Piers, so I planned to drive up later. CP is a great gym, and even though the pool is only 25 yards, I was glad to have the opportunity to get a nice long session in.

20x 1000 on 15 minutes.

I did this session with water only; no gels, no carbs. I kept the effort moderately light and had a little more than a minute rest on each 1000 keeping my walls light. The pool is surrounded by glass and it was nice to see the Hudson River getting tossed up in the storm while the snow started to pile up. I walked to my car and decided that it wouldn’t be wise to drive upstate in this storm, so I headed to Bklyn, parked the car and went to sleep.

The storm dropped about two feet of snow and not a plow in site. After a little time on the internet, I discovered that everything (pools) was closed, the subway wasn’t running and my car was buried, so I couldn’t even get to Coney Island for a snow dip. The next morning, 12/28 limited subway service was restored and a few calls later, I found that Chelsea Piers was the only game in town. Since I couldn’t drive anywhere, I walked to the D train to make my way to CP. Only 16,000 yds needed…. I could do that!

I swam the first 8,000 yds straight. My lane partner changed 4 times, but I recognized Kenn now (yellow paddles and pull buoy). I finished up with a 3000, 2x 2000 and 1x 1000…… DONE!

The subway ride back to Bklyn took 2.5 hrs, and the streets still haven’t been plowed…. another night away from home.

12/29: finally a plow truck is making its way down the street. The driver is having a hell of a hard time as many residents in their infinite wisdom have created eight foot piles of snow in the middle of the street. It takes this poor guy 2 hours to get through one single block, and the road is still a mess. Not to be deterred, I pull out right behind him and drive my way out of post-apocalyptical Bklyn to the promised land of the Mid-Hudson Valley where they know how to plow snow.

I think I’ll take the rest of the year off………………….

1000 miles?

The year is winding down, and I have 23 days to squeeze in another 70 miles to reach my 2010 goal of 1000 miles. I can’t honestly think of a valid reason for setting this goal, but since I have been tracking my swims and watching the miles add up, it seemed like I should have a nice round number to target. Of course now that we are into the dreaded holiday pool closure season, I will have to pay close attention to every single available hour of masters and open rec.

Last sunday, Martin Turecky organized a 9 hour block of SCY pool time in Ravena, NY for the purpose of doing a 10 mile swim. Nine of us signed up, and all completed the 17,600 yds. I did a few extra and rounded off at 20,000…. a good way to start the week, it gave me a good jump toward what I hope will be a 70,000 yd week. As it stands now: 24.20 miles (=42,600 yards, =38,953 meters).

With the temperature now in the single digits, the idea of outdoor swimming is faint, but 2011 planning has begun.

Fellow channel swimmer, CIBBOWS board member, friend and pilot, Dan Boyle took Willie Miller and me for a low altitude recon flight over the Hudson River last thursday, from the Rip Van Winkle Bridge (Catskill to Hudson) down to the Verrazano Bridge. This 120 mile route will hopefully be the course for a seven day staged swim sometime this summer. We are in the early planning stages, but this swim has been on my mind for a few years, and a few other friends are also working on the tide modeling with me. It is going to be a huge undertaking….. I’ll keep updates coming as we make progress.

Thats all I’ve got for now……….

6 Hour Swim….. DONE!

Yesterday was a beautiful day for a swim… well… it was a bit windy, and there was a good amount of chop the whole way.

We had a great turnout of swimmers, kayakers and land based support to share it with. The word is out that we are having a blast in the Hudson every weekend and people are traveling from afar to be a part of it. In attendance were Danielle, Mike and Richard providing kayak escort; Rondi, Bec, John, Willie, Terry, Jordan, Jim and I swimming; and Andy providing land based support in the way of transportation and preparation of a wonderful birthday feast…. happy birthday to Rondi!

We started to assemble at Andy’s house in Chelsea at 8 AM… gear and feeds spread all over the lawn… introductions made… reunions and catching up took up nearly an hour… whats the hurry, the river isn’t going anywhere. We loaded up 3 cars and drove to the starting point. Kayaks unloaded last minute grease and sunscreen applied, we had to come up with a game plan.

We had a brief meeting. Identified which of us would be needing feeds… what, how and how often; assigned swimmer groups to kayakers; and decided to swim a circuit, north and south, and shoot for the same finish area for everyone… a bit north of the hamlet of Chelsea.

I had calculated my feeds to provide 285 calories in 27 oz. per hour. To accomplish this, I prepared a concentrated mix of fruit punch flavored EFS (1st endurance) and would have hot water added to it just before feed time… every 20 minutes. After the first feed, it became clear that this method was cumbersome for Mike… removing the spray skirt… hands off the paddle… unscrewing the cap on the giant stanley thermos and trying to get the near boiling water into my feed bottle without it landing on his crotch in the windy choppy river. For MIMS, my feeds will be prepped on my power escort, then handed off to Mike or Danielle to pass to me, so this wasn’t really an attempt to duplicate that feeding procedure, but after the first feed, I decided to change the plan to every 30 minutes rather than every 20 minutes. This gave Mike a little respite between feeds but reduced my caloric intake by 1/3.

The first group of John, Bec, Rondi and Willie were out of the water and drying/warming by the time we came to the exit beach the first time. I said my goodbyes to Terry and Jordan and started swimming south with my escort Mike to intercept Jim and Danielle. We would continue this criss-crossing, north/south pattern for the next 4 hours. Its comforting to know there is another swimmer in the water.

Jim Meier is booked for the same tide as me for English Channel this season… Aug 28 – Sept 6, so we both wanted to get this swim under our belts earlier rather than later. Jim did a 6 hour last weekend in South Jersey… but the water temp wound up being too high for the qualification swim, 63 degrees.

As I approached the finish area for the last time, I saw a bunch of people standing on this rock ledge (about 8-10 feet tall) on the south side of the “beach”. Clare and another Danielle had joined the party…. a welcome site!

I had some trouble finding my balance on the rocky bottom and though normally a drip-dry kind of guy, I graciously accepted the large towel handed to me.

Mike and Danielle, you guys rocked today! We couldn’t have done it without you.

6 hour English Channel qualifier

As per CS&PF rules:

All swimmers taking part in a solo swim must supply proof/ratification of a 6 hour swim in water 61°F / 16°C or less or proof of completion in a recognised event for a period considered by the CS&PF to be an acceptable alternative within the previous 30 months.

In truth, I have a few months to satisfy this requirement, but I would like to check this one off early (and often). It is possible that the water temps for MIMS on June 12th will qualify, it is also possible that Catalina (July 20) will qualify, but there are no guarantees. Last year, the boat I was on for MIMS took readings from 57 degrees at the Battery to 66 degrees in the Hudson near mid-town.

Willie, Rondi and I swam in the Hudson last saturday, and we took a reading of 60 degrees at the finish (near Chelsea) which was a few degrees warmer than where we started south of Beacon.

This week has brought some pretty cold weather for this time of year… (yes, the tomato plants are in the house) so I don’t expect the water to be any warmer this weekend. It might even be a few degrees colder.

I think we are going to have a half dozen swimmers and half as many kayakers hitting the Hudson this saturday morn. Most will do a 4 mile swim from this great pier at Long Dock Road in Beacon to this slight beach just north of Chelsea. My plans are to continue north another 11 miles and land somewhere between the railroad bridge in Poughkeepsie and Marist College in Hyde Park. I’m not sure that I will have swimming company the whole way, so we may have to fined another exit point in between. I have to go scout out landing spots where we could easily exit the river by foot and drive close enough to load up the kayaks without to much of a hike. I’m sure that I will be completely useless by then and will need lots of hot bevies to return to my normal happy self. I will shoot for a 20 minute feed interval, and will have a couple of thermoses and dry clothes packed in the yaks as well.

We will need to have some support crew on standby to retrieve swimmers where they exit. It will be important to have a dry bag with clothing and a cell phone for each swimmer past the 4 mile point……. it takes a village!

The Mighty Hudson

Its been very exciting to hear of hoards of swimmers hitting the open water this past week from Dover to Chicago and points beyond. In many areas, the temperatures are squeaking above 50 degrees, and the swimming is rather short. My first “local” OW swim of the season was last saturday in the Hudson River a couple of miles north of Beacon….. just north of a little town called Chelsea. We (Rondi, Willie and I) crossed the Metro North tracks and entered the river at a small rocky beach where there were a couple of men fishing. We swam north for 30 minutes, turned around, and swam back to our entry point. The trip back took 30 minutes as well but the pace was faster as we were now against a bit of current…. the Hudson flows both ways. The water temp was between 56 and 60, with few spots of the latter and many more of the former.

Yesterday, we decided to do a one way swim, and shoot for 2 hours. We recruited a couple of kayakers (Danielle and Mike) to escort our group of 4… same cast as last week with Terry joining us. We started at a small north facing cove at Denning Point which is about 5 miles south of our enty/exit point of last week and exit point for this swim as well. Terry and Willie started first and Danielle paddled alongside them while Rondi and I did our final prep and hit the water a couple of minutes later. This was my first swim with Mike and Danielle. They will be my Kayak escorts for MIMS so I was excited about getting some H2O time alongside them. The water temp was about the same as last week, but the air temp was approaching 80 and the sun was shinning which made it comfortable for me, but I think Rondi was catching a chill. Our two groups merged a little bit north of the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge and then split up again…. Willie and I changing places.

Both Mike and Danielle were excellent escorts giving us a larger presence among the recreational boat traffic, and they carried our clothes and hot drinks in the boats so they were handy at our exit. Rondi and Willie finished about 5 minutes before Terry and me and we were just a couple of minutes under the 2 hour goal.

The water this far north is fresh and there were very few twigs drifting since the weather was mostly clear last week.

We started the swim around 10:30, 40 minutes after low tide which means we were swimming with an increasingly favorable current. Sometime in the next 2-3 weeks I would like to do a bridge to bridge swim (Mid-Hudson to Newburgh-Beacon). This is about 13.5 miles. I think we could swim it in 4 – 4.5 hours if we get the tides right, though we will need a power boat to get to the start and scoop us up at the finish.

I’ve got a little planning to do!