Issyk Kul Swim Challenge, 2019

I’m not that much of a marathon swimmer. That’s been proven by my 44% DNF rate. I’m not saying this to get a bunch of comments telling me I’m great. Thanks, but not needed. It’s a point of fact.

But one thing that I’ve done that is great, that I am terribly proud of, and not afraid to pat myself on the back for, is my Issyk Kul swim. But not for completing it, but for what came after.

Tomorrow, 18 August, begins the third annual Issyk Kul Swim Challenge, tracing my route from Kara-Talaa to Toru Aygyr in the second largest alpine lake in the world. What’s more, tomorrow 22 swimmers will start! Two of them, even, will be sans wetsuit: Madina Kurmandleva, a female swimmer from Kazakhstan and Tatiana Shatskikh, from Kyrgyzstan. (Yes, they’re the only ones.)

Finish arch night prior to race

For purposes of posterity, here is the start list. If previous years are anything to go by, some of these swimmers will bow out in the morning, but here’s hoping all swim.

My “in” over there in Kyrgyzstan, my chiropractor and massage therapist for my swims, Olesya Pakseleva, will report to me and provide pictures in the near future, and I’ll pass this all on here as soon as possible.

Sarah Thomas is a miracle of nature

Dear reader(s) know how much I love and admire marathon swimmer-extraordinaire Sarah Thomas. She still holds the record for the longest non-current assisted swim ever at 104.6 miles straight in 67 hours and 16 minutes. Yes, no sleeping. No resting. No bathroom breaks that didn’t happen in the water, treading water. This woman is unstoppable.

Her next adventure? A quadruple crossing of the English Channel. Yes, I said four times. For those in the back who just now woke up: Yes, she intends on swimming from England to France to England to France to England. No one has ever done this. Only a handful of people have swum a three-way Channel crossing. Sarah is going for four crossings. Most of us, if we even consider doing one of these things, are happy to cross just once. Oy vey. This woman cannot be stopped.

Even. Better: Sarah and Elaine Howley, another incredible marathon swimmer, are filming everything! From the Kickstarter:

The Other Side is an in-production documentary short film covering Sarah Thomas’ upcoming English Channel quadruple crossing attempt scheduled for September 2019—that’s four consecutive crossings without stopping—an 84-mile round-trip swim that could take upwards of 50 hours to complete.

This is so monumental it is not to be missed. There is still time to support their Kickstarter campaign. They got fully funded less than 6 hours after starting, but they could still use some bucks. None of the money raised will pay for Sarah’s swim; the money raised is solely for production of the film.

So if you have some extra bucks, please visit the Kickstarter and support this awesome endeavor. You can support them with as little as one dollar. So what’re you waiting for?

Nice afternoon for a swim!

Had work outside Boston today and was done a bit early. Just so happened that I was only a few miles from Walden Pond, so guess what Iron Mike did today?

Damn straight, I went swimming! Walden is so damn beautiful, it really is hard to concentrate on actually swimming. I stopped quite a bit to look at the trees, birds, other swimmers.

As you can see above, I got rather dizzy swimming criss-cross around that lake. I wanted to get two miles in, and I pretty much did. (Mr. Garmin said 1.99 miles…rounding up!) I visited a couple of areas of the lake that I hadn’t seen yet. Fewer fisherman than I expected, so I was able to hug the coast more than last time.

Water was 81-82F. So warm. Nice weather, mostly sunny with some times of light cloud cover. All in all, a great day and swim.

Walden really supports open water swimmers. Unlike my attempt at Breakheart Reservation some time ago, this time I had no doubt that I’d be able to swim even with the lifeguards there!

Near the above sign there was another with a list of things to think about before going out on a swim. I know it all has to do with legal issues, but still, it is nice to have. We had an entire lane through which to enter the lake. The other areas were roped off in the shallows for kids and families.  You can see one of the roped-off swim areas behind my right shoulder in the picture below.

All in all, a great day. Of course, every day you can get an open water swim in is a great day!

Wild Fish 2-mile swim 2019

I was scheduled for two swims this weekend, a 2-mile swim on Saturday and a 5K swim on Sunday. I did the 2-mile swim, the Wild Fish swim. Water was “unseasonably cold” as one local put it. One swimmer’s watch said 58F. The harbormaster said 62-63F. All I know is it was cold.

The swim was 2 x one-mile loops. I was freezing until the first turn buoy, maybe 300m away. Then I felt fine. There were cold spots on the last third of the loop, enough that it was shocking. But otherwise I felt strong. Last year I did this swim in some seconds over an hour. I felt so good yesterday that I thought I might do it under an hour.

Nope. Over an hour. A bunch. 1:15-1:16. Like, way slower.

It dawned on me that I might not be recovered from last weekend’s marathon. I re-thought Sunday’s 5k. Especially due to the water temp. (Both swims were in Salem, MA, but in different bodies of water.) I decided to opt out of today’s 5k. I mean really, what I did in the past 8-9 days was basically run a marathon last Saturday, then yesterday I did the equivalent of running 8 miles, and then expected myself to run a half-marathon today. I’m not too bright.

Whole lotta neoprene happening here

I was one of four men in the 2-mile race who swam without a wetsuit. Unfortunately, that swim doesn’t differentiate results based on skins vs. suits. But I very easily found the other three men unburdened by neoprene; two were in the 19 and under, skinny little shits. But I give them lots of respect because they did it without wetsuits, and they swam fast (50:04 and 50:22, although check my note at the bottom about the timing). The other guy I spoke with prior to the start. He was in the 40’s age group. I was the only skins swimmer in the 50-59 age group. One wetsuited guy came over to me as we were all wading out for the start and fist-bumped me. “Much respect for doing this without wetsuit.” Thanks!

My son told me that five swimmers, all in sleeveless wetsuits, all male, turned around prior to the first buoy and returned to the start. They all quit, claiming the water was too cold for them. /insert shocked face emoji here/  I couldn’t believe it. The water really wasn’t that bad. Better, the sun was out. So your back was warm and your mood was great due to the beautiful weather. Why quit before you’ve even gone 200 meters?

Anyway, I felt strong. I even passed some folks. At one point during the first lap, I saw that 40-something skins swimmer next to me. I was excited. Maybe I can beat him in? I kept my head down and swam like the wind. My God, each buoy was coming and going so quickly. I felt like I was on line, swimming straight. More than I’d felt in a long time. This swim felt better than any other since my 5k in Croatia in 2015. I started to think that maybe I could swim this under an hour.

On the last leg I passed a woman swimming the event with a snorkel. Yes. One of those snorkels that goes from your mouth, straight up past your nose and over the center of your head. Well, she didn’t have to turn to breath, but she had to raise her head high to sight. I ended up 3 or 4 minutes ahead of her.

Just as I was coming up to the beach, a neoprene-clad swimmer caught up to me. I ran up the beach ahead of him, but he ended up passing me at the end. No biggie.

I hung out at the end. Last year I managed third place somehow. I got a pint glass which I still love using. I noticed this year pint glasses only went to firsts in each race and sex, unfortunately. I even thought for a moment that I might be able to buy a pint glass from someone or from the race organizer. By the end I forgot to stop and ask a volunteer about buying a glass. Damn.

Finally they called out the male 50-59 group. I did not make the podium this time. In fact, I’m way at the end. Sixth place possibly. Maybe fifth.

You see, I believe North Shore Timing erred in my finishing time. The 2-mile swim started exactly five minutes after the first event (half-mile swim). The race clock at the finish arch started with the first event, and the RD counted down our event so we started when the clock hit 5:00. NST has my final time as 1:20.24. But as you can see in the left corner of the picture below, the race clock was at 1:20-something when I ran under the arch (the timer sensor was on the corner right after the arch). There’s no way it took me 5 minutes to walk five feet from the arch to the sensor!

Zoomed in:I wrote to NST so hopefully they’ll look at the times again. I think they probably just forgot to subtract the 5:00 from my time. Possibly from everyone’s time! Bottom line, I have no idea my final time, but I think it is in the 1:15 to 1:16 range. Still way too slow.

And yes, I did have the same issues with the salt water. My throat started to burn like it used to when I had heartburn/acid reflux really bad. Continued all day; I had to take Pepto before bed. Ugh. Cold (-ish) water I’ve got down. Salt water, not so much.

 

DNF as learning

In a swimming forum I frequent, I brought up my DNF rate to a beginning marathon swimmer. It just so happened that Saturday’s Beavertail 10K broke me out of the 50% DNF rate, to a whopping 44%. (DNF’d 4 of 9 swims I’ve attempted at 10K or longer.)

In response to my comment, another swimmer, a very novice open water swimmer/wanna-be marathon swimmer (N.b., he is 1 for 1 in marathon swims he’s done) responded thusly:

44% DNF rate?! I would have already given up the sport.

That surprised me. And made me think. What would make someone want to quit this wonderful sport? Would my interlocutor not have said it if my DNF rate were closer to 10%? 20%? What’s the number?

First, what is the equivalent to a DNF in other sports? If a (running) marathon and a 10k swim are roughly equivalent, let’s look at that event for comparison: How many  marathoners DNF their marathons?

Forbes did “the numbers” for the 2018 NY marathon. Fully 99% of runners completed that marathon. Now, the 1% who did not is +/- 500. That’s a lot. But still, 99% of runners completing a marathon is great!

There is a course time limit for the NYC marathon, based on when the last of the 50,000+ runners start the marathon:

In the interest of safety…race courses will remain open to all participants who are able to maintain a 13:45-per-mile pace (based on the time when the last runner crosses the start line). Those participants who are not able to maintain this pace should be aware that fluid stations…may not be available, and participants in races staged on city streets may be asked to move to the sidewalks. Late participants will be able to cross the finish line, but they are not guaranteed to be timed and recorded as official finishers.

By contrast, not many marathon swims allow the swimmer to “move to the sidewalks” or continue after the “last [swimmer] crosses the start line” as long as they maintain a certain pace. For comparison, Boston gives everyone six hours from when the last runner crosses the start line. That’s almost 14:00 per mile pace; equivalent to 58:00 per open water mile. But that 14:00 per mile is not including the minutes until the last runner starts. And those minutes aren’t trivial. The first runner wave starts at 9:32 am. The final wave starts on or about 11:15. So that makes the minimum run pace per mile just over 17:00, or the equivalent of an hour and 12 minutes per open water mile. I don’t know of any marathon swims with that kind of course time limit!

For that matter, in a marathon, if you get tired, you can walk and still make progress along the marathon’s route. The closest you can get to this in swimming is if you just happen to stop in water that is moving in the same direction as your swim route. Same with a bike race: if your legs get tired and you want to stop pedaling for a bit, you can plan it on the down-half of a hill, or even on a flat if you’ve got the speed. The only equivalent of this is the push a swimmer gets when going with the current. But in that case the swimmer is still stroking, so it’s not the same as a biker just sitting and resting his/her legs.

I think there are two major reasons for DNF in marathon swimming: a) speed (course time limits) and b) preparation (leading to injury preventing you from completing the distance). Frankly, that’s probably the reason in running, too. So let’s look at my 4 x DNFs.

  1. Swim for the Potomac 10K. Marathon swim #2. Distance completed: 8750m in 3:15. DNF classification: preparation. I had one more lap (1250m) to go, but only had 6 minutes left in which to swim that 1250. However, I wouldn’t classify this DNF under speed because the issue that slowed me down was my lower back. I did the first 5k in 1:35, leaving almost two hours to do the second 5k. I was ill-prepared to swim the distance, physically. After this swim I worked on “more time horizontal” to help get my back used to so many hours prone. (In comparison, marathon swim #1 was the Dart 10K, swum in a river with wonderful current, which only took me 2:35. Not long enough to put my lower back through the stress.) In fact my “time horizontal” worked as I had marathon swim #3 a month later and did great. (Swim the Suck, 10 miles, 4:44.)
  2. Ocean City Swim, 9 miles. Marathon swim #4. Distance completed: 4.1 miles in 2:30. DNF classification: preparation.  Too cold. Salt water issues. Some very slight race logistics issues, but DNF 99% my fault. Learned that for any future salt water & cold water swims, I need to acclimatize.
  3. Issyk Kul crossing attempt #1, 13.5km. Marathon swim #5. Distance completed: 4.7km. DNF classification: preparation. No course time limit as this was a swim of my own making. Cold water and elevation (5100 feet above sea level) did me in. 13C throughout and I couldn’t pee nor could I take any liquids after like the third feeding. I learned a couple things. For one, I need to sked this swim in July or August when the water is warmer. Number two: I need to get some cold(er) water training in. (Happy to report to new readers that I did successfully cross the second largest alpine lake in the world, only the second person ever to have done it, less than a year later in July 2016!)
  4. 20 Bridges, 28.5 miles. Marathon swim #7. Distance completed: 7+ miles, then 20+ miles. DNF classification: preparation and maybe speed? So first, for new readers I’ll explain the distances I listed there. I didn’t make it through the East river before the tide changed directions and started swimming in place/backwards. They gave me two options: quit, or be moved a mile up and continue, but the swim not counting. I of course didn’t quit. When I restarted, I swam again according to the rules for a bit over 20 miles. I say DNF for prep and speed because: If I had a faster pace during the first two hours, I could have gotten far enough into the East river that the change of current wouldn’t have affected me so much. I say preparation because if I’d done more reading and consulting with other experienced swimmers, I would have known that you gotta really push like crazy the first few hours to beat that river. I learned so much from this swim, and I really should count it as two marathons because according to the Garmin on the kayak, I did over marathon distance for each half! (No, I don’t count it as that.) The second half still counts as the longest in both miles and time that I’ve gone swimming (20 miles in 6:20).

So those are my four DNFs, out of nine marathon swims. I have one DNF in a 5k which I’d put down as speed. The current in the river was so strong I just couldn’t do the requisite laps before the cut-off. This is upsetting to me because 5k is my favorite distance. But, again, I learned something!

So to Michael, the commenter who simultaneously wants to be an elite-level swimmer in only two years (after only starting open water swimming this year) and would quit the sport after a few DNFs: I hope you read this and reevaluate. This is a great sport and community. I’ve rarely met more supportive people.

Beavertail 10K Swim Report: The Swim

Part I here and Part II here.

Day has come. Got up at a reasonable hour. Didn’t have to rush. All in all, a great start to the day. And the weather was sked to be nice and sunny.

Drive down was a breeze, except for this area’s disdain for rest stops. But we left plenty early to take a detour to a cute little town called North Kingstown where we stopped at a 7/11. Still arrived at Mackerel Cove a few minutes before the 12 noon deadline. Got our boat off the car and gear inside it, then headed over to the finish at Ft. Getty park, where we left the car and registered for the event.

Mike Garr did a bang up job with this. My friend Bridget was there to be the timer and to organize registration/treats/everything. We signed our liability waivers, got our briefing and started back to Mac Cove. It was less than a mile.

My wife ready to get going.

The weather was still great. The beach was full of people and families enjoying the day, and we were ready to go. One swimmer started an hour earlier than us, at 1pm, but the remaining seven of us would start at 2pm. At the briefing, Mike mentioned that there was a green buoy that we had to swim around off the point, but that was 5.5k into the swim, so once we got there we knew we were over halfway. Also, tide was coming in, and high tide was at about 4:15, so we really wanted to take no longer than 2 hours to get to the buoy.

The bane of my first 2.5 hours. (c) Mike Scott

Everyone was ready so we got to start early! This was great as I knew I was probably gonna swim this in four hours, so the sooner I got to the buoy the better. The wind and waves were gonna hit us in the face the first half, so we were all prepared for a fight, with the hope of an easier swim on the back half.

Got my wife in the water with the kayak and minutes later we started. A group of six twenty-somethings asked us where we were swimming to, and were duly impressed when we answered. We walked out quite a bit and before long I just jumped in and swam.

Right before the start. (c) Mike Scott

Started out great! None of the “why the hell do I do this” thoughts. Just nice even swimming. But before long, the water turned against me. Those waves were rough. Washing machine. Actually, I like swimming in that, all other things being good (water temp, nutrition, peeing). It’s a challenge and I feel like I really earned the swim after fighting the waves and current. There have been times at Revere that I’ve swum 1.5 miles in a very slow time, but more than half of it into rough water so I feel ok with my speed. This swim’s first half was like that.

Not long after the start. (c) Mike Scott

My poor wife though. I didn’t know till after, because she made it look easy, but she was fighting the waves and current as well. No time for stopping or giving her arms a break. Until this event, her sum total of kayak experience was one hour and 15 minutes. After the swim, her upper body was feeling it!

Also unbeknownst to me, she had to watch me close. There were many powerboats and even sailboats that had to be warned off (reminded, also) that there were swimmers in the water. She said some of the boaters were mad about us. Eight swimmers. Once per year. Get over yourselves.

John & his crew with a sailboat getting mighty close. (c) Mike Scott

Even at one point I looked up because I thought I’d seen a black fin. Turns out it was 3 or 4 snorkelers. In full wetsuits including neoprene caps. In 75F water. She told me at the end when they saw her coming, they told her she’ll have to go around them. Like they were doing Navy Seals workouts or something! She guffawed and told them, “Uh, no, I’m escorting a swimmer. You can go around us.” God I love that woman.

Snorkeler King. (c) Mike Scott

The area I swam by was freaking beautiful. By this point the reader might be asking, Why is it called Beavertail? Let’s take a look at the map.

Now if you take that map and turn it 90 degrees clockwise, you’ll see the semiaquatic rodent.

Getting to that damn buoy took me over 2:30 and it felt so good to be there I almost kissed the buoy, if it weren’t so rusty and probably against marathon swimming rules. I was so ready for some with-current swimming. Got a feed in and proceeded to swim. Unfortunately, I was stuck in an eddy. Or something.

My wife had to come back to me and let me know that I was swimming in place, with the buoy not receding. So my fight was not over yet. Sigh…

Push push push and I was finally in water helping me. The southernmost point features a beautiful lighthouse that I simply could not stop staring at. Unfortunately I spent a lot of time staring at it. Once past it we still had to swim out to the buoy, which must have been 500m or so away. Took me just about 1000 strokes. Then coming back the other side took forever. We didn’t really have a good idea where exactly the finish was with respect to the point of Beavertail. Every feature directly in front of me I hoped was the end. I had been sick to my stomach since the third feeding (2:00). Nothing was helping; not Justin’s nut butters, not orange or raspberry crystal light. Was just so nauseous.

Coming up to the lighthouse from the east side. (c) Mike Scott
Swimming past the lighthouse en route the buoy. (c) Mike Scott
Past the buoy and getting past the lighthouse. (c) Mike Scott

I was kind of keeping up with the feeds. I got off my every-30-minutes sked after the 2:00 feeding. Was so close to the buoy I didn’t want to stop until after. Somewhere around what I thought would have been 4 hours of swimming I knew I was gonna go past 4:00 and maybe even 5:00. I was getting worried. My stomach wasn’t getting any better. My lower back was starting to get to me.

I stopped at one point and saw the bright and beautiful two white signs saying Caution: Race in Progress, our finish. I asked my wife if that was truly the end and she said yes. I was due a feed but I waved her off. Just wanted to finish.

So damn close. (c) Mike Scott

The beach was terribly rocky and I had trouble standing. That and both my calves were cramping up. I was dead last, but only behind swimmers #5 and #6 by 21 minutes. 4:37. Ugh.

Everyone was so nice. Love this community, the Sachuest Ocean Swimmers. My friend Bridget had so many treats of the carb kind that I stuffed into my face. Jane made blueberry crumble that was to die for.

Next mission was to decrew the kayak, load the car, and find a bathroom for my poor wife. She’d gone way too long. Unfortunately, the bathrooms at Mackerel Cove were closed so we drove until we found a gas station. My poor wife.

In case my dear reader(s) think that only Mike Scott took pictures, rest assured my crew did too. We bought one of those pockets for an iPhone through which you can still manipulate the screen. My wife was too busy paddling during the first half but she took a couple on the back half. I think they turned out really good.

Swimming so fast the shutter couldn’t catch me!
Sincerely appreciate Mike Scott’s permission to use his pictures.

Beavertail 10K Swim Report: Prepatory

Part I here.

I heard about the Beavertail 10K on 10 July throw the Sachuest group on FB. The timing was perfect: Exactly two weeks before Boston Light. Only a couple hours away in Rhode Island. And a 2pm start. No oh-dark-thirty wake-up! Very liberal course cut-off of six hours. What could be better?

Nothing.

A bit of emailing and harassment of the race director and I was in. Now the only things standing between me and race day was…15 days of vacation in Texas.

Didn’t get a lot of swimming done down there. Our primary goal, besides seeing my side of the family, was to take our youngest to check out Texas A&M. My sister works there and got her set up on a great tour of the campus, the Corps and the Engineering department. She is definitely hooked (pun intended). But we didn’t swim but three times.

First time we checked out the neighborhood pool of one of my sisters. It had lane lines painted on the bottom, so figured we were good. We got up early (on vacation, 9am CST is early) and went to the pool when it opened at 10. On a work day. Already about 10 people in the pool. It had lane lines but not lane dividers. We grabbed a lane and tried swimming. Kids in the way. Often. Water tasted weird and burned my eyes through the goggles (too much chlorine?). We did 1000 yards and got out.

That was in Houston, and a couple days later we were in College Station. My other sister told me about A&M’s great rec center, complete with lap pool and all the fixin’s for only $15 a week. We made plans to go. Arrived on a Tuesday afternoon. By the evening learned that the pool at A&M would be closed Thursday-Sunday for the Texas State Games. We found another pool.

Bryan, the city right next to College Station, has an aquatic center. A great place with movable bulkheads. When I called Wednesday morning, they told me from 1130-1300 they would have 12 lanes for laps, but “only” 8 lanes from 1300-2000. Holy crap! I was so excited. Got even more excited when they said it would only cost $3.

Got there and the first thing we saw was a sign stating “This pool will be closed Thursday – Sunday for the Texas State Games.” Jeez Louise, these games must be huge. No matter. I’m on vacation. I swam 4500 yards in 1:30 while my daughter did about an hour (so probably the same distance). We got one more session in at that pool right before leaving Texas; I did 3600.

But that’s it! Beavertail was gonna be tough, but again with six hours in which to complete it, and the fact that my primary goal was as a BLS test, no biggie. Right?

Nope. Biggie. Definitely.

But back to the beginning. Beavertail required a kayaker. The wife had been talking about wanting to kayak as a pastime. I figured, why not use this as an excuse to get a kayak? Tons of money later, our Rav4 had a kayak on top and tons of equipment inside. (Spoiler alert: kayak doesn’t fit her, is too heavy for one person to put on the car, and probably won’t be used enough to justify the expense. What’s the return policy at REI?)

Some last minute requirements added to the expenses. A marine radio? Ok, Amazon, your turn to shine. Didn’t want to order the marine radio while on vacation, so ordered it right before returning for a delivery the day after we got back. Good thing too as our flight back, the leg from Cincinnati to Boston, was delayed 6 hours and we didn’t get home till after midnight. And we left Houston at 11am. So, ordered on Tuesday with a Thursday guaranteed delivery.

Only it never came. When I went to the tracking page on Thursday, it didn’t even show it as having been shipped. I went to Amazon’s chat function and one hour and five different customer service reps later, learned that just because it says “FREE delivery: Thursday” next to the “Buy it now” button on Amazon, does not guarantee that you’ll get it that day. Or the next, as customer service reps #4 and #5 told me. So if I’m not getting it on Thursday or Friday, it won’t be useful for me on Saturday as they could only guarantee (again?) a delivery by 9pm. Order canceled.

I went to FB with my issues and turns out the race director wanted to get some more marine radios to have on hand, so he bought more and let me borrow one. Awesome.

Next thing was either Thursday night or Friday when I found out we have to have a spare PFD in the kayak. Coast Guard rules. Ugh! We just bought one for my wife and it wasn’t cheap. Dammit do we need to go spend more money? Nope. The community came to our rescue again and Chris G. (super fast fellow Swim-the-Sucker) found a slew of PFDs at his house and brought them to the event. PFD borrowed.

At this point, nothing was stopping me from doing this swim. Thank goodness! Now for the swim in Part III.

Beavertail 10K Swim Report: Gonna tell you the end before the beginning

Yesterday I got my butt handed to me in Rhode Island.

The Beavertail 10K is a small-group swim set up by the wonderful Mike Garr. I heard about it through the Sachuest Ocean Swimmers group on FB. Last minute. Like a month ago. I had to do this swim.

Dear reader(s) know that I’ve been working on acclimatizing myself to cold and salt water since end of April. With Boston Light coming up, I knew I’d have to be able to stand the cold (it was 57F the minute Bridget jumped in at the start last year!) and the salt. I don’t have much of a history of swimming long in salt water. The few times I’ve tried, I’ve gotten nauseous. I’ve been building up at Revere Beach in the hopes that I’d be able to go five hours without stomach issues, but yesterday proved that’s not going to happen. Spoiler: I’ve pulled myself from BLS.

That’s the bad news. In part II of this report I’ll tell you a bit about the prep for this swim, here. Part III here.

Missed the storm!

Went to Revere Beach today, later than I should have, but glad I did when I did, because now there is a huge storm going through this area.

The week started out at the weird-length pool, Mirabella. For new readers, Mirabella is an outdoor pool in the North End neighborhood of Boston. I call it a member of the weird-length pool club because it is 42 yards long. Did 36 laps, which makes it 3024 yards. Yep. Looks weird in my log, too.

Then Tuesday while my wife was off at Six Flags with our DD and her friend, the boy and I went to Revere, where I did a smidge over two miles. Water was nice at a relatively warm 68F.

That little loopty-loop at the north end there was because after I turned around, the Garmin beeped the 1-mile mark, so I went back the same number of strokes I had done after the turn, then turned back south. My goal was two miles, and I hit it pretty close by the end at 2.06 miles.

Today was a lot of fun. I went farther than I had before to the south, so far that I ran into (almost literally) a breakwater. (Fast forward an hour plus and the tide had come in. When I pointed to the breakwater describing my route, I noticed that most of it was underwater. High tide had come in fast!)

I turned north and rode the wind and current to the same pink building I’m always aiming at. My Garmin is driving me nuts though so I never made it to the building, instead turning back. Let me explain what I mean about the Garmin.

I have a Garmin 310xt. Have had it for years. It was costly, but I’ve used the crap out of it to the point that I think we’re at about 12 cents per use by now. Anyway, the Garmin buzzes at the one mile mark. I thought I had turned it off last year, and it scared the hell out of me last year during one of my Salem races. I ignored it after that.

Till today. I went in to the settings and changed it to buzzing every kilometer. Interestingly, when I went to that setting page, it said the “distance alarm” was off. Then how the hell, or why, was it buzzing at one-mile? Ok, no biggie. It’ll now beep at one kilometer.

So off I go to the south. Just about at the breakwater I get the first beep. Nice. Turn around in a bit then head north. Very soon thereafter I get the second beep. Uh, what? There’s no way that’s 1.2 miles already. I checked my watch on a stroke really quickly. 30-something minutes for 1.2? Nope. Wish I was that fast. And before I knew it, a third buzz. What the hell? Yep, that damn one-mile beep was still in the Garmin. Why?! Stupid technology.

The issue was I wanted to do 4-5 km today, so 4 to 5 beeps. Now I’m gonna have to pay better attention to the beeps. Dammit.

Ok, I can figure this out. Three beeps – 2 km. So the next one should be at 3 km. The fourth beep. Sigh.

I rode the current and wind north and pretty quickly. The 3 km beep came quickly. The time was going by quickly and I told my wife an hour and a half, so I turned around. Then the fun began.

The wind and current were against me now. I can normally do 1000 yards in 1000 strokes, so figured a kilometer would be a bit more. Nope. It is a lot more when you’re fighting the current. It took me freaking forever. I never even felt the 2-mile beep. Or this stupid Garmin only buzzes at mile #1? Regardless, I don’t remember it telling me when I went past two miles. And 4 km took forever. I was about to give up and just head in when Mr. Garmin finally buzzed. About dang time. I turned toward shore and swam in. Tide had come in, so where I was able to walk past the swim area buoys 90 minutes previously, the water was now over my head. Even better, the mine field of shells and rocks and seaweed that I had to walk over to get in the water was now covered and I was able to swim over all of it. Final distance: 2.6 miles.

The water was fine at 64F, with several patches of warm and very cold as I went north. I think that has to do with the tide coming in, but I’m no scientist.

I experimented with a water bottle today. I wrapped the thermometer string through the loop on the bottle, then wrapped that whole contraption to my buoy. Won’t do that again. It was nice to stop and have some water, but it hung back near my feet and I’d hit it occasionally while kicking, which was a pain. It also didn’t help any with the salt water taste in my mouth. My next experiment will be to bring one of those tiny, travel-size mouthwashes to see if that makes it better. I really hate the effect the salt water has on my mouth and stomach and I don’t have too long to get used to it.

I did get my son to take a picture of me on Tuesday. I think the buoy helps a bit with visibility, as you can see.

The blob to the right of the orange buoy is my head, with an MSF yellow cap on. Both of those items should make me visible enough should a boater be in my vicinity. Fingers crossed!

Another great weekend

A couple of great swims this weekend. The weather was just perfect. And the water temp? 62-68F!

See that beautiful sky? The perfect water? The great legs? So nice outside!

If you look a little above the mom and child on the left and you see that white speck? That’s a buoy for a swim area. There are lifeguard stands there as well, so I was fully prepared to be yelled at by a lifeguard to not go outside the swim area, like last week. Thankfully, I heard nothing.

The water was crazy warm on Friday, 67-68F. There were some cold spots throughout, but nothing to write home about. I swam 1200 strokes down, then stopped and admired the view, and swam back.

Saturday was the same. A little earlier in the day, but still nice. Water temp this time was 62F. Which felt just wonderful. Funny how acclimatization works. For this swim I worked on breathing only left on the way north, both to keep my eyes toward the shore and to even out the tan on my face. A funny thing though: breathing on my left I ingested so much salt water. I felt it in my nose. But then when I switched to the right, it was gone.

I did about 900 strokes north, then turned around. No issues when breathing on the right. There was a kite-surfer on the south side, so I aimed for him. As I swam farther south, it got so much shallower, I had to turn around again. I stayed deep then turned back to shore as it got closer to an hour of swimming, when I knew my wife would have returned from her walk.

Then after we got home my wife suggested a walk. God love her. But for the uninformed: my wife doesn’t just walk. She marathon walks. If you ever walk with my wife, know that if she says “I know a short-cut,” you should ignore her. She means she knows a long-cut.

So yes, we took a walk. A 3.4 mile walk. That ended in her having a sidecar and me having an IPA. Then another 3.4 mile walk home. Oh jeez. Sore today.

All I am is a body adrift in water, salt & sky