Nearest body of water infested with patriotic symbols

A few dear reader(s) know that when I first saw our current rental home, I got terribly excited about the body of water it sat on. I pulled my phone out and immediately did some mensuration with Google maps, to discover that I could easily swim some kilometer loops, then exit in my backyard, rinse off at the spigot, and march into the house, never once getting in a car or paying a pool membership.

We must get this house, was my primary thought.

Sure, landlubbers would of course answer in the negative when I ask if I can swim in the lake. “OMG, no, gross.” Expected. Most of these people can’t imagine swimming in most bodies of water, or what they call swimming is merely dipping. I brushed off those warnings and posed my question to the tried-and-true scientific community that is Google.

Well, not really. I’m lucky that I know a great many people in the swim world, and that includes the swim world that is Boston Open Water community. I posed the question to this wonderful group and immediately got a response from one of my favorite people and incredible marathon swimmers: Bad news. Ell Pond is not clean enough for humans.

But that’s not to say that the Pond isn’t suitable for other living things.

Saturday morning I was out with my geriatric dog doing the slow-march around said Pond when what did I spy with my little eye? Two adolescent bald eagles sitting on the frozen water.

(c) Matt Bourque

What you see above are two adolescent bald eagles on the carcass of a Canadian goose that got frozen in the Pond. The eagles remained on the goose for at least an hour, at least for as long as I was watching.

(c) Matt Bourgue

These eagles were the highlight of my weekend. About a week ago I’d seen a red hawk on a tree in the neighbor’s backyard. But, a symbol of America right there in my hoped-for outdoor swimming pool? Priceless!

(c) Matt Bourque
Thanks to Matt Bourque for his kind permission to use his beautiful photographs!

2019 season

Trying to figure out my 2019 season, while balancing financial and familial responsibilities with swimming desires. Oh to be independently wealthy. I’d do a lot more swim-travel.

Anyway, I’m a shoe in for Boston Light, since I volunteered last year I get to skip the lottery. So that’s in stone. I’m going to sit at my computer on 1 Feb with credit card and everything else needed to register for Swim the Suck, so hopefully I get in there. So there’s two marathon swims on sked. But what else?

I can’t afford, both in time and $$$, any 8 Bridges stages, despite wanting desperately to attempt one or two of them. I’d also love to do the other two of the Tennessee River Triple.

But there are a few other swims here. The two I did in Salem last year I will definitely do again. Those two were pretty well-organized and oh so close. I’m looking forward to swimming them again. Plus this year will be the inaugural Frogman swim on 2 June here in Boston. I’m looking to volunteer in that one. And the Doty Mile is mid-June. Definitely gonna do that one; good opportunity to get used to the water I’ll be swimming in for BLS.

Cedar Island 5K, which I did back in 2012, may be on the radar again this year. The benefit of this swim is it is close to my dad’s house, so can combine that swim with a family visit. Registration for that swim opens 1 March, so we’ll see if I get in to that one. It IS a six-hour drive there, so that sucks. But again, I’d get to see my dad and family, so that makes it worth it.

But besides that, unsure what else. There are some others within a couple hours drive of Boston, so perhaps so other shorter ones? Two miles or 5k?  We’ll see.

How’s your 2019 season shaping up, dear reader(s)?

[Edited to add Doty Mile]

Merry Christmas to all!

Can’t believe the time has flown so quickly. Pictures from past holidays have been popping up on my social media sites. Damn, a lot has happened in only a year.

Here’s wishing my dear reader(s) a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Years. I hope your new year is filled with the swimmingest times and friends, and I hope the New Years Resolutionists crowd your lane for the minimum amount of time in the new year.  Looking forward to getting back in open water soonest!

Swimming with a team is how you get fast

When my dear reader(s) last checked in, I told them how I found a team, the Reading Masters housed in the Burbank YMCA in Reading, Mass. I’ve made every practice this month and must say I’ve enjoyed every minute of it, even the ones that required me to wake up at 6:15 am on a Saturday morning.

The 8-lane pool at Burbank Y

I’ve not had much luck getting faster in the last few years. I’ve been self-coaching, kidding myself that I could get fast all by myself. Yet, despite my efforts, I would still average 1:45-1:50 per 100, even when I sprinted.

But it is hard to insist on that slow an interval for 10 x 100 when the lane next to you is doing their 100s on 1:30. Alas, I managed the first 100 in 1:23, something I hadn’t seen in years. And then managed to maintain 1:32-1:33 for the remaining nine 100s. Couldn’t believe it.

And then yesterday I was alone with one other swimmer. Our main set was 2 x 300, 2 x 200, 2 x 100, 2 x 50 then back up. All descend. I thought our interval for the 300 was 5:15. Unfortunately, as I breathlessly came to the wall after the first 300, she left on the second, and I realized we were doing them on 4:30. Yikes! After those two were done, I realized that meant that I did each 100 of that 300 in just under 1:30. Yay me!

The speediness continued. All the 100s were on a 1:30 and I got 3-4 seconds rest each time. Unbelievable. Never thought I’d get back to those times.

And this is only because of the team. There’s nothing better to increase your speed than having someone on your toes or to have someone ahead of you to chase. So glad I found Reading Masters!

29 Years Have Flown By

Can’t believe it’s been 29 years since the night The Wall fell.

29 years ago today I was standing at Brandenburg Gate with three of my friends, feeling the history in our bones. Watching the East Berlin police shoot water canons at Germans sitting atop The Wall. Trying to read Tom Brokaw’s teleprompter.

Berlin’s where I first started swimming laps. There was a very nice SCM pool on one of the Army kaserns. I swam with one of my colleagues. Our goal each time was to complete one kilometer. We started out swimming a length, taking 10 to 15 seconds rest, then swimming another length. Before long, we skipped the rest on the “far end” and did laps. Then the rest dropped down in time to 5 to 10 seconds. One day I went by myself and thought, I’ll just swim the whole 20 laps without rest. And I did. It was amazing! Couldn’t believe it.

Great memories!

Found a team!

Swam with a team last night for the first time in a long time (2014?). The team is Reading Masters, hosted by the Burbank YMCA in Reading, Mass.

I’ve been here since July and my dear reader(s) are probably wondering: Why did it take you so long to join a team, Iron Mike? Well, this is Massachusetts. Apparently here masters swimmers can only meet and swim together at 5 am. And I’m not a morning person. I looked around before and after I moved here for a team, and found several, but all of them meet mornings, at either 5 or 6 am. Just too damn early for me. I simply couldn’t find a team that meets nights. Until now.

No idea how I missed Reading Masters. They swim Tuesdays and Thursdays 8:15-9:30 pm. Sure, that’s late. But that’s okay for me. My boss is great: As long as I do my hours, she doesn’t really care when I show up. So last night being the first time I’ve swum with Reading, I came in this morning an hour later than usual. No biggie.

Anyway, besides the weeknight swims, Reading Masters also swims Saturday mornings, 7:00 to 8:30. Wunderbar! That’s four hours of swimming per week with someone else deciding what we’ll do. I can just sit back and do what I’m told.

And with that, last night…holy crap. It’s been a while. The main set was 4 x {4 x 75} on 1:15, 1:10, 1:05, 1:00. So yeah, I kept up through the first set and got 4 or 5 seconds rest. But then after the first 75 of the second set, uh, no. Thankfully, the guy I was sharing a lane with had no problem splitting the lane instead of trying to continue circle swimming. I tried to keep up as best I could; I skipped 50 of one of the 75s just so I wouldn’t be so far behind.

The final was 16 x 25 in IM order on :45, which after the first “IM” turned into :40, then :35 after the second IM. Damn fast. This was followed by 16 x 25 free on :30. More doable. But jeez, what a (great) workout! 3400 total in the end, after the warm-up, pre-set, and cool down.

So nice being back!


Just plain ol’ nope. Not gonna do it.

Went to Revere Beach today, geared up and ready to swim. Figured after my Vampire Swim in 51F water (all 10 strokes of it) and 43F air temp, how bad could it be in Revere with the sun out, 45F air temp?

Well, within seconds I knew it would be bad. Upon stepping into the water, my feet were on fire. So damn cold. Went up to mid-calf and dropped the thermometer in, let it sink.

So beautiful, so unassuming…

Cold. Mercury hovered between 49 and 50F. Felt colder. Frankly, couldn’t believe I was able to stay in the 51F last weekend as long as I did. Probably peer-pressure.

I tried to go to Breakheart Reservation right after. Haven’t been yet, figured I could buy the annual parking pass and while there take a temp of the lake water. That’s the only lake nearby that you’re allowed to swim in. Might be colder. Might be warmer. Who knows? Couldn’t get there anyway; something big was going on as people were parked up and down the street leading to the park. Couldn’t even get in. Will try again during the week.

So perhaps my ocean swimming is done for the season. Dang.

Go back human, you can’t hang

Vampire swim 2018

On Saturday I learned of the Vampire Swim happening here in town. If you don’t know what this swim is, where have you been hiding?

The Vampire Swim is a blood drive and open water swim close to Halloween. You don’t donate blood at the beach but at a donation center prior to the swim. Then you dress up and jump in the water!

(c) Karen Nazor

Eleven of us braved the 51F water in South Boston. Some swam for 20+ minutes while others, like yours truly, dunked their head, swam a few strokes, then got out.

The coldest I’d been in prior was my 2.5 hours in 57F in lake Issyk Kul. 51F is a different animal all together. My feet were absolutely frozen. Toes hurt. The tide was low, so lots and lots of shells to walk over, but frankly, I couldn’t feel my feet anyway. It must have taken me 10 minutes to walk up past the cockles. And I stayed there for a while, talking with the other crazies!

(c) Karen Nazor

Mina and I decided to go ahead and dunk our heads and swim some. Mina, whom I met this year in BLS and then saw again at StS, swam way more than I did. I probably swam maybe 5 or 6 strokes, then some breast, then turned around and got out.

When I started swimming, I felt like something was strapped around my belly, like one of those waist sweat belts that some guys wear. I thought for a minute that I had strapped my buoy to myself, but I hadn’t. Very weird feeling. I spoke with Elaine after and she explained about what the organs do when the body is immersed in cold water.

Got out and changed in Kellie’s portable changing tent. So much easier than using my changing robe.


More swims at Lake Issyk Kul

In August, three more swimmers completed crossings in the second largest alpine lake in the world, lake Issyk Kul in Kyrgyzstan.

Finishers Daulet, Batybek & Arsenii

As I’ve discussed here before, marathon swimming is, if not new, then very rare in that part of the world. Tooting my own horn, I’ll say that mine and Sarah d’Antoni’s swims in 2016 opened up interest in crossing lake Issyk Kul, and with the help of Olesya Pakseleva, the lake has enjoyed an annual crossing. The latest was held on 26 August.

Arslan from Nomad Sport & Olesya

Originally, seven swimmers were scheduled to cross the lake: three from Kazakhstan, two from the US, and two from Kyrgyzstan. On the eve of the crossing, unfortunately, Olesya found out that the two Americans would not be swimming: they hadn’t received permission from their leadership to do the swim. I’m not sure what leadership; perhaps these folks were Peace Corps like Sarah or embassy employees. As well, one of the swimmers from Kazakhstan didn’t get his doctor’s permission so he wasn’t able to participate.

Three of the swimmers taking off from Kara-Talaa

So four starters. All wore wetsuits, despite Olesya’s protestations. Unfortunately, their times won’t count for any records or claims. As this is still a new sport over there, I’m just happy that people are swimming the lake. We get enough of these events going over there, more people will attempt the swim and more will swim it the EC way.

Arslan briefing the swimmers prior to start

Four started, but only three finished. One of the Kyrgyz swimmers DNF’d. Daulet Kurmanbaev, Arsenii Eliseev and Batykbek Turusbekov all finished in the low 5 hours range.

Batybek & Arsenii after the swim
All 4 starters at the end

Congratulations to all the swimmers, as well as Olesya, Arslan from Nomad Sport, and all the volunteers!

Swimmers, organizers, volunteers & family, all part of the marathon swimming team!

Back on the straps

Traveled this week and needed to find a way to keep up my swimming. Well duh! Thinking back to my days in Kyrgyzstan, I had the answer: Aqua Sphere Stationary Swimmer, in other words, straps!

I found two hotels with indoor pools, strapped myself to the “deep” end’s ladder, and swam away. I remember pretty much right away how boring it is. Ugh. However, it certainly is nice to not have to flip-turn for an hour or so. Sure can get a lot done, thinking-wise, while swimming in place.

Got two swims in during this trip. Better than not getting in the water. My shoulder feels worse than it normally does after just a little bit of swimming. I wonder if this pain is specific to my swimming on straps vice swimming free. Hmmm…something to investigate.

My playground this week!

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