All posts by ironmike

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.

Boston Frogman Swim

Had the honor on Sunday to volunteer for the inaugural Boston Frogman Swim.

The Frogman swim is in honor of the fallen among the Naval Special Warfare community. Over 100 Naval special operators have died since 9/11. Several families showed up today to represent their loved ones while 27 swimmers completed a 5K swim, each swimming in the name of one of the deceased.

Showed up at oh-dark thirty to help set up for the swim. In usual military style, the whole place was set up in no time at all, and at the end, torn down in less than 30 minutes like we’d never been there.

I was amazed at how many volunteers showed up to help out for the event. I was equally, or maybe, more amazed at all the people who volunteered who were not in any way connected to the military. Seriously, the first five people I spoke to, fellow volunteers, none of them had been in the military. Neither did they have any connection! They simply had friends who were in the Navy or thought it would be great to support the community. So wonderful and the reason why I love living in this wonderful country!

My new friend Jane was swimming today, and I was happy to see a couple other open water swimmer friends, Polly and David, swimming the event! Wetsuits were mandatory unfortunately, but probably best for the distance and temperature (53F).

Some actual Navy Seals swam it, as well as one kid who is going to BUD/S soon. Most of those guys all swam it with legit fins and mask. Due to the cold water, it was still quite the challenge.

I counted swimmers in and out of the water, along with my new friend Renee from the timing folks and we had former Navy guy Nick doing med checks at the end. The goal, said Nick, was to get each of them to put thumb and index finger together in the OK sign and use the letter F. He made all of them flash him the sign and “Repeat after me and say ‘I’m fine.'” Amazing how many of them responded “I’m great!” One former (retired?) Seal looked at him, flashed OK, and said “I’m f^&king great!” Not exactly what Nick asked, but he got the f-word he needed.

Then of course, the after-party. You can’t have a military crowd, or an event run by military, without having a get-together after to trade stories and drink beer. I walked that way with a swimmer named Ashe. She’s new to marathon swimming and this swim so far was her farthest. What a swim to tackle as your first 5k! We got to know each other on the one mile walk, and I also got to know her brother (kayaker) and her mother. (I pointed her toward all the great people at MSF as she was interested in going longer!)

The party was great. Volunteers and swimmers got to eat free and families just paid a little to join us. The ReelHouse did a great job. Still not sure if it was turkey or pork tenderloin. Don’t care. It was very tasty. And they had Lord Hobo’s Boomsauce. Oh hells yeah. Yours truly represented the Air Force honorably, but after four Boomsauces, it was time for IronMike to go home and take a nap.

Charlie (L) and Glenn, Navy Seal Foundation Ambassador

Rory did a little speech and gave out a few awards, but most importantly, there were no number ones or anything like that. This was a challenge, not a race. My new buddy Charlie, from the Highlands of Scotland by way of Montana, Texas, California and Florida, won for raising the most money of anyone (swimming all three Frogman swims) and being the slowest. And if you’re so inclined, it is never too late to donate to this wonderful charity!

Rory giving a short history before handing out awards

I’ve said it before, but volunteering really is a must if you’re serious in this community. I went many years just swimming and not volunteering and I’ve been working to correct that. Take a new open water swimmer out with you. Coach some kids in open water. Volunteer at a triathlon. Crew for someone’s marathon. Pay it forward and you will not be disappointed!

Shortest swim in the world

Today tried to do a swim at Breakheart Reservation here in Boston. Walked the mile or so from parking to the stupid lake. Got there, donned my safety buoy and all that crap in full view of the lifeguards. Wife hung out till I was in the water, then she was off on a long hike. As soon as I got to the roped off area and lifted the rope to go under it, immersed up past the cockles, the damn lifeguard blew his whistle. “No swimming outside the swim area!” he screeched. WTF? You watched me put all my crap on. Did you think I was gonna do laps in this tiny, 50′ by 10′ area? So, in the end, did a whopping 36 feet today. Dammit.

The lifeguard manager came by to talk to me. He was very nice. I mentioned to him that triathlon clubs practice here, so why can’t I swim. He gave me the party line. Luckily, he was very clear that he and his lifeguards have no control over anyone who shows up before or after his lifeguards show up for work.

“What time do your guys start work?”

“9:45 or so, sir.”

“Thank you.”

So apparently I have to show up at Breakheart early in the morning or after 5:45pm, when the lifeguards end their day.

The lake is beautiful. I really wish I had tried to enter the water outside of the lifeguard’s view. There was a place to the left of the picture above which was out of view of the Nazi; I should have entered there. Oh well. I learned my lesson.

Friday Night Swim

Met up with Jane at Revere Beach.

Jane gifted me a Tower 26 cap. If you don’t already know, Tower 26 is a coached workout by open water great Gerry Rodrigues out in California. He’s got a podcast I used to listen to a few years ago that is great. I’ll have to redownload the podcast and start listening again. Thanks for the swim cap, Jane!

Water was great, warm at the shoreline and colder by the time we got out deeper, 60F. Normally when I swim alone, I stop a lot, look at the birds, the weather, the waves. But when swimming with a friend, it’s all business.

Straight out and back, 1.77 miles. Felt good. So much seaweed at the end, it covered my buoy and legs. The shower may never be the same.

Rhode Island Open Water

Was in Rhode Island (and Providence Plantations) today so stopped by McCorrie Point for some open water swimming.

Thanks to the FB Group Sachuest Ocean Swimmers, I met with Dan, who mapped out the area for me. (Thanks Dan!)

Water was rough, which made this fun. Lots of arm work. Water was a delightful 61F. Did two laps out there, then had to head back to Boston.

Again, spent a lot of time floating around looking at the sights. I just love swimming in OW. So pleasant. Only one boat moored out there, and with the waves, hard to spot the mooring buoys. No matter. It’s not about the speed right now. I can work on speed in the pool. Right now OW is about salt, cold and time.

A Great Three Days of Swimming

In the past week I’ve managed 8.2 miles of swimming. More importantly, five hours 40 minutes of swimming, almost all of it in cold water (4:20).

Today was Revere Beach, 54-57F, much better than Winthrop yesterday. The water was rough, so a lot of fun. At one point I came upon a threesome of shearwaters. They were floating around out there looking content. I swam wide around them so as to not disturb their peace. I really need to find myself a waterproof camera.

Isn’t it beautiful?! Tons of people, and only a couple kids in the water. No other crazies out there. Except yours truly. Who is somewhere in the below picture.

So all in all a great weekend. Tomorrow is lifting, then back in the pool on Wednesday. Or, maybe open water?

Winthrop Beach: Cold!

I didn’t learn my lesson last year. Went to Winthrop today.

Last year toward the end of the swimmable season, I went to Winthrop and got beat up by the rocks and the waves. I wish I had remembered that this time.

The last time I was vertical in the water

I found a nice, non-rocky (fairly) section of beach to walk into the water. The cold water. But within a couple feet I was on rocks. My baby-feet can’t handle those. Waves coming in, low-tide, and these damn rocks, all teamed up to result in yours truly having to immerse himself almost immediately. So much for the gradual entry into the freezing water.

I got past the rocky areas as quickly as I could using heads-up breast stroke. Damn cold. Gave my pool thermometer a minute to catch up to the current temp then looked. Holy sh!t. 51F. I think that’s the coldest I’ve actually immersed myself. Revere Beach a couple weeks ago I stood in 46F for a while. But in this I was up to my neck immediately.

Breast stroke quite a while. Wanted to get somewhere. Tried dunking my head. Instant headache. Here we go again: many breast strokes and a few crawl. Did a bunch of 8 and 10 stroke crawls with 20-30 breast strokes. It was just so damn cold. But I was starting to feel okay, besides my hands and toes being actually frozen. Put my head down and managed 25 strokes. Right on! Let’s do this! 10-15 breast strokes, then 30 crawl. Then 35. So on. Did 50 a couple times, then just went for 100. Somewhere in there I checked the thermometer again. Good God, 50F. Damn.

Small gains: 34 minutes at 50-51F

As I went north, I entered a warmer area of water. Appreciably warmer. I checked the thermometer again and boom!, 54F. Amazing how warm that felt compared to the previous 15-20 minutes!

Only issue was I had to turn at some point and come back south. It started getting shallow up north (probably a reason for the warm water) so time to turn around. There was a wall-like point where I re-entered the 50-51F water. From warm to cold suddenly. I was still okay. (Was clenching my fists and toes every once in a while to get blood flow as one of my lovely readers suggested.)

Headed toward the breakwall, but as I got close I realized it was too rough over there and I didn’t want to get dashed on the rocks, so turned back. I intended to go back to the warm area, but I just started to get too cold so decided to come back in.

This is the worst part of Winthrop and I think I learned my lesson this time. Low tide was coming, and with it pretty high waves. I tried to judge the lower waves and get as close to shore as possible. But in the troughs, the water was going out so quickly that I’d get pulled back. Two strokes forward, one back. I finally got to an area where I could stand up, but rocks. Hobbled toward shore then got knocked by a wave. Repeat. Finally got up on shore where a grandma playing with her grand-kids asked “How were you able to stay out there so long?”  “Will,” I thought. “Acclimatization,” I said out loud.

Looks so peaceful, unassuming. Actually, this beach is evil.

Another Walden trip

Met a bunch of folks at Walden this morning. Great day, great swim, great folks. 2.35 miles.

The gang all took off for the far beach and I did my best to try and keep up. Those ladies are fast! Got there and we talked for a wee bit. Checked the temp: 64F. Throughout it was 63-65F. Nice and warm.

Then I did what I did on Wednesday: to Little Cove in the south, then up to Thoreau’s Cove in the north. But instead of returning to the main beach where I started, I went back to Ice Fort Cove in the west, then did that loop again. Third time at Ice Fort Cove I started to head back, going east of Little Cove a bit. I felt someone watching me and looked up, only to see about 5-6 fishermen all giving me the stink eye. I turned a 180 and swam back out to the middle of the Pond. When my Garmin beeped the 2-mile mark, I started heading back in.

Once I got near, I noticed that the lifeguards put up a barrier where we all entered the water, so I swam around the roped-off area to a beach. Met a swimmer there taking her wetsuit off. Short chat then up to the beach to change. Coming out of the water a bit after me was a swimmer I met at Ice Fort Cove (round one). She’ll be swimming the Boston Frogman Swim next weekend, where I’ll be volunteering.  Good luck, Jane!

Spent some time in the visitor’s center with the wife then headed on home. Another great swim!

Walden Pond

Great swim today at Walden Pond! Yep, that Walden Pond.

Picture above is after I swam from the main beach to the other end of the pond, Ice Fort Cove, about a half-mile away. Then I swam over to Little Cove, turned around and aimed for Thoreau’s Cove, then back toward the main beach.

The water was lovely, 64F near the beach and 61-62F in the middle of the pond. Really perfect. Beautiful skies, gorgeous trees, even saw some fish. Water was so clear near the edges, wonder how deep the pond is? Mr. Google says 108 feet.

One boat out near the western end fishing. As I was coming in, another swimmer was leaving, swimming quickly by me. Then when I was on the beach changing another swimmer showed up in her wetsuit and asked me about the water. We had a nice conversation about the water temp the last couple of weeks and then she was off to enjoy the lake and I was off to suffer Boston traffic en route home.

If I’m near that area of the state in the future I will be swimming at Walden Pond again!