All posts by ironmike

Revere not so cold

Where all the cold water at?

Revere today was delightfully warm at a constant 66F throughout my crazy track. Sun was out, people were lying on the beach, all in all, a great day of swimming.

Swam over toward where the breakwater rocks are, but this time the tide was in; seems I’m always there when the tide is out. Nice to have deeper water today. Once I got over to that area, I turned west and hugged the shore for quite a while. As the water got shallower, I did a 180 and headed back out. I saw a buoy way off, near the jetty, so I aimed for that. Within about 300 strokes I couldn’t find it anymore. Stopped and sure enough, I had just passed it. Seemed farther away!

I swam north toward the large rose-colored building I aim for often. Swam for a while and saw that I was beyond where I entered. The wife and I discussed prior to the swim that I’d get out down by the bathrooms to use the showers. I’ve never used the bathrooms there, so had no idea if they’d still be open and if the outdoor showers would still be on.

Started heading in and saw a weird group of birds floating near the beach. Weird color for a bird, and they seemed to be floating and moving in sync. A few strokes later and I realize it was an old man floating on his back. Whoops.

Came in and walked to the showers. A bunch of high school-aged kids were out and about with trash bags cleaning up the beach. So nice! Showers were on, washed my feet off and managed to keep them sand-free to the car. Another successful swim at Revere! But, when is the water gonna go below 60F?!

Revere getting a wee bit colder!

Had a nice swim today back at my old haunt, Revere Beach.

Yes, those are Mennonites out enjoying the beach. The kids were so cute!

Water was cold! Colder than last weekend by far. I stupidly forgot my thermometer, but I’d guess 62-63F. Not as cold as the Salem swim at the beginning of August. Hardly any waves; tide was going out.

My wife used the time to go get in a good walk, getting 6400 steps in the hour+ that I was in the water. I got 1.73 miles in, which was fine. Again, I enjoy looking around too much! Although this time I stopped less often. Did about 1300 strokes to the jetty to the south, where I found my wife hopping around on the rocks. I thought of getting up on the rocks with her for a selfie, but the shallow water had so many rocks there I didn’t want to get rolled. So instead she took a pic of me.

Wife took pictures of me as I was approaching the point in the picture above. I often wonder how visible I am. Mostly because of crazy boaters and jet skiers. The first picture below is zoomed in.

This next picture was taken seconds later, not zoomed in.

Still kinda visible, at least the orange SaferSwimmer buoy. My bright yellow MSF cap, not as much; most of it is underwater after all. When I wear my lime-green rash guard, I think I’m even more visible, but I’ll have to test that out next time my wife goes with me.

Made my way back to finish up the hour. Beach got a bit more crowded when I got back to the beach, sun-worshipers enjoying the day. I love seeing people out. Unlike when I was last here, and even last weekend at Nahant, there were no swimmers! One couple went down to the water and dipped their toes in and did some glamour shots, but nothing above the ankle got wet.

Was able to dry off, change and sit on the beach for a bit till my wife got back. Really beautiful day out there. Wonder what the water temp will be next weekend?

Summer’s over

Unfortunately, summer’s over. At least up here in New England. Had some beautiful days lately. The kinds where you can turn off the a/c and open all your windows. Really perfect.

Bostonians are already wearing jackets. It’s not that cold yet. But I guess low 60s and cool in the shade is too much for some. Speaking of 60s, the water at Nahant Beach yesterday was 66-67F. Beautiful. Not at all cold. Not anymore. I’m sure I would have considered it cold last year. So nice to be sorta acclimated to the water!

August was a good month for me, swimming-wise. Got 13 swims in, totaling a bit over 17 hours of swimming (the more important of two metrics) and 26.34 miles. Also got a lot of books read (another hobby) and lots of language study (ditto). Took a language test and got great results. All in all a banner month for Iron Mike!

Friday was my last day at Mirabella. I’m gonna miss that odd-ball of a pool. Crystal clear and clean water. Great views. Had time for a 2-mile swim on the last day. A great way to end the outdoor-pool season. But it got even better.

Yep. That old lady is the USS Constitution. This is the second time she’s sailed by me while swimming laps and at least the fourth time she’s been out this summer. I’m embarrassed to say that prior to moving to Boston I thought she couldn’t ever leave port. That she was permanently installed somewhere along the harbor. Nope. She still can sail. There’s active duty Navy sailors assigned to her. They all learn how to sail her and they actually take her out. I’ve seen her with her sails unfurled as well as like above. I wasn’t gonna miss her this time so mid-way between miles 1 and 2 I jumped out, grabbed the phone and took her picture.

That’s her returning to port a couple hours later sailing past the Coast Guard base, firing her cannons. She’s a beauty!

I managed to get 21 swims in in open water this summer, and will get more in before the year is up. I want to see how far into fall I can go. Some of you dear readers know that last Halloween I tried to swim in 51F and managed a few strokes before standing up and walking out. Then this past May I did 34 minutes in 50-51F at Winthrop. I wonder how much lower and/or longer I can go?

Brrr!

I bailed on the Boston Light this year, deciding after my slow-ass 10K in Rhode Island that I’m just not fast enough or salt-adapted enough to swim eight miles in five hours in Boston Harbor. Even with currents helping me. Then the race had to be canceled due to fog. I feel for the swimmers who traveled up here and paid for hotels and especially the boat pilot. Luckily, I gave mine enough notice that I didn’t lose anything but the entry fee.

But, as mentioned, I did get a 10K (really, 10.5K) in down in Rhode Island. It was so nice, if a lot of work, and nice and small with just a few swimmers. I’m looking forward to doing that one again next year. The area is really pretty.

The Beavertail 10K’s iconic buoy. (c) Mike Scott

And Salem. I stupidly signed up for both the 2-mile and 5K this year, even though they would both be on the same weekend. Figured sure, I can do both. Not so much. I was so wore out from the 2-miler, which I thought I swam fast, that I wasn’t moving my arms the next day, never mind for a 5K. The 2-miler was in wonderfully cold water, 58F or so. I was one of only a handful of skins swimmers. Unfortunately, the Wild Fish Swim people don’t differentiate skins from neoprene, my only complaint about that swim.

A few skins swimmers in a sea of neoprene

One more swim this season, and that’s my favorite Swim the Suck in Tennessee. I will write at length about that swim later. Looking forward to meeting up with everyone in October in Chattanooga!

But yes, summer is over. Mirabella is closed. I’ll have to move my pool swimming indoors. Gonna try a new Y close by, see if their pool is nicer than my local Y. The local one is ok, but sometimes the water tastes funny; I think something is up with their filtration system. I have literally been kicked out of the pool before because the chlorine level was zero. Yes, 0.0. How does that actually happen?

Edit: Forgot to mention my DD took a trip down to Cape Cod. She was excited about the beach. Then she saw this sign.

Rainy day swim

Got a nice fast swim in today down in Rhode Island. Went to McCorrie Pt and met up with Beavertail 10K veteran Dan. Dan is fast so it was quite a bit of work trying to keep up with him. (Spoiler alert: I didn’t.)

Ugly day…still better than not swimming

Water was choppy and there were bits of rain, so my arms now are sore as hell. Water deliciously warm at 72F. So salty. Low tide. Lots of boats, all moored. Tons of little squiggley jellyfish or something that feels like schmoshy sausages floating around in the water. At one point something big and bag feeling floated over my back. Also caught something in my underarm. If these are anything like the little squiggleys I met at Beavertail, then I’m gonna have some itchy spots in a day or two.

Fast forward to now, about 30 minutes after the above. My wife cut my hair and I showered McCorrie off of me. Sure enough, spots along my neck and under one arm. Itching ETA, 24 hours.

Dan swam fast as hell, getting to each of our checkpoints well before me and he waited, which was nice. Once we got to the far end, a bit over a mile, we turned around to swim back, straight through without stopping. He kept near the coast, I tried to beeline it back. I kinda did, as you can see in the screenshot below. My total was 1.95 miles while Dan’s was 1.99. (The loops at the bottom of Dan’s tracks is an extra mile he threw in at the end for an even 3 miles.)

My swim today: 1.95 miles
Dan’s swim

Been to Rhode Island 10-12 times. Swam there four times and only once was it sunny, and that was for Beavertail 10K. What’s up Rhode Islanders? You guys ever sunny?

Nahant swim with the kitesurfers

Checked out a different place today, near my usual haunt, Revere Beach. This time I went to Nahant Beach. I’d been warned about going anytime after 7am, due to limited parking and crowds. Well, part of that turned out to not be an issue today. Tons of parking and I even got a spot directly in front of beach entrance #6.

It really was a terribly pretty day. The one issue I had was the crowds…of kitesurfers. Seriously, look at all of them!

And that’s not all of them! At one point I stopped counting at 12. I had to be very careful entering the water. I waited till there was a space between kitesurfers then entered and began swimming as quickly as I could into the waves to get deep(er) so as to avoid them.

Two of them came close, but both made a point to look at me and wave. I appreciated this as it meant they actually saw me. I can’t be that hard to spot: I’m wearing a bright yellow MSF cap, a bright lime green rash/sun guard, and towing a bright orange buoy. That should be sufficient, I think.

As I mentioned, the water was pretty rough today, and it’s been weeks and weeks since I’ve been in salt water. In fact, I think the Beavertail 10K was the last time, so three weeks. I decided to do just a bit over a mile and then get out. That mile took forever. Half of it was me stopping to look out for the kitesurfers and to check out the views (it really is pretty there), the other half was me fighting those waves, trying to get distance. My moving time had me doing 100 yards at 2:10-ish, but with all the stops I ended up taking over 2:30 per 100y. No biggie.

If you were to go by the pic above, you’d think I’d forgotten to start Mr. Garmin till after I started. But the satellite view clears this up nicely, dear reader(s).

Low tide was about an hour in the past when I showed up, so got a nice push home near the end. If one were to come around that point at the bottom of the map (Eastern Point) then swim directly west for four miles, you’d end up on Revere Beach.

So, good day today. Oh! Water was wonderfully warm at 66-67F throughout. Couldn’t ask for a better temperature. If the water were flatter, would have stayed longer.

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.