Category Archives: 2014 Season

Harborfest results

Good news! Results are in for the 5K I did right before departing for Bishkek. Even greater news: I got first place in my age group! How about those apples. I was also the oldest there, so boo-yah!

Now, before you get all impressed, know that my time, according to the website, was 2:15. I think it was more like 2:00; the race started late, so I wonder. Oh well, I knew it wouldn’t be a speedy race with little to no training before it. But wow, what a slow time.

HarborFest Tri Swims 5K

This’ll be a quick after-action report on my 5K yesterday in the waters of the Potomac at National Harbor, MD. BLUF: A great time was had by Iron Mike!

I signed up for this swim in the hopes I’d get one more swim in before departing for Kyrgyzstan AND it would spur me on to swim more. You see, I intended on following the ChickenOSea training plan of 2x per week. I did swim more, at first. Then training began for this assignment, not to mention all the crap that comes with moving a household of six 6500+ miles, and my morning swims at the Y disappeared. So I switched to the “just be active” plan. And I decided the 5K would be purely a training, fun swim.

This happened as we were preparing to jump in. Thankfully, I know the organizer, and he let me run down the pier to where my son was to get another pair.

And it was! It took me forever. I forgot my Garmin and didn’t wear a watch, and the race organizers didn’t tell me my time (granted, I forgot to ask), but I’m thinking somewhere around 2:00. It was 5 laps of 1K each. The first lap hurt, but through it I figured I am always sore the first 1000-1500 of any long workout. Then laps 2-5 felt incredible! No pain, and my navigation was incredible. Way better than ever before. Maybe I should always taper 1-2 months prior to a swim?!

harborfest with lucy
One of my brood and I after the race. She’s a swimmer, too, but prefers backstroke in a pool.

Re: Navigation. Here’s my SOP: I start out by sighting every 6-8 strokes, taking a quick “alligator eyes” glance to ensure I am lined up on the far buoy or landscape feature I’ve pegged as close enough (for the first buoy in National Harbor, you aim for the MacDonald’s).  Then, if I’m dead on 3 glances in a row, I extend it to 10 strokes. If those 3 are good, then 12, and so on to 16. No matter how straight I’m swimming, I stick to 16 because if I go farther my brain starts yelling at me (“You know you’re slicing so you better take a peek!”).  For this race, I was incredibly straight! Each time I looked up I was on target. It was an incredible feeling, especially with my right-side only breathing style (despite my coaching and training bilateral, once I’m “in the zone” I’m a unilateral breather. “Do as I say, dammit, not as I do!”).

So, bottom line, I had a great time. I’m sore as hell today, but that’s to be expected. Boy am I gonna miss open water!


Finally, a race

OK, I probably just jinxed myself. So prepare for a later blog entry entitled something like Dammit, I jinxed myself. But just in case my saying I jinxed myself unjinxes the jinx, I’ll tell you what the hell I’m talking about.

I signed up for a race! Yee-haw! Haven’t raced (outside) since last year. I had signed up for a couple for the start of summer, but I ended up going temporarily to Moscow to help out the embassy there, so I had to drop out of the races that I signed up for (Nanticoke, Jim McDonnell) as well as a POW class with WaveOne. And with our impending move overseas, I didn’t want to sign up for any because pretty much our weekends are full with getting the house and kids ready to move 6578 miles away. But I found a close race that’ll be over and done by noon on a Sunday. It’s only 5 miles away and starts at 8:30.

The race is the HarborFest Tri Swims, Tri because the race distances are triathlete-friendly, with a 750-meter swim along with a half-IM and IM distances thrown in. Even better, last year a couple swimmers swam a 5K. The organizer, Denis Crean of WaveOne, is hoping to have a 5K this year, too. I had to sign up for the 2.4 miler and wait for the day of to find out if the 5K will be swum, but that’s fine by me. I’m swimming in open water before moving to Kyrgyzstan. That’s what’s important! Race report to follow shortly after 3 August.

Swim meet with Triathletes

Dear reader(s) know that I have a bit of a laugh occasionally at triathletes’ expense. What with swimming with pull buoys during 2-mile open water swims, or standing up and walking in the shallows. But today I got to experience triathletes at their sportsmen’s best. And that made me very proud to be a coach.

Today was DC Tri Club’s Swim Meet #3, postponed back in November due to water temperature. (haha)  The meet was held at Catholic University indoor pool, a cool little six-lane SCY pool, with a movable wall that separates the diving well (not big enough to make a 50m pool, sadly). Since today was Sunday, the parking lot and the street parking was free and available. The drive there went through DC, parts I hadn’t driven yet, and through the beautiful CUA campus. Oh, to have rich parents.

About 30 DC Tri club members and coaches signed up for the 10 events (not counting the relays):

  1. 400 free
  2. 50  back
  3. 100  free
  4. 50  breast
  5. 100  IM
  6. 800  free 
  7. 50 free
  8. 100 back
  9. 50 fly
  10. 200 free

The meet only cost $12 and you could swim up to 4 events. So of course, the cheap bastard I am, I signed up for 4 events. Yep, you guessed it, I signed up for the 800, 400 and 200. And, bonus event: 50 fly. But, recall that there were only 30 swimmers total, so the time between my 50 fly heat and my 200 free heat was the time of one heat of 200 free. OMG, I was tired. Then, upon completing the 200 free (heat 2 of 2), my fellow coaches came up to me and said, “Guess what Mike? We need you for the coach vs. board relay.” Crap.

OK, so times. My first event was the 400 free. Wow did I hurt. My arms felt like they did when I first started this LCHF diet. D-E-D, dead. My goal for the 400 for 6:00. I managed to beat that at 5:46. So far so good. Thankfully I had much time to rest between the 400 and the 800. There were 2-3 heats of each event, so I had a good 15-20 minutes before the 800.

For the 800, I decided (well, had decided a couple weeks ago) to treat it like a 4×200. I thought I’d go out fast in the first 200, medium in the 2nd, start to build the 3rd, then all out during the 4th 200. Well, I certainly went out fast. Or at least felt fast. Then I kept fast in the 2nd 200. And I felt good. The 400 didn’t feel as bad as the 400 I had swum first. I really wish I’d been able to check the time at my 400. It started to hurt after that. In fact, when I had 200 left, I couldn’t push it yet. I was leading my heat, so that was okay. But when I had 100 left, I pushed it. Really, it was the last 75 that really flew by. 12:12.  Way faster than the 15:00 I was aiming for. Very happy.

Next was my 50 fly. The fly was delightfully easy, thank God. Just one lap felt so nice after all the previous laps.  0:39-something. The only problem was the 200 free right after. That didn’t feel so good. I figured I’d swim something like 3:05 or so. Nope! 2:44. So happy. And happy to be done. Except for the relay.

OK, so the relay. There were only 3 board members there. So that meant the relay would be a 150 free relay. Yeah, weird. Even the timers started looking around for the 4th swimmer. Anyway, we coaches destroyed the board members, w00t! 1:27 for our 150 free. Way to go team members, Jules and Bryan.

Another Open Water swim in the area

Friend of the blog and awesome marathon swimmer Franco Prezioso tipped me off on a new OW swim in this area. It’s called the Choptank Bridge Swim (yeah, I know, strange name), in Columbia, MD, and there are two swims available. You have the choice of the short swim (their name) of 1.6 miles or the long swim of 3.6.

I signed up for the 3.6 and for now, my May is almost full. I’ve got swims three of those weekends, so I’m happy. Girl #2 doesn’t have any swim meets in May, which makes familial logistics easier. Two of the swims are out in eastern Maryland, so it might be fun to do a one-nighter with the spousal unit and select non-employed children. Just what I need before I deploy.

The swim sounds awesome and a good price, based on my calculus.


How much for an open water swim?

Edit: Let me be clear: I am talking here about the cost for an open water event to the swimmer, not to the organization putting on the swim.

A fellow marathon swimmer made a comment to me recently that “$33/mile is not an outrageous amount” for an open water swim. On the surface, I think she was making a good point. But I think there is much more to be considered than entry fee per mile. For instance, I paid $250 to enter Swim the Suck a couple years ago. Looking at the entry fee per mile that’s $25. Not bad I guess, compared to, say, Nanticoke at $31.32/mile ($93.96/three). Or Swim for the Potomac’s 10K at $8.06/mile ($50/6.2 miles).

However, there is also travel to consider. For StS, with excellent internet searching I got to Chattanooga for a little over $200. Nanticoke will cost me about 300 miles, there and back, and with my gas-guzzling 11-year old minivan, that’ll be about 20 gallons of gas at ~$3.30/gallon, so add $66 to the total cost. Travel is where the 10K here in town rules: It’s only about 11 miles there and back, so less than a gallon of gas. Of course, the 11 clams I gotta pay for parking there makes up for the savings in gas!

Rolled into travel for some of these swims is not only airfare, but hotels and rental cars. I’ll probably get a hotel for Nanticoke, so add in another $100 (it is near the Eastern Shore, after all). Oh, and don’t forget paying for your support. Again, StS starts to add up. I, of course, paid for my Uncle’s airfare and hotel; granted, we shared a room. I paid for the rental and bought him food, although he treated me the night of the race to a celebratory dinner. Still, that $25/mile rises fast when (if?) you take into account all the costs.

Then there are those costs which are difficult to calculate. The effect of time away from home and hearth. The money spent that could go to things like housekeeping, home improvement, college funds, marriage maintenance. (This really is a selfish hobby, btw.) How much did it cost me in those areas when I spent four days in the UK by myself swimming my first 10K? How about the three days in Chattanooga?

And just because one swim “only” costs 10 bucks per mile, does that mean that particular swim is better or more worth your time than one that costs $33 per mile?  There are those incalculables, like the iconicity (iconness?) of a particular swim.  $10,000 for a channel swim?  That ~$450/mile is probably worth it if you succeed (and if it only costs you $10K). I’ll say one thing: For me, StS was worth whatever the final cost was, both financially and psychically.

I don’t think there is a right answer to these questions, at least not one right answer. Not one answer that we could all agree on.

Nanticoke River Swim

My new blog friend David Speier from the Nanticoke River Swim responded to my last blog entry about the cost of his 3-mile swim. I appreciate that very much, I really do. I’m so glad when folks not only read my work, but respond. And David did a good job answering my concerns.

David said his swim was harder than the Chesapeake Bay Bridge swim (4.4 miles) and the lake swims I’ve mentioned. I asked him why and he said:

The Nanticoke River Swim has a 1 to 2 mph current with three different conditions depending on the leg of the race. Leg one you are heading directly into the current, leg two you are being pushed to the left and leg three you are being pushed to the right. The chop in the water is about the same as the bay swim.

OK, that’s fair. The 10K in National Harbor has pretty much no current at all, so that’s a difference from the Nanticoke swim. There are currents in other lake swims, though.

Next I asked him why the swim entry fee is the same as the triathlon entry, to which he responded:

The time for both events is about the same with the fastest swimmer finishing in slightly over an hour and the same for the triathlon. The only paid volunteers (although paid less than their true value) are the beach qualified guards. We have 10 to 12 guards on boards during the race, most of which are to cover the 2 and 3 mile swims.

So are there no volunteers on the bike and run course? I’m asking because I don’t know. How about the transition areas? And the triathlon and 3-mile swim cut-off times are 3 hours each, so I get that. Also, according to David, the same percentage of your entry fee goes to their charity, no matter you’re doing the triathlon or the 3-mile swim. Not sure how I feel about that. I hate charity-required swims, that’s why I don’t do the Potomac River Swim (7.5 miles). But, I’m not a race organizer, so I don’t know the intricacies of putting on an event like this. And God forbid insurance requirements. Oy!

David also compared his swim entry fee to other swims in the local area. But let’s be fair and compare based on distance and possible time spent swimming (I can only compare by cut-off times):

  • Endless Summer Swim, 5K, $25
  • Swim for the Potomac, 5K, $50
  • Great Chesapeake Bay Swim, 4.4 miles, lottery entry, then $250
  • Bridge-to-Bridge and Middle Atlantic Open Water Championship, 5K, $30
  • Maryland Swim for Life, 3 miles (also 1, 2, 4, 5), $20 + $100 minimum charity
  • Steelman OW Swim, 3 miles, $50
  • Swim Ocean City, 3 miles, $95
  • Smith Mountain Lake Swims, 5K, $39

So Nanticoke is certainly not the most expensive, but there are plenty of cheaper ones out there. Which leads me to the next thing David said:  He’ll give me and all my blog readers a discount to enter the Nanticoke River Swim! He is willing to offer a 25% discount if you register for this swim!

Now re-read his above description of the swim. Sounds fun, doesn’t it? You get to battle different currents on different legs, twice! That’s good work for your navigation skills. So why not give it a try and come see the city of Bivalve in eastern Maryland? If you want to take advantage of David’s gracious offer, comment on this blog entry and I’ll get you in touch with David.


How much for a 3-mile swim?

OK, race organizers out there, I understand that insurance is not cheap. I get that. But holy crap.

The Nanticoke River Swim is coming up in May. The swim is a 2-mile or 3-mile swim. There’s also a triathlon going on, if you’re into that sort of thing. But the swims. Nice and short. Not too far of a drive from the home. A couple weeks before another swim I’ll be doing (2-miler at Lake Audubon near Reston, VA). Seems like a no-brainer, right?

Well, I went to register, but first I had to get a Lin-Mark account. The race is using Lin-Mark for registrations. That’s fine. Just another website that I need to have a login and password for. What’s new. So I register. I search for the swims and find them and click on Register. So far so good. They asked for my USAT number. Uh-oh. A triathlete-organized OW swim. Again, fine. I’ve done those and I can laugh through them while swimming next to guys with pull buoys or arm floaties on. Whatever. Then I got to the check-out page.

$93.96 for a three-mile swim!  Holy crap!  Ay caramba. What the hell? $12 of that is the USAT one-day event fee. Jeez, but okay, they need insurance, and if they went USMS it would probably have cost 200 bucks. The swim itself was $75, the same cost as the triathlon (okay, that’s bullshit because there is WAY more logistics involved in supporting a triathlon than an OW swim). Jiminy freaking Christ, that is way too much. Then, even worse, the Lin-Mark site throws in a $6.95 processing fee.  Holy shit! They charge about 7 bucks per swimmer (triathlete, too, I presume) to compile a list of swimmers for the organizers.

In comparison, my 10K (Swim for the Potomac) was $50, with no processing fees, for twice the distance (and only a 5-minute drive from home).  I can’t remember exactly how much my Dart 10k cost, but that was in England, so even if it was $100, it was worth it!

But practically $100 for a 3-mile swim?  Jeez Louise.

2014…what to do, what to do…

Planning a marathon swimming season is difficult, what with the logistics required with getting to the swim, support requirements, food, hotels, all that jazz. Throw into the mix a business trip that’ll take you out of town for half the season, and it’s even more difficult.

Right now I’m considering the SCAR swims in Arizona. Four swims over four days, with the last day being a 10K night swim, with light sticks and all. Forty miles over those four days, so it’s not a swim series for the faint of heart. There also might be an interesting 24-hour team swim nearby. In fact, if that swim happens, it most likely will happen close to my relatives’ home in PA. I’ve got my fingers crossed that race will happen.

Unfortunately, all of the swims in my local area will happen after I’m out of town. There are some shorter ones that are interesting. The 2-miler in Lake Audubon will happen in May, so I can make that one. One that I’m sad I’ll miss is a 10-miler just two hours south of me. Peluso Open Water is holding that one, but in October. Another they’re holding (after I’m gone) is what they’re calling a Glow Swim. 500 meter heats, and as long as you are in the top two, you move on to the next 500m heat. All while swimming at night with glow sticks, glow caps and glow body paint! Doesn’t that sound fun?!

Peluso Open Water - Open Water Swim Training for Triathletes

Unlucky number (20)13

Well, if you’ve read more than a few posts here, dear reader(s), then you know 2013 was not my season. Compared to my first season in 2010 (Christiansborg Round 2K and Cyprus 5K), my second (Big Deuce 2-miler, Southern Zone 5K and Dart 10K), and last year (the Texas 4K, the NJ 5K, the Potomac 10K (or, rather, 8.75K), and Swim the Suck 10-miler), this year royally sucked. Here was my initial schedule:

I didn’t do any of those, unfortunately. Two withdrawals were my fault; the last one I had to withdraw due to a family wedding, so not my fault. Here is what I ended up doing this year:

And of those, I only finished one, the 3K. Our relay of six only got ~18 miles, and I only swam 4 shifts of 30 minutes each, so maybe I swam 4 miles that day. Ocean City was a bust at 4.1 miles according to Mr Garmin. 

My season went to shit around when I had my swim bag stolen out of my car, mid-summer. That coincided with my primary solo pool, where I go to do nice and long pool swims, closing down for an extended period of time (4+ months) for repairs to the HVAC. Hell, they’re still not open; November 1st is their advertised opening, adjusted from an initial October 1st opening back when they first closed down. Both those events really got me down, swimming-wise, and I just couldn’t get out of the funk. Like I’ve posted before, my mileage was on par to go over 300 miles for the year until mid-summer. I’ve done little to no swimming since. It’s horrible. Next year won’t be any easier. I’m either deploying first half of next year, or the second half. I won’t know for another month or so. Having that degree of certainty does not lend itself to planning out 2014.

So, I’m trying hard to get back in gear. I’ll go swim tonight. I’ll swim Wednesday (I swim with my girls’ team at the Y). I’ll try and go on Thursday. I’ll go early to coach Friday night and try to get some meters in. Slowly but surely I’ll get back in the swimming mood. It’ll just take time.