Category Archives: 2019 Season

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.

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.

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!

Water temp still going down!

Sunny and beautiful in the greater Boston area today!

As I’ve said before, can’t pass up a sunny day. Tons of people at the beach, which was great to see. Even saw an adult male, with ample padding, going out into the water and enjoying. His friends/family made fun of him swimming in the cold water. Then the crazy swimmer showed up.

Asked my wife to get some pictures. She loves those close-up Superman poses.

Commenced walking in. Dammit all but it was cold! The walk in took quite a bit of time. I’ve found that I’m good till I gotta put my arms in. My hands get so cold. I wore two caps today, hoping to forego or forestall the headache. No such luck. Did 4 or 6 strokes, then breast. Decided to try 10 breast strokes, then free, adding a few strokes each time to the free. Did 8, 10, 12, 15, then went up by 5s. Before I knew it, I was pretty much used to it. Up to 100. Still did the breast stroke, mostly because it is so freaking pretty and I love watching all the families, the birds, and basking in the sun. Not doing much distance here, but certainly getting my cold water immersion. Out in the deep checked the thermometer. Wavered between 54-55F.

Swam against the current for quite a while, then turned and came back. Saw my wife, in her fuchsia* (mauve? purple?) sweatshirt, waved to her for a while. Then noticed long pants. Whoops. Wife wore shorts. Doh! I was far enough out that person never waved back, and probably didn’t even notice me anyway, so that’s good.

Swam a bit past where I entered the water, then turned around again and swam back. Felt like I was out there forever. Turns out only 47-some minutes. Oh well. I gotta remember to wear my watch next time. I really wanted to do an hour, and could have. Perhaps tomorrow? Forecast is for mostly cloudy but warm. Air temp anyway!

*I had the 8 color box of crayons growing up, so I don’t know all these fancy color terms. The three primary and three secondary, and white and black. That’s about it. 

Where’d the warm water go?

Went back to Revere Beach today. Unlike Thursday evening, it was a bit colder.

Couldn’t let a sunny day go by. It was so nice to see families out and about. Some kids were in the water, so that boded well for me. I geared up and started walking out.

Cold. I walked in to waist-high, and stood there for a while. I knew there were people looking at the crazy person in the water, so knew I couldn’t just stand here forever. I had to dive in and swim at some point. So I did just that.

As previously in cold water, within a few strokes I had quite the headache. Switched to breaststroke. Then back to freestyle. Swam a while. I got used to the temperature after a while and it became pleasant.

When I first walked into the water, the temp was at 58F. I swam farther out and checked the temp. 56F. At the turn-around I checked again. 56F. Definitely cold (for me). Some time into the swim I started to notice my hands getting numb. I swam back to the starting point and made my way back to the beach. As I got shallower, the temp went up. 58F right before I got out.

Wind wasn’t as bad today as Thursday. Walked up to the street and my car, then donned my swim robe and did the uncoordinated drying off, removing my suit, putting my sweats on. Managed to get my swim robe stuck in the seat of my sweatpants, with a very nice older Indian couple watching me the entire time. Awesome. Got the swim robe off myself and put my shirt on. Started getting cold. Got in the car and turned the heat on. Yes. With 70F air temp. Froze my toes off.

Did only just 0.6 miles, but mostly I was happy I did over 30 minutes in 56-58F water temp. Getting used to cold(er) water.

Water’s warmed up

Went to Revere Beach today after work. Sun’s out, so why not, right?

Walking in, I couldn’t believe how “warm” the water felt. I ran back up the beach to deposit my phone and went back in. The wind was howling, so I went deeper. Much better when I was up to my neck in the water. Almost warm.

Thermometer said 59-60F, hovering near 60F. I floated around for a while, the waves coming in strong. Sun was coming in and out, some little birds came flying by me, doing acrobatics right above the waves. They were awesome. I think they were Greater Shearwaters. At least that’s the best I could do with my National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds (Eastern Region, of course).

I ended up staying in the water for 25 minutes. The waves were rough, so I really just bobbed around for a bit. The temp stood at 59F when I got out. Funny how 13 degrees can make it seem warm. (It was 46F last time I was here on 28 April.) Didn’t realize I’d been in the water for 25 minutes till I got out and looked at my phone. The wind was crazy, and the air temp was quite low, 51F or so. I froze when I got out, and trying to get dry and dressed with my towel-thing flying all over the place. Took me forever to get warm.

Cold water acclimatization begins!

Went to the beach today.

Revere beach…ain’t it pretty?!

The sun had peaked out earlier while I was enjoying a lazy Sunday morning reading. That sun teased me though. I had wanted to start my cold-water training earlier, but every weekend I was either traveling or it was raining. (What’s with all the rain here, Boston?)

But by the time I got to the beach it was consistently overcast. No matter. Not gonna turn around now. I doffed my clothes, hopefully (hopelessly?) tucked my cap and goggles under my suit and started the walk.

Got about this far and froze.

Cold enough for a bit

Holy crap was that cold. Spent a good deal of time (ok, maybe 3 minutes) at the feet-only level, dipping the thermometer in trying to get a reading. The feet were on fire, frozen, so no reason not to go deeper, right?

This is good…

Stayed at knee level long enough to get a consistent reading on the thermometer. 46F, steady. Cold.

Getting close to the cockles

At about this point I started to worry about my phone. It was no longer safe tucked into the top of my suit. Right after the above picture a higher wave came by, above the cockles, and I knew then it was time to go deposit my phone back on the beach. I exited quickly, not wanting to lose any of my acclimation I’d just suffered through, and returned. It was wonderful how much easier it was to re-enter the water and get back to the same level. In fact, I went deeper.

Once I got to ten minutes I knew I could do more. Last Halloween I’d done 10 minutes standing in 51F and then 5-6 strokes at the Vampire Swim. So today was so much better. I decided I’d go for 15 minutes, then perhaps dip myself fully into the water? We’ll see.

I walked down so that I was more often than not sub-cockles in the water. I gotta tell you: it really does burn water this cold. My thighs were on fire for quite a while till they got used to it. Then my scrot…yikes.

That’s pretty much how I felt.

When 15:00 came, I decided it was time for the dunk. What’s the worst that could happen? I’m not doing any strokes, after all. It was definitely a shock, and I knew I couldn’t do any swimming. But it wasn’t as bad as I thought. In fact, I probably should have stayed up to my shoulders in the water because when I stood up that wind. Yowza.

Dry and soon warm

But I did it. Acclimatization begins. I don’t want the water temp in Boston Light to be a determining factor for my swim. Hopefully next weekend there’ll be some sun and I can try to go longer and maybe even do some strokes!

First failure

Did a USRPT session again on Wednesday morning. 20×100 hitting 1:38 leaving on 2:00. Did a 500 warm up then did the set. Felt pretty good, hit the first few at 1:35 then settled into 1:36-1:37. First failure wasn’t till set #12 which I hit at 1:40.

According to the rules, I sat out the next set, so that’s a lot of rest, then I started set #13. If I had failed that one, then my USRPT workout would have been done. Two failures in a row or three total failures. So I worked really hard to not get my second failure in set #13.

And I didn’t! Kept the sets on time until set #18. Another 1:40. Another wait out, then two more sets. I was so tired by this point I didn’t care if I failed on #19 or #20. But I failed on none of them. w00t!

I’ll stick to this set until my first failure goes more over to the right. I’m still researching on whether I’m supposed to stay at this pace until I do the entire 20 without any failures, or if I can move to 1:37, say, if my first failure pushes all the way to the right to maybe set #17? I also am unsure…if I missed #12, the extra time I spent resting, did that count as #13? Should I have just counted my next one as #14?

So I did a thing

Been reading on the forums about this USRPT stuff. For the uninitiated, as I was only a week ago, this stands for Ultra-Short Race Pace Training. If I understood correctly, the theory is that you do a huge number of reps of short distances, attempting to hit a goal time and with a set period of rest.

In all my readings, it seems a very good training set for those trying to swim pool events, up to and including the 1500. Not sure how it would work for marathon swimming, but thought I’d try it. My 5K sure could use some speed in it.

I read through a webinar’s notes and came up with a workout: 20×100 with a goal time of 1:45, leaving on the 2:05. I based this on my desired 5K finish time of 1:30. What I did was take the number of minutes (90) and divide by 50 (number of 100s in a 5K). This was error #1. (I’ll get back to that.) That math came up with a time of 1:48. I thought that was too slow so settled on 1:45.

Got to the pool. Did a warm up of 300 and then set about to do this USRPT thing. In the literature on this technique, I read that you shouldn’t count any failure in the first 5 sets. This is the time to get your timing down and get in the rhythm. I knew within a couple sets that I had picked too easy a time. I came in at 1:35 for the first two, giving me way too much rest. From set 3 onwards I decided to change the workout to 1:40 on 2:00.

While swimming one of the sets, it dawn on me my math error. I divided the time by 50, to get my per 100 meter time. Problem is, I’m swimming in a yard pool! A 5K swim is way more than 5000 yards. In fact, as I learned later with the help of the Google machine, 5000 meters equals 5468 yards. So my 100 yard race pace for a 1:30 5K finish would have been 1:38. Doh!

The point of USRPT (if I understand correctly) is to not make all the sets. The point is to set a pace that is hard to maintain, and continue this workout till you’ve failed three times or failed twice in a row. The aim after that is to continually move that first failure further to the right. If your first failure the first time you did this set was on #8, then a week later #10, then #12, that means you’re getting fitter. Or so the theory goes. When you do all the sets without a failure, it is time to lower your goal time.

Well, turns out 20×100 on 1:40 was too easy for me. As I got into the zone, I started hitting the wall at 1:37 to 1:39. The occasional 1:36, but never a 1:40. I certainly picked the wrong time. The next time I do this USRPT thing (next week?), I think I’ll try the same workout but goal of 1:38 leaving on 2:00. Not quite sure what to do if I complete that workout with only one or two failures; I might have to check out the USRPT forums for the answer to that. Continue that until I have one or zero failures before changing the time? Unsure.