Category Archives: 2019 Season

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.

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]

Crewing is where it’s at

I had the honor of crewing for Bridget S. in the Boston Light Swim, an 8-mile ocean swim with a long, illustrious history. She lucked into a slot when someone who made it through the swimmer lottery had to drop out. She and I know each other going back to 1992, so it was just dumb luck that I’m living here now and she got a slot in the swim. And I was already volunteering on the Friday night prior to the swim.

I must admit up front that I volunteered for selfish reasons: If you make it through the volunteer lottery (yes, a lottery for swimmers and volunteers), and you qualify, then next year you can skip the lottery to swim the race! So while I’d love to say I volunteered for altruistic reasons, I really had a game plan for 2019.

Friday went well; I got to meet a lot of swimmers I’d only known through the internet and the MSF forums. I also met some great swimmers who aren’t on the forums, to include a man who has swum the BLS 20 times, but also has swum BLS doubles at least 3 times. He’s also swum the original Boston Light route (12-miles from downtown Boston to the Light). Kim Garbarino was incredibly modest, and quite the swimmer. I met an 80-year old swimmer who has written the histories of the BLS; yes, I had to buy his books to add to my OW swims history collection. Bob McCormack was wonderful to meet and a true lover of this swim.

Saturday found us up early and out of the house by 0455. We had to stop at a Dunkin Donuts (they’re like Starbucks here) to get our pilot an iced coffee. We met all the other swimmers, got Bridget’s stuff together for the fly-away bag, and went out to the pier to wait for Kevin, our pilot.

(c) Jon Washer

This really is the worst part of any swim, the nerves at the beginning. All you can think about is the swim: How will I feel? How cold will the water be? Will the weather hold/get worse/get better? Did I train sufficiently? What did I forget? Where’s the pilot?

Kevin arrived and we loaded the boat. His boat was pretty small; Bridget had told me that he said she could have one crew member. I can see why. Small boat, but very capable. We motored on out to the Light for the start.

(c) Jon Washer

You can kind of see what looks like a small radar at the front of his boat. That is something like a “trolling motor,” if I understood him correctly. It is electric and with this motor Kevin can control his boat by remote control, with the main engine off. There would be times during B’s swim that I realized the motor was off and Kevin was steering the entire boat with a handheld remote. Nice and slow like the swimmer, none of this rush ahead, let the swimmer catch up, repeat.

The swim would start with a 5-min warning by radio, then two short horn blasts. Nothing fancy. Swimmers were not allowed in the water till those horns blasts. The current was in the swimmers’ favor, so jumping in early, then you have to fight to stay back behind the line. So the blasts go off and Bridget gets in the water. She is admittedly a gradual enterer in cold water so this jumping in was not to her liking. In fact, she jumped in, surfaced and screamed. Turns out the water was 57*. Bridget didn’t whine or hesitate, she simply put her head down and got to work. Within 60-90 seconds, she was cruising with a beautiful stroke.

She actually started in the very back of the line; all other swimmers were ahead of her at the start. But within 30 minutes, she had passed 5 other swimmers. Within an hour, she had passed eight more swimmers. Most of this was due to Bridget’s beautiful stroke, but a large part of this was the navigation by Kevin. He found fast water. He took an occasional weird route which turned out to be the right choice as Bridget would just zoom by other swimmers. Turns out he isn’t new at this. He’s piloted for BLS swimmers before, and knows the course.

She passed all those swimmers!

Between Spectacle and Thompson islands, a bunch of different currents met, and there was slow water there. I ended up calling that area the Doldrums. (I didn’t tell Bridget that till after the swim.) It was about a half mile or so long and a lot of swimmers got stuck. I didn’t stop her at the 30:00-feed mark in this area because I didn’t want her to see herself being pushed backwards. Kevin took us almost directly north to Spectacle after we went through the Long Island “bridge,” then we took a sharp left past Thompson and caught a beautiful current.

Almost there!

That current took her straight to the L Street finish. I asked Kevin a couple times if he thought she would make it to the beach before the five hour cut-off. I didn’t want to stop her for a feed if she was within minutes of finishing. Kevin had no worries. He had her on a good line. One of the Irish swimmers was going directly to the yacht club where we started. Only problem with that is that was not the finish. By the time his pilot realized, Bridget almost caught up. It became a race then. Kevin wanted her to beat that guy! And she almost did.

Unofficial results shows the Irishman beat her by only one second! (c) Jon Washer

Kevin and I cheered for Bridget as she arrived, then motored on back to the yacht club where we started. I tentatively booked Kevin for 2019. After watching him find fast water for Bridget, I knew who I wanted to be my pilot next year!

Another triple crown

I’m a sucker for groupings, as regular readers know. Stillwater 8, Mile-High Club*, etc.

Recently, a new grouping was announced down in the Tennessee river. The Triple Crown of the Tennessee River consists of three open water swims along the Tennessee river: Swim Hobbs Island (5 miles); Bridges to Bluffs 10K; and Swim the Suck (10 miles).

I swam Swim the Suck back in 2012 and that is still one of my favorite open water swims ever. Karah Nazor runs an incredible swim down there in Chattanooga. StS was my first time over 10k and what a great introduction. A nice little push from the dam and the 10 miles felt like 9.

I don’t know anything about the other two swims, but I know they are now on my dream list. If you do all three in one year, you are a Gold Member. In two years, you’re a Silver Member and within three years you’re a Bronze Member.

For 2019, the Hobbs Island swim will be one week right before Ironman Chattanooga (date TBD); Bridges to Bluffs will be on 22 September (and it will be the USMS 10K national championship); Swim the Suck will be on 12 October. Definitely adding this to my to-swim list!

*No, I don’t mean the thing you do in a disgusting airplane bathroom, but a series of swims in alpine lakes around the world, like Titicaca and Issyk Kul.