Category Archives: Humor

Nearest body of water infested with patriotic symbols

A few dear reader(s) know that when I first saw our current rental home, I got terribly excited about the body of water it sat on. I pulled my phone out and immediately did some mensuration with Google maps, to discover that I could easily swim some kilometer loops, then exit in my backyard, rinse off at the spigot, and march into the house, never once getting in a car or paying a pool membership.

We must get this house, was my primary thought.

Sure, landlubbers would of course answer in the negative when I ask if I can swim in the lake. “OMG, no, gross.” Expected. Most of these people can’t imagine swimming in most bodies of water, or what they call swimming is merely dipping. I brushed off those warnings and posed my question to the tried-and-true scientific community that is Google.

Well, not really. I’m lucky that I know a great many people in the swim world, and that includes the swim world that is Boston Open Water community. I posed the question to this wonderful group and immediately got a response from one of my favorite people and incredible marathon swimmers: Bad news. Ell Pond is not clean enough for humans.

But that’s not to say that the Pond isn’t suitable for other living things.

Saturday morning I was out with my geriatric dog doing the slow-march around said Pond when what did I spy with my little eye? Two adolescent bald eagles sitting on the frozen water.

(c) Matt Bourque

What you see above are two adolescent bald eagles on the carcass of a Canadian goose that got frozen in the Pond. The eagles remained on the goose for at least an hour, at least for as long as I was watching.

(c) Matt Bourgue

These eagles were the highlight of my weekend. About a week ago I’d seen a red hawk on a tree in the neighbor’s backyard. But, a symbol of America right there in my hoped-for outdoor swimming pool? Priceless!

(c) Matt Bourque
Thanks to Matt Bourque for his kind permission to use his beautiful photographs!

Nope!

Just plain ol’ nope. Not gonna do it.

Went to Revere Beach today, geared up and ready to swim. Figured after my Vampire Swim in 51F water (all 10 strokes of it) and 43F air temp, how bad could it be in Revere with the sun out, 45F air temp?

Well, within seconds I knew it would be bad. Upon stepping into the water, my feet were on fire. So damn cold. Went up to mid-calf and dropped the thermometer in, let it sink.

So beautiful, so unassuming…

Cold. Mercury hovered between 49 and 50F. Felt colder. Frankly, couldn’t believe I was able to stay in the 51F last weekend as long as I did. Probably peer-pressure.

I tried to go to Breakheart Reservation right after. Haven’t been yet, figured I could buy the annual parking pass and while there take a temp of the lake water. That’s the only lake nearby that you’re allowed to swim in. Might be colder. Might be warmer. Who knows? Couldn’t get there anyway; something big was going on as people were parked up and down the street leading to the park. Couldn’t even get in. Will try again during the week.

So perhaps my ocean swimming is done for the season. Dang.

Go back human, you can’t hang

Vampire swim 2018

On Saturday I learned of the Vampire Swim happening here in town. If you don’t know what this swim is, where have you been hiding?

The Vampire Swim is a blood drive and open water swim close to Halloween. You don’t donate blood at the beach but at a donation center prior to the swim. Then you dress up and jump in the water!

(c) Karen Nazor

Eleven of us braved the 51F water in South Boston. Some swam for 20+ minutes while others, like yours truly, dunked their head, swam a few strokes, then got out.

The coldest I’d been in prior was my 2.5 hours in 57F in lake Issyk Kul. 51F is a different animal all together. My feet were absolutely frozen. Toes hurt. The tide was low, so lots and lots of shells to walk over, but frankly, I couldn’t feel my feet anyway. It must have taken me 10 minutes to walk up past the cockles. And I stayed there for a while, talking with the other crazies!

(c) Karen Nazor

Mina and I decided to go ahead and dunk our heads and swim some. Mina, whom I met this year in BLS and then saw again at StS, swam way more than I did. I probably swam maybe 5 or 6 strokes, then some breast, then turned around and got out.

When I started swimming, I felt like something was strapped around my belly, like one of those waist sweat belts that some guys wear. I thought for a minute that I had strapped my buoy to myself, but I hadn’t. Very weird feeling. I spoke with Elaine after and she explained about what the organs do when the body is immersed in cold water.

Got out and changed in Kellie’s portable changing tent. So much easier than using my changing robe.

 

Mirabella pool: Another member of the weird-length pool club

There’s a great pool not far from my work called Mirabella. Great outdoor pool with perfect lap times: 0700-0845 M-F. I get to downtown around 7am anyway, so walking to the pool is no biggie. I joined by paying $40 for the summer, in money order of all things (Boston Centers for Youth & Family won’t take cash, card, or first born), and got my laminated membership card. Did that Monday afternoon ready to swim laps Tuesday morning.

And that’s what I did. I arrived and ran into the men’s room, which was disgusting. Trash on the floor, chipped paint, gross shower area. That’s fine; I’ve got a gym at work so I can shower there. I’m here to swim anyway, I thought, so get on with it! Walked out to the pool and saw how big it is and what it is missing.

Beautiful water! Seven black lane lines. Long…50 meters? 25? Yards? Hmm… First thing I noticed was the lifeguard placing swimmers in certain lanes. Yep, no lane lines. But the lifeguard kept us in particular lanes. You either swam on a black line or in the space between. Unless it was Tuesday. According to the nice young lady, it was uncharacteristically busy. So she stopped two older folks and told them to swim circles with me, down on the line and back in the blue space. There was a moment of indecision and I thought maybe age would trump authority, when they both agreed and I jumped in.

The jump in ended before I expected. I hadn’t read the side of the pool (3 1/2 feet!). Looked deeper! And it was nice and cool, which I hadn’t expected. Figured it would be a typical public pool (“Ooh, think of the poor shivering children!”) and be too warm or even hot. But no, perfect. I started my laps.

And the far wall took forever. But not that long. Weird. This must be a 50 yard pool, if there is such a thing? Doesn’t seem long enough for 50 meters, but…who knows? Anyway, I kept on swimming.

What I noticed almost immediately was the wonderful bounciness of the water. Like open water almost. And the chance of running into someone else was higher, which I liked. I don’t know why, but I love the rough and tumble of OW, the running into other swimmers, the drafting. This was similar.

I set myself a cut-off time of 0800 so I could get to work, so as I got closer to that time, I started wondering how far I’ve swum. I kept track of my laps, but still couldn’t wrap my head around the length. So on the last lap I counted my strokes. Didn’t make sense. Way more than my typical 25 yard length but not far enough for double that number. How the hell long is this pool?

Check out that view! USS Constitution out there.

That was the first thing I asked the lifeguard when I got out. Her answer blew my mind: 42 yards. Uh, what? Gabriella, the nice lady I was circle-swimming with (along with hirsute Frank) said “Yep, and 42 lengths is a mile.” OK, that’s weird. But that at least explains my weird stroke count. So, one round trip* of my new summer pool is 84 yards. Add Mirabella to my embassy pool in Moscow (50 feet 4 inches long), my boss’s pool in Bishkek (7 meters long) and my pool in Bishkek (8 meters long), and I’m collecting quite an assortment of odd-length pools! Can’t wait to return to a SCY pool after this summer. I’ll feel so fast!

*How’s that, Evan, for avoiding a particularly contentious word? 😉

Pictorial tour through my 20 Bridges

I’ll have more pictures in the coming days, but for now, here’s a few from my attempt at 20 Bridges.

We had to be there at 0500, so this is me sitting and waiting…and being nervous…

I’ve already spoken elsewhere about how wonderful this marathon swimming community is. While I was sitting there, my right hand shaking like a leaf (“…but this is my swimming hand”), I got hugs from people I’d only ever met online. Really helped with the nerves, as did the requisite pre-swim jumpography.

Before I knew it, we were on the boat and motoring over to the start at Pier A.

Wow, do I ever look nervous!

Before long, it was my time to start, and I was so relieved to just jump in and get this swim started.

The first hour flew by. Not sure how far I got, will have to wait until I get back home and sync my Garmin.

This is one of the first few bridges I swam under. I told my crew my cardinal rule: Never tell me how far I’ve gone or how far I have to go. I told Agnes, my kayaker, to also not tell me what bridge I’m on. That didn’t mean I didn’t count as they were going by. Turns out by the end I was off on my count, thank God.

Then came the tough part, the decision to quit or get moved and go on, even though the swim wouldn’t count. I chose to continue, of course, and here is where they dropped me and Agnes and I started up again, the Wards Island Bridge.

Lots and lots of bridges passed me by in the wonderfully-cooperative Harlem river. Before long, though, I passed under what I thought was bridge #19 but actually #20.

Now the tough part. Had no idea it was about 11 miles from this point to the finish. So glad I didn’t know. En route, I passed a bunch of things I had no idea I passed.

And of course, through it all, my crew was there.

Thank the river gods, I finally found the finish. Longest DQ ever!

Compare this picture to the one at the start. So glad to be done!

Came out of the water, waving to my family at Pier A. So thankful to be done. Had to return some water back to nature first. (Of course, one of my kids just had to take this picture.)

The kids and I cleaned up at Pier 25 and took a very short taxi ride back to Pier A to meet up with family for a nice après-swim dinner.

Only later after getting back to our tiny lower East side walk-up did I really appreciate how wonderful my family was, none of them ever commenting on how horrid I looked. (Pictures below are from three days after the swim!)

Once we get back to Moscow I’ll post the Garmin tracks and my lessons learned. For now though, this is IronMike signing off from Manhattan!

In the “what a small world” department

Did another great (feeling) swim today. Still babying my elbow, so a calm 10 x 500 with a little 100 back/free cool down. Felt great, elbow didn’t hurt. Did the 5000m in 1:40, which is great for me.

But the most amazing part of the swim today is when I showed up. My daughter’s coach (also named Mike) had a UT Longhorns t-shirt on. I gave him the Hook ’em Horns sign and mentioned that I was raised in Texas. He asked where. “Small town outside Houston” I said. “Really? Where?” When I told him where, he was shocked. “Did you go to Willowridge High?”  Sure enough, I did!

Ended up he went to the high school only 15 miles from my high school, and fewer than 10 miles from my home! He graduated Clements High in the fourth-ever class to graduate. I only know this because a guy that I knew from Scouts graduated in the school’s first-ever graduating class of something like 5 or 6 total students  in 1985.

It gets weirder. We of course talked about swimming and I mentioned my best friend from high school being the sole member of the Willowridge High swim team, and it turned out that Mike knew my friend. They both swam in the same club team! Even weirder, when I mentioned what suburb I lived in (Hunters Glen I), turns out Mike lifeguarded in the neighboring suburb, Hunters Glen III!

Wow, talk about a small world.

Happy birthday!

(If you’re reading this on FB, please click the link over to my blog. It helps my stats!)

 

Today’s is my wife’s birthday. What does a marathon swimming husband do for his wife on her big 5-0?  Swim 50 x 100, of course!

Before you think I’m some kind of monster, rest easy, dear reader(s). My wife was at the gym too, only she was weight-lifting!

My 100s went well. The pool is SCM, so I’m not too fast in that size pool. The first ten were on a nice 1:45, getting to 1:50 by the end. But that wore me out. So I changed my interval to 2:10 for the next 30+. It’s funny how many meters I have to do before I feel loose and fast. I cut the interval down to 2:05 and even for 40-44 I swam them at just under two minutes so for those five 100s I took off right on 2:00. Then the last 5 x 100 I slowed it down to 2:15-ish, with the last one being half back/half free. Total time, 1:45. Great for me.

Wear Sunscreen

You might have heard this song before. It’s based on a newspaper article written years ago by Mary Schmich, a commencement address she said she’d give if ever asked.

The piece has lots of sound advice in it:

  • Be kind to your knees; you’ll miss them when they’re gone.
  • Floss
  • Dance, even if you have nowhere to do it but your living room.

But perhaps the most appropriate advice for my recent past, and one I forgot, is:

  • Wear sunscreen

I did have my daughter put sunscreen on my back, legs and arms, but totally forgot my face.

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You can see the cap line on my forehead. Google marks, too.

Can you tell which side of my face spent more time out of the water breathing?

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Aquagear Comes Through

As promised in my previous post about Aquagear, “the neighborhood swim store,” I bought some items using my own money.

Previously, Aquagear was good enough to supply me with a swim towel in exchange for a review, which I did on the blog. I also reviewed their shipping, which wasn’t totally fair since I’m stationed overseas and at the whim of Uncle Sam shipping. Plus, the towel got held up in Snowpocalypse 2016 in the DC area, so I really couldn’t gauge their shipping.

But this time I can. See, the State Department records when a product comes into the mail facility, as long as that package has a tracking number, which my latest purchase did. So I was able to see how long it took my items to travel from Aquagear’s HQ in Florida to the mail facility in northern Virginia. The package left late afternoon on the 25th of March (3 hours after I placed the order!) and arrived in Virginia at 2am on the 29th. Not too shabby, especially since I paid nothing for shipping! After that, it’s all up to Uncle Sam to get the items to me in Kyrgyzstan, so I can’t judge Aquagear.

So, what did I buy? Goggles of course! Like I said in my previous review, I didn’t want to review goggles since those are so personal. Different face shapes, distances between eyes, nose sizes, all make for goggle-fitting being a very personal thing.

But what I will comment on is the wonderful people at Aquagear who actually still have my preferred goggles in stock! They are, of course, sold out everywhere, and the manufacturer improved them a few years ago and of course they’ve sucked ever since. I got bit on the butt some time ago when I thought I was ordering the goggles I’ve come to love, only to get delivered “Goggles v2.” Which no longer fit my face and whose sole purpose seems to be to torture me with a slow trickle of water that seeps into each eye cup just slow enough to make me think that yes, maybe, this one time, these POS goggles won’t leak.

So, boys and girls, dear reader(s), listen to Iron Mike now when he says: If you find a swim product you love, run, don’t walk, to the nearest swim retailer or, better yet, go to Aquagear online, and order a crap-ton* of the product! Otherwise, just when you feel invincible and ready to conquer any swimming obstacle, the manufacturer of your most-love-swim-product-ever will cease production and improve it for you.

That’s why I have four unworn pairs of Speedo Endurance square-leg trunks. One of these days…

 

*crap-ton is a unit of measure variable based on what is being measured. In swimming, for instance, a crap-ton of goggles, which you have to replace every few months, might equal a dozen, whereas a crap-ton of pull-buoys might mean two in reserve.

I’ve been selected to represent the U.S. in a new event!

I’ve just learned that I’ve been selected to represent the United States in a new swimming event. This event will be a demonstration sport in the next Olympics, in 2016 in Rio. The hope is that if the event “brings in the crowds,” when 2020 comes around (Tokyo!), the event will become a full Olympic event.

The U.S. Olympic Committee, in their letter to me asking me to be on the team, told me that my years of experience in Russia helped them in their decision process when choosing me. I must say that I experienced quite a bit in my almost three years in Russia. Many, many nights of practice and working out. So glad I’ve finally been recognized for my special abilities.

Below is a video of the Estonian Olympic try-outs for this awesome new swimming event. Check it out!