Category Archives: Other Sports

Fall Foliage Adventure Race

On Saturday wife and I did the Fall Foliage Adventure Race. This group (Broad Run Off Road) puts on two a year and offers a “no bike” option, which is nice. Most adventure races have at least three elements: foot, water, bike. Bikes are kinda expensive so it is nice to be able to try one of these out w/o having to commit to two mountain bikes. (The organizers provide the kayaks/canoes.) It was a blast. Usually these races have stages that you progress through, e.g. stage one Trek to the boats for stage two, then get out of the boats for stage three, trek again. But as our area didn’t get enough rain and the lake wasn’t full enough, the organizer decided to make ours a “choose your own adventure” type race. 18 checkpoints (CP), get them in any order. The only rule being if the CP is blue, you have to get that from a boat.

There were 49 teams, from solo to a team of four (and lots of families with kids which was great to see). To prevent all 49 teams (100-odd people) from hitting the trails or boats at the same time, the organizers devise a puzzle to delay the start. Last year they gave every team a Lego set (number of pieces based on size of team) and you had to build it then turn it in before you could start. This year, each team got a lock with their team number on a tag and you had to use a hint sheet to figure out the lock’s combo, then go turn both the lock and the tag in before you could start. Wife and I solved ours in less than a minute! We chose to Trek first.

We knocked the first five CPs out in about an hour and had to make a choice: continue around the lake? (We were only about a quarter around.) Run back and get a boat? We decided to go back and get a boat. We ran back, got the canoe in the water, and to the other side of the lake (it’s about 3km long) in less than an hour. But we were horrible canoers. We couldn’t go straight. Then we spent over 50 minutes finding a “land” CP from the shore, not getting lost but way off course (thus the 50 minutes), which got us just past 3 hours.

Time limit 4:30, and we didn’t want to be late; 1 point lost for being late, then another point lost for every 5 min till you’re 30 min late which means DQ. And each CP was only worth 1 point, so you really had to decide if that last CP you were going for was really worth losing its worth by showing up late.

We got a couple more CPs off the water and were about to start for another one when we realized we only had a half hour left and were about a kilometer from the boat launch, so we headed back, turned in the boat and ran to the finish.

Clocked in at 4:08.11. Somehow we only got credit for 10 CPs even though we went to 11. (The one we didn’t get credit for, CP4, did only faintly beep so I think maybe the battery was dying.) Ended up covering 13.5km and a shit-ton of steps! And soaking wet as it rained the entire time.

Unsure if we’ll do the one in Spring, but maybe? Oh, and before you ask, dear reader(s), No, swimming was not allowed. (It looked so nice, too, and close.)

Swimming in jeopardy and a little walk in 17,500 acres!

I’ve had a bit of a thing going on, dear reader(s), on my right cheek. Been going on for a number of years now. Red blotches, sometimes redder than other times. My wife noticed that these spots get inflamed looking after swimming. I finally “did” something about it back in October, with a tele-med appointment (I know, but weeks and weeks quicker than an in-person). Doc said it looked like rosacea. Prescribed a 3x-a-day cream. Did that for about two months. Didn’t do much.

In the last six months or so the redness has moved to my nose, and in the last month, month and a half it’s gotten really bad. Hurts to the touch. Did some webmd-ing and learned that people can actually become sensitive to chlorine, even after swimming lots. Of course. My luck. I had started liking running in the very early 2000s when my right knee exploded and I couldn’t run (much) anymore without having to hobble for days after, popping motrin like candy.

So, I’ve got a dermatologist appointment this coming Friday. Wish me luck. What do I do if I can’t swim anymore? (Before you say saltwater pool, the closest is dozens of miles away in the wrong direction.)

In other news, the wife and I just got back from a fun, tiring orienteering event. A rogaine is an endurance orienteering event that lasts for hours (and sometimes days) in which your team has to find as many control points in a very large area. The Search for Big Mack was held in the Blue Ridge Boy Scout Reservation, all 17,500 acres of it. We had from 8am to 6pm to find as many controls as we could. We didn’t find many! They were hard. But we did walk a lot. And I mean, a lot. Over hill and dale. Up and down (the worst). We ended up walking a bit over 18 miles in those 10 hours, with but one 20-ish minute break to eat and refill water bottles. I ended up walking 50,830 steps in that 10 hours. (My week’s total step count was over 124,000!)

So this is our map before we marked it up. (Click on it to follow along.) The start (S/F) is way over on the left by that lake. Each black-outlined square is 1km x 1km. To give you some context, if you take the straightest possible trails frm the S/F to the lake on the east side (right), that’s 5 miles of walking (elevation gain and loss along the way).

You will see small purple circles peppered throughout that map. The tens digit of each control is the point-value of that one, 4 the easiest (supposedly) and 9 the hardest. Here’s our map after we planned our route:

Plan was to head south along Big Mack’s trail and make our way about halfway across the map, then cut up Gumstand to Greenwood Road for a bit, then up Oak Hollow till Little Laurel Creek all the way to Ottari camp. There was a standard orienteering course set up over there. Figured we could get over there by noon, run the O course to get a lot of points, then head back along Little Laurel, take a right to get control 87 (at the summit; my wife wanted to do one “high” control), then back down Little Laurel back to Greenwood Rd to Sidewinder trail back to the S/F camp where we’d do the orienteering course there, to be done before 6pm. (For every minute past 6 the team arrives, they lose 5 points.)

How naïve! The first two controls we got (84 and 44) took us about two hours. We looked for 65 for way too long and never found it. We went on to 55 then up Gumstand. 56 took us forever because we went down the wrong (mostly dry) creek first. But we finally found it after going up the wrong reentrant. Once we hit Little Laurel Creek trail we had to make a decision. It was well past noon. We could skip the Ottari camp and head back, but I only had one bottle of water (of three) left and wasn’t sure I could make it all the way back to camp and find controls with only that one bottle. So we made the decision to walk to Ottari, fill our water bottles, eat something, then head back.

We learned something there. We should have taken our Lifestraw bottles so we could just grab some creek water. Or iodine tabs, because we ended up at Ottari around 2pm. We still thought we had time to get back. We tried for too long to get 47; that wasted time and was thirsty work. We were excited that we got 97. It was up that reentrant quite a way, but 9 points! Then the long slog up (those contour lines are 5m apart; from 97 to the intersection was about 100m of elevation gain. I got us lost then. I thought we were at the intersection of two trails a bit SW of 85; but our intersection had a trail going WNW and one going ESE, but that made no sense from where I thought we were. Plus there were signs for trail North Ridge and Matheny’s something, neither of which is anywhere on the map. So we took the WNW trail and boom, ended up at 87! That wasted plenty of time and those 8 points weren’t worth it in the end (spoiler alert: we were 6 minutes late, thus lost 30 points).

Water refill & apples!

So down we went along Little Laurel, knees hurting, something like 200m of elevation loss. I was limping by the time we got to Greenwood Rd, at just about 5pm. There was no more looking for clues, we just fast-walked up to Sidewinder, then switch-backs till we ended up on the back side of the start building (dining hall), checking in at 10:05.44. 6 minute penalty.

We ended up getting only 7 controls totaling 45 points, but with the time penalty of 30 points, our final score was 15. (We’re particularly proud of 97 and those two 8s!) The after-party was funny to look at. Even those teams who got 18+ controls and ran both orienteering courses were walking around like my wife and I. One of the volunteers (thanks Lora!) made fantastic chili, both vegetarian and “mammal and poultry” chili. (My wife asked her about that. Lora has a friend who got bit by the tick that made her allergic to meat from mammals: my nightmare!)

My chili with Doritos: been years since I had those!
Wife’s chili with standard tortilla chips. And she had beer!








And we weren’t last! We were 27th out of 30 teams. I’ll take it. Not so bad considering our relative newness to orienteering!

Slowly but surely

Still swimming. Managing three times a week, about 9000 yards. That’s good enough for now.

Apparently it is definitely good enough! This morning we had to do a bunch of 100s. At the end of the workout, pretty much 55 minutes in (~2400 yards), I managed a 100 (SCY) in 1:26. I don’t know that I’ve ever done that.

In addition, I’m lifting five days a week. I went from three days a week to five because we have a home gym. My wife or I can go into the garage at any point, lift for a bit, then go back to the kitchen or living room or wherever.

So now Monday thru Friday I’m lifting. And usually Tuesday and Wednesday and Saturday swimming. Even better, I’m lifting heavy. Just last week my main set for strict military press was 1 x 3 @ 96lbs, 1 x 3 @ 102lbs, 1 x 1 @ 108lbs, and 1 x 1 @ 115lbs. And that 115 went up easily. Months ago that was my max and it hurt. But now, I’m doing “rep” with 115. ha!

Springtime in January

What do you do when it is 70F in January in Boston? Go to the beach, of course!

Revere Beach was beautiful and everyone was out with the unseasonable weather. I brought my thermometer and of course wore my suit just in case the water was also unseasonably warm.

It was not. It was 46F. Sure, for some out there, that’s swimmable. Not for me. Back in April I stood for a long time in 46F, dunked myself, then got out. But that was at the start of the season. Yesterday being 11 January, not sure standing for 15 in 46F is gonna do anything for acclimatization later this year.

Besides, I had a better opportunity. A hike with my beautiful wife!

We walked along the beach then back behind some rocky areas to the south. It was nice seeing some of the areas I swim from a different vantage point, and of course seeing all the people out enjoying the strange weather.

And today we took another walk at nearby Breakheart Reservation, about 3.5 miles in the hills. Well, I forgot my GPS watch, so maybe more, maybe less. About 9000 steps, so I’m guessing more.

As I write this, the night is already getting cooler than it has been the last few days. I guess we’ll be back in winter soon. Unfortunately.

Another pause

Unfortunately, my pool access has been put on hold. Maintenance had to be done so I’ve been out of it for a couple weeks now. That’s ok, better now than closer to the big swim (attempt #2) in early summer.

Plus, I’ve been lifting with my awesome wife. Lifts are getting bigger, at least in some of the lifts (bench, mostly). I’m still barely lifting what a guy my age and weight should lift, but I have hope that sometime in the future I’ll be able to lift without embarrassment.

The pool should be available mid-week, so here’s hoping I’ll be in the pool again very soon!

Meanwhile, marathon swimmer extraordinaire Dan Simonelli just replicated George Young’s 1927 Catalina Channel swim. Yes, 89 years later, in the cold that is January, Dan swam from Catalina Island to the California mainland in an awesome time of 13:31.11. Congrats Dan!

Day 3 and Day 4

Didn’t swim at all on day 3 of the Croatian vacation because this happened instead:

Son's graduation present
Son’s graduation present

Our son wanted to skydive for his graduation present, so we thought why not do that in Croatia?! He loved it, and wanted to immediately go back up. I had to tell him no, though, because it ain’t cheap. Especially when wife and daughter (only 15-years old!) wanted to go, too!

Maggie landing
Daughter about to land
Sonja landing
Fembot about to land

That drive to the mainland and back took the entire day, but it was fun. We got to see a little bit of Zadar, but mostly we were on the road or the ferry.

Thursday (Croatian vacation day #4) started out blah. Fembot and I had planned a duathlon of sorts. She would walk to Supetar and I would swim. According to the incredibly accurate Google Maps mensuration algorithm, my swim would be on the order of 5K. Fembot’s walk a bit more due to the vagaries of trails through olive groves. She would bring along a couple trash bags in case she had to swim part of the way.

Well, the morning was shot due to a storm. A pretty neat storm, lightning and everything, to include a drop in air temp of about 10C (w00t!), but no swimming was going to happen. Just before lunch the weather cleared, so the kids went swimming while we got a light lunch. When the kids were done, the two of us went walking around Sutivan some, but the water looked so inviting, we decided to go home and ready ourselves for our Sutivan-Supetar duathlon.

Iron Mike and his ubiquitous Radler
Iron Mike and his ubiquitous Radler

Less than a half hour later we were walking to one of the beaches, and we noticed the sky looking angry. Then the wind started. And the people (most of them anyway) started running for cover. But what does Iron Mike do, because he’s stupid? I get in, and start my swim to Supetar, of course!

41 minutes, and only 976 meters later, I get out. Or at least I try. I couldn’t find a good place to get out that wasn’t rocks, so Fembot helped me find a better place. Still, I missed her chosen location by a few meters and got rolled on the rocks, twisting a toe and bruising one butt cheek. I had to ditch my SaferSwimmer and let it roll onto the beach, which it did with a speed that was almost sentient. Probably 5 of those 41 minutes were spent trying to get on shore. I have a video of me attempting this, but I can’t upload it yet. It’ll have to wait until we return to Kyrgyzstan and I can get on my home computer.

But Fembot and I refused to let Mother Nature ruin our day, so we decided to continue the walk, at least to Mirca, which is about 3km from Sutivan. Of course the rain started while we were sitting at a beach-side bar drinking our Radlers and wine. So we headed back.

When I dumped my dry bag out, I realized my Garmin GPS watch (Forerunner 310xt) was missing. Oh shit. That’s $350+ gone! Where the f*^k did I drop it? Off to the car with tiniest Fembot and original Fembot to find it. We parked along the beach about where I got out of the water (scrambled out? rolled over the rocks till dry?) and started walking around. I figured it was along the wall right where the road and the beach meet. Nowhere to be found. I was about to give up when tiniest Fembot found it. She went out onto the beach and looked back at the wall, and saw a small orange strap sticking up out of the rocks.

She is now my favorite kid. Not really. Parents aren’t supposed to have favorites. (Yep, she’s my favorite.)

How to tell when an open water event is planned and organized by triathletes

Here’s a handy guide to help you decode open water swim event pages to determine whether or not the event has been planned and organized by triathletes.

  • Words: Does the registration page or event description include triathletey words, like IM, or Olympic distance. Is there mention of needing USAT insurance?
  • Pictures: Does the webpage have pictures of skinny, well-muscled athletes? Can you see any of the athletes’ abdomen muscles?
  • Distances: Is the swim 1500 meters?  Or 2.4 miles?
  • Wetsuits: Are wetsuits authorized? Are they voluntary or mandatory at ridiculously high water temps, like 84F?

If you’ve gotten past those tell-tale signs and are actually at the event, here’s how to tell if the event has been planned and organized by triathletes.

  • Other participants: Are the other swimmers lean, mean, athletic machines? Do they look like they could pose in an advertisement for running shoes? Do any of their cars have little stickers with a dotted-M on the bumper? Or an oval with 140.6?
  • Audible cues: Do you hear other swimmers talking about transitions? Do any of them mention how many weeks or months it has been since they’ve last swum? Do any of your fellow swimmers mention they are hoping they can swim all the requisite laps? Do any of them sigh or whine when the race director states the water is too warm for wetsuits?
  • During the swim: Do any of your competitors stand up and walk through shallow areas? Do any of them wear a pull buoy while swimming? Do some of your fellow swimmers cut the buoys? Or hang on the support kayaks?
  • Post swim activities: Do any of the swimmers arrive on their bikes, or set their bikes up at the finish as if they’re going to jump directly on their bike upon exiting the lake? Are any of your fellow swimmers late to the awards ceremony because they ran 10 miles after the swim?

If you answered Yes to any or all of the above questions, then you’re taking part in an open water swim put on by triathletes!

Now, all joking aside, participating in a triathlete-organized open water swim is not a bad thing. In fact, they can be very fun. And entertaining. Everything above I experienced during swims I’ve participated in the past. They’re still swims, and in most cases well organized fun swims. And unless you are an elite marathon swimmer, you probably don’t need to worry about whether the organizers split the results between skins and suits, or if one of your age group competitors cuts a buoy (although that’ll probably still piss you off).

And taking part in an open water swim with triathletes is a good opportunity to advertise the fun that is our sport. Wear a t-shirt from one of your long swims (long in your lingo, not long in theirs). Go skins despite the “cold” water temp of 72F. Who knows, your good attitude may just convert some of them to the most wonderful sport of marathon swimming!


I’ve tried, dear reader(s), to swim year-round here, but it’s just not going to happen. Too busy at work, and too few locations where I can swim indoors. They just don’t appreciate swimming here that much. But, thankfully, there are opportunities for cross-training here. And fun opportunities!

Many years ago, while we were stationed in Monterey, California (yes, it was a tough assignment), my boys were involved in Boy Scouts. I volunteered as an adult leader, which was probably the best volunteer job ever. Anyway, I happened to have heard of the sport Orienteering, and had a limited amount of experience in maps and compasses. Therefore, I was appointed as the Orienteering guru.

So I did a lot of reading. A lot. I remembered how much I wanted to participate in O as a kid and a boy scout. I never had the opportunity. Fortunately, in the Monterey area, there were many opportunities for Orienteering for the boys.

The boys in Troop 43 were interested in Orienteering, and some of them were excited enough that they took part in some Orienteering meets! We took the boys to a meet a little outside of Monterey where they got to compete in a Score-O. Score-O meets are probably my favorite. The point of Score-O, as opposed to normal, usual O meets, is that you have many control points all over a map. Unlike a usual meet, you do not have to visit the controls in order. Instead, each of the Score-O controls have a point value, based on their distance from the start and their difficulty in finding. You decide which ones you want to visit. You have a time limit, and you lose points if you arrive too many minutes before or after the ending time.

So what’s this got to do with swimming and Kyrgyzstan? There is an Orienteering federation here in Kyrgyzstan. They host foot orienteering meets in the spring and late-summer/fall. Which is perfect for complimenting my swimming. On May 10th there is a trail O meet, which is being held in the park nearest our house. I cannot wait.

My pool is being filled right now. Slowly. The hose has been hanging into the pool for about 24 hours and it is almost half full. I can’t wait till it is filled so I can start swimming. After the May 10th O meet there isn’t another meet until August. Which is perfect, and the O meets continue until the snows, when they switch it to ski-orienteering. (Which I’m not going to do.) And when the snow is on the ground, there is skiing here for cross training. Imagine that, skiing as cross training!  But when it costs about $20 for lift pass and full kit, how can you not ski every weekend?

So, at least for the next year and a half, I’ll be a seasonal swimmer. I hope that will mean that I can still do some of those swims I have planned in the Kyrgyz lakes; stay tuned.

Nerpa Seals Repelled by Red Flags

Today’s guest blogger is my wife, the delightfully insane recent finisher of the Lake Baikal (Half) Marathon. Enjoy dear reader(s)!


Enough of this paddling around in warm waters followed by a Mai-Tai and a massage.  Let’s talk about a real challenge.  That’s right, finding a shower with good water pressure in Siberia.  Oh, and running a marathon or half in -12 degrees fahrenheit (around -236 degrees celsius for our international readers) on the world’s deepest lake, on ice, across snowdrifts, leaping over chasms of roiling lake water, dodging hovercrafts filled with crazy picture snapping relatives, rabid seals, and the strangest sensation of frost bite and heat exhaustion at the same time.

And no toilets on the course.  It’s a lonely yet very public thing to take a potty break on frozen flat tundra with nothing to hide behind except the curvature of the earth.  Only people in Florida didn’t have a view. I did feel much better afterwards, though – and shame, yes, but I think I made the right choice.

The Lake Baikal Marathon/Half Run was some of the most fun I’ve ever had.  It takes place in the small village of Listyanka outside Irkutsk.  Listyanka is a lovely Siberian village with charming homes and incredible views of the lake and surrounding mountains.  The air is squeaky clean, the sky a palette of blues from light to dark, and the snow brilliant white.  The biggest danger for a runner is actually snow blindness, then killer seals.


There are plenty of things to do in the area — dog sledding, snow mobiling, skiing, hiking, touring other villages around the lake.  Everywhere I went the food was excellent.  The cuisine is Russian with Siberian influence.  Most of the meals in local restaurants include the fish from Lake Baikal called omul.  These guys are related to trout and quite delicious.  I could comfortably eat them everyday.  And I did!  For me, food is number one on the list of why I leave home at all.  Two forks up for Listyanka.

The race itself was very well organized.  The people running the show were personable and enthusiastic.  The runners were a hardy, insane breed from all over.  There were groups from China, Japan, Germany, and Australia.  There were a couple of guys from Spain.  I remember them because they were so excited to be there and so much fun to be around.  Also, a sprinkling of Anglo-American types, an Austrian, someone from South Africa, some other places, and plenty of locals, who swept the medals for the men’s full marathon.

DSC03648Starting line.  It’s hard to tell whether it’s a run or a scuba event.

Slide1“Please, please, no running to the left of the red flags. You may be disqualified. No questions.”   The pre-race information meeting was pretty much about not running to the left of the red flags. Pods of killer Nerpa seals must live over there.

  Nerpa dog

  Nerpa cat

DSC03686Actual baby killer Nerpa seal.  Luckily I got my shoe back.