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Issyk Kul popular these days

In the last few months I’ve fielded calls and emails from three incredible swimmers asking me questions about swimming my most favorite lake in the world. I’m talking about lake Issyk Kul in Kyrgyzstan, of course!

That image above is the lake. The lake is at just below one mile elevation. Oh, and the lake is the second largest alpine like in the world behind lake Titicaca. That lake is over 100 miles in length!

Only a few people have swum across the lake. Yours truly was #2, and #1 on the route I chose.

My crossing, 2016

The first guy who swam across was Akhmed Anarbaev. He swam across the eastern side.

Ахмед Анарбаев

Mr. Anarbaev and three other former Soviet swimmers swam a relay across the width in the early ’90s.

In the 3 years since my swim, the locals have held an annual swim competition covering my route. Most of the swimmers have not followed marathon swimming rules (wetsuits, touching the kayak), so they’re not listed in the Issyk Kul crossing list. In fact, I think we’re still at 5 or 6 swimmers only, 2 of them female, who have crossed it by the rules. The fastest time is still held by Sarah D’Antoni with a time of 4:43.01.

But look at this wonderful lake! There’s so many possible routes there. And since only one person has swum the eastern route, that’s ripe for new swimmers. The width has never been done solo. At 30-something miles, it’s not impossible. Especially in this day and age when we have the likes of Sarah Thomas in the world.

The three swimmers I’ve been talking to are uber-experienced and capable of almost anything. Hopefully, we’ll be hearing from little ol’ Kyrgyzstan sometime soon!

Vampire Swim 2019

Yet again, I did the vampire swim here in Boston.

Yes, same bat as last year.

And some of the same swimmers this year as last year.

My head is way too big for that leather aviators cap.

Last year the water was 51F and the sky was overcast. I did 5-6 strokes then stood up and got out, afraid I would die. This year, though, I intended on swimming for real. I’d spent the summer getting acclimated, preparing for this particular swim.

This year back in May I went to Winthrop. I was so proud of myself, swimming for 34 minutes in 50-51F. I figured I could handle the same for this Vampire Swim, despite not being in the (cold) water for the last three weeks.

Today, the water when I first went in to test it was 60F. That was not right. Felt way colder. After we got pictures and took our costumes off, we entered the water and started the slow (some of us) walk into the water. The pool thermometer settled on 56F where it stayed throughout my 30-odd minutes out there.

Didn’t mean I jumped right in. First had to get past the cockles. That was tough. Next big leap for me is always the hands/arms. I walked around for quite a while. Five? Ten minutes? I don’t know. I turned the Garmin on the minute I got in the water.

I got my hands in, up to the chest. Next step is the face. I had on two caps. Polly asked if I had ear plugs in. The ears do get very cold, and maybe it’s the ears that hurt in the cold water, and that’s why I hate putting my face in. The headaches. The pain. But I do it anyway. Heads up breast first, then dunk the head in a bit. Four strokes freestyle then breast again. Six strokes. Eight. Sooner or later I got to 20, then 50. Then normal. I swam around, having fun and enjoying the water in Pleasure Bay.

I forgot to turn it off when I exited the water. But I swam till the kilometer alarm went off. I at least wanted that much. And it was enough. So cold!

So pretty!

Shortest swim in the world

Today tried to do a swim at Breakheart Reservation here in Boston. Walked the mile or so from parking to the stupid lake. Got there, donned my safety buoy and all that crap in full view of the lifeguards. Wife hung out till I was in the water, then she was off on a long hike. As soon as I got to the roped off area and lifted the rope to go under it, immersed up past the cockles, the damn lifeguard blew his whistle. “No swimming outside the swim area!” he screeched. WTF? You watched me put all my crap on. Did you think I was gonna do laps in this tiny, 50′ by 10′ area? So, in the end, did a whopping 36 feet today. Dammit.

The lifeguard manager came by to talk to me. He was very nice. I mentioned to him that triathlon clubs practice here, so why can’t I swim. He gave me the party line. Luckily, he was very clear that he and his lifeguards have no control over anyone who shows up before or after his lifeguards show up for work.

“What time do your guys start work?”

“9:45 or so, sir.”

“Thank you.”

So apparently I have to show up at Breakheart early in the morning or after 5:45pm, when the lifeguards end their day.

The lake is beautiful. I really wish I had tried to enter the water outside of the lifeguard’s view. There was a place to the left of the picture above which was out of view of the Nazi; I should have entered there. Oh well. I learned my lesson.

Friday Night Swim

Met up with Jane at Revere Beach.

Jane gifted me a Tower 26 cap. If you don’t already know, Tower 26 is a coached workout by open water great Gerry Rodrigues out in California. He’s got a podcast I used to listen to a few years ago that is great. I’ll have to redownload the podcast and start listening again. Thanks for the swim cap, Jane!

Water was great, warm at the shoreline and colder by the time we got out deeper, 60F. Normally when I swim alone, I stop a lot, look at the birds, the weather, the waves. But when swimming with a friend, it’s all business.

Straight out and back, 1.77 miles. Felt good. So much seaweed at the end, it covered my buoy and legs. The shower may never be the same.

Rhode Island Open Water

Was in Rhode Island (and Providence Plantations) today so stopped by McCorrie Point for some open water swimming.

Thanks to the FB Group Sachuest Ocean Swimmers, I met with Dan, who mapped out the area for me. (Thanks Dan!)

Water was rough, which made this fun. Lots of arm work. Water was a delightful 61F. Did two laps out there, then had to head back to Boston.

Again, spent a lot of time floating around looking at the sights. I just love swimming in OW. So pleasant. Only one boat moored out there, and with the waves, hard to spot the mooring buoys. No matter. It’s not about the speed right now. I can work on speed in the pool. Right now OW is about salt, cold and time.

A Great Three Days of Swimming

In the past week I’ve managed 8.2 miles of swimming. More importantly, five hours 40 minutes of swimming, almost all of it in cold water (4:20).

Today was Revere Beach, 54-57F, much better than Winthrop yesterday. The water was rough, so a lot of fun. At one point I came upon a threesome of shearwaters. They were floating around out there looking content. I swam wide around them so as to not disturb their peace. I really need to find myself a waterproof camera.

Isn’t it beautiful?! Tons of people, and only a couple kids in the water. No other crazies out there. Except yours truly. Who is somewhere in the below picture.

So all in all a great weekend. Tomorrow is lifting, then back in the pool on Wednesday. Or, maybe open water?

Another Walden trip

Met a bunch of folks at Walden this morning. Great day, great swim, great folks. 2.35 miles.

The gang all took off for the far beach and I did my best to try and keep up. Those ladies are fast! Got there and we talked for a wee bit. Checked the temp: 64F. Throughout it was 63-65F. Nice and warm.

Then I did what I did on Wednesday: to Little Cove in the south, then up to Thoreau’s Cove in the north. But instead of returning to the main beach where I started, I went back to Ice Fort Cove in the west, then did that loop again. Third time at Ice Fort Cove I started to head back, going east of Little Cove a bit. I felt someone watching me and looked up, only to see about 5-6 fishermen all giving me the stink eye. I turned a 180 and swam back out to the middle of the Pond. When my Garmin beeped the 2-mile mark, I started heading back in.

Once I got near, I noticed that the lifeguards put up a barrier where we all entered the water, so I swam around the roped-off area to a beach. Met a swimmer there taking her wetsuit off. Short chat then up to the beach to change. Coming out of the water a bit after me was a swimmer I met at Ice Fort Cove (round one). She’ll be swimming the Boston Frogman Swim next weekend, where I’ll be volunteering.  Good luck, Jane!

Spent some time in the visitor’s center with the wife then headed on home. Another great swim!

I’m in!

I’m confirmed for Boston Light! I can’t freaking wait. I have crew too! I sent an email to the pilot, same guy who got Bridget through last year, so hopefully he’s available.

Can’t wait till the water gets up to the 50s at Revere Beach so I can get some open water practice in. August is not too far away!

Merry Christmas to all!

Can’t believe the time has flown so quickly. Pictures from past holidays have been popping up on my social media sites. Damn, a lot has happened in only a year.

Here’s wishing my dear reader(s) a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Years. I hope your new year is filled with the swimmingest times and friends, and I hope the New Years Resolutionists crowd your lane for the minimum amount of time in the new year.  Looking forward to getting back in open water soonest!

Swimming with a team is how you get fast

When my dear reader(s) last checked in, I told them how I found a team, the Reading Masters housed in the Burbank YMCA in Reading, Mass. I’ve made every practice this month and must say I’ve enjoyed every minute of it, even the ones that required me to wake up at 6:15 am on a Saturday morning.

The 8-lane pool at Burbank Y

I’ve not had much luck getting faster in the last few years. I’ve been self-coaching, kidding myself that I could get fast all by myself. Yet, despite my efforts, I would still average 1:45-1:50 per 100, even when I sprinted.

But it is hard to insist on that slow an interval for 10 x 100 when the lane next to you is doing their 100s on 1:30. Alas, I managed the first 100 in 1:23, something I hadn’t seen in years. And then managed to maintain 1:32-1:33 for the remaining nine 100s. Couldn’t believe it.

And then yesterday I was alone with one other swimmer. Our main set was 2 x 300, 2 x 200, 2 x 100, 2 x 50 then back up. All descend. I thought our interval for the 300 was 5:15. Unfortunately, as I breathlessly came to the wall after the first 300, she left on the second, and I realized we were doing them on 4:30. Yikes! After those two were done, I realized that meant that I did each 100 of that 300 in just under 1:30. Yay me!

The speediness continued. All the 100s were on a 1:30 and I got 3-4 seconds rest each time. Unbelievable. Never thought I’d get back to those times.

And this is only because of the team. There’s nothing better to increase your speed than having someone on your toes or to have someone ahead of you to chase. So glad I found Reading Masters!