Beavertail 10K Swim Report: The Swim

Part I here and Part II here.

Day has come. Got up at a reasonable hour. Didn’t have to rush. All in all, a great start to the day. And the weather was sked to be nice and sunny.

Drive down was a breeze, except for this area’s disdain for rest stops. But we left plenty early to take a detour to a cute little town called North Kingstown where we stopped at a 7/11. Still arrived at Mackerel Cove a few minutes before the 12 noon deadline. Got our boat off the car and gear inside it, then headed over to the finish at Ft. Getty park, where we left the car and registered for the event.

Mike Garr did a bang up job with this. My friend Bridget was there to be the timer and to organize registration/treats/everything. We signed our liability waivers, got our briefing and started back to Mac Cove. It was less than a mile.

My wife ready to get going.

The weather was still great. The beach was full of people and families enjoying the day, and we were ready to go. One swimmer started an hour earlier than us, at 1pm, but the remaining seven of us would start at 2pm. At the briefing, Mike mentioned that there was a green buoy that we had to swim around off the point, but that was 5.5k into the swim, so once we got there we knew we were over halfway. Also, tide was coming in, and high tide was at about 4:15, so we really wanted to take no longer than 2 hours to get to the buoy.

The bane of my first 2.5 hours. (c) Mike Scott

Everyone was ready so we got to start early! This was great as I knew I was probably gonna swim this in four hours, so the sooner I got to the buoy the better. The wind and waves were gonna hit us in the face the first half, so we were all prepared for a fight, with the hope of an easier swim on the back half.

Got my wife in the water with the kayak and minutes later we started. A group of six twenty-somethings asked us where we were swimming to, and were duly impressed when we answered. We walked out quite a bit and before long I just jumped in and swam.

Right before the start. (c) Mike Scott

Started out great! None of the “why the hell do I do this” thoughts. Just nice even swimming. But before long, the water turned against me. Those waves were rough. Washing machine. Actually, I like swimming in that, all other things being good (water temp, nutrition, peeing). It’s a challenge and I feel like I really earned the swim after fighting the waves and current. There have been times at Revere that I’ve swum 1.5 miles in a very slow time, but more than half of it into rough water so I feel ok with my speed. This swim’s first half was like that.

Not long after the start. (c) Mike Scott

My poor wife though. I didn’t know till after, because she made it look easy, but she was fighting the waves and current as well. No time for stopping or giving her arms a break. Until this event, her sum total of kayak experience was one hour and 15 minutes. After the swim, her upper body was feeling it!

Also unbeknownst to me, she had to watch me close. There were many powerboats and even sailboats that had to be warned off (reminded, also) that there were swimmers in the water. She said some of the boaters were mad about us. Eight swimmers. Once per year. Get over yourselves.

John & his crew with a sailboat getting mighty close. (c) Mike Scott

Even at one point I looked up because I thought I’d seen a black fin. Turns out it was 3 or 4 snorkelers. In full wetsuits including neoprene caps. In 75F water. She told me at the end when they saw her coming, they told her she’ll have to go around them. Like they were doing Navy Seals workouts or something! She guffawed and told them, “Uh, no, I’m escorting a swimmer. You can go around us.” God I love that woman.

Snorkeler King. (c) Mike Scott

The area I swam by was freaking beautiful. By this point the reader might be asking, Why is it called Beavertail? Let’s take a look at the map.

Now if you take that map and turn it 90 degrees clockwise, you’ll see the semiaquatic rodent.

Getting to that damn buoy took me over 2:30 and it felt so good to be there I almost kissed the buoy, if it weren’t so rusty and probably against marathon swimming rules. I was so ready for some with-current swimming. Got a feed in and proceeded to swim. Unfortunately, I was stuck in an eddy. Or something.

My wife had to come back to me and let me know that I was swimming in place, with the buoy not receding. So my fight was not over yet. Sigh…

Push push push and I was finally in water helping me. The southernmost point features a beautiful lighthouse that I simply could not stop staring at. Unfortunately I spent a lot of time staring at it. Once past it we still had to swim out to the buoy, which must have been 500m or so away. Took me just about 1000 strokes. Then coming back the other side took forever. We didn’t really have a good idea where exactly the finish was with respect to the point of Beavertail. Every feature directly in front of me I hoped was the end. I had been sick to my stomach since the third feeding (2:00). Nothing was helping; not Justin’s nut butters, not orange or raspberry crystal light. Was just so nauseous.

Coming up to the lighthouse from the east side. (c) Mike Scott
Swimming past the lighthouse en route the buoy. (c) Mike Scott
Past the buoy and getting past the lighthouse. (c) Mike Scott

I was kind of keeping up with the feeds. I got off my every-30-minutes sked after the 2:00 feeding. Was so close to the buoy I didn’t want to stop until after. Somewhere around what I thought would have been 4 hours of swimming I knew I was gonna go past 4:00 and maybe even 5:00. I was getting worried. My stomach wasn’t getting any better. My lower back was starting to get to me.

I stopped at one point and saw the bright and beautiful two white signs saying Caution: Race in Progress, our finish. I asked my wife if that was truly the end and she said yes. I was due a feed but I waved her off. Just wanted to finish.

So damn close. (c) Mike Scott

The beach was terribly rocky and I had trouble standing. That and both my calves were cramping up. I was dead last, but only behind swimmers #5 and #6 by 21 minutes. 4:37. Ugh.

Everyone was so nice. Love this community, the Sachuest Ocean Swimmers. My friend Bridget had so many treats of the carb kind that I stuffed into my face. Jane made blueberry crumble that was to die for.

Next mission was to decrew the kayak, load the car, and find a bathroom for my poor wife. She’d gone way too long. Unfortunately, the bathrooms at Mackerel Cove were closed so we drove until we found a gas station. My poor wife.

In case my dear reader(s) think that only Mike Scott took pictures, rest assured my crew did too. We bought one of those pockets for an iPhone through which you can still manipulate the screen. My wife was too busy paddling during the first half but she took a couple on the back half. I think they turned out really good.

Swimming so fast the shutter couldn’t catch me!
Sincerely appreciate Mike Scott’s permission to use his pictures.

Beavertail 10K Swim Report: Prepatory

Part I here.

I heard about the Beavertail 10K on 10 July throw the Sachuest group on FB. The timing was perfect: Exactly two weeks before Boston Light. Only a couple hours away in Rhode Island. And a 2pm start. No oh-dark-thirty wake-up! Very liberal course cut-off of six hours. What could be better?

Nothing.

A bit of emailing and harassment of the race director and I was in. Now the only things standing between me and race day was…15 days of vacation in Texas.

Didn’t get a lot of swimming done down there. Our primary goal, besides seeing my side of the family, was to take our youngest to check out Texas A&M. My sister works there and got her set up on a great tour of the campus, the Corps and the Engineering department. She is definitely hooked (pun intended). But we didn’t swim but three times.

First time we checked out the neighborhood pool of one of my sisters. It had lane lines painted on the bottom, so figured we were good. We got up early (on vacation, 9am CST is early) and went to the pool when it opened at 10. On a work day. Already about 10 people in the pool. It had lane lines but not lane dividers. We grabbed a lane and tried swimming. Kids in the way. Often. Water tasted weird and burned my eyes through the goggles (too much chlorine?). We did 1000 yards and got out.

That was in Houston, and a couple days later we were in College Station. My other sister told me about A&M’s great rec center, complete with lap pool and all the fixin’s for only $15 a week. We made plans to go. Arrived on a Tuesday afternoon. By the evening learned that the pool at A&M would be closed Thursday-Sunday for the Texas State Games. We found another pool.

Bryan, the city right next to College Station, has an aquatic center. A great place with movable bulkheads. When I called Wednesday morning, they told me from 1130-1300 they would have 12 lanes for laps, but “only” 8 lanes from 1300-2000. Holy crap! I was so excited. Got even more excited when they said it would only cost $3.

Got there and the first thing we saw was a sign stating “This pool will be closed Thursday – Sunday for the Texas State Games.” Jeez Louise, these games must be huge. No matter. I’m on vacation. I swam 4500 yards in 1:30 while my daughter did about an hour (so probably the same distance). We got one more session in at that pool right before leaving Texas; I did 3600.

But that’s it! Beavertail was gonna be tough, but again with six hours in which to complete it, and the fact that my primary goal was as a BLS test, no biggie. Right?

Nope. Biggie. Definitely.

But back to the beginning. Beavertail required a kayaker. The wife had been talking about wanting to kayak as a pastime. I figured, why not use this as an excuse to get a kayak? Tons of money later, our Rav4 had a kayak on top and tons of equipment inside. (Spoiler alert: kayak doesn’t fit her, is too heavy for one person to put on the car, and probably won’t be used enough to justify the expense. What’s the return policy at REI?)

Some last minute requirements added to the expenses. A marine radio? Ok, Amazon, your turn to shine. Didn’t want to order the marine radio while on vacation, so ordered it right before returning for a delivery the day after we got back. Good thing too as our flight back, the leg from Cincinnati to Boston, was delayed 6 hours and we didn’t get home till after midnight. And we left Houston at 11am. So, ordered on Tuesday with a Thursday guaranteed delivery.

Only it never came. When I went to the tracking page on Thursday, it didn’t even show it as having been shipped. I went to Amazon’s chat function and one hour and five different customer service reps later, learned that just because it says “FREE delivery: Thursday” next to the “Buy it now” button on Amazon, does not guarantee that you’ll get it that day. Or the next, as customer service reps #4 and #5 told me. So if I’m not getting it on Thursday or Friday, it won’t be useful for me on Saturday as they could only guarantee (again?) a delivery by 9pm. Order canceled.

I went to FB with my issues and turns out the race director wanted to get some more marine radios to have on hand, so he bought more and let me borrow one. Awesome.

Next thing was either Thursday night or Friday when I found out we have to have a spare PFD in the kayak. Coast Guard rules. Ugh! We just bought one for my wife and it wasn’t cheap. Dammit do we need to go spend more money? Nope. The community came to our rescue again and Chris G. (super fast fellow Swim-the-Sucker) found a slew of PFDs at his house and brought them to the event. PFD borrowed.

At this point, nothing was stopping me from doing this swim. Thank goodness! Now for the swim in Part III.

Beavertail 10K Swim Report: Gonna tell you the end before the beginning

Yesterday I got my butt handed to me in Rhode Island.

The Beavertail 10K is a small-group swim set up by the wonderful Mike Garr. I heard about it through the Sachuest Ocean Swimmers group on FB. Last minute. Like a month ago. I had to do this swim.

Dear reader(s) know that I’ve been working on acclimatizing myself to cold and salt water since end of April. With Boston Light coming up, I knew I’d have to be able to stand the cold (it was 57F the minute Bridget jumped in at the start last year!) and the salt. I don’t have much of a history of swimming long in salt water. The few times I’ve tried, I’ve gotten nauseous. I’ve been building up at Revere Beach in the hopes that I’d be able to go five hours without stomach issues, but yesterday proved that’s not going to happen. Spoiler: I’ve pulled myself from BLS.

That’s the bad news. In part II of this report I’ll tell you a bit about the prep for this swim, here. Part III here.

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.

Boston Frogman Swim

Had the honor on Sunday to volunteer for the inaugural Boston Frogman Swim.

The Frogman swim is in honor of the fallen among the Naval Special Warfare community. Over 100 Naval special operators have died since 9/11. Several families showed up today to represent their loved ones while 27 swimmers completed a 5K swim, each swimming in the name of one of the deceased.

Showed up at oh-dark thirty to help set up for the swim. In usual military style, the whole place was set up in no time at all, and at the end, torn down in less than 30 minutes like we’d never been there.

I was amazed at how many volunteers showed up to help out for the event. I was equally, or maybe, more amazed at all the people who volunteered who were not in any way connected to the military. Seriously, the first five people I spoke to, fellow volunteers, none of them had been in the military. Neither did they have any connection! They simply had friends who were in the Navy or thought it would be great to support the community. So wonderful and the reason why I love living in this wonderful country!

My new friend Jane was swimming today, and I was happy to see a couple other open water swimmer friends, Polly and David, swimming the event! Wetsuits were mandatory unfortunately, but probably best for the distance and temperature (53F).

Some actual Navy Seals swam it, as well as one kid who is going to BUD/S soon. Most of those guys all swam it with legit fins and mask. Due to the cold water, it was still quite the challenge.

I counted swimmers in and out of the water, along with my new friend Renee from the timing folks and we had former Navy guy Nick doing med checks at the end. The goal, said Nick, was to get each of them to put thumb and index finger together in the OK sign and use the letter F. He made all of them flash him the sign and “Repeat after me and say ‘I’m fine.'” Amazing how many of them responded “I’m great!” One former (retired?) Seal looked at him, flashed OK, and said “I’m f^&king great!” Not exactly what Nick asked, but he got the f-word he needed.

Then of course, the after-party. You can’t have a military crowd, or an event run by military, without having a get-together after to trade stories and drink beer. I walked that way with a swimmer named Ashe. She’s new to marathon swimming and this swim so far was her farthest. What a swim to tackle as your first 5k! We got to know each other on the one mile walk, and I also got to know her brother (kayaker) and her mother. (I pointed her toward all the great people at MSF as she was interested in going longer!)

The party was great. Volunteers and swimmers got to eat free and families just paid a little to join us. The ReelHouse did a great job. Still not sure if it was turkey or pork tenderloin. Don’t care. It was very tasty. And they had Lord Hobo’s Boomsauce. Oh hells yeah. Yours truly represented the Air Force honorably, but after four Boomsauces, it was time for IronMike to go home and take a nap.

Charlie (L) and Glenn, Navy Seal Foundation Ambassador

Rory did a little speech and gave out a few awards, but most importantly, there were no number ones or anything like that. This was a challenge, not a race. My new buddy Charlie, from the Highlands of Scotland by way of Montana, Texas, California and Florida, won for raising the most money of anyone (swimming all three Frogman swims) and being the slowest. And if you’re so inclined, it is never too late to donate to this wonderful charity!

Rory giving a short history before handing out awards

I’ve said it before, but volunteering really is a must if you’re serious in this community. I went many years just swimming and not volunteering and I’ve been working to correct that. Take a new open water swimmer out with you. Coach some kids in open water. Volunteer at a triathlon. Crew for someone’s marathon. Pay it forward and you will not be disappointed!

Shortest swim in the world

Today tried to do a swim at Breakheart Reservation┬áhere 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?

All I am is a body adrift in water, salt & sky