Dec 24, 2010

My Aquatic Christmas Card - 700 Miles, a parody and poem just for you.

The mileage: 700 and counting..

The parody:

Very few know I was 'this close' to becoming an oceanographer, went as far as having dinner Jean-Michel Cousteau.

The Poem:
'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the land, People were jumping on the open water band.

Goggles and swimsuits were selected with care,
In hopes that summer season soon would be there.

Marathon swimmers with big dreams in their heads,
After miles of training, fall fast asleep in their beds.

And pilots with boats and coaches with caps,
Had just settled down for a long look at coastal maps.

When out over the water there arose such a clatter,
Swimmers sprang from the shore to see what was the matter.

Just a boat – but no waves or wind along the coast,
It was conditions that swimmers like the most.

The season continues with coaches standing on docks
Training swimmers in the oceans and in deep, cold lochs.

When, what to their wondering eyes should appear,
But focused swimmers sprinting so dear.

With passion abundant, open water swimmers are ready,
To live up to hopes that are courageously heady.

Spouses knew in a moment it must be the ocean,
More rapid than sharks in a furious motion.

Swimmers whistled and shouted and called out by name;
"Now, Dover! Now, Cook! Now, Z├╝rich and Catalina!
On Rio! On Manhattan! On Rottenest and Messina!

To the top of the podium, to the first to the shore,
Now swim and kick and sprint all the more!

When the waves are high and the water is cold,
Keep true to the course and stay mighty bold.

And to all of you who are the sport’s good friends,
Our deep thanks to you as another year ends.

Poem, original copyright © 2010 by Open Water Source

Dec 17, 2010

Swimming a Million Yards?

Hi One Stroke At A Time followers - 

I was swimming away this morning through my 4600 yard early a.m. workout trying to think of anything but the pain and boring back and forth of the 25 yard pool. I was doing a bunch of butterfly then a series of no breath 25's, glad this doesn't happen often since as I was getting dizzy. 

I finally focused my mental game and in a compliment to my training partner Doug McConnell, started counting strokes (he does this allot, you see?). After getting into the several hundred stroke count range I of course lost track and eventually gave up, going back to my songs and pretending to chase fish and turtles. Not sure who is more unstable here me or him? Then after awhile, I seemed to hone in on some John Mellencamp tunes thinking for some reason about my inner Hoosier college days. My thoughts then focused on a meeting later in the morning with someone who was being kind enough to help me organize my charity work and give advice on mental health challenges parents and kids have in today's self imposed stressful society (My opinion, not hers).

This got me to thinking. I have mentioned in earlier blog writings the connection of my mental health (swimming all this way, not me personally stupid!) to the public subject in general. The relationship between marathon swimming and these challenges are quite profound. While I never conceptualized the depth and relationship before I started, It is clear to me now its the sheer amount of resilience that one has in any life pursuit that makes the difference. 

Since I am not an especially gifted swimmer, it takes me an enormous amount of day-to-day resilience "One Stroke At A Time' to swim a million yards and then some. I never dreamed this distance was remotely possible nor did I ever calculate, before I started, what this meant to me and my family. I knew it was allot, but...This is just like life, things happen, they stack up, the days roll on and we accumulate all sorts of bits and pieces. These affect how we feel, how we react, what we say and do to ourselves and others in all situations but most importantly how we see ourselves - our self worth, image and self respect. 

In this day of want, want, want maybe we as parents can instead teach ours kids and friends to be more resilient so they can give back. My parents did (Don and Jean) and I am so thankful. Merry Christmas and keep those 'Elbows High'

So for me this is how a million yards relates to resilience - Year to date in 2010, I have swum 684.85 miles or 1,205,343 yards or 1,102,165 meters. That's about 578,564 strokes and god knows how many hours? The plan between today and August 20th, 2011 (when my swim English Channel 'window' opens) is to average 33,000 - 35,000 yards per week (equal to the entire distance across the English Channel, one way, each week). That's an additional 1,122,000 - 1,190,000 yards; 680 - 721 miles; or 538,560 - 571,200 strokes for those of you counting. I am halfway home and still smiling :)

Nov 27, 2010

Mary Weybright - Selfless, courageous, brave, loving and a true hero

It is with deep sadness and sympathy I share news of Mary's passing earlier today. Her long battle now over, she is in a far better place than we.

Perhaps you can say a prayer for her, her family, three small kids.

Nov 22, 2010

Qualified for English Channel, Conquering Ones Doubts

This one is for Mary Weybright! A friend who is battling for her life and demonstrating such courage and strength that by comparison makes my meager efforts herein nothing.

You go girl!

Bright eyed and bushy tailed this past Saturday I arrived at Seal Beach, CA for nothing more than a training swim or at least that is what I was telling most others. I now can admit my ego was a bit bruised when I retired from my attempt not more than a month ago stopping with cramps at 4:45 into the effort. With the encouragement of Doug, Marcia and others I delicately stepped forward in the weeks leading up to this effort working even harder in practice focusing on my mental game. I have now learned that in marathon swimming, the mental game is what separates the wheat from the chaff.  

So, here I am getting ready with Beth Barnes just before embarking on my swim. No doubt the IU swim tee-shirt was the basis for my success. The phoenix has risen, or at least for me a pigeon! What a corn ball, hey Katie! (FYI. for those of you that don't know, my sister was a stud muffin IU swimmer, twice to the Olympic trials, multiple Big Ten champ, etc, etc,) so we have fun with such things in our house! Need I say anything about Purwho, MICHu...

In usual fashion, talking about food and energy in feeds became central to the swimming effort before the jump. One of the theories I had from my first failed first attempt was that my substitution of warm tea (which seemed logical, warmth during a cold swim) was actually substituting energy out. Thus I simply ran out of glycogen and likely sodium and potassium leading to cramps. This time was to be different, no tea. So my usual mix of 100 mg (Maxim Carbo loader, 4 scoops), 1 pouch of Gatorade pro and a partial scoop of protein in 10 oz. of water would do the trick. I calculated that this provided me about 700 -900 calories per hour Yummy!.

While this rib sticking thick liquid actual tastes pretty good after 6 hour worth of feeds every 30 minutes, needless to say one gets hungry for solid food. We also mixed in one GU PAC every hour and some fresh water to rinse out the salt that was pickling my tongue. Like eating a meal after getting your teeth drilled by the dentist with Novocain.We also threw in a few Cliff bar pieces, this was so so. I really didn't want to introduce anything to new this time so rice pudding, oatmeal were left at the dock as were the bananas. Beth provided me with some maritime superstition about them, although I think it was from slipping on the peal and not eating meat. Too much grog!

I found my way to Seal Beach, CA in the capable and encouraging hands of Beth Barnes (, she does a great job) via a long trail of relationships. Marica Cleveland (my coach) who had suggested I look for warmer places to re-qualify led me to Dick Sidner in Indianapolis where things were a bit warmer. Mother nature however threw me a curve ball and as most know things got cold quick here in the Midwest. Dick graciously led me to Jim Barber, Victorian Rian and Mallory Mead who themselves like Marcia are English Channel, Catalina Island and other huge swim success stories way beyond my skills. Thank you all for encouraging words and the link to Seal Beach.

The weather Saturday was 'Doverish' later said Anne Cleveland a friend of Beth's (who fits right in with those mentioned above) which I am glad she said later rather than earlier. At the start it was 54f air, grey, drizzle and a yucky wind whipped 15-20 knots coming on-shore. The salt water averaged anywhere from 59-61f for a pleasant day :) Beth made a great safety call after discussing with beach life guards the pounding surf issue and decided the swim would be around an island called Naples, which is a three mile loop just inside Alamitos Bay.

Here is a map link:,ca&um=1&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=Alamitos+Bay&gl=us&ei=I8rqTL6iLNPMngfx5YiqDQ&sa=X&oi=geocode_result&ct=title&resnum=1&ved=0CBYQ8gEwAA

So off we went. Jumping in was the usual, a few heart pounding strokes. The water felt just fine. We were swimming by beautiful homes and huge yachts, which in retrospect I appreciate now they were at dock due to the weather otherwise I would have been dodging them all day. Below is a little backstroke warm up which as many of you that know for me is faster than my freestyle (Go figure!).

You notice the funny floating islands, well this is another tall seasonal story, yes they are for Christmas. I guess each year they float these islands with Xmas lights shaped as a tree all around the Island. They have a celebration turning them on (drinking more grog and watching 'The Grinch' - I'm embellishing a bit here). This was hilarious. Then the pelicans came in force swooping down, around us and the docks no doubt sizing me or maybe Beth up for a meal. Not sure if Beth made it without getting pooped on? But this wouldn't matter since several times during the swim the sky open up and poured rain so hard it looked like fog.

Around 41/2 hours I did feel a tightening of my triceps, as if I had little to no power but I was able to stroke comfortably but felt like like effort was much greater than before. I wonder if i was at the point of depleting my bodies carbos (glycogen) to fat. Perhaps someone that is 'in the know' can offer a better explanation. But I pushed through this time relaxed actually quite comfortably. I think the first failure taught me a lot about what this felt like and how to work through a tough patch. Good news this time I did not ever have a pang of pain like I did with the hamstring and glut cramps. 

Obviously a happy camper near the end. Those GU Pac's and Maxim mix did the trick as I worked through 5 hours, then 51/2. I was really comfortable now and easily could swim on. My daughter, Rachel will no doubt like the fact I borrowed her IU swim cap just for this occasion. 

For those of you again 'in the know' of open water swimming, I consider myself an anomaly. I have a slower stroke rate than most, averaging 47 per minute all the time, ever time. During my swim I actually took it out for a stroll at 45 per minute the first hour or so I recall Beth saying and then picked up a bit as the day went on to 47-50. Judging this against what I hope someday are my peers, they tear up the water with rates as fast as 55-70 and they do this for hours! Of course I think their nuts and just plug along (the tortoise)  plop, plop, plop... One thing for sure my stroke is very efficient, I have a long reach and long extension out the back. Marcia has been helping me train to lower my head down (like above in the picture) to relieve the C 5,6 and 7 joint pain and increase distance per stroke. I now in a pool rarely take more than 5-6 full cycles in 25 yards. Having Beth kayaking on my right side made the day a piece of cake on my neck. I did breath to the right ever so often more for relief than anything. 

So in the end, as my training partner Doug said, 'you hear-by have punched the ticket'. Must be a saying from silly sport that uses a ball or something??

While failing at my initial attempt was no fun, I do look back now and know I am much stronger, mentally tougher for it. Getting in an additional long cold training swim is worth its weight in gold having now done this twice. I look forward to endless laps in a pool (30,000 yards per week and up) for several months. I hope to steal away to somewhere warm and do a long swim this winter. Next up is perhaps some training in Tampa Bay, FL with an eye on a 24 mile race across Tampa Bay, FL in April. While the water will be relatively warm, by English Channel standards, this is no joke swim and will be another serious test. I will be ready, I am ready. Thanks to my wife Jennifer, daughter Rachel, Doug, Marcia, the Indy folks, Barrington masters and Club folks and Dave Barra for keeping me up and on track through this great experience.

I will finish as I began with a some thoughts about Mary Weybright from Indianapolis, IN a long time family friend. 

Anything I have offered above, is shallow and a meager description of a selfish endeavor compared to Mary's fight. Mary you inspire me to give back, to do better and to offer more. I think of you often during my swims. Many times you give me the strength to push on.

You see, Mary is lying in a hospital bed, now for many months, clinging to life day to day, fighting the battle of her life. Her husband Nick, the kids and family nearby. Mary is fully aware of her challenge and the multitude of health issues that confuse the very best medical experts. I cannot comprehend this strength. She is one of life's true selfless teachers, a beacon of hope for never giving up despite the most dire times! Lying in her bed starring death in the face every day, she takes time to write little notes to friends and family to see visitors and give kind looks and a warm handshakes. During this Thanksgiving season, perhaps Mary can teach us all to deal with life's little setbacks differently. To work through bad days, to graciously compromise work challenges, to shrug your shoulder at being bullied at school or to simply give back in some way to others less fortunate.

I am not very good writer. Perhaps learning from Mary's strength and adding what I simplistically describe as a 'One Stroke at Time' approach to my life's journey, Mary has taught me (us) to deal with life's challenges.

Perhaps this Thanksgiving, you might offer the same support to those around you as Mary has offered? Have a wonderful and safe Thanksgiving.

Nov 8, 2010

Coney Island- Veterans Day Cold Water Swim (54f smoking degrees)

Hi all,

After a couple of weeks of heavy training back in the pool (31 k 35,000k yards/week), I joined fellow OW swimmers at Coney Island, NY this past weekend for a chilly ocean swim. Dave Bara from New York, whom I met at the Boston Light Swim and just coming off a huge OW season was very supportive in asking me to join the CIBBOWS crew at the beach, great hospitality and thanks Dave!

I was in NYC for business and Jennifer joined me. Had a wonderful time. We trained from downtown and had a hilarious experience navigating the subway system. We learned that weekend trains don't follow the same schedule as weekdays, but I am sure that was spelled out clearly on some sign covered in subway grime and dirt, but hey that's my fault for not knowing. Well anyway, we got to the beach just as the race started. Thinking all was lost, we casually strolled up to the race director, sorry can't remember your name, but he and others were great. They said, no problem, get dressed and when the leaders roll around the first buoy jump on in. So I changed on the beach, got greased up and away I went. Below is a picture as I was turning the final buoy to finish.


I knew I was swimming with some great company as Dave Barra and others who did the channel this summer among other 'mount everest' type swims were all in the group. This was also a charity event for Veterans, wounded warriors (Some of you may not know that my cousin was Scott Speicher who was shot down in the first Gulf war off the USS Saratoga and was missing in action for 18 years, Our government left him there, the bastards! Not a good subject from my perspective) so support our troops! Anyway showing up late and accepting that fact relaxed me and I had nothing to loose. To my surprise and to most others I proceeded to rip a 2.2 miler at a good pace finishing at 57 minutes against the dropping tide swirling around the Coney Island pier against the tide. For you non open water swimmers, it's like swimming upstream in a creek. It was really weird leaving the beach and it seemingly took forever against the tide to get the buoy, then turning for a straight mile parallel to the beach to the next turn, it eased.

Moral to the story, don't think about the race, just do.

I can't thank everyone at CIBBOWS for being so kind and welcoming, allowing me to, as my coach Marcia Cleveland says, 'take a dip' in some really really cold water under control and having fun. Who would have ever thought these things were possible.

Well, up next is a nice training swim at Seal Beach, CA for what will be a strong effort on my part to complete some un finished business on qualifying for the channel. I guess cold salt water is my element.

Oct 18, 2010

EC Qualifying Swim Experience

'Behind every success, there are multitude of failures, false starts, unplanned circumstances, unexpected situations and unsuccessful attempts'

Doc would be proud of the form, Elbows Up!

I 'retired' from my swim at 4 hours and 45 minutes yesterday short of the 6 hour minimum objective for this trial effort. Good news is I fought the good fight in pretty cold conditions and mentally had more than enough in the tank to keep going. Today I believe a combination of factors treated me to a lesson. On the bright side, I have plenty of time to "punch my ticket" as Doug likes to say. next time I will be relaxed and even more confident.

When I began this journey it was with the intent to share publicly just that, my personal journey, to cross the English Channel. My intent to share openly (despite the council of some very accomplished coaches and fellow swimmers) the successes, failures, challenges and lessons learned along the way both physically and mentally is not without its caution. A point well taken, however I am not deterred in revealing these sides of this wonderful sport in the hopes that through my experience a few might take a dip, take a chance and explore there own dreams wherever they lead.

As mentioned before, my effort ended at 4 hours and 45 minutes. The combined water temp and air temp early that morning started at around 56f-ish water and 45f-ish air.  Ultimately this proved too big a hill to overcome combined with what I believe was an equally important nutrition/feeding challenge of not being able to consume enough calories and electrolytes per hour necessary to fuel the huge energy requirement of my body to both stay warm and swim. I'll explain a bit the overall physiological impacts and others feel free to add in replies.

The up side is my conditioning was not in question nor my mental state. Not sure which came first but not being able to pee early perhaps due to feeling full or simply the cold shutting down my muscle usage in "that area" what ever the reason, just wasn't happening easily. Anyway feeling dreadfully full made me not want to consume additional feeds easily after the first hour or so. This is probably the underlying reason for cramping in my legs and then the onset of shivering much later that followed and I will describe as the day progressed. My high carbo feed source is made up from (maxim 100 mg/hour (4 scoops) rate) with protein (25 mg/hour rate) and Gatorade pro electrolytes powder (two scoops equal to one 8 12 oz. standard bottle by volume). I take in 8-10 ounces of this mixture every 30 minutes. I had previously used this mix ratio successfully in my Boston Light House Race where I ran the 8 plus miles in 3 hours, partially tide assisted. Thus, I do not believe the nutrition itself was a problem. I believe the inability to feed fully created a calorie deficit and it's a slippery slope going forward to make this up whiling expending these huge amounts of energy. One addition to my feeding scheduling new was drinking warm tea in tandem during my feed stops. In retrospect this probably took up valuable stomach space displacing very important calories and the desire to drink other foods. This is an important lesson, in the future warming my carbohydrate mix kills two birds with one stone, getting food plus warmth. I really do not believe the cramping was related to anything other than depletion of food sources and electrolytes in my body. My god I have swum almost 600 miles this year alone preparing for what lies ahead?

It was not easy stopping. But in the end I knew it was the smart and safe thing to do. Swimming back out and having things get worse was not something for myself nor my wonderful crew of volunteers to wrestle with in deep water. Hauling my big ass into a canoe, as Red correctly pointed out earlier in the day during or safety talk was not a task for the faint of heart!

I typically swim around 2-2.5 miles per hour so give or take 10 miles for 4:45 time is probably fair. But the experience swimming for such a long period of time in that cold of water is priceless and I consider a huge success. In retrospect, I feel the combined water/air temperature experience has made me a much stronger athlete. Learning to listen to my safety crew, would perhaps have made a difference starting later? The experience with feedings while seemingly a small thing turned out to be huge thing. Stopping completely for feedings does not work for me. It was a necessary failure to learn now as this marathon swimming is more than just the English Channel for me…yes I am hooked

To my safety crew and volunteers. I cannot thank you enough. You give me hope, encouragement, counsel and kept me safe doing something that probably most folks consider nuts anyhow. But this is what I do, these are the people I like who do this. Am I addicted to open water swimming, you bet, there is nothing like bobbing in the middle of a lake watching the sun rise with not another living sole around (except for who is swimming with you or crewing near by). Bill and Red, thank you very much for supporting me, what a wonderful surprise. The rest of the McConnell clan thank you for kayaking and feed stops, next time I will eat a bit more. Eric and Lex as fellow triathletes and swimmers I hope you enjoyed this experience and your kayaking workout, I'll swim with you two anytime. Lindo, thanks again for the wonderful access to Lake Zurich and your hospitality. Being awarded an official hat certainly was a nice touch. Marcia the coaching is what got me to this point and its been a great experience, I have learned so much and appreciate your time and effort. Lots more to come. Laura, Marita and everyone else thanks for the warm wishes. Doug what you said to me on the pier privately meant the world and Jennifer thanks for supporting my crazy dreams.

I am already thinking of where I can go a get another one in, anybody care to join?

Oh, one more thing. I read recently that my former teammate from Goshen Craig Kercher got in some good distance swims in the recent indoor 5 and 10k swim, congrats. Lake Travis would be a fun one to do together?

Oct 15, 2010

Qualifying Swim this Sunday

Well after a wonderful time in California to celebrate my parents 50th wedding Anniv. with family and friends back to swimming. Got a couple of nice San Francisco bay swims in so I am ready.

My training partner and teammate Doug McConnell was able to get his swim in at 6 hours and 15 minutes so he has paid his dues.

Sunday at 8am we start and I know it will be a great experience. I have a whole bunch of folks joining me as a support and safety crew. let you know how it goes a bit later.

Oct 2, 2010

Qualifying Swim on Hold

"All good things come to those that wait"

After a week of good cold swims (low 60f's and air temp's in the 40f's) we were hoping for a green light for the big qualifying swim but mother nature had another idea. Saturday (Today) and Sunday winds are 20 knots plus which makes the wind chill a huge factor on top of swimming in 60f water. 

We are holding and unfortunately for me the next window will be in two weeks as family and business occupy the following weekend. 

I will share with whom reads this blog that a bit of anxiety has persisted in my thoughts. Stepping into this unknown mental and physical territory has raised some small doubts about what happens when and if I hit the wall, like marathon runners? I have never swum this far before time wise but am confident that the distance is well within reach. But given the variables its just one of those steps that must be taken.

Sep 25, 2010

500 Training Miles in the Bucket, A word on safety, Qualifying Update

Logged the 508th training mile today.

Open Water Safety.  After trekking 45 minutes down to Lake Michigan hoping to get a swim in at Tower Beach we arrived Marcia and her husband were there (Mark) and we or actually I should say, I, decided it was too rough. The wind was 20 knots from the North, Northeast and the whitecaps were on every wave 3-4 feet. Usually waves aren't a big deal and we can swim just out past the breakers but today the breakers were well out several hundred yards and although the water was 61f this was not a good combination without a safety boat. We turned around and drove back to Lake Zurich and got in a 2.4 mile training lap in 64f water which was a fast one at 54 minutes so a good day. Sun was out and that always helps.

Qualifying Swim Update: We continue to plan out or 6 plus hour swim and have most of the safety crews, boats lined up. We will be confirming the date based on water temperature as as of this morning its was 64f so just waiting.

Sep 18, 2010

Qualifying for the English Channel - So how does one go about this?

"If you set your goals ridiculously high and fail, you will failed above everyone else's success"...

Catching Up on the Past Few Weeks:

Its been a couple weeks since I posted anything and until this past week the mileage has been about half of the normal but I am back in full swing now logging 25k yards per week and will soon be scaling up to 30 plus. Boston was a great swim but taking a bit of break was well deserved.

Met with my coach, Marcia Cleveland and co-heart training buddy Doug McConnell this week to layout the next years training plan. Looks like once we complete the 6 plus hour cold water qualifying swim in the next few weeks (60f or below water temp is required?) we'll be back to normal training until April when we will do the Tampa Bay marathon swim (24 miles, ocean but warm water - purpose to check distance and ocean affects on body, mind and foods to eat, etc. without the cold so training can be adjusted). Will plan to be back in cold Lake Michigan early April as much as possible and then do another 8-10 hour swim late spring/early summer. August 2011 is the Channel so everything will build to this. I can't believe I have already put over a year into this! I remember when I started I could barely finish 2000 yards without being tired, go figure. I couldn't handle cold water, waking up at 5 am, eating really funky foods, etc. I have everyone to thank for tolerating me and this dream, the crazy schedule, time away, standing in the cold watching me swim or just sending wonderful email notes. Thank you very much.

English Channel Qualifying Swim:

Echoing my thoughts on how I got to this point, I now look forward to the next several weeks with a bit of trepidation knowing that lurking out there is the biggest test yet of my mental preparations but also physical. 6 hours minimum in water 60f or colder. I have previously written about other cold training swims and races but wrapping my head around swimming for 6 plus hours AND 60f is really tough. Today I was in Lake Michigan for an hour in 54f - 56f water, grey skies and air temps. hovering around 65f. It was bone chilling, burned like I can't even describe getting in but was able to calm down and focus on swimming as the time went on. Will do this again Sunday and as much as possible in the next days leading up to the fateful phone call from the coach...tomorrow is the day...

The basic plan is to start at 4am (yes, your reading correctly 4am, pitch black darkness and cold). Swimming the EC starts 24/7 so swimming in pitch black cold wavy water is part of the gig. Well I am about to be baptised in a big, big way.

At these water temperatures, hypothermia is a very real safety concern. We take great care to monitor each other. Also strangely enough what you eat as your fuel is critical. Your body is effectively consuming food to produce energy for two things, the swimming strokes themselves and the to generate heat! So this will be a very important part of our qualifying swim planning.

We are also having to plan for kayaks and safety people to be with us the entire time. They will have the authority to stop the entire swim if they fell we are in danger. They typically test you during a feeding stop by asking simple questions. Not being able to speak clearly and answer the specific question asked is a hallmark early sign of hypothermia. We can increase food intake quickly or stroke rates to compensate this but its a slippery slope once it begins. all of this is the purpose of doing this now, to test where I am, what needs more work. there is plenty of time to make mid course corrections.

From a mental standpoint, the deprivation of staring into blue green water for what seems to be an eternity is something I am not sure how to imagine? How do train for this? I think the best I can do is to layout a plan of swimming "x" times back and forth from the peer to the beach or something that can give me a mental goal that can be attached to the physical demands on my body. I suspect the emotional aspect of this "test" will become very evident and at some point I will simply have to buckle down and say to myself this it, its now or never, if you give up now what will you do next summer in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean!

So as plans progress I will keep everyone abreast of plans. I hope to have some video and pictures of this and if I can find someone with great IT skills will maybe even try to to a live GPS plot so those of you interested can watch live or I guess while your drinking coffee.

Aug 17, 2010

Boston Light Swim Redux - "The Granddaddy of American Marathon Swims"

Here is a recap for those preparing for Boston. ask for Charlie as your Captain. see you in 2012!

This past Saturday my team - dubbed "Get busy living or get busy dying" (wife Jennifer, daughter Rachel, Captain Charlie Cahill and myself) successfully completed the 8 mile cold ocean marathon race in Boston Harbor - from the Light House back to shore through the beautiful National Park Island Group. 

The Boston Light Swim has been a tradition since 1907, the oldest open-water marathon swim in the United States of America. Participants begin the race in the water at Boston Light on Little Brewster and continue past George's Island and Rainsford Island, under the Long Island Bridge, around Thompson's Island, finishing 8 miles later at the L Street Bathhouse in South Boston. Here is the link - . 

This race is considered an important step for those seeking to cross the English Channel and get a benchmark, its cold (we started in 55 - 59f water depending on where you jumped), its the ocean (aren't there monsters!), its wavy, tides push you around and very, very long.

Here is the press release: Fast Swimmers and Favorable Conditions Equal Speedy 103rd Boston Light Swim
    AUGUST 15, 2010 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE SOUTH BOSTON, MA—In near-perfect conditions yesterday, 25 solo swimmers and 4 relay teams entered the 59-degree water off Little Brewster Island and began swimming the 8-miles to South Boston as part of the annual Boston Light Swim. The swim begins in the shadow of America’s first lighthouse and wends its way across the inner harbor past Georges, Rainsford, Long, Spectacle, and Thompson Islands to finish on the beach at L-Street in Southie. The event is the longest running open water swim in the country and has been dubbed “The Granddaddy of American Open Water Swims.” The technically difficult cold-water endurance feat is a proving ground for many swimmers with designs on someday swimming the English Channel. This year, two English Channel veterans, Dori Miller, 39, of Bondi Beach Australia, and Lance Ogren, 39, of New York, NY, finished second and third among the solo swimmers. Ogren was the solo men’s winner with a time of 2:42: 57, while Miller was the second solo swimmer and second female swimmer, finishing a mere 30 seconds behind Elizabeth Mancuso, 24, of Brookline, MA, who won the swim in a time of 2:42:15. A third Channel aspirant, Dave Barra, 45, of High Falls, NY, finished the swim in 3:00:31. He is headed to Dover, England next week for his solo English Channel crossing. Robert Fernald, 43, of North Hampton NH, and David Lee, 35, of Newburyport, MA, finished second and third on the men’s side while Sheryl Bierden, 37, of Westwood, MA, rounded out the women’s top three. All four relays finished the course. The first-place relay comprised of Seb Neumayer, 27, a two-time winner of the solo race, Santiago Lima, 34, and John Kelleher 26, finished second overall, just four seconds behind Mancuso, with a time of 2:42:19. All three swimmers are from Cambridge, MA. “Having so many swimmers coming in all at once to a near-photo finish was remarkable and an unusual conclusion to this year’s race,” said Greg O’Connor, Boston Light Swim Race Director. “In long swims like this, the swimmers usually spread out a lot more, but we had a really exciting finish with three solo swimmers all in the hunt for the win.” O’Connor says the spring tide which tends to produce faster currents and higher tides may have contributed to the overall speed of this year’s event. A high caliber of entrants was also noted. “We had some really amazing swimmers out there,” he says.

    Solo Swimmer Results with age and time: 1. Elizabeth Mancuso, 24, 2:42:15 2. Dori Miller, 39, 2:42:45 3. Lance Ogren, 39, 2:42:57 4. Robert Fernald, 43, 2:52:35 5. Davis Lee, 35, 2:58:23 6. Humphrey Bohan, 35, 2:58:43 7. Dave Barra, 45, 3:00:31 8. Don Macdonald, 48, 3:01:08 9. Douglas McConnell, 52, 3:08:49 10. Sheryl Bierden, 37, 3:15:57 11. Eileen Burke, 47, 3:24:23 12. Kyle Murray, 51, 3:30:22 13. Kim Garbarino, 52, 3:39:26 14. Mike Hodel, 33, 3:39:58 15. Courtney Paulk, 40, 3:44:38 16. Ralph Macintyre, 59, 3:47:56 17. Alan Morrison, 48, 3:48:40 18. Rachel Golub, 33, 3:50:00 19. Dave Evangelista, 47, 4:14:45 20. John Daprato, 57, 4:23:44 DNF: Suzanne Sataline, Kenn Lowy, Dave Osmond, William Dailey, Darlene Awalt Relays: 1. Seb Neumayer, Santiago Lima, John Kelleher, 2:42:19 2. Doug McKell, James Walker, Bobby Dawe, 3:36:26 3. Mike Ribeiro, Rebecca Osborn, 3:45:57 4. Amy Wu, Silverio Bracaglia, 4:03:31
Here are some other pictures and commentary - 

Imagine going to a place you have never visited, meeting someone you are putting your life (and that of your family) in the hands of you have only talked to on the phone, motoring out for 45 minutes at full throttle in a tiny 21 foot Boston Whaler (in the ocean) and watching the City get really small... knowing you will soon be swimming back? Here is what 8 miles looks like from a swimmers perspective! 

I can assure you the mind rages with thoughts...what in the %$*#@% ... are you doing Donald? 

Then out of no where, the Race Director is on the radio 5 minutes to start... tick, tock, tick, tock...1 minute... tick, tock and then bang the gun goes off... In the end, I will share my personal perspective that it must be like knowing you are close to death. You accept what is in front of you. As the 1 minute warning was made I was relaxed and calm. BANG! NOW SWIM LIKE HELL!

Boats lining up for the start. The water is so cold you cannot warm up. This is something you must get used to and push through in the first 5-10 minutes. As you jump into the 55-59f water, your breath is sucked out of you and your skin feels like its on fire. For me (and this will sound a bit crazy, my training in Lake Michigan in 58-63f fresh water prepared me very well. Fresh water tends to "feel" colder due to the salinity differences (think of the opposite of adding salt to boil water?).

Just after the start, a few backstroke pulls. For perspective, the island on the right is only 1 mile and we'll swim just to the left around the corner past another island and on for several miles to the Long Island Bridge.

At this point as mentioned above, its cold, strokes are short and you feel like your jerky.

The incoming "flood" tide pushed use past this island in 20-30 minutes I guess so we were moving fast. Mentally the next thing you see is the island and your thinking, hey this isn't so bad...then reality set in and the second island came slower and so on. I was a little concerned that I was slowing down so at my 30, 60 and 90 minute feed stops I asked what my stroke rate per minute was and to my delight, I was holding steady at 45-47 cycles which is pretty consistent for my stroke. I tend to take long stretching strokes and have learned to keep my head facing straight down (thanks Marcia Cleveland for this advice!) to relieve neck pain.

Here is a picture of another swimmer heading for the bridge I mentioned. This is about 4 1/2 miles into the race. By this point the flood tide has almost stopped. We swam under the second peer just our of the picture on the left. We were in the ship channel for a bit (the coast guard had stopped traffic on our side) and you could feel the current. Here the trick I was told was to stay to the right side. There is another island just past the bridge and this current will eddy behind the island and really slow your progress. I got lucky again with advice from Marcia C. and we swept to the right. About a half mile past the island the flood tide stopped in what they call "slack tide". Now it was just like swimming in a pool, no currents. Now the harder part came to bear. The last three miles seemed to go for a long time. I zeroed in on Dave Barra in front of me and began the long slow track to reel him before the finish. He is a great distance swimming and today I just couldn't quite get there although at the very end I was less than 200 yards away. Later David would tell me his coach told him where I was and that he really had to push to stay out front. By this point, I knew the finish was less than a mile. I buried my head, it hurt, and just stroked away. Finally coming to shore I felt the sand bottom on my hand and I took a few frog jumps to stand up and begin trying to run. When you have been in very cold water your body shunts off blood flow to all but the necessary parts, thus trying to stand up is very hard.

Here I am stumbling up the shore with Jennifer, Rachel and Charlie in the background. frankly the running part is harder than the swimming part.

For those of you wondering, yes, that's a Speedo. Go ahead and laugh! But the rules of the English Channel Association will not allow you to use anything more, so I decided long ago why train or race in anything different? This way I am prepared "as is".

In the end, it was a great swim with great family and friends. Here my training partner and friend Doug McConnell a former Illinois Univ. standout swimmer and my daughter Rachel soaking up the warm sun rays and delight of the moment. I was blessed to have my family (and Doug's as well) and also my sister and her family with us on this trip. It makes a big difference knowing you have people supporting you.

Thanks to everyone and now the real training begins!

Ok, one of those proud parent moments - Swimming& Softball

My daughter Rachel's State Swim Meet award that also qualified her for US Zones.

Hanging with the team mates at the softball park

Jul 24, 2010

400 training miles, swimming from Chicago to Indianapolis and back

400 miles of swim training year to date, boy how the time has flown. A year ago, well a bit more since it was June 2009 when I committed to swim the English Channel, I would have never imagined crossing this mileage standard?

Today I swim 5000 meters relaxed in one and a half hours as if it's a walk in the park. I will need to remember these days soon years goal and the training that comes with it is just beyond the horizon.

I feel confident, I continue to learn much about how my body adapts to the different stresses of training. After last weekends 10k nationals I was amazed at how much it took for me to feel normal. Clearly the heat, hot lake water affected my hydration more than I cared to realize. This is an excellent training threshold to have learned, just like the others yet to come.

Two weeks until the Boston Lighthouse 8 mile race in the harbor. Getting excited and feeling great. This will be a great learning swim. It's my first salt water swim for anything more than an hour and certainly allot more since I have been in training full tilt. The goal is to finish with a strong time, guessing 4 hours or so, feeling relaxed and comfortable with much more left in the "tank" so to speak.

Jul 23, 2010

Research on why we do what we do...aka...long distance swimming

Chris Arnot, Monday 19 July 2010 20.01 BST
Article history

Karen Throsby doing some long-distance training in 2009. Photograph: Guardian
Few academics plan to immerse themselves in their subject matter quite as literally as Dr Karen Throsby, a sociologist from Warwick University. Next month, she plans to swim the Channel as part of a project sub-titled "Embodiment and identity in an extreme sporting culture".

Her research aims to explore what motivates people to engage in an extreme sports such as Channel swimming. She has funding from the Economic and Social Research Council for two and a half years, towards the end of which she hopes to write a book that will reach out beyond the purely academic market to tap into the post-Olympic debate on the motivation to take part in sport.

"Swimming is a big part of the Olympic action plan," she says. "But I want to look at the really positive things that people can get out of physical activity and move away from the current obsession with seeing it simply as a way of reducing bodyweight." In fact, as part of her preparation for ploughing across the 21 miles of chilly, turbulent tides that separate Dover from Calais, she has had to put on a stone in weight. "I simply ate more of what I normally eat and then maintained that weight," she says.

Throsby wants her research to question orthodox ideas about what counts as a sporting body in contemporary society. And the body she is using to explore those issues is her own. Her training regime has involved swimming around Jersey in 10 and a half hours, as well as ploughing up and down Coventry's Olympic-length swimming pool, just down the road from the university. Not surprisingly, perhaps, her shoulder and neck muscles have "bulked up", as she puts it, "in ways that are counter-normative for women but not for men".

Throsby, 42, has always been interested in gender issues and is fascinated by the reaction of friends whom she hasn't seen for a while when they remark about her evident upper-body strength. Does that bother her? "In some ways it does. It's not entirely comfortable to know that you're being looked at critically. On the other hand, this is part of an experiment purposefully to change one's body while remaining in control. Women usually make those changes in the context of the socially accepted ideal of what we should look like." And that is not all the result of celebrity culture and glossy mags. "Medically, we're all supposed to be slimming down. But I have a politicised view of body size and I find the link between thinness and health very troubling. The promotion of physical activity primarily as a way of losing weight is the route to shame, self-hatred and guilt."

These issues will be explored in an academic paper to be published roughly six months after her cross-Channel swim.

The success rate of the Dover-Calais swim is between 60 and 65%. Only slightly more than 1,000 people have completed the 21 miles since Captain Matthew Webb, smeared in porpoise oil, took the first epic plunge back in 1875. That is fewer people than those who have climbed Everest since it was first conquered in 1953.

Should Throsby join their ranks, it will add lustre to what she calls her "auto-ethnography". But the research project won't end there. "The second part will be a more conventional study of the community that surrounds an extreme sporting culture," she explains. "By looking at the obsessive end of sport we can learn about motivation, and that could be transferable to those who want a much more reasonable and moderate engagement with physical activity."

Aside from the Channel swimmers, there is an online community all over the world of long-distance swimmers training for stretches of water such as the Catalina Channel in California. This is comparable in length to the Channel, but not as tidal. "Our Channel still has an iconic status among marathon swimmers because of the challenges it poses," she says.

At the moment, Throsby is spending every weekend with the Kent-based community of groups who get together to train in Dover Harbour. "I shall be interviewing them at length, but it's already very clear that their motivations vary. Some are doing it for adventure, others because they enjoy a challenge. Then there are those who like to break records, raise funds for charity or simply improve their health and well-being."

Throsby will also be talking to the wider community, such as the trainers, swimmers' families and the boat pilots who offer guidance, support for swimmers in difficulty and sustenance every half hour or so: an energy drink, banana and – in her case – jelly babies. "Finally," she says, "there are the volunteers who come to the harbour every weekend to give us food, offer encouragement and look after our shoes while we're away."

The aquatic sociologist insists that swimming long distances is relaxing and "empties the mind". She knows that in her own case, however, she is going to have to fill that mind quickly. Once the swimming is over, the writing has to start in earnest.

Jul 18, 2010

2010 USMS 10K Championships Start & my race experience

Start of the Race, those that know my stroke will notice where I am, Ha, Ha!

Swimming with the Big Dogs, what an experience! U.S. Masters National Championship for the 10k marathon race was a solid success for me and a wonderful experience participating with 200 plus total marathon swimmers from 22 states some of them former world record holders, a number that have already done the English Channel and other large marathon events. 

I placed 5th in my age group (45 - 49, they break down every 5 years) and 51st overall. It took me just over 2 hours and 50 minutes to complete the 6.2 mile course (2:52.26 to be exact). This is a personal best for me and I dropped 14 minutes from my previous 10k just 3 weeks prior.

Here is the sun rising just before warm-ups! what a beautiful view:

The event was held at Morse Reservoir in Noblesville, Indiana in very warm (hot by my definition these days) of 84f. The water was so warm that dehydration and heat stroke was as reality. The water being so warm of course had algae blooming very thick (...think very diluted split pea soup, I could barely see my hands as they entered the water and pulled beneath my chest). The air temperature was also in the high 80's when the gun went off at 7:00am. So the total thermal heat load was some 160 degrees which is huge almost comparable to the Hawaii Iron man. In the end, everyone was safe but seriously dehydrated. I have probably drank the better part of 1-2 gallons of various fluids since then Saturday after the race until Sunday evening.

The race for me was my first ever national level event so the nerves were a bit rough, didn't sleep very well the night before waking up at 3am two whole hours before I was supposed to wake up. Tried to go back to sleep but found myself, dreaming about big lochness water monsters. So perhaps someone out there can tell me what that meant? Jennifer, my wife was so gracious to follow me on this trip and get up early as well braving the non-Starbucks start of the day. We arrived at the event and lots of folks were already in swim suits chomping at the bit. You could cut the excitement with a knife as folks mulled around preparing themselves with swim caps, Vaseline (we use this where needed to prevent chaffing), goggles, etc. As start time neared, folks were in doing there warm up swims of a couple hundred yards. You could already smell the safety boats engine oil and gas wafting in the air and taste in my mouth. We did the usual national anthem which was really something with the sun coming up and 200 folks standing in their swim gear. I found myself thinking about the movie "Apocalypse Now" and the part where where the Colonel says something along the lines of "I love the smell of Napalm early in the morning...Its, Its, the smell of victory"! 

The first wave started at 7am and the second wave, which I was in, at 7:05am. So about 60-80 people per wave went tearing off in a wild frenzy of arms and legs, climbing over each other, bumping, etc. I was pleased to not feel much of this as I usually like to stay away from the fray so as not to expend extra energy but also to mentally allow myself to get into a rhythm. For me it takes somewhere up to a mile or so to begin to settle down into what feels good. But in this hot water, it was very different this time, the heat load came on quick and I could tell by my breathing my body warmed up and it was going to be really important to "listen to my body" and work through the different feelings of stress, pain and aches.

The course is a two lap circuit each three miles (5k) around. The course was very comfortable for me to navigate, I prefer long open stretches rather than circling around buoys. Each way up or down is about 1.5 miles. We started at the bottom of the picture. At each end I stopped for a very quick (10-20 seconds) gulp of water and a GU pack. At the half way point, I gulped down an 8 oz. bottle of my usual Maxim energy drink. 

My first laps were pretty consistent time wise ranging anywhere from 40 odd minutes and seconds to 46 on the third lap and then negative splitting back down to 40 minutes on the last lap (this was really tough however).  I began to feel either cramping or the cumulative affects of the dehydration in my arms half way down the third lap or it could have been the slug of carbohydrates I had just consumed 20 minutes before at the half way point? (I need to learn from this as it was a challenging period). My stroke shortened and I had to really focus on staying calm and to relax during this segment but as the next several hundred yards passed so did this feeling. After hitting the last turn I knew I was doing well, I felt better and as I pulled away from the turn buoy I felt my longer relaxed stroke come back. As the yards ticked away, I got stronger, I could see people in front me and slowly worked to pass as many as I could. I was a mental rush seeing someone splashing away 100 or 200 yards up and then a few moments later passing them. The last turn buoy before the finish I was in all out sprint, it hurt like hell but I was in the zone. I drove to the finish and popped up just across the line with a cheery Hi, that was fun comment to the race officials as I backstroked over to the beach. Of course moments later the endorphins came crashing down and it was then I realized I was hot and tired. I didn't stay in the water to warm down like usual because it was so hot. Everyone was happily talking and sharing there experiences, young and old. 

Everyone finished up and we proceeded to have a lunch and awards. I was astonished to see the age groupings, there was a small group of just out of college kids then very few later 20's to early thirty year old's. The bulk of these talented swimmers really started in the late 30's, then my age grouping but the biggest group was the 50's. there were a number of 60 year old's as well. This was truly remarkable to see.

About the time we finished up with awards for the top eight in each age group, one older guy came in and finished 4 hours and something seconds. Everyone stopped what they were doing and began to cheer with thunderous applause. In that moment I discovered why I love swimming, but more to the point the people that swim with you. This is a very small fraternity of very, very talented and in some cases world class athletes that are caring and engaged with their competitors and their families. 

My training partner, Doug McConnell and Coach Marcia cleveland were there as well. Marcia won her age group and yes, she stomped my butt again swimming something like a 2:40 race. Doug had a great swim, he has been coming back from spine surgery earlier in the year and had missed three months of practice. He finished 6th in his age group 50-55 in with some real fast guys around 2:50 minutes. 

One fun note for the Goshen, Indiana folks! I Dave Oplinger (swam in the late 1970's with the Gibsons, Neff and company) was there in a relay. I hadn't seen Dave since high school and it was really allot of fun to see him again and share great memories and laughs. He did well in his relay and also swims Masters in Indy, still cranking out the butterfly.

In the end it was a great experience and very different from my larger goal of swimming across a large open water distance like the English Channel. Hey this was the US Nationals! 

Jul 14, 2010

Water Temp. up to 70f & US Masters Nationals 10k Race

Have adapted back to the cooler water since the last post (58-61f) and continued swimming in Lake Michigan several times last week while water temp edged up to just 70f felt great. As you swim for long periods of time it is really interesting to learn (and sense) the amount of heat you generate in these swims. When I stop to take a break and look around, I feel warm and seconds later you can sense the evaporation of heat off your head and shoulders when the wind blows. Several days the water was like glass and I was the only one in and today it was rough and took two times longer getting back than down range over our usual 2.5 mile training course along the beach.

Looking forward to this weekend's big event, the US Masters Nationals 10k (6.2) mile race in Morse Lake in Indianapolis, IN. I'll be the first to admit that I am in with the big dogs and will learn much from swimming with them. Some world and Olympic former swimmers all different ages, men and women. For me just the chance to participate is the success and depending how the swim goes who knows, might rip one off. I don't really care for the mass starts and tend to start off a bit slower and build to a moderate/faster tempo as the race goes on. So the game plan will be that and just enjoy the next "training swim" as I keep telling myself, since my eye is on the big prize next summer. But you all know me well enough, once I lock onto someone in front of me swimming, I will of course have to track them down and keep on going.
I know the water will be very warm (last night 84f. I mean this is freaking hot tub water to me!!!) so body temp. and dehydration will be interesting.

Jul 5, 2010

Skin on fire ... Water temp drops 65f to 58f

Independence day (july 4th) plus one brought a great swim in a calm lake Michigan this morning with doug McConnell, Marcia Cleveland and cool water. Sun was shinning, water was crystal clear and we had the lake to ourselves.

Walked into the water with my usual smile with what I thought was gonna be a nice casual training swim, the lake had other ideas, it was time for a reality check and lesson. I immediately began to feel my feet burn from the cold water, i splashed water up on my chest to adjust to the cold, kept walking up to my waist. I noticed my heart was beating quickly and breathes were short and shallow reacting to the cold. At this point I was thinking to myself "wow, how does the lake go from 65 to 58f?", two days ago I was swimming in 78 f pool water. Appearently the wind had been blowing across lake Michigan west to east late in the week and this drives the colder middle lake water to shore. Welcome to open water swimming.

To know what this feels like, take a large glass ice water and pour it over your head the next time your outside, at the pool or lake or stick your face in a cooler filled with ice water. The physical shock is something. Imagine putting your whole body in this and swimming for over an hour.

We swam down 1200 yards or so to a large peer and then back, twice. Each length was around 17 minutes. The first was really rough, I was hyperventilating so my strokes were very short and erratic. Length two eased up, the third more so allowing me to relax and work on taking long strokes with better body rotation while breathing on both sides. The last length, coming back in, I was back to my old self stroking away, having navigated the cold was building my confidence, and I could have kept going when we finished up around 1:10 minutes later.

This was a great experience and re-focused me back to how critical cold water accimilation is to this effort. After all the training I realize I have so much more to learn.

Jul 2, 2010

2.5 miles of lake Michigan practice, 1 miles up and down

Cruising through the weeks leading up to masters open water national 10k(6.2 mile) race and continue logging 28k yards per week. Spent this week in the open water, except two pool practices, focused on longer swims at a solid pace and working on technique. Tired but gaining confidence to swim through the next several weeks and big races to my real test, that at Boston 8 to 10 miles cold (55-65f) ocean race then on to my 6-8 hour English channel qualifying swim in the fall.

Had a good swim with my coach (Marcia Cleveland) in lake Michigan this week. Booked 2.5 miles in a 1-3 foot swells. Learning to sense the pattern of the waves, several big rollers and the calm. During the calm I take advantage and bi- lateral breath which balances my stroke and releives my neck stress, then back at riding the waves. It's amazing how different it is swimming in even easy rolling waves, the extra time it requires, to complete the same distance in a pool or smooth lake. But I am now confident I can take on some big wavy water if needed and be patient and work through it. Next on my trainig regime is to swim a night. I finally found a few folks willing to tolerate me crazy dream and help me out at night kayaking with glow sticks and head lamps while I swim. We'll try easy lake Zurich first and then move on to lake Michigan.

As for Boston, I will be honest I am a little nervous, it's my first big ocean swim despite the fact that I will have been swimming in and around martha's vineyard the week before. Guess where jaws was filmed ... You guessed it...martha's vineyard. Oh the joy of knowing this. But I have to face these fears because In the end, get busy living or get busy dying. I'll be just fine in all these but it's the mental game.

Thank you to everyone that sends notes and akses about how it's going. You can't imagine the challenge of something this big, the details, the logistics, the learning of both oneself and how to work with mother nature. Special thanks to jennifer, mom and dad, Katie, Ted, Kevin, and my swi coaches marita, Marcia and John, and doug McConnell (he inspires me every to try harder). Oh one last driving reason, to teach my daughter that despite very big odds, something like this can be done, I hope she someday she has a similar opportunity of a life challenge.

Jun 24, 2010

College memories

Just a short note. Went to Bloomington to pick up my daughter, Rachel, from swim camp. What a fabulous swimming pool and facility (the new one...for Katie and Dave oplinger). Anyway had the chance to jump in the outdoor pool and get in a 7200 meter workout partially on my own and then finished up with the Bloomington club team. You will laugh, good news is I was able to keep up with kids likely two ot three times my junior, but bad news is I was in ( with all due respect the girls 15 and older lane)! The coach jeff landue (Sorry for not spelling correctly) was great in letting me swim. Not too often I get to workout in a 50 meter pool. I will get up early and head back for an early workout before I pick up Rachel. I love Bloomington and just had to call Katie ( my sister for those of you who are following butndont know) as she was a real big shot at IU following Dave Oplinger as well a few years before.

Anyway, great time, great work out and just like being home with mom and my apple pie. go Hoosiers.

Jun 13, 2010

Swim for the Kids - 10k race

The first step of an adventure is always the hardest.

Jennifer and I made a long, one day, round trip to Culver, IN for the seasons first 10k (6.2 miles) in Lake Maxinkuckee on Saturday.  Course was a 2.5k (1.5 mile) right triangle stretching down past Culver Military Academy and back to the public beach. 

Finished in 3 hours and 06 minutes good enough for third place but more important to me was that I felt like I could easily keep going. Not to say it was not hard work, but there was more in the tank. The lake water and conditions were allot like swimming across old Lake Wawasee through the Channel and to Syracuse beach on July 4th! (You locals know what I mean). 

Due to inclement weather, we slipped the start in between storm clouds and slight over cast skies. Weather at the start was good so lots of boats were making it really wavy about half way down the course in front of Culver Academy. They have concrete sea walls everywhere so the waves were bouncing off the walls back into us. After the race I learned from local guards they call this area the "washing machine"of course my reaction to this shit! The next challenge was the course had unfortunately small marker buoy's and thus everyone spent allot of time making course corrections and looking around for where to go, especially in the waves on laps one and two. Turns one, two and the back stretch waves were very choppy and made it hard to get a good rhythm. On lap two a storm cloud brought a good down pour of rain about the boaters vanished. Laps three and four were much better and made for easier line of sight so my lap time were almost identical at 47 minutes each. At the finish the lake was calm and it was sunny again making for a nice smooth finish. 

Hamming it up for the camera just after finishing...

In the end it was a great experience, learned much about the mental side of longer swims, the kinds of food and liquid carbohydrate fuel I need, things to do different next time and left with thinking about the next months of training, working my way from 3 hours to more than 6 for my English Channel qualifying swim.  

This is doable, it will not be easy, but I am on my way and no small thanks to a bunch of fiends, family and coaches giving me support every day.

Next big swim is Morse Lake, Noblesville, IN for another 10k (US Masters Nationals) and then following that is the 8 mile Boston Ocean swim in August. Thanks to everyone for your support.

May 29, 2010

62 degree's and Big Surf in Michigan

Had a great swim yesterday morning in lake Michigan at tower park beach in winnetka,IL water was a balmy 62f and pretty wavy. Got to swim with my coach Marcia Cleveland and one of her swim buddies. I was in good company as both are very accomplished open water swimmers. These opportunities to swim with folks like this is so important for me as I learn just how different open water swim technique from the pool.

When we first got in, I was a bit nervous as Marcia said "Oh this is about the worst you would swim in in the english channel". Needless to say I was a bit concerned bordering more on 'what the F $&@(/;... am I doing'! Getting in the cold water was not the challenge and that aspect felt just fine, every swim in cold water accumulates on you and makes the next time easier. The waves took at least 15 minutes to get used to and I swallowed lots of water. As time went on I began to sense the pattern of the waves and then started to relax.

I have three weeks until my first 10k (6.2 mile) swim in lake maxencukie (sorry I know this is spelled wrong)' anyway it's the lake at Culver military. So this should be a calm, relative long workout swim and just doing it to get a sense of the distance. In the coming weeks my trainignwill continually be at 4 - 6 miles a couple times a week with the balance being pool workouts. This should be fun.

May 16, 2010

58 Degree's of Freedom

Finally got the first open water bare skin swim in today, a brisk 58.8 degrees for about 15 minutes as I swam out and around some buoys in Lake Zurich nearby the house. It was sunny so that helped and after some initial quick strokes began to settle down and relax, thinking about my stroke versus gasping for air and thrashing around like a seal waiting for a great white shark. Although come to think of it, I was probably mistaken by some local kids on the next door pier for just that.

With luck, plan to incrementally add time and days as water temp rises so that during summer I can be in the lake 3 days a week minimum and then plan my longer swims for the weekend. At some point will add in Lake Michigan, I believe it is still in the low 50's!