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