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Maple Syrup with a Side of Chlorine

My wife and kids motivated me to get my big belly back into the pool after buying a pair of SwiMP3's for Christmas in 2008. I focused on swimming the Peaks To Portland (Maine) 2.4 mile swim in July, 2010, and have added meets and consistent training since then. I mostly swim on my own because I am only able to get together with the local Master's workout group a couple of times a month. I love the backstroke and short free events, and I have a newly discovered fondness for Open Water, having completed my first 10K in Sept '11 and 10 mile in July '12.


My faith in Christ sees me through the exhausting practices and long hours driving to competitions (well, everything day by day, actually), and helps to keep me grounded in the knowledge that the events are only to give me feedback on how my training is progressing. If you're interested, just ask.

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Check out my swimmer info page here.

  1. 07/13/13: Peaks to Portland OW Swim

    by , July 14th, 2013 at 10:30 PM (Maple Syrup with a Side of Chlorine)
    I had another great time at the 32nd annual Peaks to Portland 2.4 mile ocean swim in Portland, Maine. This was my fourth year in a row attending, a great trip that allows me time to catch up with friends in the city and swim to help raise funds for the YMCA there. You can see my blog from last year here for some background info if you'd like, including why the use duct tape is encouraged

    I headed up on Friday morning (after an EZ 1000yds in the pool) with my son and checked in, receiving my cap, kayaker's flag, and tee shirt, then we went to the East End Beach, where the swim ends, to enjoy the beautiful day. Dinner again at Tortilla Flats and a good night's sleep to get ready for the swim. Got up around 5:30am so we could get to the ferry station before ships away at 6:45; two ferries were used (the "car" one filled with kayaks and the people one that I took) to transport us to Peaks Island for check-in, body marking, time chip getting, and some safety meetings as we waited for the race to start at 9am. Bobby, my yaker, joined many others in paddling over so I met him there.

    This year's event was the largest ever for the Y, with 400 people signed up. In fact, many locals did not make it (I missed my buddies jbs and slknight) due to various reasons and I was on the waiting list because they filled up before the end of March. I got the call to register in May, so I was a bit lonely this year. I did see my inspiration for doing these open water/marathon swims, Pat Gallant-Charette, already swimming off the beach while waiting for the start, so I did not get a chance to say hi. The water was slightly colder than last year, 63-4 degrees, with low tide slated to start with our race, meaning very little assist again this year. The sun was out making for a gorgeous day to swim!

    We had more time on the beach, which was good in respect to having more time to get all checked in, where we discovered that nearly half of the swimmers were newbies. It was a rather long time mulling about though, since I learned the first year not to "warm up" because that is what the swim is for! I was in the first (of 5) wave, and we waded out to the end of the pier as they counted down to our start. I lined up again on the right of the main pack and took off towards the bobbing yakers to meet with Bobby at the prescribed time.

    The swim itself was good. There was as slight current against us as we headed towards our escorts (more than once I ran into a gaggle of yakers due to inexperience, and almost got hit twice - they found and paddled to their swimmers without looking to see what was happening around them), then we basically hit slack tide for the rest of the race. As you get to the midway point, there is generally a bit of swell, so I tried to pick up the pace. Besides some lobster cages, the course was generally free from obstacles, and there was no real current into the beach finish zone, which was well marked by an orange buoy on the left and four or so green buoys on the right. Due to the lack of tide, Bobby took us on a line towards the center of the course, which helped us move past those too far out on our left and catch up to the ones to our right that took too tight of a line. I did one dolphin dive (thanks mmead!) then stood up in knee-high water and took a few steps to reacclimate to the vertical plane. I tried to side step a bit and was going to walk again, but the huge crowd on the beach was cheering so I kept pushing ahead towards the big clock and hospitality tent just up the beach.

    So, of the 335 swimmers that started the event (based on final reults), I was the 32nd to cross the finish line, 5th in my age group, and first overall of the 23 "naked" folks, repeating the feat from last year. My time was 59:09.5, which (also a repeat) was slower than last year , although I did not take a break and felt like I swam faster. For reference, I finished just under 50 minutes in 2011, which proves that the tides can help or hinder in Casco Bay.

    I can't say enough how much I enjoy this event, which has grown considerably over the years (and even since I started taking part in 2010) and still has some minor hiccups due primarily to it's size. The distance is spot on for the OW newbie or seasoned warrior to complete, and there is a real fun vibe throughout as family, friends, and townsfolk cheer on the swimmers and their festively-colored kayaks. It's easy to see why this event is considered one of the top 50 in our country, and why I will register earlier to make it my fifth trip next year to enjoy some more of "the way life should be."

    Some links if you are interested:
    Friday's preview, noting Pat's friend Miyuki Fujita, who came from Japan to swim
    Sunday's review with a picture slideshow
    Some pics I took here and here .
    Full results
    Write-up from Munatones OWS blog
    Local news video
    A neat picture review I found from 2012 - see the waves head out from Peaks

    Updated July 15th, 2013 at 11:25 PM by rxleakem

    Categories
    Masters Swim Meets / Events , Open Water
  2. 07/21/12: Peaks to Portland

    by , July 22nd, 2012 at 11:44 PM (Maple Syrup with a Side of Chlorine)
    Another fair warning: long race report blog to follow ...

    This marked my third year swimming in the P2P 2.4 mile swim in Casco Bay, separating Peaks Island from the East End Beach in Portland, Maine. I first learned of this event after stumbling across the blog of Pat Gallant-Charette and asking our friends who live in Portland about this fundraising event for the YMCA in the region. Bobby had heard of it and had a kayak and a willingness to paddle for me, so I began my dive back into swimming (after a ten year + hiatus from the sport) by training for it. Most folks take the ferry out to the island in the morning (although one EC vet opted to swim it as a warmup this year), and after finalizing registration and a brief meeting we are sent off in one of four waves through the Atlantic Ocean to the finish line, passing Fort Gorges. Here is a link to the race map.


    Since the weather was forcasted to be beautiful, we headed up to Maine in two vechiles: Lena took Preston and our nephew Adam in the car and I took the motorcycle. It was cloudy until we hit the border of Vacationland on the five hour trek, but then the sun popped out and did not disappear the entire weekend. What a glorious ride! After checking in at the Y and picking up my packet on Friday, we met up with our Maine hosts and ate at Tortilla Flat before heading back to the house, where Bobby and I took a short motorcycle cruise around town and to the park overlooking Casco Bay towards Peaks Island:
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    JBS contacted me earlier in the week to invite me to join the group that he and slknight swim with for a warmup at the outdoor Kiwanis Pool if I was up for it. I figured that I since I was able to get up to join tjrpatt in Philly for a 6am practice I could do the same in Portland, and Bobby and family was willing to get up so I dropped in for some pool tourism and about 400 meters are stretching out before the race. John gave me a ride to the ferry and I had a new friend, Jeff, snap this picture of your intrepid bloggers for your viewing pleasure:
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    We reached to island and signed off on waivers and got our timing chip. In the process I met up with Bobby, who paddled out with a friend instead of boarding the ferry, and was able to pass off my clothes to him and get duct tape on my feet before the final morning briefings took place. Duct tape? Yes, since the beach is essentially a mussel bed with sharp shells and some rocks, so wading out to the start can be treacherous (I still managed a few cuts on my toes this year). I also finally met Pat before the swim, as I did not find her last year during a season where she completed both the English and Catalina channels. Pat rocks!

    There was a brief moment of silence to honor three pioneers of the race before a warmup period was allowed. After the my experience the first year, shivering in the cold between "warmups" and the start of the swim, I stayed on the beach and watched as the yakers departed from the beach and many got in some practice strokes. After a bit of work on the organizers part to clear the water and line up the waves of swimmers, I slowly entered the water with the first group to the end of the pier to await our sendoff, gazing past the waiting kayakers and towards the far end of the bay.

    As arms and legs started to flail at the start, I found myself towards the center of the pod as we made strides into the cool water, a balmy 64-65 degrees this year. I have gotten a little more accustomed to not only the "ice cream headache" from the cold water but also the bumping at the start of the race, and didn't really get to tied up with anyone besides the usual hitting of hands and tapping of toes. I was able to get my head fully submerged within twenty strokes, and got into a strong swimming pattern. I found Bobby easily off shore due to the American Flag sailing above his kayak, and we made our way out into the ocean. Overall the water was much warmer than last year, but we found some colder spots.

    Low tide occurred about an hour before the race started, so we ventured into the slack tide, which really didn't play into the swim until we rounded Fort Gorges around the halfway point. Bobby kept our line a little more to the west of the Fort, and we didn't have any issues until one of the swimmers without a kayak suddenly cut right in front of us. Bob moved from my right side to the left, then I saw legs appear out of nowhere! He kept heading towards the Old Port, until the police boat on the periphery pointed him in the right direction: we joked afterwards that he must have been swimming to the West End Beach! A few waves from the ferry splashed us around, but the water was fairly calm until the currents picked up after the Fort. I was about to get a quick drink when Bobby announced that we were at 34 minutes, which prompted me to forgo the feed and usual comedic banter to power on towards our goal.

    We were again able to pick off some of the swimmers that stayed on a line closer to the Fort, and as we came closer to the finish area I could see the beach was packed! This year saw the highest number of participants at 316, over half of them were first-time athletes and 19 of us swam "naked," without a wetsuit. As we approaced the boats floating just off the beach, we were joined by three other kayaks. I focused on a strong kick and a faster turnover as I made my way into the finish area. Again I did a few breaststroke cycles before trying to stand up, then did my best to jog out of the water to the finish line. I was excited to hear the announcer mention that "it looks like our first non-wetsuit swimmer is making his way up the chute," and looked up to see a time of 51:52 before seeing John on the beach. Susan was the first female to emerge without a wetsuit shortly after - note that both of them swam without a yaker!

    I met with my family and the Browns on the beach for pictures and celebration. After getting hosed off I took advantage of the free massage for swimmers before watching and cheering all of the swimmers into the beach. The harbormaster sounded the siren as the last swimmers reached the finish - Terry Swain, the aquatics director of the Y had waited near the boats offshore for all of the other swimmers to make land before finding her way there.

    We packed up the cars then headed into the Old Port for lunch at Flatbread before heading home for a nap! We finished off the day by wandering down to Old Orchard Beach for some seashell hunting and relaxing on the beach before eating our way back to the house. It was another great weekend for a swim, and by far the most pleasant on the weather front. Susan sent a link to the Press Herald writeup and agreed that everyone finished about two minutes behind the pace from last year, likely due to the tide. John also saw a link on The Daily News of Open Water Swimming site about the swim that I am sure Pat sent in.

    I can't wait for the excitement of next year's 32nd annual race with my friends in Maine! (I might even try to swim over to Peaks in the morning, but don't hold me to it too much) A lot of hard work goes into making this event happen, and I am very thankful that God has blessed me with a supportive family, a great team (including someone crazier than me that volunteers to kayak and his family, as well as Linda and Ron, who always cheer us on), all the volunteers, and the collective ability of all the swimmers to be able to raise money to help offer the benefits of the YMCA to folks who otherwise could not gain access to them.

    Here is a picture of the best wingman in the business, my yaker Bobby, before the race:
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    Updated July 23rd, 2012 at 12:33 AM by rxleakem

    Categories
    Swim Workouts , Masters Swim Meets / Events , Open Water
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Files
  3. Peaks to Portland 2011

    by , April 11th, 2011 at 10:42 PM (Maple Syrup with a Side of Chlorine)
    I signed up today for the Peaks swim, coming up this July. I swam the 2.4 mile Atlantic Ocean swim last year for the first time, which was also my first open water swim. It was great!

    The event is not sponsored by USMS that I know of, but it is a great swim in a wonderful small city with lots of stuff to do with the family.

    You can get some more info about the event here: http://cumberlandcountyymca.kintera....8AA90B6861DA8D

    There is a fundraising component for each swimmer entered, and if you message me I can get that specific info to you.

    Participants need to complete a qualifying swim at a local pool to be eligible, and a kayaker is strongly recommended. They start the event in waves of 50, and all swimmers have a timing chip Velcroed around their ankle for timing.

    You can read about my adventure last year here: http://michaelleake.blogspot.com/201...-07252010.html

    I plan to swim without a wet suit this year, and hope to go under the 50 minute mark. I have a silly notion of trying to swim the Straight of Gilbralter in the next couple of years, and the English Channel within seven years. We'll see how the Lord leads on all of this ...

    Updated January 16th, 2012 at 02:24 PM by rxleakem

    Categories
    Masters Swim Meets / Events