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The staff at the Island School/ Cape Eleuthera Institute all wear a lot of hats and have to be flexible. Clare and I headed to the boathouse for our 5 am rendezvous with Ron, and learned that Scott would be taking the first shift on kayak. Rachel (who was supposed to take the first kayak shift) was up very late taking care of a student needing medical attention.
Our boat was loaded with kayak and supplies for the day... We only needed to board with our personal items and head for Lighthouse Beach. Ron held a course about 1/2 mile off shore. Traveling around 20 knots was smooth, and the ambient light of the full moon somehow made the air feel warmer. When we arrived at Lighthouse, Ron dropped anchor about 100 yards from the beach. There are some shallow coral formations that were hard to differentiate from the dark areas of turtle grass from topside, but once I goggled up, I could see quite clearly as I swam to the beach accompanied by Scott. It was now about 6:45... A few minutes later than the 6:30 start goal, but with my back to the low cliff, I was facing a full moon; bright white, beams shooting through the scattered clouds and striking the ocean in the distance. Behind me, and out of sight, I could sense the orange-red glow of the soon to be rising sun. What a production. The lighting crew here is top notch!
I stood atop a plastic milk crate that just happened to be lying on the beach, raised my hand, lowered my arm as Scott blew a whistle to signal the boat that we were off. The low level of atmospheric light appeared to be magnified under the waters surface, and the features were quite clear as Scott and I pass through the narrow channel which (see figure 1) is very shallow, and separates the first detached rock from the island proper. Turn right.... Continue.
We hold a steady course at what feels to me like a quarter mile from shore on my right; Scott kayaking steadily along at my ten 'clock; Clare and Ron in the boat... A 22 foot center console inboard-outboard with a t- top canopy. The bottom remains clearly visible in water that I guess ranges from 15 to 30 feet deep. The features alternate between clean sandy bottom, sea grasses, and coral heads. I see turtles, lobsters, tube sponges, sea fans, sting rays, friendly little colorful reef fish, etc. It's a moving picture show I've become familiar with, so... Nothing really distracting, and no strong urges to interrupt the swim for a free dive to the bottom for a closer inspection. Onward. Before my 3 hour feed I notice the sea grassed bent acutely towards us. The ebb has begun a bit earlier than I guessed it would... But it was purely a guess, as the tide data locations are each more than thirty miles away, one on the east of the island, and one on the west of the island. From east to west there is about a 2 hour difference, so the theory is to calculate the distance from one of those points and take your best guess. Example.... Midway between the two: add an hour from the east or subtract an hour from the west. Yes, it's crude, but since we are heading in a westerly direction, I expect the ebb to be longer than 6 hours. Still gives us plenty of time to finish with a flood.
Hour 4, and like clockwork, the transfer boat arrives with Charlie and Rachel. For a couple of minutes I swim ahead while Scott and Rachel switch out on kayak, but soon, Rachel paddles up to my left, Charlie and Clare keeping watch from "Dave and Di", and Ron and Scott are heading back to the dock where I'm sure other duties await them.
I'm only marginally familiar with the distances and landmarks along the course on this stretch and I ask Rachel if we are approaching Bannerman Town. She lets me know that we are coming up on Davis Marina... Bannerman Town was way back. Davis Marina is 10.8 miles from where we started... half way at 6hrs 40mins. Two miles beyond Davis is Plum Creek. I vaguely remember swimming to a small wreck during a previous Total Immersion Swim Camp visit to Plum Creek, and Rachel confirms... We will be going right over it. Plum Creek is at about 13 miles from Lighthouse... Another mile and a half and we are passing Deep Creek. This is the last settlement we pass from Rock Sound until we arrive at the Island School. A few faculty members live here, and there are a couple of favorite establishments at the crossroad... Friendly Bob's bar and liqueur store and Sharil's Restaurant...No Swearing: No Hustling. http://www.discover-eleuthera-bahamas.com/sharils.html
I'm not sure where we were when the next team change occurred, but I do remember that Jai was kayaking and Rob had taken over at the wheel while the ebb was still going strong. I recognized Diel Point by the monument standing tall. Things were starting to look familiar now as we were approaching the stretch favored for our early morning " coach's swims" from camps past. From Diel Point it was easy to see the Chub Point rock pile memorial. Up to this point, we have been moving through shallow water... Less than 40 feet, but now, Jai and I were at the edge of the canyon. To my left was the abyss and we traveled the knife edge for a bit before going deep. The sun was now pretty low in the sky, and the synchronized change in atmospheric light and my view to black was intense. Three silver trigger fish bumbled by... From a distance, i thought they were sunfish. I stopped to watch them pass. Large groups of pink moon jelly fish were bubbling up from the deep. Occasionally bumping into me and then tumbling away.
We passed Chub Point wide, and it felt like things were flooding now, but without a visual lock on the seagrass, I really had no point of reference. The shoreline here is very familiar and soon we would pass High Rock and Fourth Hole Beach. That iconic photo; fisheye lens of Terry Laughlin and me was taken right at High Rock. This one is at Fourth Hole: http://www.totalimmersion.net/open-water-camps
Scott and Rachel were heading out from Fourth Hole to join us for the home stretch... Scott swimming, and Rachel kayaking. I didn't see Scott until he was right next to me, but I was able to anticipate their arrival as Jai was waving and raising his paddle as they approached. The green lights that I attached to the deck lines of the kayak were again visible to me, and I assumed that the green strobe on my goggle strap was equally visible. Night had fallen, but the bottom was again visible. It was hard to differentiate between the streetlights, marina lights and headlights. A large welcoming crew was waiting for our landing, and two of the school vans had driven close to the beach with their headlights lighting the finish. The flood was ripping around the point. We shot past the intended finish by about a hundred yards.
13 hours 41 minutes 55 seconds... A beautiful journey!
My exit through the rocky strip was surprisingly graceful... I had warned everyone not to be alarmed by what would almost certainly be a spastic-stumble-crawl to the beach. Better to prepare for the worst.
Rather than swim back to the boat, I opt for a van ride thinking I could probably be showered, dried off ,and dressed before the boat docks and unloads. Ron gives me the shirt off his back and the hat off his head for the ride. Karen delivers food… some delicious wahoo and pasta. I’m too tired to eat, but wake up early the next day and devour it all.
I got a bit burned. Perhaps the sunscreen was a bit past its best by date. Clare wants to go for a swim, and a little cool down swim sounds like a good idea. We do a few laps around the reef balls outside of the dining area and then swim north toward the CEI dorms. We swim into a group of 12 spotted eagle rays in four feet of water. They divide and swim around us… one bumps Clare and they swim onward. It’s a lazy day for us that goes by quickly, and a celebratory dinner at Sharil’s was the perfect way to gather all those who made the swim possible and talk about future plans to introduce this amazing place to more swimmers.
So many thanks to an amazing crew!
Team coordinator: Karen Knight
Pilots: Ron Knight, Charlie Sandor, Rob Lloyd
Kayakers: Scott Aland, Rachel Shapiro, Jai Leal
Mixologist, observer, better half: Clare
…and to those responsible for introducing me to the amazing swimming world of South Eleuthera: Terry Laughlin, Justin Dimmell, Andrew Farrell, and Chris Maxey
Updated April 14th, 2013 at 06:51 PM by chaos
We had a meeting yesterday afternoon to firm up a few details and address concerns.
The wind has been howling at nearly 20 knots. It is slowing down, and the forecast is still good for Thursday with 10 -12 knot winds from the north and wave heights less than 2 meters.
Support will be divided in shifts. Clare and I will meet up with Ron and Rachel at the Island School boathouse at 5 AM. We will motor some 24 miles to Lighthouse Beach for a 6:30 splash. Sunrise is at 7:10, so we will start the swim with a few of the standard green flashing lights on my person and along the kayak deck lines. Rachel will be paddling. Ron will be setting the course.
At approximately 10:30, Charlie will motor out to meet us with Scott. Scott will take over kayaking, Charlie at the helm, Ron and Rachel will head back to the Island School. The third and final shift change will take place around 2:30, with Ron back, and Jai kayaking. Scott might stay on and join me in the water.
There is currently a lot of bullshark activity in the marina at Powell Point. Clare and I went over there yesterday afternoon to check 'em out, and there were a few swimming around. The final mile of the swim will pass through a couple of their hangout spots, so, Clare and I thought it might be a good idea to create a larger presence for the home stretch. There will be an additional kayak at Sunrise Beach for someone to paddle out and meet us.
The Cape Eleuthera Institute is planning to tag a few of the bulls in the marina this afternoon, so hopefully we will be able to watch the process. I'm excited about that.... The only other thing I have to do today is rest and stretch and keep hydrated!
The seed was planted sometime in 2006 during the first Total Immersion Open Water Swim Camp. We were the guests of the Island School www.islandschool.org at an ideal location... Cape Eleuthera; surrounded be water. Every one of the staff has a strong relationship with the ocean, and it was Justin Dimmell who first proposed the swim as "wouldn't it be awesome to...."
I've had the opportunity to explore a bunch of spots along the route during several OW camps and extended visits... the last in 2009, and though it has always been in the back of my mind, this swim has taken a back seat for a few years. The planets have finally aligned, and Clare and I are back at the Island School ready to give it the old college try.
I think it is best if a Marathon Swim is defined by certain geographical features, and this one easily complies. The southern coast line of Eleuthera terminates at Powell Point on the west and East End on the east. The swim will begin and end on land beyond these two points. 22 miles. The start will be just north of the eastern most contiguous point of south Eleuthera. There are a few detached rocks beyond, and it will likely be necessary for the boat and kayak to take the long way around, but I plan to thread the needle. The coastline runs parallel to the Exuma Valley where ocean depths exceed 5000', and in one area, affectionately referred to as "shark alley", the Valley closes in to less than a quarter mile of the shoreline. From here, it will be another 3 miles west to round Powell Point and land on Sunrise Beach.
Though this is still a work in progress, I think we have most of the details sorted out. The winds have been from the south for the past few days, which has created a good amount of chop along the coast...not great, but the good news is that the forecast is for a 180 degree shift for the next few days, and it looks like Thursday, march 27 will be ideal with some overcast and air temperatures in the 70's. Daylight is good, so the plan is to splash just pre-dawn and , hopefully finish before sunset. We will meet up at the boathouse at 5 AM. Clare will be handling my feeds and keeping stats. The remainder of the crew will be working shifts... Scott, Rachel, Jai on kayak, Ron and ? Driving the boat. Personnel will be transferred to location from the Island School dock by another of their fleet.
Mental imagery.... I did much to prepare myself for this swim in Quebec by focusing... on details... yet unknown. Quiet time (too little in my life) meant: eyes closed; slow rhythmic breathing; details. One at a time.
Imagine: the water... color/clarity/temperature/taste/feel/movement the weather... wind/clouds the scenery... shoreline features/boats etc. When one arrives in a new place, there is always a comparison.... one by one real details displace the imagined.
It is a 10.5 hour drive without traffic/ without rest stops/ without customs and immigration checks, and we left High Falls at 4 PM Thursday afternoon... you do the math. The sun was setting by the time we hit Montreal. The roads soon narrowed to two lanes and there was very little evidence of civilization for hours and hours. No lights, no cars, nothing. The few signs of life looked like camp sites so... I imagined that we were driving through a vast wilderness of lakes and forests. There was very little change in elevation. At about 3 AM Friday morning, we arrived in Roberval. A couple of motels, a hardware store, some fast food joints, and there... our hotel on the left. It was obvious that the lake was across the road; no lights, no reflection, but one could sense the water. There was a little confusion at the desk... check in for the 20th starts at 4PM. OK, check us in for the 19th we need to hit the sack. It took a little juggling, but 10 minutes later we were asleep.
MEET AND GREET
The highway forks onto a "main street". La Traversee posters on the light posts mark the way. We pass the hospital, a few restaurants, banks, shops, offices... then a park, and just past that, an impressive complex that include a small cove with grandstand seating below an array of international flags. There is a triangular swim course set up... 500 meters per loop I am told; a blue floating dock with a touch pad bridge; another permanent dock with some workers attaching ramps. Behind that a couple of large white tents, and then... the Traversee offices. I enter the offices and am quickly met my Marie and Caroline and Roger. Roger takes us on a quick tour of the facility and gives us a little history of the event. Marie presents me with a copy of the local paper and tells me that a local news station will be coming by to chat in a little while... but until then the tour continues. On the dock, I meet The International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Coach, Gilles Potvin. Monsieur Potvin has competed in La Traversee du Lac St Jean and a bunch of other professional marathon races that took place in the rivers that we drove past last night in the dark. We board his boat for a short tour of the finish and to take a few temperature readings. When we return to the dock, I have a brief interview. I find some of these questions difficult to answer... especially the whys. I think the "why do you want to do this?" question is more easily answered in the past tense.
I am anxious to get in the water, so I goggle up and jump in for a few loops around the triangle. It feels good. Cool 70ish degrees. The water is hard and translucent brown from the iron content (as per M. Potvin) but clear. I fall into a comfortable pace and suddenly there is a swimmer passing me. I match a few strokes and then quickly stop myself as another and another swimmer flies by. They were part of a group of swimmers attending a training camp in Roberval. Many would be participating in one of the races (1k, 2k, 5k) on saturday and are (or will be) national team members. Another of the swimmers that flew by was http://openwaterpedia.com/index.php?..._van_der_Hulst ....crazy fast! Ian is swimming the pro 32k next week.
A couple of loops quickly turned into 3k... time to get out, dry off, eat, sleep, arrive back here at 4:50 AM to board the van to Peribonka for a 7 AM splash time.
I assembled a few bags of feed (5 scoops perpetuem/ 4 scoops endurolytes) and explained the system to Clare. Each baggie was to be mixed in a 1/2 gallon container (the motherlode). This mix consumed at a rate of 12oz/30min. Each 12oz mix would have an additional 2oz water added to it. I would get 2.5 hours out of each motherlode. Other feed items available by request.
I lay out my pre swim clothes, pack my post swim clothes, set the alarm and go to sleep.
We wake up, load the car, grab some coffee and head for the office parking lot. Everyone is there already and to my surprise, the van is filled up with women to see us off! Marie is our tour guide for the 90 minute drive and gives a bit of local history as we pass through a few rural villages, and over white water rivers. Its really beautiful and still.
We arrive at the marina in Peribonka a little early and the boats are being checked over and loaded up. My escort would be a small armada consisting of a 16 foot skiff with an 8.8 hp motor. Clare would be feeding me from this boat. There was a spare 16 footer with an extra motor on board. Also, a 25' cabin cruiser with an EMT and a 17' army zodiac complete with a rescue diver on board.
They gave me some instructions.... 3 buoys in Peribonka keep them on your right, right, and left. A countdown in french... I didn't know where we were until they got to trois... and splash time! The start is actually up river to a buoy, turn 90 degrees to another buoy, 90 degrees and.........
There is a small triangular island not too far from the start. I'm guessing its formation has something to do with where the rivers converge, and after that... there is nothing to see for a long time. The water was dead flat at the start which created quite a contrast with a minor chop that would accompany me for hours and hours. I tried to find a good stroke rate to accompany it, but sadly, it always felt just a bit awkward. The 16 footer Clare was in seemed to bob quite a bit. I could see her hanging on... not for dear life, but enough to try and stabilize. I started with a stroke rate of 68 for a couple of hours and then settled into 62. I did try to bring it up a bit several times, but it felt sloppy and since the water was a comfortable temperature, there wasn't the need to try and generate extra heat.
So it went for hours and hours, feeding every 30 minutes on delicious strawberry-vanilla Perpetuem and plugging away toward Roberval.
THE HOME STRETCH
I asked Clare to alert me when we were 3 miles to the finish. I really had no idea of how far we had come or how far there was still to go. Gilles Potvin pointed out a water treatment plant and warned me, "you will be looking at that for a long time, but as soon as you pass it, the finish comes quickly".
I tried to avoid looking at it and started to breathe on my left so to eliminate the temptation. I switched to feeding on chocolate GU for the last 2.5 hours. After 10 hours of milky bland Perpetuem, the sweetness of the chocolate was intense, but in a good way. I didn't want to dilute it with water, and since the sprinkler system was working well, I felt adequately hydrated enough to forego additional H2O.
An additional support boat had come out. I assumed this meant we were close. Still breathing on my left, I was suddenly startled when I noticed a bunch of boulders a foot or two beneath me... I stopped... looked right... I was nearly on top of the breakwater that protects the little cove... one last buoy, and head for the touch pad.
There were a good number of people waiting for me on the dock, including press, medical personnel, officials, and a bunch of young swimmers who I imagine swam one of the races earlier in the day. Many thanks to Gilles Potvin for bringing his swimmers to greet me! I took a long minute before walking up the stairs to the dock... making sure that I had "good legs" for a dignified exit. I was tired of course but felt good otherwise. A blue terrycloth robe was places on my shoulders, and I was handed a bouquet of flowers, and (as Clare and I were told is tradition) a most delicious square of fudge. Kisses, handshakes, high fives, congratulations... and we were off to the event hospital for a quick check up. Blood pressure; temperature; blood sugar...good, good, good. Off to a quick shower and then a sit down with the press for a few q's and a's.
The hospital and showers are all contained in the same building that the Traversee offices are in, and all within 50 paces of the finish. The efficiency of this organization is inspiring... the Gold Standard that I as an event director can't possibly duplicate, but will do whatever I can to move toward. I'm not entirely surprised by this as I met Eric Juneau at the USMS sponsored Open Water Safety Conference and was quite impressed by his presentation.
I can't recommend this event enough. It is a rare opportunity that an amateur swimmer can experience the professional atmosphere that La Traversee has created. I think every race director could benefit from a pilgrimage to Roberval.
...gotta go now, off to Finland and Sweden! more thoughts later
Its water that connects us.
Having just spent 4 days in or on the Hudson, and covering over 50 miles, its impossible not to look south at the river as it winds through the highlands and widens out (and will again narrow before we reach the NY Harbor) and not imagine the Atlantic Ocean beyond. Pass Breezy Point, NY on the port; ditto Sandy Hook, NJ on the starboard... hang a right, and a week or so you can be somewhere between Florida and Cuba. Penny Palfrey won't wait that long. She is already well under way to Florida, with Cuba fading in the distance behind her.
Stage 5 of 8 Bridges is tomorrow. I am swimming! ...so is Rondi Davies, Grace Van der Byl, and Elias Falcon... thats it, just the four of us. Neither Rondi nor I finished this stage last year; Rondi, deciding to take an easy day got out after 4 hours; I (intent on completing every stage) resigned after 9 hrs 30 minutes... battling the flood for three and a half hours and getting stopped dead less than 200 yards from the Tappan Zee Bridge. In the world of open water, this is commonly known as unfinished business.
I will attempt to take care of business tomorrow. There will be some dark moments.... it is expected to be in the 90's, and water temps will be in the low 80's for a good stretch, thanks to the Indian Point nuclear power plant... sucking our energy while generating energy.
I'll be channeling Penny when things get rough, and draw some inspiration knowing that we are swimming simultaneously separated by a mere 1286.24 miles of water.
Well, I've planned a season of mostly under the radar swims, but I'm still quite excited to explore some new venues, and (hopefully) revive some old ones.
My OW season opened in Arizona with invitations from Kent Nicholas and Gia Kolack to swim part of each of their lake series swims. Though there is a lot of overlap in each of their visions, each series is quite different and offers unique challenges. I hope they both are inspired to turn these into annual events.
Gia's series consists of 6 lakes; 10 miles in each lake. The courses were marked out by GPS. From the starting point, the support boat would cruise out 5 miles and drop anchor. Swimmers turned around the boat and headed back to the starting point. Janet and I joined Gia for Roosevelt Lake on May 6th. It was the third or fourth lake in her 6 x 10 mile series.
On May 4th and 5th, we swam with Kent in Saguaro Lake and Canyon Lake. These courses were determined by the lakes themselves, and we swam the lengths... dam to dam. the S.C.A.R challenge continued on to Lake Apache, and will conclude with a night swim at Lake Roosevelt.
I've been quite busy planning events in the Hudson, so haven't gotten in any long swims since... a broken rib (slipped on the trail to Saguaro Lake) had me on the sidelines a bit as well, but... the show must go on!
2012 Swim Schedule
May 4th Saguaro Lake, Arizona +/- 9.5 miles
May 5th Canyon Lake, Arizona +/- 9 miles
May 6th Lake Roosevelt, Arizona 10 miles
June 30th 8 Bridges Stage 5, Hudson River 19.8 miles
July 21 La Traversee du Lac St Jean, Quebec 32k
July 28-29 Lake Inari, FInland 20k
August 4 Vidostern, Sweden 21k
August 21-23 Cape Cod Bay, MA 20 miles
???Sept 9 Memphre, Newport, VT 25 miles Committed
???Oct ??????????????? (a few ideas in the works)
Updated June 11th, 2012 at 08:22 PM by chaos
It was a few short months ago I was introduced to Gunter Spilhaus and was asked if I would like to put together an open water event as part of an outdoor adventure multi-sport expo in Poughkeepsie. Needless to say, I jumped at the opportunity to plan another swim in the Hudson River, threw together a rough outline after laying out a theoretical course on google earth and enlisted Rondi Davies to co-direct the event with me. Time was short, as we were already past the 135 day deadline for marine event application submittals to the Coast Guard, so I made a few phone calls to see if the application would even be considered. I wasn't told no... which is as good as I could expect, so... CG application, Safety Plan, USMS sanction application, CIBBOWS BOD approval, Entry Form submission, etc etc... full speed ahead. Fortunately much of the legwork and equipment would be provided by the Expo including tents and tables, t-shirts, food, P.A. system, land based permits, etc.
I drove to Long Island to gather equipment that has been in storage all winter... kayaks, buoys, anchors, rescue equipment, marine radios; drove it upstate and took inventory. I decided to try and refine the buoy anchoring system a little so purchased some shackles, carabiners, and 1000' of anchor line. SInce the average depth of the course is 55', the anchor lines used at Coney Island would be too short. I supplemented the rescue equipment with rescue rings and a spinal board. Banners were ordered for my boat as well.
Rondi is certainly the brains of our operation and excels at things like creating forms, and spreadsheets and calculating current speeds from tide charts... all the things that make my brain hurt. I'm good at things like moving heavy objects. Since the date for this swim was already set by the Expo, We (Rondi) calculated that an 11:30 start for the 5k would be optimal. The 2.5k would start 30 minutes later. A test swim a few weeks prior to the event on a similar tide confirmed Rondi's predictions. I was happy that Hannah and Janet were able to participate in our test swim since they would both be in Iceland for the IGLA games during the event.
Both events would take place on the same course... a rectangularish course that would wrap around the eastern stanchions of the Mid-Hudson Bridge and the Walkway Over the Hudson Bridge. Both roadways are over 120' above the river, so it is quite an experience to pass through the shadow and then look up at the bridges under bellies. The course would require 7 buoys. One each 100 yards beyond the stanchions... south of the Mid-Hudson, and north of the Walkway. One at 25 yards east of each of the stanchions, one at 25 yards west of each of the stanchions. Finally, one buoy at 100 yards from the start. There is a 25 yard security zone around each of these stanchions, and we wanted to respect that. There are also a few cables running across the river bed, so care had to be taken when anchoring the buoys.
2.5k swimmers would enter the water at the Poughkeepsie boat launch, swim 100 yards to the turn buoy, turn 90 degrees south, swim around the Mid -Hudson Bridge stanchion and head north, swim around the Walkway Bridge stanchion and head south again until they reach the turn buoy again, then head east 100 yards to the finish. 5k swimmers would do 2 loops.
The forecast for event day worsened every day of the week prior, so much so that on 2 Bridges Eve, I was receiving lots of emails requesting race status. I hate the idea of canceling or postponing an event, and my standard reply was "unless there is sustained electrical storm activity, the event is on!" It rained on and off all night... I got less than 2 hours sleep listening to the rain and checking the radar weather maps every few minutes. I memorized Riverkeeper's water quality testing charts with all the data for the Poughkeepsie area... how long after how much rain does the water quality deteriorate to a point where it would not be advisable to swim in????? Fortunately, this storm brought us no where near what I would consider questionable... I even put my wife Clare in the water! Rain continued into the morning and we were quite drenched setting the course. Swimmers began to arrive by car and by train. Four agencies provide us with marine patrol... Ulster County Sheriff's Dept, Dutchess County Sherrif's Dept, Poughkeepsie Fire Dept, and the Coast Guard. Additionally, we had my boat, a jet ski, and 13 kayakers on a course that is really easy to navigate.
The rain trickled off, and the sun even poked through shortly after the 5k began.
72 swimmers total... a good number for a "first time event". It was thrilling to have so many aquatic friends come together in one of my favorite bodies of water. I think all the Hudson River newbys were pleasantly surprised by the water quality and the beauty of the Mid-Hudson region. It shouldn't be hard to convince them to return!
Thank you to everyone who made this event a great success! So many helped with set up, course marking, check-in, timing, safety, operations, break-down, awards/prizes, etc!
Rondi and I couldn't have done it without you!
Updated June 4th, 2012 at 12:56 AM by chaos
I have now had the pleasure of swimming with 2 MAC masters clubs (no relation...)
Both (NC and AZ) have excellent coaches and an enthusiastic bunch of swimmers who aren't afraid to hit the pool before sunrise. I had the luxury of my very own 50m lane between Kent and AZ Tim.
This morning there was a suspicious looking character in a hoodie lurking about; I was unarmed.... he told us what to do for the next 75 minutes.
Thanks for the practice Paul Smith!
Its not news that I love the idea of consecutive stages, so I was very excited to learn from the forum's very own PWB that an Arizona swimmer, Kent Nicholas, was putting together a 4 lake multi day event just a short distance from Phoenix. Kent successfully crossed the Catalina Channel last year and will be coming east a couple of times this season to tackle MIMS and Kingdom.
The series is S.C.A.R. and the four lakes are Saguaro, Canyon, Apache, and Roosevelt.
Today we swam Saguaro dam to dam... perhaps 9 miles. Tomorrow we swim Canyon.
A small group of swimmers (8), we met up with each other, our in-water support (boats and kayakers) and ground support (vehicle jugglers) at 5:00 AM. The warm up would be a challenging hike down a rugged trail with kayaks, and our gear in flip-flops (yes, we were warned that more substantial footwear would be a good idea).
The juxtaposition of extreme desert flora surrounding abrasive rocks with the cool water (65 degrees at the start) creates a dramatic landscape, though not entirely natural. This series of lakes are actually dammed sections of the Salt River.
We had to swim east for about 500 yards to touch the buoy line to start. Once there, we formed our little tri-pods (heh heh...) of 2 swimmers and 1 kayaker.
Young Greyhound Pod
Wise Greyhound Pod
Westwood Warrior Pod
Meg Rich- Z
Some adjustments were made with kayaker assignments and we were off... start time about 7:30.
I liked the sound of "skyscraper pod", even though the tallest building in the nearest town to my High Falls residence is only 6 stories.
The banks of the river/lake are lined with sage and saguaro cacti that alternate between open areas and tall canyon walls rising straight out of the water. The rugged beauty of this lake is breathtaking, and I was at times distracted... wanting to focus my attention on one feature or another. Still, Janet and I podded well together, stopping briefly every 30 minutes for a feed.
The Greyhounds (both young and wise) didn't disappoint, and were out of our sight after about an hour. I don't know about the young'uns, but for the Wise Pod; this was their longest OW swim ever, by a fair amount. I feel honored to have been able to share the lake with these USMS Stars for this occasion!
Though I took my first plunge early this year... 1/1/12 at Brighton Beach, and (as always) some hard-core CIBBOWS swimmers continued the weekly ritual without break, I don't consider myself fully in that NY-OW state of mind until the mercury reads 50+.
I thought it was a possibility this past Saturday, so after a very brief 1500 yards at Gunks Masters, I dressed and drove the 2.5 hours to Brighton Beach. I missed the 11 AM meet-up, but there were a good dozen or more swimmers either in the water of just finishing up their swims.
Ritual is a very personal thing, and it makes it hard to plan a group swim when the water is a bracing 46 degrees. Some take a long time wading in slowly to "warm up", others do a heads up breast-stroke, etc. I like the shock of a quick plunge. [nomedia="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BHjc7PRluQU"]cibbows (b) sat march 17, 2012 - jc jc cara barra - YouTube[/nomedia]
I swam to the end of BB and back... about 1 mile, and tried something new to warm up. No towel, no parka, just a 1 mile run, repeating the same path that I just swam.
On the way back I noticed a swimmer still out there... Brad Mc Vetta was in the home stretch of the standard Coney Island 5k loop. Total time 1hr 50min (I was impressed)
The water was cold and clear, and a few days later, Janet and Hannah would witness the invasion of the spider crabs http://forums.usms.org/blog.php?b=21316
I have only witnessed this event once at Brighton Beach and it was indeed breathtaking. I'm not sure what triggers this activity, as I've swum through many seasons without seeing a single one.
Today, I had the pleasure of swimming in a small local pond that sits in the shadow of the Shawangunk cliff formation known as the Trapps. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedi...Trapps_-_1.jpg
My friend and frequent training partner Willie has been inviting me to join him here for a while, and when he claimed that the water temp was up to the mid 50's, I didn't really believe him. It was actually high 50's today... quite comfortable. We got in around 5:45 and the sun set behind the Trapps after about 15 minutes into our swim. Without a winter to speak of, the local lakes won't be fed by snow melt, and I expect that water temps around the region will hit the 60's by mid April.
We'll be in the Hudson in no time!
For the first time ever, I had three others join me for my birthday swim.
Since we only had the pool for 2 hours, I tried to come up with something that would fill the time slot and be a good challenge.
I presented Rondi, Ed and Willie a choice of three options:
A) 188 x 25 Fly on :30 (4700 yards)
B) 47 x 150 Free on 2:10 (7050 yards)
C) 47 Rounds of: 75 Free on 1:10; 75 (25 Fl, 25 Bk, 25 Br) on 1:10 (7050 yds)
Option A was flatly rejected by my pool-mates, but I wanted to get some fly in so we went with Option C.
Since everyone except for yours truly was skimping on the stroke stuff, I modified the interval to 1:05 for the Free 75's, and 1:15 for the IM 75's. (If you've ever seen my breaststroke, you know that this was a rather important modification)
I'm thinking maybe 2x 4800 on 60 minutes for next year.....
(might be solo again)
Today, I drove to Plymouth MA to pick up a Zodiac hull that I will be outfitting, over the next couple of months, with a new motor, new tubes, new electronics, and a customized top designed to store a variety of safety gear and facilitate the clear display of warning/caution/swimmer banners slightly above eye-level. This seems to be the logical progression for a swimmer obsessed… have boat; will/can travel. Of course, there is the tiny detail of needing willing/able/capable pilots… more on that plan soon.
Since I have been thinking about a swim from Plymouth to Provincetown for some time now, I decided to take a small detour to White Horse Beach, which would be the logical start for this swim. Taylor Road runs parallel to the beach and is fairly close to the high water line, but there are many beach cottages, at times crammed four deep between the pavement and the sand… some on stilts, and only a very few appeared to be set up for winter occupancy. To say the neighborhood was quiet on this Saturday in January would be an understatement. Still, there were a few dog walkers on the beach, and as I was on somewhat of a recon mission, I was determined to have a chat with anyone who might provide a bit of info. Mr. Black Lab – iPod was in a bit of a hurry, but did stop long enough to point in the direction of Provincetown. He was also kind enough to add that it would probably take days to swim that distance… thanks… you can go now… Fido is getting restless…
Cape Cod is a rather narrow and low-lying strip of land that extends from the mainland in a counter-clockwise sweep to the terminal fist that is Provincetown. As the horizon is somewhat less than the 19-20 miles between W-H Beach and P-Town, there was no visible land, but the Pilgrim Monument http://pilgrim-monument.org/monument.html , at 252 feet tall, is the only thing one can see in the distance.
I thought this was a stretch of water begging for a first crossing, but have just recently learned that it has, in-fact, been swum once successfully and attempted several times. According to my friend, (and director of the Boston Light Swim www.bostonlightswim.org) Greg O’Connor:
“I did find that many people have attempted the swim from Plymouth to P-town or the reverse, but only Russell Chaffee of Sayre, PA has succeeded.
Chaffee was known for his long river swims such as the Susquehanna River (250 miles). He would swim 30 or so miles during day light and get out at night, much like the 8 Bridges.
He swam from Plymouth because of the counter clockwise rotation of the current in Cape Cod bay.
Chaffee made his swim on Wednesday August 14, 1968. He started from Manomet Beach in Plymouth at 4:00AM. This timing coincides with the height of the ebb tide in Plymouth on that day. He finished at Herring Cove Beach just south of Race Point in Provincetown at 6:40PM, about 14 hour and 40 minutes. The distance is about 18.5 miles. He wore no cap, but just goggles and blue swim trunks (or a “skirt” as my friend Pam would say).
Before starting he ate a breakfast of eggs and ham (not green) and during the swim he drank 8 cokes and ate a box of sugar cookies. The tide was still going out when he got to P-town and he had to “work like mad” to finish. Chaffee was 41 at the time.
The first reported attempt for a bay crossing before Chaffee was in 1915. On a bet (most marathon open-water swims back then involved a lot of boasting and money to back it up) Henry Sullivan of Lowell (1st American to cross the EC!) and Samuel Richards of S. Boston left Nantasket way up in Hull and swam for P-town. Charlie Toth of Boston (3rd man to swim the EC) jumped in at the last minute. Richards quit after 5 hours, then Toth after 10. After 14 hour, with 9 miles to go, Sullivan got out.
There were several failed attempts in the 1950s to swim from P-town to Plymouth.”
Now, I have to say that this bit of history really adds to the allure of the swim for me, and having a few more friends with an interest in reviving the route is exciting and reassuring.
How many days until summer?
This is the 6th year I have worked open water swim camps with Terry and Total Immersion, and every year, the roster expands, and the experience is more rewarding. Celeste St Piere directed this camp as well as an all women's camp the week before bringing together more than 80 swimmers in one of the most beautiful and accessible places in the world to swim in.
The Maho Bay eco-tent Village functioned as our home base. A large majority of campers and coaches also took residence here, so during swim breaks, there were opportunities to chat with swimmers in some of the other groups over a beer or a meal... at the dining pavilion or just under the shady canopy of a few trees (beware of falling iguana poop)
St John is sparsely populated, as a great majority of the island is national park http://www.stjohnusvi.com/map.html
A network of hiking trails lead to ruins of sugar plantations and beautiful panoramic views. I broke a toe on the second day, so with a pass on hiking, got to log more aquatic time.
With nearly 50 swimmers ranging from OW beginners to well seasoned, we divided into small groups spending our morning sessions working on OW specific skills and afternoons applying those skills to longer group swims. There was an informal early morning "coaches swim" for those of us looking for a little extra credit. Terry circulated among all the groups and offered us some challenging focal points to carry with us as we explored Maho and the nearby bays.
Willie Miller and I had the honor of working with a rather ambitious group of swimmers, and our afternoon swims were consistently between 5 and 10k. I'll describe a couple:
Maho to Waterlemon round trip - We started at Little Maho Bay and followed the buoy line through Francis Bay to Mary's Point. Things were always a little bumpy here, and tarpon and eagle ray sightings are common. We continued into the wind east, and then south-east to Waterlemon Cay where we met up with a group of swimmers that hiked out to Waterlemon. after a brief chat, we swam into the beach at Leinster Bay where we fueled up with a snack and some water before swimming back to Maho. Six of us swam to Leinster Bay, two would hike back, but we picked up another so the five of us set out for the swim back. At Mary's Point a school of 5 to 6 foot megalops atlanticus [ame]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tarpon[/ame] paraded by. Since we seemed to be making good time now with a tail wind, we decided to take a detour around Whistling Cay... counter-clockwise and then head straight back.... 12k. We swam much of this in sync.
Maho to Trunk Bay and back - Again, the start was at Little Maho with a heading south west to America's Point. We continued along the buoy line staying on the outside of Cinnamon Cay and hugged the shore line around the point between Cinnamon Bay and Trunk Bay making a bee line to the small sandy beach at the west end of Trunk Bay. Water break and back this time taking the inside tracks around Trunk Cay and Cinnamon Cay.... 7k.
The shallows of Maho Bay abound with schools of tiny anchovy-like fish under constant assault from schools of palm sized fish from below, and dive-bombing pelicans from above. At times the attacks are so coordinated that many of these little guys beached themselves to escape the head on assault... the next wave bringing them back to the brine, disoriented, they now fall easy prey to the opportunistic juvenile tarpon cruising by. This is our daily show. We become familiar with the preferred territory of the turtles and sting rays (Big Maho) and giant red starfish also abound. A visiting manta ray with a 7' wingspan cruised with coach Dave Cameron one afternoon, and barracudas would pop up anywhere.
I purchased an inflatable stand-up-paddleboard for this week, http://www.seaeagle.com/LongBoard.aspx , I spent almost as much time on the board as I did in the water, and rigged up a towing belt for some of the longer swim when we wanted to take along food, drink, cameras, etc... I also kept a phone and marine radio on board. The advantages of a board over a kayak are many; in the chop, standing is more visible to boaters than a kayaker, in heavy wind, the board remained easy to tow while swimming, in an emergency situation, it would be easy to put a swimmer on the board, on a long one way swim, the board could be folded up for the shuttle ride back to the camp.
I tried to find a pilot that would escort a small group of swimmers to Jost Van Dyke (BVI) 10k...but due to customs technicalities, couldn't convince anyone to do it. Instead, on the day after the camp ended, Lennart Larson and I decided to swim to Cruz Bay. Much of the route was already familiar to us, but we would be going past Hawksnest, Caneel Bay and finally into the very busy Cruz Bay. We loaded up the SUP with a few gels and sports drinks and set off at 12:07. We had a bit of a tail wind for the first half and seemed to be making good time. This came to an abrupt end as we came around Hawksnest Point. At Turtle Bay, a strong rip was moving us northeast... into the narrow channel between the point and Henley Cay. This was not good, as many boats use this short cut to get to Cruz Bay. I told Lennart that the only chance I thought we had was to head into Turtle Bay and hug the shoreline into Caneel Bay. We took a hard left turn and swam around the point in very shallow water, our bodies just inches above the reef. It was easy to see that we were making steady but painfully slow progress... each stroke gaining only a few inches. We did persevere, and finally we were past the rip and back to a cruising speed. One more point to swim around and Cruz Bay was in sight. We swam from moored sailboat to sailboat looking both ways and timing things carefully to avoid any "conflict" and as we approached the beach on the north side of the ferry dock we could see Clare, Celeste, Andy, and Todd waiting for us... Dry clothes! It was 2:47. Lunch and a shuttle back to Maho. Tomorrow back to the snow in NY.
Updated January 24th, 2012 at 10:00 PM by chaos
Nothing like starting the year off with a bang.... and a PR!
I would have been content with a nice long 10,000 yard pool set... a standard 100x100... or maybe something a little more creative, but since no pool within 50 miles was open today, I decided to join CIBBOWS for a New Year celebratory ocean swim. An unseasonably warm winter so far has brought the ocean temperature slowly down to 45 degrees... only 5 degrees colder than my last Brighton Beach swim the weekend before Thanksgiving, so I was feeling rather positive that I could swim for at least a mile... maybe more.
I got in the car at 8:00 AM. Outside temperature 31 degrees... a little frost on the windshield. Ten minutes drive I was in New Paltz... grabbed a cup of coffee and headed for the NYS Thruway... outside temp: 36 degrees. This is looking good.
XM radio deep tracks and coffee house kept me company until I was within range of WNYC (one of new york's public radio station)... classical music... not in the mood... switch to some Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds cd's... that'll put things into perspective. Over the George Washington Bridge, the Hudson looks flat. The sun is shining... outside temp: 42 degrees... open moonroof. 30 minutes later I'm at Brighton Beach. The streets are empty but there is a lot of activity on the boardwalk. I'm the first swimmer to arrive... outside temp: 46 degrees.
I pace around a bit wondering if anyone is going to show up here, or head down to Stillwell Ave to marvel at the invading swarm of humanity gathering for the annual Polar Bear dip. The water near the Coney Island Pier is busy with Police and Fire boats, even though the Bears aren't scheduled to plunge for a few hours. Hsi-Ling and John H are the first to show up, and soon 20 others spread their gear out at the usual spot. There is no hurry to suit up and get in, but there is a lot of discussion about it! Brad and I formulate a plan to swim to the white building (at the east end of BB) and back... a distance of one mile. He warns me to give him a head start as he is slow getting in... knees then hips then shoulders then a little heads up breaststroke... I don't know how people do it like that. I'm a kamikaze.
Brad starts his entry routine, I already have my earplugs in and a silicone cap on... check to make sure my goggles are seated well... parka off and to the water. Brad is up to his waist. I start to wonder if this is a good idea. Its three degrees colder than I have ever swum in before... a measurable difference for sure, but I'm a little older (yes) and wiser (debatable) now...
I turn my back to the water, and facing the boardwalk, close my (goggled) eyes... taking deep breaths, I talk myself through the doubt. "Its a perfect sunny day"... "Its only a mile"... "Its only 3 degrees colder"... "Etc".
Eyes open, turn around. Brad is breaststroking; the final stage of his entry ritual. Its go-time.
I run in up to my waist and dive in. It hurts. Its cold. It feels like someone slapped my neck, both sides simultaneously just below my jaw line, I gasp for air, and again until it becomes a steady rhythm. Breathing left (beach side) I soon pass Brad who is still doing breaststroke... sorry, can't stop now, I'll have to double back when things even out a bit more. After a few minutes I am able to settle into a comfortable pace. My hands and feet are getting cold, ironically, I look forward to this sensation as a sense of inner warmth always follows. Some say a loss of dexterity is a sign of hypothermia, but I've found that this happens so early into a cold swim for me that it is more of a sign that my blood is staying in my core... where I prefer it to be. I turn back often to see where Brad is at... always about 25 yards back and swimming steadily. I get to the white building, swim back to Brad, and we continue to the white building again together. I feel good now, but its no time to chat so we start right back west.
With Brad on my left (ocean side) I alternate breathe all the way back. When we are a few yards from our starting point, we are greeted by another swimmer heading east. It takes me a moment to realize that its Rachel. A hug and a frozen faced, bells palsy-like mumble of apy ooo ere, and I decide to join her for a round trip to the large rocks east of Grimaldo's chair... probably 800 yards. We pass the jetty and head back. With a little more than 150 yards to go, a dreamy feeling paid me a visit, so I headed for the shallows. My face was pretty frozen, and I wasn't closing my mouth after each breath... taking in a bit of water each cycle. I found it cool and refreshing. This I took as a sign to get out. I exited the water and ran on the beach for a few minutes before joining the rest of the gang.
A little over 40 minutes @45 degrees! (a new low!)
The after drop hit me and so the shivers began. Lots of hot tea made its way around, and the sun was still shining, so the warming process was uneventful. Everyone started making their way west to Stillwell to join the Polar Bear festivities.
This is the season.... almost daily, reports are posted of "the last swim of the season" on blogs, tweets and FB. Photos of shivering swimmers under bare trees or skipping through the snow to a sacred splash site are popping up as well.
Though I haven't been in the OW since Oct. 22, I have plans to get another couple of Coney Island swims in before December hits. Still.... thoughts are deep into the 2012 season.
Rondi and I have begun planning the 2nd annual 8 Bridges event, and we have an updated website www.8bridges.org
Plans to open the stages to more swimmers this year will likely mean that I spend a few of the days on the water coordinating swimmer safety with our boaters and kayakers. I am excited to be able to offer OW swimmers the opportunity to experience the beauty of the middle and lower Hudson from our unique perspective.
So... not knowing exactly how much swimming I'll get in during that week, I've started looking more seriously at a few things that have been on the back burner for a while. Logistically, its fairly easy to book a swim with a well established federation and approved pilot. There may very well be a long waiting period, but the process is a given, and one can draw upon the experiences of others to measure expectations. On the other end, planning a new route requires research and on site recon test swims and observations. Without the enthusiastic support of other swim-explorers, I couldn't imagine spending all the time and resources necessary to realize these swims that have yet to be done.
PLYMOUTH TO P_TOWN
Though NYC Swim's MIMS is a leg of the Triple Crown, the northeast of the US really doesn't have a swim to compete with the English Channel. California has Catalina, and a bunch of other possible swims from the chain of islands that make up the Santa Barbara Channel, and so with that in mind I started to look for something that would be as challenging. After a little research, I think I found something that might work. The Cape Cod Bay sees water temps that might reach the mid 60's in the summer, and from what I've read, a current that swirls in a counter-clockwise direction which could make the finish "interesting". I have the enthusiastic support of two swimmer friends (both who spend a good amount of time on the Cape) Mo Siegal, and Eileen Burke. Both have been talking about about a swim across the bay, and so with our combined effort, I think we can make it happen this year. Though we haven't formulated our plan yet, this mission will take at least a couple of slow boat rides along the planned route to measure current speeds at different stages of the tides. The good thing about this is we don't have to wait for the water to warm up to "swimmable" temps, and I think late winter/early spring would be a lovely time to be floating around in a dinghy in the middle of the bay. As the "founders" of the swim, we will also have to decide where the start and finish should be. There appear to be a couple of more obvious options for the start: Whitehorse Beach to Provincetown is just over 19 miles, Gray's Beach to Provincetown is 25+ miles. I think we are all leaning toward the latter which will put the start a few miles deep into Plymouth Bay and Kingston Bay. This might give the swimmer a couple of hours of tidal assist on an outgoing tide until they exit Plymouth Bay... then the whole anti-clockwise swirl will begin, and we might need to follow a heading due east in order to ride the sweep north to the "fist" for the finish. This is all speculative at this point, and I won't really know how this all works until we spend a little time on the water.
The number of Finger Lakes is either 11 or 12. [ame]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Finger_Lakes[/ame] I've only swum in one of them... Canandaigua for a 2 mile USMS national championship a couple of years ago. Due to a lightning event, the race was cut short and results relied heavily on the honor system. A few revisions were made days after the event, but still, I'm pretty certain I was robbed... I won't name names. Moving forward.....
Originally, I was trying to put together a plan to do all 11 (or 12) of them, but after last year's 8 Bridges, I am pretty resolved to limit my efforts to just a week.
Luckily, there are 6 big'uns so my thoughts are to swim one per day with a break in the middle:
SKANEATELES - 16 miles
OWASCO - 11 miles
CAYUGA - 40 miles
SENECA - 38 miles
KEUKA - 20 miles
CANANDAIGUA - 15.5 miles
I have a ton of legwork to do, including finding boat launches, training crews, water temps, prevailing wind directions, etc
There are a few other swims I'm looking at, but I'll save them for another post. I've also been spending a lot of time looking at support equipment (boats), so stay tuned.............
NYC Swim's Little Red Lighthouse has long been one of my perennial favorites. The course continues to evolve, but today's 10k swims very much like the 7.8 mile swim of a decade ago... that is to say; fast. Little Red has gone from a "butt slide" entry on smooth rocks to a familiar leap off of a NY Water Taxi. Last year's swim started from the 79th Street Boat Basin north to the Inwood Canoe Club.... crossing under the George Washington Bridge. This was going to be a tough event to top, but today's event did... and by a large margin. The check-in/finish area had convenient and plentiful free parking available; the park is just across the street from an excellent supermarket so last minute provisions are readily available; plenty of grass to relax and stretch out on; easy boarding of the Water Taxi and exiting onto the dock; and a course that started about 4 miles north of the GWB. Scenic highlights were passing by Spuytin Duyvel and under the GWB (2nd time this week for me). The course was well marked and patrolled by kayaks and motor boats, and the generous timeline allowed plenty of time to socialize... and with over 300 registered swimmers, a good opportunity to meet and greet out of town swimmers, many who traveled from afar specifically for this event.
I was happy to see a good number of younger swimmers present. Their absence in USMS sanctioned events is an unfortunate technicality that I would like to see change. I took the swim out hard, and had the good fortune of meeting up with a few friends along the way. I swam with (behind) Rondi for five or ten minutes, and then came up next to Janet. We synched up for a bit, including a perfect synchro transition into backstroke under the GWB without missing a beat! Then Emma came by and I swam with her for a bit... we swam a good stretch of this event together last year. Kayaker Teddy came by to say hello and point the way to the next buoy, and Capt John gave the final direction of "start heading in" to the finish.
I hope this LRLH course is a keeper!
Thank you to all the staff and volunteers at NYC SWIM for making this an awesome event!
Every marathon swimmer knows that each splash is a learning experience… an opportunity to grow wiser and more deeply connected to the bodies of water we immerse ourselves in. A circumnavigation of Manhattan offers three “rivers” to commune with; each with unique characteristics that are affected by its sister “rivers’ , the Long Island sound, the New York Harbor, and countless atmospheric possibilities. Add to this equation the human element, and its easy to see that putting together an event like MIMS is a daunting task, and a multiple circumnavigation…. mind boggling. With months of planning in the bank, the arrival of two tropical storms to the region created a period of increased flow to the Hudson River; knocking aside the predicted ebb and flood schedules for a few weeks. Additionally, much of the Catskill and Adirondack Mountains were released from their heights to begin a journey to the sea in the form of reddish brown silt and mud. The “red cloud” was the cause of the recent cancellation of a favorite NYCSWIM event, the two-mile swim around Governors Island just a week ago. Though visible in satellite images the discoloration was hardly noticeable to a swimmer, and the Harlem River indeed looks quite inviting from a few feet above. Of course, directing a swim event around Manhattan is like going to bat against two Cy Young award winners at the same time, and Morty Berger has an excellent batting average. Even as a few curveballs were hurled at us (in the form of East River closures due to U.N. security protocol), just days before our scheduled splash, he kept the inning alive as we scrambled to come up with a “Plan B”. Of course this meant rescheduling, readjusting, reconfirming, and in a few cases, coming up with last minute substitutions. That this came together at all is a great testimony to the incredible support that the open water community can count on in New York. I am deeply indebted to the kayakers, and boat crews for their reliability and attention to safety details. The kayak schedule involved 5 paddlers working in shifts of 3, and linking up from three different locations.
THE GOOD SWIM
Splash time was a little before 6 PM near the footbridge at 103st. Kayakers Gary, Margaret and Brad quickly fell into formation… Gary as point man, Margaret to my left and Brad to my right. I imagined how cool this would be from a bird’s eye view. We had a smaller boat leading, with crew members Janet, Willie and Gilles, and the mother ship stayed mostly behind with Morty, Rondi, John and Sharoz on board. They were responsible for mixing my feeds and getting them to Brad. Rondi was busy keeping stats of the swim as well. It was dark before we made it to the Hudson, The glow of the city at night had little warming effect, especially as the paddlers dropped back one at a time to don more layers to fend off the evening chill; still, the light reflecting off the water continued to build as we approached each bridge then… brief shadow, and light again. Janet was in the water near me, and with the added light, I could see the familiar smile on her face as we crossed under the Broadway Bridge, the Henry Hudson Bridge, and through Spuytin Duyvel (the bridge was open) into the Hudson. The “slightly briney” Harlem gave way to a noticeably fresher taste and colder temperature rather abruptly at the Henry Hudson Bridge. Was this an affirmation that the Hudson was still draining Irene from the Catskills? Perhaps. There was also a noticeable difference in temperature at a depth of about 18 inches…. Fresh cold water sitting on top of warmer brackish? By this time, the tight hamstring that I was babying by not kicking too much was cramping a bit, and to survive I stopped kicking all together. I guess this combined with the decreased buoyant effect of fresher water meant that my legs were dropping and creating some increased drag. I was telling myself that if I could hold out through the night, the sunrise would give me the boost I needed to finish strong, but unlike some other marathon swims I’ve done, you can’t just tough it out around Manhattan. There are deadlines to meet, miss one by too large a margin; and its over. I was falling off pace.
Hannah was now kayaking on my right, and after Gilles, and Willie each joined me in the water… Gilles for 90 minutes and Willie for 2 hours, Janet was back.
The temperature seemed to hold steady until we got near the battery where I felt another drop. Little bioluminescent creatures were now greeting us as we disturbed them with nearly every stroke.
We headed north in the east river. The Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Williamsburg Bridges passed slowly….nothing like the rapid fire succession like during MIMS. Again, I focused on getting to daybreak to evaluate how I was doing, but was informed that we were now about an hour behind schedule, and it was inevitable that the tide would turn against us before lap 2. Teddy never got his chance to paddle for me though I was happy to see him out there, even if we didn’t have a chance to chat.
There is a lot of data to sort through, and a bit of time to start planning another go around. All in all, it was an incredible night in the water. I am fortunate to have been able to share it with so many good friends.
The days are getting shorter, and the water is getting cooler. OW swimmers look upon this predictable change with mixed emotions.... the 2011 season is ending, but it is also an opportunity to prepare for 2012. There will be a short "optimal" window to get those long qualifying swims knocked off.... one less thing to have to squeeze into the early spring.
Some CIBBOWS swimmers will go for weekend swims all winter long, braving water temperatures into the low 30's. Yes the swims will be brief; measured in minutes, not hours, and warming time will exceed swim time by a large margin. Others, will fade from the OW for the comfort of a familiar pool. I will be primarily a member of the latter group, but my respect and admiration belong to the former. I would join them more often if only I lived closer to NYC.
It would be great to see a larger group commit to year round OW swimming in Brooklyn... even in rubber. I donned a wetsuit a couple of days ago... one that I have owned for a while but had never worn. What was the inspiration to suddenly don rubber? I was supporting some friends on a swim in Lake Memphremagog. I was aboard a pontoon boat, it was quite windy and getting cold... the temp dropped to the low 40's. Right out of the gate, a couple of waves soaked all the extra clothing I brought with me... by 2 AM, I was freezing, and the wetsuit seemed like the best option to keep me warm. It did, but additionally, it kept my arms and legs quite compressed, adding spring to my steps. I also noticed that the suit had textured forearms, no doubt to give a swimmer added purchase to every catch. All in all I would have to say it is a great design, promising added buoyancy, warmth, compression, a low coefficient of friction, and increased grip in the forearms. No one dares to claim that such equipment doesn't offer a huge advantage to its wearer, but there are many who expect wetsuited swims to carry the same weight as those done in traditional swim attire, sorry, they don't. So... how does this wetsuit swim? I don't know... I never got in the water.
The charge of "elitism" isn't quite accurate, its just calling it what it is... which is different than a swim done traditionally. In his essay http://www.icontact-archive.com/9BwG...HympOPZ9dU?w=2 , Scott Zoring makes the case that activities done while wearing a wetsuit shouldn't be called "swimming". Though I may not agree with the terms he has chosen, I do believe that there should be a distinction between traditional and assisted or aided swimming. Once again, it has nothing to do with elitism or excluding wetsuited persons from participation, but rather just creating clear categories so that we may choose who and what to follow based on our own interests and preferences.
Other sports have very specific terminology to describe the "style" by which one participates... take rock climbing: Free Climbing, Aid Climbing, Sport Climbing: are all different techniques. Generally speaking, it would be frowned upon if someone claimed to have climbed a route "Free" unless they had followed the rules of "Free Climbing", not to mention that it would be misleading to others who attempt the route with false information.
Thats all I'm going to say about it. Please check out:
http://www.freshwaterswimmer.com/ and http://loneswimmer.com/2011/09/09/ch...suits-at-dawn/
for more on the subject.