What a week it has been so far! We have had perfect weather... hot and sunny mostly as summers in NY typically are. All the swimmers and kayakers and boat crews have exceeded my expectations and I'm so honored by their enthusiastic support of the 8 Bridges Hudson River Swim!
For many of the swimmers, the stages they participated in were the longest swims they have ever done... and all against the clock as the unforgiving afternoon flood tide waits patiently for the chance to battle and thwart our progress.
I knew stage 5 (Bear Mt Bridge to Tappan Zee) would likely be the biggest challenge of the week... this statement is possibly premature, as there are still 2 stages to go. Rondi, Janet and I did a test run of this stage with Captain Greg Porteus, and Mates Wayne and Ritchie a few weeks ago, and we fell a bit short... 3 miles of the Tappan Zee. The data gained was useful, and we were able to adjust our plan to give us the best chance for success yesterday.
We all gave it our best shot, and John (who swam yesterday as well) and Tobey (who will be swimming Catalina in a week) both powered their way to the finish. I resigned at about 9.5 hours with .2 miles to go... but my progress was slowed to a rate of <.1 miles/ 30 minutes. It became clear that I would have at least another hour if I was going to make it at all.
Knowing that John finished, and Tobey was ever closer satisfied me... the stage was a success, even if my own efforts fell short, and I was able to resign a few hundred yards short of passing through the Tappan Zee's shadow.
I will splash today, where I left off... adding a little bit extra to stage 6 and continue the attempt to complete the 120 miles. No Stage 5 ribbon for me, but I'm feeling good physically. We wind down to just 2 swimmers for the next 2 days. This will be much easier logistically, but I will miss the company and camaraderie. It had been a joyus week!
I will write up a more detailed report of each stage once Rondi and I have a chance to review and debrief.
Though my blog has been idle, don't think that I haven't been hard at work putting together another mid-life crisis swim season. www.8bridges.org will be the first event of the season. I've wanted to do this swim for quite a few years, but to be honest, the planning is exhausting and I didn't have enough knowledge about all the many factors until now. Still, the process of applying for a marine event permit is mysterious, and I'm learning that just filling in all the blanks on the applications is only enough to get in the door... not invited to the table. I did get said application in on time (135 days prior to event) but still need to follow up with a detailed safety plan and a more accurate timeline; especially for the last two stages where we will be swimming through a busy commercial zone.
Rondi has been incredibly helpful and enthusiastic, and we now have an all-star team coming together to provide support and information.
Salme, a grad student at The Stevens Institute http://www.stevens.edu/sit/, is working on the swim model. We are scheduling a couple of test stages in the spring to check our pace predictions. Most importantly, we need to know if we (mainly I) can cover the distance of each leg during the ebb or if I will have to start earlier and swim against the end of the flood for a couple of hours.
John Lipscomb, captain for Riverkeeper, just gave a talk on the water quality of the Hudson River. Rondi and I attended. I was pleased to learn that most of the problem spots are rather localized, and though is no way to guarantee that we won't encounter areas of elevated pathogens, we can certainly make some evasive maneuvers that will give us the best odds of traveling through clean water.
I just had a long conversation with Captain Greg of http://launch5.org/ . It looks like we have a cracker jack pilot and safety boat! (huge sigh of relief!)
yeah, yeah, yeah...... been swimming too. I attended the OW safety conference in SF. A great event. I didn't take any notes because they promised to post video of all the discussions on the USMS site, but it was great to see so many old friends and make a few new ones. I didn't get banned from anything.
I was able (with the help of Leslie Thomas of http://swim-art.com/ ) to put together a little 5k swim from the Golden Gate to Aquatic Park. Brisk 53 degree water and joined by forumites Robbie D, Chicken of the Sea, Ourswimmer, E=H2O and (non-forumites) Cristian, Nico, Charlotte, Willie + Julie on the boat and 4 kayaks and 2 zodiaks made for a nice pre conference splash.
......and I got to meet Ahelee too!
The past week was a bit of a logistical roller coster for getting my 1000 miles completed. My main pool is closed for the break, another pool across the river is plagued by lifeguard shortages (another college pool) during the break, so I hoped that it would be an easy fix during my visit to Bklyn with several pools within striking distance, and a couple set up for LCM.
Dec 24 was a travel day, so I woke up at 4:30 AM on the 25th and headed to Riverbank (the pool that is never closed). It was closed, so I headed cross-town to Asphalt Green which was a complete ghost town except for a lifeguard and a security guard who stated "the pool is open, but nobody is here but you". I'm OK with that, so I asked for a drop in pass.... no dice. he wasn't authorized to fill out the proper forms, and since no members were present, I couldn't get in as a guest either. SOL
Time was running out: 22 +/- miles to go and 6 days left to the year. Two days would be lost to New Years closures and they were predicting a major snow storm. Clare decided to head upstate early on the 26 to beat the storm, I secured a swim date with Kenn L at Chelsea Piers, so I planned to drive up later. CP is a great gym, and even though the pool is only 25 yards, I was glad to have the opportunity to get a nice long session in.
20x 1000 on 15 minutes.
I did this session with water only; no gels, no carbs. I kept the effort moderately light and had a little more than a minute rest on each 1000 keeping my walls light. The pool is surrounded by glass and it was nice to see the Hudson River getting tossed up in the storm while the snow started to pile up. I walked to my car and decided that it wouldn't be wise to drive upstate in this storm, so I headed to Bklyn, parked the car and went to sleep.
The storm dropped about two feet of snow and not a plow in site. After a little time on the internet, I discovered that everything (pools) was closed, the subway wasn't running and my car was buried, so I couldn't even get to Coney Island for a snow dip. The next morning, 12/28 limited subway service was restored and a few calls later, I found that Chelsea Piers was the only game in town. Since I couldn't drive anywhere, I walked to the D train to make my way to CP. Only 16,000 yds needed.... I could do that!
I swam the first 8,000 yds straight. My lane partner changed 4 times, but I recognized Kenn now (yellow paddles and pull buoy). I finished up with a 3000, 2x 2000 and 1x 1000...... DONE!
The subway ride back to Bklyn took 2.5 hrs, and the streets still haven't been plowed.... another night away from home.
12/29: finally a plow truck is making its way down the street. The driver is having a hell of a hard time as many residents in their infinite wisdom have created eight foot piles of snow in the middle of the street. It takes this poor guy 2 hours to get through one single block, and the road is still a mess. Not to be deterred, I pull out right behind him and drive my way out of post-apocalyptical Bklyn to the promised land of the Mid-Hudson Valley where they know how to plow snow.
I think I'll take the rest of the year off......................
The year is winding down, and I have 23 days to squeeze in another 70 miles to reach my 2010 goal of 1000 miles. I can't honestly think of a valid reason for setting this goal, but since I have been tracking my swims and watching the miles add up, it seemed like I should have a nice round number to target. Of course now that we are into the dreaded holiday pool closure season, I will have to pay close attention to every single available hour of masters and open rec.
Last sunday, Martin Turecky organized a 9 hour block of SCY pool time in Ravena, NY for the purpose of doing a 10 mile swim. Nine of us signed up, and all completed the 17,600 yds. I did a few extra and rounded off at 20,000.... a good way to start the week, it gave me a good jump toward what I hope will be a 70,000 yd week. As it stands now: 24.20 miles (=42,600 yards, =38,953 meters).
With the temperature now in the single digits, the idea of outdoor swimming is faint, but 2011 planning has begun.
Fellow channel swimmer, CIBBOWS board member, friend and pilot, Dan Boyle took Willie Miller and me for a low altitude recon flight over the Hudson River last thursday, from the Rip Van Winkle Bridge (Catskill to Hudson) down to the Verrazano Bridge. This 120 mile route will hopefully be the course for a seven day staged swim sometime this summer. We are in the early planning stages, but this swim has been on my mind for a few years, and a few other friends are also working on the tide modeling with me. It is going to be a huge undertaking..... I'll keep updates coming as we make progress.
Thats all I've got for now..........
The beach off-season is a surreal place. Most of the food vendors are boarded up, the roar of the Cyclone is replaced by a gentle whistle of wind passing through the old wooden cross beams, the Wonder Wheel cars have been stripped off the frame. From the boardwalk, the water is still inviting, though now with a chilly sparkle that only shines through the crisp autumn air.
We (Rob and I) arrived rather early. His plane; on time, JFK terminal 7, and from there, just about 20 minutes to Coney Island. It was high tide... very high tide, and the jetties were almost completely under water. I gave a brief orientation to Rob, pointing to Breezy Point, Sandy Hook, Europe; described the invisible separation between Brighton Beach and Coney Island and then we entered Education Hall of the NY Aquarium. This would be our base for the day. Check in, pre and post race socializing would be here.
Food, schwag, kayaks, swimmers, all started arriving as the buoys were being set. Beside Pismo Beach Rob, we had a couple of other out-of-towners swimming with us; Suzie Dods from San Francisco and Don MacDonald from Chicago. The best part of these swims is the gathering, and since this was the "last of the season" there were a lot of stories to share about all the miles swum this year. We had 9 EC swimmers present, and at least two who will be swimming it in 2011, dozens of MIMSers, probably a dozen Boston Light swimmers, the trio of Magellan and Beagle Channel swimmers and the one guy who I am pretty sure flew way more miles than me this year... criss-crossing the country to get a taste of every USMS OW championship swim, and quite a few others.
The swim and post swim have been described well by Janet: http://forums.usms.org/blog.php?b=12310
and Rob: http://robaquatics.com/2010/11/2010-...k-wrap-up.html
and there are quite a few photos linked as well, so I will only add that I had a great time as always hanging out with my swim friends... old and new, and look forward to the next event though I have no idea at the moment when that will be.
My planning for 2011 has just begun, and will revolve around a seven day Hudson River swim... dates and details are still TBD.
The day was amazing. Clare and I spent the night in Bklyn. I woke up early to mix my feeds and fill up a few thermoses with hot water, checked the website for any last minute changes.... none, and loaded up the car. We were treated to a beautiful full moon (cosmo's moon?) still shining bright in the morning sky. There was little traffic on the BQE to the Bklyn Bridge to the FDR north to Houston St. We arrived to pick up Sharoz... knocked down a strong cup of coffee and a bagel (its not morning in NY without a bagel) and drove to north cove. Kayaker Michael Hayes was already there, and we unloaded all of our things parked the cars and greeted the other early arrivers.
Steve Munatones was there to crew for Michael Miller (the Hawaiian!) and we had a little chat while the crowd continued to gather.
[nomedia="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WeHfSYrkuB0&"]YouTube - Dave Barra Talks About His 2010 Marathon Swims[/nomedia]
We all met up with our assigned observers, were given a pre-race briefing, sang happy birthday to Gertrude and sadly learned of Fran Crippen's tragic death in Dubai. The only time I ever got to see Fran swim was at Governor's Island last year for the NY Pro Swim 10k. He was gracious, and was the only swimmer to approach the rocks where we were watching to thank everyone for coming. We would be swimming around the other side of Gov's Island, the Bklyn side called Buttermilk Channel (no one knows why).
We boarded our boat met Captain Al White and left the dock at North Cove.... heading slowly to the Battery for the start. Michael paddled away and was waiting for us when we got there. Lots of CIBBOWS friends were cheering from the sea wall. The start was staggered in 4 waves. Lance Ogren and I were the last to splash.
I drank a pre-race cocktail of EFS and 1st endurance Pre-Race.... quite the same as I had been doing all season, but in retrospect, I didn't hydrate enough. It would be easy to blame the chilly morning, but really, I just f'd up. I began my regular 20 minute feed cycle of alternating EFS and ginger tea with agave nectar, but had trouble urinating and digesting the high calorie mix. My left hamstring cramped up and I took a couple of minutes to squeeze it out and settle into a no-kick stroke. By the Verrazano Bridge, I started giving back my feeds to the sea immediately after drinking them down, and shortly after that pretty much emptied my stomach. My stroke rate that started at about 70 , now dropped to the low 60's. I would get it back up to 70 again after the next 2 warm water only "feeds". I took nothing for the last hour. I have to make sure to hydrate to the point of "free-flowing" before these swims. I was able to manage things this time, but would have had a hard time on a longer swim.
Sandy Hook lies pretty low, so when I was able to see the beach from the water, I knew I had less than 2 miles to go and Michael confirmed this. There was some disagreement about whether to send more feeds my way for the final push... I knew I could finish this on my reserves and would have turned away the bottle... throat quite sore from puking and not wanting to tempt an encore performance.
The Ambrose Channel was busy with ships both anchored and underway. From the water, it is impossible to know which are moving and which are stationary. My boat kept pretty far to my left, with the kayak between. As the wind was coming from the west, things were a little bumpy at times... not big, but hard for me to fall into sync with. I breathed to my left (east) almost exclusively for this one.
I heard that Lance and Liz Fry had quite a race to the finish, but we all landed pretty spread out across Sandy Hook; Eileen Burke was next to me. No time to chat though, so just a quick congrats and back to the boat to warm up. My capt was taking temperature readings from 55 - 56+ throughout the swim. I am certain it never hit 60, and I'm happy to say that this is the longest swim in the 50's I've done to date.
Some pics from Tom McGann:
.... and I'm happy to see about half of the field signed up for a victory lap at Coney Island on Nov 6th!!!!!
(and so can you be too!)
The day is nearly upon us. The 17.5 mile (as the crow flies) event that was scheduled for the 16th of October had to be rescheduled due to atmospheric conditions that produced high winds and waves. Historically, this is not an uncommon occurrence for the middle of October in NY, and the NYC Swim Ederle event has seen a fair amount of adversity. To date, only 50% of those who have started the swim have touched Sandy Hook and the percentage of swimmers who have withdrawn before the start is quite high as well. There are many reasons for this, but the two most common are scheduling/rescheduling issues and unfavorable conditions.
I am happy to report that the rescheduling of this years swim has not been the cause for any withdrawals and all 10 of us will splash tomorrow morning, including Michael Miller who has traveled from Hawaii to swim in the not-so-tropical NY/NJ harbor.
The water temperatures continue to drop under the influence of cold nights and diminishing daylight and where we were seeing 64 degrees at the Battery last week, it is now reading below 60.
Clare and Sharoz will be on my boat, and Michael Hayes will be paddling alongside me.
The course will start at the Battery and head east through the Buttermilk Channel (between Governors Island and Bklyn); follow the Bklyn shore past the Gowanus Canal (insert Jimmy Hoffa joke here) and under the Verrazano Bridge before heading west to Sandy Hook.
Splash Time: 10:10 EST
track swimmers: http://www.nycswim.org/Event/Event.a...&from=swimmers
Updated October 22nd, 2010 at 11:59 AM by chaos
#1 The Pace Arrow: l to r.... Betsy, Sharoz, John
by Fiona Laughlin
#2 Sea France
by Fiona Laughlin
#3 Pre Splash
by John Humenik
#4 Atop Cap Gris Nez: l to r.... John, Laura, Clare, Sharoz
#5 MIMS with kayakers Michael Hayes and Danielle Biordi
The previous neap tide was a complete blow out, as was the following spring tide. I fell into a little funk as swimmers scheduled for this window came to the reality one by one that they would not have the opportunity to swim. With much training and treasure spent, obviously disappointed, they all left Dover with grace and the understanding that chance is still a large factor of any channel attempt. The best wishes from Jordan and Liz and Bryan before their departures strengthened my resolve to give it all I could if/when I got the call.
On Saturday, 9/28 six boats went out with relays competing in a London to Paris triathlon. The conditions were not ideal, but it was the first activity since my arrival a week ago and there was suddenly a buzz in the air. Word on the street was Monday or Tuesday were looking likely for solos in the #1 slot. Since my pilot, Paul Foreman, was able to get a few of his bookings in for their swims earlier in the season, I had been bumped up to #2... lucky me! I was now looking at a Wednesday morning start, though at 2 AM, it really felt like a Tuesday night.
Captain Paul took out a San Francisco swimmer, Joe Locke, at 1:00 AM Monday morning. Since Joe was also staying at Varne Ridge, I had the pleasure to chat with him a bit and compare notes on the schedule, etc. Joe had an excellent swim, and I imagine conditions were pretty good as at least 3 swimmers broke 10 hours this day. I got a call from Paul Foreman after Joe had landed, and though the connection was spotty, I understood the gist of it.... I'd be meeting him some time Tuesday night/ Wednesday morning for an early splash on Sept 1. There were 4 flags flying at Varne Ridge... UK, USA, Ireland and Australia. Four of my five neighbors were successful, and as far as i could tell from the forecasts; tomorrow was going to be even better.
As per the tide changes, starting times generally shift about an hour per day, so, on 8/31, Joe's splash time was +/- 1 AM; 9/1, my splash time would be +/- 2 AM. Sharroz, John, and I met Fiona and Betsy at the marina at 1:30, loaded up the boat and were on our way to Shakespeare Beach which took no time at all.
I was anxious to get started, so stripped down, inserted ear plugs, applied a bit of channel grease to my pits, shoulders, jaw, neck, upper back, groin, etc. wiped my hands, put on my cap, turned on the green strobe that was attached to my goggle strap, clipped on a belt (and tucked it into my suit) with a couple of glow lights, and jumped in. It was only a short swim to the beach, and after just a few seconds, I was on my way to France. Though I'm a much stronger left breather, Paul requested that I swim on the left side of the boat. This was a position that made it easy for him to keep his eye on me, and I complied without complaint. My plan was to breathe every 3 strokes and keep my stroke rate between 65 and 70. The adrenaline kicked in, and I felt like I was moving at a good clip though kicking a bit too much. I wanted to get warm fast (though the 62 degree water never felt cold) and after 2.5 hours, got a major cramp in my left hamstring.... the same thing that forced my resignation from the 2006 MIMS. Four years wiser, I was able to massage out the cramp and continue along with minimal leg movement (for the next 12 hours). Dodged a bullet!
The first mate would blind me with a spotlight to indicate feed time. (should have worked out a better signal) I would be alternating between 1st Endurance EFS and ginger tea with agave nectar every 20 minutes. The feeds were coming to me warm; not as hot as I expected them to be but since the temperature of the water didn't seem to be an issue, I didn't request them to be any hotter. The string I packed for this trip was a thin lacing cord that tangled up terribly, sometimes causing my feed stops to be a bit awkward. Additionally, my sinus was a bit irritated from the salty irrigations of harbor water for the past 10 days, so breathing through my nose was not happening; this prevented me from chugging my 11 oz feeds as quickly as I would have liked to. Oh well, I wasn't going to break any records anyway.
Swimming on the port side of the Pace Arrow gave me an unobstructed view of the horizon. I have never experienced a clear sunrise from a fish eye view before. It was nothing short of magnificent. I thought standing on french sand (or pebbles) would be the emotional climax, but tears of joy were filling up my goggles as the sky lit up red and orange. I saw Roz and Fiona had the cameras going but know that photographs could never convey this feeling of swimming through the darkness. The fresh morning suggested warmth, though I don't think the temperature changed at all.
The channel is rather shallow <180 feet (compare to Catalina +/- 3000 ft!) and there aren't a lot of things to look at except white cliffs at either coast and the passing ships and ferries. Now in the daylight, I could see the cliffs of Dover when I would roll on my back to feed though its impossible to gauge the distance covered. Still, I quickly remind myself not to look toward France. Though the shipping lanes are wide, the direction of traffic indicates when we are in English or French waters. I lost count of how many ships crossed our path, but it was more than a dozen. It surprised me that their wakes were barely perceivable although they seemed to pass quickly and closely.
I broke my first rule (DON"T LOOK TOWARD THE FINISH) and looked at France. It seemed so close.... for so long; the lighthouse atop Cap Gris Nez a welcome sight. At my next feed Fiona shouted a few words of encouragement "you're almost there!", which prompted me to ask "how many more feeds?". This was not part of my communication plan and I think also qualifies as breaking rule #2... (JUST SHUT UP AND SWIM), but I wanted to know if I could start consuming fewer calories as we seemed to be in the home stretch. John was caught off guard by my inquiry; "two more" he shouted. So now in my mind, I'm thinking I've got another 40 minutes to an hour of swimming left. I could cruise in on what I've consumed so far and let the next two feeds go back to the boat after just a few sips. The hour has passed, and the view of the lighthouse hasn't changed at all. There would be another ten feeds coming my way, and I went back to drinking it all down. During this futile siege I noticed Capt. Paul changing the position of the boat relative to the Cap... trying to find a break in the currents that would allow us passage. At one point, he pulled around to my left, and I saw for the first time the giant woven nylon parachute that he was dragging behind the boat. This was preventing the boat from turning into the wind and current.
We missed hitting the Cap, (I don't think anyone hit it directly that day), and the wind was picking up. I thought of the possibility that I might have to hold this position for up to six hours and wait for the tide to change (based on stories of swims past) and laughed to myself as I watched the boat bouncing up and down in the six to eight foot swells... it must suck being on that boat... wasn't I the lucky one!
Finally, we got through the currents and entered into a shallow cove just north of Cap Gris Nez. I saw John suiting up to escort me to the finish and in front of us, a street that ended in a boat ramp with a few houses on the right and, a restaurant (La Sirene) on the left. I kept sighting on the boat ramp, and was rewarded with a sandy/pebbly beach to walk up. There were a few people standing at the top of the ramp, and from their gestures, I thought they were inviting us to come have a drink.... John says this was purely my imagination, and anyway, Paul was already sounding the horn for us to swim the hundred or so yards back to the boat. We grabbed a few rocks and started swimming.
THE RIDE BACK
The Pace Arrow is one of the fastest boats of all the channel pilots, and Paul was in a hurry to get back. We were getting bounced around pretty good, but still, after a trip to the head and wiping the grease off me, I was out like a light. Sharoz and Fiona took lots of video and stills and along with John and Betsy were tremendous support. I've said it before, but it can't be overstated: I could have never completed any of these swims without the enthusiastic support of so many friends and family. I am humbled in the presence of such love and generosity.
I'm not sure who came up with the "Triple Crown", http://www.triplecrownofopenwaterswimming.com/ but it seems to have become a motivating force for marathon swimmers. Catalina has seen large increases in the number of swimmers scheduling attempts, MIMS fills up in an hour or so, and the EC is booked up for a couple of years in advance. I was inspired by Antonio Arguelles who I met at MIMS last year whose goal was to swim the three in one year. This seemed to make sense to me, and since I had aN EC booking, all I had to do was get into MIMS and find a Catalina date somewhere in the middle. It was 82 days from MIMS to my EC crossing. Steve Munatones did a nice write up... thanks Steve! http://www.dailynewsofopenwaterswimm...et-enough.html
Colorado swimmer Craig Lenning completed the TC in less than a year as well. http://www.dailynewsofopenwaterswimm...rown-club.html
I had the pleasure of swimming with him at MIMS and Tampa Bay this year.
...... up next; La Sirene, the Serp, the Thames, etc
Updated September 22nd, 2010 at 08:30 PM by chaos
We will be meeting pilot of the Pace Arrow, Paul Foreman at the Dover Marina at 1:30 AM. After loading up and a brief ride, I should be jumping in at Samphire Hoe between 2:30 and 3:00 AM.
Today there were quite a few successful crossings, including 4 of our neighbors here at Varne Ridge. Evelyn and David had the flags of Australia, Great Britain, Norway, and the US of A. The american was Joe Locke from San francisco with an awesome 10 and a half hour swim. The English women's record was broken, and an Aussie right next door swam a 9 1/2 hour crossing.
From Varne Ridge, tomorrow, my friend and current house mate Ian Hodgeson and I will be representing the USA, and 2 irish swimmers will also be taking their turn at the crossing.
Lots more to share, but its time to try and get a bit of rest.........
Day 8, and the weather is still pretty crappy though it looks like things will open up next week. Alternating strong winds and rain have been the story thus far and I'm very sad to say that a bunch of swimmers have run out of time and left Dover without their shot at a crossing.... east coast friends Jordan Waxman and Liz Fry among them. Jordan's departure hit me especially hard as we have been training together since spring at Brighton Beach, the Hudson River, and Lake Minnewaska. We both swam MIMS and the CIBBOWS 5k finishing within a couple of minutes of each other and seconds apart... respectively. Liz was planning a double and required a window of clear weather of > 20 hours.
Still, swimmers of the next tidal window (my tide) are arriving daily and another CIBBOWS swimmer, Jim Meier, has just e-mailed me with his plans to go for swim this afternoon.... I'll join him in the harbor around 5PM.
I've got 3 different sources for weather forecasts, and I check each several times daily:
..... such is the life of a EC aspirant.
There appears to be a window opening next week, and as per my pilot Paul Foreman, it is possible to go out with winds predicted at 10 - 15 mph with a bit of 20 mph. With that in mind, it looks to me like the first swimmer will not have the best conditions, so, Paul might opt to take a relay, or offer it to the #1 slot (who happens to be an american, Joe L. from SF). If Joe passes, I have the option, and the way things have been the past several weeks, there is no way I'll turn it down.
Roz arrives this afternoon, so I'll have a solid support crew with her and John... like a mini Catalina reunion!
I arrived in Dover on the 20th of August. It was a sunny day but breezy with white caps visible just beyond the harbor. An international scene and busy for a friday on the pebble beach and in the water with several relay teams (matching kits the dead giveaway) and lots of soloists. The mexican flag was waving and just next to that party was a group of 12 year olds in matching green terry cloth changing ponchos. Most of the gathered were at the end of their mid-august tide.... a complete blowout, but were holding on to some hope that the winds would change and they might get a shot at a crossing before the next tide begins on the 29th. The forecasts are not good.
I spent the night at Churchill House with my friend and Brighton Beach training partner, Jordan Waxman. J has been here for a week and has extended his stay a couple of times already, but time is running out for him, and I fear that if he doesn't get a shot by this weeks end, he will have to abort.
There is a chance (albeit small) that he may get to go out tonight around midnight, but we won't know for sure until 7 PM. Jordan and I have contracted the same pilot, Paul Foreman, and I am hoping to be able to crew for him, so.... fingers crossed.
I moved into my caravan at Varne Ridge on saturday. Just 4.5 miles south of Dover proper, this will be my home for the next 3 weeks. My hosts, Evelyn and David really cater to channel swimmers, and plaques line the alley of the entrance and include all the swimmers that have stayed here.... the list reads like a who's who of marathon swimming... very humbling. VR stocks a healthy supply of gear and supplies for swimmers including channel grease, feed poles, thermal jugs, glow sticks, etc. and make it all readily available. (perhaps I could have gotten away with just a carry-on bag).
I'll write more later. The sun is shining and I want to get outside.
PS. I haven't forgotten about the Boston Light swim... recap still to come.
Catalina Channel Part III
Since I had planned to have little feedback and conversation while swimming, I was completely in the dark as to how much longer I might be in the water. I had read many accounts of English Channel swimmers spending three/four/five/six hours fighting the last half mile only to surrender unsuccessfully... close enough to smell the croissants baking, but this isn't the EC. It isn't supposed to be like this! With no visual reference, I didn't know if I was gaining toward the mainland at all, and I wondered if I would be pulled for lack of progress. No matter, I was going to swim until I hit land, got pulled, or my arms fell off.
As it turns out, I was making progress. The Outrider was on auto-pilot and we were creeping slowly toward my rocky exit. As the current swept northwest, we turned southeast to face it, and so, inched sideways toward the California coast which was mostly blocked from my view by the boat on my left.
I tried to keep my pace steady and my stroke rate held in the mid 60's throughout. My neck was getting sore. I tweeked it a bit the day before my swim in a sneezing fit (of all things) and though I managed to keep it loose for a good 12 hours, it was time to quit alternate breathing and go to my old standby left only for the home stretch. I hoped my kayakers, paddling on my right side, would not be offended. I could see the hull of the kayak under water and follow easily.
Tobey jumped in again, and sensing that I was in need of some encouraging words said the perfect thing: "Hey, lets just go for a swim." We did. I felt a surge of energy and picked my stroke rate up a bit. The end didn't matter to me now and I was able to enjoy just moving through the water.... finally the Zen moment! I felt briefly that the coast would get in the way of my finding out just how long I could keep going and started to feel sorry for all those poor bastards whose swim is over after nine or ten hours.
A strange thing happens when one is engaged in a singular activity for hours on end, and its the exact opposite of what one would expect; time accelerates. The time between feeds passed so quickly now and loud cheering now accompanied each chug-a-lug like a frat party drinking contest. I can only assume we are getting closer to the beach and try to keep up the pace. Jim gives me a two fists in the air salute and holds it until I respond with a thumbs up. It feels good to have the officials so solidly in my corner.
I deliberately avoid looking forward but hope to see some kelp soon.... No kelp, but the end is near. John, Tobey and Harris were all in the water to escort me the last 200 yards to the rocky beach. The surf was slight, but I lacked the balance to deal with it, so I crawled slowly on all fours until I could find some footing. There were a few people sitting nearby in some beach chairs; they looked pretty relaxed.
After a very brief respite, we swim back to the Outrider.
Back aboard the Outrider, hot chocolate, mini snickers, degrease, and a hot shower... yes a hot shower! Everyone was exhausted and I'm sure looking forward to terra firma followed by a soft bed... as was I. The boat ride back to the dock wasn't long enough to fully express my appreciation to everyone on board. Before the swim, I had thought it would be fun to buy everyone a few rounds at some dockside bar and grill, but we were deep into double overtime, and I could sense that everyone was anxious to get on with the rest of their lives. Feet dragging but spirits high, we cleared our gear from the deck of the Outrider and made our way to our vehicles that waited patiently for us, parked across the road in a newly paved lot. It is unlikely that we, as a group, will ever find ourselves in the same place at the same time again, though John, Ian and Roz will be in Dover with me shortly.
I know that I'll be back to Catalina sometime soon to swim or crew with some friends......
Updated August 12th, 2010 at 05:07 PM by chaos
Catalina Channel Part 2
The clock started at 10 minutes past midnight, July 20th. The water temperature was a comfortable cool 64 degrees. There was no evidence of the ¾ moon as the cloud cover presented us with a low ceiling…. I thought it was always sunny in LA. To my right was kayaker Peter Phillips. His kayak lit up with a few green glow sticks. To my left was Tobey Ann Saracino… to her left was the mighty Outrider; a 50’ fishing charter boat and one of 2 certified escorts for the Catalina Channel Swimming Federation (CCSF). The cabin was well lit up, and they had a light shining on us also. It was hard to identify the people watching us from the side, as they were back-lit by the boat’s lighting but silhouettes were always visible. I could see Tobey better through the water than above, likewise the kayak to my right. I felt good; breathing every 3 strokes and though I was looking for sea life, there was little to be seen except for a few jellyfish and some chains of phytoplankton. Tobey and I were getting stung frequently, but I assumed that there were lots of renegade tentacles floating around… nothing like the lion’s-mane-wrap-around stings like we’ve been hit with back east, and the discomfort of these little “hits” would fade quickly.
Twenty minutes passes and its time for the first feed. The strobe that I hoped would be a clear signal proved to be useless with the bright lights behind, and a chorus of “FEED!... FEED!... FEED! “ would become the standard communication between all aboard the Outrider and yours truly for the foreseeable future.
Tobey dropped back; I made my way to the boat; bottles dropped; glug…glug… glug; swim onward. Repeat. The only variation being that on every hour, the flavor of my feed would change from EFS fruit punch to ginger tea sweetened with agave nectar. Tobey exited the water on my 5th feed… 1hour 40minutes of swimming. Any night time anxiety I may have had was gone, I was feeling good, and told myself that I was almost 20% through with my swim. Soon the sun would be rising.
Some time went by and John Humenik took the plunge to join me for a bit. John is a super-lean swimming machine and I was a bit concerned that he would catch a chill swimming at my pace. If he did, he kept it well hidden from me, and also kept his exposure to 20 minutes.
Somewhere between 4 and 6 hours, we had a kayak switch. The outrider pulled ahead to let Beth Barnes enter the water and as we made our way toward the boat, the change over was made. Daybreak was upon us now. The lights came on so gradually that it was hard to notice, and the heavy overcast added to this effect. The air was heavy with the smell of bacon and it made me happy to know that the crew would soon be enjoying breakfast. This was Beth’s first crossing and I have to say she was extremely focused and held a straight line and consistent distance the whole time…. Still, on the one occasion when I had to hurl, I was careful to do it while facing the other way.
I had warned everyone that I would not be conversing much during the swim, and indeed the only communications I had with the boat were to confirm that I was eliminating the surplus of my feeds regularly… a learned skill, and I think I am somewhat of an expert.
A quick thumbs up in response to “are you peeing?” …. No need for words.
There were a few other quick communications: once when my feed came to me too hot, and once when Jim requested that I consume some water as he thought the electrolyte content of my feeds was extremely high. He may be right. I cut my hourly intake by 1/3 for this swim and will probably cut it further for the English Channel.
About half way, there was a noticeable drop in temperature… down to 62 degree. With a long way still to go, I thought this would be a problem as I fully expected the temperature to keep dropping as we approached the mainland. This I believe is the norm, but not today. 62 would be the low, and it only lasted for a couple of hours.
Though I wasn’t keeping track of time, I knew that my hopeful goal between 9 and 10 hours had come and gone and still the mainland was nowhere in site, but I felt like I could keep on going so I never asked “how much longer?”, “where are we?”, or any other questions that I really didn’t want to know the answer to. Harris was keeping my FB page updated and told me later that he thought I should be a bit more conversational….. nonsense. There really isn’t much I want to say.
There were several wildlife viewing opportunities for those aboard the Outrider that included dozens of dolphins, a handful of sea lions, and a 10’ blue shark. I saw none of these, but knew of their presence. The dolphins were swimming close to me and I could hear their chattering squeaks and whistles. I saw Beth turn quickly to her right; it startled me and she said there was a sea lion, but the kayak was between it and me. The entire gang rushed to the back of the boat and there was pointing and they were looking with binoculars… Tobey was in the water with me on her second shift; and she noticed this as well though there were no words exchanged between us. My pre-swim address to my crew included a few “please, do nots”…. Please, do not let me see you eating/drinking/puking/shivering/praying/fishing/sleeping/crying/etc, but I failed to mention: Please do not all run to the back of the boat at once like there is a big shark following us. Though seriously, I was never worried and in the dark moment of self doubt I even thought that a nosey shark might be just the thing I need to be able to resign from this seemingly endless swim with dignity.
I was certainly feeling the burn in my mouth, sinus and throat now but was otherwise pain free. I had stopped trying to keep track of the time in my head, but knew I was somewhere between 11 and 13 hours. The currents were quite strong, I was covering less than a quarter mile between feeds, and when I stopped to feed, I was being swept to the back of the boat in those few seconds. As John retrieved my bottles, I asked (looking for some affirmation) “I’m not really going forward… am I?” John’s response was over the top and hysterical… “DON’T BE A PUSSY!” …. I nearly puked from laughing… 20 minutes to the next feed became my mantra.
------- to be continued---------
------------------------------------part 1, the start----------------------------------------
I really don't know where to start, so forgive me if it takes a few entries to put it all together. I will invite Tobey and John and any other crew members to add their thoughts as my perspective is only one of many, and I never felt the presence of so many others as being THE most important factor in having a successful swim before.
I'll start at the beginning:
This is going to be a popular year for Catalina Swimming. According to pilot John Pittman, he has never had so many bookings, the 3 swimmers in 3 days of which I had the final booking was unprecedented. I had been following reports for weeks and knew that the weather and sea temps and currents were not behaving as they usually do, so I was expecting a bit of adversity.... no big deal, so I thought.... but when Morgan, the first in our trio of attempts had her swim reversed for the start and would be swimming from the mainland to Catalina Island, I began to get a little nervous. There is a drop in temperature of a few degrees near the mainland and I always thought it would be easier to acclimate in the sunlight at the end of a swim than at midnight at the start. Since Morgan is from Berkely and I assume trains in the SF bay, I didn't think the temps would bother her, but I have been training in NY where the recent heat wave has every body of water at or approaching 80 degrees. I don't know if I could have handled this shock. Fortunately, I didn't have to find out. Morgan's attempt was cut short, but still over 4 hours of cold water and a chop that put her at odds with her feeds. The next evening (sunday, July 18th), The Outrider, with Capt John Pittman and crew would be accompanying swimmer Suzie Dods. The currents were still erratic and it it was decided that Suzie would also swim from the Mainland to Catalina though the water had warmed a couple of degrees. At this point, I fully expected that I too would be starting on the mainland as well, and was grasping at little optimistic, glass-half-full kind of affirmations: Craig Lenning suggested this one: "sounds good... get the cold water out of the way early". Some others: Catalina is teeming with aquatic life.... better to see it in the day time. You will get to sleep on the boat for 2 hours on the way back.... etc. Eventually, I accepted that either way there were pros and cons, and I would just go with the flow.
I followed Suzie's swim as best I could and spoke to John Pittman a couple of times during her swim. He said the currents were reversing and that it was still impossible to say which direction we would be starting in. He also said that the water had warmed up a bunch since Morgan's swim the day before and that Suzie was still swimming strong (GO SUZIE!)
On our end, Tobey's flight had issues in Chicago and would be delayed a few hours we packed our gear, tried to get some rest, picked up Tobey at Santa Ana airport and headed for the 22nd st landing. We actually had a bit of time to grab a bite and I called John Pittman one last time to make sure things were still on track. John was still out with Suzie and expected to docking around 7 PM... the same time that my whole gang was meeting there. At the landing, everyone showed up right on time including John Pittman and the Outrider with Suzie and crew aboard. As they filed off, we made introductions and shared our congratulations. Everyone looked exhausted but Suzie had the smile of victory.... 18 hrs 36 mins 28 secs. Clearly the conditions were difficult and the currents tricky, but they would be returning to normal now, or between now and my splash time in 5 hours... so I hoped.
The boat's crew was busy scrubbing away and loading provisions for the next trip. Capt John had gone home to check forecasts and would be returning in a couple of hours. He would then decide which direction I would swim.... C-M or M-C. We were able to start loading up our gear and went below and started choosing bunks. I left my feed bags above so that I might give one final presentation to everyone as to how I would like to see this all work.
I laid out my bottles and explained that I would be taking my feeds hot. This meant from the boat with bottles on a string. I identified the bottles marked with blue tape as the "main feed".... concentrated 1st Endurance EFS that would be diluted by 50% with hot water before being tossed to me. I would receive this tethered to another bottle with just plain H2O on 20 minute intervals. Every 3rd feed, for a little variety and to reduce the amount of electrolyte I would be consuming, my "mix bottle" would contain ginger tea with agave nectar, again served up hot. Both calculated to give me 90 - 95 calories per feed, or 270 - 285 cals/hr. On each 2 hour interval, I would have a Hammer Nutrition Tissue Rejuvenator added to the mix. I broke out two bundles of glow sticks.... one red and one green and a couple of small strobes that I thought would attach to the kayaks... my presentation was done.
Next up, Jim Fitzpatrick, Observer. Jim listened with great attention during my presentation and examined my feed, my feed system, glow sticks and strobes. He explained that a blinking light on the kayaks might be disorienting after a while so we decided to use them to signal, 1 minute to feed time. He explained the details of how swimmers would exit and enter the water, how the kayak exchanges would be made, where the boat would be positioned during each of these activities, etc. He went over the rules of the swim: how it starts and finishes, where my companion swimmers should position themselves (between me and the boat), how they would fall back during feeds, etc.
Finally, Capt. Pittman gave the rules of the boat, how the head works, what not to flush, no wet clothes down below, keep the galley clear, life jackets, etc.
We would be starting from Catalina Island and it would be about a 2 hour ride.... last chance, rest up.
I drank a mix of 3 scoops Hammer Sustained Energy and 1 scoop of 1st Endurance Pre-Race.
I chose one of the larger bunks and while I can't say that I actually slept, I did fall into a well executed "savasana" http://www.bradpriddy.com/yoga/savas.htm
The ride was smooth and I felt relaxed and refreshed when I heard the engines winding down and I went upstairs to see what was happening. We were at Catalina Island. The boat was shining spotlights all around... rocky cliffs gave way to a small pebble beach, a white floating dock stood between us and that beach. There were lots of fish in the water... attracted by the lights... flying fish, squid, some strange phytoplankton links and a few larger fish below. Suit up, ear plugs, sunscreen (seemed silly at midnight) grease, glow sticks, cap and goggles. Tobey would be starting the swim with me, we would follow kayaker Peter Phillips to the beach, exit the water, turn toward the boat, raise one arm, pause..... lower the arm, shout "SWIMMING!", enter the water...... ready or not... California here I come.
--------------------------------------to be continued-----------------------------
Well....... I'd like to say that I'm excited about my swim (and I am), but I've watched the temperature readings from the channel buoy drop steadily since I arrived in LA 2 days ago.
The current reading is 60 degrees, but that only tells a part of the story, as there is an up welling near the CA coast causing drop of a few degrees plus the currents are running strange.
Last night, Morgan from Berkeley made her attempt, and started from the mainland to adjust for the currents. Water temp was 56 degrees for her 11:51 PM start and the chop had almost everyone on board losing their cookies. She resigned half way not able to hold down her feeds. A great effort, I hope I can channel (the pun) the same strength.
I've got to try and find that happy place.... get some sleep and ginger.
Suzie swims tonight.... fingers crossed for a change in conditions.
Posted July 3rd, 2010 at 03:20 PM by chaos
Its the big July 4th weekend and the word on everyone's lips is "SHARKS". Its perhaps the most common theme of questioning from people not familiar with open water swimming, and I'm not surprised that the NY Post (little more than a right-wingnut tabloid) would feature an article from myfoxny.com that quotes a non-expert saying "But I have no doubt that a great white shark that swims into your comfort zone would surely find a splashing paddle or dangling hand inviting. I also expect that same passing shark would spend little time differentiating between boater, paddler and prey." hmmmm.. some credentials please? were this the case, there would be thousands of shark attacks each year... think about what you're saying!
on the other side of the country: http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/2...f-socal-coast/
yes, the channel islands referred to are those that include Catalina Island.
I am fortunate to have assembled a very enthusiastic crew that includes 2 kayakers (Beth and Peter), 2 CCSF observers (yet to be named), and 4 friends that will handle everything from filming to feeds to swimming along with me. (Tobey, John, Roz, Ian). In 16 days, we will gather at the 22nd st. landing in San Pedro to load up and board the Outrider http://www.22ndstreet.com/outrider.htm and depart around 9PM toward Catalina.... splash time 12 midnight. This will be my first long swim without Clare acting as my support. I think I have my feed routine worked out to be easily implemented by any willing party but... there will still be something missing. A few days later, Clare will meet me in SF and we will do a celebratory Alcatraz swim together.
I've done a bit of night swimming, but have never swum through kelp in the dark. In daylight, the experience is somewhat mixed... upon first approaching, its impossible not to gaze down the giant stalks as they disappear into the blue depth and feel like someone turned a great forest upside down, but the weeds can also lay heavily on the surface and contact is a bit scratchy. Kelp encounters are likely to occur near the shore at the start and finish of the swim.... I'm a bit nervous about swimming through "night kelp".
My friend Jordan came up for a long July 4th swim in Lake Minnewaska. We did 12 x 2k with a minute or two between each to feed. I used my familiar 1st Endurance EFS mix but, as I failed to adjust my liquid intake to the hot summer conditions, wound up a bit dehydrated by the end and suffered with a low grade headache all the next day. Jordan will be heading to dover in a few weeks and has a few more long ones scheduled before he departs to Dover. I am taking this week and next light.... <40k and <30k respectively. Every body of water around here has become uncomfortably warm due to the heat wave.
12 days to Catalina.........