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swimsuit addict

About a year after beginning this blog, I got interested in open-water swimming, and it's been my passion ever since. Here's a list of some swims I've done.

  1. What I did during my blogging vacation (so far)

    Here in the city, waiting for the storm to arrive—seemed like the perfect time to catch up on my blog. So, here’s what I’ve been up to the last few weeks:

    · Took some time off from the pool after the end of my open-water swim season

    · Traveled to a couple of wonderful family celebrations—my mom’s 80th birthday in Alabama, and my husband’s cousin’s wedding in Philly. Decided that all my family should move from Alabama to Philly, as that travel was soooooooo much easier.

    · Resumed diving practices upon the reopening of the Flushing Meadows pool, and discussed with Coach Croft what I would need to do to compete in diving at the Seattle IGLA meet next August

    · Worked on some technique issues that need fixing on my freestyle—left-side breathing is getting better and feeling more natural

    · Committed myself to attending a swim meet on November 18—events still to be determined, but leaning towards 4IM and some 200s stroke in a last-ditch attempt to make TT in something this year

    · Spent a wonderful afternoon/evening exploring the wonders at Chelsea Piers with three friends, courtesy of the guest passes supplied by rxleakem—thanks Mike! This visit included a Friday night session with the Chelsea Piers masters team, a wonderfully friendly group of folks. I also came to the realization that it’s a very good thing I don’t normally work out at a pool with an adjacent hot tub—if I ask myself before every set whether I want to keep swimming or go lounge, the latter eventually wins.

    · Swam my first super-loop of the season—just yesterday. Grimaldo’s chair to the east end of Manhattan Beach to the Coney Island pier then back, 5 miles in 59-degrees. It was completely wonderful, and made me hope it’s not the last super-loop of the season—we’ll see what this storm has done to the water temps and condition by next weekend . . .

    · Celebrated a friend’s 40th birthday with 40 x 50 this morning at Riverbank: multiples of 3 = BR, multiples of 4 = BK, multiples of 7 = FL, earlier in IM trumps later in IM, plus all prime numbers = kick. (Yes, it was a little complicated.)

    That’s it!

    Here’s hoping Sandy doesn’t wreak too much havoc . . . hope all my fellow east coasters stay safe and that the power stays on for the next few days. Fingers crossed here in the city!

    Updated October 29th, 2012 at 01:11 PM by swimsuit addict

  2. Coney Island to Sandy Hook, + season recap

    I finally swam beyond the pier at Coney Island—far beyond the pier! Yesterday I swam 7 miles from Coney Island to Sandy Hook, NJ as part of a test swim of conducted by CIBBOWS. We met up at the Coney Island Aquarium between 4 and 4:30 am, and the swim got underway a little after 5. Air temps were around 50, so the few minutes of waiting around on the sand after I had relinquished my clothes and sent them out to the waiting boats were a mite chilly. But the water was still relatively warm at 67 degrees, and as soon as I got and things got underway I felt comfortable.

    The first hour of the swim was in the dark, and I loved it. The night was clear, and the bright quarter moon was reflected off the water, making for a good bit of ambient light. My escort kayak had lights fore and aft, and I could see my kayakers Teddy and Danika (it was a double kayak) silhouetted against the western sky as I swam along. A few white phosphorescent glows met my fingertips as I stroked through the water, and any air bubbles I made on my entry were lit up too. Everything seemed so calm and magical, and I wasn’t at all afraid. An idle resolution passed through my head: Night swimming is so wonderful it’s the only kind I’m doing from here on out. If only that were halfway realistic,..

    Out in the water with me were three other swimmers, John, Willie, and Dan. We each had our own escort kayak, as well as three motorized boats supporting the swim. On the boats were the four swimmers who would be making the return journey, along with a number of CIBBOWS volunteers who were supporting the swim and collecting data for future crossings. For a while I could see the other kayaks’ stern lights ahead of me, as well as some of the boats’ lights in the distance, but by the first feed I couldn’t see anything else around me except for my own kayak. That was actually nice—when I breathed to my left, on the non-kayak side, I could pretend I was all by myself out in the big ocean.

    As I stroked along the sky to the east began to brighten noticeably, then broad strata of pinks and oranges began to appear. I was breathing to my left more and more to admire the pre-sunrise show. The water began to get choppier at this point, with the wind kicking up some waves from the west which made breathing left the easier option, as well. Occasionally the waves were big enough to splash over me, and when they did this I could see the reflection of the green blinking light attached to my goggle strap.

    Things were seeming very calm until around sunrise, when the grey support boat appeared in front of us, and we appeared to be making a left turn. Then I started seeing the sunrise on my right—were we making a u-turn? I did a stroke of breaststroke and looked over at Teddy—why had we changed directions? “We have to wait—do you want to swim or stop?” he asked. Aha—we must be near the shipping channel. “Swim!” I said reflexively, then started stroking again. But then I decided I wanted see what was going on. I stopped and looked around, only be told “There’s traffic—we have to get out of the channel.” Before I could finish saying “I want to see the traffic!” I looked ahead and saw a very large barge in the distance, heading our way. Nearby was another of our support boats, this one with all the swimmers for the return trip on deck on board, and they were all pointing to the left. I got the message—swim that way. I did, and got well clear of the shipping channel, then swam eastward, while waiting for the tug and its barge to cross. Teddy pointed out that there was another tug/barge approaching from the other directions. They crossed paths almost directly in front of us, a more-than-safe distance away. It was a really cool sight, with the sun glinting off the barges’ loads. It was interesting to see how far the tug boats were from the barges, and see the chains attaching them stretched between the two. I dipped my head down into the water to hear the deep clanking sound they made as they passed by.

    Sunrise over the Ambrose Channel (photo credit R. Davies)

    (One reason this swim requires so much support is that it goes across the Ambrose Channel, a major shipping lane used by traffic entering and leaving New York harbor—a lot of very big boats, barges, container ships and the like pass through here. Near the beginning of the swim I could see a huge cruise ship making its way across in the darkness, its decks all aglow.)

    Once the ships were past we got the green light to continue on. The water seemed to have gotten rougher, but the chop was mostly from the sides and behind rather than head-on, so it remained easy going. I could tell when I stopped for feeds that the wind was blowing from the west—while Danika did the bottle hand-offs, Teddy maneuvered the kayak to keep it from blowing into me during the stops. I could also see some heavy clouds moving in from the west, and hoped any bad weather they were bringing would hold off until I finished my swim.

    After another feed or two Teddy told me he could see the beach ahead. I didn’t put much stock in this, since I had learned in the Cape Cod swim how long it can take to reach a beach you can see. But over the next half-hour it did seem to be betting rapidly nearer. When I looked forward to sight I could see strange tall dark figures standing at regular intervals along the sand—the phrase “Easter Island statues” popped into my head. I looked again to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating, but they were still there. It took me a bit to make sense of what I was seeing—fishermen, in dark waders, casting into the surf.

    As we got within a mile to half-mile of shore I could feel some large swells propelling me forward. I thought about stopping and asking my kayaker if there would be breakers to contend with when exiting the water—sometimes when there’s biggish surf at my Florida beach swimming into shore feels like this. But I decided that I would be able to judge that better for myself as I got nearer shore. Around this point there also seemed to be some odd currents—sometimes when I would place my hand in the water it would feel like it was being pulled downward or to the side by the water. I worried a little about the current changing before I reached the beach—it can get strong around Sandy Hook, making finishing after slack tide has passed difficult. I picked up my pace to make sure I would make it in. But every time I looked up I was very noticeably closer to shore, so it seemed like I was making good progress.

    Approaching Sandy Hook (photo credit R. Davies)

    As I neared the beach Agent Orange came around beside me—I could see Rondi and Dave on board and I waved to them mid-stroke. Right before I landed it seemed like my kayak was getting between me and the shore for some reason—I wondered if they were getting pushed towards me by the wind and surf, but then looked up and saw that they were leading me around some fishing lines to a safer place to land. The sandy/pebbly bottom came into view—the sand is much coarser here than at Coney Island., I swam until my fingers touched, then stood up and walked ashore. I was done, in just under 3 hours.

    I hugged and congratulated Willie, who was already on shore, then hugged and thanked my Teddy and Danika, who had landed their kayak nearby. The fisherman—wrapped up in waders and layers of clothes—looked at Willie and me as if we had landed from outer space. “Where did you come from?” “Coney Island!” They just grunted and went back to their poles.

    I waded back out into the water—it was warmer there--then saw the other two swimmers heading towards shore. I went over to cheer them in and give them hugs after they landed, then we all headed back out to the boats. As I was wading out a crab pinched my toe. I yelped just a little, but no harm was done. I did get my feet up off the bottom pronto, and out swam to Agent Orange. I climbed aboard, put on some warm clothes—my brief time on the beach had chilled me a bit—then settled in to enjoy the return trip. Four new swimmers got into the water for the return crossing, the kayakers stretched and readied themselves for another few hours of feeding and guiding swimmers, and off we were.

    The return trip was interesting and fun. The sky clouded over and it eventually rained, but the wind had died down and water conditions were nice and calm for the return swimmers. I used all the clothes I brought—long underwear, wool pants, rain pants, wool sweater, swim parka—but managed to stay pretty warm. Being out on the water is just nice, even when it’s rainy and cold.

    And I got to see firsthand all the behind-the-scenes stuff it requires to get swimmers safely across shipping lanes. Dave and the other boaters were constantly on the radio with each other, with our Coast Guard escort, and with commercial traffic, discussing the swimmers’ positions and when they would enter and exit the channels (besides the Ambrose, we go through two lesser boating lanes, the Sandy Hook Channel and the Coney Island Channel). Occasionally we would intercept smaller boats that were zipping by and alert them to the swimmers’ presence. The kayakers also had radios, and used them to get instructions or give reports to the various boats. It made me appreciate all the coordination and care it takes to pull this sort of event off. I’ll never again look at Sandy Hook from Coney Island, and wonder if I couldn’t just swim over there on my own.

    The tides gave us a slower trip on the way back, but by 1 pm we were all back at Coney Island. I hopped ashore and went gratefully up to the Aquarium to warm up, change out of my rain gear, and say goodbye to other swimmers and all the kayakers and volunteers who had made the day possible. It was a good day out on the water, and I hope everything goes equally well for the other swimmers who will be test-swimming this route over the next three weekends.

    This was my last OW event of the season, and I was happy with how things went—it was pretty much an all-fun-all-the-time experience. I loved swimming at night, I thought it was really cool to see all the various other vessels out on the water, I felt well supported and safe, and greatly appreciated the chance to spend some quality time with the water on a glorious morning. It was a great way to end my 2012 season. And as a bonus, the 7-mile trip nudged me over 500 miles in GTD—so I got a free swimsuit out of the day as well. Thank you CIBBOWS!

    This was the last event of my 2012 season:

    Updated October 16th, 2012 at 01:12 PM by swimsuit addict (season recap added)

  3. Preview

    Today I took advantage of some gorgeous weather and headed out to the beach with 4 like-minded friends. Instead of going to Brighton, we headed down to Coney Island—usually the western terminus of our 5k loop—with plans to ride soon-to-close WonderWheel after our swim. The water was amazingly clear, and flat. I swam close-in to shore with one His-Ling, looking at all the stuff there was to see on the bottom, then did a mini-loop between the pier and the end of the aquarium with Rondi. The water was in the high 60s, and the sun and sand were very warm. At the end of the jetty near us were several cormorants that we enjoyed watching

    Although I said in my last post that I intended to swim past the pier the next time I was at the beach, we didn’t quite make it to the other side today. There were jetskis close to the end of the pier, so going around looked iffy. We did swim close enough to the pilings to determine that they didn’t look too daunting to swim through . . . on another day. (I also came up with a third way to get to the other side of the pier, but we didn’t go that route either).

    After swimming I went up to the boardwalk with Rondi and John for this year’s end-of-season ride on the WonderWheel. It was a beautiful day, with good visibility—at the top of the ferris wheel we could see the VZ Bridge and Manhattan in one direction, and Sandy Hook, NJ in the other.

    It was especially nice to be able to see Sandy Hook because on Sunday I will be doing a test swim from Coney Island to there—I got to see the route we’ll be taking from up in the air today. Sandy Hook is where last year’s Ederle swim started, so I’ve been there--briefly--once before. Since you can see it from Brighton Beach/Coney Island it seems a natural destination for a substantial (7m) swim starting from “our” beach—we often speculate about swimming there when we’re gathered for weekend swims. No more need to speculate! This month CIBBOWS is doing test swims of the crossing every weekend to check currents and routes, and I’m lucky enough to be among the first testers. I’ll be starting early Sunday morning and will be swimming mostly in the dark (and in the cold and rain, if the weather forecast holds). I loved swimming through the darkness during the Cape Cod swim, and Sunday’s adventure will give me a chance to see if I’m just as fearless about night swimming when I’m out there alone. I can’t wait!

    I was counting up yesterday, and this Sandy Hook test swim will be the 10th swim longer than 10K that I’ve done this season. I’m feeling a little tired, in truth, but it’s tough to stop when so many fun and intriguing opportunities keep popping up!
  4. An open-water weekend

    I had a very fun weekend full of open-water swimming. On Saturday I went out to Brighton Beach for a swim—I went to the pier and back—followed by CIBBOWS’s annual volunteer party at famed boardwalk bar Ruby’s. It had been a while since I was last out at Brighton, and it was wonderful to see all my beach pals there. Fall beach season has officially started—the water was around 66 degrees, and felt wonderful. The ocean was full of little organic thingies—tiny, filament-y stuff suspended in the water. I recalled something I had read about some sort of ocean fauna—tuna, I think—whose young migrated to “nutrient rich” waters. This water seemed very nutrient rich, but I didn’t see any larger fauna taking advantage of it, other than jellyfish.

    And seabirds. There were a lot of gulls around, and at one point when I was swimming back from the pier I lifted my head to sight and saw a cormorant sitting in the water, only about a foot ahead of me—another stroke and I would have made contact. It was watching me calmly as it floated along. I said hi and circled around it.

    After my swim I hung out on the beach, visiting with friends and eating my lunch, then practiced cartwheels and fancy skipping with Hsi-Ling. (Beach plyo, as I think of it). I tried to get people to go back into the water with me for synchro, but had no takers—most everyone was either done with their swims and already dressed, or just heading out. After a bit we all wandered up the boardwalk to Ruby’s, where CIBBOWS was providing food and drinks for a few hours. I hung around in the bar a bit, then headed out onto the Coney Island Pier with a few like-minded friends. Although I have swum to this pier dozens of times—it marks the western end of the 5k loop we all swim—I had never actually walked out on it before. It was fun to have a new perspective on the beach and jetties, as well as educational—what looks very far out from shore when we’re in the water seems fairly close in from higher-up.

    I also found out that while I’ve been away, my CIBBOWS swim buddies have been adventuring into new waters. Many of them have been swimming past the pier, down to the last jetty before Seagate. In fact, the big divide is not whether people go past the pier or not, but whether they go around or under. I have never swum past the pier before, and now I’m definitely feeling behind the curve. I know where I’m going next time I’m out at Brighton! (And I think around is the way to go—I know I’m not brave enough to go under!)

    I spent a little more time at Ruby’s before heading home for dinner and a good night’s sleep before the next day’s adventure. On Sunday I rode the train up to Cold Spring to swim the 10+K Bannerman’s Island Return course in the Hudson. I had done this swim a couple of weeks ago and enjoyed it immensely—it’s a wonderfully scenic section of the river—so I jumped at the chance to do it again when Rondi and Dave decided that a second test swim was warranted. This time there were eight swimmers, divided into 4 pods of 2, with a kayaker accompanying each pair and Agent Orange patrolling the course and collecting data. I was partnered with John H, with Terry as our kayaker, and we all worked well together and enjoyed a wonderful day on the river.

    On our trip up to Bannerman’s we enjoyed beautiful sunny skies. We probably dallied a little more than we should have, submerging to listen to the noises barges make under water, doing synchro, and just stopping to enjoy the glorious views—for the tide turned a little bit before we got to Bannerman’s. But the current against us wasn’t as strong as last time, and we were able to easily swim against it to the northern tip of the island before turning around and riding it back downriver to the start. In the process I confirmed that I might be part salmon—I really enjoy the sensation of swimming against the current. I think of those cylinders of water that I’ve seen in aquaria that contain salmon swimming against a spiraling current. That would be me if I had my druthers.

    On the way to Bannerman I could see some very dark clouds moving in from the west, and when we stopped for our first feed after rounding the island we could hear thunder in the distance. We were instructed to swim close to shore on the way back so that we could get out quickly in case the thunderstorms came our way. Luckily they did not, although some rain did. It was very cool swimming with such dramatic skies around us, and I felt safe with Terry and Agent Orange nearby in case of trouble.

    Eventually the skies cleared, and by the time we finished our swim—3h25m later after we started—the sky was again sunny and blue. I had a very nice ride home on the train admiring the river I had just swum in. It was a great way to close out the weekend.

    And here's a video from the swim, during a visit from Agent Orange while we were swimming upriver:

    [nomedia=""]P9300070.MOV bannerman island test swim - sun sep 30, 2012 (b) janet and john huges - YouTube[/nomedia]

    Updated October 2nd, 2012 at 09:00 PM by swimsuit addict (video added)