I'm either suffering from writer's block or just general writer's inability, but whatever my condition, I need to stop procrastinating and write this down so I don't forget anything about last Saturday's swim. Also, several of my computer keys have a tendency to stick or just not work (mostly the shift and apostrophe), and i doubt ill bother to fix those mistakes.
I'm still smiling after finishing the 27 mile End Wet swim down the Red River in Grand Forks, South Dakota. Actually, East Grand Forks, Minnesota, with a visit to South Dakota, and then back to Oslo, Mn at the end...
I originally signed up for ENd Wet as my long training swim for the SEarch for Memphre, but have since had to withdraw from Memphre. So End Wet is "it" for me for 2013, as far as big swims go. I'd read a few swimmers' reviews of End Wet from 2012, its first year, and thought it was right up my alley; a quirky swim at a bargain price, organised by fun sounding people (http://endracing.com/), and drivable from Chicago
The drive was very pretty, and I stopped overnight in St Cloud, Mn, because I know from experience that a long day of travel before a swim can lead to cramps, spasms, tics and other undesirable bodily events, even before getting out of the car.
My wonderful volunteer kayaker, Jimmie, was at the race talk/registration the evening before the race and we were able to meet. I was a little confused about logistics, because we werent to meet up with our kayakers until mile 2. All questions were answered though, and I picked up a few supplies and a little Dominos pizza before heading to my hotel to prepare feeds etc. The pizza wasnt a great idea. Ive never had Dominos before, and it was pretty ordinary. quite horrible actually. Wont do that again. I was tired though, and wanted something quick and easy. When I finally climbed into bed at about 10pm I woke up and of course, couldnt sleep until after midnight..
The race started at the Cabela's boat ramp in East Grand Forks. It was a super casual start, which I loved. We swam 2 miles before getting out just upstream of a set of rapids. We then walked through slippery mud past the rapids and re entered the water at another boat ramp (where we connected with our paddlers) and continued the swim. The walk through the mud was hilarious. It was smooth and sticky, with a clay-like consistency. I almost overshot the exit and was glad they had someone grabbing the swimmers!
The water was warm, brown, and clean tasting. Whoever named the Red River was either a little color blind or had some seriously blood-shot eyes. It's brown. But pleasant! I enjoyed the scenery as I swam. it was a completely new place for me and the river was so much more interesting than I had expected. There were some sloping and some steep cliff like mud banks with huge trees. Sometimes you could see all the roots of the trees exposed. The river meandered the whole way. Sometimes there would be a very strong current and sometimes it would slow as the river widened and/or deepened. My favorite movie,the African Queen, was in my mind the whole time. I expected to see hippos surface and crocodiles slither down the banks. My absolute favorite moment was swimming past the car that was suspended, and sticking out of the much-flooded riverbank.
About half way my right shoulder decided to make itself known. It would not be ignored. Between about mile 14 and 24 I could barely lift my arm out of the water. it was like someone was sawing at my nerves with a bread knife. I think I swam about 10 miles alternating single arm free, backstroke and breaststroke. it felt really really awful, but luckily the current was pretty fast and worse case was that I would breaststroke the rest of it. Around mile 24 though, It kind of clicked back into place and I was able to finish the swim without the horrendous pain. 8 hours, 42 minutes is fast for 27 miles! especially with the horrible shoulder pain!
I can honestly say I loved everything about this swim. It was quirky and fun, but still tough enough that finishing was an accomplishment. I expected a much longer swim, but am glad the current was fast, given the shoulder ^&*%. My kayaker was fantastic. I'm so grateful for her patience and cheerfulness! Ive developed a tendency to veer left, which I noticed during the 10k postal recently. Ill have to fix that. At least with river swims, though, its easy to keep that in check...
Boring details Id like to preserve for my own benefit:
-Egg mcMuffin about 45 minutes before start (lost a bit of this at mile 1)
-1800 calories total during the 8hr 42 minute swim: 1500 Carbopro/Ribena/H20 mixture, 100 gatorade, 200 UncrustableŽ, plus a few water-only feeds. feeds every30 minutes, in order, vaguely, Carbo Pro for about 3 feeds, gatorade for one, water for one, sandwich at the not quite half way point.
-This intake was perfect. AT least, I didnt feel any lack of energy at any point.
......There was a bold fisherman who sailed out from Pimlico
To slew the wild catfish and the bold mackerel.
When he arrived off Pimlico, the stormy winds did wildly blow
His little boat went wibble, wobble, and over board sprang he.
twinki doodle dum, twinki doodle dum, was the highly interesting song he sung....
Updated July 18th, 2013 at 11:55 PM by Chicken of the Sea
I'm in the process of training for the long END-WET swim that takes place in North Dakota on July 13th. Training has not been going well, due to time constraints, and when the Smelts suggested a 10k postal swim I jumped at the opportunity.
I made up my little bottle of feeds in the morning, double checked everything on my list, drove for 90 minutes to the UIC pool and then realized I'd forgotten my suit, cap and goggles. I DID find a nose clip in my handbag and a snorkel in the boot of my car, so I wasn't completely empty handed. For a change, I was wearing a bra and undies, so I could have relied on those. Thankfully my teammate Heidi had a spare suit and goggles, and another teammate Michael had a spare cap. No getting out of it.
People almost never ask me what goes on in my mind during my long swims, so here's a yard by yard description of all my thoughts:
4000-5000: hate swimming
5000-6000: hate swimming
What a difficult month it's been. A horror.
Work, exams, assignments, litigation, catastrophic flooding to my house, unrequited love .....and some news yesterday made me sick to my stomach.
I worked at the gym until 12.30 and then came home, had lunch with my kids, mowed the lawn, crying like a baby the whole time. A lawnmower will drown that stuff out.
I unwillingly live way out in the smug conservative desolation of the western suburbs of Chicago, and havent' had time to make the trek to my beloved Promontory Point since March.
My dear friend Evmo was not b-s'ing when he said an immersion was in order. I sent the kids to their babysitter and drove in for a dip. I sped like a demon. Sometimes it's nice just to take the lid off and let Nigel, my Mini, rip. And hope there are no cops. I was lucky this time
The Point was alive and throbbing with people out in the beautiful weather (20 degrees cooler than festering Naperville!). When I finally parked and walked out to the Point, here's what I saw
If you are a born and bred beach baby from Australia, relocated many years ago to a cornfield in the arse end of Illinois, you'll understand the emotional reaction I experience every single time I see this.
I took the temperature. 60. Goddam. Walked around to the north side to see if anyone I knew was there could watch my stuff. No, but this was the view.
I needed a wee and it was getting late so I just dumped my bag and got in. No cap, no goggles.
it was like i'd stripped off my clothes and slipped between a pair of cool, smooth sheets.......
Updated May 20th, 2013 at 05:32 PM by Chicken of the Sea
New Year's day 2013 marked the beginning of the year of my 10th anniversary of swimming !!!!!
It doesn't seem like 10 years ago that I discovered that "masters swimming" included people that weren't olympians, and that "swim workouts" even existed. I'm historically a tennis player, and always thought swimmers just went to the pool and did continuous laps until they either fainted or won a gold medal. I don't mean I learned to swim 10 years ago. I was born and bred at the beach (Freshwater) and was taught to swim as a baby, but tennis was always my sport.
I was probably the newest SERC member to show up for their New Year's Alcatraz Swim 2013 at the sparrow's fart, and receive my fabulous Where's Waldo scarf. I was designated swimmer number 27, which I thought was a good omen, as 27 is a cubic number, the root of which is 3, which is half of my favourite number.
Always the nervous Nelly, I'd slept about 4 hours the night before, but felt better after some coffee in the Food Room, which I'm sure has another, more SERCially acceptable name. Eggs are always my favourite post-swim food, so this was a happy sight!
As expected of an Alcatraz virgin, the pre-race briefing confused me. Apparently the tide was ebbing, but expected to turn just a little before the medium speed swimmer reached Aquatic Park. I wasn't sure if I was slow or medium but there were 46 watercraft assisting the swimmers and we were assured that we'd be redirected if we went off course.
We jumped from the eastern side of Alcatraz becauase the tide was ebbing when we started. Our boat went all the way around the island before we jumped, which was good for photos like this, but so very cold!!! the outside temperature was in the 40's and very windy.
Here's a quick sketch I ran up before the jump. It's Miss Farralones, the other boatload. It was a little choppy. More than it looks in the picture.
Here's the view we had from the boat just before the jump. No Golden Gate Bridge yet, but it was beautifully clear to the right shortly after the jump. I was happy to meet another Australian on the boat. After so many years, the accent still stands out to me from any distance.
I think I was second last off the boat. The wind was so cold I waited til the last minute before rolling up my parka and throwing it in a bag. After a short 2 day acclimation period, I really doubted my ability to do the swim. My embarrassing Catalina failure in 2011 had trashed my confidence in all areas... So nervous. So silly.
The plunge wasn't so bad at all.
Green. That pause in time when you're underwater and everything is so green and peaceful. Time to see one's fingers, and have a little peace. Warmer than the air. Surfacing was another matter. The water was about 51 and that was fine compared to the outside temperature, but I always take 5 minutes to gasp away my nerves and this was no exception. Backstroke, head-up breaststroke, hyperventillating with nerves,I promised myself that if I didn't give the swim a stellar effort I'd ban myself from The Point for a year!! All this took less than 5 minutes and I was on my way.
Just after the jump and during my panicked backstroke period, a paddleboarder told me I was heading too far west and I should aim for the "opening".I guess that was all the direction I needed, because I put my head down and forced myself to swim in a calm manner, towards the leftmost tower of the Fontina Towers. That was all that was visible above the chop!!! For most of the swim I thought I was the only person out there! i had to talk myself into calm a few times, knowing that there were many people who could see me and that the chop was the only thing stopping me from seeing the 100 other swimmers..
So, I just swam, aiming for the left Tower, knowing I'd be redirected if off course..
Suddenly The Opening was there. Just as suddenly I was swallowed up by the Bay and spat out like a cork. Apparently the race directions were spot on and, just a few feet from the opeining, the tide changed, and a ribbon of wild water resulted. I think I was too confused to know what was going on, and swam like the dickens towards the opening. I managed to enjoy it , though, and saw many other swimmers converging. Had a huge laugh with another swimmer while being thrashed around.
What a rush
here's a view I took the next day from the Opening. I guess it's what we would have seen had the wild surf not been present the previous day.
I felt cold the whole time. Not really cold, just "skin" cold, if you know what I mean. My core was fine. I have to confess that a 2 month break for shoulder pain and sickness (including prednisone), I'm really chubby. So a short acclimation allowed me to do about 50 minutes at 51 degrees without too much suffering.
I bought an expensive, novelty suit for the occasion. That helped a lot...
WEll, I FINISHED!!!!! but chaffed horrendously during the swim. The photo below is 3 days after my Alcatraz swim. C'est la vie!!
Most importantly,.I can never go to San Francisco without thinking of Carol the whole time....
I've already sent in the cheque to renew my SERC membership for 2013. It means we'll be eating potatoes for the rest of the month (never fear kids, i'm a good cook) but it's worth it to me to have a home away from home in a place I love. SERC is now a second home to me.
I wish I'd had a more meaningful song in my head during the swim, but the Japanese Anime themed hotel I stayed in took care of it.........yeah!!!
Updated January 5th, 2013 at 03:40 PM by Chicken of the Sea
I realised a couple of months ago that I'd have the New Year's holiday to myself, so I posted a request on Marathonswimmers.org, asking what was going on at that time, swim-wise.
My intrepid swimmer friend, Suzie Dods, replied, suggesting I do the SERC New Year Alcatraz swim.
I will confess that I lost the entire blog I wrote before this so I don't know what order these photos are in.. I will say though that my qualifying swim, done on December 8th, was a cleansing experience. Two weeks of miserable sickness were coughed up and washed away and I was able to feel alive for the first time in a couple of months.
I love swimming in salt water, I love the Pacific and I'd love to live over there. First though, someone needs to die and leave me a lot of money...
I'll be back for New Years!!!!!!!!!!!!!
in the meantime, please enjoy one of my favourite Marx Bros scenes )))
"and on a clear day, you can see Alcatraz,
you can learn a lot from Lydia!!!"
[nomedia="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=80-_roT07Po"]Marx Brothers - At the Circus - Lydia the Tattooed Lady - YouTube[/nomedia]
Updated December 18th, 2012 at 10:13 PM by Chicken of the Sea
Chicago's annual Big Shoulders 5 and 2.5km swims were held last Saturday. Every year I promise myself two things for the next year:
1. never to swim it again because, well, why would I pay to swim in Lake Michigan; and
2. if I break promise 1, only enter the 2.5k, which would give me time to smugly watch other people finishing after myself (hopefully).
Both promises broken, I headed to the starting line at an obscene hour on race morning. The weather had been a bit dodgy leading up to the race, and the organisers had warned of potentially rough conditions. The water turned out to be not too bad, though, and I was pleasantly surprised. Actually, not pleasantly surprised because I like it rough! There was a smallish swell that was nice and regular and some surface chop, but nothing too slappy or random. The water was very murky, which I like, because because the only sandy bottom I want to see when swimming does not belong to the lake.
As usual, I ended up placing in the bottom half of my age group. I took a huge kick to the left boob when the guy in front of me decided to suddenly change to breaststroke going around the 2nd turn buoy. For identification purposes, I noted he had on a full wetsuit and (non adventure style) beard. Couldn't find him on the beach afterwards though. My right shoulder hurt like a b%^& the whole time, but I swam in lovely straight lines, mostly in the right direction.
The best thing about the swim, though, was my sardine suit. Here 'tis:
Here's a sardine:
Here's me and some other swimmers being lapped by the elite wave:
It looks like some of us got stuck in their teeth.
Here's a recipe for sardines on toast, which I may or may not try:
It only took me 5 days to figure out how to resize photos to fit onto my albums here.
Last Saturday I swam in the Point to La Pointe 2 mile swim race in northern Wisconsin.
I'd originally planned to camp in one of the Forest preserve campsites, but they were full! I had to settle for a Comfort Inn in Ironwood, U.P. My 5.30am wakeup on Saturday morning for the race was too early to make my own waffle. Disappointed, I had a McCoffee and a granola bar and headed to Bayfield for my first ever immersion in Lake Superior. It's the big lake I call Gitcheegloomy.
Here's the crowd at the starting line.
Point to La Pointe is a "wetsuit strongly recommended" race, but I'd managed to get permission from the race director to swim as God intended, in all my pale wobbly glory, with nothing between yours truly and the Great Lake except a thin layer of sparkly red nylon.
The entry fee for Point toLa Pointe was almost $90. There was a great hoody included but I got even more value for my money by swimming the route marked by the black line below. The water was 72 degrees and very smooth. Just a slight ripple on the top. Someone at the finish line told me there was a sunken house somewhere along the course, which had fallen through the ice during an attempt to drag it to the island one winter. Glad I didn't see that!
I took over an hour to swim the 2.1 miles. Hmm. I obviously didn't swim hard enough and couldn't summon up even a little reflux to comply with the finish line commandment to hurl in a garbage bin.
Here's me posing in front of the course, after I'd finished. My hooded towel earned me a lot of envious glances.
I did a little hiking alone the lakefront by the Apostle Islands after the race and saw some sea caves! I guess they're really lake caves...
I enjoyed a much longer hike in the Black River Falls area the next day on my way home, probably because I'd been able to have the Comfort Inn's make it yerself waffle for breakfast.
I highly recommend Point to La Pointe. It's a very scenic swim, which is great for a slow moving tourist like myself. For the super competitive, there looked to be a lot of competition. Lots of skinny triathletes. There's no separation or even indication in the results of who wore neoprene or not, but I knew that going into it. There were no shortage of kayakers and support boats, and the whole event seemed very well organised.
I'll do it again! but hopefully without this song playing over and over and over in my head
[nomedia="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9vST6hVRj2A"]"The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" - Gordon Lightfoot (HD w/ Lyrics) - YouTube[/nomedia]
Answers to questions posed in previous blog:
2. yes; and
3. Toowoon Bay!!
I'd like to say thankyou to Chaos, Rondi Davies, Swimsuit Addict, Suzie Dods, my boat Captain, kayaker, and everyone else (USMS nicknames unknown) that organized and helped with the 8 Bridges swim. What a wonderful experience!!
I was so worried I barely slept the two nights prior to swimming, and could not take in much breakfast prior to getting on my escort boat, World Class. Worry is such a waste of energy. All anyone can do is jump in and swim, but tides, shoulders and various other body parts can go in the wrong direction at any time and I was hugely relieved and overjoyed to make the swim with no shoulder pain at all.
It helped enormously that I was sent off a little early, before the ebb tide started. One of the other swimmers (Martin Tureky) and I jumped about an hour and a half (??) before the tide turned and swam very close to the New Jersey side of the river, out of the opposing current, until the tide turned. I enjoyed this part of the swim very much! The houses along the shore were amazing. One of them had a huge waterfall. I might have been gawking a bit too much because my paddler, Teddy Gruber, told me to stop sighting and swim.
I'm always restless during the first couple of hours of a swim, but this swim was a little easier on my mind than most. On the whole, I felt more "in the moment" during this swim than ever before. I never felt as though I wanted to be anywhere other than exactly where I was. . I had calm water and lots to look at while swimming. I've established a pattern of feeding every half an hour and this seems to work very well, especially while swimming. The Maxim, water and apple juice recipe I borrowed from Evmo worked perfectly, though I'll try to add some little extras next time for variety if I do any longer swims. My crew and paddler were great, and seemed to be always in the right place at the right time. It's the most relaxed I've ever felt with a boat and kayak supporting me. Swimsuit Addict and Suzie Dods provided laughs and endless encouragement.
At times I watched the scenery go past and at times I thought of nothing at all and was surprised when it was time for my next feed. The water got a little sloppy and randomly choppy in a few places. I don't remember where, exactly. I felt uncoordinated and grumpy in these places, but the neon handclappers Suzie was waving at me cheered me up. Thanks to Swimsuit Addict for swimming the last hour with me!!!
I'd decided before the swim that passing the Statue of Liberty was to mark the end of and complete good riddance to a difficult period for me. Done. Thanks crew for getting this picture!!!
ps. "I don't like Mondays" was playing on my escort boat when I finished my swim. This song had been in and out of my head the whole swim. Captain claimed it had not played on the radio until the end. Not sure I believe him!
Updated July 9th, 2012 at 01:11 AM by Chicken of the Sea
With only a week to go until I attempt Stage 7 of the 8 Bridges swim, three questions remain:
1. Will my nasty, impinged shoulders survive? My guess is, yes they will. Between my two best friends pictured below, a big rubber band and my physical therapist, I think I'm in with a shot;
2. If my shoulders survive, will my extremely low-mileage training get me there? Yes to that too. Not sure how, but yes.
and the last and most important question is the only one to which I have no answer
3. What suit will I wear?
Clockwise from upper left, we have
a.the Toowoon Bay SLSC suit that I wore for my fizzled out Catalina attempt. This is the club my nephews and niece do nippers at in Australia, and I've swum there a few times. I owe this suit some redemption. It's as comfy as can be but needs the straps shortened.
b. a new Swimoutlet.com suit in a nice maroon color.
c. a fairly worn out but comfy black suit with red piping around the edges. Possibly still full of pollen from the lake because the last time I wore it I got a rash on my chest.
d. a new Speedo super skinny, super small buttocked suit that I bought recently, hoping I could wear it to even out my tan lines. It has a cut out waist. I don't think my waist is meant to bulge out of the cutouts but it does.
e. Sparkles the Red. Super comfy, sparkly. This suit has everything. I did get a slight under arm chafe wearing it for 3 hours yesterday.
f. The Thunder from Downunder (this refers to my thighs, not my heritage). As worn in Kingdom swim and Swim the Suck in 2010. Getting a little worn out, but so am I.
g. The White Suit.
h. Rob Aquatics. Veteran suit. No futher explanation needed.
What'll it be?
2 weeks out from 8 Bridges!! I took my miserable, sore, impinged shoulders to Ohio St late this afternoon for a change of scenery.
The water was much warmer than it had been at The Point the previous day, measuring about 67 in the ankle deep bit by the shore.
That wasn't the only difference though. After a few strokes I felt something tangled around my fingers. It felt like a long hair in the pool.
[nomedia="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7dyl0j3WU6Y"]Hair - Song Hair - YouTube[/nomedia]
It wasn't hair.
it was weed. But it felt like hair. Yuk.
After 3 miles I was covered in it. It was wrapped around my neck and in my suit.
Long, beautiful hair. Now I'm hairy high and low. Don't ask me why...give me down to there hair. Let if fly in the breeze and get caught in the trees.
Updated June 14th, 2012 at 01:54 AM by Chicken of the Sea
Weary and condemned by the years, I decided to celebrate Anzac Day 2012 by launching my open water season at Promontory Point.
Aside from my other two dips in the lake this year, this one was my first. It was a fairly grey, drizzly day, but the water looked relatively calm when I arrived at the Point around lunch time on Wednesday.
I could see that fellow Point Swimmers, Andre and Greg were already at the second buoy when I arrived and made it my goal to be in the water before they got out.
I really can't resist throwing in the thermometer before I get in and was glad to see the mercury getting pretty close to the 50 degree mark! Now THAT'S a rush! After 5 minutes or so of whooping and giggling I attempted to actually swim a little. my goggles fogged up completely every time I cleared them, so I ended up doing alternating breast and backstroke back and forth and around the first buoy.
Here's a diagram of my route that I prepared using a satellite image of The Point and my primitive version of Photoshop (a printer, sharpie and camera-phone). I was in for 20 minutes and I think it took an hour to warm up afterwards. It didn't help that I dropped my pants in a puddle of water while dressing. Thank goodness for heated car seats!
It felt good to be out of the pool.
I'm still feeling great in the pool.
FEELING great, but not BEING great (and by "great" I mean mobile).
At around 7.30 last night, I retrieved Bill White's Sewickley Seadragons Lane B workout from the trash folder of my email and headed to the pool, full of confidence.
The workout included two 800yd straight swims on a 14 minute interval. I haven't done a straight 800 in a long time. In fact I don't even remember the last time I swam that far without breaking it up with some elementary backstroke or breaststroke at some point. The 14 minute interval seemed nice enough that I thought I could just cruise. Merely completing the 800's all free would be the goal of the night.
I did some drills during the warm up and felt pretty smooth. I really enjoyed the first 800 and remembered at about 300-400 yds into it that the longer the swim, the better I feel. When I landed, though, the clock said I'd taken 12 minutes and 35 seconds!!! I was horrified!! Even swimming slowly should have taken less time.
Bottom lip quivering, I launched into the second 800. This time I did as the workout suggested and swam every third 50 "fast" (hehe). Twelve minutes and 30 seconds later I landed, feeling like I was having a coronary. My heart rate was 105... I even did flip turns the whole time!
I'm really devastated by this slowness.
I'm still quite fat from my fruitless Catalina Channel swim weight gain and my bum circumference probably exceeds my wingspan by now.
I wonder how much speed you lose by being fat (and having most of that fat on your backside)?
When I returned home I looked on facebook to see if anyone had reported more tragic results than mine from the evening's workout and noticed that Jim Thornton had consumed a healthy lunch of raw squishy things and some sort of macrobiotic excrement. Assuming he didn't soil himself during the workout, I'd be willing to bet his 800's were a lot faster than mine!!!
I made a list of things that I'd eaten during the day to see if I could blame my poor performance on fatness and diet, but all I'd eaten prior to swimming was:
2 plates of leftover breakfast sausage and mashed potatoes;
1 toasted ham and cheese sandwich;
2 bowls of full fat Greek yoghurt with honey;
1 large cinnamon roll;
1 bowl hamburger helper; and
2 bowls of apple sauce with caramel sauce on top.
At a complete loss and feeling quite depressed I ate three Trader Joe's chocolate chip ice cream sandwiches, a bagel with cream cheese and smoked salmon, a packet of flaming hot cheetos and a diet coke.
I'm changing things around today and drinking extra coffee. I'm on my fourth cup of espresso now. I think I'll do the same workout and see what happens.
It's about five weeks since I ended my post-Catalina sulk and crawled back into the primordial soup that fills the pool at Edward Health and Fitness Center.
I've never been fast, but marinating in the lake all summer turned me into more of a barnacle than a swimmer.
For the first couple of weeks of my "return", I averaged about 1m 35s per 100 SCY. That's swimming time, not total interval, and with a rest of about 25 seconds in between each 100!!
I felt slappy and uncoordinated, and would have looked it too, had my practices not been performed in secret.
I've got a history of being a giver-upperer, but this time was different. I persisted with my agonizingly ugly workouts and finally made a breakthrough this week!
I went to the pool last night after eating a roast chicken dinner with mashed potatoes and gravy. 2000 yards seemed like a goal and I did 4 x 500 yds of swimming. The first 500 was half drill, the second was half backstroke, but the third was 500 yards of real swimming all in a row! all 500 yards joined up end to end!! I don't remember the last 500 because I was dizzy.
Today was even more magnificent. I swam an actual Sewickley Seadragons, Lane B workout, and stuck to the intervals-for the first time in well over a year. There were 400's and 200's. I made one of my 200's in 3 minutes!
Going from stationary to merely prodigiously slow never felt so good.
2011 was a strange open water season for me.
I knocked back a chance at doing the Memphremagog and the Ederle swims, pinning all my hopes on Catalina. Catalina didn't work out this time, and as a result I've been moping and thinking 2011 was a complete failure.
After much delving I've been able to dig up some wonderful memories of my 2011 aquatic season including an unconventional marathon swim or two. My memories are a little fuzzy, 2011 already being about seven times the length of a conventional year (2011, the Dog Year?), but here goes.
After floating around in the 50-odd degree lake for most of June, I headed east to Maine to celebrate the nuptuals of KGirl and swim the 2.4 mile Nubble Light Challenge. The Nubble swim was first done in 2010 and was apparently very cold indeed. I was quite nervous going into the swim but on the day the water was 65 and smooth. It was wonderful! I loved swimming around the headland between the mainland and the lighthouse I'd only ever seen before as a non-swimmer tourist. I think I ate 7 lobster rolls on the weekend I was there and had a really fabulous weekend. Can't wait to go back!
Here's a photo of the Nubble course
and a picture of the lighthouse:
The remainder of July and August were uneventful. Lake Michigan was very very warm in 2011 and I spent those months at Promontory Point in high 70's water. Very strange for the lake. I even developed a rash.....
On 1st September I swam what was to be my first and only "marathon" swim of 2011 (and calling it that is really pushing the definition).
I drove to Promontory Point at the devil squealing hours of the morning and swam a mile in the dark. A mile at Promontory is one loop to the pier and back to the ladders. I was the joined by the usual 6am Point swimmers group and we did another mile. The sun was now up and I did a few more mile loops, feeding at the ladder and lurking around the 2nd buoy to see if I could find the watch I'd dropped down there two weeks prior. I got out a few times at the ladder to take some photos and play a few moves at Words with Friends, just to keep from getting too bored
The water was pretty calm until about mile 9-10, when it developed the disorganized, washing machine type chop that we're pretty used to at the Point. I felt pretty good until mile 12. I was joined by Vivebene, thank goodness, because mile 12 felt rotten. Miles 13 and 14 felt great though. I called it quits after 14 loops because I was kind of bored and needed to go to the toilet. So that was it, I guess. THe water was 78 degrees when I began in the dark and possibly a little warmer when I finished.
Here's the Point, as it usually looks:
A week later I did a 15k yard workout in the pool and felt surprisingly good.
Two weeks later I returned to the Point. Back pain defeated me that day and I drove back to the 'burbs after 8 miles. I took some Advil and finished another 8 miles in the pool for a total of 16 miles. At least the lake was 65 degrees that day so, aside from back pain, I was able to enjoy the water!
Three days later I swam Big Shoulders and didn't come in as slowly as expected. It was probably one of my most enjoyable Big Shoulders, as the water was 65 and quite smooth. I've finally identified the building to sight off on the second leg of the triangle. Better late than never.
Here's a photo me with some of the 6am Promontory Point swimmers who left our little south-side sanctuary to swim in the race:
Late July/early August saw an unexpected trip home for a family funeral
While I was there I did some swimming at the Entrance Baths, a 50m sea water pool cut out of the rock platform at the end of The Entrance Beach (just north of Sydney). I was also able to swim off the beach at Toowoon Bay, where my nephews and niece do nippers. Such a beautiful place, it was more like snorkeling than swimming! I lurked around the area where the blue grouper supposedly frequented, but didn't see him. The people at the surf club might have been pulling my leg about that one! The surf lifesavers in this photo were practicing rescues with their zodiacs the day I swam.
Although I didn't have time to swim, I was able to go for a quick visit to my place of origin, Freshwater Beach. This is where I was hatched and where I'd like to be flung after I die. I suppose I should be cremated first.
My last swimming experience before leaving Oz was a paddle at the famous Bondi Beach and then 1000m at Bondi Icebergs club. I paid $6 to swim in the 59 degree water (watched by a row of crabs on the pool deck) and then had a sauna. The weather couldn't have been better. There was practically no surf and I could see someone swimming across and back between the headlands just inside where I assume the nets were. I wasn't brave enough for that
Aside from the Catalina crewing adventure and attempted swim, that's it for 2011!
2011: the season you have when you're not having a season. Bring on 2012, please!
Updated December 4th, 2011 at 09:09 PM by Chicken of the Sea
(I accidentally wrote "site" instead of "sight". Highly embarrassing!)
Before I forget the details, I'd like to jot down a very brief account of my very brief attempt to swim the Catalina Channel. This is mainly for my records.
I didn't make it all the way across this time.
Personally I'm actually very encouraged by my experience, but I feel bad for my crew who went to enormous lengths to help me out on what turned out to be a short swim.
In brief, I think I only swam a little under an hour and a half.
Although the water was about 63 (my guess), glassy, and the air about 60, I got very very cold to the core. I can normally warm myself up after an hour, but was unable to do so even with the warm feeds my wonderful crew was throwing at me. I started shaking uncontrollably after an hour, something I've never experienced in act of swimming (after getting out is another story). It scared me. I couldn't kick properly, which for me means I couldn't swim. I really didn't think I was going to be able warm up at that point. I am sorry to say that I bailed. All I wanted to do was go home and see the kids.
I know now I probably would have been ok if I'd stayed in and swum hard for another half an hour. "What ifs" are a waste of time though.
I regret getting out of the water, but I'll never regret getting in.
I've had a pretty rough year. Those close to me know why. Although everything has turned out well, I'm exhausted and still recovering from a lot of stress. I'm not sure if it made any difference, but I experienced several sleepless nights with night sweats prior to my swim. These are not excuses, but possible contributing factors to my not coping with a temperature that I could normally settle into for a good, long swim. I don't like to analyse too much, but my guess is that my mind, body and heart had just had enough for 2011 and chose a really expensive time to let me know.
Prior to the cold part, I enjoyed a very unique and wonderful swim from the Bottom Scratcher to the shore at Doctor's Cove on Catalina Island and back again.
For those not familiar with channel swims (myself until very recently!), the swimmer most often jumps from the pilot boat, swims to the nearby shore of the starting land point, clears the water, then begins the swim by reentering the water.
Jumping in was easy, but then I'm the person who jumped off a bridge in New Zealand about five minutes after bungee jumping was invented, just because I had a crowd chanting "jump" at me.
I knew I was jumping (well, flopping) into a thick sea of kelp. It was very clearly visible under the full moon and I knew to expect it. The kelp was interesting. I thought I'd be afraid, but it felt good. The weed was so thick that I swam head up towards shore, getting used to the experience. The stems wound themselves around my arms at each stroke but were easy to unravel. I used the kelp to pull myself forward many times. I could see a dancing shadow on the shore (the pilot boat had a spotlight on the beach) and thought perhaps it was a sea lion. I said as much to my kayaker, Beth and we agreed, but then had a laugh when it turned out to be the shadow of her paddle.
The water felt lovely. Not cold. Very soft and welcoming.
I swam to the shore at Doctors' Cove, walked on the smooth pebbles until they were dry, raised my arm and then walked back towards the water. It was dark but only one night before the full moon. There was sparkling light everywhere. When I reached the waterline I dropped my arm to indicate the swim had started.
My swim began. I was facing the moon and the shining water. Once the Bottom Scratcher turned off the spot light I felt like I was in an aquarium. There was nothing frightening about it. It was simply wonderful. I had time to consider what I'd do if I were to become afraid. I followed the advice of fellow Point Swimmer, Ted Erikson and closed my eyes. It didn't make any difference because I wasn't scared. I had no need to sight because Beth's kayak was festooned with glowsticks, but I chose to do so on a few occasions because of the beauty of the water in front of me.
The best part of my swim was the chance to see some friends that I've really missed lately. I also made new friends. Swimmers are without doubt the best people I know.
Evan Morrison: I treasure you. You have no idea.
Robbie D: the best warmer upperer of sobbing swimmers ever! I'm sorry if I snotted your beard. xxx
ps I feel like bailing a swim again just so I can have a cuddle.
Michelle Nelson: came all the way from Florida to help a friend. much love from Chicago xxxxxxx you are doing an extraordinary job with your kids
Sue Free: thanks for coming all the way from San Francisco!
Beth Barnes: SO glad I got to sign the paddle!
Lynne Driscoll, Anne Cleveland, Liz Fry, Randy Nutt, Leigh Ann Doherty, and many more... have been so lovely and helpful. None of this is lost, despite the DNF.
I'll be back for another attempt. i might try something else next year just for a change, but I'll be back.
On Wednesday, August 24th I was privileged be part of the crew for Evan Morrison's (Evmo's) solo swim from Catalina Island to the mainland.
It was the first time I'd ever crewed for a swim and, with my own Catalina swim just around the corner, a great learning experience. In the incredibly short time it took Evmo to swim the channel, I was able to familiarise myself with the pilot boat, the Bottom Scratcher, and see first hand the work that goes into putting on a successful (or unsuccessful!) marathon swim.
Most of the swim took place in the pitch dark in some fairly lumpy seas. I was pretty queasy and didn't take many pictures until the sun rose. Here's my view of what went on:
[nomedia="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sgNR2cD0gFk"]Evan's Catalina swim - YouTube[/nomedia]
Congratulations to Evmo on an amazing swim, and thanks for letting me be a small part of it!
How's this for a nice suit to wear for my October Catalina crossing?
This morning I drove my eldest daughter to school, checked my grades for my College of Du Page paralegal course, made pikelets for brekkie for number 2, checked grades again, vacuumed the house, played with our new cats, checked grades, fed cats, fed dog, walked dog, then drove to Chicago, to Promontory Point, to swim.
The weather forecast was pessimistic, but I wasn't. It was warm and hazy when I arrived at the Point.
Aside from the New Year's Dip, I've only swum in the lake once this year. EVMO and I swam last Friday at the Point and the water was 49-50. A trifle cold.
Not so today. I measured 56 by the rocks at the ladder!
I got in, gradually. About 100yds from shore the water suddenly became quite cold. A shock, but swimming back into 56 degree water after being in colder water felt like a dip n the hottub.
I swam for 30 minutes, about a mile for me, and felt like I was in Heaven.
I had to be getting home, so got out after only half an hour, to the applause of a man who was eating his lunch and watching me the whole time.
He said "you should do races",
I love Promontory Point
It's been a long winter.
Desperate to leave the frigid suburbs of Chicago, I recently signed up for the Open Water Safety Conference to be held in San Francisco on March 18-20.
I confess I probably wouldn't have chosen to travel to this conference if it weren't in one of my favourite places in the world. Also, I really really want to swim in San Francisco Bay!!!
With the help of Leslie Thomas of swim-art.com, Chaos, RobbieD, E-H2O, myself and several others (and anyone else who wants!) are planning a swim from the Golden Gate Bridge to Aquatic Park on Friday morning the 18th March.
The water will probably be in the low 50's, so it'll be a challenge for my pool bound self.
Although I'm still spooked by the life threatening neoprene allergy attack I experienced in Tampa in January, and know I can't swim in a wetsuit, I've found the perfect alternative!!!!! I'm sure one of the Fisherman's Wharf sea lions will offer its life to ensure my warmth. I might even get a pair of pants out of one of them if I cut carefully.
[nomedia="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DCAsXhyLofI"]YouTube - Man vs. Wild - Seal-Skin Wetsuit[/nomedia]
Thankyou to all who supported me for the Frogman swim. I ended up raising about $250 for the Naval Special Warfare Foundation. Better than expected!!
The swim itself didn't go as expected, but then, what ever does?
I tried on a loaner wetsuit from my friend Dani the night before the swim and was surprised by how easily it went on and how comfortable and stretchy the material was. The wetsuit I have at home is a few years old (I wore it somewhat successfully in IM Wisconsin 07), but is made of what feels like cast iron and is very thick. Although I'd previously decided to go naked, I was very easily persuaded to give the newer wetsuit a try the next morning.
The water was 62 at the starting point, which felt like a warm bath compared to those horrible cold baths I'd been having for a few weeks. I believe the water was low 50's in the middle of the course and warmed up a little towards the finish. Cold. Definitely doable without neoprene, but chilly.
It wasn't to be, though. I just couldn't breathe. Every time I turned onto my stomach to swim I felt like I was being garroted. Hyperventilating, I'd turn on my back and scull for a while then try again. Same thing. Over and over. Deep breathing, relaxing, laughing. Nothing worked! I ended up feeling a little lightheaded.
I'm not superstitious, but the whole thing might have been because I wasn't wearing my CIBBOWS cap. We were given rather nice colour coded silicon caps to wear according to our wave. Some would say the RobAquatics suit I was wearing had a curse (blessing??) and can't abide being touched by neoprene. Of course it may just be that, as one should train in the cold to swim in the cold, one should also train in a wetsuit to swim in a wetsuit
Anyway......eventually all the other swimmers were out of sight so I took off the wetsuit, handed it to my nice but bewildered young kayakers and had a nice swim back to the start. I think I swam a total of 500 yds in 50 minutes. I was relieved to find Ron Collins and his wife Rebecca at the start and hitched a ride with them to the finish point. I believe Ron took a wrong turn and was separated from his kayaker. This made me feel like slightly less of a loser. Hehe, actually it was worth mucking up the swim just to meet them.
Aside from meeting the Collinses, something else of value was gained from this swim.
While swimming back to the start, I designed a new line of wetsuits which I believe will eliminate the choking, claustrophobic attack I experienced. I'm currently in negotiations with Butterick Patterns to sell them my designs. I think my designs speak for themselves.
The Cowl Neck, Bootleg
The Plunging V-Neck
The Pleasant Peasant
And my personal favourite, the Bibless Brace
To conclude: the Frogman swim was really a lot of fun. It was probably the best supported swim I've ever done. Great cause. Great organisation. I would love to do it again next year. It's really not mandatory to wear a wetsuit, as long as you let the organisers know beforehand (I had). A very fun day!
Here's the website: