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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Masters Swim Meets / Events , Open Water
  2. Closing in on 300 miles...

    by , July 14th, 2013 at 01:33 PM (Alex's swim journal)
    I got back into the lake this morning for another 3000 yards. Air and water temps were beautiful; a lot more wind than there normally is that early in the morning provided a nice current to swim against (coming in at an angle, so it wasn't helpful swimming in either direction... of course!).

    The Sunday morning crowd was sparse, seems like there were always a lot more swimmers on the weekends last summer. Pleasant Prairie's triathlon is coming up, so there was a triathlon class that looked like it was trying out new wetsuits, caps, etc. Their coach was very encouraging to this group of maybe 6 swimmers that seemed pretty hesitant in the deeper areas... they spent a lot of time practicing crowded starts, swimming in bunches, following each other, etc. but kept it in the shallow area for the most part, so I really didn't have to doge anyone the whole time, which was nice. Great to see other folks out swimming, but also great not to have to deal with the less positive side effects of crowded lap-swim areas.

    Here's what I did:

    800 fr build from ez to moderate by 100s
    200 bk/br (alternated stroke by 50s)
    4 x 200 fr moderate on about :20 rest
    200 IM
    400 fr
    100 bk/br
    400 fr
    100 br
  3. Under the pier!

    I enjoyed a very pleasant week of swimming, almost all of it outdoors. NYC’s public outdoor pools began their lap swim season last Tuesday, so there’s a bounty of outdoor swimming opportunities between now and the end of August. Here’s what last week looked like:

    Monday—Riverbank, indoor (50m) + outdoor (25y) pools
    Tuesday—rest day
    Wednesday—Lasker Pool (Central Park, 50+ meters) evening lap swim
    Thursday—Brighton Beach play day + swim
    Friday—John Jay Park pool (77th near the East River, 48 1/3 yards) morning lap swim
    Saturday—Brighton Beach, 4-mile adventure swim to Seagate and back

    I’m grateful to pool tourist to introducing me to the city’s wonderful outdoor pools—looking forward to collecting cards from a record number of them this season!

    My pool swims this week were mostly just easy freestyle laps. I’ve lost a couple of weeks of real training—both swimming and diving—to an injured left calf, but thankfully that seems on the mend. The good news is that it’s just a muscle injury, not tendonitis or anything worse. I’m seeing a PT who is working on it, and was able to swim and even push off pool walls with moderate force on Friday without pain. I get to check out how it feels diving again tonight. I was worried early this week that this injury would keep me from competing in IGLA in mid-August—swimming with any force was quite painful, and diving was out of the question--but now I’m feeling more hopeful about my prospects. I’ll just need to adjust my expectations, and maybe compete in just the 1m springboard event rather than both (I still need to learn some more dives for the 3m, and I’m not sure yet how much the calf will limit my board time between now and then). Not being able to train properly 4-6 weeks out from a swim meet is annoying, but luckily I’ve had the distraction of these new outdoor swimming venues to keep me focused on the pleasure of swimming itself rather fretting about not being able to do everything I want to in the pool.

    The OW swims this week have really been fun. On Thursday the beach was a cool and breezy refuge from the hot city, and yesterday’s swim was especially wonderful, as I explored a new route at Brighton. The Coney Island pier is usually the turn-around point for swims there, but I’ve been intrigued by reports of other swimmers going beyond it. So yesterday I recruited a swim buddy, and Caitlin and I swam under the pier and down towards Seagate before turning around for the return journey, about 4 miles roundtrip. It was a very foggy morning when we set out—we were just able to make out the jetties as we swam from one to the next—and everything looked ghostly in the white mist, cormorants and ships and jetties all. We had a strong current with us, and were swept swiftly westwards whenever we stopped to look around and appreciate the spooky morning. Finally we the pier loomed ahead of us. I let Caitlin swim through first—she’s braver, and had been there before—then I followed. I was a little afraid of running into jellyfish, or rubbing up against the barnacled pilings, so I swam swiftly through and didn’t linger. Once on the other side, I waved up at the construction workers on the pier who were watching us, and they waved back and asked us how the water was. (The pier is still closed to the public as it’s being rebuilt after Sandy, so we didn’t have to worry about navigating around any fishing lines).

    The beach beyond the pier looked very similar to “our” beach, but the shapes of the jetties and buildings were unfamiliar, and the juxtaposition was uncanny. We weren’t sure how far the beach went in this direction, so swam in short segments, to the next jetty or lifeguard stand that we could make out in the fog. We saw a lot of boat traffic, and there must have been more out in the channel, judging by the symphony of foghorns. It was such a cool experience being out there, with everything except the water itself seeming slightly eerie. Finally we spotted the last lifeguard umbrella that marked the end of the beach, with a very long jetty beyond it. We swam to that lifeguard chair then turned around.

    On the return trip we started seeing sunlight reflecting on the water, patches of blue started appearing in the sky, and the fog eventually burned off, leaving a pleasant sunny day. The current was against us, but with a clearer notion of where we were going we swam strong against it without as many stops. Finally we were back at the pier. This time I stopped on the way under to admire the different shades of green water as we passed from shadow to light, to appreciate the endless-pool effect of the current as I did breaststroke by the pilings, and finally to do some backstroke and watch the underside of the pier get closer and recede as the waves carried me up and down. What a fun place to play—I already want to go back!

    On the way back we found a pod of Team New York swimmers and synchro circled with them, then met up with various CIBBOWS friends at various stages in their workout. The water turned deep green in the sun, and there were small rolling swells that rocked me gently as I swam. It had turned into a gorgeous sunny day—the perfect way to end a fun week of swimming. Hurray for summer in the city!