Monday, January 16, 2017

#85 Narrow lanes...not narrow minded

Oddly, the title of this blog ends up being timely with the presidential inauguration taking place this week.

The Wayland Town Pool's heater is broken so Coach Jen moved practice to Babson College on this Martin Luther King holiday. Yay a new pool! I really wanted to sleep in today but couldn't pass up the chance to hit a new pool.

Babson College is a short hop from the house to Wellesley.  The athletic field house is tucked in the back of this pretty suburban campus.  I wasn't familiar with the campus however I followed a few cars that ended up having fellow masters swimmers in them and eventually made it to the pool.

The pool isn't totally old school but it certainly wasn't built in the last 10 years (actually it was built in 1989-I looked it up).  It's a six lane 25 yard pool with a viewing gallery that holds about 150 spectators.  It one of those pools where it has high and deep open tiled gutters.  Before heading to the locker room a quick glance confirmed what I would have suspected-narrow lanes!

By the time I got out of the locker room the lanes were pretty crowded so I ended up with the dreaded lane by the wall. While I do swim next to the wall at MIT the lanes are quite roomy.  At Babson College that was not the case.  I kept an open mind about the narrow lane situation and jumped in the pool with my two new lane mates. It was a bit tight and it took some getting use to coming into and out of the turns.  You also had to be careful not to smack your hands on the wall, the lane line or even on your lane mates hand. 

In the end it worked out ok. The practice was tough and I only smacked my hand a couple of times.  I found that if I just tried to stay positive and focus on what I can control it worked on in the long run.

With the incoming administration it will likely be a tumultuous and challenging four years. One can only hope that they will be thoughtful, open minded and lead with class and decency. Like swimming in narrow lanes all we can do is stay positive, focus on what we can control and know that the tough workout will end in four years!

E plurbis unum.

Monday, January 2, 2017

#84 New Year...New Pool

The discovery of a new pool to kick off the new year didn't take very long. In fact, it only took until day two of 2017!

I went with Shannon to her new swanky health club Lifetime Fitness in Framingham.  It is on the outskirts of Framingham very close to the Wayland border so it's still an easy drive to get there.  The club is six months old, effectively brand new.  The club has three levels with a huge fitness floor, multiple exercise studios, racquet ball, a restaurant and wait for it...not one, not two but...three swimming pools.

There are two indoor pools both six lanes and 25 yards long. One is clearly designated as the lap pool the other you could swim laps in but it looks like it is likely used more for classes. It also has a bumped out shallow section with a mushroom shaped waterfall for kids. There is also a six lane 25 yard outdoor pool and an adjacent recreation pool for families. An aquatic paradise!

It wasn't very crowded at all so I had a lane to myself.  With a lot of eating and drinking during the holidays and not much exercise the 3,600 yards I swam was quite a slog.  A new years resolution of kicking 600 yards a week accomplished on day one.  The best part of this aquatic wonderland was there were not one but...two jacuzzis.  A post swim soak in the jacuzzi was a perfect way to relax from a not very strenuous workout and enjoy a New Years Day holiday.

Looking forward to new pools and adventure in 2017 and hoping that Shannon will invite me back to her new club!

The year also started off right with a solo New Years Polar Plunge in Lake Cochituate. It was a quick dip as it was windy and cold. Water temp likely in the high 30's-the goggles and cap weren't necessary.  Picked up Ryan at the train station from a New Years Eve in Boston and he wanted a purifying dip to start the new year it was back to the lake!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 The Year in Review

Well...its that time of year to reflect on this years experiences and to look towards the clean slate of the new year.

While this is a swimming blog I will keep my commentary mostly focused on swimming related events however I will sprinkle in a couple of personal highlights along the way.

Let's start with the hard numbers. Through out the course of the year I swam a total of 931,242 yards in total pools and in open water. That is an equivalent of 529 miles or the distance from Boston to Mississagauga, Ontario, Canada a suburb of Toronto. There were a total of 219 swimming sessions for a cumulative 267 hours. I surpassed my 2016 goal of 450 miles by 18%. There was also a goal to write 24 swimming inspired blogs and I wrote 29.

I swam in a total of 10 new pools in four states-California, Colorado, Florida and Minnesota. California and Colorado accounted for seven of the new pools.  When I look back to the genesis of this blog swimming in 50 new pools in my 50th year I must say that I am impressed with myself to pull that off in twelve months. It's not easy to find new pools on a regular basis.

There were seven different swimming competitions ranging from the pool to open water.  Swimming at the Harvard meet with Hubbard, Jeff and Josh was good fun. I need to do more swim meets in the future. 

The open water events were unique in their own right with their own memories. Swimming with my friend Jen side by side (actually I hang on her toes) for a couple open water swims was fun. My three-peat victory of my age group in the Boston Sharkfest was a good boost to my swimming ego.

Far and away, the two big channel swims were the highlights of the swimming year. Estrecho de Gibraltar was such a fun and memorable trip from the swim to the trip itself in southern Spain and Morocco and making a new friend along the way.  The Anacapa Channel swim while a late addition to the swimming calendar in 2016 it was memorable in its own way notably that much of the swim was in the pitch dark of night. Many lessons learned on this swim.  For more detail about both of these swims see blogposts dated  6/19 and 11/27.

Estrecho de Gibraltar~Spain to Morocco

Anacapa Channel, California

Highlights beyond my personal swim journey were also high on the hit list.

-Road tripping across the country from Boston to Los Angeles to drop a car off with Ryan.

-Sean's graduation from Weston High School.

-Family trip to Acadia National Park

-Dropping Sean off at CU.

-Family trip to Los Angeles to see USC play CU in football.

-Going to New York City to see Hamilton with Courtney.

-Celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary in Paris.

Swimming goals for 2017 are quite simple; to train for and successfully cross the English Channel in September.  Focused training and with help and support from coach Chloe and family and friends I believe this is quite achievable.  In addition to that I want to swim a total of 600 miles, swim in 10 new pools, compete in at least one swim meet and write 24 swimming related blogs.

Happy New Year!

"Just keep swimming"~Dory

Thursday, December 22, 2016


This was my first week in the water after 13 days-ouch! A very quick scan of my USMS fitness log aka "flog" it appears that this is the longest break I have taken from swimming in over a year and half or likely much longer.

To make it particularly challenging this comeback comes after a the annual MIT Z-Center pool closure for maintenance. Every December when the pool opens 50 meters long course. Not ideal for a comeback!

Post Anacapa Island channel swim in early November I felt fried physically with a sore shoulder and frankly mentally fatigued. Coach Chloe suggested a break. After the long swim I logged about 9 days in the pool with a light work load of just above 3,000 yards. December rolled around with some work travel, a trip to Paris to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary and the annual pool closure and we ended up at 13 days without swimming.

I have slogged through this first week back in the water swimming four times averaging about 4,000 meters.  It's always a bit of an adjustment getting use to 50 meters but by the end of the week I felt I was slipping back into the groove. Truth be told I like 50 meters versus 25 yards much better. 

The plan is to ease back into the "swim routine" over the course of the next several weeks to get the mind and body ready for English Channel training.  If things go as planned the goal is by mid-January to get back to approximately 15,000 to 20,000 yards a week and building from there. If for not other reason I need to start swimming to shed some added weight (not too bad). When you don't workout as intensely you can't afford to chow as much.

There is a small part of me that has enjoyed being a slug...thankfully it's a small  part.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

#83 Easing back in...slowly

Pool #83 was the Canyonview Aquatic Center at the University of San Diego in La Jolla. Yes, back in California again...the third time in six weeks! Maybe we should just move to California...more on that in future blogs.

This was the third time I had been in the water and twelve days post the Anacapa swim on November 4th.  The goal was and is to slowly ease back into the pool. I had a business meeting in La Jolla so with the time change when morning practice with the masters group rolled around at 6:00am  I was wide awake so...why not?

As one with expect with a big California UC school it was a fabulous outdoor facility. There were two 50 meter pools; one looked liked the training and competition pool for the school team and the was for general use.  Coach Sickie welcomed me to group and put me with the faster group. Not what I was hoping for! I had been warned before that Wednesdays they have challenge set. Today challenge set was 11x100 on the 1:40--two 100's sprint and then one 100 easy.  Despite not being totally into it I faired--ok.  It was a 4,000 yard workout.  Post swim I went to the hot tub to relax for a bit. Hot tubbing after swim practice is delightful.  When I said goodbye and thank you to Coach Sickie I found out that he had met my Coach Bill at a USMS coaches clinic in San Francisco the weekend before-small world.

It's been 23 days since Anacapa and I have been in the pool seven times and averaged about 3,000 yards each practice.  I have been relaxed about getting in the water on time putzing on the pool deck and trying to keep it low key during the sets.  The objective over the next several weeks is to give myself a physical and mental break from swimming.  This is easier said than done as I enjoy my morning routine and seeing my swimming friends.  A break is important so I don't burn myself out (mentally) as I will need to begin to ramp things back up at the beginning of the year.

Low pressure, low intensity and working on technique is the name of the game (not easy for me) through the end of the year.  Slow and easy...

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Into the night... Anacapa solo

Into the night we did go and go and go...for 6 hours and 50 minutes in the pitch dark black of night!

It's been two weeks since the swim and I haven't been able to find the creative prose to describe this experience so I will just try to be direct and to the point.

The swim was across the Santa Barbara Channel from Anacapa Island to Oxnard-12.5 miles. It wasn't part of the 2016 original swimming plan but in early August Chloe McCardel, English Channel swimmer extraordinaire, called to say she was organizing a swim tour of California and this was the final stop on the tour and it would be good training for the English Channel. I was in!

I met up with a small group of swimmers from Portland, Oregon and the Mojave desert. We were suppose to start our swim early on a Thursday morning but due to weather our swim was postponed. On Thursday, we had a brief training swim at Silver Strand beach and I swam side by side with my tandem swimming partner Cindy. The water was cool but not horrible.

Later that afternoon we found our our swim was on for early Friday morning. When I say early, I mean like 2:00am early! Wasn't expecting that.  The balance of the day was spent resting and getting some last minute supplies. I had an early dinner and hit the sack around 6:00pm to get a few hours of sleep.  We met in the lobby of the hotel at 10:30pm and made our way to the harbor. At the harbor we met up with the boat captain, his skipper and the official from the Santa Barbara Channel Swimming Association. The guide boat was a sail boat so it would take us about two hours to motor out to Anacapa Island. I filled out some paperwork, was read the official rules and then went below deck to take a nap. My concern was getting sea sick on the ride over so I thought it was best just to sleep.

The plan was for me to swim next to the boat and to take my feeds from Chloe off the boat. Cindy would swim next to me and her kayaker would be on the outside and would supply Cindy her feeds. We would feed every 30 minutes.  Just before 2:00am we pulled up close to the start.  It was pitch black outside and the boat didn't want to get to close the island.  We attached glow sticks to our swim suits and it was--go time! Cindy jumped in and I followed as we swam probably 50 yards through some kelp to some big rock arch on the island we had to touch to officially start the swim. I was told it was an arch but I never really saw it as all I could see was the glow stick on Cindy and the glow sticks hanging off the back of the boat in the distance.

We touched the wall, shouted to the boat that we were starting and we were off!  The water 63 degrees. I guess the cold water open water swimming I had done in preparation along with cold showers paid off as it really didn't feel too bad when I jumped in and started swimming. It actually felt nice.

This is where I will try to keep it short as there isn't a whole lot to write about when you are swimming in the Pacific Ocean hour after hour.

Swimming at night in the ocean was a new sensation. While I had swum in the English Channel for an hour at night it was a different story swimming at night off the coast of California for nearly five hours!  Breathing to my left it was very cool to see the star filled night and to my right the glow of the the boat, and looking up past the mast to the moon and the stars.  The coolest part was the seeing the bioluminescence in the water as my hands sliced through the water stroke after stroke.  I won't lie my mind did wander more than a few times thinking about what could possible be down below me. Your mind can take you weird places at night. 

Cindy and I were fairly well paced with each other and I our feeding schedule every 30 minutes seemed to work. The warm feed mix of UCAN and GU's were easy to take down fairly quickly. Unfortunately, after 3 hours Cindy had to get out of the water. She was just too cold and couldn't keep it up.  I felt bad for her as it was a hard decision being that far into the swim. So it was just me out there all by myself. That was a bit of weird feeling at first. 

Aside from the finish there were two other strong memories. First, about 2/3rd's of the way from Anacapa there is oil rig Gina.  From the distance it looks like a brightly lit spaceship. I used it for sighting and something to swim towards. The closer I got it the more brightly lit it appeared and I could hear the motors of the oil rig in action.  

The second, thing was the sunrise-thank God! It was a much needed mental break from the dark night and a motivator. It couldn't get sunny, quick enough. Things are always better in the light of day. Oddly enough the water began to feel a bit cooler then. It wasn't bad but I certainly noticed it. Later I learned the water temp dropped to 59 degrees. 

The finish was suppose to be at Silver Strand beach where we had trained the day before but there was a high surf advisory with massive waves. They didn't want the sailboat to get to close to shore but they didn't want me in a fatigued state to fight the waves swimming to shore let alone try to fight them swimming back out to the boat. It got a bit intense for a bit as they were trying to figure out where to land me. I had no idea what was going on. The crew just told me to swim.  I did what I was told as the current against me got stronger and stronger.  Hollywood Beach was the new destination and with some maneuvering between the jetty and the boat I finally made it to shore. I cleared the water line, raised my arms, the air horn sounded,I did a quick jig on the beach and I got back in the water (ugh) and swam very, very slowly back to the boat. Mission accomplished!!! 

I was pleased with myself and the swim but it took a bit more out of me than expected. Importantly, there were some good lessons learned for future long swims.

Lessons learned:
-Keep your head down and don't look at land as you get closer
-Warm feeds are good
-Liquid aspirin is better than pills
-Learned how to swim at night
-Swimming at night is more mentally taxing
-Use different water bottles
-Work on my stroke technique
-Have a mental game plan for when things get tough/boring
-Mental game is likely more important than the physical game
-Be prepared for possible changes in the game plan

PS-Note I didn't use the S*@^# word once in this blog!


Sunday, October 16, 2016

#81 & #82 Going Back to Cali

Whether it's Nortorious B.I.G.'s or LL Cool J's version of the song Going Back to Cali the one thing that is hard to argue is that everyone likes...Going Back to Cali. We did just that!

USC's Family Weekend coincided with a  football match up between the the Trojan's and the Buff's. It was a great excuse for a family get-a-away in Los Angeles with Sean flying in from Boulder and Shannon, Courtney and I making the trek from Boston.  We rented a house in Venice to serve as home base to shoot into campus and to new pools and open water venues.

First up was pool #81 at the Spieker Aquatic Center on the north side of UCLA's beautiful campus. My friend Jacki, encouraged me to go to the 6:45am Bruins Master practice. I am sure glad she did as I was rewarded with the gorgeous colors of the sunrise reflecting off the water of this great outdoor pool.  Not only did I get a solid workout in I met a new friend and got to hot tub with Jacki post swim practice. Southern Californian masters swimmers sure have it pretty good!

On the weekend I was told that open water swimmers meet on the beach at Tower 26 (lifeguard tower) just south of the Santa Monica Pier in the mornings for organized swims.  I loosely hooked up with a couple of swimmer and swam just over a mile. The water felt good at a temperate 68 degrees. 

On Monday,  I headed south on the 405 to hit  pool #82 the Belmont Pool in Long Beach.  The Belmont Pool is a temporary 50m outdoor pool just off the beach in Belmont Shores area. The original pool was home to Olympic Trials and many national competitions. It was also where I swam many, many years ago with our friends the Walkers. I swam 4000 yards outdoors. It felt great however I think I got to much sun on my head.

It was then off to Orange County for some open watering swimming a couple hours later at Big Corona Beach in Corona Del Mar.  Yup-doubles!  The guard shack said the temp was 68. I swam for I would say just over a mile and got out as I was tired of swimming by myself in the ocean...and my mind began to wander.  It was a perfect Southern California day weather wise.

I spent the night in my old stomping grounds of Laguna Beach. Watched a stunning sunset and had dinner with a friend.  In the morning there was marine layer and it was a bit cool. I forced myself to go for a 1.5 mile swim  nonetheless from the Pacific Edge Hotel to the cliff just below Las Brisas and back. My guess was that the water was a bit cooler than what it had been further up the coast. It was then off to the airport to go to Phoenix for work.  Great outdoor swims in both the pool and in the Pacific Ocean.

It was great to be together as a family. We had some fun dinners out, did some tailgating at The Bungalows with Ryan his friends and watched some good football. The boys wore their school colors, Courtney chose SC colors and Shannon and I repped the purple and gold of the #5 team in the country the University of Washington Huskies. Fun times!

For sure we will be Going Back to Cali...

Abbott Kinney, Venice  Bleeding Heart Wall
The Laguna Greeter, Laguna Beach 
Fast Food