Sunday, September 25, 2016

#79~Resort Style Lap Swimming

Over the years I have been to many luxury resorts. While many say they have Olympic sized swimming pools it's simply not true. Typically, it means they have 20-25 yard/meter pool-that is not Olympic sized.  In fact, I am not sure I have ever seen a 50 meter pool at a luxury resort.

This week my travels took me to posh Palm Beach and the swanky Breakers Hotel & Resort. The hotel was built by American oil, railroad and real estate tycoon, Henry Flagler in 1896.  The expansive hotel complex sits on a low bluff on the Atlantic Ocean.  Adjacent to the actual hotel with its prominent twin towers is a fitness center and spa that has four different pools and easy access to the beach. 

Some pre-trip planning assured me that I would find a pool worthy of some decent lap swimming. I got up early and headed to the pool at dawn thinking that the well heeled patrons of The Breakers would be sleeping in. That wasn't the case. When I got to the 25 meter three lane pool just before sunrise all the lanes were filled. The three old timer swimmers made it pretty obvious that we wouldn't be splitting lanes or circle swimming. I headed off to the squarish shaped lounging pool to swim by myself to kill some time. My stroke count would suggest it was about 35 meters long. I swam up and down the pool trying to swim straight which wasn't easy without a black line to follow. When I saw the old timers leave the lap pool I went over to swim some laps.  

The very nature of a resort pool with only three lanes, no pace clock and bath temperature water isn't conducive to a tough work out. I stuck to easy lap swimming which was  luxurious and appropriate for the serene setting.

The next day it was effectively the same drill with a slight diversion of swimming in the ocean for about 300 meters. I didn't swim out too far because it was dawn, I was by myself, and I was swimming in Florida's east coast waters and well you's just not safe to swim in those conditions if you know what I mean.

With the sun rising over the Atlantic both mornings it was a wonderful way to start my days!

Earlier in the week I was also on the west coast of Florida in Clearwater Beach and had the chance to take a morning swimming in the Gulf of Mexico. It was like a hot tub!

Saturday, September 17, 2016


Lots of pressure for this years Boston Sharkfest swim. This was the fifth annual swim. I have competed  in all of them and have won my age group the last two years. There was tremendous self imposed pressure to three-peat!!!  I did not let myself down!

It was a beautiful, last day of summer. Blue skies, the temps in the mid-seventies and even better the water was 68 degrees. Perfect conditions for a sans wetsuit swim. I'm met my fast friend Eric at registration. We checked in and surveyed the course from the finish line, left our bags at the bag drop and made our way to the water taxi.

Taking the water taxi over to East Boston looking back to Boston and the Moakley Courthouse finish line Eric and I visually charted our course. It was clear that the better plan was not to follow the red buoy line but to bear right and swim through the handful moored sailboats to the finish.

We waited about 30 minutes in the park before visiting with other swimmers and listening to the final race briefing. Eric and I self seated ourselves in the first wave that went off at roughly 11:30am. It's dock start with 75 swimmers per wave. It was a bit crazy at the start but the crowd thinned nicely by the end of the pier. Eric pulled away, quickly as expected. Sticking to the game plan I sighted off the right corner of the Moakley Courthouse. The water felt great and I knew I was right on course when I swam through the sailboats and saw the finish line approximately 500 meters away. 

Approaching the finish line and seeing the swimmers off my left that were following the buoy line I could tell I had a better line to the finish.  Finishing strong in a pack of youngsters I nudged a few of them out at the end.

Waiting for the results at the timing tent it shortly became apparent that it was going to be an age group win and a three-peat!

The awards ceremony was long as the organizers started with the wetsuit division and eventually made it to the skins division. At my age you don't get a chance to be on the podium so I was going to wait for it come hell or high water. There weren't many people in the crowd when I stepped on the podium but it was definitely worth the wait.

I was 34th out of 136 in the skins division with everyone ahead of me 17-35 years younger than me.  When you factor in the wetsuit division I was 48th overall out of 480 swimmers. Age adjusted not too shabby.

Looking forward to next year and hopefully securing a-dynasty!

A great day was capped off by a fun benefit dinner at Landsake Farm our local community organic farm.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Swim the Sea

This weeks swims reminded me of the quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Live in the sunshine, swim the sea and drink the wild air.

Twice this week I have had a chance to swim the sea. That doesn't happen to me often unless I'm on vacation or in some tropical locale. With the Anacapa Santa Barbara Channel swim about six weeks away swimming in water cooler than the pool at MIT is key.

The first swim was at First Beach in Newport, Rhode Island. I was there for an overnight business trip so I got up early and found the beach around sunrise. There were two cars in the parking lot with a couple of people watching the sunrise and drinking coffee. I think they may have been a bit surprised when I changed into my speedo and with my buoy in tow walked directly into the rolling waves and started swimming. The tide was out so I had to swim out a fair distance out so I could actually swim. It was a bit choppy and towards the one end of the beach it was a mess of red algae or seaweed. I lasted for about 25 minutes when decided I that if I really wanted to swim longer I was going to have to swim out farther to get out of the chop. I realized that may not be a good idea as I was the only one out there. The water temp was balmy 67 degrees.

The second was today, Saturday where I took a 45 minute drive out to Nahant just north of Logan airport a bit.  I was to meet a small group of the Nahant Knuckleheads for a swim. I got there just before 7:30am start time and when nobody showed I after a few minutes I went out on my own. It's a big long white sand beach and at that hour there were quite a few people out walking or jogging. The tide was out and I headed north as far as I could without getting in the way of a kite boarder and then I turned around and went the other direction towards Nahant until I found more kite boarders. The wind had definitely picked up and it was obvious that more kite boarders would be on their way. As I was heading back to shore I saw the group I had hoped to swim with just heading out.  I figured I swam just under two miles and again the water was 67 degrees. Ideally, it would have been better from a acclimatization point of view  if it was a few degrees cooler. Maybe next weekend for Sharkfest in Boston Harbor.

It was nice to swim the sea a couple times this week.

Driving past the Weston Town Green I realized it was the 15th anniversary of the September 11th attacks. Every year the town remembers that day in 2001 by placing flags on the town green in the shape of a flag. It's always a dramatic tribute. While the grass was brown due to our drought is was still beautiful and moving nonetheless.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

#78 Rocky Mountain High

This weeks blog reminds me of one of my favorite albums growing up; John Denver's Greatest Hits. I remember buying it at Wagners grocery store in Bend, Oregon. My favorite song on the album was Rocky Mountain High.  Was John Denver referring to high altitude training? Likely, not...but that is what I think about as this is the second time in a month that I have been in Colorado swimming in high altitude. The first time in Colorado Springs and this time in Boulder. 

I had never been to Boulder. It is one of those special places I have always heard about and finally I got to go there. This trip was extra special as first I got two great swims in and second and more importantly...well I will get to that later.

Pool #78 was the Scott Carpenter Pool a 50 meter outdoor pool in a beautiful park setting. I swam with Boulder Area Masters. With the number of swimmers in the water for the first practice at 5:40am and a second workout to follow BAM clearly has a robust membership. Not surprising as Boulder is a mecca for healthy living. It was a solid 3500m workout and while I felt the altitude respiratory wise I also felt it with heavy legs. 

The second swim was an open water swim again organized Boulder Area Masters. It was at Boulder Reservoir at sunrise~beautiful! It was a fully supported session with two courses set up and kayakers with walkie-talkies watching swimmers. It was clearly a training ground for triathletes as many were going out for a bike ride post swim.

The second reason this trip to Boulder was so special and bittersweet was we were dropping Sean off at CU. Sean wanted a mountain feel to his school and a place that would complement his outdoors lifestyle. He found it with CU in Boulder. It is a beautiful campus at the base of the Flatiron Moutnains with Tuscan sandstone architecture. 

I will have a lot memories of this college drop off but the overriding one was seeing how happy Sean was from the way walked and looked around but mostly a silly smile he couldn't wipe off his face. 

(the silly smile)

We will miss his lumbering presence and big caring personality in Weston but know it will be used in Boulder to meet new people, do new things and begin to discover himself and what success means to him.

Sean we are very proud of you! #skobuffs

Looking forward to more Rocky Moutnain Highs and altitude training in Boulder.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Cold Water Acclimatization~Mount Desert Island, Maine

This year we shook up things up vacation  wise and went to up to Maine. We headed pretty far north up to Mount Desert Island. It's home to Acadia National Park which is celebrating its 100 year anniversary.

Shannon rented a cool house in Southwest Harbor with a huge deck overlooking the harbor. It was to be a fun filled family week; hiking, kayaking, biking, eating and...swimming.

My friend Grant had a lot suggestions of various watering holes to swim in as he knew the area well because they have a family summer cottage there. 

Below are some of the cold water hotspots I hit. As it was vacation I only swam for 1000-2000 per session. Not far but it did the trick to get some exercise in, experience cool open water and check out new swimming holes.

First up was Valley Cove a quick drive from our house. It was a short family hike with beautiful views overlooking Somes Sound before coming upon Valley Cove. We were all pretty hot due to the hike so a dip in the cool (low 60 degrees) water was welcome. 

Next up was the harbor right off our deck. The water was tidal so there was quite an ebb and flow with the tide coming in and out. My big toe said the water temp again in the low 60's.

(Tide in morning)
(Tide in-evening)
(Tide out)

With a couple of salt water swims under my speedo it was time for some freshwater.  Echo Lake was a family beach a short drive from our place in Southwest Harbor. Not sure what the water temp was, maybe mid/high 60's. Whatever it was it felt really nice and comfortable.

The next fresh water spot was Long Pond where I had a couple sessions. It is anything but a pond~it's a huge freshwater lake. Long Pond is where Grant trains when in Maine. The water temp so pleasant just like Echo. I did a couple out and backs that just scratched the surface of the pond. Looking forward to swimming more there in the future.

Going back to salt water brought me  deep into Acadia National Park to Sand Beach. After a hot morning hike up the Beehive Trial with Shannon a cool swim was sounding welcome. I didn't realize how cool it would be though! There was fair number of people on the beach but very people in the water. If they were in it, it was only up to their knees. That's because according to the sign on the lifeguard tower it said it was only 58 degrees!!! While I only had time to swim about 1000 yards I must say while cool it didn't feel too, too bad.

(Sand Beach from the top of Beehive)

Fun times checking out new places to swim and new experiences with the family. Looking forward to going back to MDI in the future. 

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Citius, Altius, Fortius

With the opening ceremonies of the XXXI Olympiad in Rio de Janiero taking place last night I think it only appropriate to have an Olympic theme to this blog.

The Olympic motto; Citius, Altius, Fortius meaning Faster, Higher, Stronger was top of mind this morning for a couple reasons. First I was going to compete for the first time in the Wild Fish Swim Festival in Salem, MA. Second and more importantly Olympic swimming kicks off tonight and my friend Conor Dwyer is seated well and looking really strong for his events.

I entered the 2 mile swim and obviously did it sans wetsuit. It was a small cove and the water was quite warm and I must say the water was a bit dank. It was a two loop course that I swam with my synchro partner Jen. 

Felt good throughout the race pacing well with Jen and as we made the turn at the backside Bobby M came from out of nowhere. He passed us but we remained very close to him. I tried to put on the gas at the last buoy thinking I could catch him but to no avail. Bobby finished just a small bit ahead of Jen and I. Per usual Jen came out ahead. 

Post swim I was a bit obsessed in how Conor did in prelims in the 400 free in Rio. As it turned out he did really well and cut 1.5 seconds off his best time and is seated first for finals tonight. How crazy and exciting is that?

My Olympic moment was making the podium today. I finished second behind Bobby M. I beat him in the last two races this summer but he got me today by a small bit. 

Age adjusted with the other two competitors on the podium being 25 to 33 years younger than me I feel like a gold medalist!

While not a medal I did get a wash rag to commemorate my awesomeness!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

#77 & #78 Altitude Training~Colorado Springs, CO

With the summer Olympic Games starting in Rio in a short few days I thought it only fitting that I get some altitude training in Colorado Springs.

Actually I was staying at The Broadmoor for a business meeting. With a little early recon the week before I found a beautiful 50 meter pool at the exclusive Country Club of Colorado. It's a private members only club so the chances of getting in were slim. A simple ask by me of the aquatics manager landed a day pass to the pool. I'm glad I asked as the setting was gorgeous; an outdoor 50 meter pool at the base of Cheyenne Mountain.

Luckily the scenery looked good because  I sure didn't! I was slightly out of breath, alternate side breathing was a thing of the past and my send off's while typically manageable were a bit tight. I started to blame it on fatigue from the 3 mile Misery Challenge a couple days before when it dawned on me it was the high altitude-duh! Once I figured that out I just enjoyed the scenery and swam a leisurely 2,000 meters and got out. 

This pool ranks in the top 10 of all pools I've swum in based purely off the setting. Glad I made the effort to ask to swim there. If you don't ask you don't get!

The second high altitude training session of the week was the lap pool at the Broadmoor Hotel. Absolutely no comparison to the Country Club of Colorado but it was a legitimate outdoor lap pool at a hotel. I slogged through 1,000 yards which was a good way to decompress post meeting and to get ready for the awards banquet. I still felt the altitude, perhaps not as much.

A little internet research showed that I was at 6,000 feet in elevation in Colorado Springs versus 46 feet in Boston. Now I fully appreciate why our Olympians train at altitude at the U.S. Olympic Training Center. 

Hopefully this training will have me swimming faster at sea level soon!

Will be back in Colorado in a few weeks for some more altitude training.