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

Sunday, October 2, 2016

#80-Swimming & Golf, Minneapolis, MN

Normally swimming and golf don't often collide in my world. Nor would I have ever thought I would blog about them together.   You see, one is an aerobic sport where your heart rate and physicality is challenged and well...the other is a bit more...uhh...sendentary.

Last week I was in Minneapolis for work and to entertain clients at the Ryder Cup.  It was also a great opportunity to get a couple of master practices in at the University of Minnesota aquatic complex. I had been there a couple of times in the past. First with Ryan and Tommy for NCAA's in 2011 to watch our friend Conor Dwyer then an aspiring Olympian and now an Olympic medalist compete. The second time was in 2013 and pool #12. The new competition pool was closed that time so I swam in the old competition pool a 25 yard tiled pool with character. I remember talking my way into the athletic facility without paying that time too.

The new aquatic facility the Jean K Freeman Aquatic Complex is a beautiful 50 meter x 25 yard pool with a separate diving well. It was clearly built to host large championship competitions. I swam two mornings with a warm Midwest welcome from Coach Scott of Genisus Masters and my lane mates; Bubba, Jason and Fernando. While the workouts were only 3600 yards they were tough which was good as the rest of the day would be spent eating and drinking at Hazeltine National Golf Course in Chaska, MN for the Ryder Cup.

My friend Zach and I were there to entertain clients we had never met at the practice rounds.  It was a bit of a process getting to the course but once you got there you could tell this was a world-class event. The course setting was gorgeous, with corporate tents and United States and European Union flags flying everywhere. Social media had said Michael Phleps was there the day before so I was on the prowl for a Phleps sighting--this where swimming and golf collide. I was likely more focused on where to find him than I was on the golfers as I had no idea who the golfers were. At the end of the day I finally found him at the Omega watch corporate tent as they are one of his sponsors.  He was there bigger than life...on a billboard swimming fly. My day was complete and had gone full circle!

To keep the golf theme intact Zach and I found the actual Ryder Cup on display and had our picture taken with it. It turned out to be a very popular post on Zach's Facebook feed. Zach doesn't golf either which made it a bit ironic two non-golfers posing in front of a golf icon.


Good company, good food and a new experience made for a memorable trip. Not sure I will go back to Hazeltine ever again but when I go back to Minneapolis I know where to swim!

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.