Monday, July 28, 2014

Flaming Gorge SLOW Swim Trek

Salt Lake Open Water (SLOW) club leaders and members thought it would be fun do swim in different lake around the state, so they planned a swim camp weekend and Flaming Gorge. My family decided to tag along with me, so they could have a weekend out and so they could make sure the camper-trailer was ready for a big trip the next week. On Thursday evening we pulled up with the trailer and I was embarrassed, because everyone else there had tents. Great.

Anyway, we spent the weekend swimming and playing in the water. I skipped out on the early morning, Friday swim, because I wasn't feeling very well, but by the afternoon I felt fine. We all went to a beach, so the little kids could play while we swam.

We swam about 3 miles from the beach, back to the cove by our camp and back to the beach. The beach was just over the Wyoming border and our camp was in Utah, so we could say we swam from Wyoming to Utah and back; which was silly, but kind of fun. We spent the evening getting to know each other better, playing games, and having dinner. It was fun to get to know Gordon and his family better, Sarah and hers, Sue and hers, and Karl and his family better. I think it was good for my family too. They could hear all these other people talking about swimming and how much they loved it, and see that it is not just me who is a little crazy over swimming. That night a couple of us did a short one mile night swim from the cove by our camp. It was so beautiful! It was really dark with no light glow from cities, so the stars and the milky way were very clearly visible. The stars looked like they came straight down to the water. Once we had been swimming in the dark for a few minutes, my eyes adjusted and I could see the outline of the cliffs and mountains around the lake too. I love swimming in the dark. It seems like it would be scary, and it can be for the first minute or so. Then I remember that nothing is going to happen and it becomes incredibly peaceful. I feel like there is nothing in the world but me and the water. I love it.

Saturday late morning we decided to swim across the section of the lake by us and back. I thought this was a fun swim too. Sue, Gordon, and I were swimming the exact same pace, and Sarah was having fun testing out the drafting off of each of us. I didn't really worry about spotting much, I just stayed right with Sue to my left, only spotting every hundred strokes or so. When we reached the other side the water was clear and we could see the cool rock formations under the water. We spent e few minutes diving around looking at those before heading back. On the way back Sue and I picked up the pace and swam next to each other at a faster pace on the way out. Sarah and Gordon were just a few body lengths behind. It was a fun swim. Sue told me after that she wasn't really spotting much either, just relying on me and Gordon too. Maybe he was checking more. After we finished I was in the mood for more. The water felt great! So when Gordon headed back out to swim back with Cathi and Gary, I went too.

It was a great weekend of swimming and getting to be better friends with other crazy swimmers!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Bear Lake Monster Swim 2014

Bear Lake is probably my favorite open water swim! The water is so blue, and so clean. I have swum across Bear Lake several times, but this year was my second time participating in the Bear Lake Monster Swim race.

I headed up Friday evening so I could go to the pre-race dinner the night before. I decided I would really like to get to know some more of the people involved with open water swimming around Utah. I had a fun evening chatting with a bunch of the SLOW swimmers and getting to know them better.

On Saturday morning I met at the marina early, so my mom could shuttle our vehicle to the other side with a group of people. Unfortunately we were about 2 minutes behind them and my mom  never found them on the other side of the lake. Finally the return vehicle could not wait any longer, so they came back. While waiting for everyone to get back and check-in to start, I got to see a beautiful sunrise on across the lake.
Summer Sunrise at Bear Lake, Utah
For the race this year, we started on the West side of the lake, just North of the Marina. The relays started first, and 5 minutes later the solo swimmers started. We lined up about waist deep in the water and waited for the count-down. I was the furthest left person, which was fine, because I breathe more to my left, so that way I could see my kayak better. The water felt great and my stroke felt good too. I was really concentrating on fixing my pull on my right arm, because I had been pulling weirdly a few weeks before in my MIMS race. I felt like I was doing better. I was also trying to keep my stroke rate up a bit. I had been training for a 28.5 mile swim most of the summer, so I 7 mile swim was like a sprint to me. At my first drink break at the 30 minute mark, I was almost the last person. What! I am not supposed to be last! I had better pick it up. I picked up my stroke and kept working on holding form. I was able to catch up and pass several people. Towards the end of the race, the sun was in my eyes enough when I looked forward that I could not tell how close I was to the end. I thought I was still about 30 minutes to the finish, when my mom who was paddling told me to really sprint the finish. I thought it was a bit early, but I did so anyway, and 5 minutes later my hands hit the rocks of the beach.

As I climbed out someone with a camera and microphone came to talk to me, because they were doing coverage on the race. I thought it was cool, but I was still breathing hard from the finish. They were doing that with a  lot of people. When I got my time, I had finished in 3:20:54, which is about 5 minutes slower than my fastest crossing, but I was okay with that time.

This race made me realize just how much of a distance rut I was/am in. I decided I really need to work on some shorter things and getting a faster turn-over. I have been stuck in my forever pace. I decided it was time to pull out my pacer and work on my turn over. My goal for next year is under 3:10. 

Monday, July 7, 2014

My account of MIMS

Sorry this is so late getting posted. I had really bad internet service on the East Coast. 

Saturday, June 28th, 2014. Manhattan Island, New York City. 

MIMS 2014 group 2
I was up by 4:00 a.m. to get ready and be at pier 25 at 5:20. I was surprisingly calm and had slept surprisingly well, even if I did get to bed much later than I had hoped. We arrived at pier 25 by taxi at 5:30 a.m. I went to check in and panicked, because I had forgotten ID. When putting on a suit and gathering up all of my swim gear, ID is not the thing I think to bring. Fortunately my parents were crewing for me, and looking the their IDs and and the family resemblance, they told me I was just fine. Whew. As everyone was checking in and getting ready, I was able to meet some really great swimmers from all over the world. The marathon swimming world really is a small world. I had heard stories about various swims that people had done, where crazy things had happened, and now I was able to meet some of those people. After all the crews had been loaded on the boats, one of the Irish guys suggested that we take a picture with all of the swimmers right before we loaded into the zodiacs that would take us to  Pier A for the start of the swim. 

The 28th was scheduled to be a slow current day and to get windy in the late afternoon, so there was a big push to start the race early. We ended up jumping in the water at 7:30. The first thing a bunch of us said to each other was, "Wow, the water is so warm!" It was between 70 and 73 depending on the section of the swim.  On Friday during the pre-race webinar, we were told that there were not enough kayaker volunteers and that they would need 4 volunteers to just swim with a support boat and no kayaker. This is what I have always done, so I volunteered. So, while most of the other swimmers kayakers found them and helped lead them around the southern tip of the island, I just started swimming, trying to stay in the crowd and follow some of the other kayakers. It seemed to be going okay, but then I noticed that I was a lot further out in the middle of the river than all the other swimmers. I veered in a bit and kept going, hoping that my support boat would find me soon. They eventually found me about 20 minutes into the swim. The boat captain was not used to being a guide and was just used to being a support, so he would switch whether he was on my right or on my left, sometimes he would go in front or back of me, and occasionally he was nowhere near me. This made it difficult for me to tell where I was going. I was having to spot a lot, and try and follow other swimmers and kayakers. I was really frustrated with this. By the time we reached Brooklyn Bridge, I was in last place. The current in the East River was so fast that we flew up that in about half an hour. The problem was that some of the swimmers had gotten to the Harlem River before the currents and tides had changed, so they had spent half an hour swimming in place. It was here that I caught up to the first group of 8 swimmers and stayed with them all the way to the end. 

Passing Yankee Stadium
The Harlem River was really warm, 72-73 degrees and not salty at all, unlike the East, which had been a little salty. For the first section of the Harlem there was a current going against us, so it was incredibly slow going. There was one point that I got a little frustrated, because the building I was watching as I was breathing to the left continued to be by my side for 10 minutes or so, and it was not a huge building. I felt like I was not moving at all. I wasn't the only one, no one was moving. Finally the current changed a bit and we were swimming in still water. There was not really any current helping us, but at least it was not pushing us backwards. There were a couple sections of the Harlem, where I ran into  so garbage and gross stuff, but that was really only when the race officials would move us right by the wall. As long as we were a little further out, it was fine. I was right with another swimmer the entire time my feeds were always about 3 minutes before his and he would pass me on my feed, then a few minutes later when he was feeding I would pass him. This went on the entire length of the Harlem. I lost him in the Hudson, so I don't know where he finished compared to me. I got a little frustrated in the Harlem, because it was much longer than I thought it would be. It looks so much shorter on the map, but it never seemed to end! Finally in the last mile or two of the Harlem, during one of my feeds, a kayaker came up and said that the guy he was paddling for brought his own, and now had two. He had just noticed that I did not have one; would I like him to paddle for me. "Hell Yes!" was my thought. My support boat had been telling me to go every-which-way, and I was really tired of it. The swim went much more smoothly and faster once I had a paddler! Thank you Sam Nicaise. 

George Washington Bridge
The final stretch was the Hudson River. I swear there was a mile section right as the Harlem came out into the Hudson that the water was 75 plus degrees. It was so warm on the top that as my hand would go deeper when I was pulling I would think, "Oh, that feels better, I wish it was that cool on my face." George Washington Bridge is huge and it seems to take forever to get there. There is not much current in that area, but I felt like I was moving along pretty well. I would think, "Okay, on the next feed I will be there." This happened for 3 or 4 feeds-it took forever! 

About halfway down the Hudson my crew and paddler told me to sprint. They said there were 3 swimmers in front of me that I was gaining on and if I really pushed it, I would catch them. So I started sprinting. I kept sprinting and 2 hours later I finally passed one of the swimmers. My crew kept shouting at me to push harder. In fact, I got really pissed at them. They could see how close I was to catching another swimmer, so they decided to let me keep pushing and not waist time with a feed. I could tell they skipped one feed, and thought they might have skipped two. I had gotten pretty good at telling that half hour time period. My stomach was hurting, because I was so hungry. My mouth was dry and the water was by now really choppy. I kept thinking,"You get in this damn water and try and sprint without anyone letting you have any food, you little piece of S***! I can't push it harder if I don't have any energy!" Finally I stopped and told Sam I couldn't sprint anymore without a drink. That helped. About 45 minutes after that I saw that 20 feet in front of me was another swimmer. I really picked it up even more and I passed by him only a couple feet away. I continued to get further ahead of him and finished about 500 yards before him. The chop was pretty awful for the last 2 hours. Some of the time I couldn't see Sam, even though he was only a couple of feet away. I know I swallowed a bit of water here, and it was not particularly pleasant to swim in. 

The finish at Pier A
 For the last hour of the swim I was watching the Freedom Tower in front of me on my left. I knew the finish was right by that, so I just had to get there. It was really neat for the last little bit to see all of the people watching and cheering us on from the pier. Finally at North Cove, Sam turned off, and I knew I was really close to the end. I pushed even harder, following the seawall until I saw the big orange buoy floating in the water right where we started at Pier A. I sprinted the finish and whacked the buoy. The first thing I heard when I finished was a little gong thing and  someone shout, "Number 9."   I finished 8th of the 23. 

I swam out to my support boat, and road with my crew back to Pier 25. My uncle, aunt, and cousin were there waiting and said they had watched my swim past them. I skipped out on the massage and dried off and got straight on the shuttle to the the restaurant, where I found Sam my paddler to sit next too. 

I have completed my Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming goal and I am really happy to have done it. There were 4 of us who completed the Triple Crown in this group as well as my training partner Gordon Gridley who swam in the first group of MIMS. I am sure there are a few others too. I was the 87th person to complete the Triple Crown. I am always asked which of the three was the hardest. The answer is that they are so different they are hard to compare. All of them had their own challenges. For me, the English Channel was probably a little harder than the other two, because it was my first big open water swim. 

I am planning several more swims for the future. Right now I am looking to do the Cook Straight next year and the Straight of Gibraltar with Gordon in 2016. 
Triple Crown! 

Afternoon swim at Pineview- Last Open Water Swim before MIMS

I have a hard time going to do early morning open water swims because I am coaching during the mornings. Fortunately this summer I don't coach on Friday mornings, so I decided Friday, June 20th would be my last open water swim before heading to  New York. Unfortunately, I ended up not being able to make it int the early morning, so I had to go in the late afternoon. This meant that the boat traffic would be bad, even though I stay in the "no wake" zone. I roped my mom into coming up and paddling for me. I was planning to do 2 Goody loops to get 5 miles in. I hadn't realized how awful it can be to swim when it is that busy. I had also forgotten my good goggles that don't fog up too badly, so I couldn't really see anything. I ended up just doing one Goody loop and then doing a little extra after to get 3 miles in. 

I was sad to not get as much swimming in as planned, but the water was great! It was a great temperature and it was clear, and surprisingly high. Now I am ready for New York! 

Bountiful Informal Race June 4th

SLOW decided to host an informal .75 mile race at Bountiful Pond. I (almost) always swim alone, so I was excited to go and have some people to swim with. Plus it would be good practice for MIMS, since that is a race. I was called a couple of days before by Fox 13 News, saying they wanted to interview both me and Gordon about our upcoming New York swim. This event was a great place to  interview us.

I headed down to Bountiful, a little nervous about the interview and being filmed swimming, but I was just going to the race for fun. There ended up being 16 people show up for the swim, which was great--more than I had anticipated. Right around 5:00 p.m. we all entered the water and started the race from about waist deep. We were to go out past the first island, loop around the second island and come back. I started kind of slow, because I wanted to get out of the way of the other swimmers (I don't like to be crowded). I ended up finishing 3rd. It was this swim that made me realize how much of a distance mode or "rut" I am in. I like to try and keep it more balanced. It wasn't until half way  through this race that I started to catch up to people. I decided to spend the net couple weeks working on doing speed with my distance workouts. The water was a great temperature and it felt great to be swimming outside!

 Fox 13 Interview