Saturday, November 14. 2009
Where were we this morning? It’s hard to remember back that far when we do so much in a day. Ah, yes, Salt Island. We planned a great swim - a one mile loop around Salt Bay - the goal was to swim it twice, the second time faster than the first. We dove in, Busby Berkley style in a peel off the boat. We all made it around once, and some of us headed off for the second round, but the current was crazy and we decided to play it safe. We all worked plenty hard for nearly two miles. No complaints from this crew - they suited up for a hike on Salt Island.
While they explored and hunted down the Geo-cache, Lisa and I enjoyed a lovely dive to about 55 feet just a short distance off the back of the boat. Our mission: come back with conch for fritters. We only found one, and decided to let him be, but on our way back to the boat, we were aggressively courted by two giant remora looking for a ride! We lead them back to the boat for our swimmers to see, but alas, they were not back from their island exploration yet.
A lunch of burritos under weigh as we headed back to the Baths - so glad to return, having missed a shore landing on our first visit earlier in the week. Before we left the boat for our swim, Captain Rich hoisted me up the mast so I could get an eagle eye view of our swimmers in the Promenade’s trampoline.
We swam in to shore and followed the path through the magical boulder field. It was a great thing to do on our last day in the islands. We ended our water sports with a 2+ mile swim from the boulder beach all the way to Spanish Town - current against us. No matter, we dug deep and left it all out there. Everyone was so glad to have made the swim.
As we sailed back to Tortola, Christy zipped me around in the dinghy so i could get pics of our swimmers on our lovely sea-home, sailing off into the sunset.
We gamed over cocktails, stuffed ourselves on a fantastic meal of steak and potatoes. followed by chocolate moose and a slide show recapping the week.
Now the evening’s activities have ended, but we’re all still milling about, procrastinating, not wanting to pack, not wanting to leave. It’s been a special week. We’ve all pushed ourselves more than we could have imagined, found strength in our strokes we didn’t know we had. We’ve seen wildlife, made an historical crossing, and supported each other in swims long and tough. Will declared that what we do is pretty bad-ass, and we all agree that we’ve earned it.
Here are some interesting stats:
We ate 15 lbs of cheese, 8 dozen eggs, 6 blocks of butter, and drank (and rinsed with) 1600 gallons of water. We also swam just about 16 miles, covering Virgin Gorda, Cooper, Salt, Peter and Norman Islands and saw sting rays, a manta, turtles, tarpon and countless other species along the way.
What a week.
Tomorrow we’ll trickle out of Tortola, on our way to homes across the States and Canada. But we’ll be bound by this Caribbean Sea and the strides we’ve made within it.
It’s almost too much to take - another jam packed day for our SwimVacationers, with many phenomenal experiences and a few historical moments.
We started in Little Harbour of Peter Island and had a 2+ mile swim. Conditions during our swim ranged from flat water and sunny skies, to contrary currents, high wind (against us), thunder, lightning and driving rain. Wildlife sightings included a squid and two turtles.
After another wonderful Lisa breakfast, some went up to the top of the island to check out the ruins of an old mansion, while others rested and I edited the bazillion great pictures we’ve made this week.
Back together, we got into the water for some play - a few of us took a free diving lesson with Rich. He taught us a little about breath control, and how to prepare the body for a deep free dive experience. By the end of our time in the water, Will and I had both made it to 55 feet! A personal record for us both. In spite of her shoulder injury, Adriana has made the most of her time here, and has jumped in to participate in as many of our activities as possible.
Lunch was burgers on home made buns (enough already! my hips can’t take much more!) and salad. We digested for a while and set off for our next destination. Lisa and Rich were being very mysterious about what was to come. Quietly Rich put up one sail, and strung some lines beneath the bow and stern. “Pool’s open everybody!” Lisa chimed with her delightful accent. We jumped in and gently glided along beneath the slowly moving Promenade. What a ride. We took turns out-swimming the boat, climbing the lines, and had a ball. Craziness.
Six of us rode the banana towed along by the Promenade, out in between Islands. A silly ride to our next swim spot - the infamous Dead Man’s Channel.
Here, many pirates lost their lives when punishment saw them thrown over board in front of Dead Chest Island. Most of them couldn’t swim and were left for dead on the uninhabitable isle. Their only hope for escape was on Peter Island, across the channel, about 3/4 mile through swell and current. Pirates died making this swim, and their bodies floated up on Dead Man’s Beach on Peter Island. Hopper and Hodding made this swim on their unprecedented inter-island swim, and it brought them to their knees. To our knowledge, no one has done it since.
We were lucky to have such calm conditions today, so we decided to give it a shot, and be the only people besides Hopper and Hodding to swim the channel and live to tell the tale.
Our intrepid SwimVacationers didn’t even blink. Off the boat, swam to Dead Chest, quick regroup and away we went, across to Peter Island. We all made it, safe, sound and exhilarated.
Margaritas, fish cakes, chicken satee and crazy brownies and ice cream filled us up after our day of physical activity. All in all we had another 3 mile, spectacular day. It’s hard to believe there’s only one day left, but I’ll dream tonight about what we can cram into it.
Another full day, another fantastic BVI day. It’s almost hard to believe!
We got in the water a little late this morning, somehow all of us up to a slow start. Captain Rich moved the boat half way out of the Bight of Norman Island, and we all jumped in for our BIG morning swim. We warmed up with some stroke drills lead by Will, and then proceeded to an over 2 mile swim. Past the caves (where once was treasAAAAAAAR found) and to the very southern end of the British Virgin Islands. We swam back to the boat and found bacon, eggs and toast waiting for us.
We decided to give our swimmers a break and make this our one-swim-day. In spite of that, we all managed to spend more than 6 or 7 hours in the water, between snorkeling the caves of Norman and then hours of crazy water toys in Little Harbour of Peter Island, where we are now moored for the night.
The seas have calmed for us it seems, and we can hardly believe we are sliding down the back half of our amazing SwimVacation week
We’ve all gotten to know each other pretty well in our time together so far, and it has been so much fun to discover little-known facts about each of our guests:
Linda was one of the first women engineers and has traveled the world in that capacity. Now she plays water polo, swims, rows and sings in a choir.
Keith once met the Queen of England while playing clarinet in the 48th Highlanders Military band.
Mark has two kids and two grandchildren, and he just. keeps. swimming. No matter how much we swim, Mark swims more. He just can’t get enough.
Chris eats one cup of blueberries every day, and has a sneaky, devilish sense of humor that cracks us all up when we least expect it. He’s also a junkie for the Predator.
Steve is a stock car racer and always laughs at my dumb jokes. He loves trimarans, sailing, the ocean, and swimming (welcome to SwimVacation!)
Adriana has had several brushes with famous folks, including Paris Hilton (as an infant - Paris, not Adriana), Tom Cruise, Oprah Winfrey and Glenn Close.
And those are just a few facts about our intrepid group of SwimVacationers. We’ve enjoyed our days and nights together, and will continue to for the rest of our special week.
Chris has asked to contribute to the blog tonight, and I’m so grateful! Here he is:
Greetings to Hopper, Cortney, Liv, Gaffney, and Fletcher, we miss you here Hop.
My goal for the trip was to take every opportunity to swim that the trip provided. It has been more than
I could have imagined thanks to our fantastic guides Will and Heather and the excitement they have brought to each day.
I’ve gotten into the routine of Swim, Relax, Repeat... the way a vacation should be!
What a day.
What a day.
We woke up in Great Harbour, Peter Island. I remembered that this was one of my favorite spots on last year’s SwimVacation. This trip, it did not disappoint. Not a bit.
After all of our miles in big swells, we were rewarded - very little surge, and a lovely rainbow as we dove in. We planned a swim hugging the shore of the harbor - about one and a half miles. I lead the pack.
First, a stingray. Our first of the trip. A lovely calm swim over beautiful reef nursery habitat - lots of little juvenile fish species, sea anemones, flamingo tongues, on and on. We rounded the corner and hit a spectacular patch of reef. Filled with schools of silver sides and huge tarpon in to feed. Pelicans diving all around us. An aquarium.
Then, out in front, I saw it. I could not believe my eyes.
A Manta Ray.
Not a sting ray, not an eagle ray. A bonafide Manta Ray. A Manta holy-moley ray. A manta ray, people. If you know anything about marine life in the Caribbean, you now have your jaw on the floor. Yup, a once in a life time sighting.
I picked up my head, nearly breathless. The nearest swimmer to me was Chris, who was suddenly right next to it. He had a good close up experience with it. Then came Keith, who caught a glimpse. Sadly, the beautiful creature swam away from us before the rest of our team caught up. But we were all ecstatic for the experience.
Barely recovered from this remarkably rare event, we continued our swim to the in water play ground in Great Harbor. A huge inflatable ice burg to climb, and a water trampoline which we managed to climb up on. We literally jumped with joy after such a magnificent swim. So much fun.
After our play time, it was time to head back to the Promenade, which was about 1/2 a mile across the harbor. The swell had picked up, and we had a rough swim back, but the whole experience was well worth the effort.
We did some underwater video taping for tonight’s stroke clinic, and then had a hearty pancake breakfast. We had a magnificent sail under the Promenade’s red and white spinnaker and landed at the Indians, where we snorkeled and played and did some more video taping.
We’re being dogged by an impending weather system, and in order to stay ahead of it and get in all of our special SwimVacation traditions, we moved to Norman Island to do our Willy T’s swim, which we normally save for the last night.
FIrst, we hit the beach, where Will did a beach start and finish clinic. We practiced our race starts and finishes to a slightly inebriated and amused audience of beach loungers. After our last start, we made the 1/2 mile swim to Willy T’s floating bar, where deck hand and dinghy queen Christy met us with our clothes. We enjoyed our cocktail hour there, and are now back on the Promenade for dinner. Tonight we’ll have a look at our underwater videos of stroke and WIll will give us the run-down on our technique.
A full day. A phenomenal day. It’s SwimVacation. It’s the BVIs.
It was a Manta Ray.
Swim open water indeed
Awoke to calm breezes in Cistern Bay off Cooper Island. Will and I planned a big swim this morning - just about 2 miles. The water was so warm and clear, the reefs beautiful. We had the wind at our backs most of the way, but when we turned around and came back we had to dig deep. Adriana is being haunted by and old shoulder injury, but she got in and snorkeled so as not to miss the lovely reef life. Everyone else made the entire swim and felt great, especially when we returned to a hearty breakfast of Eggs Benedict.
We lunched on fantastic shrimp, bruschetta and deviled eggs, and made a quick stop back to Road Town (Tortola) to pick up Mark’s luggage (hooray!). While we were in the harbor, a dolphin came to visit - not an very common site here in the BVIs.
Off to the wreck of the Rhone, where our swimmers got in to snorkel and play, and host Lisa and I made a spectacular dive. I photographed a sea turtle, which later made an appearance for the swimmers.
A short break, and on to our afternoon swim. Some took a pass after our massive morning swim. The rest of us jumped in at the Rhone and swim about 3/4 mile east along Salt Island, while Captain Rich followed us in the Promenade. Linda, Chris, Mark and I decided to challenge Will to a race - but Will had to wait two minutes after we started get in. He caught us at about the half way mark.
The swells had really picked up by the end of the swim...but no complaints from our swimmers. They are ready for whatever this beautiful Caribbean blue has to offer, and embracing this experience to the fullest.
Cocktail hour with fabulous dip and crackers, mojitos, stories and learning more about the intrepid members of our group. We were rewarded for our day of hard swimming and play with a fantastic sunset.
Moored at Great Harbor off Peter Island tonight. Looking forward to whatever tomorrow holds!
We had a leisurely morning. Some of us went to Village Key to walk around before our charter start. We passed goats - lots of goats, and got a feel for the island of Tortola. Mountain roads and an open air cab ride back made for a delightfully hair-raising ride.
First stop: The Baths. A swim briefing, a quick talk about sighting and navigation, and our swimmers plunged in. We totaled about 1/2 mile up and back, with an attempt to go ashore at the famous boulders. The swell increased over the course of our swim, and by the time we tried to get to shore, the breakers were just too big. No exploration today - we’ll hope for another shot later in the week if the weather pattern changes.
Overall, a very nice first swim. Our swimmers proved hearty in challenging
conditions - and this was supposed to be our breezy introductory swim! They are more than ready for this week
We’re moored tonight at Cooper Island. We should have a nice protected swim in the morning. For now, it’s cocktails and goofy shades Guide WIll was kind enough to bring for all.
Travel days are always interesting....Will, Chris and I traveled from Portland together, and the first SwimVacationer we met in San Juan was Linda. A quick hug and she was off on her flight to Tortola. Soon after we found Steve, followed by Keith and Christy (our deckhand) and all boarded our AA flight to Tortola.
“Anomaly” and “Engine” are never words you want to hear your pilot say in the same sentence, especially at 7000 ft. He did, and we did a U turn and headed back to San Juan. Not to worry, we shared laughs in the airport and made the most of it.
By 11 pm we had all SwimVacationers aboard the Promenade safe and sound, and were only missing Mark’s luggage, which is on its way.
Flying into Tortola in the dark meant that our guests woke up this morning to the spectacular view of the BVIs volcanic peaks for the first time. What a way to wake up.
Odds and ends to attend to this morning before our charter begins at noon. Thanks to Linda who hand made scones - individually wrapped and labelled - and found room for them in her suitcase!
Welcome to SwimVacation!
Woke up to snow on the rooftops. Amazingly, 3 roses still bloom in the garden. Linda wrote to say the temps in Texas aren’t much different than in the BVIs right now. Won’t feel too different for her, but I can’t wait to feel that blast of heat when I step off the plane tomorrow...
Tomorrow! I’ll leave Bath, Maine at 4 am and arrive on the deck of the Promenade by 7:30. The pic above is where we’re headed...I think I dreamt of sea stars last night.
Finny and I had a swim with Hopper and Cortney and 2 of their 3 swimming superstars this morning. I meant to bring the camera for a last blog pic from home but forgot (it’s in my suitcase). So here’s a corny swim pic taken in my living room.
A special dinner tonight for the 3 of us and then to bed...I’ll creep out before the sun rises, and watch it set in the beautiful blue Caribbean.
Rest and travel safe, swimmers!
It's snowing outside. I am wearing a hat inside because I am trying not to turn the heat on, but I might just have to go ahead and do it.
I'm packed a whole day early. Most SwimVacationers will only have a small duffle bag to bring what the need for our open water week, but as team photographer I have a little more to lug to the British Virgin Islands.
One more pool swim tomorrow morning, and then into the little pool with my 3 year old, Finn, where we will be joined by SwimVacation President Hopper and his family. Finn loves to swim already and i can’t wait to get him out into the ocean one day. It will be good to go over things with Hopper one more time before i leave home at the crack of dawn on Saturday.
I love to go, but leaving home is always hard, especially with a kid. Good thing I know just how great the next week is going to be - sun, blue water, ocean creatures, a great boat to call home, great people and swimming. Lots and lots of swimming. Can’t wait!
The snow has stopped for now, but I’m planning on soaking up as much of the BVI’s sun and surf as I can to hold me over for the winter.
Not long now!
Thursday, September 24. 2009
This past summer 2009 I discovered a new long distance swim thanks to a friend who lives in the area. It is called the Point to La Pointe swim, located in Bayfield, Wisconsin. It was held on Saturday, August 8. The swim is 2.09 miles, a perfect length for any triathlete wanting to train for an ironman-length swim or for any open water swimmer wanting a shorter distance challenge. It’s a good one to train for any of the “Escape” from Alcatraz swims.
It begins on a wide beach, which can easily accommodate hundreds of swimmers, and is a straight line to Madeleine Island, the largest of the Apostle Islands in the southern part of Lake Superior. The weather was perfect this past year with it being overcast; therefore, no sun in your eyes. The water temperature was a “balmy” 64 degrees, which is higher than it can be that time of the year. Organizers of the event required wetsuits; however, I think you could probably swim it without one if you were so inclined.
There was a little current flowing in the direction of the swimmer’s right side. There really were no swells to contend with this year. Not having done a competitive swim race in many years, I had forgotten what a mass start is like with hundreds of competitive swimmers kicking and elbowing you. I was wondering what I was doing at the young age of 61 starting at the front with all the younger, aggressive swimmers. Once in the middle of the pack there is no stopping, so I gutted it out until I was able to eventually get to point I could settle into a normal rhythm of breathing with no one right on me. In the end, I think it helped my time a lot to start out fast. The buoys along the way were easy enough to see without the sun in your eyes, keeping them on your right, and the huge balloons on the island at the finish line were easy to sight about half way there. Several kayakers are out in the lake prepared to guide you in the right direction in case you get lost. Each year the dynamics of the race do change depending on the weather.
The race begins promptly at 7:20 AM for the competitors. Ten minutes later, the “community” swimmers take off, which is a division for non-competitive swimmers. Community swimmers must have a kayak to support their crossing. Competitive swimmers need no kayak support. There are awards for first and second place winners in their age groups. First place was a locally, handcrafted mug filled with fresh blueberries. Sweatshirts were given out last year to all competitors. They were worn in abundance after the cold swim. With 220 registered swimmers they had to turn away some in only its fourth year of existence. I understand that next year they will be taking registrations for 300 swimmers. Food is great, catered by friendly volunteers on the island side. Overall it is a very well organized race. They make it enjoyable for both competitive and non-competitive swimmers alike. It is fun to take in the local sights on the island before catching a free ferry ride back to the mainland.
It is by far one of my favorite races ever. What I love about the swim is that you are swimming from the mainland to an island, having a specific destination and not swimming in a loop. Also, it is nice to not have to deal with the thought of sharks or stinging jellyfish. Having lived on Madeleine Island in 1973, and having done a solo swim in 1990 from the island to the mainland, it was like a homecoming for me. Great to see my friends again!! Also, it was great to return to “God’s Country.” It is one of those undiscovered, beautiful spots in the U.S.A., which has not changed much in the nearly 40 years I’ve been going there. Of course, there are more summer tourists than in years past, but it doesn’t take away from the experience of a fun vacation. There are lots of other activities to do when visiting.
The only downside is that there is limited lodging available in Bayfield. Some swimmers had to camp out. However, there was a Joan Baez concert in Bayfield the same weekend. Maybe next year it might not be so bad. Overflow lodging can be had in Ashland, only 20 miles away. If you don’t live in the area, like me coming from Colorado, you can drive of course, but I flew into St. Paul/Minneapolis and rented a car. It is an easy 4 hour drive. You can also fly into Duluth and rent a car from there, which is only a little over an hour drive to Bayfield.
Visit their website at http://www.bayfieldreccenter.com/Point_to_LaPointe_Swim.html
Thursday, June 11. 2009
5:30 AM, Simonton Lake, Indiana
There is a group of us that meet early in the morning before work to swim in the lake.
I have to admit, the first few times I pulled up to the lake in the dark and slowly eased into the dark water, with only a few distant house lights as guides, it was a bit unnerving. It is as though the water itself is black liquid emptiness.
In a way, this can help you focus on your form. As soon as you get into your breathing rhythm, there are no distractions. Siting is easy as you focus far across the lake to to other side where the green light is next to two larger lights. After a few minutes, you are gliding effortlessly across the empty, quiet calm.
At Simonton Lake, if you swim the perimeter, you will always be able to stop and stand if you want to to. For those of us swimming across the lima bean-shaped lake in a tangent to try to make it to the other side in the shortest distance, there will be no opportunities to stand once under way. It's just as well. Why break your stride once you settle into a pace.
As the dawn slowly comes up, and you are pulling through the clear water, gradually you can start to see your hands underwater, pulling back the bubbles. The light show begins and one by one the houses and trees emerge in your peripheral vision as the birds sing off the sandman.
Our morning swims are just a glorious way to start the day. It's exercise and therapy all in one. And it is never the same. There is always something new to see.
Tuesday, May 26. 2009
Editor's note: Dr. Keith Bell, Robert Alford, Lynne Smith, Chuck Wiley, David Barra, and Chris Derks. became the first people ever to swim the length of Lake Travis, Texas, approximately 63 miles. Swimming a six-person relay through the night, each swimming 1-hour legs in turn, they completed the Great Travis Trek in 18 hours and 35 minutes. This group was swimming to raise awareness for Swimability, an organization that raises money for the City of Austin Aquatics scholarship fund which pays for swimming lessons for underprivileged children. To donate go to: http://www.greattravistrek.com
We made it through the swim, making it to Mansfield Dam yesterday about noon! We had about a 3 hour delay for heavy lightning after we started Saturday afternoon. Total swim time was about 18hr 45min.
In the beginning, the weather rolled in as we were about to finish the 2nd hour leg. Keith Bell went 1st and Chris Derks was about 7 minutes from finishing the 2nd hour when we decided it was best to pull him and try to seek some shelter. Our safety kayakers marked the spot on the GPS unit and we headed for the boat dock where we'd picked up the pontoon boat that took us upriver from the 46 mile marker to the 54 mile mark where Keith had jumped in.
The water was too low for the 52' support boat we had, and even the pontoon boat couldn't get up the last mile. Keith had to ride up on the back of a jet ski. Anyway, as we were motoring back down river, we were able to contact the other boat and he headed up to meet us, since we were totally exposed on the smaller boat and getting soaked. We transfered people and equipment at about mile 47 and headed back up river to mile 48 where Chris had gotten out. We anchored there and waited out the electrical storms.
After the break, we got back under way about 6:15pm. The decision was made to just have the 3rd swimmer start, rather than have Chris finish the last 7 minutes of his hour. Lynne Smith pulled the 3rd leg, followed by myself, then David Barra, and Robert Alford anchored the 6th. I finished my leg just before sunset, and the clouds broke up for about the last 15 minutes before the sun slipped behind the hills. Then it was pretty dark. There was no moon and the clouds came back to pretty much blot out any star light. It made for an interesting overnight swim.
The bad weather did have one positive effect, it really cut down on the other boat traffic out on the lake. We didn't see many others out overnight. I can tell you my 1:15-2:15 shift was interesting. Like swimming in a sensory deprivation chamber. I did have a glow stick, but couldn't find the pins, so stuck it in the back side of my suit. I found out later that the kayaker couldn't see me at all. Nice. The rain had soaked all the outside seat cushions, so that made trying to find a dry place to stretch out and catch a few winks between shifts difficult. I managed to grab some floor space and sleep about 2 1/2 hours after my 2nd swim.
I was glad the sun was out for my final leg. I jumped in somewhere below the mile 13 channel buoy but before 12. The river channel must really meander back and forth over that area because I remember passing the mile 11 buoy about the middle of my swim and then once back on the boat for about 10 minutes we passed another buoy that I figured must be mile 9 at best. It turned out to be mile 7. Anyway, that certainly made our finish ETA move up quite a bit. I was certain at that point I wouldn't have to get back in for any more, so I just made myself comfortable on the boat and slipped into spectator mode. That, and ate a bunch of the food we had along. It was amazing how low the lake water level was. It's only May, I can't wait until August. The lake may be empty by that time if we don't get more rain. The Pedernales River was almost dry when we passed over it on the way out to the start. I can remember doing training swims up that arm of the lake past the Hwy 71 bridge over which we traveled, and there is no way you could do that today. All the boat docks are sitting on the shore and a little trickle of water seems to make it's way towards the main body of the lake.
Keith did the final leg and swam up and touched the dam just at the edge between the rock/earth part of the dam and the main concrete structure of the dam. It's a good thing we finished early too, because after we unloaded the boat at the park by the dam and got everything loaded into the cars it started raining. And of course, thunderstorms moved in later in the afternoon too.
Sunday, May 10. 2009
The Point to LaPointe swim started out two years ago as a local fund raising event for the Bayfield Area Recreation Center. However, judging by the strong interest and attendance this year, I predict that this event will become one of the preeminent open water swim events in the Midwest – if not nationwide.
The swim course itself is spectacular. It’s a point to point 2.07 mile jaunt in Lake Superior from the Bayfield mainland to Madeline Island, the largest of the world famous Apostle Islands. The water is stunningly clear – the most pristine lake water I have ever encountered. And the mighty Lake Superior lives up to its name by providing swimmers with ample challenges in the form of bracing water temperatures and strong currents.
However, it’s the surrounding area of Bayfield and the Apostle Islands that makes this an absolutely magical event. The Point to LaPointe swim takes place in early August when the brief but glorious Lake Superior summer season is in full bloom. And nowhere do people cherish their summer months more heartily than in the far north shores of Wisconsin and Minnesota. It is a land rich in culture and tradition that’s steeped in the ancient history of the Ojibwa migration and has its “contemporary” roots in the fur trade of the 1500’s and in the timber, iron ore, and fishing industries that provided the foundation upon which America was built throughout the 1700’s and 1800’s.
Go there for the swim, and stay there for the true experience of summer at its finest…
There were 120 swimmers this year – a huge jump from last year’s count of 57. Swimmers came from as far away as Long Beach, CA to brave the channel crossing, and they got to experience all facets of Lake Superior’s mercurial personality.
The first wave of competitive swimmers took off at 7:20am under near perfect conditions. With sunny skies and water temperatures hovering around 66F, the first mile was about as ideal as it could get. Halfway through the race, though, a northeast wind arrived and whipped up the waves so much that most of the swimmers had to fight a strong sideways current that literally came out of nowhere. I myself went home with several souvenir mouth/lungfuls of Lake Superior water, but I managed to make it to the swim finish in 1 hour 15 minutes without overshooting the target.
Others, though, had a bit more of a workout…
The community swimmers took off at 7:40am and experienced the brunt of the current for most of the swim. Many found themselves drifting southwest of the finish area only to have to backtrack along the coast with the guidance of a kayaker. Still, they all gutted it out, and the last swimmer exited the water at just over 3 hours – which makes me exhausted just thinking about it!
When you think about how swimmers train you realize how intense it is! Many swimmers start training before the crack of dawn, and swim for miles before breakfast! It is such a complete discipline; building strength, flexibility, coordination, and timing means a lot of hard work. Next time you feel tired after a jog, tennis match, perhaps a long chess or http://www.onlinepoker.com/ game, spare a thought for your swimmer friends. Swimming in open water makes the whole experience that much more challenging! Even if you aren't a big fan of the sport, you should go check out the Point to LaPointe swim next time. These athletes are truly incredible!
Thursday, April 23. 2009
Saturday, April 18, 2009
Travel home day. Simeon does not prefer to hug, but I always like to try, anyway. He usually capitulates, and grunts something in some ancient tongue while slapping my back too hard and squeezing my hand until all my knuckles crack.
My experience with the Air Sunshine desk at the BVI airport was interesting. The woman behind the counter told me that my 12:30 flight was now leaving at 11:30. “OK”. I said. And we would be stopping at Virgin Gorda. OK. And she did not have change for my $20 bill for the $5 airport fee. OK. And she could not find her pen to write me a receipt for the $5 charge that she did not have change for, anyway. Fine. Off to the waiting area. Same woman leads us outside at 11:25. Wait here. OK. 12:00 I wake up, having fallen asleep propped against a concrete pier in a Dramamine induced lala land. 12:30 we board the tiny plane, do not stop at Virgin Gorda, and make it to San Juan with no further incident.
I arrive in my driveway at 1:00 a.m., having stepped off Promenade 14 hours earlier. Kiss the kids, Cortney, then stare at the ceiling for an hour thinking about what a great trip this was. Have I found my calling?
Wednesday, April 22. 2009
How is swimming in the Tennessee River you ask? Dam(ed) good I’ll say. Thanks to the TVA and their power generating stations, the river is now a series of lakes connected by few miles of winding scenic riverbanks with pools of slow moving water between them. In Chattanooga, the river banks are lined with herons, duck nests, fishermen, running/bike paths, parks and floating restaurants (including the Delta Queen). Without the benefit of boat travel, you would generally miss much of the beauty along the river.
Thanks to the Chattanooga Rat Race organizers, you can now enjoy the benefits of river travel without the cost, hassle and inconvenience of boat ownership. For a small fee (proceeds going toward a good cause) you can sightsee and swim this lovely section of the Tennessee River at the same time. While rare, you may even have the opportunity to dodge a river barge while it travels through the area as well. Where else can you have that opportunity?
The shotgun start for the 4.5-mile swim begins at the bottom of a boat ramp just below the Chattanooga Lock and Dam (Creating Chickamauga Lake). The bottom is a bit rocky but it doesn’t last long as you begin your tangent to the apex of the first bend in the river. Kayak support ensures that you do not veer too far in any direction, but while towing is not permitted, course sighting is. No fear of dragging your feet (or other appendage) on the bottom for the next 3+ miles until you reach the end of the 3rd green on the golf course above. [Close to the start of the 1.2-mile event] As you watch from the surface, a big sandbar will suddenly come up from below. It is only with this perspective that you will note the aiding current of the river. The sand bar lasts just long enough for you to realize that the finish is within sight.
As you sight down river you see all four bridges connecting one side of The Scenic City to the other. The second (one of the longest pedestrian-only bridges in the world) stands as your finish line. Swimming through the shadow of the first bridge is somewhat eerie but it prompts the urge for that “sprint to the finish” since people now line the river bank watching you arrive. As you catch your breath and lounge in the river you will be treated to a unique (water level) view of the fabled Mississippi Delta Queen paddleboat.
Once out it’s a quick rinse in the park fountain, change in the adjacent restrooms and into an enclosed pavilion for delicious and well deserved post-race food and drink. Unique awards with local flavor are always popular for those who need additional motivation to take-it-out-hard. In the alternative, take your time and enjoy all that the river has to offer along the way.