Lessons from the Circle Line

Lessons from the Circle Line

The Circle Line cruise is almost a rite of passage for first-time MIMS swimmers. A 3-hour circumnavigation of Manhattan island, the cruise boat traces the same path as the marathon swim – albeit starting from 42nd St on the Hudson instead of South Cove.

The Circle Line is a unique and worthwhile experience in itself. The Manhattan skyline is visually stunning and full of interesting history – and the city’s geography lends itself to being viewed by water. But for MIMS swimmers, it’s essential research. Unlike most other marathon swims, you always know “where you are” in MIMS (i.e., how far you’ve gone, how far you have left) – so long as you’re familiar with the landmarks. Actually, I can’t think of a single other marathon swim with as many visual stimuli as MIMS.

The lower Manhattan skyline, as seen from the entrance to the Hudson River on 27 May 2011. The building under construction at center-left is the Freedom Tower, which will eventually rise 1,776 feet above Ground Zero. Swimmers will pass this view just a few minutes after the start of MIMS.


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Urban dictionary: Marathon swimming edition

Urban dictionary: Marathon swimming edition

Two of my favorite new phrases (well, they’re new to me, anyway):

“Getting chicked” and “grandpa pace.”

“Getting chicked” is when a man is beaten by a woman in an athletic event. Commonly uttered by exhausted men after ultra-distance races. Some might find it misogynistic, but I see it as a celebration of female superiority in endurance sports.

Examples:

  • Jim got chicked by Shelley Taylor-Smith in the 1985 Manhattan Island Marathon Swim. And again in 1987. And again in 1988. And again in 1989. And again in 1998.
  • Evan got quintuple-chicked in the Nike Swim Miami. But at least they were almost all teenagers.

“Grandpa pace,” popularized by Gordon Gridley (e.g., in this post), describes a relatively slow or conservative rate of swimming, suitable for channel crossings.

Examples:

  • Kevin may not be the fastest swimmer, but damn, he can hold that grandpa pace forever.
  • The main set is four times through: 5×100 best average on 1:30, followed by a 300 grandpa pace on 5:00.

Any other good ones out there??…

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Four Lakes, Three Rivers, and a Canal

Four Lakes, Three Rivers, and a Canal

The 2011 open water season hasn’t even started yet, but I have an important announcement to make regarding my plans for 2012.

I call it the “Four Lakes, Three Rivers, and a Canal” Swim.

Mid-June of 2012 I’ll set off from the mouth of the Chicago River and swim 375 miles north to the Straits of Mackinac. From there I’ll swim the 250-mile length of Lake Huron to the St. Clair River, which will lead me (via Lake St. Clair and the Detroit River) into Lake Erie. I’ll then swim 250 miles across Lake Erie (hugging the Canadian shore) to Buffalo, where I will enter the Erie Canal. From there it’s 360 miles to the Hudson River near Albany. Finally, I’ll take a 140-mile “victory lap” down the Hudson to New York City!

“As the current flows,” it’s about 1,500 miles from Chicago to New York. I figure it will take me about 4 months: 2.2-2.5 mph swimming pace, 6-8 hours a day of swimming, with a little extra time built in for unforeseen contingencies and slow canal locks.…

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On triple crowns, and varieties thereof

On triple crowns, and varieties thereof

The three traditionally recognized jewels in the Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming are the English Channel, the Catalina Channel, and the Manhattan Island Marathon Swim.

These aren’t necessarily the most challenging marathon swims in the world (though they are certainly challenging), but they’re arguably the most famous and iconic.

One might argue this traditional definition unfairly favors North Americans – and penalizes our friends in the Southern Hemisphere. A more “hemispherically balanced” Triple Crown would likely include the Cook Strait between the north and south islands of New Zealand.

But why settle for just one Triple Crown? Leave it to Steven Munatones to produce an almost comically long list of alternative triple crowns, depending on one’s geographic perspective. As it turns out, the trifecta I’ll be attempting this year (Tampa Bay, Manhattan Island, Catalina) is one of them – the “American Triple Crown.”

So now you know.…

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Finding love (and lap pools) in NYC

Finding love (and lap pools) in NYC

NOTE TO VISITORS WHO CAME HERE LOOKING FOR LAP POOLS IN NEW YORK CITY:

Hannah’s blog, 40 Pools, is the most comprehensive resource available.


(Actually, this post is just about lap pools. As for love – sorry, you’re on your own.)

New York City’s a great town and all, but not exactly a mecca for lap swimming. I would assume, in a city where space is at such a premium, it’s tough to make the economics of a lap pool work. As a result, almost any pool of regulation length is either behind the walls of expensive and/or exclusive athletic clubs, $1000/night hotels, or, if public and reasonably priced, then extremely crowded.

I learned this the hard way when I arrived in town the day before the Little Red Lighthouse Swim last fall and tried to find a place to swim a few laps. Pools are scarce, but so is information.

(For what it’s worth, the Metro LMSC has a decent list of USMS teams here, and Swimmer’s Guide hosts an occasionally-reliable database of lap pools here.…

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Fun Google tricks

Fun Google tricks

Have you ever wondered…

How many [yards] can I swim in [4 hours] if I hold a pace of [1:15] per [100 yards] … and you wanted an answer right now? Perhaps you didn’t have a calculator handy, or didn’t want to fire up Excel… or maybe you just didn’t feel like thinking very hard.

Observe:

Or, perhaps you have wondered…

If I swim [10K] in [2 hours, 45 minutes], what is my pace per [100m] ?

In conclusion: Bing sucks, people.*

* Full disclosure: I am a former employee of Google.

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Catalina

Catalina

I mentioned in my tentative 2011 race schedule that I was contemplating a date with the Catalina Channel in the late summer. That date is now set: August 25, 2011.

My support crew (tbd) and I will leave the Port of Long Beach aboard Capt. Greg Elliott’s Bottom Scratcher (what a fantastic name for a boat) around 8:30pm on the 24th. Upon reaching the northwest end of Catalina Island at Doctor’s Point, my swim will begin around midnight. I will swim at a NNE-erly bearing until I reach the San Pedro Peninsula on the California mainland, 20 miles away. If conditions and luck are favorable, I should stumble onto the beach near Rancho Palos Verdes, just SE of Pt. Vicente lighthouse, between 8 and 9am.

It will be my first channel crossing, my first solo swim, but also a homecoming of sorts. I was born and raised in Southern California, and my family goes back several generations in the area. I spent a week on Catalina for 6th grade “camp” – still one of my favorite memories.…

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Summer marathon swims, in pictures

Summer marathon swims, in pictures

What’s a marathon swim? Distance is how it’s typically defined – any swim 10K or longer. Another indicator? If you need high-level satellite imagery to view the course map.

Saturday, April 9, 2011 – Nike Swim Miami – Miami, FL – 10K

Saturday, April 23 – Tampa Bay Marathon Swim – Tampa, FL – 24 miles

Saturday, June 18 – Manhattan Island Marathon Swim – New York, NY – 28.5 miles

Saturday, July 9 – Kingdom Swim – Newport, VT – 10 miles

Saturday, August 13 – Boston Light Swim – Boston, MA – 8 miles



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Little Red Lighthouse Swim Preview

Little Red Lighthouse Swim Preview

Yesterday afternoon, NYC*SWIM announced that the Little Red Lighthouse Swim is moving up the Hudson. The 5.85-mile course has traditionally run between 56th and 172nd Streets (or vice versa, depending on the tide). Tomorrow, and possibly also in future years, the swim will begin at the 79th Street Boat Basin and finish near Inwood Park, all the way at the top of Manhattan Island.

The new course is a full 10K, and will pass climactically under the George Washington Bridge just over a mile from the finish. The Daily News of Open Water Swimming reports that it will be the largest 10K swim in the world, with 250 swimmers.



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Health comes first

Health comes first

This past week was a perfect storm of events to temporarily derail my training, and I should have seen it coming. But there are some things you can control, and some you can’t.

It’s tough to train while traveling. Not impossible – I got in 7,900 LCM within 12 hours of arriving in Chicago – but usually tough. Add a few late nights, some occasionally excessive drinking and fraternizing, frequent use of public transportation, and, well, you’re asking for it.

And I sure got it. This wasn’t one of those bugs that teases you for a few days with a sore throat. This one hit me like a truck. Down and out.

At which point there’s nothing to do but rest and wait it out. For me, it has meant 6 days out of the water right before my taper was to begin. Could I have gone to the pool today? Perhaps. 15 years ago, I almost certainly would have. And the bug would have gradually dug its way into my sinuses and festered for the rest of the summer.…

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