Satisfying and Delicious

Endwet  2014.

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Floody hell!

The Red River, North Dakota, and the water in my basement, peaked simultaneously around June 21st 2014. It’s been a very stormy year.

I’d been checking the updates on EndWet’s facebook page for about a week prior to the race. The waters were rising. Apparently the river had reached official flood levels about a day or two prior to the race. I was nervous, and had visions of being pulverized by torrents of gushing water, floating houses, dead cows, fcars, people in barrels, and the usual things you see when major floods are reported on the news.

Despite the rising waters, Andy Magness of Extreme Nth Dakota racing managed to obtain the blessing of the Grand Forks Sheriff’s Dept. The only condition was that each swimmer had to tow an orange bubble for visibility. I’d been meaning to buy one, anyway. Swimmers who needed one were able to buy them for cost price at the pre-race meeting.

Here it is. I haven’t named it yet, and suggestions are appreciated.

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My fears were put to rest when I reached Grand Forks the afternoon before the race. The river was high, and the current fast, but nothing scary was floating in the water. The only thing that worried me was whether I’d be able to make it to shore at the finish point quickly enough to avoid being swept north to Canada. I think the current was estimated to be around 2mph.  As is normal with the Red River, the water was a nice milk chocolate brown. This is due to silt in the water, and it is quite clean.

I was happy to see quite a few forumites at the pre-race meeting. Suzie Dods, Franco, Leonard Jansen, Tim Root, Sandra Berquist. Canadian pocket rocket Annelise Carr was the guest swimmer this year.

As usual, I was nervous and panicky on race morning. I’m in the red suit standing at the back, with the look of utter panic on my face.

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Once in the water, all fears disappeared. All I had to do was swim 36 miles, with a little help from the river. The water felt cool and relaxing. For most of the swim I was relaxed and relieved that the worries of the world were outside and, if I kept my head down, they couldn’t find me.

I fed on Carbopro and Ribena every 45 minutes, with ginger beer as a treat after about 8 hours. I also had a few Honey Stingers and plain water feeds mixed in.

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Swimming down the Red River is a little like I imagine it would feel like to fall out of the Jungle River cruise at Disney, or to fall into Willy Wonka’s chocolate river. Most of the shoreline is jungle. Well, it looks like jungle from the water. I didn’t see monkeys like last year, but DID see a giant bird’s nest floating down the river! It took me a while to pass it, too. Fast nest. Being a slower swimmer has its advantages, and running into a few logs didn’t hurt. Aside from my kayaker, and the occasional visit from the Sheriff’s jet ski, I felt mostly alone during the race. The river winds this way and that, and you can’t see very far ahead. The whole day was very peaceful.

My kayaker, Melinda, was very patient with me every time I asked if the river was turning left or right up ahead. Believe it or not, that’s hard to tell from swimmer height, with trees lining the shore. That, or maybe my eyesight is on its way out. I can’t believe people really volunteer to kayak for these things. They are saints. I’m very grateful.

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It was a good thing that we missed the mile markers for a couple of hours after the half way point. I spent about two hours not knowing how far I’d gone. When we finally found mile marker twenty seven, I was very happy to know my calculations were correct, and I’d been swimming at around 3mph.

I was quite relieved when I finally caught up to Franco. My shoulder was hurting quite  badly about 2 hours from the end, and it was nice to catch up to Franco. Having another swimmer around encourages me to whine less and swim more. We went to and fro for a while, until he finally beat me in the end. I think I’m being very gracious about it.

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Here’s Franco and me coming in for the finish after almost 10 hours. I’m the one at the back, swimming hell for leather towards the shore.

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I finished in just under ten  hours (9.52?). Aside from a very suspect training swim in the lake a couple of years ago, it was my longest swim to date.

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Finishing in Grand Forks was a great idea. The swimmers were shuttled to the very clean, hot showers at the nearby campground, and the post race dinner was at the restaurant where we parked our cars.

Loved every 36 chocolately brown miles of it.

 

 

 

Belated Point to La Pointe 2013

This is a quick, experimental entry in my new blog location. I’ve never used wordpress before but I can’t do a worse job of it than I did of the USMS site!

Point to La Pointe is a 2 mile swim in Lake Superior, from Bayfield Wisconsin to Madeleine Island. The swim follows an angled path along what used to be the ice road, which makes me think of the book (and movie) The Shipping News. I can imagine people hauling entire houses across the ice.

The swim this year was on August 10th. The water was a little cooler than last year and was 62 degrees on race morning. The swim is kind of a triathlete-ey race and wetsuit mandatory. I swam it last year and had requested again, and been granted permission to do the swim without a wet suit. A few days before the race I received an email from the race director saying that there was a chance the water might drop below 60 and if this happened, their insurance carriers (USAT) couldn’t sanction the race for non wetsuiters.

I took the chance anyway and drove the 9 hours to Bayfield, pitched my tiny little tent in a camping ground near the campsite of what turned out to be the loudest snoring person on the planet, and picked up my race packet. Point to La Pointe hoodies are excellent, a different color each year. My daughter has already “borrowed” it. I took a little dip and measured the water at about 60-61. Lake Superior has the clearest water I’ve ever seen. I’d been for a swim in Lake Michigan with an Australian swimmer before driving to Bayfield, and it occurred to me that I’d swum in two of the Great Lakes in a single day!

I was ravenous after a 15 minute dip and went looking for something to eat. Bayfield has some great restaurants for such a tiny place, and I relieved Lake Superior of a couple of fried whitefish fillets. I suppose the fish were probably neither filleted nor fried until after they were removed from the Lake, but they were delicious anyway. I often crave fish when I go for a swim.

Here’s the starting point of the race.

PtoLaP

Oh good, the picture worked. More to follow…

We can go a long way in two hours, Mr Allnut

I’m either suffering from writer’s block or just general writer’s inability, but whatever my condition, I need to stop procrastinating and write this down so I don’t forget anything about last Saturday’s swim. Also, several of my computer keys have a tendency to stick or just not work (mostly the shift and apostrophe), and i doubt ill bother to fix those mistakes.

I’m still smiling after finishing the 27 mile End Wet swim down the Red River in Grand Forks, South Dakota. Actually, East Grand Forks, Minnesota, with a visit to South Dakota, and then back to Oslo, Mn at the end…

I originally signed up for ENd Wet as my long training swim for the SEarch for Memphre, but have since had to withdraw from Memphre. So End Wet is “it” for me for 2013, as far as big swims go. I’d read a few swimmers’ reviews of End Wet from 2012, its first year, and thought it was right up my alley; a quirky swim at a bargain price, organised by fun sounding people (http://endracing.com/), and drivable from Chicago

The drive was very pretty, and I stopped overnight in St Cloud, Mn, because I know from experience that a long day of travel before a swim can lead to cramps, spasms, tics and other undesirable bodily events, even before getting out of the car.

My wonderful volunteer kayaker, Jimmie, was at the race talk/registration the evening before the race and we were able to meet. I was a little confused about logistics, because we werent to meet up with our kayakers until mile 2. All questions were answered though, and I picked up a few supplies and a little Dominos pizza before heading to my hotel to prepare feeds etc. The pizza wasnt a great idea. Ive never had Dominos before, and it was pretty ordinary. quite horrible actually. Wont do that again. I was tired though, and wanted something quick and easy. When I finally climbed into bed at about 10pm I woke up and of course, couldnt sleep until after midnight..

The race started at the Cabela’s boat ramp in East Grand Forks. It was a super casual start, which I loved. We swam 2 miles before getting out just upstream of a set of rapids. We then walked through slippery mud past the rapids and re entered the water at another boat ramp (where we connected with our paddlers) and continued the swim. The walk through the mud was hilarious. It was smooth and sticky, with a clay-like consistency. I almost overshot the exit and was glad they had someone grabbing the swimmers!

The water was warm, brown, and clean tasting. Whoever named the Red River was either a little color blind or had some seriously blood-shot eyes. It’s brown. But pleasant! I enjoyed the scenery as I swam. it was a completely new place for me and the river was so much more interesting than I had expected. There were some sloping and some steep cliff like mud banks with huge trees. Sometimes you could see all the roots of the trees exposed. The river meandered the whole way. Sometimes there would be a very strong current and sometimes it would slow as the river widened and/or deepened. My favorite movie,the African Queen, was in my mind the whole time. I expected to see hippos surface and crocodiles slither down the banks. My absolute favorite moment was swimming past the car that was suspended, and sticking out of the much-flooded riverbank.

end wet swim

About half way my right shoulder decided to make itself known. It would not be ignored. Between about mile 14 and 24 I could barely lift my arm out of the water. it was like someone was sawing at my nerves with a bread knife. I think I swam about 10 miles alternating single arm free, backstroke and breaststroke. it felt really really awful, but luckily the current was pretty fast and worse case was that I would breaststroke the rest of it. Around mile 24 though, It kind of clicked back into place and I was able to finish the swim without the horrendous pain. 8 hours, 42 minutes is fast for 27 miles! especially with the horrible shoulder pain!

I can honestly say I loved everything about this swim. It was quirky and fun, but still tough enough that finishing was an accomplishment. I expected a much longer swim, but am glad the current was fast, given the shoulder ^&*%. My kayaker was fantastic. I’m so grateful for her patience and cheerfulness! Ive developed a tendency to veer left, which I noticed during the 10k postal recently. Ill have to fix that. At least with river swims, though, its easy to keep that in check…

Boring details Id like to preserve for my own benefit:
-Egg mcMuffin about 45 minutes before start (lost a bit of this at mile 1)
-1800 calories total during the 8hr 42 minute swim: 1500 Carbopro/Ribena/H20 mixture, 100 gatorade, 200 Uncrustable®, plus a few water-only feeds. feeds every30 minutes, in order, vaguely, Carbo Pro for about 3 feeds, gatorade for one, water for one, sandwich at the not quite half way point.
-This intake was perfect. AT least, I didnt feel any lack of energy at any point.

……There was a bold fisherman who sailed out from Pimlico
To slew the wild catfish and the bold mackerel.
When he arrived off Pimlico, the stormy winds did wildly blow
His little boat went wibble, wobble, and over board sprang he.

Singing:
twinki doodle dum, twinki doodle dum, was the highly interesting song he sung….

Return to Sender

I’m in the process of training for the long END-WET swim that takes place in North Dakota on July 13th. Training has not been going well, due to time constraints, and when the Smelts suggested a 10k postal swim I jumped at the opportunity.

I made up my little bottle of feeds in the morning, double checked everything on my list, drove for 90 minutes to the UIC pool and then realized I’d forgotten my suit, cap and goggles. I DID find a nose clip in my handbag and a snorkel in the boot of my car, so I wasn’t completely empty handed. For a change, I was wearing a bra and undies, so I could have relied on those. Thankfully my teammate Heidi had a spare suit and goggles, and another teammate Michael had a spare cap. No getting out of it.

People almost never ask me what goes on in my mind during my long swims, so here’s a yard by yard description of all my thoughts:

0-1000:
1000-2000:
2000-3000:
3000-4000:
4000-5000: hate swimming
5000-6000: hate swimming
6000:7000:
7000:8000:
8000-9000:
9000:10,000: food

What I Wouldn’t Do for a Holocaust Cloak

What a difficult month it’s been. A horror.

Work, exams, assignments, litigation, catastrophic flooding to my house, unrequited love …..and some news yesterday made me sick to my stomach.

I worked at the gym until 12.30 and then came home, had lunch with my kids, mowed the lawn, crying like a baby the whole time. A lawnmower will drown that stuff out.

I unwillingly live way out in the smug conservative desolation of the western suburbs of Chicago, and havent’ had time to make the trek to my beloved Promontory Point since March.

I went.

My dear friend Evmo was not b-s’ing when he said an immersion was in order. I sent the kids to their babysitter and drove in for a dip. I sped like a demon. Sometimes it’s nice just to take the lid off and let Nigel, my Mini, rip. And hope there are no cops. I was lucky this time 

The Point was alive and throbbing with people out in the beautiful weather (20 degrees cooler than festering Naperville!). When I finally parked and walked out to the Point, here’s what I saw:

promontory point

Sublime.

If you are a born and bred beach baby from Australia, relocated many years ago to a cornfield in the arse end of Illinois, you’ll understand the emotional reaction I experienceevery single time I see this.

I took the temperature. 60. Goddam. Walked around to the north side to see if anyone I knew was there could watch my stuff. No, but this was the view.

promontory point

I needed a wee and it was getting late so I just dumped my bag and got in. No cap, no goggles.

it was like i’d stripped off my clothes and slipped between a pair of cool, smooth sheets…….

I really think so

New Year’s day 2013 marked the beginning of the year of my 10th anniversary of swimming !!!!!

It doesn’t seem like 10 years ago that I discovered that “masters swimming” included people that weren’t olympians, and that “swim workouts” even existed. I’m historically a tennis player, and always thought swimmers just went to the pool and did continuous laps until they either fainted or won a gold medal. I don’t mean I learned to swim 10 years ago. I was born and bred at the beach (Freshwater) and was taught to swim as a baby, but tennis was always my sport.

Anyway………….Alcatraz!!!!!

I was probably the newest SERC member to show up for their New Year’s Alcatraz Swim 2013 at the sparrow’s fart, and receive my fabulous Where’s Waldo scarf. I was designated swimmer number 27, which I thought was a good omen, as 27 is a cubic number, the root of which is 3, which is half of my favourite number.

Always the nervous Nelly, I’d slept about 4 hours the night before, but felt better after some coffee in the Food Room, which I’m sure has another, more SERCially acceptable name. Eggs are always my favourite post-swim food, so this was a happy sight!

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As expected of an Alcatraz virgin, the pre-race briefing confused me. Apparently the tide was ebbing, but expected to turn just a little before the medium speed swimmer reached Aquatic Park. I wasn’t sure if I was slow or medium but there were 46 watercraft assisting the swimmers and we were assured that we’d be redirected if we went off course.

We jumped from the eastern side of Alcatraz becauase the tide was ebbing when we started. Our boat went all the way around the island before we jumped, which was good for photos like this, but so very cold!!! the outside temperature was in the 40′s and very windy.

golden gate bridge

Here’s a quick sketch I ran up before the jump. It’s Miss Farralones, the other boatload. It was a little choppy. More than it looks in the picture.

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Here’s the view we had from the boat just before the jump. No Golden Gate Bridge yet, but it was beautifully clear to the right shortly after the jump. I was happy to meet another Australian on the boat. After so many years, the accent still stands out to me from any distance.

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The jump.

I think I was second last off the boat. The wind was so cold I waited til the last minute before rolling up my parka and throwing it in a bag. After a short 2 day acclimation period, I really doubted my ability to do the swim. My embarrassing Catalina failure in 2011 had trashed my confidence in all areas… So nervous. So silly.

The plunge wasn’t so bad at all.

Green. That pause in time when you’re underwater and everything is so green and peaceful. Time to see one’s fingers, and have a little peace. Warmer than the air. Surfacing was another matter. The water was about 51 and that was fine compared to the outside temperature, but I always take 5 minutes to gasp away my nerves and this was no exception. Backstroke, head-up breaststroke, hyperventillating with nerves,I promised myself that if I didn’t give the swim a stellar effort I’d ban myself from The Point for a year!! All this took less than 5 minutes and I was on my way.

Just after the jump and during my panicked backstroke period, a paddleboarder told me I was heading too far west and I should aim for the “opening”.I guess that was all the direction I needed, because I put my head down and forced myself to swim in a calm manner, towards the leftmost tower of the Fontina Towers. That was all that was visible above the chop!!! For most of the swim I thought I was the only person out there! i had to talk myself into calm a few times, knowing that there were many people who could see me and that the chop was the only thing stopping me from seeing the 100 other swimmers..

So, I just swam, aiming for the left Tower, knowing I’d be redirected if off course..

Suddenly The Opening was there. Just as suddenly I was swallowed up by the Bay and spat out like a cork. Apparently the race directions were spot on and, just a few feet from the opeining, the tide changed, and a ribbon of wild water resulted. I think I was too confused to know what was going on, and swam like the dickens towards the opening. I managed to enjoy it , though, and saw many other swimmers converging. Had a huge laugh with another swimmer while being thrashed around.

What a rush

here’s a view I took the next day from the Opening. I guess it’s what we would have seen had the wild surf not been present the previous day.

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I felt cold the whole time. Not really cold, just “skin” cold, if you know what I mean. My core was fine. I have to confess that a 2 month break for shoulder pain and sickness (including prednisone), I’m really chubby. So a short acclimation allowed me to do about 50 minutes at 51 degrees without too much suffering.

I bought an expensive, novelty suit for the occasion. That helped a lot…

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WEll, I FINISHED!!!!! but chaffed horrendously during the swim. The photo below is 3 days after my Alcatraz swim. C’est la vie!!

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Most importantly,.I can never go to San Francisco without thinking of Carol the whole time….

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I’ve already sent in the cheque to renew my SERC membership for 2013. It means we’ll be eating potatoes for the rest of the month (never fear kids, i’m a good cook) but it’s worth it to me to have a home away from home in a place I love. SERC is now a second home to me.

I wish I’d had a more meaningful song in my head during the swim, but the Japanese Anime themed hotel I stayed in took care of it………yeah!!!

At the SERCus

I realised a couple of months ago that I’d have the New Year’s holiday to myself, so I posted a request on Marathonswimmers.org, asking what was going on at that time, swim-wise.

My intrepid swimmer friend, Suzie Dods, replied, suggesting I do the SERC New Year Alcatraz swim.

I will confess that I lost the entire blog I wrote before this so I don’t know what order these photos are in.. I will say though that my qualifying swim, done on December 8th, was a cleansing experience. Two weeks of miserable sickness were coughed up and washed away and I was able to feel alive for the first time in a couple of months.

I love swimming in salt water, I love the Pacific and I’d love to live over there. First though, someone needs to die and leave me a lot of money…

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I’ll be back for New Years!!!!!!!!!!!!!
in the meantime, please enjoy one of my favourite Marx Bros scenes )))

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“and on a clear day, you can see Alcatraz,
you can learn a lot from Lydia!!!”

Sardines on Toast

Chicago’s annual Big Shoulders 5 and 2.5km swims were held last Saturday. Every year I promise myself two things for the next year:

1. never to swim it again because, well, why would I pay to swim in Lake Michigan; and
2. if I break promise 1, only enter the 2.5k, which would give me time to smugly watch other people finishing after myself (hopefully).

Both promises broken, I headed to the starting line at an obscene hour on race morning. The weather had been a bit dodgy leading up to the race, and the organisers had warned of potentially rough conditions. The water turned out to be not too bad, though, and I was pleasantly surprised. Actually, not pleasantly surprised because I like it rough! There was a smallish swell that was nice and regular and some surface chop, but nothing too slappy or random. The water was very murky, which I like, because because the only sandy bottom I want to see when swimming does not belong to the lake.

As usual, I ended up placing in the bottom half of my age group. I took a huge kick to the left boob when the guy in front of me decided to suddenly change to breaststroke going around the 2nd turn buoy. For identification purposes, I noted he had on a full wetsuit and (non adventure style) beard. Couldn’t find him on the beach afterwards though. My right shoulder hurt like a b%^& the whole time, but I swam in lovely straight lines, mostly in the right direction.

The best thing about the swim, though, was my sardine suit. Here ’tis:

sardine swimsuit

Here’s a sardine:

sardine

Here’s me and some other swimmers being lapped by the elite wave:

shark

It looks like some of us got stuck in their teeth.

Here’s a recipe for sardines on toast, which I may or may not try:

http://www.foodnetwork.com/altons-sherried-sardine-toast/video/index.html

Point to La Pointe

It only took me 5 days to figure out how to resize photos to fit onto my albums here.

Last Saturday I swam in the Point to La Pointe 2 mile swim race in northern Wisconsin.

I’d originally planned to camp in one of the Forest preserve campsites, but they were full! I had to settle for a Comfort Inn in Ironwood, U.P. My 5.30am wakeup on Saturday morning for the race was too early to make my own waffle. Disappointed, I had a McCoffee and a granola bar and headed to Bayfield for my first ever immersion in Lake Superior. It’s the big lake I call Gitcheegloomy.

Here’s the crowd at the starting line.

point to lapointe swim

Point to La Pointe is a “wetsuit strongly recommended” race, but I’d managed to get permission from the race director to swim as God intended, in all my pale wobbly glory, with nothing between yours truly and the Great Lake except a thin layer of sparkly red nylon.

The entry fee for Point toLa Pointe was almost $90. There was a great hoody included but I got even more value for my money by swimming the route marked by the black line below. The water was 72 degrees and very smooth. Just a slight ripple on the top. Someone at the finish line told me there was a sunken house somewhere along the course, which had fallen through the ice during an attempt to drag it to the island one winter. Glad I didn’t see that!

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I took over an hour to swim the 2.1 miles. Hmm. I obviously didn’t swim hard enough and couldn’t summon up even a little reflux to comply with the finish line commandment to hurl in a garbage bin.

vomit here

Here’s me posing in front of the course, after I’d finished. My hooded towel earned me a lot of envious glances.

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I did a little hiking alone the lakefront by the Apostle Islands after the race and saw some sea caves! I guess they’re really lake caves…

lake superior

I enjoyed a much longer hike in the Black River Falls area the next day on my way home, probably because I’d been able to have the Comfort Inn’s make it yerself waffle for breakfast.

I highly recommend Point to La Pointe. It’s a very scenic swim, which is great for a slow moving tourist like myself. For the super competitive, there looked to be a lot of competition. Lots of skinny triathletes. There’s no separation or even indication in the results of who wore neoprene or not, but I knew that going into it. There were no shortage of kayakers and support boats, and the whole event seemed very well organised.

I’ll do it again! but hopefully without this song playing over and over and over in my head

Thought Bubbles

Answers to questions posed in previous blog:

1. yes;
2. yes; and
3. Toowoon Bay!!

I’d like to say thankyou to Chaos, Rondi Davies, Swimsuit Addict, Suzie Dods, my boat Captain, kayaker, and everyone else (USMS nicknames unknown) that organized and helped with the 8 Bridges swim. What a wonderful experience!!

I was so worried I barely slept the two nights prior to swimming, and could not take in much breakfast prior to getting on my escort boat, World Class. Worry is such a waste of energy. All anyone can do is jump in and swim, but tides, shoulders and various other body parts can go in the wrong direction at any time and I was hugely relieved and overjoyed to make the swim with no shoulder pain at all.

It helped enormously that I was sent off a little early, before the ebb tide started. One of the other swimmers (Martin Tureky) and I jumped about an hour and a half (??) before the tide turned and swam very close to the New Jersey side of the river, out of the opposing current, until the tide turned. I enjoyed this part of the swim very much! The houses along the shore were amazing. One of them had a huge waterfall. I might have been gawking a bit too much because my paddler, Teddy Gruber, told me to stop sighting and swim.

I’m always restless during the first couple of hours of a swim, but this swim was a little easier on my mind than most. On the whole, I felt more “in the moment” during this swim than ever before. I never felt as though I wanted to be anywhere other than exactly where I was. . I had calm water and lots to look at while swimming. I’ve established a pattern of feeding every half an hour and this seems to work very well, especially while swimming. The Maxim, water and apple juice recipe I borrowed from Evmo worked perfectly, though I’ll try to add some little extras next time for variety if I do any longer swims. My crew and paddler were great, and seemed to be always in the right place at the right time. It’s the most relaxed I’ve ever felt with a boat and kayak supporting me. Swimsuit Addict and Suzie Dods provided laughs and endless encouragement.

At times I watched the scenery go past and at times I thought of nothing at all and was surprised when it was time for my next feed. The water got a little sloppy and randomly choppy in a few places. I don’t remember where, exactly. I felt uncoordinated and grumpy in these places, but the neon handclappers Suzie was waving at me cheered me up. Thanks to Swimsuit Addict for swimming the last hour with me!!!

I’d decided before the swim that passing the Statue of Liberty was to mark the end of and complete good riddance to a difficult period for me. Done. Thanks crew for getting this picture!!!

statue of liberty

ps. “I don’t like Mondays” was playing on my escort boat when I finished my swim. This song had been in and out of my head the whole swim. Captain claimed it had not played on the radio until the end. Not sure I believe him!