Iron Mike's Marathon Swims Water, taken in moderation, never hurt anyone.

Another relaxing swim

August 2, 2015 | 2015 Season, Science!, Swimming Anthropology | Permalink

Got up this morning at the crack of 10 a.m. and went out for a swim. Yeah, that’s how I roll on vacation. Sleep late, stay up (moderately) late. Drink. You know. Relax.

Morning swim 2 August

Morning swim 2 August

I don’t know what it is about salt water, but besides the buoyancy, I feel like I can breath less often. Bilateral or every-4 breathing patterns are no problem for me in this water. (I still breathed every right during my race last week, but I always do that when I’m racing.) Additionally, the problem that plagues me in the pool, namely, water pouring into my left ear canal whenever I breath on that side, doesn’t seem to affect me in this water.* I don’t know why. Is it the beautifully clear water and the fish swimming around under me that lulls me into a nice, even, calm breathing pattern?

Not sure what it is, but that part of swimming here I’m going to miss in a week. What I won’t miss is the taste of the salt water. Yuck. My mouth tasted gross after my 7.76 (5.15?) swim to Supetar last week. I couldn’t imagine spending anymore time in this water. Although, I’m trying to arrange a boat for a Sutivan-Milna (12.26km) swim. If that happens, I’ll be sure to have a bottle of half-mouthwash/half-water to rinse my mouth during the hours that distance will take me.

*It’s like my left ear canal opens or gets wider (?) when I’m breathing hard. I get the same feeling when I valsalva on a plane. Almost like my Eustachian tube opens up on that side. Same reason I can’t wear ear plugs; at some point in the swim my left ear canal will do this thing and a bunch of water will come flooding past the ear plug and just slosh around in there. Any of my dear reader(s) doctors? Advice?

Nice evening swim

August 1, 2015 | Swimming Anthropology, Swimming Equipment | Permalink

Yesterday I swam a nice, gentle 3.16km in and around Sutivan. The waves were 1-2ft, so I didn’t try to fight the water, more like just enjoy the experience.

Evening swim, 31 July

Evening swim, 31 July

I went west initially into the waves & current (and sun). Figured I’d do all the work up front and then just cruise on home. Well, I know that I got assistance from the current on the way back. But it surely didn’t feel like that. When you’re on the front of the wave, you can feel a push, and if it syncs correctly, I’ll kick and pull harder when I’m on that side of the wave. But, there’s also that feeling that you get when you’re on the back end of the wave. The feeling that you’re actually going backwards. That’s the feeling I can’t get out of my head when I’m swimming.

This evening swim had other challenges. On the way west there was still enough light left that I could see the bottom, and I could actually see things on the sea floor passing me by. So despite swimming into current & waves, I knew that I was making progress. On the way back east, the sun was close to setting, and I could barely see the bottom. Yes, I know that I was making progress by seeing buildings pass me by, but still that feeling you get of going backwards when you’re on the back end of the wave was hard to shake. Thankfully, as I was not racing or in any kind of hurry, I just let the swim progress, and before long I made it back to where I wanted to get out.

Used the SaferSwimmer again. Love that thing. Love having all my crap with me wherever I get out of the water. During this swim, a wave came up behind me twice and kicked the dry bag up and over my stroking arm, locking it back, freaking me out. (Yes, I still have drowning nightmares from a couple of incidents in my life…can’t shake them.) I stopped, unwrapped my arm, and got back to work.

The swim was also great practice for navigation. I realized early on that the turn-around spot I was swimming to was directly west. It hurt the first time I tried to alligator-eyes sight. But then I discovered that I could see where the sun was in the sky by looking through the water. So I kept the sun “head’s up” in the water and pretty much went the right way for the first half of the swim. Easy peasy.

The weirdest thing about the swim occurred a couple hours later. I was sitting in bed and realized that the whole building was rocking to the waves, the same tempo I was rocking to a couple hours earlier! I hadn’t had that feeling in quite a while, probably mid-20’s, mid-recovery from a bad drunk.


5KM became 7.76 somehow

July 28, 2015 | 2015 Season | Permalink

Swam today from Sutivan to Supetar. According to Mr Google, it is a 5.15km swim. I started my Garmin GPS watch just like every other time. When I landed in Supetar (granted, I landed a bit farther than originally planned), I stopped the watch to learn that I did 7.76km instead.

Map for the island of Brač

Map for the island of Brač

Not sure how I did that. The place I landed was only about 600m farther than planned. So how did 5 become 7 and some change? Easy. Zig zag. My crap navigation. I went back to Google maps and took my route, and made it zig zag all the way from Sutivan to Supetar and sure enough, you can get an extra 2.76km that way. Jeez.

It was a fun swim, although I’m suffering from some light sun burn on my back right now. It got really deep at one point, to where I couldn’t see the bottom, and that kind of freaked me out. I was all alone out there, pretty far from shore (500m? 600?), and you know, all those scary beach movies start to come to mind. “We’re gonna need a bigger boat,” and all that. But I maintained.

About a k from the end, a jet skier went by with his kid, slowly, looking at me like I was crazy. Five minutes later, he and another jet skier came by. The new guy said, “You can’t swim here.” I answered, “No, it’s ok. I’m just swimming there,” and pointed at the ending. He said “Hop on, I’ll take you.” I said, “Uh, no. I have to swim. And I have this bright orange thing here so you can see me.” He looked at me like I was stupid and he and the other guy took off at fullspeed, and I got to swim through some bubbles for a while.

As I was approaching the landing, I got a welcome from apparently one of Supetar’s finest. Some old guy sunning himself on the rocks, commando-style, legs spread, with all of his glory out there for all to see. I found a place on the rocks a bit away from him to land, then I saw why that old guy was sitting where he was. About 20m from him, and in the direction he was facing, were three 20-something women, two of whom had no tops on. They didn’t seem to mind and he sure was happy. 😉

All in all a great swim, if not long (2:50). Fembot, her sister, and daughter #2 walked and swam to Supetar, then we all walked back. The GPS said 7k almost exactly for the walk when we got to the house, so a very good day when you throw in that other half of my duathlon! Next up on the plan, a swim to Milna?!

Results are in

July 27, 2015 | 2015 Season | Permalink

Raslina 5K start and finish

I hit under my goal of two hours with a 1:52.16 in the Raslina 5K. While that’s not my best time ever, I must say that of all the 5Ks I’ve done, it felt the best. Like I said in my review yesterday, I never felt better. I pushed hard through the whole damn race. Nothing hurt beyond my typical initial sore shoulders and arms in the first 500-1000m. My breathing was perfect, my navigation not that bad, and my pacing great. I really am happy with that time, despite it meaning that I was swimming only 2:15 per 100m. That is slow! But I think if you took my times at each kilometer, you’d find it pretty damn consistent. Except for the last one where I pushed the hell out of it!

So, all in all: happy. That time got me 17 out of 25 males in the 40-49 age group, and 59 out of 80 males total. Not sure where I stood among all swimmers, but I can tell you that only one woman swam slower than me. Also, if you know me and you know Fembot, you know I have no problem being “beat by a girl.” Just ask me about my first Olympic-distance tri and Ruth.  😉

And, I managed to get the Marathon Swimmers Federation mentioned!

And I managed to get MSF mentioned!


Plivački Maraton Raslina (5K)

July 26, 2015 | 2015 Season | Permalink

25 July was the 6th iteration of the Raslina (Croatia) Plivački Maraton, a 5K swim in beautiful and isolated Raslina, Croatia, about 80km from Split and about 5km from Krka National Park. The day was beautiful and not too hot, about 34C. Raslina lake is part of a river system that connects to the sea; it tasted slightly salty and had a gentle current. The water was about 25C, a bit cooler than the water I’ve been swimming in all week on the island of Brač, but not near as cool as I would have liked it, especially an hour or so into the swim.

start raslina

Raslina 5K start

The 5K was an out-and-back, which I love. No laps to count and remember, just a simple “swim yonder, then return.” The course was incredibly well marked, with huge red buoys every 500 meters or so, and strange square things (imagine 1.5m x 1.5m squares of compacted newspaper, and that’s what they looked like…they were much more solid and heavy, see below) which announced how far you’ve gone, if you had the wherewithal to stop and look. There was also a yellow buoy at 1000m for the 2K swimmers to turn around at as well as our 2500m yellow buoy for us 5K swimmers to turn at. The buoys were so well-visible that I had little to no trouble spotting them.

Raslina course map

Raslina course map


As I’ve said before, Croatian beaches are rocks, and I’ve got some crazy tender feet, so much so that I’ve bought scuba shoes for my swimming on Brač. That wouldn’t happen here, of course, so I wore my flip-flops till the bitter end and then handed them to Fembot, who graciously got up early while on vacation (0545!) to come with me and hold my crap. Anyway, I entered the water like a man walking (slowly) on hot coals, and lined up with the other 190+ swimmers.

me walking into raslina

Iron Mike walking into Raslina

Several minutes passed whereby angry volunteers yelled in Croatian to those swimmers who wouldn’t line up behind an imaginary line from the edge of the dock and the race director’s boat. I have no idea exactly when we started (1000 start) but we were late by a bit, but finally the horn went off and I let the speed demons charge forward and then I started. About a dozen strokes in I realized I hadn’t started my stopwatch, so I stopped quickly and did that. Then I put my head down and swam.

and theyre off

And they’re off!

As always, the first 500-1000m of any swim is a warm-up for me. I stretch before beginning a race, but I rarely get in the water and swim. I’m superstitious in that I think all my best and fastest strokes will be during that warm-up, so why not save them? I know, stupid, but it’s my stupid pre-race ritual.

It felt SO good. My stroke felt great and I got in a rhythm very early and felt very fast. After about 1000m I came across a pod of just slightly faster swimmers, about 3 of them, and kept with them for the rest of the race. Or attempted to. I drafted off one guy for a bit until I realized he was a worse navigator than I was, and got tired of being run into (or over) by him, so I bailed on him, sped up, and hung on the side and then toes of one woman. Damn she swam straight. I drafted off of her until about 3500m.

Water was nice, if a little brackish, but I kept up my 85-90% effort the entire way. At 3000 meters, the woman and I rounded the buoy together, did our alligator eyes to spot the way home, and put our heads down. It was tough keeping up with her, and that pretty much ended at about 3500m. She didn’t pull far away, but the other two guys came up alongside me and the battle to stay straight started again. I could see the woman about 5m in front of me and I tried to stay with her, on her toes if even a bit back. That worked until I ran into one of those weird square things floating in the water.

I thought I hit a person’s head the damn thing was so solid. My watch actually hit it and I stopped to see if the swimmer was ok, and I realized I hit the square thing. I didn’t hang around long enough to see what it said as far as my progress is concerned. Better not to know. I put my head down and tried to catch up with my pod of swimmers.

And I did. And I even caught up with the speedy woman. I managed to draft off her feet for quite a while, then she took off with about 1000m left. My tank was running low. I could spot the other two guys, one parallel to me and off about 10m to the right, and the other back and to the right. The final red buoys started coming after the yellow buoy. I thought they’d never end. One had the number 3 boldly printed on the side and I remember thinking, God, I hope that doesn’t mean there’s 2 more? In my mind those buoys were spaced 500m apart each, but they couldn’t be, because I’d already passed the yellow one marking 1000m from the start/finish.

I didn’t try to see numbers on the final buoys, but suffice it to say there were 2 more. After what I thought was the last one, I saw the finish. The finish was preceeded by two red buoys, larger and less round than the others, oval-shaped. These buoys were parallel from each other about 20m apart and about 50m before the finish. The finish was one of those you see in the big races where the swimmers finish right under it and have to slap it for the timers to call their time. Very awesome. Anyway, I saw these two buoys while alligator eyeing during my sighting. I started to head to the right side of that channel made my those two buoys, knowing the finish chute was on that side. Unfortunately for me, what I was seeing was yet another round red buoy on the right, and the left-side of the oval red buoy. What this meant as I got closer was that I was about to swim to the left of one of the course buoys, when you have to swim to the right of all the course buoys! So I had to adjust my course, probably losing a few seconds.

Which was important to me, because at around what I thought was the last of the red buoys (which should have been numbered 1 if logic prevailed), I put on the gas and passed the other two guys from my pod. I didn’t spend valuable time or neck muscles to try and look back to see where those guys were, but I adjusted my path to go to the right of that last (really last?) round red buoy and head into the finish chute. Kicking like a crazy person and upping my stroke rate to something fierce (while still thinking about my form). I came through and tapped the finish sign, and my nearest competitor was about 10-15 seconds behind me. We high-fived, then I remembered to turn off my stopwatch. So I don’t know for certain what the hell my time was, but I’m sure it was under 2:00, which was my goal. Actually, after my 5K last year in National Harbor, I would have been happy with 2:00! Instead, I’m ecstatic! I guess you really can train for OW in a tiny pool with elastic straps tied to your ankles.

Getting out of the water took some doing. Again those damn rocks and my weenie feet. How the hell did my feet get so sensitive after growing up in Texas and only wearing shoes for school, church and work? Fembot had to throw me my flip-flops so I could walk out of the water. She got some glamour shots of this process.


Can’t get these damn things on!


“Smile!” she says.

The swim felt incredible the entire time. I felt fast and never once gave up. I can honestly say that I gave 85-90% effort the entire swim until the very end when I gave 100%. I don’t remember a swim where I felt that ready and good. When we got home and I took my suit out to rinse it, I saw that I had a huge hole in the crotch area of the suit. Wonder how long I was flashing the Croats?

Great 5K

July 26, 2015 | 2015 Season | Permalink

Still have crap internet, so I’m writing this in the Sutivan park, to take advantage of their 15 minutes of free internet. More in-depth race report later.

Raslina 5K start

Raslina 5K start

Don’t know my official time yet, but I believe it is around 1:52-ish. I was aiming for 2:00, so that’s good. I felt great the whole time. Apparently you can train for OW in a 10m long pool with straps on your ankles!

Again, dear reader(s), more later, when internet returns to Kyrgyzstan standard speed.*

Happy to be done!

Happy to be done!


*Yes, unbelievably, Croatian internet is slower than Kyrgyz. 

Day 3 and Day 4

July 24, 2015 | Other Sports, Swimming Anthropology | Permalink

Didn’t swim at all on day 3 of the Croatian vacation because this happened instead:

Son's graduation present

Son’s graduation present

Our son wanted to skydive for his graduation present, so we thought why not do that in Croatia?! He loved it, and wanted to immediately go back up. I had to tell him no, though, because it ain’t cheap. Especially when wife and daughter (only 15-years old!) wanted to go, too!

Maggie landing

Daughter about to land

Sonja landing

Fembot about to land

That drive to the mainland and back took the entire day, but it was fun. We got to see a little bit of Zadar, but mostly we were on the road or the ferry.

Thursday (Croatian vacation day #4) started out blah. Fembot and I had planned a duathlon of sorts. She would walk to Supetar and I would swim. According to the incredibly accurate Google Maps mensuration algorithm, my swim would be on the order of 5K. Fembot’s walk a bit more due to the vagaries of trails through olive groves. She would bring along a couple trash bags in case she had to swim part of the way.

Well, the morning was shot due to a storm. A pretty neat storm, lightning and everything, to include a drop in air temp of about 10C (w00t!), but no swimming was going to happen. Just before lunch the weather cleared, so the kids went swimming while we got a light lunch. When the kids were done, the two of us went walking around Sutivan some, but the water looked so inviting, we decided to go home and ready ourselves for our Sutivan-Supetar duathlon.

Iron Mike and his ubiquitous Radler

Iron Mike and his ubiquitous Radler

Less than a half hour later we were walking to one of the beaches, and we noticed the sky looking angry. Then the wind started. And the people (most of them anyway) started running for cover. But what does Iron Mike do, because he’s stupid? I get in, and start my swim to Supetar, of course!

41 minutes, and only 976 meters later, I get out. Or at least I try. I couldn’t find a good place to get out that wasn’t rocks, so Fembot helped me find a better place. Still, I missed her chosen location by a few meters and got rolled on the rocks, twisting a toe and bruising one butt cheek. I had to ditch my SaferSwimmer and let it roll onto the beach, which it did with a speed that was almost sentient. Probably 5 of those 41 minutes were spent trying to get on shore. I have a video of me attempting this, but I can’t upload it yet. It’ll have to wait until we return to Kyrgyzstan and I can get on my home computer.

But Fembot and I refused to let Mother Nature ruin our day, so we decided to continue the walk, at least to Mirca, which is about 3km from Sutivan. Of course the rain started while we were sitting at a beach-side bar drinking our Radlers and wine. So we headed back.

When I dumped my dry bag out, I realized my Garmin GPS watch (Forerunner 310xt) was missing. Oh shit. That’s $350+ gone! Where the f*^k did I drop it? Off to the car with tiniest Fembot and original Fembot to find it. We parked along the beach about where I got out of the water (scrambled out? rolled over the rocks till dry?) and started walking around. I figured it was along the wall right where the road and the beach meet. Nowhere to be found. I was about to give up when tiniest Fembot found it. She went out onto the beach and looked back at the wall, and saw a small orange strap sticking up out of the rocks.

She is now my favorite kid. Not really. Parents aren’t supposed to have favorites. (Yep, she’s my favorite.)

Croatian Vacation, Day 2

July 21, 2015 | Swimming Anthropology | Permalink

Another great morning swimming here in Sutivan. Did 3 km this morning. Took off from another part of the port area, just east of the “downtown” of Sutivan. (If you go to this map, I started at the beach about 50m east of the main pier.) After dunking under the rope buoys, I headed west, swimming clear of the big pier, a paralleling the shore to about where Villa La Riva apartments are, then turned back to the start. But then I turned again and went back to where I exited the water yesterday at the slippery stairs where the streets Ulica Stivanskih Pomoraca and Ul. Domovinskog Rata merge. Under arm felt great because I got some baby butt cream and slathered it with the stuff. No rash pain. Still getting used to the salt water though, the taste in my mouth. Ew…  Evening spent swimming with the girls. Fembot and I got out after a bit and sat watching them while I drank a Radler and she a white wine. Love this place!


All in all a good day’s swimming. Lots of tourists here, the beaches are crowded. Lots of different languages spoken, which is fun. And after only a few days here, I’m amazed at how much of my hrvatski is coming back. I miss this language, but really have no reason to study it living in Kyrgyzstan. Nažalost.

The turn-around point of today's swim is out past that spit of land in the distance

The turn-around point of today’s swim is out past that spit of land in the distance

First day swimming on island Brač

July 20, 2015 | Swimming Anthropology | Permalink

Got up this morning kinda early. OK, 8:30. But still, got up this morning early to go swim. The kids, all excitement last night ready to go swim with me this morning, lay in bed telling me to go away. That’s cool. I have my SaferSwimmer so I can load all my crap and swim along and get out wherever.

I had my Garmin with me today so I’ll be able to look at a map later. I only have my Chromebook with me on this trip, and the ANT stick you need for my Garmin to connect to the computer doesn’t work on it, so all my swim maps will have to wait for 3 weeks. Suffice it to say, I swam about a kilometer one way, then turned around and started heading back to the start. On the return route I remembered my penchant to get a rash under my right underarm. I ended the swim after getting back there, ending with a 2.1km swim. I then went back to the house and slathered my underarm with baby butt cream.

I would have stayed out longer except for that. I’ll coat my underarm tomorrow morning so I can swim longer. If you want to see the general area I swam, here’s a link to a Google map.


July 20, 2015 | 2015 Season, Swimming Anthropology | Permalink

OK. I love Croatia. Volim Hrvatsku. God bless, so pretty. Red tile roofs dotting the green mountain sides. Outstanding. Oh, to be independently wealthy. Sadly, I’ve got a liberal arts degree and no entrepreneurial spirit (or desires).

The area is so freaking pretty. We’re in Sutivan, which is about 7 or 8km from Supetar on the island of Brač. The water is crystal blue. Nice and salty and buoyant. And warm. Almost too warm. We went on a family swim this evening and the only negative I can say is the beaches are rocks. And my weenie little tender feet just cannot hold my weight on little tiny, albeit flat, rocks. I looked like a person who just got the use of his legs back trying to walk down to the water. And when I tried to get out, I scooted up out of the water on my butt, until my wife, feeling sorry for me, grabbed our 18-year old’s flip-flops and threw them to (at?) me. I bought water shoes an hour later.

We’re going to go on a real swim in the morning. I’ve got my SaferSwimmer just like in Issyk Kul, and I’ll take some pictures. For right now I’ll upload a pic of the beautiful house we rented, perfect location, not too bad price (when you go on vacation once every 4-5 years, it really gives you context when you see so many zeroes), and now, after some initial worrisome hours, internet!

Fisherman House in Sutivan

Fisherman House in Sutivan

I'm typing from the cow chair right now

I’m typing from the cow chair right now