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

Swim Logistics from the Tower of Babel

June 27, 2015 | Grand Plan | Permalink

Sometimes, when planning a swim, you just can’t understand the locals. I’m not talking about doing a swim in Appalachia and not being able to understand the locals’ intrusive R when they say worsh for wash. Nor am I talking about the colloquialisms one might hear when trying to plan a Scottish swim, when the pilot tells you your swim will be a sair fecht1.

No, I’m talking about trying to set up a swim when you don’t know, or don’t know well, the local language. That’s what I’m experiencing here in Kyrgyzstan. My Russian isn’t bad, but it’s certainly not fluent. And when you depart the big city of Bishkek, you find more folks who only speak Kyrgyz and fewer who also speak Russian. My Kyrgyz is limited to asking for 5 red bell peppers at the market. Hard to ask about lake currents with that level of Kyrgyz proficiency.

Loneswimmer (whose blog I recommend highly) has some wonderful How To’s for marathon swimmers. One excellent one is his How To Select a Pilot. Much of the list are questions that the swimmer should ask himself. But those questions must at some point be asked among boat pilots. How do you say toilet or inclement weather in Kyrgyz?

But even before that, at least here in Central Asia, you gotta find out if there are even boaters here. I’ve only been to the big lake, Issyk Kul, once. Didn’t see any boats out on the water, but that was January. (Lake never freezes though.) But how do I find boat pilots from folks who probably aren’t on the internet?

Thankfully, there is an organization here called Community Based Travel. CBT offices exist all over Kyrgyzstan, and they all know English, thank goodness. So far, my questions about boats have ended in “I hope we can find someone for you.” The CBT’s charge a bit (foreigner tax), but I’m willing to pay it. But so far, they can’t find a boat or pilot.

So I’ve sent out a request for volunteers, translators of Kyrgyz and Russian into English. I hope to get a few. I’ll need translators first, to set up a swim I’m planning. Then I’ll need translators the day of. If I find a boat, good chance the pilot won’t speak English, at least not well. In the villages I’d swim from/to, I’ll need a translator. The last thing I’ll want after swimming for hours is to have some local villager helpfully grab my arms and drag me to dry land.

Bottom line, if/when I do a “big” swim here in the Switzerland of Central Asia, it’ll be quite the accomplishment, even if I don’t succeed. Just arranging the logistics in this Tower of Babel will be трудно и интересно.

Issyk Kul boat pilots for hire!

Issyk Kul boat pilots for hire!

1Apparently this means your swim will be quite a struggle.

Open Water Skills

June 21, 2015 | Coaching | Permalink

I recently read a great blog entry from a relatively new open water swimmer. Her enthusiasm for her new sport reminded me of the first year I dipped a toe in the crazy pool. She just completed her first two-mile OW swim in cold water and, despite some reservations and nerves at the beginning, ended up feeling like this:


That was SO AWESOME!

Reading her blog entry also brought back memories from my coaching days with DC Tri. I really enjoyed coaching those whack-a-doodles. They are really great folks with a passion and lots of time on their hands (three sports, after all). But mostly, I enjoyed teaching them some OW skills. I’d get looks when I explained to them what I wanted them to do. But it never failed that weeks later, one or more of them would approach me and tell me they’d had to use one of the skills in an actual race.

Let’s face it, there is little worse in an OW swim than having to stop to adjust or fix something. How many times have beginning OW swimmers had to stop to get water out of a google eye cup? Or to rub a gunked up eyeball? Or to cough up the water they just swallowed when turning to breathe? Or got pushed away from a buoy by another swimmer?

All of these issues fall under “Skills Training” in Steve Munatones’ 7 Essential Open Water Skills. I am a big fan of his pyramid:

Pyramid of OW Swim Success

Pyramid of OW Swim Success

I think if you’ve got the first level covered, you can pretty much be assured that you’ll complete any OW swim (within reason) you attempt. The second level covers areas to work on during your training on the first level. For instance, you can certainly work on speed while you’re swimming in a lake or river. Equally, you can work on your distance tolerance while swimming multiple one kilometer laps in the harbor. Or work on skills during one of your pool workouts.

Skills training you can also work on in OW, but for some skills, a pool is useful for the ability to repeat the skill during a length. Some of the skills I used to put my triathletes through include:

  • No breath: Turn to breathe every right (or left). Except, only breathe every 4th stroke. Reason? To be able to turn to breathe, but see a wave coming, so you hold that breath. It takes some doing, because your body will want to breathe. But your lungs have plenty of air in them to wait two more strokes.
  • Flip to back: Many of my triathletes actually were pretty fast, and had legitimate concerns about where they were in the pack and where their competition was. So instead of stopping to look around, I’d have them flip over to backstroke, increase their kick to 6-beat, look slightly up and through their toes, then flip back to freestyle. Aim was to do that in only 3 strokes. Increase in kick was to help prevent their hips from sinking when they lifted (ever so slightly) their heads to find the competition.
  • Flip to back 2: In this version, I’d have them flip to backstroke not to look at their competition, but to fix a goggle. In #2, I asked them to flip to their back, do one arm for 2 or 3 strokes, then flip back to freestyle.
  • Flip to back 3: Just like #2, but #3 required them to clear a goggle cup (one of the eyes, basically) of water with their non-swimming arm. I’d of course make them do this with each arm so they feel comfortable clearing either goggle cup. This is the exercise on which I’d get the most post-race feedback.
  • Coughing. Sometimes you don’t hold your breath when you see that wave coming. But don’t let some water in your throat cause you to go vertical to cough it up. With a little practice, you can learn to cough underwater. While swimming, simply cough underwater. Just don’t breathe back in.
  • Drafting. I didn’t believe there was such a thing until one night at practice it was just two of us. The other guy was slightly faster, and in the lane next to me. I swam right next to the lane line alongside him, and all of a sudden I felt a palpable easing in my effort, and felt like I was swimming way faster than I really was. From that moment on, I believed in drafting. I’d make my triathletes go three abreast, the middle guy swimming a 60% effort, until the 25 meter mark (this was a LCM pool) then speed up to 80%. The other two I’d make swim so their head was between the middle’s shoulder and hip. Many of my triathletes would tell me that they immediately felt the draft. I’d also make them draft head to toe, switching lead every length.
  • Jackass. Sometimes you’ve got another swimmer who doesn’t swim straight or is just a jackass trying to box you out of the turn buoy. For that, you need to do the roll over. For this exercise, two swimmers swim abreast, one in the center of the lane, the other to the right or left. The one on the side would roll over to backstroke, only he’d roll over the back of the middle swimmer. This is handy if the guy is bumping you on purpose and swimming so to push you away from the buoy. I haven’t heard of this much in OW swimming, but triathletes have told me this happens in the swim leg often. Only issue is if a referee or official sees you pull this move you might get penalized. Also, it could really piss off the other guy, so be prepared for payback.

The point of all these drills was to continue forward progress and not have to stop and go vertical, which does a whollop on your head with all the blood all of a sudden flowing differently than when you were horizontal.

There are plenty of other Skill Training drills out there, but those were my favorites. Give some/all of them a try at one of your next workouts!

How to tell when an open water event is planned and organized by triathletes

June 3, 2015 | Humor, Other Sports | Permalink

Here’s a handy guide to help you decode open water swim event pages to determine whether or not the event has been planned and organized by triathletes.

  • Words: Does the registration page or event description include triathletey words, like IM, or Olympic distance. Is there mention of needing USAT insurance?
  • Pictures: Does the webpage have pictures of skinny, well-muscled athletes? Can you see any of the athletes’ abdomen muscles?
  • Distances: Is the swim 1500 meters?  Or 2.4 miles?
  • Wetsuits: Are wetsuits authorized? Are they voluntary or mandatory at ridiculously high water temps, like 84F?

If you’ve gotten past those tell-tale signs and are actually at the event, here’s how to tell if the event has been planned and organized by triathletes.

  • Other participants: Are the other swimmers lean, mean, athletic machines? Do they look like they could pose in an advertisement for running shoes? Do any of their cars have little stickers with a dotted-M on the bumper? Or an oval with 140.6?
  • Audible cues: Do you hear other swimmers talking about transitions? Do any of them mention how many weeks or months it has been since they’ve last swum? Do any of your fellow swimmers mention they are hoping they can swim all the requisite laps? Do any of them sigh or whine when the race director states the water is too warm for wetsuits?
  • During the swim: Do any of your competitors stand up and walk through shallow areas? Do any of them wear a pull buoy while swimming? Do some of your fellow swimmers cut the buoys? Or hang on the support kayaks?
  • Post swim activities: Do any of the swimmers arrive on their bikes, or set their bikes up at the finish as if they’re going to jump directly on their bike upon exiting the lake? Are any of your fellow swimmers late to the awards ceremony because they ran 10 miles after the swim?

If you answered Yes to any or all of the above questions, then you’re taking part in an open water swim put on by triathletes!

Now, all joking aside, participating in a triathlete-organized open water swim is not a bad thing. In fact, they can be very fun. And entertaining. Everything above I experienced during swims I’ve participated in the past. They’re still swims, and in most cases well organized fun swims. And unless you are an elite marathon swimmer, you probably don’t need to worry about whether the organizers split the results between skins and suits, or if one of your age group competitors cuts a buoy (although that’ll probably still piss you off).

And taking part in an open water swim with triathletes is a good opportunity to advertise the fun that is our sport. Wear a t-shirt from one of your long swims (long in your lingo, not long in theirs). Go skins despite the “cold” water temp of 72F. Who knows, your good attitude may just convert some of them to the most wonderful sport of marathon swimming!

Aqua Sphere Stationary Swimmer Review

May 31, 2015 | Swimming Equipment | Permalink

Well, I’ve used the Aqua Sphere Stationary Swimmer for about three weeks now. I think it is time for a review.

Aqua Sphere Stationary Swimmer

Aqua Sphere Stationary Swimmer

For twenty bucks, you can’t lose. This device can be used pretty much anywhere, as long as you have about two feet + your height. My pool is 12m long, so there is plenty of room for me, and my kids can swim at the same time.

So let’s unpack the bag. Separate the cardboard from the plastic bag. Here’s the cord and velcro ankle thingys.

The cardboard topper gives you all the instruction you need to use the device.

And there’s even instructions for my friend Niek!

You attach the velcro straps to your ankles, loop the stretchy part around a fixed point, then jump into the pool and swim. Thusly.

Swimming treadmill

Swimming treadmill

I’ve tried the Aqua Sphere in two places in my pool. The picture above is from the west end of the pool, with the cord wrapped around fence. After about a week, I noticed the nylon black covering over the surgical tubing started to rub off. The cord was rubbing on the pool deck edge, and I was afraid of the rubbing to start getting down to the tubing, and then one day I’d end up hitting my head on the east end of the pool!

So I switched to the east end, which also helped with my breathing (here is where I diverge from the review). I’m a right side breather, almost exclusively. I can breath bilaterally, when I want. But for the most part, I stick to the right side. When I was swimming West Side, I’d have to breath into the sun. Now however, I can breath to the north, where, also, there are more trees, and I can see the entrance to the pool and sauna, and therefore keep track of my kids.

On the east end I looped the cord around the opening of the skimmer basket, with the cord going through the skimmer into the pool, and the other end looping up and over. Using that method, one of my feet was higher than the other, the one whose cord end was above the skimmer basket. That tended to make me feel like I was rolling over to the lower-cord side. I needed a new way of doing this. And this would result in me starting to swim to the right or left, for no apparent reason.

So I got a nylon strap. And a carabiner. And now the cords are level. And I’m swimming better. But still drifting left or right. So it must be my stroke.

Anyway, here’s my current set-up.

IronMike’s Swimming Treadmill

The straps do not rub any skin off my feet or ankles. I did notice that my feet slightly ride low. I didn’t know what to do, so I just kept swimming for weeks. Then I thought about how I attached the velcro to my feet. The strap coming from my feet would run along the bottom of my foot. So in freestyle form, the straps from the Aqua Sphere would “push” my feet down. So today I did an experiment.

On the left is how I normally wrap the velcro around my feet. See how the strap comes from under my feet? Today I set it up like my right foot above. Kinda annoying, to be honest. My toes kept getting caught in the strap. I finally managed to get it over to the outside of my foot, which was fine. But I felt like the straps were holding my feet up, almost like I was swimming with a pull buoy. I got through my 90 minutes, but I’ll probably not set them up like that again.

So now I’m set. I jump in every day or two, swim for an hour or 90 minutes, alternating breathing or doing “sprints” by increasing my stroke count for 100 strokes, then slow down for 100, then fast for 90, slow down for 90, and so on. Better than nothing.

Memorial Day Thoughts

May 25, 2015 | SOWF | Permalink

It’s already Monday here in Kyrgyzstan, and on this day I am thinking about four Air Force Non-Commissioned Officers who are no longer with us.

If you’ve read the Charity tab on my blog, you know that I try to raise money for a wonderful charity called the Special Operations Warrior Foundation. SOWF  provides college tuition (and books, fees, room and board, a computer, printer and tutoring) to the sons and daughters of special operations personnel who have made the ultimate sacrifice. The Foundation has been around since 1980 (since Desert One), and to date has graduated 249 kids and are currently funding 134 students.

I’ve had a few friends and acquaintances die on active duty, and I’m actually lucky in only losing four colleagues. Many of our Army and Marine Corps comrades have numerable ghosts accompanying them through their days.

First today I’m thinking of TSgt Ernie Parrish. Ernie was an Area Specialist on the E-3/Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft. He and I worked together in Alaska on Elmendorf AFB. I had gotten out of the Air Force active duty in 1994, and my departure opened up a space for Ernie in our small office of about six area specialists. A little over a year later, I drove into the base to update my reservist ID card, as I had just made SSgt. Upon leaving the base, I saw a line of news vans waiting at the gate. I had no idea why, until I got home, and my wife looked at me, and said, “They’re all dead. It was probably very quick.” Then she told me what she was talking about. Yukla-27, the callsign of that day’s AWACS flight, had hit a huge flock of geese and gone down.

TSgt Ernest Parrish

TSgt Ernest Parrish

I of course wanted to start immediately calling my friends from the office. My wise wife advised against it. What if a wife answers the phone and doesn’t know about the crash? I spent hours that day waiting to hear who of my friends had just died. I don’t remember exactly when, but at some point I learned it was Ernie. RIP, brother.

Next I am thinking today about a group of three Direct Support Operators, or DSOs (pronounced Dizzos). DSOs get to fly on Air Force Special Operations aircraft, like Spectre (or Spooky) gunships, Combat Shadows and Talons, Pave Lows and Pave Hawks (back in the day), and, I presume, the Ospreys. That job was probably my favorite job while I was enlisted. And three other DSOs probably would have said the same: MSgt Navid “G” Garshasb, TSgt Rocco Lastes, and SSgt Shane Kimmett. I never got to meet Rocco, and I only met Shane for about five minutes on my way out of the unit (RIP, Rocco and Shane). But “G” I got to serve with for a bit.

TSgt Glenn "Rocco" Lastes

TSgt Glenn “Rocco” Lastes

SSgt Shane Kimmett

SSgt Shane Kimmett

Navid was from Iran. He came to the unit already as a TSgt, a cross-trainee from maintenance, I think. He was fluent in Persian-Farsi of course, but also happened to teach himself a few other languages, including two or three native to Afghanistan. I loved listening to his accent, and his sense of duty was infectious. I remember one instance when G was talking with our Squadron Superintendent, a Chief Master Sergeant whose face I can see, but whose name I cannot remember.

G: Chief, you tell me what you want me to do and I do it.

Simple. G lived the Air Force Core Values before they were systematized.

In the days after 9/11, G was one of the first in to Afghanistan, flying linguistic support on AFSOC helicopter. On one mission in November 2001, on a search and rescue mission for an Army Special Forces soldier, G’s helicopter crashes, breaking his back and hips. The helicopter crash attracts local villagers, who start approaching the downed aircraft.

Navid "G" Garshasb

Navid “G” Garshasb

The helicopter crew start to get worried. They were unsure if the villagers were armed, and they didn’t want to take a chance by letting those villagers get too close. G told the aircraft commander that he’ll go out and talk to the villagers, warn them away from the crash site, so that the helicopter coming to rescue them won’t see the villagers and react with force. The AC tells G “No, your back is broken. You need to remain here until rescue comes.” G doesn’t give up. He insists, and finally the AC allows him to go talk to them. With help from his crew, G walks up to the villagers and tells them to leave the area. For their own safety, he says, they must leave the area. The villagers took a bit of convincing, but finally relented and left. G and his crew were rescued and the helicopter destroyed to keep it out of enemy hands. (This was another reason G wanted to persuade the villagers, men and children, to leave the area.) This single act of G’s resulted in the Air Force Sergeant’s Association to award him the Pitsenbarger Award [link pdf], an award usually earned by the bad-asses of the Air Force, pararescuemen.

In the days after 9/11, I was teaching new Air Force officers at Goodfellow AFB. We had the TV on in the office all day. Once I heard of an AFSOC helicopter crash in Afghanistan, I kept my eyes on that television. The news starting showing a video put out by the Taliban about a helicopter they say they shot down. The video showed the helicopter’s remains strewn all over a mountain side, and there in the shot is an issued-helmet, with GARSHASB written on a strip of masking tape.

G was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2003, and given a few months to live. But this tough old sonuvabitch told the doctors to STFU and lived over a decade beyond their “expert” opinions. G passed away September 4, 2013, leaving his wife Joani and two sons, Shahine and Andrew.

ممکن است او در آرامش استراحت

Jamming while jamming

May 17, 2015 | Swimming Equipment | Permalink

I’ve swum with music for a while now. When I’ve remembered to charge the player. And when I’ve had the right player. And when I haven’t dropped the player on concrete and broken it. But I don’t wear my players in open water. Or coached workouts of course.

People have asked me how I can train with music, then go do a 2-4 hour marathon swim without the music. Aren’t I harming my training by not also swimming without the music player? Won’t I psychologically be handicapped without the music during the marathon.

Simple answer: No. I get into such a groove out in open water. Listening to the waves. The seagulls. Watching the trees go by. Hearing the sounds of motorboats (hopefully) not too close. Enjoying the water. Running into the occasional small log.

I get none of this swimming laps or swimming on the tether in pools. Long tedious laps forever, with only the infrequent thrill of sociological wonder that is the Kyrgyz and water jets.

What I do get swimming laps or on the tether is a nice workout for my shoulders, and time horizontal for my back. I get time to listen to tunes chosen randomly by the binary digits of my Neptune. The surprise of the next song. The feeling of just one more song till I can hit the sauna. The unknowns of putting on the gas when the fast song comes on. (Who can ignore kicking into high gear when The Immigrant Song begins?)

All of these things makes laps or swimming in place more palatable, more enjoyable. Trust me, if I could somehow create a pair of VR goggles that showed me the sides of the Tennessee river as I turned to take a breath, I’d dump the music player in a heartbeat. Alas, that is still some time off.

The Joys of Your Own Pool

May 13, 2015 | Swimming Equipment | Permalink

So I’ve decided I could get used to having my own pool. It is so nice to be able to simply throw on my trunks and jump in. Better, get out and jump into the sauna. All while walking around half naked in my own yard. Oh, to be independently wealthy.

This morning I woke early, around 0545, well rested and thought, “Hey, I could go swim!” By six a.m. I was plodding along strung up by my ankles, enjoying the morning. It was slightly cloudy with the sun starting to peak around the mountains. An enjoyable hour swimming nowhere.

Here’s some observations from having my own pool and using those straps:

  • The straps, depending upon how I attach them to the pool, tend to pull me one way or the other. I’ve strung them through the skimmer basket hole, so one side of the strap is higher than the other. When I bilateral breath, I feel like I’m rolling to one side.
  • The straps, no matter where I attach, rub along the pool side. Already the nylon covering over the stretchy part has rubbed away. I’m researching alternatives like nylon rope strung through the skimmer hole, then a carabiner, then the stretchy straps.
  • Whirlpool affect. My pool is about 12m x 4m. The two skimmer baskets are on one of the 4m sides. So when I “hook up,” and start swimming, I create a whirlpool effect. I see bugs passing by me about a foot below me every few minutes. And that raft of bugs that I forgot to scoop up passes by me every few minutes, freaking me out at least once per swim session.
  • Speaking of bugs, the pump for my pool is not very strong. When I take the cover off the skimmer basket area, I see a bunch of bugs in there. But the pump is so weak that as soon as I start swimming, those bugs come out of the skimmer area and greet me mid-swim. I’m okay with that, until that spider comes to visit. She may look dead, but I’m pretty sure she’s faking.
  • Yes, I know my pool is not the ocean. But boy oh boy did I ever think some creature of some sort came for a visit just the other day. I was swimming as usual, creating my whirlpool, when all of a sudden out of the side of my left eye I saw something red quickly approach my head. I jumped so high…to see my floating thermometer approaching me with malice.

I am lucky enough to have a sauna on the property here. I tend to set it before I jump in the pool, so it is nice and toasty when I’m done. A couple days ago, about 45 minutes into the swim, I smelled one of the neighbors burning trash, which is like a hobby here. The smoke smell drifted over the walls and hung out on top of the pool. So annoying.

Then when I finished my hour, I went into the sauna only to discover that it was filled with smoke. Great! I’m going to burn the owner’s sauna down. I turned it off, then got my wife. Of course. She’s the voice of reason. She’ll help me figure out what the hell I did.

Well, it was nothing I did. Somehow a piece of wood got stuck in the hot rocks that heat up the sauna. It was glowing red, about to “flame on.” So I tossed a bunch of water all over it and the rocks, until I was able to take the wood out. Yep, black as charcoal on one side.

I left the doors open, and today the sauna was perfect. Oh how I’m going to miss this place when we leave.

Swimming in place

May 7, 2015 | Swimming Equipment | Permalink

My winterized outdoor pool

My winterized outdoor pool

Remember this? This was my pool during the Kyrgyz winter. This is what I paid…what? $20 for? If you don’t remember, I’ll tell you. Those are empty soda bottles, filled with a few rocks each, strung along the diagonal of my little 12m-long pool. Theory being that when the ice expands, the bottles squish, taking up the space, thus saving tiles from breaking.

Well, now the pool is full of something else entirely, but still filled with a bunch of empty space.

Swimming treadmill

Swimming treadmill

Yep, that’s yours truly, enjoying the benefits of the Aqua Sphere Stationary Swimmer. I bought this thing last year, but never got to use it. It takes a bit of practice, and if you’re drowning-phobic like me (don’t ask me about lifeguard training when I was 15…eek!), the fact you can’t stand up with these things on…well, that kinda freaked me out at first. But thankfully I learned how to extricate myself from the straps quickly.

I have mine wrapped around the pool fence, which as you can see gives me plenty of space so I can swim without hitting my toes on the wall. When I first tried them out (in a 63F pool…brrr), I had a constant feeling of swimming against current, so I unconsciously put on the gas and got wore out quite quickly. My shoulders and triceps the next day were feeling it. The second day I decided to just take it easy, spend 30 minutes swimming at a nice slow pace, and it was much better. In fact, the biggest problem I have is keeping on a straight line.

I’ll notice after a while that I’m getting closer to one of the walls, despite winding the straps through the middle of the fence. So then I try to correct myself, and that for some reason is just such a pain in the butt, and really pretty difficult. In fact, at some points, it feels like my upper half is swimming higher in the water than if I wasn’t strapped in.

So, I’m still learning how to use these things. But I’m happy. I can swim! I’ve even managed to do “workouts” while strapped in. For instance, today I swam for 40 minutes (still working back up to my hour+), and decided that starting with song #3 I’d swim bilateral every odd song. (Oh, didn’t I mention? I’m swimming with my Finis Neptune.) It was a good workout, since I’m a shit bilateral breather. And in this tiny pool, I get pretty rowdy waves going, and I suck at breathing to the left, so it is a real challenge for me. And it minimizes the boredom of swimming in place.

I’ve also discovered that if I stop swimming, and angle my toes down, that’ll shoot me backwards into the wall. Then when I hit the wall, I can push off and really swim hard, like I’m doing intervals. I might try this more once I get my lungs back.

Look at that view!

Look at that view!

2015 Season

May 3, 2015 | 2015 Season | Permalink

I found a few swims to aim for this year. Um, I mean, to train for. Two 5Ks and a 10K. This will truly be an experimental “season” as most, if not all, of my training will be in my tiny 12m long pool, using the stationary strap things. (I’m heartened that others have swum much farther and bigger doing similar training, like Fast Eddie.) Also experimental because I’m still aiming to swim in some Kyrgyz lakes this year. And, from what I’m learning, some of this swimming may be spur of the moment events.

The family and I are going to the beautiful island of Brač, Croatia, this year. We’re staying in Sutivan, on the northern coast. The place looks gorgeous and the entire island is filled with beaches and old history. Right across the water is uber-famous Split, where they film some Game of Thrones scenes. Better than that, there is real history there, like Diocletian’s Palace.

Diocletian's Palace

Diocletian’s Palace

Even cooler, and more on point for this blog, there are open water swims all over the country. So…I’ve signed up for one. And I’m trying to contact the race directors of two others. The one I’m definitely in is the Raslina 5K, a mere 100k from Split (and a 50 min ferry from Sutivan). It starts at 10am, so I’ll probably leave fairly early to get there in time.

Raslina 5K Start

Raslina 5K Start

Two others are even closer. There’s another 5K in Kaštel Stari, which is only 20km from Split. It also starts at 10am, but being so much closer, it’ll be much quicker, so I can leave later.


And there is a 10K swim in Omiš, only 25km south of Split. That 10K worries me, but doing a 10K right before returning to Kyrgyzstan will give me the impetus to pursue some of these lakes here. The worrisome part came after looking at last year’s results. The slowest finisher came in at 3:25, about 15 minutes faster than my fastest 10K. This Omiš swim usually has a 2K too, and I have no problem doing that. I’d like to avoid being last (I know it’s silly, but my Cyprus experience has soured me), but hell, just being able to do these swims in Croatia will be fun and wonderful.


And the expense. Talk about context. The one swim I was able to register in so far (the Raslina 5K) will cost me $11 in today’s dollars, and that includes the swim, food at the finish and t-shirt!


April 30, 2015 | Other Sports | Permalink

I’ve tried, dear reader(s), to swim year-round here, but it’s just not going to happen. Too busy at work, and too few locations where I can swim indoors. They just don’t appreciate swimming here that much. But, thankfully, there are opportunities for cross-training here. And fun opportunities!

Many years ago, while we were stationed in Monterey, California (yes, it was a tough assignment), my boys were involved in Boy Scouts. I volunteered as an adult leader, which was probably the best volunteer job ever. Anyway, I happened to have heard of the sport Orienteering, and had a limited amount of experience in maps and compasses. Therefore, I was appointed as the Orienteering guru.

So I did a lot of reading. A lot. I remembered how much I wanted to participate in O as a kid and a boy scout. I never had the opportunity. Fortunately, in the Monterey area, there were many opportunities for Orienteering for the boys.

The boys in Troop 43 were interested in Orienteering, and some of them were excited enough that they took part in some Orienteering meets! We took the boys to a meet a little outside of Monterey where they got to compete in a Score-O. Score-O meets are probably my favorite. The point of Score-O, as opposed to normal, usual O meets, is that you have many control points all over a map. Unlike a usual meet, you do not have to visit the controls in order. Instead, each of the Score-O controls have a point value, based on their distance from the start and their difficulty in finding. You decide which ones you want to visit. You have a time limit, and you lose points if you arrive too many minutes before or after the ending time.

So what’s this got to do with swimming and Kyrgyzstan? There is an Orienteering federation here in Kyrgyzstan. They host foot orienteering meets in the spring and late-summer/fall. Which is perfect for complimenting my swimming. On May 10th there is a trail O meet, which is being held in the park nearest our house. I cannot wait.

My pool is being filled right now. Slowly. The hose has been hanging into the pool for about 24 hours and it is almost half full. I can’t wait till it is filled so I can start swimming. After the May 10th O meet there isn’t another meet until August. Which is perfect, and the O meets continue until the snows, when they switch it to ski-orienteering. (Which I’m not going to do.) And when the snow is on the ground, there is skiing here for cross training. Imagine that, skiing as cross training!  But when it costs about $20 for lift pass and full kit, how can you not ski every weekend?

So, at least for the next year and a half, I’ll be a seasonal swimmer. I hope that will mean that I can still do some of those swims I have planned in the Kyrgyz lakes; stay tuned.