Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Congratulations to Gilles and Jordan

Both completed their English Channel crossing!
Gilles Challandon just finished a few hours ago, 14 hours, 31 minutes.
Jordan Waxman finished earlier in the day, 14:06
Way to represent CIBBOWS, y'all!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Bonne Chance!

Jordan is cruising in the S-W shipping lane!
Gilles is slated to join him in the English Channel in just a few hours!


Diana Nyad, you go girl!

Around the age of 12, I became visually driven. After photography school, I moved to NYC in the 80's. Wandering around the Village, in a tiny postcard shop full of iconic images, I came across this image of Diana Nyad swimming around Manhattan.

It burned into my visual cortex, taking up residence. It was the spark for my NY love affair with open water.

Now at the age of 60, Diana Nyad will attempt her 108 mile Florida to Cuba swim once more.
I wish her luck.

From her blog:
On July 11, 2010, at 60 years of age, Diana Nyad successfully completed her triumphant return to long-distance swimming with a consecutive 24-hour swim through the Gulf Stream’s open-water off the coast of Key West, Florida, without a shark cage. While the 24-hour swim is an enormous challenge, it’s merely the beginning for Nyad. Any day now, she will attempt to achieve her life-long dream to be the first person to swim the 103 miles from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage.

The Story of Matthew Webb

As Gilles and Jordan prepare to face the English Channel, my thoughts turn towards the pioneer who got us all started...

Matthew Webb, a 27-year-old merchant navy captain, becomes the first known person to successfully swim the English Channel. Captain Webb accomplished the grueling 21-mile crossing, which really entailed 39 miles of swimming because of tidal currents, in 21 hours and 45 minutes. During the overnight crossing from Dover, England, to Calais, France, Captain Webb drank brandy, coffee, and beef tea to keep his strength and heat up. He was hailed as a national hero upon his return to England, and a triumphal arch was erected in his honor in his hometown in Shropshire. The Daily Telegraph proclaimed, "At this moment the Captain is probably the best-known and most popular man in the world."

One of 12 children, Webb learned to swim in the Severn River below Ironbridge. At age 12, he joined the mercantile training ship Conway. He was not remembered as a fast swimmer, but his fellow cadets noted his endurance. While traveling the world with the merchant navy, Webb made his mark with several brave and dangerous swims. Endurance swimming was popular in the 1870s, and Webb decided to swim the English Channel after reading in a newspaper about an unsuccessful attempt. He trained along England's south coast, swimming distances of 10 to 20 miles and becoming acclimatized to the cold water. In August 1875, his first attempt to swim the Channel ended in failure, but he decided to give it another try.

On August 24, 1875, smeared in porpoise fat for insulation and wearing a red swimming costume made of silk, he dove off Dover's Admiralty Pier into the chilly waters of the Channel. He began the race in the late evening because of the tides and kept up a slow and steady pace in the dark, using the breaststroke. Accompanying boats handed him beef tea, brandy, and other liquids to sustain him, and Webb braved stinging jellyfish and patches of seaweed as he plodded on. Seven miles from the French coast, the tide changed, and he appeared to be driven backward, but just after 10 a.m. he approached the French shore. The crew of the outgoing mail ship The Maid of Kent serenaded him with "Rule Britannia," and shortly before 11 a.m. Webb waded ashore.

After sleeping 12 hours in France, Webb returned to England by boat, saying, "the sensation in my limbs is similar to that after the first day of the cricket season." He was honored at a welcoming banquet in Dover, where the mayor proclaimed, "In the future history of the world, I don't believe that any such feat will be performed by anyone else." The London Stock Exchange set up a testimonial fund for him. He toured the country, lecturing and swimming.

For rest of story, go here

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Penguins have a special place in my heart....

Swimming Emperor Penguins-Antartica
Credit: Twosixteen at flickr

Sea snot? Really?

Christine Dell'Amore
National Geographic News
Published September 23, 2010

Deciphering the unseen, underwater effects of the Gulf oil spill.

The Gulf of Mexico oil spill sparked an explosion of sticky clumps of organic matter that scientists call sea snot, according to ongoing research.

The boom likely precipitated a sea-snot "blizzard" in Gulf (map) waters, researchers say. And as the clumps sank, they may have temporarily wiped out the base of the food chain in the spill region by scouring all small life from the water column.

In the weeks after the April 20 Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion, scientists surveying the surface near the drill site spotted relatively huge particles—several centimeters across—of sea snot.

These particularly slimy flakes of "marine snow" are made up of tiny dead and living organic matter, according to Uta Passow, a biological oceanographer at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Tiny plants in the ocean called phytoplankton produce a mucus-like substance when stressed, and it's possible that exposure to the Deepwater Horizon oil caused them to pump out more of the sticky stuff than usual.

This abundance of "mucus" made the naturally occurring marine-snow particles—usually about a few millimeters wide—even stickier.

"Everything they collide with in their path they collect and take with them," said project leader Passow, who's currently tracking marine snow aboard the research vessel Oceanus.

(Related: why the Gulf oil spill isn't going away.)

Read rest of article here

Friday, September 24, 2010

Can't believe another summer has passed without Grimmi

you will always be in my heart
.....xoxo Patricia

thanks for sending us this photo, Eli....

Bermuda Round the Sound Swim 2010

There's still time to get in on a great swim in sunny Bermuda! Swim a 10k or a 2k, or something in between. Wonderful swim in one of the world's most beautiful islands. Flights are still pretty cheap from NYC--I just got mine for $300!

Photos from 2009
Photos from 2008
Photos from 2007

Sign up today!

English Channel 14hrs 27mins

written by David Barra
photos by Fiona Laughlin

The previous neap tide was a complete blow out, as was the following spring tide. I fell into a little funk as swimmers scheduled for this window came to the reality one by one that they would not have the opportunity to swim. With much training and treasure spent, obviously disappointed, they all left Dover with grace and the understanding that chance is still a large factor of any channel attempt. The best wishes from Jordan and Liz and Bryan before their departures strengthened my resolve to give it all I could if/when I got the call.

On Saturday, 9/28 six boats went out with relays competing in a London to Paris triathlon. The conditions were not ideal, but it was the first activity since my arrival a week ago and there was suddenly a buzz in the air. Word on the street was Monday or Tuesday were looking likely for solos in the #1 slot. Since my pilot, Paul Foreman, was able to get a few of his bookings in for their swims earlier in the season, I had been bumped up to #2... lucky me! I was now looking at a Wednesday morning start, though at 2 AM, it really felt like a Tuesday night.

Captain Paul took out a San Francisco swimmer, Joe Locke, at 1:00 AM Monday morning. Since Joe was also staying at Varne Ridge, I had the pleasure to chat with him a bit and compare notes on the schedule, etc. Joe had an excellent swim, and I imagine conditions were pretty good as at least 3 swimmers broke 10 hours this day. I got a call from Paul Foreman after Joe had landed, and though the connection was spotty, I understood the gist of it.... I'd be meeting him some time Tuesday night/ Wednesday morning for an early splash on Sept 1. There were 4 flags flying at Varne Ridge... UK, USA, Ireland and Australia. Four of my five neighbors were successful, and as far as i could tell from the forecasts; tomorrow was going to be even better.

As per the tide changes, starting times generally shift about an hour per day, so, on 8/31, Joe's splash time was +/- 1 AM; 9/1, my splash time would be +/- 2 AM. Sharroz, John, and I met Fiona and Betsy at the marina at 1:30, loaded up the boat and were on our way to Shakespeare Beach which took no time at all.

I was anxious to get started, so stripped down, inserted ear plugs, applied a bit of channel grease to my pits, shoulders, jaw, neck, upper back, groin, etc. wiped my hands, put on my cap, turned on the green strobe that was attached to my goggle strap, clipped on a belt (and tucked it into my suit) with a couple of glow lights, and jumped in. It was only a short swim to the beach, and after just a few seconds, I was on my way to France. Though I'm a much stronger left breather, Paul requested that I swim on the left side of the boat. This was a position that made it easy for him to keep his eye on me, and I complied without complaint. My plan was to breathe every 3 strokes and keep my stroke rate between 65 and 70. The adrenaline kicked in, and I felt like I was moving at a good clip though kicking a bit too much. I wanted to get warm fast (though the 62 degree water never felt cold) and after 2.5 hours, got a major cramp in my left hamstring.... the same thing that forced my resignation from the 2006 MIMS. Four years wiser, I was able to massage out the cramp and continue along with minimal leg movement (for the next 12 hours). Dodged a bullet!

The first mate would blind me with a spotlight to indicate feed time. (should have worked out a better signal) I would be alternating between 1st Endurance EFS and ginger tea with agave nectar every 20 minutes. The feeds were coming to me warm; not as hot as I expected them to be but since the temperature of the water didn't seem to be an issue, I didn't request them to be any hotter. The string I packed for this trip was a thin lacing cord that tangled up terribly, sometimes causing my feed stops to be a bit awkward. Additionally, my sinus was a bit irritated from the salty irrigations of harbor water for the past 10 days, so breathing through my nose was not happening; this prevented me from chugging my 11 oz feeds as quickly as I would have liked to. Oh well, I wasn't going to break any records anyway.

Swimming on the port side of the Pace Arrow gave me an unobstructed view of the horizon. I have never experienced a clear sunrise from a fish eye view before. It was nothing short of magnificent. I thought standing on french sand (or pebbles) would be the emotional climax, but tears of joy were filling up my goggles as the sky lit up red and orange. I saw Roz and Fiona had the cameras going but know that photographs could never convey this feeling of swimming through the darkness. The fresh morning suggested warmth, though I don't think the temperature changed at all.

The channel is rather shallow <180 feet (compare to Catalina +/- 3000 ft!) and there aren't a lot of things to look at except white cliffs at either coast and the passing ships and ferries. Now in the daylight, I could see the cliffs of Dover when I would roll on my back to feed though its impossible to gauge the distance covered. Still, I quickly remind myself not to look toward France. Though the shipping lanes are wide, the direction of traffic indicates when we are in English or French waters. I lost count of how many ships crossed our path, but it was more than a dozen. It surprised me that their wakes were barely perceivable although they seemed to pass quickly and closely.

I broke my first rule (DON"T LOOK TOWARD THE FINISH) and looked at France. It seemed so close.... for so long; the lighthouse atop Cap Gris Nez a welcome sight. At my next feed Fiona shouted a few words of encouragement "you're almost there!", which prompted me to ask "how many more feeds?". This was not part of my communication plan and I think also qualifies as breaking rule #2... (JUST SHUT UP AND SWIM), but I wanted to know if I could start consuming fewer calories as we seemed to be in the home stretch. John was caught off guard by my inquiry; "two more" he shouted. So now in my mind, I'm thinking I've got another 40 minutes to an hour of swimming left. I could cruise in on what I've consumed so far and let the next two feeds go back to the boat after just a few sips. The hour has passed, and the view of the lighthouse hasn't changed at all. There would be another ten feeds coming my way, and I went back to drinking it all down. During this futile siege I noticed Capt. Paul changing the position of the boat relative to the Cap... trying to find a break in the currents that would allow us passage. At one point, he pulled around to my left, and I saw for the first time the giant woven nylon parachute that he was dragging behind the boat. This was preventing the boat from turning into the wind and current.

We missed hitting the Cap, (I don't think anyone hit it directly that day), and the wind was picking up. I thought of the possibility that I might have to hold this position for up to six hours and wait for the tide to change (based on stories of swims past) and laughed to myself as I watched the boat bouncing up and down in the six to eight foot swells... it must suck being on that boat... wasn't I the lucky one!

Finally, we got through the currents and entered into a shallow cove just north of Cap Gris Nez. I saw John suiting up to escort me to the finish and in front of us, a street that ended in a boat ramp with a few houses on the right and, a restaurant (La Sirene) on the left. I kept sighting on the boat ramp, and was rewarded with a sandy/pebbly beach to walk up. There were a few people standing at the top of the ramp, and from their gestures, I thought they were inviting us to come have a drink.... John says this was purely my imagination, and anyway, Paul was already sounding the horn for us to swim the hundred or so yards back to the boat. We grabbed a few rocks and started swimming.

The Pace Arrow is one of the fastest boats of all the channel pilots, and Paul was in a hurry to get back. We were getting bounced around pretty good, but still, after a trip to the head and wiping the grease off me, I was out like a light. Sharoz and Fiona took lots of video and stills and along with John and Betsy were tremendous support. I've said it before, but it can't be overstated: I could have never completed any of these swims without the enthusiastic support of so many friends and family. I am humbled in the presence of such love and generosity.

I'm not sure who came up with the "Triple Crown", but it seems to have become a motivating force for marathon swimmers. Catalina has seen large increases in the number of swimmers scheduling attempts, MIMS fills up in an hour or so, and the EC is booked up for a couple of years in advance. I was inspired by Antonio Arguelles who I met at MIMS last year whose goal was to swim the three in one year. This seemed to make sense to me, and since I had aN EC booking, all I had to do was get into MIMS and find a Catalina date somewhere in the middle. It was 82 days from MIMS to my EC crossing. Steve Munatones did a nice write up... thanks Steve!
Colorado swimmer Craig Lenning completed the TC in less than a year as well. http://www.dailynewsofopenwaterswimm...rown-club.html
I had the pleasure of swimming with him at MIMS and Tampa Bay this year.

...... up next; La Sirene, the Serp, the Thames, etc

Saturday, September 4, 2010

English Channel

by Jim Meier

One must appreciate that the Channel always calls the shots. This is part of its allure. Swimmers hope for calm waters or, even better, rolling waves with a tale wind to help push you toward France, and are tortured by the possibility that you won't get a chance to "go out" – the reality for perhaps two dozen swimmers in the tide before mine. There are days that are unswimmable, a few days that are perfect, and everything in between.

From my start yesterday at 3:00 am (Thursday), I had washing machine conditions, very tough. I swam for a little over 11.5 hours into the southern shipping lane when I called it quits. My crew had informed me at my prior feeding (feedings every 30 minutes) that I had been fighting currents and had made no progress for the half hour preceding. I had tried to pick up the pace and, regardless of whether I succeeded, had been pushed backward during that last 30 minutes. The day before two friends – Dave Barra and Nick Levine – had been stuck in place for about 4 hours but, both much faster swimmers than I am (and with calmer conditions for the early part of their swims), were within two miles of the coast and both finished in under 15 hours. I have no regrets. I got what I came for. I later learned that of the 5 people swimming on Thursday, only one made it to France.

My crew of five including my kids, Jacob and Joslyn, and friends Nir, Bernard and Ken were fabulous. I could write pages about the unique and collective contributions each one made to the experience.

One learns a lot about many aspects of one self in the months of preparing for this endeavor. Yesterday, after the swim, I saw things I would do differently the next time in my training, prep, etc. A very large percentage of swimmers (I know at least a dozen) who did not succeed the first time come back for a second try. This magical pull is another aspect of the Channel's allure.

I came here with the clear realization and conviction that this would be my first and last attempt; the intensity of training and mental focus over the past year and a half have been consuming, and my age is an immutable limiting factor. So I will not be making another attempt ….I think.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Catalina Part III

by David Barra

Since I had planned to have little feedback and conversation while swimming, I was completely in the dark as to how much longer I might be in the water. I had read many accounts of English Channel swimmers spending three/four/five/six hours fighting the last half mile only to surrender unsuccessfully... close enough to smell the croissants baking, but this isn't the EC. It isn't supposed to be like this! With no visual reference, I didn't know if I was gaining toward the mainland at all, and I wondered if I would be pulled for lack of progress. No matter, I was going to swim until I hit land, got pulled, or my arms fell off.

As it turns out, I was making progress. The Outrider was on auto-pilot and we were creeping slowly toward my rocky exit. As the current swept northwest, we turned southeast to face it, and so, inched sideways toward the California coast which was mostly blocked from my view by the boat on my left.

I tried to keep my pace steady and my stroke rate held in the mid 60's throughout. My neck was getting sore. I tweeked it a bit the day before my swim in a sneezing fit (of all things) and though I managed to keep it loose for a good 12 hours, it was time to quit alternate breathing and go to my old standby left only for the home stretch. I hoped my kayakers, paddling on my right side, would not be offended. I could see the hull of the kayak under water and follow easily.

Tobey jumped in again, and sensing that I was in need of some encouraging words said the perfect thing: "Hey, lets just go for a swim." We did. I felt a surge of energy and picked my stroke rate up a bit. The end didn't matter to me now and I was able to enjoy just moving through the water.... finally the Zen moment! I felt briefly that the coast would get in the way of my finding out just how long I could keep going and started to feel sorry for all those poor bastards whose swim is over after nine or ten hours.

A strange thing happens when one is engaged in a singular activity for hours on end, and its the exact opposite of what one would expect; time accelerates. The time between feeds passed so quickly now and loud cheering now accompanied each chug-a-lug like a frat party drinking contest. I can only assume we are getting closer to the beach and try to keep up the pace. Jim gives me a two fists in the air salute and holds it until I respond with a thumbs up. It feels good to have the officials so solidly in my corner.

I deliberately avoid looking forward but hope to see some kelp soon.... No kelp, but the end is near. John, Tobey and Harris were all in the water to escort me the last 200 yards to the rocky beach. The surf was slight, but I lacked the balance to deal with it, so I crawled slowly on all fours until I could find some footing. There were a few people sitting nearby in some beach chairs; they looked pretty relaxed.

After a very brief respite, we swim back to the Outrider.

Back aboard the Outrider, hot chocolate, mini snickers, degrease, and a hot shower... yes a hot shower! Everyone was exhausted and I'm sure looking forward to terra firma followed by a soft bed... as was I. The boat ride back to the dock wasn't long enough to fully express my appreciation to everyone on board. Before the swim, I had thought it would be fun to buy everyone a few rounds at some dockside bar and grill, but we were deep into double overtime, and I could sense that everyone was anxious to get on with the rest of their lives. Feet dragging but spirits high, we cleared our gear from the deck of the Outrider and made our way to our vehicles that waited patiently for us, parked across the road in a newly paved lot. It is unlikely that we, as a group, will ever find ourselves in the same place at the same time again, though John, Ian and Roz will be in Dover with me shortly.

I know that I'll be back to Catalina sometime soon to swim or crew with some friends......

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


Saturday, November 6th 2010, 11:30am, the Veterans Day 5K, 1Mile, 2Mile

8-Foot Shark Caught in Potomac River

Willy Dean has an incredible fish tale to tell. On Tuesday, he caught a shark while on the Potomac River in St. Mary's County, Md.
Don't believe him? He has the pictures to prove it.
Dean put out a net Monday at Cornfield Harbor in the Potomac three miles north of Point Lookout with hopes of catching cow-nosed rays for a Solomons Island Marina biologist. When he checked Monday night everything seemed normal. But when he checked again Tuesday morning, he made a startling discovery.
In the net was an 8-foot-long shark. He said it was a bull shark. According to National Geographic, experts consider them to be "the most dangerous sharks in the world."

Willy Dean, right, shows off his shark.
Whatever kind of shark it was, Dean knows two things: it had a heck of a lot of teeth, and it didn't go out easily.
"We had an interesting morning bringing it in," Dean said. "It was quite a fight."
Once the shark was captured, the next question was: What the heck do you do with it?
"I am probably going to have it mounted, maybe the head," Dean said. "Right now, the shark's in the freezer."
Which means there's no chance that this fish tale ends with the big one getting away...

David Barra has achieved the Triple Crown!

Congrats, David, on your successful crossing of the English Channel today!
14hours, 27mins
What a year of swimming you're having!
Maui Channel-March
Tampa Bay-April
Catalina-July (you owe us Part III!)
Big Ditch-August (I confess, I don't know this one)
English Channel-September
and we'll be cheering for you in October during Ederle!

November--Turkey Dip then put your feet up for the season?