8.03.2015

Blue Moon Swim at Jordanelle

We had a good turnout for the Blue Moon Swim at Jordanelle last Friday.  Photo by Jim Hubbard.
A couple months ago, I was talking to Sue about doing a full moon swim.  We looked at the calendar and the best date seemed to be July 31st because it was a Friday.

I had no idea until the day of the swim that it was not only a full moon, but a blue moon.  I had heard the phrase "once in a blue moon" but wasn't sure what a "blue moon" was.  I found out that it doesn't have anything to do with the color, but is the second full moon in the same month.

Will Reeves and Jeremy Clark met me at my house and we drove up together.  When we got there, there were a few other people waiting around.  Goody was in the water swimming already.  We unloaded my paddleboard and everyone started getting ready and putting on glow sticks.  I had been sick all week and planned to just support the swim on the paddleboard instead of swim.

Will Reeves, Jeremy Clark, and myself getting ready to swim.  Photo by Jim Hubbard.
We had about 15 people show up to swim, which was the biggest group we have had for a night swim.  After taking some pictures and a brief safety briefing by Goody, I went out in front of the group to guide everyone to the end of the buoy line.  Even though the moon was out and was really bright, it was hard to see the buoys on the way out.  It was a beautiful night to be on the water.  I just watched the bobbing glow sticks and listened to the splashing of the swimmers strokes.  Coming back, it was much easier to see the buoys.

When we got to the end of the line, I left a glow stick on the buoy so that everyone else would know where to turn around.  It was fun to hear people stop every once in a while and say "this is so cool!".

When we got back to the ramp, I wanted to get in the water for just a minute.  I ran down the dock and jumped in.  I only swam out to the red and green buoys and back, not wanting to make my cold any worse.  The water felt good and was 68 degrees.

We ended up with three paddlers on the water and were able to keep track of everyone.  It was a lot of fun and I look forward to doing it again next year.

7.29.2015

Swimming With the Iron Cowboy

Last Saturday I had the opportunity, along with about 100 other people, to swim with the Iron Cowboy on his final swim of the 50 / 50 / 50 challenge.  I was supposed to be at the SLOW Swim Camp, but we had just come home from a week long trip and my family wasn't up for another weekend away.  It was also my birthday, and I typically go for a swim somewhere to celebrate.

I got up early so that I could be at Deer Creek at 5:30am.  I was surprised by how many people were already there and had a hard time finding a place to park.  I happened to park right next to Jill and Erin and we walked down to where everyone else was waiting.  We also ran into Etsuko when we got over to the main group.

We hung around for a while until the door of the RV opened and James Lawrence (aka the Iron Cowboy) stepped into the doorway.  He had a couple guys help him down and then he was lost in the crowd, who were all taking pictures with him.

I don't know what was going on behind the scenes, but the event was not very well organized.  If there was a pre-swim meeting, I must have missed it.  Eventually everyone just started walking down towards the water, so I followed.  It was pretty chilly that morning and I was one of maybe four people who was going to be swimming without a wetsuit.  The water was cold right near the shore, but warmed up quite a bit once you got further out.  My watch read 71 degrees when I finished.

There wasn't really an official start and people just kind of started swimming down Wallsburg Bay.  There were supposed to have been several buoys in the water, marking various distances, but the only time I saw them was hanging over the side of a boat.  There was a State Parks boat in the water and a few people out on kayaks or paddleboards keeping an eye on people.

I swam out easy and just enjoyed myself.  I was following a couple of guys who were in the lead and kept stopping, trying to figure out where to go.  Eventually, we got to the white buoys near the opening of the bay, and several people turned around there.  I was just going to swim to the ramp and back, but noticed the two guys who were ahead of me were swimming towards a boat, so I followed them.  We got to the boat and were told that it was the turnaround.  Rory Duckworth and Rob Johnson were right behind me.  Rob told me he appreciated being able to draft on me.  After hanging out for a bit, we decided to head back.

The swim to the turnaround boat was an easy warm-up and I wanted to push myself on the way back.  It was a little choppy outside the bay, but not too bad, and it calmed down once I got back inside the "no wake" zone.  We were swimming into the sun and it was hard to tell where the finish was.  A few times I ran myself into some shallow water and had to move back into deeper water.  I was going at a decent pace and felt pretty good.

I noticed a group of about 5-6 people who had stopped and were standing on the shore.  I'm not sure if someone was having a problem or if they were just resting.

I finished and got dried off and talked to Mark Belnap a little bit.  He was one of the few other swimmers there without a wetsuit.  As I was getting dressed, Rob and Rory finished.

We all watched the Iron Cowboy come back in, surrounded by a big group of swimmers who were yelling at him and encouraging him to keep going.  They kept checking his watch to see how far he had gone, and he had to swim back and forth a little bit until he hit 2.4 miles.  At times it looked like some of the group was pushing or pulling him along.  When he got out, the crowd cheered and he was surrounded by more people taking pictures.  He was shaking pretty bad and was being bundled up in blankets, towels, and jackets.  Honestly, he looked like he was in rough shape.  But who wouldn't be after doing 49 Ironmans in 49 days in 49 states?

One of the guys who was with him was cheering that they didn't have to swim anymore and that they hated swimming.  I overheard some other people on the way back to the parking lot talking about how they disliked swimming too.  I understand that it can be hard for those who haven't grown up swimming and are new to the sport.  If anyone reading this is in the same boat that these swimmers are, come swim with me and the SLOW team and we'll try to help you enjoy it.

When we got back to the parking lot, there were already a ton of cyclists there waiting to ride with the Iron Cowboy.  It was pretty cool how much support he had.  I read on Facebook that some people were going to do the whole Ironman with him that day for the first time.

It's a pretty inspiring story and was being done for a great cause (to raise awareness of child obesity and eating well).  I can't imagine the pain and mental challenges he must have endured and it makes me think that I am capable of accomplishing more than I thought I could.

7.27.2015

Redfish Lake

After the Bear Lake Monster Swim, my family and I headed up to Redfish Lake near Stanley, Idaho to camp for a few days.

I wasn't able to swim as much as I wanted to there, but the water was awesome; very clear and "warm".

Here's a photo of the lake after a day of storms.


Bear Lake Monster Swim Race Report

This is a little late, but I have been out of town and away from my computer until today.

Another Bear Lake Monster Swim is in the books.  It was a stressful few days leading up to the event as we watched the changing weather forecast.  Within just a couple days, the forecast changed from a nice, sunny day to thunderstorms, rain and wind.  We scrambled the last couple days before the event to come up with an alternate plan in case the weather didn't change.  For the 7-mile swim, this meant that we would have them swim loops of the 1-mile course near the shore.  That way we could pull them out quickly in case of lightning.  We got a lot of pretty negative feedback when we posted the plan on Facebook, which is understandable, but Utah State Parks was in agreement that this was the best plan.  Swimming laps would take a lot of the adventure out of the swim and would make it much more monotonous.  This is a tough decision to make as a race director.  We understand it is not ideal and is not what the swimmers are expecting, but an alternate plan is better than canceling the event all together.

I went up to Gordon's cabin on Thursday night, with the plan to swim across with Sarah and Chad as they did double crossings.  Chad had a bad bearing on his boat trailer and we spend a lot of time Thursday night and Friday morning trying to get it fixed.  In the end, we weren't able to get it fixed in time to do our swim.  In some ways, this was a relief to me.  I was ready to do the crossing, but I had been needlessly stressing myself out about it for a week.

On Friday night we had a potluck dinner at the marina.  We got to meet some of the swimmers and answer their questions about the weather and what was happening with the race.  We were lucky to have Lynn Crookston and two of his sons attend.  Lynn, who is now in his 90's, was the first recorded person to swim across the width of the lake.  We got to listen to him tell the story of his swim and answer our questions.  It was awesome!

On Saturday morning, we consulted with the Coast Guard and Utah State Parks.  After checking the radar again, it looked like the storm was going to just miss us.  It also looked like there was no lightning in the storm.  Behind the storm we were looking at was totally clear.  Although the Coast Guard was a little worried about it, we decided to send the 7-mile swimmers across the lake.  There were big cheers from the swimmers as Gordon made the announcement.  Gordon did a good job letting them know that if anyone heard thunder that the swim was over.  He also did a good job being blunt and warning the paddlers about what they would be in for and offered them a chance to back out.

The 1/2 mile and 1 mile races (both of which were new for this year) started on schedule.  Chad and I were signed up to swim the 1 mile race, but were so busy getting people checked in and answering questions about the 7-mile race that we almost missed the start.  Gordon yelled at us and we both ran down to the beach to see everyone already in the water ready to go.  Gordon started the countdown as we were still getting to the starting line.

Being a race director, I get to see everyone's estimated finish times (maybe we ought to start posting psych sheets for everyone to see).  Jay Tapp, who was the winner of the Great Salt Lake 1-mile swim, had posted a fast time so I looked for him at the start.  I stayed right with him the whole way and thought I might have a chance of actually winning the race.  The water was pretty choppy on the way out, but gave us a nice little push on the way back.  I kept an eye on Jay the whole time and let him set the pace.  As we got close to the finish, I pushed myself a little harder and swam to the first buoy.  I couldn't see Jay anywhere and though I must be ahead of him.  As I turned the buoy, I saw him getting out of the water.  I found out later that we didn't have to swim to that last buoy at the end.  Oops.  That's what I get for missing the pre-race meeting.  I ended up in 2nd place overall, missing first place by 18 seconds.  Being a race director, I don't get to race very often, so it was a lot of fun to participate in the event.

We got the 7-mile swim started and I packed up and headed to the finish line.  It was pretty windy and we had a hard time keeping our big inflatable arch upright.  It's always fun to watch the swimmers and their paddlers come in.  Despite the wind, rain, and choppy water, we had all but one solo swimmer and all relay teams finish the swim.  We didn't hear a single clap of thunder the whole time.  As soon as the race was over, the storm passed completely and the weather was awesome the rest of the weekend.

Here are some things I learned from this year's swim:

  • We need to do a better job ahead of the swim posting about the alternate plan in case of bad weather.  We can add some information to the webpage so that it is very clear to participants what will happen if the weather is bad.  That way there are no surprises (and hopefully no complaints).  We also need to post what weather conditions would trigger the alternate plan and what conditions would cancel the swim altogether.
  • For the 1/2 mile and 1 mile swims, we were relying on the 7-mile paddlers to help us staff the course and keep an eye on swimmers.  I only saw 2 or 3 kayakers on the water, which is too few (especially considering the choppy conditions).  Next year, we need to add more support paddlers.
  • We only had two people swim the 1/2 mile event.  I was hoping that this would be a good first swim for some of the younger age group swimmers, but we had a pretty low turnout.  Maybe we ought to just cancel the 1/2 mile distance for next year.
  • The 1/2 mile and 1 mile course had us swimming through reeds near the shore.  Some of them were soft and bent when you swam over them.  Others were hard and I ended up with a long scratch on my chest after swimming over one.  We need to do a better job setting up the course to avoid those patched of reeds.
  • Utah State Parks is awesome.  They did a great job communicating with us on race day and getting the Coast Guard involved.  We ended up having four boats out on the water for the 7-mile swim keeping an eye on everyone.  I don't know what the swimmers and paddlers thought, but I felt better knowing that there were a lot of boats out there in case something happened.
  • This year, we had the finish of the 7-mile swim in the water.  Last year it was too hard for people to get out on the slippery rocks and we had swimmers finishing all up and down the shore.  Having a buoy in the water to mark the finish helped a lot.  Everyone finished in the same place and everyone could take their time getting out of the water.
  • We were not very well prepared for cold conditions at the finish.  Several people were shivering when they finished.  I was able to use my towel and coat to help warm them up, but we ought to have more blankets, space blankets, etc at the finish.
  • Having Lynn Crookston there on Friday night was awesome.  Not enough people got to hear his story.  He is going to try to come up again next year, and I think we need to make that known so that more people can meet him.

7.15.2015

Shortened Swim at Jordanelle

I was supposed to meet Chad at Jordanelle this morning at 5am.  When I left the house, I could see a lot of lightning and heard some thunder.  As I was driving up the canyon, it started to rain pretty hard.  I texted Chad and told him what I was seeing.  He had camped there the night before and texted back that there wasn't any lightning at the lake.  By the time I got on to Highway 40, the rain had stopped, but I could still see lightning.  In my mind, I was already thinking about calling it quits.

I saw some more lightning when I got to the lake, but it looked like the storm was clearing up.  I decided to get ready and see what happened while I waited for Chad.  The wind ended up blowing the storm away from the lake and the skies were pretty clear.  It was 5:30 and I still hadn't seen Chad, so I just got in and started swimming.

The water temp has been cooling down (68-69 compared to 72-73 a couple weeks ago) and it felt a little chilly at first.  By the time I got to the first buoy, I was fine.  I kept looking for Chad but couldn't see him anywhere.

I've been in a bad place mentally for the last week or so thinking about my upcoming swim across Bear Lake with Sarah, Gords, and Chad.  A few weeks ago, I realized that I had not done enough training to do a double crossing like I had originally planned, so I decided to just do a one way crossing.  Watching the weather and seeing the water and air temperatures drop, combined with the fact that my portion of the swim will all be in the dark, has been causing me a lot of anxiety.  This morning during my swim, that's all I could think about and it was bringing me down.  I was worried that I would get cold and have to pull out.  Even though I know there will be a boat and two other swimmers right by me, I've had a hard time pulling myself out of these negative thoughts.  I know that I will probably be fine.  Having a boat and two other swimmer next to me will be a huge comfort.  I know I'm making a way bigger deal out of it than I need to, but I don't know how to get myself out of it.

Anyway, I finished about 2.5 miles and was going to go out for another loop when I finally saw Chad.  I stopped to talk to him for a bit.  He ended up getting in not long after I did, but went out towards the dam instead of following the buoys.  No wonder I didn't see him!  He was just finishing up and I decided to call it a day rather than do the last loop.  I had the documentary Driven that I needed to give him.

We talked for a while about Bear Lake and he convinced me that I didn't have anything to worry about.  There is a forecast for thunderstorms on Saturday morning, which is stressing me out.  I hate when the weather doesn't cooperate for our events!  Hopefully we miss the storm.  If not, we will have a plan in place for bad weather.

7.13.2015

Cool at Dark Swim at Jordanelle

It was another cool morning at Jordanelle today.  I didn't check the air temperature, but it was cool enough that I didn't waste any time getting in the water.  The water also felt much cooler today that it did last week.

I posted a workout on Facebook on Sunday night with an emphasis on sighting.  I needed to swim 3+ miles today and didn't follow the workout exactly, but I did pay attention to sighting throughout the swim.

Here's the workout I posted:

Warm-up: easy swim from ramp to green buoy then to the red buoy.
Swim one loop of the eastern buoy line. Start by sighting every third stroke. At each buoy, increase the number of strokes between sighting (i.e.at the second buoy sight every fourth stroke, at the third, sight every 5th stroke). At the end of the line, you can either continue to add strokes between sighting, or start over at 3 strokes.
4 "In-and-outs"
Cool down

At 5am, it's still really dark and it's hard to see the buoys on the way out on the first lap.  I just counted strokes between each buoy and was able to find them about where I expected them to be.

I was thinking a lot about our upcoming Bear Lake Monster Swim this weekend, hoping for good weather.  It looks like there may be a couple storms in the day leading up the the swim, but Saturday looks good.  It will likely be a bit chilly at the start and then warm up to a comfortable temperature.

I'm planning to swim across with Chad, Sarah, and Gords early Friday morning before the race. I hope the weather is good.  I'm a little worried about getting cold swimming that early in the morning with air temps in the low 50's and swimming at a slower pace than normal.  The good thing is that there will be other people in the water with me and a boat watching over us.  I'll be racing the 1 mile swim on Saturday morning and hope I'm not too sore.



I finished at 3.05 miles this morning, right about where I wanted to be.  When I checked the thermometer on my watch it showed just under 70 degrees.  I guess I was right about the water being cooler.

I saw Goody, Jill, Tim and one other person there swimming this morning.  It's always good to see other people out in the water.

I'm planning to swim again on Wednesday morning and will post a workout to the Facebook page Tuesday night.  I'm thinking of either posting an "adversity" workout or a time trial.

7.10.2015

Cool, Windy Swim at Jordanelle

The weather has been cool the last few days with some rain and thunderstorms.  I checked the forecast for Jordanelle last night and saw that there were no storms anticipated, but that it was going to be a much cooler morning with temps in the 50's.

And it was cool when I got there. I didn't waste much time getting ready and diving in.  The water temp was much warmer than the air.

My plan today was to simulate a big swim and test out my nutrition plan.  The goal was to swim 4 miles.

I started the simulation last night by making sure that I drank plenty of water to hydrate myself.  Our baby was up all night, which simulated the restless sleep I usually get before a big swim.  When I got up in the morning, I ate something similar to what I would before a race.  For me that is usually a banana, some kind of bar (Cliff, etc.), and something to drink (water, Gatorade, etc).

I had prepared one bottle of Perpetuem, which is what I use for my main feeds on long swims.  Swimming for 4 miles, I only needed enough for two feeds and I can get 2-3 feeds from one bottle.

My typical nutrition plan for long swims is to just go ahead and swim the first hour without taking in anything additional.  I figure that what I ate before I started the swim is enough to get me through 1 hour.  From there, I take feeds (usually Perpetuem with occasional treats like apple sauce pouches) every 30 minutes.  For today's simulation, I would swim the first two miles without stopping for feeds, and then take a feed after each additional mile.

It's a good idea to test out your nutrition BEFORE the day of your race.  You want to make sure that it is going to give you the energy you need and not make you sick.  The first few long distance swims I did, not knowing any better, I drank Gatorade.  I quickly learned that it was much too sweet and made my stomach sick.  The same thing with gels.  I found I had to water them down to avoid getting sick.  After trying a few other things, I eventually settled on Perpetuem as my main source of energy.  It's easy and quick to drink, doesn't taste too bad, and gives me a noticeable boost.  Another product I have been experimenting with that has been working pretty well is a local product called Carbsport.  It's got some similar things in it as Perpetuem (both are maltodextrin based), but has caffeine as well.  For my next long swim (at Bear Lake) I will probably have a combination of these two drinks for my feeds.

My only objective this morning was to swim 4 miles at a comfortable pace, and see how my feeds went.  The first mile was a little slow, but felt good.  The second mile felt a lot harder and was about 1 minute slower than the first one.  At the end of the second mile, I stopped for a feed (treading water, not standing up or holding on to the dock).  I drank half the bottle and hoped that it would kick in and help me to feel more energy for the third mile.

The feed did help a little.  By this time the wind had picked up and the water was getting choppy.  I wasn't feeling great, not sick or anything, just tired.  I was dreading swimming the last mile and decide to just call it good at three miles.  Maybe this was a mistake.  Maybe I should have taken another feed and just pushed through.  There are certain to be times like this during a big swim or race.  I probably should have kept going.

The sun seems to be coming up later in the morning and we are spending more time swimming in the dark.  It's a challenge sighting the buoys in the dark, but is probably good practice.  It's an opportunity to see how straight I am swimming and gives me a chance to practice sighting.

I saw Goody a handful of times out in the water and also Tim.  As I was getting close to my third mile, Goody wanted me to swim my normal, easy pace and see if he could keep up.  He kept up just fine.  At the red buoy he stopped and yelled something that sounded like "let's keep going" but he must have been saying he wanted to speed up because he took off.

I've got an idea for some workouts for next week (Monday and Wednesday) that I will be posting as we get closer.