New Year's Eve Polar Plunge

The usual Wasatch Front Polar Bear Club crew (Gords, Goody, Jim and I) met two new guys (Dave and Tyson) at the Great Salt Lake Marina this morning for a New Year's Eve "polar plunge".  It was pretty windy when we pulled up and there were some good sized waves making their way to shore.  If the water was warmer I would have liked to try to body surf some of them!

New Year's Eve swimmers (Gords, Jim, Goody, Dave, Tyson and Josh)
We stripped down to our lycra and headed into the water.  Jim and Gords were first, followed by me, Dave, Goody and Tyson.  I dove in and swam out to the end of the dock and then hung out there for a while with Jim and Goody.  It was fun to watch Dave and Tyson get in for the first time!

Gords did his usual swim and really impressed Dave and Tyson (the rest of us have been impressed for weeks).  I feel like I am able to get over the cold shock a lot quicker and think I am going to start trying to swim out a littler further than I have been.  The water temp today was between about 36 and 38 (depending on the thermometer).

I got this awesome cap from Goody for Christmas!  While technically we have not been below 0 degrees Celsius, we are getting there!  I'll feel like I really earned it once we get below 0.

Awesome Christmas gift from Goody!
One of the hardest things about doing this is that my fingers are so numb when I get out that it's hard to get dressed.  Imagine trying to button and zip your pants when you can't feel your fingers!

We all hung around and chatted for a while and we got to tell Tyson and Dave about swimming in the Great Salt Lake and the Great Salt Lake Open Water Swim (registration opens at midnight by the way...).

It was a great way to end the year!  I glad to have a group of crazy friend to do this with every week.  Thanks guys!


"Warm" Before the Storm

Today is Thursday, which meant it was time to make my weekly trip down to the Great Salt Lake Marina to meet the other members of the Wasatch Front Polar Bear ClubGords, his wife Cathi and Jim were already there when I pulled up and my wife Sabrina was not too far behind.

It was an unusually warm winter day in Salt Lake today, with the temperature in the 50's (which usually means that there is a storm coming).  The higher air temperature made me feel more confident about today's swim.  When we checked the temperature, it was about two degrees higher that it was last Saturday, which puts it at about 36 degrees.  Gords sat this swim out due to a cold, so it was just Jim and I who got in.

Walking into the water.  You've got to commit to getting all the way in once you step in, hesitation only makes it easier to chicken out.  (Photo by Gords)
The two of us waded into the water and I decided to do some actual swimming instead of just floating around.  I swam out to the end of the dock and then decided to keep going.  My face was killing me and my legs felt like they do when they "fall asleep", only from my butt all the way down to my toes.  I swam out almost to the end of the sailboats and then turned around.  The round trip was probably about 100 yards.  Jim decided to stay in the water until I got back and then we both got out.

Near the end of my swim.  (Photo by Gords)
Gords gave me a neoprene cap for Christmas, and that thing does wonders in the cold water.  Except for my face, I didn't even feel the cold on my head.  Shortly after we got out of the water, dried off and got dresses, a couple duck hunters pulled up in their boat.  Cathi told them that we had just been in the water swimming and they couldn't believe it.

Jim and I at the end of our swim. (Photo by Gords)
Next up is the New Year's Eve swim / dip / plunge on Saturday morning at 9:00am.  We are hoping to beat our previous record for number of swimmers (which was 6 on Christmas Eve).  If you've been thinking about coming with us, or want to do something crazy to finish off the year, this would be a great time to do it!


Improving Utah Open Water for 2012

I've been thinking about some ways to make Utah Open Water better for 2012.  Here are some of the ideas I have come up with.  Let me know what you think.

More Organized Group Swims
Maybe we could pick one aspect of open water swimming (sighting, start, finish, drafting, etc) each week and do some related drills to improve our skills.  It would be great to have more organized workouts instead of just "swim a lap around the lake".  I also think it would be fun to occasionally do timed, friendly races to check our progress throughout the season.

I love doing clinics!  It's a lot of fun for me to share my love of the sport and meet new people.  Last year, Gords and I did four clinics and I would like to do that many (or more) again next year.  I also though it might be a good idea to have a clinic for paddlers who will be supporting swimmers at Deer Creek or other events.

Swimmer Profiles
I talked about doing this a while ago, but got busy with work, family, etc.  I have met so many cool people through swimming this year and want you to meet them too.  The idea is to send out short questionnaires to some of these people and then post their answers here.

Lake / Reservoir / River / Pond Profiles
I thought it would be a good idea to post short profiles of good places to swim around the state.  The profiles would include things like: water temperature, suggested swimming routes, entrance fees, nearby places to eat, etc.

What ideas do you have?  What would you like to see here in 2012?

Goals for 2012

As the new year approaches, it's time to start thinking about goals for next year.  Here is a list of some of my swimming goals for the coming year:

Continue to train for Bear Lake
Go once at least once a week through the winter with the Wasatch Front Polar Bear Club
Volunteer as kayak support for Ironman St. George
Stansbury Aqua-Velo (swim and bike only, no run)
Improve the quality of weekly group swims and clinics
Run a great 1-mile race at the Great Salt Lake Open Water Swim
15-mile training swim at Jordanelle Reservoir
Antelope Island to Black Rock
Pace swim for Gords' English Channel Swim
Lengthwise crossing of Bear Lake
Swim down a part of the Green and/or Snake River
Swim in some new places

 What are some of your swimming goals for 2012?


Christmas Eve Swim

What better way to celebrate Christmas Eve than by joining a group of other crazy people for a polar plunge?

Christmas Eve Crew: Mike, Logan, Gords, Josh, Jim and Michelle.
I met Gords, Jim, Michelle, Mike and Logan at the marina.  I have been talking to Michelle for a while on Facebook, and it was good to finally meet her in person today.

It was chilly outside and there was frost covering all of the docks.  We took the water temperature with three different thermometers and got three different readings ranging from 32 degrees to 34 degrees.  No matter which thermometer you go with, this was officially the coldest water I have ever been in!

Gords took off on a slightly shorter course than usual.  Jim, Michelle and I went out to the end of the dock and then Jim and I headed back while Michelle swam out a little farther.  I think Mike came out to the end of the shorter dock and his son Logan came in up to his knees.

And we're off!  (Photo from Jim Hubbard)
The water didn't feel any colder than it did on Thursday, even though it was a couple degrees lower.  The part that really sucks about getting in water at this temperature is that it REALLY hurts my fingers.  It is extremely difficult to get dressed after getting out of the water because they are so cold and hurt so bad.  I think Jim had the right idea by putting on thick mittens after getting out.  My fingertips are still tingling and it is now well over 12 hours since getting out of the water.

Michelle brought some hot soup and breakfast burritos, which was really nice.  The hot soup especially was good for warming back up.  Thanks Michelle!

I had a great time and it was cool to see three new people there.  I am hoping that this will become an annual tradition and that we can get more people to come next year.

We have two more swims / polar plunges coming up next week: 4:30pm on Thursday and 9:00am Saturday morning (New Year's Eve).

Merry Christmas everyone!


100 x 100

I was invited to join a couple groups who are doing the traditional 100 x 100 holiday workout tomorrow morning , but I had already committed to meet with the Wasatch Front Polar Bear Club for a Christmas Eve polar bear plunge.  I've never done this workout before and I really wanted to try it, so I ended up doing it by myself at the pool this morning.

I chose an interval of 1:30 and made the first few on about 1:18.  After that, I settled into a more normal pace and held 1:22 for quite a while.  I dropped down to 1:24 to 1:25 near the end and finished with a sprint at 1:09.

I felt like my energy level was pretty good the whole way through and 2.5 hours went by really fast.  Near the end my arms and shoulders were getting tired from swimming faster than usual, but I never felt like my stroke was falling apart.

As I was finishing up, a girl in the lane next to me (who had been there for a while and was pretty fast) moved into my lane to make room for the water aerobics class.  She asked if I was training for an Ironman and I told her that I wanted to swim across Bear Lake.  "Me too!" she said.  We talked about it for a while and when I told her how long the swim was she seemed surprised, thinking that it was shorter.  It would be cool if she really did it, the more the merrier!  I've also recently run into some Deer Creek swimmers at the pool.  We are a relatively small group and it's always fun to find someone else who has swam in the event.

Tomorrow I will be joining several other brave souls at 9:00am at the GSL Marina for a Christmas Eve polar bear plunge.  I'm hoping it turns into an annual tradition!


35 or 37 Degrees? Call it 35!

This afternoon was the first of two Wasatch Front Polar Bear Club swims this week (the second is Christmas Eve morning at 9:00am).  When I pulled up, Jim was all ready to go and waiting in his truck.  Gordon pulled up right behind me with his parents and other family members.  It was windy outside and we wasted no time getting down to the boat ramp.

"Post plunge" gear lined up and laid out on the dock for quick re-heating.

As usual, Gords was the first one to get ready and dove right in and started swimming.  Jim and I took a little longer getting ready and then waded into the water.  I could tell right away that it was colder than last week.  The most painful thing about getting water this temperature has been my fingers.  They feel like they have been smashed as soon as they are in the water.  Jim and I floated around for a while and then swam back.  We were probably in the water for about 2 minutes.

We dried off and got dressed as quick as we could so that we were protected from the wind.  Gords came in a little while after we got out.  That guy has some serious will power to force himself to swim that far.  It's got to look pretty funny to outsiders to see us get out and then try to get dressed with numb fingers...I couldn't do the button on my shorts.  After getting dressed, I pulled my thermometer out and it read 37 degrees.  Gords' thermometer came in a little lower at 35 degrees.  It seems like we are always about 2 degrees apart.  Jim told us that he was going with 35 degrees.

Gords gave me a great Christmas present (I won't say what it is to spoil the surprise for others) and one to give to Jake when I see him next.  Thanks Gords!

I am just starting to get full feeling in my fingertips as I type this, but am ready to go again on Saturday morning.  It should be a good crowd with several newbies, I can't wait to see their faces when they get in!


A Package From Slovenia

I posted a while ago about Strel Swimming Adventures and their upcoming swim vacations at Lake Powell.  Somehow, Borut Strel (Martin Strel's son) found out about the post and sent me an email to thank me for posting about the trip and offered to send me a signed DVD of Big River Man!

I was excited when Sabrina texted me at work today to tell me I had a package from Slovenia waiting for me at home!  Not only did they send me a DVD signed by both Martin and Borut, but they also sent me a nice silicone cap and some promotional materials about Strel Swimming Adventures.

I'm really hoping to be able to go on one of the trips to Lake Powell with them, but my schedule is filling up really fast with other trips and swimming adventures.  If anyone is interested in getting a group together to go, let me know.  There are group discounts available.


Christmas Swimfest

My friend Rachel took it upon herself to organize a Christmas workout/party that Sabrina and I went to this morning.  A lot of my swimming friends were there and we had a fun workout by Erin, got really nice silicone Christmas caps from Rachel and then went to lunch afterwards.  We even went down the water-slide!  I had such a great time!  I hope it will be something that we do every year.  Thanks Rachel!

The Christmas Swimfest crew.

Goody wasn't quite tall enough to go down the slide by himself.


Registration for 2012 GSL Swim to Open January 1st, 2012 at 12:00am MST

I'm happy to announce that registration for the 2012 Great Salt Lake Open Water Swim will open New Year's Day (January 1, 2012) at 12:00am Mountain Time.

Like this year, there will only be 12 available spots for the Antelope to Black Rock swim.  If you need a kayak and/or paddler, we have added options on the registration page to have us take care of this for you.

Here is a great promo video that Gordon Gridley put together:

You can also click here to see what people said about after the inaugural swim this year.

Be sure to visit our event website for more information and Active.com to register on New Year's Day!


39 Degrees at GSL

I met Gordon and Jim at the Great Salt Lake Marina this afternoon for our weekly Wasatch Front Polar Bear Club swim.

With the inversion and all the smog in the air, it made it seem even colder outside.  As we were milling around near the boat ramp, Jim said "I think I got to know the wrong guys".

We took some video and then Gords stripped down and got ready to go.  I was surprised to see him put on his channel grease since he had a tough recovery after last week's swim.  I thought for sure he would not be swimming today.  If you don't already know Gordon, he is one of the most mentally tough guys I know.  It seems like he can will his body into doing anything.  Without any hesitation, he jumped in and started swimming towards the opening of the marina.

I hung back to take some video of Jim getting in the water since he hasn't been with us for a while.  He had a neoprene cap, gloves and booties to help with the cold.  He waded right into the water and and then went under.  He stayed in and floated around while I got ready to get in.

There is a guy on the Winter Swimming documentary who said something like "I love everything about winter swimming...except for getting in and swimming".   I kind of have the same feeling.  I get butterflies in my stomach before every swim.  Getting out of the water is another story, I love doing that!  I got in and did head-up breaststroke for a while until my breathing was semi-normal.  I floated around for a while and then swam a little freestyle.  It is so much harder at this temperature than it is even a few degrees warmer.

Jim after his second time in the water.

Gords and his new beard.
After I got out, Jim was got back in and stayed in until Gords finished up.  We all got dried off and dressed and hung around for a while talking.  I was telling them about this awesome commercial for Columbia Sportswear with Wim Hof:

Still no takers on Gord's bribe of $10 for the first new "polar bear".  I will sweeten the deal by adding another $10 to the pot.  We are looking at possibly doing a polar plunge on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve (both on Saturday).  Stay tuned for more details.


Jamie Patrick's Swim Camp 2012

Gordon posted on his blog yesterday about getting an invite to attend Jamie Patrick's Swim Camp at Hidden Valley Lake.  I watched the promo video (see below) and the camp looked amazing!  Gords sent Goody and I an email, suggesting that the three of us go down to the camp together.

The idea of the three of us taking a road trip to an open water swim camp lead by Jamie Patrick got me really excited and I emailed Jamie today to see if there was room for me to come.  He emailed right back and said that Goody and I were both welcome to come to the camp.  He said the camp would be pretty informal, which is just my style.  Next I needed to run it past my wife, Sabrina, and get her approval.  She is extremely supportive of my swimming adventures and encouraged me to take the trip.  So...I'm going!

I am so excited about the camp!  In addition to Jamie Patrick, there will also be some other big name swimmers in attendance and it will be awesome to meet them and learn from their experiences.  The camp includes lodging, food and swimming for only $15 a day!  What an incredible deal!  With multiple swims each day, it will be good early season open water training for my Bear Lake swim.


Under 40 Degrees!

Today was the weekly Wasatch Front Polar Bear Club swim at the Great Salt Lake marina.  I saw Gords pull up as I was leaving the restroom after changing into my suit.  I drove down to the marina and dropped in my thermometer and headed back to the car to see who else was coming.

After waiting a while, we didn't see anyone else pull up so we got out and headed for the ramp.  We saw a truck pull up as we were walking and I think Gords and I both hoped it was a newbie come to join us, but it was just a guy out for a walk with his dog.  We waited around a little while longer at the edge of the water and at 4:30 decided we'd better get going.

Gords was going for one lap out to the entrance and back and I decided to settle for just swimming around near the ramp.   We stripped down to our lycra and latex and stepped into the water.  Gords waded in without hesitation and started swimming.  I decided maybe I should try to get some photos, so I stepped back out and grabbed my camera.  By doing so I broke my cold water rule of not touching the water before committing to get all the way in.

The water was ICY on my feet and felt even colder than last week (probably because it actually was colder than last week).  I took a few pictures and a video and then waded into the water.  It is hard to describe how water that cold feels.  It's a mixture of burning and pain.  My fingers felt different this week than last week.  They actually felt like they were freezing and hurt...a lot.  I managed to do head-up breaststroke for a while while trying to get my breathing under control and then went all the way under.  After about a minute, the brunt of the cold water shock wore of and I floated around for a while before getting out to take some more pictures.

Gords finishing his sub 40 degree swim.
As Gords was getting out, I heard someone yelling.  I looked up to the top of the ramp and saw Goody getting out of his car.  Oops.  Sorry dude.  We will be sure to wait for you next time.  He wasted little time in getting ready to swim.  I told him he should run down the ramp and go straight into the water and that I would get some video of him.  He ran right down and dove in.  I checked the temperature and came up with just under 40 degrees.  Gords' thermometer showed a slightly lower temperature of 37.8 degrees.

After Goody got out and dressed, he and I talked for a while about the Catalina Channel as well as some other swims that we want to do.  My immediate goals are all within Utah: length of Bear Lake, length of Utah Lake and Antelope to Black Rock (Great Salt Lake).  Someday, I think I might like to try the Catalina Channel and would really like to the the Straight of Gibraltar (mostly so I have an excuse to go to Spain).  After Goody left, I talked to Gords for a while and he told me about his brutal recovery from today's swim.  I think we have all agreed that we will be cutting down our time in the water since it is getting so cold.  It seriously took about two hours until I had full feeling in my fingers.

As Gords already mentioned on his blog today, it would be really cool to get some new people out to try this with us.  He has even gone so far as to offer a bribe!  I'll have to think of what I could chip in as a bribe to get more people to come.

"Escort" by Beth Barnes

I just finished reading Beth Barnes' book "Escort" on my new Kindle Fire last night.  It was not only packed with useful information on how to paddle for an open water swimmer, but has also inspired me to think about swimming the Catalina Channel.

The book is based on Beth's experience guiding 20+ open water swimmers across the Catalina Channel as well as on training swims, marathons swims and open water races.  She is clearly an expert on the subject and this book is a much needed guide for paddlers who are supporting open water swimmers.

Most of the book focuses on the Catalina Channel, but much of the information is general enough to carry over into paddling in other bodies of water.

Not only did I learn about what a professional paddler goes through while supporting a swim, I also learned some tips that will help me to be a better support paddler in the future.  I would even suggest that support paddlers for the Great Salt Lake Open Water Swim and the Deer Creek Open Water Swim download and read the book before the events.

The book also did a good job of inspiring me think about a possible swim across the Catalina Channel.  Depending on how my Bear Lake swim goes, I might make it a goal in the coming years.  If nothing else I would really like to do a relay with my swimming friends.

I recommend "Escort" for both paddlers and swimmers.  Right now it is only available as a Kindle download (you don't have to have a Kindle to read it though) and you can get a copy for only $3.99.


Strel Swimming Adventures - Lake Powell

I just learned that Martin Strel, also know as "Big River Man", will be leading a swimming vacation at Lake Powell!  I would LOVE to go on this trip to meet and swim with Martin!

Strel Swimming Adventures, Martin and son Borut's company, provides swimming vacations in Slovenia, Croatia and now Utah/Arizona.  The Lake Powell trip is 5 days with swims of about 3 miles a day.  The trip also includes hikes, rafting, lodging, breakfast, lunch, and technique and stroke analysis.  All for a price of $1,268.52 to $1,335.42.

It would be a dream come true to meet and swim with Martin in my home state.  The website says that there are group discounts for eight or more people...anyone interested in getting a group together?

Here is a video about the trip from their website:


41 Degree Swim and GSL Documentary

This week's polar bear swimmers: Gordon, Goody and Josh
I met Gords and Goody at the Great Salt Lake Marina yesterday afternoon for the weekly Wasatch Front Polar Bear Club swim.  Goody called me earlier in the day to see if we were still going because of the crazy wind that was going on.  I told him I was still going to go and would check out the conditions when I got there and then make a decision about getting in.  As we were getting ready to walk down to the ramp and get in the water, I told Goody that we were probably the three dumbest guys in the state.

I asked Gords what his plan was, thinking he would probably still want to do two laps.  I breathed a sigh of relief when he said he was just going to do one lap!  The plan was to all go at once instead of one at a time.  It just gets too cold waiting to get in and then waiting for others to swim after you get out.

I know it's not their favorite thing to do, but I love it when my family comes out to witness the stupidity of their husband/father and his friends.
To be honest, I really wanted to get the swim over with, so I was the first one in.  I charged into the water and heard Sabrina gasp "Oh my gosh!" right before I dove in.  We didn't take the temperature before getting in like we usually do, but I could tell the instant my whole body was in the water that it was much colder than last week.

I could tell it was much colder because my body hurt a lot more.  It's hard to describe, but my arms and legs also felt very different than they have in the past.  The seemed to seize up more and it was much harder to move in the water.  I sprinted to the marina entry and then turned around.  Gords was right behind me and I took the opportunity to do some head-up breaststroke to catch my breath as best I could and let him catch up.  We talked for a minute about how cold it was and about caps (Gords was only wearing a single latex cap, I had on two), and then put our faces back in the water and swam freestyle back to the ramp.  I have heard that losing control of your fingers is a sign of hypothermia, so I checked to make sure I could open and close my fingers while swimming back.

Three, slightly frozen, swimmers at the Great Salt Lake Marina boat ramp.
After getting out of the water, my fingers hurt really bad.  This was a new level of cold-induced pain.  I dried off and got dressed just in time for Gords to tell us that the water temperature was 41 degrees!  Holy crap!  This is maximum water temperature for a qualifying swim to become a member of the International Ice Swimming Association.  I don't think doing a mile in this water temperature is happening for me this year.  Maybe I'll try to work up to it next year...or not.

That is the look of pain.  Cold and pain.
We all hurried to our cars and took off.  Gords, Goody and I had been invited to a special screening of Shirley Gorospe's documentary Evaporating Shorelines in Sandy.  After quick showers and dinner at my house, Goody and I left to meet Gords at the SLCC campus to watch the film.

I have never considered myself to be an environmentalist (although I do love being out in nature and do my best to clean up after myself when camping, swimming, hiking, etc).  Watching this film about the possible expansion of evaporation ponds on the Great Salt Lake shorelines and seeing how that would affect the lake, the people who love and use it and the wildlife really struck me as being irresponsible.  Seeing a group of people who love the lake gathered together to oppose the expansion really impressed me.  It impressed me enough that I will be joining them in writing a letter to Jason Gipson at the Army Corps of Engineers to tell him my concerns and ask that the proposed expansion be reconsidered.  Don't get me wrong, I am all for business expansion and understand that expanding the evaporation ponds would create new jobs and revenues, but at what cost to the lake?  There has to be a line drawn somewhere and, in this case, I think this is it.  I encourage anyone who loves the lake (even those who don't love the lake) to take a look at what is planned, form your opinion and let it be heard.