Thoughts on High-Tech Navigation Goggles

A couple nights ago I saw the Kickstarter launch of a new pair of navigation-assisting goggles.  The OnCourse Goggles use a simple, non-GPS, method for keeping swimmers going in the right direction.  Seeing this new product got me thinking about navigation-assisting goggles.  Some of my thoughts are summarized below.  Keep in mind that I am looking at this from the perspective of a marathon and pool swimmer, and not as a triathlete.

Is This Cheating?

There has been some opposition form marathon swimmers about the IOLITE and other navigation-assisting goggles.  Obviously, these types of goggles are against marathon swimming rules, which typically limit you to a pair of (regular) goggles, a cap, and a suit (non-buoyant and not heat-retaining).  We would definitely put them in the "assisted" category of our three local open water races.  But I don't think you'll see any of these companies suggesting you swim across the English Channel with them.  The fact is they are designed for, and marketed to, triathletes and not marathon swimmers.  Both the IOLITE and OnCourse goggles are USAT approved.  So the question of whether it is cheating or not depends on what kind of swimming you are doing.


Both the IOLITE and the OnCourse goggles are pretty expensive ($199 for the IOLITE and a suggested retail price of $199 for the OnCourse goggles).  That's a lot of money to sink into a pair of goggles.  Granted, the IOLITE also includes GPS for tracking your swims, but most triathletes I see already wear a GPS watch.

I think you are much better off spending your money on a good coach who can teach you how to correct and balance your stroke and help you with open water skills like sighting.  That is an investment that will last much longer than a pair of goggles, and will also help you to get faster by getting to the root of the problem and not just putting a bandaid on it.


This is one thing that I kept thinking about.  I'm afraid that some of the people who buy these type of goggles will become dependent on them and use them as a crutch and not learn to adapt to changing conditions.  What would happen if you are in the middle of a swim and the goggles malfunction or the battery dies?  If you haven't learned to sight and swim straight, what are you going to do?  I could see this causing some swimmers to panic.

This is another reason why I think you are much better off spending your money on a good coach and putting in the effort to learn to swim straight and sight.  Doing so will allow you to adapt to changing conditions and be more confident in the water.


I actually think the technology is pretty cool and it's awesome to see some innovation in the swimming world.  But is it really needed?  I assume these companies have done their research and they see a market for them with triathletes.  As I mentioned several times above, I think you are much better off getting to the root of the problem of why you aren't swimming straight and working on correcting the problems with a coach.  There are a lot of good coaches around, many of them can be found on the Utah Masters website.

These are just my thoughts.  What do you think about these types of goggles?


James Jonson's Lake Tahoe Crossing

I got an email a few days ago from Utah marathon swimmer James Jonson, letting me know that he had swam across Lake Tahoe.  I had no idea he was planning to do it this year, but was glad to hear from him.  I asked for some photos and details about his swim, which was in pretty rough conditions, and here is a summary of what he sent:
I just got back from Lake Tahoe where on Wednesday (August 12, 2015) I swam the 22 mile length in 13hrs 22min.  I swam from Camp Richardson on the south shore to Incline Village on the north shore and this was the toughest swim I've ever done!  For most of the middle half of the swim I had a 15-20mph northerly headwind, then it turned southerly 25+ for a while and kicked up the swells and it got really choppy.  My time was slower than I hoped for but the conditions sure took its toll and I'm just glad I was able to finish.
I asked him if this was his toughest swim because of the chop.  Here was his reply:
Yes, it was the wind that made it so tough because it also churned up the colder water deep down and it dropped the temps and I had a hard time fighting off the cold as the chop wore me out...or maybe this old Hawaiian is getting soft!  The water was 66 degrees when I started and 60 at the finish.  Bear Lake might be a monster but Tahoe is a beast.
I asked for some pictures to post and some details about his training and nutrition.  Here was his response:
The [photo] labeled "My Favorite" is a few miles before the finish as I'm entering Crystal Bay and heading towards Incline Village.  The winds had died down but the water was still kind of bumpy.  Looking at the color and bumps and it looks like the ocean and not a lake.  To answer your questions about my feeds, I ate a combination of whole-grain blueberry pancakes (my new discovery!), Gel-Packs, and gatorade.  If I needed water I just drank the lake water (it's that clean).  My training over the past few months consisted of long swims at Deer Creek and intervals in the pool.  I averaged 32 to 35 miles a week.
He also shared this funny story about rescuing a stranded boat while he was finishing his swim:
Here's an interesting one...about two miles before the finish we came across a stranded boat.  We towed them along until I finished the swim and then towed them to the nearest boat ramp.  Their gas gauge got stuck a 1/4 tank and didn't realize it until they ran out of gas!
Here are some photos from his swim:

James starting his swim at Camp Richardson.

This photos was taken in the middle of the lake.
This is the photo labeled "My Favorite" referenced above.
Towing the stranded boat.
Thank you James for sharing your story and photos and congrats on your swim!  I can't wait to see what you do next!


USMS 5K Postal - 2015

Last Friday I met Chad at Alta Canyon to time him on his USMS 5K postal swim.  He returned the favor this morning and met me at the pool to time my swim.

I really wanted to get under 1:20 this year, but wasn't sure if I would be able to.  I got sick a few weeks ago and haven't spent as much time in the pool as I usually do.

I ate a nutrition bar and drank some Gatorade on the way to the pool.  I had also packed a Buzz Bite, but forgot about it by the time I got there and didn't eat it.  I don't know that it would have made a noticeable difference.

I got in the pool as soon as the guard sat down on her chair.  One of these times when I do a postal swim, I'm going to plan ahead and warm up before I start.  Chad and I both had to get to work this morning, so I started without a warm up.

My plan was to try to swim at a consistent pace for the first 3,000 meters and then pick it up on the last 2,000.  I felt like I was holding a decent pace through the first half.  At about 2,500 meters, I found myself wanting to push it harder, but I decided to stick tot he plan and wait until I got to 3,000 meters.  In retrospect, I should have just gone for it.

This is at about 1,500 Meters.  Photo by Chad Starks
At the halfway point. Photo by Chad Starks
At 3,000 meters I started to pick up the pace a little bit. and at 4,000 I picked it up again.  For the last 500 meters, I wanted to negative split each 100.  One my last 50 I saw Chad walking down the deck telling me to pick it up.  Earlier I thought I had lost count and might have been off by 100 meters.  I was dreading finishing and having Chad tell me that I had another 100 to swim.  Turns out my count was right.  I finished and Chad gave me his report.  I ended up at 1:21:36.53, which was just short of my goal of 1:20.  Oh well, it was pretty close.  I think if I had warmed up and had listened to my body at 2,500 meters and started pushing it, I could have made it.  Next year I'd love to get my time down under 1:20.

Finished!  1:21:36.53 Photo by Chad Starks
My plan to hold a steady pace for the first 3,000 and then pick it up at 3,000 and 4,000 seemed to work pretty well.  Here are my 1,000 meter splits:

1,000 - 16:21.282,000 - 16:30.253,000 - 16:38.134,000 - 16:19.895,000 - 15:46.98

What this tells me is that I should have pushed my pace harder on the first 3,000 meters.  I had way too much left in the tank at the finish.

What's interesting is that my slowest 100M split was at 2,100 yards, which is exactly where I had my slowest split last year.  My average pace was 1:37.93.  I'll need to get that down to 1:36 per 100M to break 1:20 next year.  I think that's totally doable.

Here are my splits:

5K Postal Swim - 2015
Lap Meters 100 Split 500 Split 1000 Split Cumulative
2 100 01:34.05 0:01:34.05
4 200 01:39.33 0:03:13.38
6 300 01:40.46 0:04:53.84
8 400 01:38.72 0:06:32.56
10 500 01:39.41 08:11.97 0:08:11.97
12 600 01:37.64 08:15.56 0:09:49.61
14 700 01:38.67 08:14.90 0:11:28.28
16 800 01:37.41 08:11.85 0:13:05.69
18 900 01:37.66 08:10.79 0:14:43.35
20 1000 01:37.93 08:09.31 16:21.28 0:16:21.28
22 1100 01:38.69 08:10.36 16:25.92 0:17:59.97
24 1200 01:38.25 08:09.94 16:24.84 0:19:38.22
26 1300 01:37.37 08:09.90 16:21.75 0:21:15.59
28 1400 01:38.30 08:10.54 16:21.33 0:22:53.89
30 1500 01:40.02 08:12.63 16:21.94 0:24:33.91
32 1600 01:39.12 08:13.06 16:23.42 0:26:13.03
34 1700 01:38.86 08:13.67 16:23.61 0:27:51.89
36 1800 01:39.33 08:15.63 16:25.53 0:29:31.22
38 1900 01:40.34 08:17.67 16:28.21 0:31:11.56
40 2000 01:39.97 08:17.62 16:30.25 0:32:51.53
42 2100 01:41.29 08:19.79 16:32.85 0:34:32.82
44 2200 01:39.60 08:20.53 16:34.20 0:36:12.42
46 2300 01:39.16 08:20.36 16:35.99 0:37:51.58
48 2400 01:39.33 08:19.35 16:37.02 0:39:30.91
50 2500 01:39.41 08:18.79 16:36.41 0:41:10.32
52 2600 01:39.54 08:17.04 16:36.83 0:42:49.86
54 2700 01:40.23 08:17.67 16:38.20 0:44:30.09
56 2800 01:39.07 08:17.58 16:37.94 0:46:09.16
58 2900 01:40.43 08:18.68 16:38.03 0:47:49.59
60 3000 01:40.07 08:19.34 16:38.13 0:49:29.66
62 3100 01:38.72 08:18.52 16:35.56 0:51:08.38
64 3200 01:37.21 08:15.50 16:33.17 0:52:45.59
66 3300 01:37.96 08:14.39 16:31.97 0:54:23.55
68 3400 01:38.80 08:12.76 16:31.44 0:56:02.35
70 3500 01:38.40 08:11.09 16:30.43 0:57:40.75
72 3600 01:38.00 08:10.37 16:28.89 0:59:18.75
74 3700 01:37.61 08:10.77 16:26.27 1:00:56.36
76 3800 01:38.39 08:11.20 16:25.59 1:02:34.75
78 3900 01:37.61 08:10.01 16:22.77 1:04:12.36
80 4000 01:37.19 08:08.80 16:19.89 1:05:49.55
82 4100 01:35.54 08:06.34 16:16.71 1:07:25.09
84 4200 01:36.11 08:04.84 16:15.61 1:09:01.20
86 4300 01:35.93 08:02.38 16:13.58 1:10:37.13
88 4400 01:36.29 08:01.06 16:11.07 1:12:13.42
90 4500 01:35.99 07:59.86 16:08.66 1:13:49.41
92 4600 01:35.70 08:00.02 16:06.36 1:15:25.11
94 4700 01:34.65 07:58.56 16:03.40 1:16:59.76
96 4800 01:33.62 07:56.25 15:58.63 1:18:33.38
98 4900 01:33.70 07:53.66 15:54.72 1:20:07.08
100 5000 01:29.45 07:47.12 15:46.98 1:21:36.53
Average 01:37.93 08:11.04 16:23.79
Min 01:29.45 07:47.12 15:46.98
Max 01:41.29 08:20.53 16:38.20

And here is a graph of my 100M splits:

Thanks to Chad for taking time out of his busy English Channel training schedule to come and time me this morning.  Now I need to figure out when I can swim the 10K postal...


Deer Creek - 2015

This was a tough weekend of swimming.  I finished the 11-mile Dam 2 Dam: The Great Moose Migration swim on Friday and had registered for the 1-mile swim at Deer Creek on Saturday.

We got home from Boise around 10pm on Friday night and I had to help get the kids to bed, put stuff away from camping, and get everything loaded for Deer Creek.  I ended up going to be later than I would have liked.

I woke up really sore from Dam 2 Dam.  My left wrist was hurting pretty bad too.  I knew I was in for a tough swim, even though it was only going to be a mile.  Any hopes I had of racing Jay Tapp were out the window.

I got up to the lake and unloaded all my stuff at the beach and then got checked in for the swim.  It's always fun to see and talk to friends before a race.

The 10-mile swimmers started first, followed by the 10K, 5K and 1 mile at about 10 minute intervals.  I had talked to a few of the other 1-mile swimmers and told them how sore I was and that I just wanted to finish and get a time.  I saw Joe Linford had switched to the 1-mile race and I knew there was no absolutely no hope of me winning.

The water felt nice.  I forgot to put my watch on so I didn't get a temperature, but a couple other people were reporting upper 60's, which seems low for this time of year.  In the past it has been around 70 degrees on the day of the swim.

1-Mile Swimmers before the start.
Jim counted us down and we took off.  I positioned myself near Jay Tapp, hoping that I might be able to keep up with him.  He and two other swimmers (Joe and Rachelle, both from South Davis Masters) were ahead of me.  I actually felt pretty good at the start and was able to stay pretty close to Jay.  The other two were way ahead of me and there was no chance of me catching them.

It seemed to take a long time to get to the turnaround buoy.  After the turn, my soreness was catching up with me and my arms felt heavy.  I just tried to not get left behind by Jay.  As we got closer, I could see what I thought was the point where we turn into the finish.  I tried to pick up the pace a little bit because I also saw another of the 1-mile swimmers not too far ahead and I though I might be able to catch them.  I've swam at Deer Creek enough that I should have known that the point I was looking at wasn't the right one and there was still more to swim.  When I realized my mistake, it made me mad.  I kept plugging away and finished 4th overall and 3rd in the non-wetsuit division.  Not bad for having swam 11 miles the day before.  I was actually pretty happy with my time of 25:30.  On a good day (not sore from a long swim the day before) and with a good warm-up, I could have gone a couple minutes faster, but under the circumstances, I was happy.

At the finish with Jay Tapp.

Getting my medal from Connie.

Watching the other swimmers come in with Julie Keyes, fellow Mini Triple Crown swimmer.
Comparing race stories with Matt Gerrish, fellow Mini Triple Crown swimmer, at the finish.
The wind picked up after the 1 mile race and a few of the paddlers were brought in by the Coast Guard.  There were also two 10-mile swimmers who were brought in because they got cold.  Other than that, everyone who started also finished.

Chad was swimming the 10-mile, which is insane considering he also swam 11 miles the day before.  We got reports that his paddler Ryan was not able to keep up in the wind and a boat was sent out to pick up Sue (who was swimming down the bay) to have her take over paddling duties.  Luckily, Ryan was ok.  It's a lot harder than most people thing to paddle for that long, especially when it is windy.

When all the other swimmers had finished, I hopped in my kayak and paddled down to meet Chad and Sue and paddle the rest of the way with them.  Chad was in really good spirits and was still swimming strong.  He was already over 10 miles at the end of the bay when I caught up.  He though the turnaround buoy had come loose and he had chased it down, swimming about 1.5 miles more than needed.

I had fun talking to Sue on the way back and watching Chad swim.  When he had finished, he had swam about 12 miles instead of 10.  Chad is my new hero.  It's really hard to swim two long swims back to back like that.  It would have probably been easier to swim a 20+ mile swim in one day rather than break it up into two days.  By resting in between, your muscles get sore and stiff.

With these two races out of the way, I can kind of relax the rest of the year.  We have a couple SLOW club things coming up, including a relay race across the length of Bear Lake, a clinic, and a couple of free, short swim races.  It's time for me to start thinking about pool swimming again and getting ready for the USMS ePostal events and the upcoming swim meets.

As always, Jim did a great job organizing the event this year.  I can't believe this was the 9th year this race has been going on.  Awesome!

Dam 2 Dam: The Great Moose Migration - 2015 Race Report

It's now three days after the Dam 2 Dam: The Great Moose Migration swim and I'm still sore.  I had a blast this year, despite being sick the week before, and am already looking forward to next year.

This will be a long, detailed race report (mostly so I can remember things) so if you don't want to ready the whole thing, here is the summary: It was hard. I finished.

Checking out the starting line and wondering what I have gotten myself into.
We arrived in Boise on Wednesday evening, set up our camp and explored.  I hesitate to mention the name of the campground, because it was so awesome and we want to get a spot for next year :)  We drove into Boise and got some late dinner for Sabrina's birthday.  She was a good sport and spent most of her birthday driving in the car.  She always supports me in my swims and I'm very thankful that she puts up with me.

On Thursday morning, I got in the water at 7am at our campground to see what conditions would be like for the race on Friday.  The water was calm, clear and about 68 degrees.  It was pretty much how I remembered it being last year.  I later met with Kevin and Lloyd (Boise locals), Patti and Gigi (both from Texas) for a swim near Lucky Peak Dam, where the race would finish.  We didn't go too far, maybe a bit over a mile.  Water temp was around 70 degrees.  It was fun to see Kevin again and to meet Lloyd, Patti and Gigi and hear about their swimming experiences.  Patti has a lot of big swims under her belt and she was fast.  I figured she was probably going to win the race on Friday.

I also ran into Oscar (aka "Moosie") the event organizer on Thursday.  We talked for a bit and agreed to use our campground as the meeting place for the pre-swim meeting later that night.  Oscar is a great guy and has done a great job growing this event and improving it from year to year.  Chad and his crew showed up and hung out at the campground for a while before the meeting.  Sarah and Steve showed up right after the meeting got started.

Pre-Swim Meeting

Oscar "Moosie" Williamson filling us in on the details of the swim.
The meeting went well and it was nice to meet some of the other swimmers.  Oscar filled us in on all the details, went over the course, safety procedures, and handed out the swag.  This year, he arranged to have some scouts (including one of his sons) paddle for a few of us out-of-state swimmers.  They were camped right next to us (about 1 mile from the start) and we agreed that the easiest thing to do would be to meet up with them as we passed the campground.  I would just toss all my stuff in with Chad's paddler Ryan and make the transfer when we got to the campground.

I actually slept pretty well on Thursday night, which is unusual for me the day before a race.  I am still getting over a cold that started the week before and wasn't feeling 100%.  All of the long training swims I had planned leading up to the race had fallen through and I wasn't feeling as prepared as I wanted to be.  I had been stressing myself out so much about this swim that I thought I would be up all night.

Feeds prepped on Thursday night.  Main fuel was Perpetuem and was supplemented with CarbSport (a local Utah product), applesauce, and Ibuprofen.
I had everything all ready to go so that I could just wake up on Friday morning and go pick up Chad and his crew.  Chandra had agreed to drive my car back to the campground after dropping us off.  We were the first ones to the starting line and got Chad's kayak and supplies carried down the steep path to the starting area.  It was a chilly morning and I tried to stay dressed as long as I could.  We all headed down the water and I got greased up and ready to go.  After a couple pictures, Moosie counted us down and we took off.

The water felt cool, but I knew that was going to be the case.  Chad told me he was going to try to keep up with me, but I was actually trying to keep up with him for the first half of the swim.  We met up with my paddlers at about 1 mile into the swim and got my stuff transferred over. I told them about my feeding plan and started swimming.

My watch has a countdown timer that I set to 30 minutes.  I was swimming side-by-side with Chad and didn't even need the timer because I just stopped for feeds when he did.  Here is what  I did for feeds:

Approx. Distance
1 mile
2 miles
1/2 bottle Perpetuem
3 miles
1/2 bottle Perpetuem
4 miles
1/2 bottle CarbSport
5 miles
1/2 bottle Perpetuem
2 Ibuprofen
6 miles
1/2 bottle Perpetuem
7 miles
1/2 bottle CarbSport
8 miles
1/2 bottle Perpetuem
Applesauce, 3 Ibuprofen
9 miles
1/2 bottle Perpetuem
10 miles
1/2 bottle CarbSport
11 miles

Last year I had some pain around mile 5 or 6 and I took too long taking Ibuprofen.  This year I had planned to take 4 Ibuprofen and an applesauce at mile 5, but was feeling pretty good so I only took two Ibuprofen and no applesauce.  This was a mistake and I started hurting around mile 7-8.  This is the same sharp pain on my right collar bone that has been bugging me over the last few years.  I think it came back because I had taken some time off of swimming when I was sick.  I took 3 more Ibuprofen around mile 8 along with my regular feed and an packet of applesauce.  The pain got much better in the last few miles.  I should have just stuck to the plan and taken 4 Ibuprofen at mile 5.

Great photo of Chad and I swimming together, taken by Chad's paddler Ryan.
I was in a bad place mentally for the first half of the swim.  I questioned why I was doing this and allowed myself to think about getting cold, even though I was fine.  I forced myself to calm down and told myself that it was just my arms that were cold (this was true because the air temp was cooler than the water) and that I had finished last year under almost identical conditions and had been fine.  It helped to be swimming next to Chad because I knew if something went wrong that he would know what to do.  I ended up being fine.  The water was cool enough that I never felt really comfortable, but I never shivered or anything and was just fine when I got out of the water.

Photo taken by Oscar around mile 7-8 when I was coming out of a bad place mentally.
Around mile 7, the negative thoughts started going away and I knew I was on the home stretch.  I had seen the finisher medals, and they were awesome, and I wanted to be sure to earn one.  That was part of what got me through the tough parts of the swim.  Mile 8 is the last turn and it's about 3+ mile straight shot to the finish.  I had brought up  one of our arches for Oscar to set up on the shore this year and I started to see it at around mile 9.  I tried to force myself to not keep looking at it, because I knew it would make the last few miles seem to drag on forever, but I couldn't help it.  I wanted to be done and kept looking.  It was frustrating.  The water gets a little choppier later in the day and that added to my frustration.  The scouts were great at encouraging me and telling me that I was almost done.  I felt like I had plenty of energy the whole time, just my arms got really tired and felt heavy for the last 3 miles.

I looked at my watch at what I thought was mile 10 and it was just over 5 hours.  I was doing better than I expected to do with being sick.  I tried to push a little harder, hoping to finish around 5:30.  It ended up being a little more than a mile away and I finished at 5:48.  This was a little slower than last year, but was actually better than I was expecting to get.


I wasn't cold, but Oscar insisted on bundling me up.

I walked up under the arch and my family cheered for me.  One of Oscar's sons gave me a medal and Oscar rushed me up to the picnic area and covered me with a towel and blanket.  I wasn't shivering and felt fine, but I appreciated his concern.  Sarah was already finished, dressed and had combed her hair.

So fun to be able to do this swim with Chad and Sarah.

Chad wasn't too far behind me and I went down to watch him finish.  I'm so glad he came up to do this swim with me again.  He's become a really good friend over the past couple years and I love swimming with him and teasing him.

We hung around for a while and then had to go clean up our campsite.  When we got back, the last swimmer and last two SUP racers were coming in.  We took down the arch and clock that I had brought up and said our goodbyes.  We left a little later than I wanted to (we had to get back for Deer Creek the next morning) and I'm hoping the dates work out next year that we can just relax and stay another night and head home on Saturday.

This is a great event and I'm already trying to recruit people to go up next year.  We should have a pretty good group of swimmers from Utah, plus some other out-of-state friends.  Oscar does a great job of making the event fun and making the swimmers feel safe.  I saw the support boats pass by quite often and knew that they would be close if something happened.  If anyone is looking for a new swim to do for next year, I highly recommend this one.


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.