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Thursday, December 15, 2016

I'm embarrassed....but honored. Please vote for the WOWSA Open Water Swimming Awards.

Greetings,

I learned recently that I was nominated for the 2016 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year.  Check out the list here.  The reason for my post is to get you all to vote.  Vote for who you think is most deserving but vote nonetheless.  Why?  Open water swimming needs your support and everyone's support.  We open water enthusiasts get nary a mention in any of the swimming news.  SwimSwam (a great site for swimming news) offers stories of dogs more than people and rule changes more than performances.  At least they mention open water swimming.  Sites that have less dedication to swimming but focus on sports in general don't even give open water swimming any credit.  

People do amazing things every year and scarcely anyone outside our little, awesome community pays much attention.  As Cheryl Ward (my coach and friend) wrote to our team "[v]oting ends in 2 weeks. I just did it and it took me a minute to register with open water swimming (it's free don't worry), then a minute to scroll down to the performance of the year nominees and put a checkmark beside..." the person who impressed you the most.  My wonderful coach Cheryl asked our team to vote for me.  I'm humbled by the support but I urge all of you to vote and vote for the person who you think really did the swim of the year.   Click here to vote. 

Permit me to offer a little insight into some of my friends.  First, Roger Finch - a Facebook friend and a person I met several times while I traveled the world - represents all that is good about this sport.  He was nominated for 2016 Open Water Swimming Man of the Year and I think he deserves it like no other.  No offense to the others on the list.  Roger is selfless and dedicated to the sport.  I have yet to hear one person mention his name without the words "awesome" or "terrific" in the same sentence - all without profanity mind you too.  I wish the same could be said for yours truly.  Second, you all need to read each and every nominee for the women.  These gals are fantastic!  I am not sure who ought to win but I can say confidently that they are all extremely impressive.  From professional swimmers, Olympians (medalists too) to full-time professionals who endure these swims, I found myself torn to endorse any individual.  Instead, I will encourage you to read about these fabulous women and to express may warmest gratitude for being included on the same page as these fantastic folks.  

So please vote.  If you don't know what I did, you will read about it on the page.  For convenience, here is what they said:


Patrick McKnight (USA) Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming

Professor Patrick McKnight made two attempts at climbing Mount Everest in 2014 and 2015, but then he turned his focus on completing the fastest Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming in history. The 50-year-old had a target on a record set by a world-class 24-year-old from one of the hotbeds of channel swimming. He made his plans, he bought his airline tickets, and he left no room for going off plan. He started with a Catalina Channel crossing on July 12th in 11 hours 4 minutes; he crossed the English Channel on July 21st in 12 hours 54 minutes; he completed his Manhattan Island circumnavigation on August 15th in 7 hours 31 minutes to break the record by 1 day. For his eclectic interest in conquering challenges from tall mountains to tough channels, for taking on and breaking a record of an elite swimmer less than half his age, for flawlessly pulling off his 34-day plan en route to living a purpose-driven life, Professor Patrick McKnight's Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming is a worthy nominee for the 2016 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year.

Bottom line...VOTE!  Again, click here to vote. 

Thanks for following and thanks for your continued support.

My next post....about our next expedition to Antarctica.  Stay tuned.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Taking some time off

Greetings,

I know I have been silent for about 6 weeks now - nothing much to write about other than a few small sailing adventures and an ongoing battle with some nasty infection.  I sailed to the Bahamas with some friends.  

Life on a boat...in the Bahamas...in November.  Ain't life great?

We called ourselves the "four guys whose wives hate sailing" crew.  It was a fun time in some wild conditions.  

Overall, I would call that a fantastic getaway.  What made it slightly more interesting is that I am battling some mutant infection that manifested itself as skin lesions that just won't go away - at least not without large quantities of antibiotics.  
Just a few of these beauties I may start to name
So the past few weeks I have been taking daily doses of things like Ciprofloxacin and Doxycycline along with as much probiotic I can tolerate to prevent my gut from losing this battle.  Yeah, it has been fun.  I hope to be able to resume normal activities sometime in December but I suspect I won't be able to train much until January.  For now, I enjoy the time off and my refocus on work.  Yes, I do work.  

Thanks for all your support.  I hope to start posting more soon about my next few adventures.  Stay tuned for when those details come available.  In the meantime, have a great time on your own adventures - big, small, foreign, domestic, new, or routine.  We all have adventures in us; take as many as you can while you still can muster the energy.  Thanks again and see you soon.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Getting the itch....to go

I promised to continue my explanation of what drives me to do what I do, however, I am feeling a bit of an itch that I need to scratch.  What better way to scratch the itch than to go?  So, what do I plan to do?  I was thinking about the Presidential Traverse in the White Mountains:


The hike is 21.7 miles (~35 km) long with 8,800 feet (~2.7 km)  of elevation gain.  I want to do it in 24 hours or in a single push where I can go fast and light.  My friend Neal told me about this hike when we were in Nepal together.  Ever since that chat, I was intrigued.   

Anyone care to join me?  Before making a decision, I want to you to make it an informed one.  Yeah sure, it will be a blast.  It might also totally suck.  I can't promise much beyond the facts I have in hand.  Speaking of facts, I managed to collect a fair bit of beta on the hike.  Here are some details:

1.  10 peaks to summit (North to South order)

Peak 1:  Madison – 5367 feet
Peak 2:  Adams – 5774 feet
Peak 3:  Jefferson – 5712 feet
Peak 4:  Clay – 5533 feet
Peak 5:  Washington – 6288 feet
Peak 6:  Monroe – 5384 feet
Peak 7:  Franklin – 5001 feet
Peak 8:  Eisenhower – 4780 feet
Peak 9:  Pierce – 4310 feet
Peak 10: Jackson – 4052 feet
2.  Weather

Late October is always a little dicey weather wise. I figured the leaves turning colors and the fairly decent dry weather we all enjoyed over the past few weeks shouldn't last long so time is of the essence.  So, like any good climber, I check the weather forecast for the most volatile peak:  Mt. Washington.  The forecast calls for rain, ice pellets, and snow this weekend with 20-35 mph winds.  Sheesh!  Sounds like my kind of weather.  A great start to a Fun 2.0 journey.  I plan to monitor the forecast all week and make the call on Friday if I plan to go.

3.  Water

Looks like water may be an issue.  Two of the water stops for most traverse hikers close in mid to late October.  If I push off next weekend, I may not have water for two long stretches of the hike.  No refills mean I need to carry more.  I figured I could get away with a collapsible Nalgene like this one:

and my LifeStraw tucked inside for filtering:

That won't work if I need to ferry too many liters of water.  Of course, I could haul up a 3-4 liter camelback but that defeats the aim of fast and light.  We shall see.

4.  Trail conditions

Apparently the hurricanes that blew through the Northeast over the past decade laid waste to some of the trails - at least on the trail guide books.  I don't know the validity of that account but I do know if the rains come down, the trails will be a mess.  So, I might need to hike in something other than my flip flops.  NOT GOOD.  I prefer my flip flops to just about any other footwear.  

The All-terrain Olukai Ohana - my footwear of choice year round


Yeah, you think I'm crazy.  I never get blisters and my feet are always warm.  Heck, I hiked to Everest basecamp in flip flops; what might 10 small peaks in the White Mountains offer me that Nepal doesn't?  Don't answer that question.  Please.  Still, the trail conditions may alter my gear options.  I'll consider some closed toe shoes of some sort.

5.  Transportation

I am not sure how I will pull this off - either solo or with friends.  Right now, if I go alone, I need drive up to north side of the traverse, hike down south and then find a ride back up to my car.  Another option is to go with someone else.  We would drive separately to the south side of the traverse, leave one car, then drive together to the start (up north).  When we finish, we would drive up to the start and collect the other car.  Makes sense to me.  The downside of that is we need to haul two cars all the way up to NH.  I prefer to hangout with my adventure mates.  If we hike together, I like to drive together.  Doesn't make much sense to drive for hours separately so we can save being stranded 20 miles away from our car.  I could run back to the car if necessary - that might make for more adventure and an even better story.  Better be sure there is a ton of beer ready to consume if I hike then run.  Need to sort out these details later.

So, there you have it - my initial ramblings about this weekend's potential adventure.  I'm getting totally stoked just thinking about getting out of suburbia.  So, any takers?  I'll buy the beer and gas.  

More Beta

Anyone interested probably ought to read some more beta for your own edification.  Here are some links I found useful:

https://thebigoutside.com/step-onto-rock-step-down-repeat-50000-times-a-20-mile-9-peak-presidential-range-death-march/

https://www.collegeoutside.com/how-to-do-a-1-or-2-day-presidential-traverse-in-new-hampshire/

http://sectionhiker.com/great-hikes-a-presidential-traverse/

There are probably a few other links elsewhere on the internet - especially on SummitPost.  I couldn't access SummitPost this morning (or last night for that matter) but you may be able to later.

Departure

One other important detail.  I cannot take off until Saturday morning; Friday, we have a lab shindig at the pub.  Also, I might be a little slow that morning after consuming a few too many pints of the fine stuff.  I'll do my best to curb my thirst for Guinness but I cannot promise I'll deliver.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Telling my story: The beginning (Event 3)

So now you know that my thirst for adventure comes from my desire to create new memories where adversity allows me to perform optimally.  Today, I have a more somber event to recount but, perhaps, the most profound event in my life.  

Event 3:  My greatest loss

After college, I felt directionless so instead of pursuing a job, I decided to enter the Peace Corps.  Why not?  I figured.  Well, a few snafus later and that option went away.  The options seemed rather dangerous with the Peace Corps and my mom wasn't too keen on the idea of me being shipped off to some far-away place and get killed.  We agreed that I could live with her for a summer, train for triathlons and volunteer at the hospital she worked while I figured out my next steps in life.  She really wanted me to get a job and start acting like an adult.  I had other plans...or rather no plans to be an adult.  I did what I knew how to do, learn.  So, I decided to stay with her and learn what I could about my options.

That summer was great.  I swam every morning with my youth swim team and masters group at Roberto Clemente State Park.  After practice, I would head up to Montefiore and enjoy all the great food the Bronx offered at the time (bagels, fresh fruit, and egg sandwiches).  Every work day, my mom and I would meet for lunch and then travel home together from the office.  I am sure she treasured that summer as much as I did; we had a ton of fun.  The weekends often revolved around my triathlons.  She drove me up and down the east coast in search of better competition and more interesting race terrain.  I recall many instances post-race where she offered her candid and sharp feedback.  Given her sacrifices, she wanted me to do well and her feedback was often tough to swallow.  Regardless, we still laughed a lot and I learned to really enjoy my mom's company.

That summer was the last time I really had much time with her alone.  Late that summer, I decided to move to Tucson, AZ sight unseen and go to graduate school - one of the best decisions of my life.  While there, I met Kat (my wife), dedicated myself to triathlons and science, and became who I am today.  Two years after my move out west, my mom was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  She asked us to fly back to NYC in August 1990 so she could tell us the news in person.  She died 15 months later.  

I still find myself choked up when I recount her last year.  To say that her dying was the single most significant event in my life doesn't do justice to her.  She was my critic, defender, supporter, cheerleader, apologist, and all other roles that ever boy needs from his mom.  I never really thought she would die.  Seriously.  The thought never occurred to me.  When she was diagnosed with cancer, I thought she was in good hands at Montefiore Medical Center and that the cancer specialists would find a way to save her.  We all watched helplessly as she wasted away.  I couldn't bear her suffering but I wanted to be around her to tell her how much I loved her.  In fact, during the past few months of her life, I divulged every wrong I ever did and told her that if she lived, I would dedicate myself to making up all those wrongs to her by doing something good for her.  For her.  Yes, for her.  I never got the opportunity to make good on my promise.  In December, 1991 she passed away.  She never had a chance with that cancer.  I was devastated.  I couldn't even bear to be around my family so I left NY and didn't return for a while.

Mortality:  My mom's death forced me to confront the one thing I never comprehended - my own mortality.  I was young.  Before she died, I was 25 and still had the sense of immortality; afterwards, I realized that life could be short.  Time was of the essence to experience things that life had to offer.  Every day counts.  Be kind to people, soak in what life offers you (good and bad), and be grateful you have the opportunity to gain that experience.  

Make every day count:  I am not always a good practitioner of this motto.  Some days seem to flit by without any importance.  I know this because even to this day, I recall what happens each day and at the end of each week.  My memory game really sheds light on the importance of each day for each week.  Still, some weeks go by and I don't feel like I am doing much at all.  I write, work with my students, analyze data, train, and read but those things seem trivial to the big picture.  One event really put things into perspective for me.  I qualified for the national championship triathlon - a race held every year and that year was hosted just outside of Chicago (Gary, IN - not far from Notre Dame where I went to college).  My race went horribly wrong.   I just didn't care any more about competing.  The thought of my mom struggling with cancer made racing seem so trivial.  I couldn't muster the drive to compete any longer.  That race was the last one I ever did as a way to best others.  From that moment forward, I realized I had to race against time - make every day count by not doing things that mattered to others but not to me.

My legacy:  My greatest sense of accomplishment these days comes from my son (below) and my students (too many to count or fit into one picture).  If you think I am adventurous, compare my son's exploits with mine.  Before he turns 21, he will have been to more countries, watched more crazy events, and camped out more times than I ever did at his age.  Hopefully he takes to adventure like his dad. 

Since birth...
Patrick logged countless hours in the jogging stroller,
Probably logged 2000 miles in heat, rain, wind, snow, and sleet
car,
Driving from Tucson to Portland, OR - every year, twice a year.
airplanes, 
Coming back from the UK after my EC swim.  First class...of course.
boats, 
On the boat during my Catalina Channel swim - at the finish
Aboard SUVA before my EC swim

mountains,
Patrick on Aconcagua among the penitentes
Cool dudes on Rainier in 2013
and back yards:


Not happy with me at the moment....because I asked him to help me clean up the back yard.  Oh well.

Every time they succeed, I feel successful.  Each step they make along the road to improving, I feel productive.  Their failures are opportunities for advancement and I tell them that repeatedly.  They are collectively my legacy - something I learned from my graduate advisor (Lee Sechrest) and from my mom.  Lee taught me that it is far more productive to model and reward scientific productivity than to merely practice it yourself.  I subscribe to that model as I subscribe to all methods of leveraging my time and energy.  My legacy comes from modeling how to deal with adversity.  Only through working hard, trying new things, and extending myself beyond what I thought possible will my son and students realize their own potential.  My pursuits provide a legacy that my mom would be proud to follow.  She might find it a bit harrowing at times but she would realize that I need to do this to feel alive.  I know it and hope she is following me now.

Every day I reflect on my memories, the opportunities that adventure offered me to optimally perform, and thank my good genes and dedicated preparation for more adventures in the future.  The three events recounted in these posts keep me focused and keep my thirst alive.  

An obvious follow-up question is..."isn't this just an adrenaline addiction?" or maybe you are asking yourself "will he ever find himself?"  The answer to the latter is easy - I found myself a long time ago.  My answer to the first question shall be detailed in my next post and it my surprise you.  Stay tuned for rest of my story.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Telling my story: The beginning (Event 2)

Previously, I recounted how fleeting memories pushed me to want to create new, meaningful, and important events that deserved to be recalled.  Today, I offer you the second important event that shaped my thirst for adventure.  Here goes....
Event 2:  Hurricane David

One event that really shaped my thirst for adventure was a trip gone wrong that ended in us sailing through Hurricane David in 1979. 

Hurricane David's path in late August through early September 1979
 You need to see what we sailed in to really understand the gravity of that adventure.  

Our boat:  an early 1970's (don't know the exact year) Ericson 27 called Luffin' Lemon.  Yes, it was yellow.  It was our first family boat and one that lacked most amenities except for horizontal spaces to sleep and some sails to help us move through the wind.  The boat was more like a floating camper.  Here is a nicer version than our boat - perhaps a few years newer too:


Below deck was comfortable for small people and offered plenty of space of the inhabitants of Lilliput:

A "newer" Ericson 27 interior - Very Spartan

Our crew:  I grew up as a reluctant sailor - often forced to go on trips I didn't really appreciate at the time.  Sean and I frequently commented on the "cool" power boats; we sensed my dad found those comments irritating at best but we persisted.  To say we were a happy sailing family might be a stretch.  We shared each other's company on a small boat with very rough sailing skills.  Still, we made it work.  

The Trip:  Then came our family decision to sail to Newport, RI in the late summer of 1979.  Newport hosted the America's Cup every 3 years and 1980 was the next event.  Every year between those events, the boats and crew would train and match race in the waters outside Newport.  It was a really cool place to be during that era.  Sean and I enjoyed those trips while my mom would drive and my dad would yell at us.  You know, it was family sailing in the late 20th century - perhaps no different than sailing in the late 19th century among the famine ships. But I digress....

A Friendly Visit:  After departing at night from Newport and sailing through the wee hours, we noticed a huge flood light cast upon our little boat.  The flood light was the start of a bizarre event.  The US Coast Guard boarded our boat at about 2am.  Sean and I were half asleep and my dad held onto a bilge pump handle ready to defend us from attack.  The officers who boarded our boat appeared ready and better prepared than my dad for a fight.  They had their weapons drawn and were likely to fire at him had they detected his possession of the deadly bilge pump handle.  Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed and they were off the boat after an hour of searching for contraband and illegal aliens - from Rhode Island no doubt.  I never knew why New Yorkers felt the need to keep Connecticut and Rhode Island residents from stealing their way into our fine state.  These folks could drive after all; there was no need to sail through the night.  Heck, walking might have been faster than sailing - especially on that night when there was no wind whatsoever.

Weather?  We heard the vague storm forecasts, but in those days, NOAA weather radio wasn't really the definitive source for bad weather.  We figured the best source would be the US Coast Guard.  As the officers left our boat, my dad inquired about the weather.  Their response?  "Nice weather ahead for you.  Have a safe sail."  That was it.  That forecast couldn't have been more inaccurate.  The real forecast was for torrential rains and strong gusts up to 90 mph with stead winds in excess of 70 mph.  Yes, the forecast called for hurricane David to blow through as we sailed down Long Island Sound from Newport, RI to Port Washington, NY (our home port).  The storm tracked well eastward of us leaving Long Island Sound on the deadly right side of the storm.

Water and more water:  Immediately after the Coast Guard left us, the light breezes we experienced over the past few hours gave way to strong, steady winds with noticeably warmer air.  In fact, it got really warm.  There were no comfortable spots down below even though that area was drier than the area on deck.  Sean and I sat with my dad in the cockpit as he steered our little boat's tiller with both hands.  The wind wasn't all we experienced; the waves started building too.  We found ourselves in a tempest as the winds picked up the choppy waves and turned them into walls of water.  I saw only water - water blown into my face, water in the cockpit, and water falling from the sky.  There was water everywhere.

Fear takes hold:  My dad ordered us to go down below.  We weren't really concerned so we asked to stay topside and watch what was going on.  It was clear from my dad's voice that he was growing tired and feared we might not be able to sail out of this storm.  I think Sean had that sense too.  We sailed close to the Connecticut shore where we knew huge bands of rocks made those ports almost un-navigable in even the best conditions.  We weren't in the best conditions.  In fact, we were in winds that were slowly ripping apart our little boat.  First, our mainsail ripped.  The boom sunk lower toward the deck as the mainsail tore horizontally.  If it weren't for the few threads that held some bits together, the main would have cut in two and dropped the boom onto the deck with some force.  I guess we ought to have been grateful for those threads.  Meanwhile, up on the bow, our jib was in tatters.  We had no way of dropping the sail because it was just too treacherous to leave the cockpit.  Heck, even the cockpit was treacherous.  

Holy s#*%!:  We limped along without much functional sail area at a fairly steady 8 knots.  For many of you, that may seem rather slow.  Our little boat was no speed demon but it wasn't a barge either.  In most reasonable breezes between 10 and 20 knots, Luffin' Lemon would cruise at about 5 knots.  Again, not bad for a small boat.  Now, we were going much faster; Sean and I took great pleasure in yelling out to my dad..."Dad, holy s#*%!, we are going 15 knots."  I think my dad almost had a heart attack.  He was exhausted and ready to call it quits.  At one point during a few exchanges, he was preparing us for our uncertain fates.  The boat was handling poorly, we had no communications, no clear navigable coordinates, and no clue how we were going to survive any longer in these conditions.  We decided to head for land.  It was really our only choice.  The boat was falling apart, the waves were huge now (20+ feet) and we could barely keep the water from crashing into the cabin.  We sailed into Guilford, CT at about 3pm that afternoon after nearly 12 hours of sailing in extremely high winds.  My dad could barely speak or move he was so tired.  By some luck, we managed to avoid all the rocks, sand bars, and break walls in our path and beached the boat in an estuary up some little isolated, overflowing river.  The town's people came out in force and helped us secure our boat and gave us shelter for the night.  We were safe.

The importance of this event:  At one moment during those last few hours, I did have the sense that something awful could happen to us.  We were all confident swimmers but the wind and water were intense.  I am not sure we would have survived had our boat sunk.  In fact, my chips were on us all dying.  I felt a certain peace with that outcome - not that I wished to die but rather I was not nervous, nor did I panic when I sensed that unfortunate end may be near.  Instead, I watched in awe as my dad, brother, and I kept our wits about us and we solved the problem.  

I was totally hooked afterwards and thought about that event for years - even to this day.  You never really know how people are going to respond to adversity until you experience an event with them.  In fact, you never know how you will respond until you experience it.  My dad and brother were calm - as was I - and I had an incredible sense of calm afterwards.  I knew no matter how bad things got in life, I could keep a clear head.  We told a few jokes during the event and that kept up our spirits - like the laughter we all shared when we noted the apple pie stuck to the ceiling of the cabin.  Yes, the pie was on the ceiling.

Bringing out the best:  Since that day, I sought to experience what life had to offer to see how I respond.  I doubt I need monthly, yearly, or even semi-regular checks on my response but I do appreciate how adversity brings out the best and worst in us.  My experiences including that sail along with countless others tell me that I am at my best and I love that feeling.  Adversity offers me the opportunity to perform at my best.   Adventures open the door to those adversity.  

I wrap up the "thirst" developing events tomorrow with my third and final event.  Stay tuned....

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Telling my story: The beginning (Event 1)

Now you know that I carry out adventures to feel alive.  What remains is why.  I have several stories that tie all of the why together.  Pour yourself a nice cup of your favorite beverage and read on!

Part 2:  The beginning

Over the past few months, I had plenty of time to reflect on my lifetime goals and figured after all the time reflecting, I would share those thoughts with you - my friends and family.  These reflections have more to do with "why?" than with the usual things I post about the "how" and the "where."  I decided to write the post in multiple parts to keep them light enough to read with your first cup of coffee in the morning but deep enough to get you to reflect upon them during your day.  Without further delay, I give you my story...

The thirst for adventure


Most people either never experience or never attend to life events that make them crave more; I have three vivid ones that shaped and continue to shape my life.  I call these events "my thirst" - an insatiable one that gets slaked by only more adventure.  My post-adventure malaise fuel my thirst even more and, as a result, my longing for more never ceases.  None of the events I recount below were sought nor were they profound enough to cause me to tell others.  They were mine and mine alone.  Now, because I am telling you about them, they can be yours and, hopefully, you can find your own.

Event 1:  A moment to remember

When I was about 6 years old, I recall standing at the entrance to Central Park at Engineer's Gate (90th and 5th) and feeling frustrated that I could not recall events that happened in the past.

Engineer's Gate - Almost the exact way I remember it on my "moment to remember" event.
 My frustration lead me to decide or rather will myself to remember everything that happened afterwards.  I said to myself..."I will never forget another thing that happens in my life."  Perhaps I was an odd kid but I doubt it.  Events prior to this were often recalled by my family members as if I were an "extra" when, in fact, I played the lead role.  Happenings such as riding my bicycle into our pool, peeing in the closet before potty training kicked in, or even misbehaving during kindergarten escaped my recall.  I vividly do recall feeling frustrated by these lapses in memory and I never wanted to utter the words "I can't remember" ever again.  

That frustration began my lifelong pursuit of recalling what I did each week to ensure that no significant event ever went unnoticed or unrecorded.  I often lay awake at night thinking about what happened, what was memorable enough to remember, and what were the inconsequential events that may inhibit remembering the more important ones.  My rationale was and still is that repetition would help me remember.  I do remember now most events but not everyone and rarely trivial ones.  Memories shape our lives.  My friend Alan Arnette has a saying on his website:  Memories are Everthing.  I believe this truth to be self-evident.  

Why was this event so important?:  After years of rehashing my previous week, I soon realized that I wasn't doing much with my life.  Weeks would fly by without any noteworthy activity.  I soon feared that I might not need to remember much because not much seemed to transpire throughout each day.  I lived a dull life as a kid.  

When was this realization?  Not sure.  That fateful day was probably when I was about 12.  Seriously.  Yeah, I was probably weird then and I still am a little gonzo.  I cannot recall the exact age but I do know my approximate age because soon afterwards I started getting into trouble.  

What kind of trouble?  Since my son is 16 right now, I am deliberately withholding those sordid details until he is older ... perhaps 50.  Let's just say that I started to experiment with life.  The experimentation lasted for about 4+ years and I truly experienced many things that life had to offer - none that bear repeating and none that shaped me much more than to help me figure out that a life of stupidity did not suit my tastes.  I moved on.

Memories shape our lives.  That seemingly innocuous event at Engineer's gate lead me to appreciate all memories.  

In my next post, I recount the second event that influenced my thirst for adventure.  Stay tuned.



Monday, October 10, 2016

Telling my story: I begin with the conclusion

I purposefully interrupt my adventure narrative to provide you a glimpse into my story - the story of my drive.  Many of you have asked me directly "why?" or, perhaps, ask yourselves..."why would someone do these things?"  I don't know why others do them but I am ready now to reveal a bit about why I do them.  Are you ready?  I am.  Here goes....

Over the past few decades, I spent countless hours thinking about, preparing for or carrying out adventures.  Those hours included some calculations about potential gains and losses.  Each balance sheet showed the gains always outpacing the losses - even if these were weak forecasts of cognitive riches and dire consequences.  But still, why?  Why would anyone put themselves in harm's way to reap any benefit except to save another's life.  Well, I think there are other reasons to press yourself into service - even if there are no potential lives saved except your own.  Perhaps the reason we all put ourselves in harm's way is to save our own lives.  That is my story - or at least part of it.

The reason I hunger for adventure is to feel alive.  I mean it.  Each adventure allows me a taste of life.  The stress and strain along with tough living conditions, social isolation, and often shared exhilaration form the porthole into my sense of being.  I feel alive during these adventures.  Yeah, sure, I also feel exhausted and often really sick but nothing makes me more grateful for creature comforts than a little deprivation and suffering.  To really feel what it means to live drives me toward adventure.  I love the feelings before and during adventures; afterwards, I feel a slight depression or letdown that lingers for weeks.  The only antidote to that lingering malaise is more adventure.  So, I plan for more.  I am driven to experience the world's offerings for no other reason than to feel alive.

I can recall the source of that drive with ease.  Others may not readily recall it for themselves.  My plan over the next few days is to slowly unravel my story so you can better understand me and why purpose lies at the heart of my adventures.  By doing so, I may shed some light on why each of you is drawn to adventure.  My sense is that we all have similar tastes and thirsts.  Some of us do the odd or strange to slake the thirst that comes from years of creature comforts.  I have no idea of my story's length but I plan to continue posting until I feel it is told.  Today, I leave you with the conclusion.  

Adventure allows me to feel alive.

Next up, the beginning.

P.S.  My friend Aaron crashed during the Ironman Hawaii bike leg last weekend.  He is fine and home now - no doubt a little disappointed in the outcome.  Keep him and others in your thoughts; we all need a little support now and again to get back on the proverbial horse.

P.P.S.  Kat, Cheryl and I just returned from the REI screening of Paul's Boots <--- b="">HINT:
 click on the link and watch it.  That movie and a few exchanges with friends and family over the years prompted the current and forthcoming posts.  Do yourself a favor and watch the movie.  Read my blog posts too.
Thanks for following along.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Some reflections about the past and future plans

Greetings friends.  I took some time away from my blog to gather my thoughts.  Today, however, I break my silence to talk about some current events and plans for the near future.  Sit back with a favorite beverage and enjoy my mindful ramblings....

Charitable reciprocity

I mentioned many times in the past that most of my adventures were possible because of you.  Yes you.  My wife, son, family and friends accommodated my crazy adventures.  You all played a part - even if you sat on the sidelines and cheered.  I felt it all from the crushing blows of defeat to the exhilaration of achieving the improbable.  For that support, I thank you again and remain in your debt.  The reason I bring this point up came from yesterday's Hawaii Ironman race and another call for your support.  Our friend and swimming mate Aaron Church was there to compete.  Aaron is a beast.  He has the heart of a lion.  If I had his heart in swimming, there is no telling what I might accomplish.  Aaron outworks us all.  He dives in first, completes every set, and stays until the end (and even afterwards) to improve his stroke.  Nobody outworks Aaron.  Nothing stops him - not even the cold water.  I doubt Aaron has an ounce of fat on his sinewy body.  The man is just one or many muscles and we all marvel at his determination.  So how does Aaron fit the theme of this section?  Kat and I were dutifully following the racers online and noticed that Aaron was not making any progress after about 80 miles on the bike.  I assumed it was a glitch in the system but this morning I noticed that the final results posted a DNF (Did Not Finish).  I know Aaron's family - the entire crew including the GMU Patriot Masters Swim Team and friends - will give him the support to overcome this bump in the road.  Through adversity, we all learn the sweet taste of success.  I hope we all find some bit of compassion for those who experience defeat.  Lend a hand.  Be kind.  Remember, we all taste defeat and experience setbacks; do someone a favor and extend a hand of support.  You did it for me - do it for Aaron and for everyone else who might need a little boost.

New Adventures

I have two adventures on the horizon.  The first is Cork Distance Week (CDW) - organized and managed by Ned Denison.  

Outside article title:  Not sure I fit into the "elite" category.  
Ned was kind enough to offer me a spot so I grabbed it right away.  I can't wait.  Swimming twice a day in frigid waters, drinking pints of the good stuff with new friends from afar, and soaking in the scenery of beautiful Ireland sounds like a dream come true, right?  Well, before you say yes, read a few takes on the adventure.  The first is a recent blog post from a really funny bloke - Brendan O'Brien.  He recounts the entire week (9 days!) in a witty manner.  Hope to run into him when I go out there.  Second, you need to read Outside's summary of Ned's camp.  If reading is not your thing (why are you reading my blog?  Ha!  Caught you), then check out this great video Ned sent me a few weeks ago:


and this one that documents the week:


The Showtime segment makes marathon swimming sound much crazier than I view it.  Sounds more like boot camp than summer camp.  I'm not up to the challenge at the moment but will be by next July.  Kat and I are already booked for the trip - at least we have an AirBnB with some other swimmers.  I can't wait!  We celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary this coming March so it will be 25 years and 4 months since we were last in Ireland when we land in July 2017.  Hopefully, I don't gain the same 25 lbs I gained on our honeymoon.  Yes, don't laugh.  I lost it and more eventually but had fun putting it on with fish & chips and Guinness (6 pints/day - doctor's orders).

CDW is my first adventure.  My second?  I figured since I am already in Ireland, I might as well swim the North Channel (Ireland to Scotland).  Why not?  I'll post more about the swim but suffice it to say that the North Channel is to the English Channel as K2 is to Everest - in a word:  challenging.  


The track above shows Steve Walker's 2016 crossing (11:05 according to the MSF track but 11:19 according to this recap).  So if the North Channel is like K2, you are probably thinking it is a tough challenge.  Yes, it appears to be.  But, why not take it?  Seems like a foolish task for a foolish person, right?  If I am successful - and that is a big if - then I would be the 4th American male to finish that swim (according to the online solo swim database and Steve's recap).  By posting about the swim, I guess I am committed or should be committed.  I'm doing it.  Yes, there you have it!  Well, presumably they will let me give it a go.  I'll keep you all posted on the application process.

These adventures mean I need to keep swimming.  I am still steadily losing my walrus figure (down 13+ lbs or 6 kg since mid-August and losing more by the week) but will need to hold onto a few extra lbs of blubber for insulation.  Wish me luck and stay tuned for a few more updates as I prepare.

One final thought before I get some work done....

Surviving Bad Days

Today was a bad day.  I worked out for 3 hours yesterday running for 30 minutes, lifting for 30 minutes, and striding mindlessly on the elliptical for 2 hours as I read and watched TV.  It was exhausting.  I haven't felt very motivated the past few weeks because I have no purpose for my training.  Yeah, sure I am trying to lose weight but that is not a very strong motivator for me.  I know if I really needed to lose weight, I could just go climbing for a week and lose a pound (.5 kg) each day from the exertion and limited food to match the caloric expenditure.  What I really need is a fire under my fanny to stay focused.  Yesterday and today showed me that some days when all feels awful, I just need to survive through the workout to get some benefit.  This morning, I went to swim practice and endured 4,000 yards.  It wasn't pretty and I wasn't in a particularly good mood but I got through it.  I felt a great sense of accomplishment just by surviving.  If Aaron were at practice, I know he would have pushed us all.  Adversity makes us all better.  Embrace the setbacks; turn lemons into lemonade.

I need to sign off now and get my work done.  My next post consists of a few thoughts about why I do these adventures.  Read them if you want to know what makes me tick.  Who knows?  You might find some insights to keep your kids from following in my footsteps.  

See you soon....

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

20 Bridges Recap #2

Hello again - 3 weeks after I promised to wrap up this tale.  I had a few things on my plate to finish up and more than enough work to keep me from posting.  Without further adieu ado (thanks Shelley)...here goes part 2.  Expect a long read with plenty of pictures.  Pour yourself a nice beverage, sit back, and read!

I left off where I boarded the float pulled by a jet ski pulled and prepared myself to drop into the East River.

The East and Harlem Rivers

The swim began unlike any other marathon swim - from the water.  I was just dropped off the float, a horn sounded, and I was off!  For the first time, I felt a little unprepared.  Yes, even after two consecutive long marathon swims, anyone can feel unprepared.  I wasn't in my normal frame of mind.  The swim started abruptly and I never had the chance to get my mind focused nor my gear sorted out.  It was a bit chaotic - all due to my own poor planning and preparation.  Fortunately, I knew I had a first-rate crew and they would sort things out.

So I swam up the East River for a few strokes, peering to my right and then my left to see where I was in relation to where I grew up (89th & Madison).  It was a rather odd feeling starting right next to the Asphalt Green - a place I knew pretty well during my degenerate youthful days.  The East River quickly veered off to my right while I stayed left to begin my northward push through the Harlem River.  Neither body of water was terribly clean but they both struck me as cleaner than I remembered.  Of course, that thought was a necessary cognitive distortion to keep me from throwing up at the mere thought of dead things and such thrown into this water.  So, I swam and swam hard to get through it.

I had several thoughts during this section.  First, I wanted to really keep my stroke strong and my kicking pace high.  Why?  I learned from both the Catalina and English Channels that I had the stamina to kick for at least 8-10 hours.  Knowing that or at least believing that helped me feel confident that kicking would really speed up this leg of the swim.  Also, I was constantly aware - perhaps too much so - of the importance of making the landmarks at the appropriate times.  There was no room for delays.  Missing these landmarks or at least missing the times estimated for being around them might result in an abandoned swim due to the strong currents.


Michael and me...moving up the Harlem River (Photo by Brendan Cooperkawa)
The currents around New York City are notoriously treacherous.  At the start, I knew I would be pushed up the East River by almost 4 knots of current and that push would ease off as I approached the Hudson River.  By my own calculations, I had to stay on track and keep my pace up if I were to have a good chance of finishing the swim with all favorable currents.  So that thought stuck with me for the entire Harlem River.

I was in a good mood and felt extremely confident about the swim.  Despite the weather forecast of a hot and windless day, I focused on the positives.  My kick felt strong, my body recovered from the previous swims, and my pace was spot on for a strong swim.  I was flying up the river.  As I passed by certain places I noted on our boat trip to the start, I felt more confident that I was really moving quickly around the island.  Things were just progressing perfectly.


I swam by Tracy here but never got a chance to say hello (Photo by Fred Zamon)
About 30 minutes before we hit the confluence of the Harlem and Hudson Rivers (just past Sputen Duyvill Creek), I passed by my friend Tracy Clark.  We didn't get a chance to say hi but I did wave to her crew - Roger Finch and Jim Clifford (two extremely accomplished marathon swimmers).  They were incredibly supportive as I know Tracy would have been had we had the opportunity to chat.  I was bummed to see her before the finish because I really looked forward to crossing the finish line together.  We both were completing our Triple Crowns and I figured it would have been a wonderful way to cap off the summer.  Also, Tracy is a phenomenal person who supports tons of swimmers by crewing, teaching, and cajoling them to do extraordinary feats.  She was one of the first people I met when I went to Dover last year and we immediately connected on Facebook and exchanged congratulations for each and every accomplishment.  Tracy is a dear and I really wished we had the chance to finish together.  Alas, it didn't seem possible at the moment - forge on ahead is where my mind was after that brief bit.


Hey look!  Yankee Stadium (Photo by Brendan Cooperkawa)
Before I mention much about the Hudson River leg, I feel compelled to talk a bit about my swim during up the Harlem in a wee more detail.  For every stroke up the river, I felt like I was able to get closer and closer to escaping the horrendous portion of the swim.  The Harlem River was dirty for sure - as evidenced by the occasional "NY Whitefish" (aka a used condom) and random bits of toilet paper here and there - and I wanted out as soon as possible.  It seemed as if this leg lasted forever.  I didn't take much notice of the sights around me like Yankee Stadium (to my right) or the Columbia crew house (to my left) while swimming.  Instead, I took the opportunity at every bridge to flip over on my back and float under.  It just seemed fitting for this swim.  My last marathon swim for the summer, the capstone to my Triple Crown, and the first (and most likely last) time I saw these bridges from this perspective.  I wanted to soak it all in.  So, I did.  My way of soaking it in was to literally soak in the water and let the current take me past each bridge.  I relished these moments.

The Hudson River

As I passed Spuyten Duyvill Creek and crossed below the railroad bridge (unnamed by Google Maps), I felt the currents tossing me from side to side and the extreme warmth of the water.  I swear this water was not a degree cooler than our hot tub at GMU.  The water seemed cleaner but far warmer than the Harlem River.  I was not happy about the changes in water temperature but I figured the Hudson would cool off as I swam toward the center and took advantage of the strong, favorable currents.  Well, that "cooler" water never happened.  The water stayed hot and unrefreshing the entire swim down the Hudson.


The "railroad bridge" and odd currents (Photo by Fred Zamon)
The Hudson leg was the foggiest part of the swim for me.  I could feel myself overheating and my legs began cramping after I floated under the George Washington Bridge.  All that kicking up the Harlem River paid off in speed but I think it really cost me physically.  I could no longer kick without causing a cramp in my calf or in my quads.  Those cramps also shifted my focus from my stroke to my deteriorating condition.  I was not happy and tried to busy myself with all sorts of thoughts - none really helped.  All I could do was watch the landscape go by and try to recall the times I was in that part of the city.  In some instances, the memories were a nice distraction but mostly the effort resulted in me feeling like I wasn't making very good progress.

One thought I had was enjoying a cold beer right after the finish.  In fact, I could not extinguish this thought and then started worrying (yes, worrying) that the beer might be gone or warm when I finished.  I yelled to Brendan to make sure we had a few beers at the finish and that they were "on ice."  He said he was on it and I knew he understood the gravity of that request.  I still didn't think I was making good progress but the anticipation of a cold Peroni at the finish made my current, miserable state more tolerable.

In truth, I was flying down the Hudson with a huge current pushing me past the entire city.  In no time - well, actually in about a few hours - I found myself around the Empire State Building and recognized a ton of other buildings - many I had been in over the past few decades.  It was about this time that things started to slow down.  I was able to make out the new Freedom Tower to my left and a bit ahead.  

My nemesis (aka the Freedom Tower) - photo courtesy of the WSJ and Google Images
That building view stayed with me for what seemed like an eternity.  I kept reassuring myself that the view of the ever-present building was a visual artifact of me simply changing the viewing angle with my head or eyes.  Unfortunately, no self-soothing or self-assuring helped me as I continued to battle the leg cramps that now crept up to my lower back.


Just as the buildings gave way to the park greens of the Battery, I started to feel some relief.  That relief didn't come from my cramps easing up - quite the contrary.  I felt relieved that I was approaching the last milestone to ensure favorable currents.  The Battery was that last milestone before the finish.  I made it!  I figured the rounding would be quick and I would re-enter the East River and get pushed up to the finish.  I wasn't wrong about that last bit but the process unfolded way slower than I anticipated.


The welcomed greenery (Photo by Brendan Cooperkawa)

The Battery and East River

Rounding the Battery was way more frenetic than I ever imagined.  Ferry traffic, standing waves, and commotion distracted me from ever thinking about my stroke.  Combine all those distractions with the now pretty severe leg cramps made the celebration of the rounding much less...well...celebratory.  I could barely muster the enthusiasm to enjoy the rounding and sneak a peek at the Statue of Liberty.  In fact, I never saw it.  I was too preoccupied with my current state and the frenzy that seemed to unfold around the ferries to even look.  Rounding The Battery was less memorable than I would have liked but I got through that part.  The waves were strange and the water finally tasted salty - a welcomed change from the hot Hudson River.  Those memories were about all I had of that part; shame I couldn't enjoy it more.  

My kayaker (Michael) guided me around, through, about, and the ferries without a hitch.  He just told me to follow him and follow him I did.  I had no clue what was really unfolding; I just knew that there was a ton of chatter among my pilot boat, him, and the race directors.  I tried to the best of my ability to focus on my stroke but it was not really working to my advantage.  Every time I focused on my stroke, I started to kick just a little and then all the muscles in my legs started tightening up.  I was in a sorry state but quite pleased to be out of the Hudson and onto the final leg of this swim.


Michael and I approaching the Brooklyn Bridge (Photo by Brendan Cooperkawa)
Entering into the East River proper, I expected to fly up to the United Nations Building in no time.  Well, that didn't happen as expected.  First the Brooklyn Bridge went by and I thought about my cousin Ed and his wife Maureen.  They would have loved the view - especially Maureen.  I would not recommend hopping in the water just for the view but it was quite remarkable to see that bridge from below.  


Great and unusual view of the Brookly Bridge (Photo by Brendan Cooperkawa)

Once past that bridge, the Manhattan Bridge came in what seemed like an hour.  Boy was it slow going up the river.  I don't know if I had a favorable current but as far as progress up the island, I was not feeling that positive.  I couldn't help notice that the same buildings were in view for what seemed like an hour.

Just as I started getting down about the ordeal and thinking about the end (or rather how long I could hold on), I remembered that this area of Manhattan pointed more East than North so I should not expect to move that quickly to the North.  That little mental note made the going much more relaxing.  Well, relaxing may not be the right word but more relaxed works.  

The East River and the eastern swing of the river before heading North again.
I then started thinking about the upcoming bridges.  In fact, the pilot or someone asked me which bridge I was under and I could barely recall any bridge that I had just swum under in the past hour.  I was cooked or perhaps boiled at this point and my brain was not doing too well.  He, of course, was referring to the Williamsburg Bridge - one that I had been over many times but somehow couldn't even make out from my angle.  It was time to finish this swim and I was bound and determined to get it over.


In what seemed like an eternity, I swam up the East River and soon noticed I had company.  A few other swimmers converged with me and we were all moving at about the same rate.  Well, the truth of the matter was that I felt like I was sitting still and they were catching me and about to pass me as if I were a beer can floating up the river.  I have no stake in time nor do I care much about competition in these events.  What motivates me is the adventure.  I did not think for a second about place or time; I just wanted to finish and the sooner I finished the better.  So, I started to kick again and this time my legs were not cramping up like they did in the Hudson.  I guess the cooler waters in the East River helped my legs recover a bit and I was able to kick gently without them fully seizing up.

Just as I started to kick, I finally saw the United Nations Building and realized I only needed to pass by Roosevelt Island (a place I worked for several summers when in high school) and then finish at 92nd street.  I knew I could make it and I pushed hard to get this swim over so I could enjoy that cold beer that Brendan assured me would be waiting at the finish.  Michael told me some plan to stay to one side and I told him that I didn't need to know the rationale - I would follow him wherever he wanted me to swim.  I complied and he set me up for an awesome ride past Roosevelt Island and under the 59th Street Bridge or Queensboro Bridge (now named after Ed Koch - go figure).  

Just as I approached Roosevelt Island, my legs started to cramp again and now the cramps radiated all the way up my back.  I was desperate for something but what that "something" was I had no clue.  Finally, I ask Michael if he had any Coke or Gatorade.  I knew my electrolyte balance was shot and I really needed a final boost to carry me the next mile and a half to the finish (20 NYC blocks North-South make up a mile and I had 30 to go from the bridge).  Michael didn't have anything but the skipper of my pilot boat gave me his own Gatorade.  It tasted like pure heaven.  I could not believe how refreshing it was and how quickly my leg cramps went away after just that cold 12-18 ounces of fluid.  Clearly, I was dehydrated and in need of some salts.  The fresh water and heat changed the swim entirely for me and I was not prepared well for those conditions.



At this point though, I was flying and I knew it.  The currents were so strong under the bridge that as I laid on my back in spread-eagle fashion, I couldn't help but notice the land whipping by me at about 10 miles per hour.  Yes, the currents had to be about 8 knots.  I wasn't swimming and I was cruising toward the finish.  It was great.  Later, Kat told me that Michael was not even paddling and he was going about 8 knots up the river - further confirmation of the water's speed.  All the swimmers converged at this point and we all drifted toward Mill Rock (aka the finish).  I saw Gracie Mansion and the park around it and knew the end was near.  The thought occurred to me that I was about to complete the Triple Crown but I shifted my focus on getting to the finish.  There would be plenty of time to celebrate but not now.  Just a few hours earlier, I was wondering if I would even be able to finish given my sorry physical state.  As I passed that last landmark and could make out the Asphalt Green, my only thought was....BEER.  I was so thirsty.  The Gatorade was refreshing but it made me thirst for more.
The Finish!  (Photo by Brendan Cooperkawa)
The finish was rather uneventful but glorious at the same time.  I took a few strokes after thinking about the beer I would have in the boat back to the Marina and then, all of a sudden, an air horn signaled the end.  I was done.  I was literally done.  Cooked, wasted, overheated, hyperthermic, dehydrated, and yet elated.  All of the hard work I put in throughout the previous year paid off.  I had an awesome team who supported me for this swim and for all the previous swims.  Despite my reservations about swimming around Manhattan, I did it.  All was good.  Now, it was time for a beer.




A HUGE THANKS TO MY CREW!!!


From L to R:  Brendan "da Coopstah" Cooperkawa, me (aka the Walrus), Kat (no nicknames...just Kat), Cheryl Ward (the best coach ever), and Fred Zamon - the toughest dude I know.  My crew.  Simply the best.  Words of appreciation do little to express how honored I was to accomplish this even with them.  A special thanks goes to my lovely wife Kat who endured rocking boats, heat, cold, sleep deprivation, and marginal food to support me during these events.  We did it Kat!  I love you so.
Just how hot was it out there?  Well, the heat was so intense that the skipper of the pilot boat doused my crew repeatedly with the same water I swam in.  Great commentary from my wonderful wife in the video below:





You can see, they had a nice "refreshing" break from the sun beating down on them (Cheryl and Kat below)...
Cheryl and Kat (Photo by Fred Zamon)
and Brendan chilling out in the heat:


The "Coopstah" aka Brendan Cooperkawa (Photo By Fred Zamon)
The crew managed to stay cool enough to support me throughout the entire day.  I thank them for their sacrifice and plan to make it up to them in some form or another.  

A quick wrap-up

So what did I learn from this event?  A ton.  Here are a few big take-home points:

Every swim is different.  Just because I was able to endure the colder waters in the Catalina and English Channels, I was barely able to endure the hotter waters around NYC.  My feeding schedule and feeds themselves were not tailored to these new conditions and because of that little oversight, I was ill-prepared for the swim.  Next time, I will prepare for each swim more carefully and never overlook any potential differences.

Ignorance is bliss.  I prefer not to know where I am during a swim.  Well, I like to know and be fully aware that I am in a body of water that I can name and where I am approximately on earth but I don't want to know how far I am along the route.  That information distracts me from what makes these swims so enjoyable - focusing on my stroke.  I can focus for hours but as soon as I get outside information such as progress (or lack thereof), I no longer focus on what matters most and the time moves by at a slower pace.  By focusing and staying focused on the task at hand, time no longer becomes relevant and the task seems easier.

Marathon swimming is a team event.  Nothing I did during this Triple Crown would have been possible without a dedicated crew.  My wife, Kat, set aside her own athletic goals (she is an extremely competitive triathlete) to help me achieve mine.  She helped me think through the process and refine it as we progressed through each swim.  Kat was the only person to accompany me on all three swims and I realize she was instrumental if not imperative to our success.  

The 20 Bridges Swim was a team effort that was bolstered by additional help.  Despite the fact that my son Patrick was not available for this swim, he helped in other ways.  Patrick came along for the Catalina and English Channel swims and he sacrificed a few weeks to help me.  He was training for football, swimming and running all summer.  Those trips to California and Dover sidelined him from any organized practices and I realize his sacrifice may affect all his sports.  I plan to support him in other ways to ensure he gets back on track.  

During this swim, I had my good pal Brendan who I knew would be game for the ride and who I had all the faith in the world to keep me motivated, positive, and focused.  He never let me down.  Brendan also left his family to hang out with us for several days.  I realize he would sacrifice most anything for me if I were in need and I appreciate it.  Our post-swim celebration made the sacrifice even more worthwhile.  Right Coop?  

Next, Cheryl Ward sacrificed her weekend to come to NYC and lend a hand.  She is my coach and more than anything else, she is a tireless cheerleader who offers me whatever she thinks I need at the time she thinks I need it.  Thanks Cheryl for putting up with me and my antics.  

Last but hardly least, Fred Zamon made equal sacrifices to the rest by coming up to New York right before the US Masters Swimming Long Course Championship meet in Portland, OR.  He was on a boat for an entire day, braving the heat with the rest of the crew, and observing my swim to make it "official."  Fred was a trooper who thought about every little detail and kept us all in check.  Thanks to these folks, the 20 Bridges Marathon swim was a success.  I hope it was a memorable experience for them.

Thanks for staying interested and reading my blog.  I really enjoy writing about these adventures for you and reliving them via words and pictures.  If you have any questions about the experiences, please feel free to comment on the blog or send me a direct note via Facebook. 

Many people asked me afterwards..."so, what is next?"  Well, I have an answer to that question but I will post in about a week what my plans are for 2016-2018.  I have a few adventures in the works right now.  My immediate focus, however, is to lose weight.  As of today (September 13th, 2016), I weigh 191 lbs or 86.6 kg (down 8 lbs or 3.6 kg from when I returned from NYC).  Yes, I almost eclipsed 200 lbs or 91 kg during this Triple Crown.  My aim....170 lbs or 77 kg  by November 1st.  Wish me luck.  Hope to see you all soon.