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Sunday, June 21, 2015

EC training going well: Huge hurdle coming up

Greetings,

I sit here in my comfortably air-conditioned house while it is 90 degrees F outside and muggy like a swamp.  My comfort also comes from knowing that over the past 4 weeks, I logged more than 32km each week in swimming and I am slowly getting faster and fatter (started at 173 lbs and now tip the scales at 184 lbs).  When I first returned from Nepal, I could barely make Cheryl's workout sets. Who is Cheryl you ask?  Cheryl Ward is my coach, friend, and adventure supporter.  She rocks!  So how am I doing with Cheryl's workouts now?  I make the intervals now and seem to get stronger throughout the workout.  Not sure I would have been able to do that on my own.  Thanks Cheryl.  So, mission accomplished in the training department or at least on a mission and keeping my eye on the prize.  

The boat that will pilot me across the EC.  You can track it throughout the season here.
The huge hurdle that lies ahead is my last hurdle before I can really focus on the EC swim - my 6-hour cold water qualifying swim.  Yep, the EC has a qualifying swim.  Unlike Everest where anyone can throw their hat into the ring (provided you have the cash), the folks at the Channel Swimming Association require swimmers to go through a physical examination, pay a nonrefundable deposit, and submit evidence of competency for swimming long distances in cold water.  The best evidence is to actually swim long distances in cold water.  So this Friday, my family and I push off for the cold shores of Lake Ontario where I will complete my 6-hour swim in 61 degree F water (or colder as it may be later this week).  I plan to complete my swim with the support of my family and the gracious folks of LOST (Lake Ontario Swim Team).  More on them in a bit.  For now, I am focused and ready to swim.  The biggest trial for this swim will be sorting out my feeding schedule and working with my crack team of family members to keep me on track.

An extra layer of insulation

Getting fat and fast is important for the EC but no swim is complete without adding a nice buffer to stave off chafing.  I read a ton about what to use and finally came up with the solution.  Butt paint!  Kathy and I used to call this stuff butt paint because we used it all the time on our son when he was in diapers.  Now, I use it for swimming or at least will when I start my open-water sessions.  Here it is...butt paint:


I plan to smear this stuff all over me before the swim and try to keep it off my goggles.  Wish me luck on that last part.

The LOST swimmers


A couple weeks ago - perhaps now many weeks - I was searching for a place to swim a long distance in the open water.  I knew I needed to complete my qualifying swim, I just didn't know where.  My criteria were simple.  First, I wanted to swim in a body of water that was cold because the rules stipulate that I must complete my qualifying swim in 61 degree F or colder water.  Second, that body of water had to be free of real objective dangers such as hungry sharks, boat traffic, and drunk people fishing or jet skiing.  The latter of those three probably represent the greatest threat to any open-water swimmer.  Third, I needed the body of water to be relatively close to my VA home.  We all traveled a fair bit this year and with our upcoming trips, we wanted to be able to drive and keep the hassles to a minimum.  Finally, I didn't care if the water were salt or fresh water although I preferred salt water just so I could practice a bit more in an environment similar to the EC. 

These four criteria set me up for a long search up and down the eastern shores of the US.  Obviously, the ocean would be ideal but probably not easily accessible without violating one of my stipulations above.  I found the only cold waters of the North Atlantic within an easy drive were probably a bit too busy for a 6-hour swim.  One website - swimmingholes.org - provided a good start where I could search all around the US to find a suitable body of water.  Narragansett Bay seemed to fit all my needs but the weather and the water temperature didn't seem to be terribly predictable - at least not from the data I found on the internet.  Next, I started looking at lakes.  

Yes!  Lakes should be a good alternative because many nearby (+/- 8 hour drive) were really cold and supported open-water swimming.  First, I looked at Seneca Lake.  That lake seemed like a perfect fit.  The water would be cold - perhaps not cold enough in some spots and really cold in others.  I thought I found my match.  Then, after a little more searching, I figured it might be best to find a lake where open-water swimmers already practice.  That search lead me to the LOST page.  I immediately contacted the president (Rob Kent) and manager (Miguel Vadillo) via email.  They both responded within minutes of sending out the message.  I was extremely relieved to hear that they were enthusiastic about my training and supportive for my qualifying swim.  They knew a fair bit about the EC and the requirements to qualify; I knew I found a great match.  So, I am off to swim with them this coming weekend.  Kathy and Patrick will kayak (I presume) alongside me while I swim, eat, and enjoy the cold waters of Lake Ontario.  

The LOST group starts their swims on Saturday mornings from Oakville, Ontario.  We plan to drive up on Friday and spend the evening in Oakville so we can get a little bit more sleep than if we stayed with family in Buffalo.  After the swim, we will drive down to Buffalo where I will warm up, drink a ton of beer with my brother-in-law (named Pat too - how could he be a bad guy, eh?), and eat enough Buffalo wings to support a mid-sized Irish village.  

Wish us luck.  OK, off for my daily Sunday double.  8km today, 8km tomorrow, and then I get to taper off a little to rest up for the big day.  Expect more on my complete training shortly but no graphs or anything like that for this training adventure.  I do have a ton of stories to tell.  Stay tuned.

Thanks for following.