Swimming in the Ocean at Night

Last night I swam in black glass. We jumped into the San Francisco Bay ocean water after dark. It was so darn peaceful as the light of the Ghirardelli Chocholate Factory shone across the black glassy water. These are the nights that can make any workday worth living. It was a wonderful cold water training swim. My buddy Dave joined us for the apres-swim sauna then we all went back to a French place and talked about adventures past and adventures future. These are the days worth remembering.

Adam has been training these days too in Denver, where the temperatures have dropped down at night to the 40s, so I suspect most of his training has been on the Wilier cycles (shameless plug, sorry, but we love these guys).

Hope everyone’s training is going awesome. Take care.

California Dreamin’

park-swim.jpgIt’s coming down to D-day. Less than two weeks! This past weekend, in final preps for our journey, I left the loving comfort of my family and my new Denver home and headed west to the land of fruit and nuts. The San Francisco Bay is a phenomenal training ground for the Channel. The water temps are just a bit colder than the Channel (55 degrees F), so they are a great acclimatization tool. The water conditions in the Aquatic Park did a good job of simulating the prevalent conditions in the Channel as far as chop and currents. Outside of the breakwaters proved quite rough, depending on the time of day. Another benefit of these training grounds is the Dolphin Club. Neal found this open-water-swimming jewel last year, but this was my first time experiencing it. They boast over 1000 members, and the camaraderie and enthusiasm amongst this eclectic group of swimmers is fantastic. They are also a wealth of information for those of us aspiring to swim the English Channel. They have several members who have made the crossing, and a few more that are currently training for it. Special thanks to Amber Rhett and Reuben Hechanova for all of their advice.

I was there for less than 48 hours, and Neal and I spent a good deal of that time training. We got in two decent swims on Saturday, and then we both participated in an open-water “race” put on by the Dolphin Club. We had to check in for the race by 6:00, which meant that the alarm clock went off at about 4:30! We took a boat from the club to the San Francisco Bay bridge, and once dropped off, it was an all-bridge-swim.jpgout sprint back to the club. The front group was ultra-competitive, with the winning swimmer completing the 2 ½ mile course in under 40 minutes (current assisted). Neal wasn’t too far behind at around 45 minutes, and I straggled in about 3-4 minutes after that. Many thanks to all of the volunteers who rowed beside us making this event as safe and as fun as possible.

We took a few minutes to bring our core temperatures back up to human levels, and then bee-lined for the airport. It was a fast and furious weekend, but all-in-all a great time!

Two upcoming open water swims

house.jpgSorry for the radio/blog silence. I was driving cross-country in my Jeep & Trailer. What a gorgeous drive!

I moved from Philadelphia to San Francisco. I’m new here, and one of the big parts of moving for me is finding a new place to workout. I know about the Dolphin Swim Club in San Francisco, so I went there to check on their latest activities. While I was at the Dolphin Club I heard about two upcoming open water swims.

Both swims are open water swims. Both are relatively short (1-2 miles). And I’ll be doing both with my friend Paul who works at Facebook. I’m super stoked about both! It will be a fun way for us to mix-up workouts, and a good way for me to get in the race mindset prior to the English Channel, which is coming up SOON!

Sunday, June 1 2008
Tri Valley Masters
Lake Del Valle

Livermore, CA
.75 mile (8:00AM)
1.5 mile (9:00AM)

Saturday, June 7 2008
Davis Aquatic Masters
Lake Berryessa
Napa, CA
2 mile (9:30AM)
1 mile (11:25AM)

The Schuylkill is Rippin’

I’m back in Philly for finals this week, and it has been a perfect opportunity to get back in my favorite river for a few good workouts. I took a sunset swim for about an hour on Tuesday sans Neal. He was busy trying to figure out why his Jeep can’t go over 35 mph without violently shaking as if it were about to come from together…an important detail to take care of before he attempts to haul a trailer and all he owns from Philadelphia to San Francisco. The swim was beautiful, although it was by far the most awkward workout of the season. Apparently this section of the river is quite busy on Tuesday evenings. Everyone from collegiate rowers in high-end shells to corporate outings on 8-person flat-bottomed canoes stopped to gawk at me like I was nuts. My only hope was to just keep swimming and pretend that they weren’t staring at me and talking. One husband and wife stopped within five feet of me and just watched for several minutes. I was listening to music, so I couldn’t hear their conversation, but I couldn’t help but crack a smile. They just laughed and paddled on. I was happy to be finished with the workout until, as I was climbing up the river bank, I was greeted by a friendly bicycle cop who hassled me about the safety of swimming in the river because of the unpredictable currents. Apparently when it is about to rain, the current shifts and runs in the opposite direction. I just said ok. Though I would have loved to hear his explanation as to how this shift affects the water falls that lie about 1 mile down stream, I was tired and wanted to go home.

s_river.jpgYesterday Neal and I jumped in for a 2 hour swim. We were a little disconcerted to look down at the Suunto and see that the water temperature had risen to a balmy 63 degrees over the last week! Aakk! We’re getting coddled here in the states! Mark Robson and the rest of the gang over in the UK will have some ammo to lob at us now that they’ve been organizing Dover swims that are still in the 50’s. In our favor, though, is the fact that we were swimming up stream against a mighty current. The stone bridge supports pictured are about 10-15 yards in width. Without exaggeration, it took 2 1/2 minutes to pass the supports. I think I was moving backwards at times. I literally felt as if I was working out in one of those endless pools. Every breath I took, I was looking at the same stone as the breath before. Take that, Brits! (Disclaimer: There are no head currents during the Channel swim so this workout actually gives us no describable advantage).

Incidentally there have been several conversations across both swimming and multi-sport messasuunto.jpgge boards regarding watches. My 2 cents: I love the Suunto. I have the T6. If you are looking for a simple, no-nonsense watch this is probably not the watch for you. The T6 is good because I can use it with everything. Temperature is great for the water. It syncs with an HR belt to keep track of my heart rate and can be set to keep me in zone. It syncs with my bike and measures speed/distance etc. It syncs with my GPS and can track speed/distance/altitude etc. This feature is more useful for mapping out hikes or mountain bike trips. It also syncs with a “Foot Pod” and tracks speed and distance of the run workouts. All workouts are saved to the watch and can be uploaded to a computer in seconds with a maneuverable and graphical output for easy analysis. I’ll try to put a full review together in the near future.

Local oil spill in my training grounds = Big impact

As many of you know, I trained this past summer at the Dolphin Swim Club in the San Francisco Bay. Swimming there each morning was an amazing treat, especially since I lived just blocks away. On November 7, 2007 there was a 58,000 gallon spill. The spill came from a tanker that broad-sided the Bay Bridge. This spill will affect everyone on the Pacific coast. Within hours this local spill was killing birds and closing swim beaches hundreds of miles away.

Video 1: This video model from NOAA is based on over-flight observations. With each tide the oil from the spill is being pulled out to sea, and then pulled back into the bay.

Video 2: This second video is a photo montage of the damage done to the San Francisco Bay (aka. my former training grounds).

What is the moral of this sad story? If you can, and I realize this isn’t practical for most, but if you can, sell your car and buy a bike.