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.

Summertime biking

Here are the first pictures of our new carbon bikes from Willier. In June these beautiful bikes will take us 1000 miles from northern Scotland to Paris. They will not be coming on our 24-mile swim of the English Channel, although Willier are almost light enough for that!

For our training here in Philadelphia these bikes have been seeing a lot more action now that the weather is sunny and warm. The river in the background is the same river that we swim.

[UPDATE] Friday April 25, At day break today we took the bikes out for a 50-mile ride. On the way back we watched a guy get struck by a car on his Kuota carbon. The guy’s shoulder and his anodized Fulcrum wheelset bore the brunt of the impact. We helped him collect his stuff and check his wheel. He was OK and biked away from the accident. Close call that one.


Swimming the Schuylkill River


He who wants to find the sea should take a river for his guide.

We are training in the Schuylkill River! We’ve done it 3 of last 4 days. Today we swam for 80 minutes. And after doing those miles we plan to swim more and more. Here’s why we love it…

  • It’s cold. Cold is important for us to acclimatize our bodies. The water temps in the Philadelphia’s Schuylkill River has been 58-64F, which is pretty close to the water temps that we’ll see in the English Channel which is 56-58F. So far the cold is treating us well and only our toes are cold during the swim.
  • It’s beautiful. And a fun change of pace from the pool. Keeping the mind busy lets us forget about our shoulders and biceps.
  • It’s clean. Despite popular belief it’s a very clean river. The Philadelphia Department of Water has a website with daily coliform/bacteria counts, water flow, and water temp. These three together form a proxy for water quality. Nothing instills confidence that the river is safe like that big green banner on the Rivercast website!

The green banner means the water is safe.


From behind the camera the river is idealistically beautiful! Up close there tends to be more duck weed and gunk. But we still like it.