Iron Mike's Marathon Swims 


10 February 2014 | Uncategorized | Permalink

Dear reader(s), please note that I have joined with the Marathon Swimmers Federation and am now blogging as “just another MSF blogs site.”  If you have me on your blog roll, please update to this location.

If you’d like to see the growing list of blogs by marathon swimming veterans, amateurs, pros and wanna-be’s, click on Blogs on the banner of the MSF home page here.

Nanticoke River Swim

5 February 2014 | 2014 Season | Permalink

My new blog friend David Speier from the Nanticoke River Swim responded to my last blog entry about the cost of his 3-mile swim. I appreciate that very much, I really do. I’m so glad when folks not only read my work, but respond. And David did a good job answering my concerns.

David said his swim was harder than the Chesapeake Bay Bridge swim (4.4 miles) and the lake swims I’ve mentioned. I asked him why and he said:

The Nanticoke River Swim has a 1 to 2 mph current with three different conditions depending on the leg of the race. Leg one you are heading directly into the current, leg two you are being pushed to the left and leg three you are being pushed to the right. The chop in the water is about the same as the bay swim.

OK, that’s fair. The 10K in National Harbor has pretty much no current at all, so that’s a difference from the Nanticoke swim. There are currents in other lake swims, though.

Next I asked him why the swim entry fee is the same as the triathlon entry, to which he responded:

The time for both events is about the same with the fastest swimmer finishing in slightly over an hour and the same for the triathlon. The only paid volunteers (although paid less than their true value) are the beach qualified guards. We have 10 to 12 guards on boards during the race, most of which are to cover the 2 and 3 mile swims.

So are there no volunteers on the bike and run course? I’m asking because I don’t know. How about the transition areas? And the triathlon and 3-mile swim cut-off times are 3 hours each, so I get that. Also, according to David, the same percentage of your entry fee goes to their charity, no matter you’re doing the triathlon or the 3-mile swim. Not sure how I feel about that. I hate charity-required swims, that’s why I don’t do the Potomac River Swim (7.5 miles). But, I’m not a race organizer, so I don’t know the intricacies of putting on an event like this. And God forbid insurance requirements. Oy!

David also compared his swim entry fee to other swims in the local area. But let’s be fair and compare based on distance and possible time spent swimming (I can only compare by cut-off times):

  • Endless Summer Swim, 5K, $25
  • Swim for the Potomac, 10K, $50
  • Great Chesapeake Swim, 4.4 miles, $1000 ($250 entry plus charity donations)
  • Bridge-to-Bridge and Middle Atlantic Open Water Championship, 5K, $30
  • Maryland Swim for Life, 3 miles (also 1, 2, 4, 5), $20
  • Steelman OW Swim, 3 miles, $50
  • Swim Ocean City, 3 miles (also 9!), $95
  • Smith Mountain Lake Swims, 5K, $39

So Nanticoke is certainly not the most expensive, but there are plenty of cheaper ones out there. Which leads me to the next thing David said:  He’ll give me and all my blog readers a discount to enter the Nanticoke River Swim! He is willing to offer a 25% discount if you register for this swim!

Now re-read his above description of the swim. Sounds fun, doesn’t it? You get to battle different currents on different legs, twice! That’s good work for your navigation skills. So why not give it a try and come see the city of Bivalve in eastern Maryland? If you want to take advantage of David’s gracious offer, comment on this blog entry and I’ll get you in touch with David.


How much for a 3-mile swim?

22 January 2014 | 2014 Season | Permalink

OK, race organizers out there, I understand that insurance is not cheap. I get that. But holy crap.

The Nanticoke River Swim is coming up in May. The swim is a 2-mile or 3-mile swim. There’s also a triathlon going on, if you’re into that sort of thing. But the swims. Nice and short. Not too far of a drive from the home. A couple weeks before another swim I’ll be doing (2-miler at Lake Audubon near Reston, VA). Seems like a no-brainer, right?

Well, I went to register, but first I had to get a Lin-Mark account. The race is using Lin-Mark for registrations. That’s fine. Just another website that I need to have a login and password for. What’s new. So I register. I search for the swims and find them and click on Register. So far so good. They asked for my USAT number. Uh-oh. A triathlete-organized OW swim. Again, fine. I’ve done those and I can laugh through them while swimming next to guys with pull buoys or arm floaties on. Whatever. Then I got to the check-out page.

$93.96 for a three-mile swim!  Holy crap!  Ay caramba. What the hell? $12 of that is the USAT one-day event fee. Jeez, but okay, they need insurance, and if they went USMS it would probably have cost 200 bucks. The swim itself was $75, the same cost as the triathlon (okay, that’s bullshit because there is WAY more logistics involved in supporting a triathlon than an OW swim). Jiminy freaking Christ, that is way too much. Then, even worse, the Lin-Mark site throws in a $6.95 processing fee.  Holy shit! They charge about 7 bucks per swimmer (triathlete, too, I presume) to compile a list of swimmers for the organizers.

In comparison, my 10K (Swim for the Potomac) was $50, with no processing fees, for twice the distance (and only a 5-minute drive from home).  I can’t remember exactly how much my Dart 10k cost, but that was in England, so even if it was $100, it was worth it!

But practically $100 for a 3-mile swim?  Jeez Louise.

There be Rules here!

7 January 2014 | Iconic marathon swim | Permalink

Four incredible swimmers, marathon swimmers I should say, have come up with a standard set of rules for marathon swims. Finally!

Evan Morrison, Andrew Malinak, Elaine Howley and Donal Buckley, representing the Marathon Swimmers Federation, devised a set of rules to standardize marathon swims conducted by swimmers where no standing rules already exist. These rules will look similar to those of us who swim by English Channel rules: textile suit, cap, goggles and little else.*  If you decide to swim more than 10 kilometers in a body of water where there is no sanctioning body, you can agree to these standard rules and need say nothing else. We’ll all understand what you mean.

These rules also discuss the spirit of marathon swimming, namely, that marathon swimming is meant to be unassisted. That means you can’t wear a suit that helps you maintain heat or increase your speed, you can’t have any electronics on your person that transmit to you information, like speed, distance, location, you can’t draft off the boat or off of a support swimmer. You don’t touch your support boat. You don’t touch your support personnel. You start, swim and finish unassisted.

Now, for my dear reader(s) who don’t understand why I said unassisted but then mentioned support boat, here you go. Since marathon swimming came into being (in 1875, as far as we’re concerned), the swimmer has been escorted by a safety boat, from which he can be fed, and if required, saved. Support boats and personnel are not considered an assisted swim. In fact, we would consider you a moron if you were to attempt to swim the English Channel without a support boat.

So, please read the rules devised by the Marathon Swimmers Federation. If you’re planning a new swim somewhere, I’d suggest you use these rules for your swim. Also, keep them in mind when you hear tell of an amazing swim happening “unassisted.”

*”little else”: Universally accepted are things like ear plugs (helps in really cold water) and nose plugs.

2013 is done

31 December 2013 | 2013 Season | Permalink

So I finished 2013 better than the middle of 2013. Dear reader(s) know I had an interesting 2013, if by interesting you understand I mean DNF.  I’ve learned a lot in 2013.

For one, I learned that if my wife accompanies me on a marathon swim, I DNF. I attempted two marathons in the last year, year and a half (Swim for the Potomac 10K and Ocean City 9-miler), and both times my wife came with me and I didn’t finish. Granted, it was because I was ill-prepared. But still…she’s the variable.  ;)

I also learned that I shouldn’t let little things bug me so much that I drop swimming. I had my swim bag stolen out of my van in the summer, and from then for about 3-4 months I was in a funk, where I rarely swam. That was a mistake, and most likely the reason for my DNF in Ocean City, all joking about the spousal unit aside.

But the year was positive, as well. I learned that I love coaching, and I think I’m good at it. I coach for DC Tri Club in their Master Swimming Program. My triathletes are great, if a bit whiny. But they listen, they try out what I suggest, and in a few instances, they come back to me and thank me for helping them decrease their swim times in triathlons. That is worth the pain that is driving from Old Town Alexandria to northwest DC every Friday.

I’ve gotten a little more relaxed about my swimming. If I don’t make a workout, meh! I also started swimming with my daughters’ team, the Sea Dragons of Alexandria YMCA. The coach there told me he loves having me (and one of the swim-moms) swimming with them because he can use us. Example: “If Mr Tyson beats any of you on this 100 free, you’re reswimming it.” I don’t mind that. In fact, it makes me swim faster!

I learned that even if I miss some swimming, including missing weeks of swimming, I can go back and still swim comfortably. I termed this kind of swimming “swimming horizontal.”  I learned in Swim for the Potomac 10K that my lower back is the most important muscle of my body. If that hurts, I don’t finish. So I concentrate on “time horizontal.” I try to swim a long swim once a month. I’m talking 9-10K at a time. More important: 3 hours horizontal. I’ve learned that if I do that, then I succeed. After Swim for the Potomac, I concentrated on simply swimming horizontal for as long as possible. Result? I swam Swim the Suck (OMG, I love that swim so much. I wish I could do it every year. This year I’ll be deployed, so I won’t be able to make it…but I just learned that the USMS 1-3 mile OW championships is being sponsored by COWS.  Hmmm…) in 4:44. Not bad for a fat old guy for 10 miles.

So, I ended the year missing my goal of 300 miles. Just shy of 250 miles. I did 5500 meters yesterday in 91 minutes, which I thought was AWESOME for me. That’s about 3626m per hour. Today I did 9100 meters in 2:53. That’s just under 3200 meters per hour. I’m happy with that! And you know what? I felt strong at the end, able to really push hard. And my lower back? Do I even have a lower back? I can’t feel it! It doesn’t hurt!  Hurrah!

So 2013. Love it and hate it. But I wouldn’t change it. (Well, maybe I would have finished Ocean City.)

Esther Williams in Dangerous When Wet

21 December 2013 | Humor, Iconic marathon swim | Permalink

Went trolling through the satellite TV a few weeks ago, specifically on AMC, and found a movie about an Arkansas girl who attempted to swim the English Channel. So of course, I did the only thing I could. I recorded it.

Finally, this morning I watched it. It was billed under the humor genre, with musical thrown in. The first and only person I knew in the movie was Pa, played by the guy who was Uncle Charlie in My Three Sons. I recognized him immediately from his voice, despite the odd reverse-fuzz lens they used on him. (It looked like they blurred his face while keeping Esther Williams’s face clear.)

The woman playing the channel swimmer had such a beautiful stroke that I had to look her up. Well, lo and behold but Esther Williams. I remembered immediately. When Ms. Williams died this year (she was 91, God bless her and her wonderful genes), there was much talk of her “aqua-musicals” and the fact that she was a great swimmer. Well, great she was. She was a three-time U.S. National Swimming champion, missing the 1940 Olympics because of WWII. She did some diving and synchro, as well, as evidenced by her performances in these aqua-musicals.

Dangerous When Wet was a cute little family movie, hokey and corny at the same time, but sweet. It was filmed in 1953, and set at the same time. Esther played Kate Higgins, a farmer’s daughter from a physically fit family who daily swam laps in a swimming hole on their farm. Kate desperately wanted to make the farm profitable, but lacked the money to fix the barn, get a new milking machine, and buy a prize-winning steer. When a snake-oil salesman comes to town, he talks the family into swimming the English Channel. You see, he’s a promoter, and he can get his boss (the elusive Colonel, creator of the tonic Liquipep (a predeccesor of Maxim, perhaps?)) to bankroll their training and travel. And they could win money in the EC race to buy all the equipment they need for the farm.

So he does, and most of the film is of Kate training (the family is quickly forgotten by the writers), while falling in love with a French champagne salesman. Not sure where it was filmed, but “Dover Harbour” is filled with channel aspirants, all training for the Daily Mail EC race. There is even a large actor portraying “The Egyptian” which is obviously Abu Heif, one of the best marathon swimmers of all time.  (Openwaterpedia says that the Crocodile of the Nile’s career spanned 1953-1972, so I wonder if a channel expert on the film knew of him this early?)

What I liked most about the film was not the Tom & Jerry sequence (cheesy to the extreme) or the love story, although that is funny in the end. No, what I liked was that the film stuck to the rules of channel swimming throughout. At the start of the race, the director announces to all of the dozen or so swimmers:

Do not touch your rowboat. Or your trainer. Or you will be disqualified. When you reach Dover, you must wade ashore unaided.

Could you have asked for anything more for a movie about the English Channel? Not only that, but when the family first step foot on Dover beach, they meet an old fisherman that tells them they’re not going to swim 20 miles, but more like 30-40. “But I looked myself, it is only 20 miles to France!” The fisherman explains to them about the tides and how you can’t swim straight. “It is 20 miles as the fish fly.”  When Kate is doing poorly near the end of her channel crossing, her love interest jumps in the water. As he approaches her, she says, “Stay back, don’t touch me.”  When she finally makes it to England (sorry…spoiler!), she repeatedly tells him to back off and not touch her. Now, for the movie’s sake she crosses some imaginary finish line which is still wet (albeit, only about an inch or two of water), but she finishes the swim.

And in good old 1950′s style, during the ending sequence, as the family are all singing, carrying their luggage to leave England, Pa knocks on Kate’s hotel door but the Frenchman answers. All are aghast. A man in my adult single daughter’s room? How dare he. Then Andre produce’s Kate’s hand, with a ring on it. And they all go dancing and singing into the credits.

So, a fun movie, with an actor who actually knows how to swim, and swim well. (Compare that to action films with “tough broads” who, when they run, well, you know, run like girls.)

Channel Swimming Art

10 December 2013 | Uncategorized | Permalink

Years and years ago, and I’m talking decades, I remember a cartoon, perhaps in the New Yorker, called The Loneliness of the Long Distance Swimmer. The cartoon was black and white, and along the theme of the popular book and movie The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner. I recall a poster showing a man from the back, running down a road, which winds away in the distance, like an art student’s study on perspective. The cartoon was similar, with a pool swimmer standing at the end of a pool lane, which winds away into the distance, over hills and dales, the lane disappearing into the far distance. I wish I could find that cartoon.

My search for the cartoon has led me to other art on the subject of marathon swimming. There are several for the English Channel.

Capt Webb crosses the English Channel


Ederle Crossing the English Channel

Ederle Crossing the English Channel

Found one of the wonderful Florence Chadwick at the end of her Catalina crossing.

Florence Chadwick finishes Catalina

Florence Chadwick finishes Catalina

One of my all-time favorites is this beauty from across the pond.

cross-channel-swim-lgOf course, the best artwork for channel swimming is a channel swimmer’s plot map of his/her own swim. I hope to have one of those one day, but for my dear reader(s) who don’t know what I’m talking about, here is one from friend of the blog, Evan.

Evan Morrison's Catalina crossing

Evan Morrison’s Catalina crossing

That would look nice hanging on the wall, wouldn’t it? What’s your favorite marathon swimming artwork?


2014…what to do, what to do…

4 December 2013 | 2014 Season | Permalink

Planning a marathon swimming season is difficult, what with the logistics required with getting to the swim, support requirements, food, hotels, all that jazz. Throw into the mix a business trip that’ll take you out of town for half the season, and it’s even more difficult.

Right now I’m considering the SCAR swims in Arizona. Four swims over four days, with the last day being a 10K night swim, with light sticks and all. Forty miles over those four days, so it’s not a swim series for the faint of heart. There also might be an interesting 24-hour team swim nearby. In fact, if that swim happens, it most likely will happen close to my relatives’ home in PA. I’ve got my fingers crossed that race will happen.

Unfortunately, all of the swims in my local area will happen after I’m out of town. There are some shorter ones that are interesting. The 2-miler in Lake Audubon will happen in May, so I can make that one. One that I’m sad I’ll miss is a 10-miler just two hours south of me. Peluso Open Water is holding that one, but in October. Another they’re holding (after I’m gone) is what they’re calling a Glow Swim. 500 meter heats, and as long as you are in the top two, you move on to the next 500m heat. All while swimming at night with glow sticks, glow caps and glow body paint! Doesn’t that sound fun?!

Peluso Open Water - Open Water Swim Training for Triathletes

Movember is over

1 December 2013 | Humor, Uncategorized | Permalink

Well, Movember is done. I’ll shave today, it no longer being November. I did my best, not sure if I “beat” anyone, as if you can actually beat anyone at moustache growing. And, as you can see, dear reader(s), I decided to grow both a moustache and a beard. I looked too porny the first week, and didn’t want to scare the kids.

Not that what I was able to grow didn’t scare any kids. You be the judge(s).

Movember is over

Movember is over

Movember, week 1

7 November 2013 | Humor | Permalink

The first week of Movember has come and gone, folks, and my Magnum P.I. ‘stache is on the way! Look at that bushy lip.

WIN_20131107_132946 (2)Technically, according to the Movember US mustache guide, what I’m growing is The Trucker. Let’s see how I do over the next 3 weeks.

Alright guys, let’s see your moustaches!