DISCLAIMER: Open-water swimming is inherently dangerous. Open-water swimmers risk drowning, hypothermia, hyperthermia, heart attacks, panic attacks, cramping, jelly fish stings, fish bites, boat or jet-ski collisions, collisions with floating or submerged objects (including other swimmers), and other calamities that can be injurious, disabling or fatal! The "West Neck Pod" is an informal association of open-water swimmers who swim "outside the lines" with no lifeguard protection, it has no formal membership, organizational structure or legal identity, and its participants, including the author of this blog, make no representations and assume no liability with respect to its group open-water swims. All swimmers who participate in West Neck Pod group open-water swims do so at their own risk. Be careful out there!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

August 29, 2010 "Big Swim" - Carol Moore - Picasa Web Albums

August 29, 2010 "Big Swim" - Carol Moore - Picasa Web Albums

"Big Swim" a Big Success!

Conditions for this morning's one-way, tide-assisted swim could not have been more perfect for the nine swimmers who set out from West Neck Beach, accompanied by Nancy Reycraft in her kayak! Unlike the tempest of the last several days, the water today was flat and calm, and the cloudless sky was clear and beautiful as Rob Martell and Ken Longo (the "Lewis and Clark" of the West Neck Pod who pioneered the route we swam today), Cathy Kabat, Adam Acerra, Gae Polisner, Sue Robinson, Armand D'Amato, Bonnie Millen and I left West Neck Beach on an outgoing low tide shortly after 7:00 a.m. We headed north to “the sailboat at the end of the Causeway” and then, instead of stopping there as we usually do, continued northward, past the “second sailboat,” reconnoitering at Fort Hill Beach – directly opposite that great, hulking concrete channel marker that looms in the middle of the harbor.

Three swimmers left the water then and were ferried back to West Neck Beach by Armand. The rest of us continued northward -- where Cold Spring Harbor widens as it approaches Long Island Sound, the open water becomes even more spacious, and the distant horizon seems infinitely far (as far as that channel marker used to!). We swam as far as the last dock just short of the Lloyd Neck Point, then returned to Fort Hill Beach, where three more of us somewhat reluctantly left the water for the drive back to West Neck Beach. Gae and I “high-fived” each other, congratulating ourselves and each other on having finally swum as far as that channel marker – and beyond!

Rob, Cathy and Ken decided to forgo a ride back and swim the rest of the way to West Neck Beach, apparently earning them Neptune and Salacia’s blessing: The tide having turned in the interim, they got the benefit of a tide-assist in both directions – a swimmer’s dream! Adam, Gae and I saw them as we drove back along the Causeway to West Neck Beach – swimming strong, sure and fast, each leaving a long wake behind them like the tail of a comet. Tired as my poor arms and shoulders were, I regretted not following in their wake...Next "Big Swim"....!

Until then, it’s Back in the Salt on Tuesday at 6:15 a.m.....

Friday, August 27, 2010

Welcome to the Laundromat...

Friday was Laundry Day at West Neck Beach, with a medium-sized load of 7 swimmers being tossed and tumbled in the agitator between the still-outgoing tide and a brisk northwesterly wind, making the wash-cycle out to the sailboat one of the roughest of the season! The rinse-cycle back, with the turning of the tide and the wind at our backs, was somewhat calmer (though far from the "delicate" setting). Hopefully tomorrow will be "ironing day" and the water will be smooth and flat like it's been most of this season. Speaking of which...with the air temperature this morning dropping to a cool 58 degrees, and the water temperature down to the low 70's (71 degrees according to Newsday), it already feels like the season is waning...

It's back to the laundromat tomorrow (Saturday) morning at 8:00 (a smaller group is going out at 7:00). See you in the Soap -- I mean the Salt!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

"The sun'll come out....tomorrow!"

Persistent heavy rains and generally dreary weather threw a wet blanket over this week's planned open-water swims, sending some of us back to bed and others back to the YMCA pool...a venue that Nancy Lipira and I had not visited since the start of the open-water swimming season on Memorial Day weekend!
It was great to reconnect with our long-lost "Chlorine" buddies, most notably Coach Bob Miller and HUMS blogographer Mike Engel, along with a dozen or so of the "usual suspects," and Nancy and I quickly fell into the routine of repeated sets of 100's on increasing intervals -- but for us "Saltines" the contrast between the pool and the open water was dramatic....Accustomed to swimming in water that is by now in the low- to mid-70's, I found the 84-degree temperature of the pool to be something of a challenge. Even more challenging was the "turn at the wall" after every 17 strokes or so, as compared to the “turn at the sailboat” after three-quarters of a mile....! And with about a dozen Masters swimmers churning up the fast lane, forming a nearly continuous nose-to-toes loop, I found myself yearning for the spaciousness of open-water swimming, where I am comforted in my solitude by the occasional glimpse of another brightly colored cap over the crest of a distant swell....!

The weather report for tomorrow and the upcoming weekend is for clear, sunny skies, so I plan to return to the open water tomorrow for my "morning constitutional" and resume my almost-daily swims at West Neck Beach. (I'm particularly looking forward to this coming Sunday's "one-way swim" -- see the August 19th post.) Still, I feel a chill in the morning air these days, and the water temperature seems to be dropping rapidly, and I sense that the end of the 2010 open-water swimming season is approaching...As I contemplate the inevitable return to the pool, or "closed-water" swimming, I am reminded that it was in that pool, during those long winters, doing those endless interval sets, chasing swimmers who were faster and stronger than me, that I acquired the skills and technique and endurance that make my open-water swims feel so effortless and blissful. So while I'm hoping to continue swimming outdoors well into November(!), the first snowfall won't really break my heart. Besides, there's always cross-country skiing!!

See you in the Salt!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

"To the 'Second Sailboat'....and Beyond"!

Good luck to all of the Pod swimmers who are participating in the upcoming 23rd Annual TOBAY Triathlon and Tri-Relay in Oyster Bay on Sunday, August 29th! For those who are not, and who are interested in a little "change-up" from the usual buoy-to-buoy or beach-to-sailboat swims, Explorer-in-Chief Rob Martell will lead Pod members that morning in a one-way, tide-assisted swim from West Neck Beach north to Fort Hill Beach (1.25 mile), and for those interested in tacking on a little more distance, on to Lloyd Neck Point for a longer (2.5 mile) swim, with a return to Fort Hill Beach.

In his prior explorations of the "northern frontier," Rob has been known to tuck his sneakers into the rear of his bathing suit (talk about "junk-in-the-trunk") so that he can run all the way back to West Neck Beach from Fort Hill Beach! For those who don't share Rob's ambition and/or super-hero qualities, auxiliary Pod member and avid open-water swimmer and triathlete Armand has graciously offered us parking space for several cars in his driveway adjoining the Fort Hill Beach Association so that we can ferry one-way swimmers back to the parking lot at West Neck Beach (after walking a short distance from the beach up the road to Armand's property).

DEPARTURE TIME for this expedition will be at 7:00 a.m. from West Neck Beach in order to take advantage of the outgoing tide (dead-low tide is at 8:40 a.m.), so if you're interested in participating, plan to arrive early enough to suit and slather up and be in the water by then! Swimmers looking for a one-way ride back to West Neck Beach should e-mail me (Carol Moore) at CLMooreEsq@verizon.net before Friday, August 27th so we can make adequate transportation arrangements.

NOTE THAT Rob Martell cautions that the water is rougher and the currents stronger as you approach the mouth of the harbor where it meets the Sound, so bear that (and your swimming ability and experience) in mind in determining whether and how far you plan to swim.

See you in the (Northern) Salt!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

School's Open....Swim Carefully!

Dozens of open-water "newbies" and novices got their open-water chops this morning at a swim clinic conducted at West Neck Beach by Lisa Baumann of AquaFit Masters, with assistance from Poddites Rob Ripp, and Ken Longo who provided kayak support. Regular Pod swimmers arrived for the 8:00 scheduled swim to find the parking lot nearly full and the beach and benches crowded with more than a hundred wetsuited athletes eager to experience the relatively calm, clear waters of Cold Spring Harbor.

Three groups of swimmers divided by experience level plied the waters between the southern and northern buoys and the beach, while Pod members who opted not to participate in the clinic (which was open to all) took the less crowded Causeway route. Conditions were perfect -- with a southerly wind kicking up a little chop midswim to make it interesting and provide the newbies with some firsthand experience of the everchanging conditions open-water swimmers face.

The Pod returns to the Salt for weekday swims on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday at 6:15 a.m....

Thursday, August 12, 2010

It Wasn't Us....Again...!

Pod members were once again called upon to effect a dramatic rescue -- this time of the West Neck Beach lifeguard stand, which we found floating at the farthest edge of the swim lines this morning -- an apparent victim (again!) of teenaged hijinks. Carole, Sue and I together employed the standard "life-guard carry" to bring the victim safely to shore, where we left it to recover from its ordeal while we carried on to the sailboat for an otherwise lovely, uneventful (and jellyfish-free!) swim...See the rest of you (but hopefully not the lifeguard stand) in the Salt tomorrow!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Open-Water Swimming: A Love Story...

This story really begins in the fall, because although it is now the height of summer, my love affair with open-water swimming blossomed in the fall of my first season, some five or so years ago. Until then, I was a devout "poolie," whose distant memories of being knocked over by huge waves and bumped or entangled by terrifying but unidentifiable creatures or objects still made open-water swimming unthinkable. Eventually, encouraged by seasoned open-water veterans, who sympathized with my fears but didn't coddle them, I began to venture out with them into the open water, where I gradually began to overcome my ancient fears and phobias about the unseen sea creatures and god-knows-what that occupied the water and/or my imagination.

As I grew more comfortable in the open water, I came to revel in the day-to-day and sometimes minute-to-minute changes that made each moment of every swim unique and memorable...One day's glass-like surface became the next day's roiling sea, and an ever-changing palette of blues and greys and greens and pinks colored the water, waves and sky...I learned what the morning's challenges would be only when I stepped out onto the beach, to see which way the wind was blowing, which way the tide was running, how high the waves were breaking and how friendly or menacing was the sky. Some days the water was as calm and soothing as the bed I had recently torn myself from...other days I looked out onto chaos -- with white-capped waves coming from every direction and breaking wherever and whenever they willed. Those days -- my favorites, it turns out -- I was rolled and tossed about like socks in a washing machine, struggling to find a pattern to the waves that would allow me to swim in my accustomed rhythm....The struggle was exhausting, and eventually, after enduring endless wave-slaps in the face and inhaling numerous lungfuls of water while trying desperately to swim "my swim," I stopped struggling. I stopped thinking about my "technique" and started to listen to the water, to feel myself in the water, to feel myself part of the water...As I ceased to struggle and relaxed into the water, I found that there is a rhythm even to the chaos, that -- if you listen -- tells you..."stroke now"..."breathe now"..."kick now"...and that makes swimming a partnership with the water rather than a battle....

In that partnership, there are moments of perfect happiness: The moment when, still submerged, I turn to breathe and just before my goggles break the surface of the water, I look up and see the sun sparkling and glinting through the water like diamonds....or the moment when my arm glides forward for the "catch" and I watch the sunlight slicing through the stream of bubbles caught by my open hand...or the moment when I allow myself to feel my body resting on the surface of the water, buoyed and carried by the swells as they make their way home...In those moments, I really do experience perfect happiness -- a happiness that I get to revisit with every breath, with every stroke, with every swell...
But it was in the fall of that first year of open-water swimming that I truly fell in love...In that first fall it was dark when I would get to the beach, and I would put my wetsuit on and wait until the sky lightened enough that I could see where the water met the sand...Often there was a mist over the water, which was now warmer than the air, and I witnessed the magical and mystical transition of night to day and black water to a more welcoming blue-green. The swim lines and moorings had been pulled, and the boats had been hauled to dry-dock, and the open water was more "open" than I had ever seen it -- Now, striking out from the beach, with nothing in front of me but the horizon, I literally felt like I could swim forever...Somehow, in that first fall, the water became a church, and I its most devout convert. In the church of the open water I am at my most open, my most spiritual, the closest to god, and the most connected to the sea and its creatures and the community of open-water swimmers who share my love of it....

As the days shorten and this summer season melts into fall, I already feel the pangs of impending separation and loss...but when I slip into the water tomorrow, and turn my head upwards towards the rising sun, and take my first stroke towards the horizon, I know that all will be well, and I will be happy and at peace...See you in the Salt!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Every Silver Lining Has Its Cloud...

...and the great, grey cloud covering the sky from horizon to horizon early this morning even dumped a little rain on us as we six (Carole, Margot, Sue, Paul, Attila and I) (what's a little rain when you're already wet?) picked our way to the southern buoy through waters inexplicably thick with "moon jellies" (tip for swimming through moon jelly "tapioca": Keep your head down and your mouth closed!).

But typical of this open-water season thus far, by the time we emerged onto the beach, the sun had started to poke its way through the clouds, and our morning ablutions at the boathouse were ever-so-faintly tinged with sunshine.

By the way, recent cutting-edge medical research, as well as anecdotal testimony from an ever-growing number of converts, suggests that the peculiar symptoms and behaviors characteristic of "Longo-itis" -- public disrobing, and lathering and frothing under an outdoor shower -- far from being symptoms of a dreaded disease, actually turn out to be a pretty good idea! The eponymic Ken Longo, whose beachside toilette ritual has been widely reported and photographed, was recently nominated for a lifetime achievement award by the American Academy of Time Management and Efficiency Experts, but was unfortunately disqualified when he showed up at the award ceremony wearing nothing but a skimpy Speedo.

See you in the Salt!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

It wasn't us.....!

Tuesday morning's swimmers (Carole, Margot, Joye, Tim, Kim, Magda, Greg and I along with "newbies" Attila and Nancy) found the lifeguard stand in an unusual place...tire tracks in front of the bathhouse told the story of how the local "youts" (we're guessing) got it up there. It did present a good vantage point to see over the brisk chop created by the northerly wind -- but at 6:30 in the morning there was only this lone seagull to take advantage of it. Nancy and Attila got something of a rough introduction to open-water swimming, between the wind and the outgoing tide, but that seems to have been the norm for newbies this season, as Paul (and returnee Jim Imhof) can attest! Still, they made it all the way out to the southern buoy, and then enjoyed a nice body-surfing ride back to the beach! We'll see if they come back for another taste of Salt!

Monday, August 2, 2010

How Do You Spell, "DQ'd"??

"K-E-N- L-O-N-G-O," that's how! Yes, swimmers, if you can believe his own firsthand e-mail report, our hapless Pod mascot did it again, completing this past weekend's Governor's Island 2-Mile Swim and then being disqualified for wearing a "jammer" rather than a traditional bathing suit!! Ken's last notorious DQ -- not for a wardrobe infraction but for improper "accessorizing" with an escort kayak -- was recently reversed, and Ken apparently wasted no time in once again snatching defeat from the jaws of victory! Of course, this could all be a ploy for sympathy (or another obscure symptom of you-know-what). The posted results don't show any disqualification, and indeed reflect that our jammer-hammer came in 24th overall with a time of 42:41:05.

Pod member Rob Ripp (shown here in a "legal" suit -- ahem...) also tore up the swim, completing it 31st overall (of a field of 224) in 42:56:07. Nice work, guys! (and Ken, try not to shoot yourself in the foot next time out!).

Monday Must Be "Ladies' Day" at West Neck Beach!

With the exception of Magda (fresh from her Lake Placid Ironman triumph!), who was accompanied by her husband Greg, this early Monday morning's outgoing tide was escort to none but a "gaggle of girls" who plied a course 'twixt the rising sun to the east and the setting moon to the west...half buoy-bound and half enroute to the sailboat...Carole Wickham was nearly recovered from hosting her mother's 90th birthday party for 65 family members & friends at our house on Saturday, and Gae Polisner was just returning from a week-long bout with a cold (no, not Longo-itis!), while Evelyn, Kara, Kaitlyn and I rounded out the six-some....

The water was clear, calm, and beautiful (as were all of the swimmers!), and for we "people-of-gender," this week was off to a great start! See all the rest of you tomorrow! (6:15 unless you're going exploring with Ken...!)

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Fade Out, July; Fade In, August....

The swimming week began as sleepy Pod members converged at West Neck Beach early Tuesday morning to find that the parking lot had been colonized by a swarming television crew that was in town all week to film an episode of "The Royal Pains." West Neck Beach was now "Base Camp" for an armada of huge tractor-trailers, whose drivers and crew eyed us with perplexed amusement as we suited up and hit the water for what all present agreed should be an easy swim out to the yellow buoy and back. That turned out to be a prescient decision, as on our return to the beach we watched with astonishment as a seaplane (probably bearing the "royal" members of the "Royal Pains" cast) landed just off the Causeway near the sailboat -- right where we would have been swimming had we opted for the Causeway swim! (As if speeding powerboats and jet skis aren't hazards enough for swimmers to deal with, now we have to watch out for seaplanes? What's next, submarines??)

After the swim, Ken Longo hung around schmoozing with the tv crew, and in an extraordinary display of chutzpah (or "Longo-itis"), managed not only to finagle a free (gourmet!) breakfast from the mess tent, but actually got a crew member to take a picture of him flaunting his prize!

Sadly, the ravages of "Longo-itis" continue to spread, claiming two new victims this week: Margot Edlin and Carole Wickham, who succumbed to public disrobing and showering on the Beach...and whose symptoms were photographed here. Despite the risk of infection, a sizeable group of swimmers showed up again on Wednesday and Friday for challenging and invigorating (but seaplane-free!) Causeway swims...(The "Robinson Sisters" braved it alone on Thursday after Carole and I wimped out....)

On Saturday, a gaggle of Bob Miller's Tri-Master's swimmers & friends returned to Crescent Beach in Huntington Bay (see Mike Engel's coverage/photos/videos at www.HUMS.blogspot.com), while Rob Martell, the "John Cabot" of the West-Neck Pod, continued his epic explorations of the northern frontier. Rob completed a 3.7 mile swim around the point to the Lloyd Neck inlet and back to Fort Hill Beach, then ran 2 miles back to West Neck Beach (although he e-mailed a picture of his route, he unfortunately did not include a photo of how he transported his sneakers in his bathing suit for the last part of the swim...). With Rob blazing the trail for the rest of us (and pointing out how to avoid the rocks he unfortunately scraped against), the Pod can anticipate some long-distance, tide-assisted, one-way swims before this open-water season comes to a close...!

But as July fades into August, the season's end is still a long way off!
We'll be swimming tomorrow (Monday) at 6:15, and again on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday (check e-mails for other dates and times). See you in the Salt!