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, September 18, 2011

Falling Out of Summer...

Saturday, September 17th, was an eventful and memorable day for the West Neck Pod, which celebrated the impending end of summer with the first-ever annual "Buoy-to-Buoy Sprint" in the morning (for those athletes not participating in the 34th Annual Cow Harbor 10K/2K run!), followed by the annual Swimmers’ End-of-Summer Barbeque at Carol and Carole’s in the afternoon. The Sprint was the brainchild of Pod member Ken Longo, who, along with fellow Pod members, honored me by designating it the "Swim-Moore Buoy-to-Buoy Sprint," and by engineering the first-ever beer toast at the South Buoy....! Despite the distinctly-non-summer-like chill in the 56-degree air, 15 swimmers showed up for the event (happily, the water is still holding on to its summer warmth, measuring a comfortable 69-70 degrees). Ken, who opted not to swim in order to pilot his beer-laden kayak alongside the sprinters, escorted the lead swimmer (who else but our Roman candle, Sal Romanello) along the course from the North Buoy to the South Buoy, then commenced prying off bottle caps and pouring Corona beer into plastic glasses, adding a freshly sliced lime wedge to each, and handing them out to the swimmers as they assembled at the buoy. Short-course (beach to South Buoy) "Buoy-Lite" swimmers/cheerleaders Gae Polisner, Annmarie Kearney-Woods, Bonnie Millen, Harrison Huang, Mindy Deleary, Heather Ciccone, an unknown newcomer and I were already there to welcome Sal and the rest of the Sprinters as they completed their course (roughly in order of finish): Cathy Kabat, Vinny O’Shaughnessy, Rob Ripp, Lloyd Garten, Tim Sullivan, and Nancy Aboff. Sal then led the already high-spirited assemblage in the first-ever open-water beer toast (and, another first for me: beer for breakfast!), and we all swam back to the beach to prepare for the "season-ending party of parties" as Ken has dubbed it!

Shortly after 2:00, Pod members, accompanied by their spouses/partners/significant others/children/friends/and-in-some-cases-dogs, began to arrive at "The Carols’," bearing platters of food and goodies to augment the basic barbeque fare provided by the hostesses, and displaying unsuspected levels of culinary prowess – as well as other gifts and talents well hidden by those skimpy Speedos and bulky wetsuits! As our good friend and hugely talented singer-songwriter-guitarist Cathy Kreger (http://www.cathykreger.com) provided fabulous musical entertainment throughout the afternoon, Pod members Tim Sullivan and Bob Miller, along with Bonnie Millen’s partner Tim Peterson, joined Cathy on the stage (yes, we had a stage!), adding their harmonica/mandolin, banjo and guitar tracks to Cathy’s full-band sound for a rockin’ and rolling’ jam session that had the rest of the audience singing along like groupies!

Also hidden beneath Speedos and wetsuits -- and the real gift of this out-of-our element gathering: depths of conversation and insight not readily observed or shared "at the Buoy" or "at the Sailboat...." What was apparent in this gathering, as it has been for the last several years, is the deepening sense of community shared by the members of the ever-expanding Pod. We are a remarkably diverse, yet remarkably cohesive, group whose shared love of swimming and the open water has opened a pathway to a kinship that parallels that of many extended families....We were gathered to celebrate the end of summer, but more than that, the community and connectedness of the West Neck Pod!
September 23rd marks the Fall Equinox and the official end of summer, but the open-water-swimming season continues – for as long as we can tolerate the dwindling air/water temperatures! The fairest of us all have already hung up their wetsuits, but with the water temperature still in the high 60s and the air temperature in the mid-50s (with a promise of warmer weather in the week ahead), the 2011 open-water swimming season is still in full swing! If you haven’t joined us yet, there’s still time....See you in the Salt!

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