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!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

100 Days of Open-Water Swimming

We of the "West Neck Pod," who swim in the open waters of Long Island's north shore (mostly!), in the northeastern United States, are forever lamenting what is, to us, an unfairly short open-water swimming season. Like all open-water swimmers, we are subject to the whims and vicissitudes of Mother Nature and The Old Man of the Sea, who ultimately determine the "outer boundaries" of each year's open-water season.  We never know when the heavy curtain of winter will finally part, and our open-water season will begin, or when it will descend again, forcing us from the water until the next curtain call....For some of us, it is the "inner boundaries" that determine when we leave the open water and return to our local indoor pools, but I am one of those "outies" whose last day of open-water swimming is usually defined by the weather....When the air temperature is in the low 40s and the water temperature in the low 50s, and the wind that's whipping across the harbor feels icy on my exposed skin, and I know that I will find no pleasure in immersing myself in the icebath and stroking through the face-numbing cold, that is my signal that the season is truly over, and I reluctantly consign myself again to the chlorine...But it is always with regret, and I always wish that I could have had "just one more swim...." 
This season, it occurred to me to count how many "just one more" open-water swims my season actually encompassed.  Inspired by downhill skiiers' concept of a "perfect" skiing season of 100 days, I decided to make that my goal for 2011, and started counting with my first swim on May 27th. Today, October 22nd, was Swim #100 -- marking the completion of my "Perfect 100-Day Open-Water Swimming Season"!  Bonnie, Gae, Karen, Rob Ripp, Rob Todd, and Tim Sullivan joined me in the water, while Ken and Joye tracked us from the beach as we made our way from South Buoy to North.  Our tentative plans for a "Big Swim Across the Harbor" were quashed by the persistent westerly wind and whitecapped waves, but the chilly, 58-degree water temperature and 46 degree air temperature were otherwise no deterrent to this determined pod-let of other "outies," who were equally determined to see me achieve my 100th swim.  With the unusual and even dramatic weather of this season -- from Hurricane Irene to the rain-drenched August to the precipitous cold of early September, followed by October's relentless westerly wind, that swim was never a certainty, and I think we all were a little relieved that I made it!  Of course, now that I have, that doesn't mean my open-water swimming season is over! Tomorrow will be a day off for me (as I embark on my first-ever "Ziplining Adventure"), but I'll be back in the Salt next week -- weather permitting! ...By the way, although I seem to have been the only Pod member consciously counting swimming days, rumored sightings suggest that the evanescent "Pod-Father" Rob Martell has substantially exceeded the 100 number -- and he will certainly take the prize for longest open-water season, as his first swim was posted on May 15th and, as history suggests, he will continue to swim into December....! 
Next season....counting mileage??  See you in the Salt!


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* Thanks to Newsday, whose October 16th "Long Island Section" cover inspired the adaptation above, and to Kathy Wickham, who "Photoshopped" it into existence!

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