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, April 28, 2013

April Swimming -- The "New Normal"!

The last several days of consistently warmer weather had a predictably salutary effect on the water temperature in Cold Spring Harbor, as Gae Polisner and Marc Leahy discovered yesterday in their Saturday afternoon swim, and Paul Coster, Sharon Hochberg and I confirmed this afternoon when we eased into the now-nearly-50-degree water.  A brisk wind emanating from the south rather than the usual northwesterly direction, and a vaguely unfamiliar underwater landscape -- a remnant of Hurricane Sandy -- were the only unusual features of today's swim, as compared to the "weird" and "disorienting" swim Gae reported in yesterday's Facebook post. She and Marc had faced what she described as an oddly circular current swirling like an eddy on the surface, capped off by an encounter with an unidentifiable headless creature on the beach when they finally made their way back to shore....(https://www.facebook.com/WestNeckPod#!/WestNeckPod).  Happily, all of the creatures Paul, Sharon and I encountered today on the heavily populated beach had heads, most of which were turned incredulously in our direction as we swam back and forth between the fenceline and the dock....Joining the many sun-seekers on the beach today were Pod cheerleaders Marc Leahy and his five-month-old baby Matthew (whose open-water debut we expect imminently!), Sharon's husband Mark, Gae and Carole (accompanied by our three French bulldogs), who walked the beach as we swam, and Joye Brown, whose puttering in the garden kept her from joining us in the Salt....

Paul dithering on the beach

Carole with Frenchies, and Paul, Sharon and I in the Salt

At the end of what turned out to be a glorious swim, Paul proclaimed himself ready to shed booties and gloves for our next open-water outing, which, if the weather holds, should be next weekend!  Carole and I will be riding in the 5-Borough Bike Tour next Sunday, so I'll be looking to swim on Saturday -- with booties and gloves -- but I predict that next weekend, too, there'll be swimmers hitting the Salt both days...and I'm sure I'll see you there before long! 

(Many thanks to Gae Polisner, who took all of the photos and video posted here!)

Sunday, April 21, 2013

"Spring Fling" -- Open-Water Style!

The air temperature was barely 47 degrees and a cold, stiff wind was blowing across the harbor, wafting away what little warmth the early afternoon sunshine was spreading over the tiny group of swimmers huddling in the parking lot, hemming and hawing about whether to go through with our planned 1:00 swim. Gae Polisner and Annmarie Kearney-Wood were on phone alert, waiting for our reports, while Paul Coster, Sharon Hochberg, Kaitlyn Pawlukojc and I shook our heads at the unbelievably low numbers my laser thermometer was reporting as we aimed it at the water's edge (no, I won't even bother to repeat them here...).  I recounted Annmarie's description of last weekend's swim, when taking her face out of the icy water into the equally icy air gave no relief, and a consensus quickly formed that perhaps next weekend would be a better time to swim -- especially for newbie Kaitlyn who, although the proud owner of a new full wetsuit she was aching to try out, was barefoot and barehanded.  We tossed our regrets back and forth for a while, consoled by Bonnie Millen, her friend Joan, and Paul's daughter who had come to watch, Rob Todd having already left when he realized there wasn't going to be much of a show.  Paul disappeared for a few moments then suddenly reappeared, all decked out in his wetsuit and goggles, proclaiming in his clipped British accent that he was "going in after all because, well, somebody should, shouldn't they?" 

Of course they should...but they shouldn't go alone...so in the end, Paul, Sharon and I flung ourselves (well, minced, really) into the water and had a glorious time of it.  The water, while not exactly "balmy" as Paul had predicted (he being a little balmy himself, I suspect), was not nearly as cold as we all had feared, and Paul and I swam easily to the dock and back while the gloveless Sharon stayed closer to shore, then Paul made another round trip, unwilling to get out.  As always, I was glad for having overcome my resistance and grateful to Paul for having inspired me -- I really would have regretted it if I'd stayed on shore and watched him cavorting like a seal. 

P.S., Don't tell Gae and Annmarie -- they'll hate that they missed this...!

See you in the Salt next weekend!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Spring hopes eternal....

Gae and Annmarie at WNB for an April swim
Spring officially arrived nearly a month ago but Winter’s chill still lingers in the air...and the water -- the temperature of which has been creeping up far more slowly than the now abundant Spring flowers. Despite the unseasonably cool temperatures, though, the West Neck Polar Pod has proclaimed the 2013 Open-Water-Swimming Season officially open, with what has now become weekly open-water swims! The next immersion is planned for Sunday, April 21st, at 1:00 p.m., when it is hoped that the water will have warmed even more from its current 45 degrees! Pod-hardies are invited to join us, but unless you’re Canadian (hi, Rob!) -- or one of the CIBBOWS crew that swim year-round in just bathing suit, cap and goggles -- full wetsuits, double caps, and insulated booties and gloves are highly recommended! Cheerleaders, spectators and gawkers are also welcome!

Of concern to all of us now and when the season does finally get into full swing is the vast amount of debris dredged into the water by the unprecedented tidal surges caused by Hurricane Sandy – including houses, boats, docks, refrigerators, hot tubs, oil tanks and god-knows-what. Now, more than ever, we will need to be vigilant about what’s in, on and under the water...

Speaking of safety, if you don’t already have your "SaferSwimmer" Flotation Buoys, you can purchase yours directly by emailing WestNeckPod@verizon.net. Or, if you prefer delayed gratification, you can still order your buoy by phone from the International Swimming Hall of Fame, which produces and promotes these potentially life-saving devices. Be smart...be safe! (For more information, visit the ISHOF website at http://www.ishof.org/safety/ssd.htm.)

For those of you who haven’t heard, the Third Annual Huntington/Cold Spring Harbor 1- and 2-Mile Swim (a/k/a "The West Neck Swim") will take place on Sunday, June 23rd at West Neck Beach. The registration site is not on-line yet, and we are still working on updating our website and Facebook page, but keep checking for details – whether you plan to swim, spectate, or volunteer! (http://westneckswim.com/; https://www.facebook.com/WestNeckSwim).

"Team West Neck Pod" with its commemorative plaque
And while you have your calendars out, Saturday, August 10th is the date of the annual "Sound-to-Cove" Swim Across America, when hundreds of open-water swimmers will be swimming 1/2 mile, 1 mile, 5K or 10K distances to raise money for local cancer research. Last year, 15 members of the West Neck Pod swam a 5K as part of "Team West Neck Pod" and raised more than $19,000 to fight cancer. With many of our Pod members being cancer survivors themselves, and nearly all of us having lost friends, family members or co-workers to this disease, this fight is PERSONAL! This year, we hope to double the size of our Team as we continue to fight cancer, stroke by stroke by stroke. Join our team or donate at: http://www.swimacrossamerica.org/site/TR/OpenWater/NassauSuffolkteam_id=4570&pg=team&fr_id=1956.

For years, Pod members have talked about having an informal "Introduction to Open-Water-Swimming" workshop for swimmers who are new to the open water, and who could benefit from the experience and advice of seasoned open water swimmers. If you are interested in participating in such a workshop (at your own risk, of course!), either as a "newbie" or a mentor, send an email to westneckpod@verizon.net. Who knows, if there’s enough interest, this could be the year we make it happen!

Oh...and Happy Birthday to Huntington Masters Swimmers ("HUMS") team leader and blogographer Mike Engel!  

See you in the Salt!