The water today at Avila was the warmest feeling I’ve run into so far this year! Niel wasn’t there to measure the temperature but it felt like it was in the high 50′s, maybe even nipping at 60! Hopefully that holds for this weekend’s swim. From the beach the water was looking pretty smooth and even though there were pelicans fishing that was the only animal action I saw today.

The beach was packed today but we were only 4 swimmers deep. We decided to aim for about a mile. The plan was to do the triangle (down the buoy line, to the top of the pier, to the end of the other side of the buoy line, and then back to the pier). We got in on the left hand side of the pier and then swam under to take on the right hand side of the buoy line first. The deeper we get into summer the more fisherman we have to deal with… swimming near the pier is starting to get a little hairier. I’ve almost been caught once, I have no desire to actually get hooked.

We held a pretty mellow pace through the whole swim and regrouped at all the turns. It was beautiful day to just float around in the ocean, too bad we all have jobs because we could have easily spent all day out there in that water!

Tomorrow I’ll be in the office all day so no lunch time swim for me… not sure where I’m going to get my swim in tomorrow. Going to start figuring that out now!

the last 10 yards...

It had to happen eventually right? After a last minute reschedule (we were supposed to do this last week on Thursday but I had a mini emergency to attend to), we were finally back in action today at the pool in Santa Maria. We did about 1000 yards worth of warm up and then got down to some lap swim showdown business!

Since it was a 125 and there were no blocks on our lanes today we started from the far end of the pool. It kind of sucks to have to dive in from the gutter for a race, but you gotta work with what you’ve got. I felt ok off the start but no where near as good as what I get off the blocks. Me and Mike held pretty even for the first 75 yards or so. On the fourth lap I started to pull away a little bit… on the last lap I built on that and finally won one of these little races! Super stoked! Here’s the video…

So the good news is I won one! Yay! The bad news is that generally speaking Mike is a much better swimmer than I am and this just lit a big fire under his ass. I have a feeling he’s going to bring it when we throw down on the 150!

So I’m on the USMS homepage today! Woah! If you’ve seen me out at Open Water events playing with cameras a little too much, this is what I was up to… I hope you guys dig it! It covers the 1 Mile Champs in North Carolina, 1-3 Mile Champs in California, and 3-6 Mile Champs in Colorado.

trying to sight through the fog

Normally my Avila swims are planned out on the beach based on what the day looks like but today a couple of us showed up with an actual plan! Weird right? About a month back a couple of us decided to use this weekend to swim what we call the Martini swim. It’s a swim to the end of the Avila Pier, out to the end of the Cal Poly (formerly UnoCal) Pier, across to Avila Rock and back to the Avila Pier. All told it’s about 2.4 miles. It’s far enough off shore that this is the kind of swim we would only do with Kayak support and Niel was cool enough to be our paddler today. What we actually did was a little bit different because the fog was real thick this morning and you couldn’t actually see most of the navigation points. So instead our route followed the pattern below…

our Martini looked more like a tulip

Before we got going I spent a little time in the water by myself just to acclimate a bit. The water was 53 today and my plan was to go sans wet suit. I was a little worried about how long I could hang in those conditions so I let it be known I might bail half way through when we came back to the Avila Pier.

me on the beach before the swim

today's swim crew

We started with 7 swimmers and swam out to the buoy line and then under the pier to the end of the buoy line on the right hand side of the pier. At this point 4 swimmers made their way for the end of the Avila pier while Me, Duke and my teammate Matt from CVMM who was visiting for the weekend swam out to the end of the Poly Pier. I’ve swam to this pier before but never to the end of it… it’s long dude! As you’re swimming it doesn’t really look that far, but then you just keep never getting there. Matt and Duke were keeping a pretty decent pace and I was a little behind the whole way. I’m still pretty beat up and tired from all my traveling and couldn’t quite hang with them. Plus they had that fun neoprene advantage that I didn’t which peels a few seconds off every hundred meters.

view down the Poly Pier

Duke, Matt, and Myself at the end of the Poly Pier

By the time we hit the end of the pier and regrouped I was starting to feel pretty good. I think I’m more built for cold water than hot. The longer I was in the stronger I got. After hanging out for a few minutes we made a line back to the Avila Pier. On this leg I was a little closer to Duke, but Matt was really laying it down and had a pretty good lead on the both of us.

on our way to the Avila Pier

At the Avila pier we had quite a few people staring at us wondering where on earth we had just come from. It’s not so often people swim up to the pier from that angle out of the fog! At this point Matt had to bail to get back to his family that let him sneak out for a bit to go play in the ocean with us.

Matt from CVMM

After a little internal deliberation I decided I wanted to finish the martini swim. I was doing ok with the cold and my shoulder was holding together just fine so I figured I might as well go for it. I think this re-energized Duke a little bit because he wasn’t really looking forward to doing that next big chunk all by himself.

me and Duke on the way to Avila Rock

Duke on his way to the rock

From the pier to the rock is the longest leg of the swim. I’m a right side breather and Duke breathes to the left so Niel parked the Kayak right in between us. At this point me and Duke were holding essentially the same pace and holding a really similar line since we were using Niel for navigation at this point. Although you could kind of see the rock it was pretty enshrouded in fog.

The rock is surrounded by a big kelp bed so our plan was to swim up to the kelp and stop. I really dislike swimming over kelp so I was a big fan of this plan. We stopped here for a bit to refuel. I asked Duke if he wanted to keep going to Pismo (another like 5 miles), it didn’t go over so well :)

ok ok, we won't swim to Pismo ;)

kelp surrounding the rock, plus a bonus bird of some sort

Looking back to the beach from the rock you really couldn’t see too much. Another wave of fog had rolled in towards the beach and was blocking our view. We needed to rely on Niel again to make sure we went the right direction. He angled us towards the buoy line and then down the buoys back towards the pier. At the last buoy he pointed us back towards shore and he paddled away to the part of the beach you’re allowed to land a kayak at. Me and Duke swam pretty much stroke for stroke all the way back to the beach until we were in water shallow enough to stand up in.

By our math the way we did the swim today probably added up to around 2.6 miles, not bad for a Sunday training swim! I had a lot of fun and Duke enjoyed himself too. I’m really glad we had Niel available to paddle for us! Next on my agenda for a big local swim is Pismo to Avila (10k), I really need to look seriously at some dates… hmmm

yay for Niel kayaking!

can't wait to get back out!

much better, one friend told me I look like a happy bearded seal

The last couple days haven’t exactly gone my way so I was a little grumpy today. I missed my swim on Thursday and I really needed something to break me out of my funk. I decided to solve this with cold salt water, it seems to solve all problems.

I ran down to the beach at lunchtime and got in the water next to the pier. I wanted to shoot for one of the buoys that they put out there a little while ago but they’re pretty small and essentially impossible to see from in the water. After walking out a ways and getting used to the water temp (57?) I swam out maybe 300m. Played in the surf out there for a little bit and then sprinted in through the waves.

600ish meters isn’t exactly a big swim, but it was exactly what I needed. When I got out I had to make a beeline to the office and get back to work. I spent the rest of my workday a little salty but happy :)

kelp forest escapee

Pismo as seen from the sea

view towards the pier

on the way into the ocean

awesome day to play at the beach

this felt very comic-book-tastic to me (yes I manipulated the colors a bit)

Today was absolutely perfect. I really needed to go get cold and salty today and I couldn’t have asked for a better evening to do it. Even though fog was creeping up on the coast it hadn’t entered out little bay. The sun was shining, the water was really flat, and the temps were supposedly all the way up to 58! Can’t beat that!

We had a few new faces out in the water today, one had actually come all the way up from Santa Barbara to visit and get in a swim with us! He’d seen either this website or my SwimAvila.com website and decided to make the trek up. Very Cool.

I was the first guy to step into the ocean and the last one to start swimming. Even though the water was (relatively) warm, it was still pretty cold at first! Once I made the plunge and got all the way wet it only took me maybe 300m to warm up and get happy. We stopped at the first buoy to make sure we had everyone since this was the first time out for half the group and then we made moves for the end of the buoy line. From there it was to the top of the pier.

At the pier I hung out for a pretty long time as the last couple dudes came in. I spent that time looking out at the other side of the pier to see what was going on. There were some boats parked out that way which was odd, and then a big splash! I hate big splashes! Eventually I figured out it was just a pelican. Phew. We regrouped and 2 guys swam in while the rest of us swam to the end of the right side of the buoy line. The deeper into the swim we got the better I felt. I picked up speed along the way and wasn’t getting any pain in my shoulders. At the buoy when we stopped I saw a big seal surface a couple times maybe 50m from us. I tried to get a picture, but he was very photographically elusive.

We decided to swim all the way under the pier and come in on the same side we started from. Once I swam under the pier I opened it up and broke into a bit of a sprint just to burn off my excess energy. I think I move faster in cold water… we need to have some of these big meets in sub 60 degree water just to give me a leg up :)

Tomorrow I’m back in the pool and racing Mike across 125 yards of fly and I’m hoping to arrange some sort of ocean swim on Friday, but I’m not sure if that’s a go or not yet.

under the sea

intervals? how do those work again?

I haven’t been in actual pools very much recently, by my count this is only the 4th time this month I’ve swam in a body of water with lane lines and a visibility greater than 2 1/2 feet! When I got out I could actually smell the chlorine on me! Luckily I’ll be back in the ocean tomorrow to wash that off :) I have to admit it was good to get back in the pool just so I could focus on what I’m doing with my stroke. No variables to worry about like waves and current, just focusing on my own swimming.

Luckily most of that discomfort I was having at the race in Colorado seems to have mellowed out. I took it pretty easy today and never really got going all that fast. Even if I wanted to I don’t think it was going to happen. I’m pretty wiped out physically from all the traveling and racing. Hopefully I can sneak in a fast 125 on Thursday though, it’s the next stop on my summer of fly showdown with Mike! Anyways, here’s today’s workout:

200 swim
200 kick
200 pull

8 x 100 free IM @1:40

Repeat x 4
4 x 25 3 fly, 1 free @:30, :35, :40, :45 by round

12 x 100 free @ 1:30
(I did 1-2, and 6-12… in the middle I did my own thing for a bit just to work on my stroke)

3000 prescribed, about 2800 actually swam by me

I let my camera run at various points throughout the workout so I can review the tape at home and see what I’m doing with my arms. All the footage I got today was head on at about water level. I’m going to have to come up with some good ways to get it from other angles for a fuller picture or my stroke.

I think I’ll have 3 open water workouts this week (Wednesday, Friday, Sunday), and one more in the pool that will mainly revolve around a butterfly race. It’s probably going to add up to a lot of distance, but nothing too fast (save 125 yards) so I can kind of actively recover from the first big chunk of my open water tour.

I got a troubling e-mail from my friend Patrick today, his Rob Aquatics suit has gone missing!  … who manages to take a zebra printed speedo without noticing? I mean really? And if it was an intentional boosting of a banana hammock, um, it kinda stands out in a crowd so you may not be the world’s greatest criminal mastermind… just sayin’ :)
Anyways, here’s Patrick’s note to me from earlier today (shared with his permission)
Subject: Great Tragedy!

Rob,
After touting the virtues of my “Rob Aquatics” zebra suit the worst thing possible that could happen, happened! After turning my back briefly, ( tee hee! ) someone relived me of my prized possession.
My depression knows no bounds, please tell me that the limited edition “Rob Aquatics” specialty zebra suits are replaceable. If so PLEASE tell me how. Going to the pool has just lost its appeal.
Your deeply depressed swimming friend,
Patrick McGinley
Rose Bowl Aquatics
This is indeed a dark day for obnoxious swim suits. Unfortunately my secret stash is out of Pat’s size, but the good news is Splish was nice enough to put the design up for sale on their site! Men’s suits are available here and ladies suits over here. Pat’s replacement is already en route and our story has a happy ending.
If you’re a fan of the blog it would make me happy on the inside if you had a Rob Aquatics suit, but if it’s not your speed Splish has a lot of other cool suits to check out and they do custom suits if you want a fancy suit that’s all your own.

**Results for the 6k are now posted here

2 swimmers battling it out around a buoy

This morning I ventured out to Lake Water Valley just a little bit south of Fort Collins to hit up the USMS 3-6 Mile Open Water Championships. The race of the day was a 6k which isn’t really too much shorter than last week’s 4.4 Mile Chesapeake Bay Swim. I was a little worried not about the distance, but the general disposition of my shoulders. Towards the end of the Bay swim I started grinding a bit in my shoulders and I was worried that would return here. I had only swam maybe 1 mile since then because of a pool closure and travel time so I hadn’t really tested it out since that race. I was a little worried/curious about the difference swimming at altitude would have as well, but I don’t think it had too much of an impact on me… I’m just hoping this high altitude training helps me in my 125 yard fly race against Mike in my lap swim showdown later this week :)

meet staff getting prepped

When I got to the lake there was maybe only 10-15 people there. I wasn’t exactly sure how long it would take me to get there from my hotel so I erred on the side of too early. I took an opportunity to walk around and check out the lake and the little community that it’s set at the middle of. You basically have what I’m assuming is a man made lake with a island in the middle which is basically a small park. There were houses and condos being built on the far side of the lake and golf course on the near side. After a while people started to show up and at 8 they opened up check in. Pretty standard fare, numbered cap, goody bag and a body marking station. The one thing they did that was kind of interesting was stencil your number on you with big thick lines. One on your upper arm at the shoulder and one on your back. They put them all on the right side and I think that was because we were swimming a clockwise course, this way the official could read your number from shore. They posted an official at each buoy in a lawn chair to make sure we were all good kids and staying inside the course.

lake shore reflected in my goggles

As we got closer to 9 I made sure to go get in the water just to get used to what the lake felt like. Despite announcements of 70 degree water temps, I’m not buying it. It felt like 66-68 tops. The visibility in the lake was maybe 4 feet through the water, but there was a lot of tiny pieces of stuff floating around in it. I didn’t really swim swim while out there I just floated until they called us in for the pre race briefing.

At the start of the race the plan was to break it into 3 waves: Men under 45, Men 45 and over, and Women. I think the race was small enough they could have shot us all off at the same time together, but I will say this is probably the first open water race I’ve done with virtually no contact with another swimmer. I was in that first wave and well… most of it smoked me off the start. I was coming into this thing pretty fatigued and there wasn’t a whole lot of pep in my step that first lap. It also didn’t help when swimmers from the 2nd and 3 waves (each wave was 1:00 apart) started rushing past me. I knew there were and would be plenty of people behind me, but all I was seeing were the feet of all the fast kids.

buoy number 1

The way to the first buoy was reasonably easy to sight, but the 2nd buoy was essentially impossible. It was a long way to that next buoy and you just couldn’t see it. You basically had to guess and then course correct once you got close enough to actually see it. This course definitely could have used some intermediary buoys! The other exciting part of this leg of the course was it got really shallow down closer to the buoy. On that first lap I actually ran aground! Like on my belly with my hands straight out and feet in the air! Whoops! At least I wasn’t the only one, everyone I talked to at least got a few handfuls of sand in the course of each lap. The next leg was a little more guessing as to where the buoy was. Once you got about half way there you could actually see it. From there it was a straight shot to the bridge, which was very easy to see, and basically rinse repeat x 4.

The first lap was basically me finding my rhythm. I got pretty steady in lap number 2 and more sure of where I was going, but I was definitely feeling some grindage in the shoulder… not good so soon. At the first buoy on round 3 I stopped to eat a gu packet real quick. I grabbed the camera while I was at it and snapped a few pics/videos. While hanging at that buoy I saw my buddy Chris from the US Swim Foundation go cruising by… holy crap… I was getting lapped already. That was a bit of a wake up call. I stuffed my gu packet wrapper in my suit and started to make moves to the the next far away magical mystery buoy. I still wasn’t setting the world on fire, but I did catch a few people that were starting to run out of steam. On the way to the 3rd buoy on lap 3 I did like 4-500m of 1 armed fly drill. My shoulder was really getting pissed off at me and I needed to just move it a different direction for a while. Funny thing is I think I was going faster doing 3 strokes on each side!

The last lap was all a blur… my body was hurting, but I was running of the anticipation of actually being done! I think I’ve decided that I much prefer point to point swims, doing laps kinda sucks. You see the finish over and over again but you’re never done. I like being out in the middle of nothing knowing that the only way to go is to the finish because there’s no bailout point. Once I passed under the bridge for the last time I tried to launch into a bit of a gallop. I wanted to at least finish fast. I definitely went faster than I had been going, but I don’t know that it would actually classify as fast. The finish was in water and to not much fan fare. Those that were done were wandering around on the beach and in the parking lot and there were still a fair number of people in the water. On the beach I caught up with my friends Evan (read his race report here) and Chris who were both dressed and dried off already… each one was a national champion in their respective age groups for the second time this year! By the time I looked at a watch it was a little after 11 so I knew I at least kept my swim under 2 hours. I didn’t know what my actual time was, but I at least beat my secret goal time that I was keeping to myself until I beat it :)

random swimmer en route to the finish

About an hour later we got into awards and I got 2nd in my age group out of what appears to have been 3 guys total. No idea how I did overall though. People swam anything between 1:16 to 3:00, I came in around 1:54. Again not that fast, but considering the schedule I’ve been keeping I’ll take it!

After the race I went out to lunch with a group of 5 others which was a lot of fun for me. Besides Chris everyone at the table was new to me,  but swimming being the small world it is we all had friends in common. One even roomed with my coach at Nationals! When we were done there I made my way to downtown Denver. I figure my flight doesn’t leave until late tomorrow so I might as well stay in the middle of everything. First order of business was de-pond-scum-ifying myself and contemplating what to do about the super awesome cap line burned onto my head. With as much time as I spend swimming outdoors I thought I was impervious to that kind of stuff, but apparently not. Good thing I brought a hat! My hotel is right on the 16th Street Mall and I went wandering for a while on foot. I walked all the way down to the Capitol building and stumbled into the middle of a Gay Pride Festival. A little unexpected, but kinda fun. There were tons of people all dressed up, lots of music, people speaking, and it was a really beautiful day here in Denver (even if it was a little too hot for me). Tomorrow I’m going to bum around town for a while and then split for the airport in the afternoon. My next official race isn’t until July 10th and I think that’s a good thing. My body is pretty beat up and needs a moment to itself to recover.

View of the Capitol from my walk


Name: Bill Ireland
City and State: Venice, California
Age Group: Young Adult (50-54)
Team Affiliation: SCAQ, in West Los Angeles, Culver City and Santa Monica, CA. .

How long have you been swimming in Masters & why did you decide to join?

I started swimming Masters when I was in law school in about 1982, with SCAQ—and nearly 30 years later, I am still swimming with the same group, some of the same coaches and swimmers over all those years, but mostly not. Its hard to remember why I started—I think I was just in the habit of swimming for exercise when I was in law school and I followed some friends to SCAQ. Clay Evans and Bonnie Adair were great coaches and I stuck with them—and it. I’m sure both have wished I had wandered off sometime but I haven’t.

What kind of swimming background do you have?

I was a mediocre high school swimmer and water polo player in San Diego, after being an age group swimmer for La Mesa Swimming Association. I chose to go to a DIII school(Pomona College), where I swam and played water polo. I was better at persevering than performing. I guarded and coached water polo during the school year, and was a beach lifeguard for San Diego City for about 5 summers. I started to compete in open water competitions during my years of guarding, along with swimming the La Jolla Roughwater as an age grouper.

Where do you swim and how often? Do you compete? If you do compete what are your favorite events to swim?

I probably workout 4 to 6 times a week year round, mostly in the pool but I get in the ocean with friends regularly. This last year we managed to swim year round in the local ocean. I compete pretty extensively (but not very successfully) in open water swims, starting in my age group and guarding days. I’ve done a lot of open water races over the last 40 years–I counted and I’ve swum 100 races outside easy driving distance of Southern California—Hawaii, Bermuda, Fiji, Oregon, Ohio, Florida, New York, Maryland, Boston Lighthouse, etc. I’ve done more in Southern California, of course. I do some pool competitions as well, and have swum in about 5 or 6 USMS nationals, and the Stanford worlds. I’m not very good but I’ve had some successes in different places. I do have a lot of swim t-shirts filling my closets.

How does Swimming help you with your lifestyle (health, relationships, etc.)?

It helps me to stay more focused, energetic and relaxed. If I don’t get a chance to swim or get some form of exercise, I’m pretty miserable company. I also have a lot of friends from swimming, which is hard to explain to people who don’t swim. It’s not hard to explain that I have friends—it’s hard to explain why it’s fun to swim with others—and hard to swim by myself.

What do you do for a living out of the pool?

I’m a lawyer—which is pretty common on our masters team for some reason. Sometimes it seems like everyone in our lane is a lawyer.

What do people (coworkers, friends) say when you tell them that you are a masters swimmer?

Huh is the usual answer. The subject usually comes up when I mention that I have done some open water swim race or I am trying to explain how funny it was when our lane leader misunderstood what the coach wanted us to do or when I’m trying to explain why I seek out Masters teams when I’m on the road to swim with(I’ve swum with a lot of different masters teams. I sometimes count things when I’m stuck with nothing to do—and I think I figured out that I had swum with at least 60 different teams—and I thank all of them for letting me join in). Or they ask what was the coldest water I have swum in (53)—and they look at me as if I’m nuts.

How about swimming advocacy? Have you helped run or start a team? Are you involved with your LMSC? Do you have a blog or swimming website you’d like to share?

I’ve done some fill-in coaching and I think I was a non-attending Board member for my masters team in the past, but nothing significant.

Anything else that you want to share? Have a great swimming story? Are you a record holder in your age group? Swimming tips?

I’m the last person to ask for tips—I have pretty terrible technique and habits. I’ve never held a record in any age group and don’t see that changing anytime soon.

One of my favorite swim stories is the first time I did the Waikiki Roughwater Swim—I’d reached the second and final turn buoy. I was being hit in both sides of the head by two swimmers—and I realized that I recognized both of them. I had Pat Dixon, a long-time swimming friend hitting me on one side, and Parks Wesson, another long time swimming friend hitting me on the other side. Both are guys I train with regularly. I realized that we probably could have stayed home, had the same experience and saved some money. But I was still glad we had gone. Both beat me to the finish by the way—something that happens with some regularity.

A big thank you to Bill for submitting a swimmer profile for the site! If you want to read more about other Masters Swimmers check out the Swimmer Profile section of the site. – Rob D.