Team Affiliation: Shawangunk Masters Swimming Association (SMSA)
First off, congrats on an amazing season! Not only did you complete the triple crown of open water swimming in just one season, you swam a bunch of other marathon swims as well! Did you originally plan to do this much swimming or did it just kind of keep growing as you went on with your season?
Thank you. My ’10 season plan developed over the course of 2009 and 2010. I swam a relay with Patricia Sener at Tampa Bay in ’09 and noticed that a bunch of the solo swimmers had English Channel attempts scheduled for the same season. A couple of months later, I met Penny Palfrey and Antonio Arguelles at MIMS; Antonio was planning to complete his second round of the Triple Crown for his 50th birthday and Penny, well Penny is just amazing. She routinely bangs out a few crazy swims each year… so here was my inspiration for the Triple Crown + Tampa Bay. I decided to organize a Maui Channel swim as a way to celebrate the start of 2010 OW season with Terry Laughlin and Willie Miller. We swam an English Channel relay on Sept 19, 2009 together, and were all going to be working a Total Immersion open water camp in Kona, so it seemed like the logical thing to book a pilot and go for a little swim together. The Boston Light swim was something I have always wanted to do, but shorter events (perennial favorites) always seemed to get in the way. This seemed like a “last chance cold water swim” before heading to Dover, and since the water in NY was high 70′s – 80 degrees, I felt like it would be the best choice. Some swimmers thought it was too close to my English Channel window, but I would be doing training swim of that length anyway…. and I would keep it under control, not going all out anyway. It was a great day and such a joy to spend it with my CIBBOWS peeps! Just before the Boston Light Swim, I noticed that there was an opening for the Ederle Swim…. again, something I always wanted to do, and since I was carrying around an extra bit of insulation, thought… no time like the present.
at Coney Island before the CIBBOWS Veterans Day 5k
What kind of swim background do you have? How long have you been focusing your efforts on open water?
I swam competitively in high school grades 9 – 11. We had a rather unimpressive program and a 4 lane 20 yard pool. I worked as a NYC lifeguard for 5 years and learned to love swimming in the ocean, competed (not serious though) in about a dozen triathlons in the early 80′s… I was racing bicycles at the time as well. I began swimming with the Gunks masters in 1998 and began establishing my summer OW tour a year or two later, constantly building and looking for more swims to fit in. In 2008, I swam 24 OW events and broke 50 miles. Last year was more ambitious still:
April 18 Tampa Bay Marathon (2 person relay w/ Patricia Sener)
May 23-24 The Great Travis Trek 64 mile relay in austin (w/ Keith Bell,
Robert Alford, Lynne Smith, Chris Derks and Chuck Wiley)
June 14 The Chesapeake Bay Swim 4.4 mi
June 20 The Mashpee Super Swim 5k (cape cod)
June 26 Liberty Island 2k (manhattan)
June 27 The Aquarium 5k (coney island)
July 11 2mi USMS National Championship (canandaigua, ny)
July 25 The Kingdom Swim 10 mi (Lake Memphremagog vt)
August 1 Golden Gate 1.5 mile
August 2 Cruz Cruise 2 mile (santa cruz)
August 8 Island Beach 2 mi (greenwich ct)
August 9 Grimaldo’s Mile (coney island)
August 15 2mi USMS Cable Championship (lake placid, ny)
Sept 4 Governors Island 2mi (manhattan)
Sept 5 Lake Quassy, CT (3 races; 5 miles)
Sept 6 John Daly Mile (long beach)
Sept 19 English Channel Relay (w/ Terry Laughlin, Willie Miller)
Sept 26 Little Red Lighthouse 5.85 mi (manhattan)
Oct 17 Golden Gate to Bay Bridge 10k (SF)
Oct 21-25 Highland Lakes Challenge 5 lakes, 5 days about 15 miles. (Austin)
(can you see how me and Dave might get along? :) – Rob D)
Swimming around Manhattan
How do you prep your body for a season like this? What does a typical workout look like for you?
I swim with my masters club 5-6 days/week, and practices range from 60 – 120 minutes. My lane averages between 3500 – 5000 yds per practice which is usually a mix of swim/kick/pull stuff. I prefer long aerobic sets with tight intervals, and when I swim on my own, I tend to do mind-numbing sessions like 60 x 150 on 2:00; 180 x 25 fly on 30 sec; 8 x 1000 on 14 min …. stuff like that. I rarely have anyone join me for those sessions. (most people just shake their heads in disgust). I have been averaging between 30,000 and 50,000 yds per week for the past couple of years. Once the water warms above 50 degrees a few of us start the OW sessions. We have a couple of beautiful lakes nearby that permit swimming in small areas for a limited summer season…. other times, we poach. The Hudson River is not too far away and this year, I managed to do a couple of long sessions between Beacon and Poughkeepsie including my six hour English Channel qualifier the water was between 57 and 60 that day… windy too.
Besides the mandatory qualifying swims (4 hr for MIMS, 6 hr for the EC) I included at least one day per week of 12,000 – 15,000 yards except for the week before a marathon. I am fortunate to know a bunch of other swimmers that were training for the long ones this season as well, and we kept the communication lines open. Whenever any one of us was planning a extended practice, there was a pretty good chance that we would have company, and that makes the session much easier and keeps one honest.
Dave and I on the beach
To do this many swims that were this long so close together blows my mind, what is your post swim recovery process?
I was pleasantly surprised to find the recovery was pretty easy. After the long ones, it seemed like I was useless for three days, but after that, I could swim a normal workout again… though a bit slower. I actually think it would be possible to squeeze these swims even closer, like maybe a two week spread between swims. I found the process to recover/rest/build up/taper a bit confusing to both my mind and body. There are such conflicting theories about this amongst my friends and swim gurus… in the end, I just had to satisfy my work ethic and err on the side of more=better. It is likely that some of these swims could have been swum faster given more rest, but I need an outlet for my nervous energy.
having a zen moment in the Atlantic... in December
I know this is a hard question to answer, but which swim turned out to be your favorite this year?
It would be negligent not to share some joyous moments of each of these seven swims, so briefly:
1.MAUI: A cloudless day, humpback whales on the boat ride out to Lanai, bluest of blue water, nearly five hours of swimming in formation and often in perfect sync with my training partners Terry Laughlin and Willie Miller, spinner dolphins (200 of them) auditioning for sea-world on the ride back to the harbor.
2.TAMPA BAY: Casual, low pressure. Got to hang out with Jim Meier and Terry and meet Craig Lenning , and Darren Miller. I did a few training swims with Jim after that (including the 6 hour Hudson swim). I would see Craig again at MIMS and he and Darren would go on to swim the EC. It was great to hang out post swim at Whiskey Joe’s and compare notes for the rest of the season.
3.MIMS: It was wonderful to have so many swimmer friends gather in one place, and I had the added pleasure of introducing a few of them (Susie Dodds, Sakura Hingley, Amanda Hunt, Craig Lenning, Leticia Flores, Isabel Cantu) to Brighton Beach where a bunch of CIBBOWS friends came out to swim in the days leading up to the race.
4.CATALINA: OK, this was my favorite swim this season. The Outrider is quite a well equipped vessel… bunks to rest up on the way out, galley service for the crew, a hot shower after the swim; quite a contrast to all the other boats that guided me. I also had a large and supportive crew: John Humenik, Tobey Anne Saracino, Sharoz Makarechi, Harris Silver, Ian Hodgeson, kayakers Beth Barnes and Peter Phillips, and observers; Jim Fitzpatrick and Tom Hecker. Tobey, John and Harris swam with me a bunch. Jim and Tom were incredibly supportive and stayed really focused on the details throughout the nearly 16 hour ordeal. It really felt like a team effort.
5.BOSTON LIGHT: CIBBOWS had a huge presence at the Boston Light this year, and it was great to spend the weekend with them. Greg O’Connor and Elaine Howley put on a great event. I will certainly be back to swim this one again. The day was sunny and perfect, the water was cold at the start, but warmed up to 62 I think. Some friends were advising me to stay away from this one as it was so close to my departure to Dover, but I wanted to get a cold swim in before I left and this was a perfect opportunity.
6.ENGLISH CHANNEL: The “scene” in Dover is something every open water swimmer should experience. From training in the harbor to the guest houses that cater to swimmers, there really is no other place like it. Freda Streeter and the beach crew are so supportive, and there are always swimmers around to dine with, talk shop, and even swim. The shared pre-swim, waiting for the go day, did you talk to your pilot daily drama adds to the collective suspense. Last year, I swam a relay with Terry Laughlin and Willie Miller and met a bunch of solo swimmers many who happened to swim on the same day we did after a long wait for the weather to clear. After we finished up at Cap Gris Nez, we stopped at all the boats to cheer for our friends, among them were Michael Solberg, Lance Ogren, Paul McQueeny, Lisa Cummins (on her way to a double), Mick Newton….. all made it that day!
7.EDERLE: I always wanted to do this one, and since I was (as Mo Siegel would say) “channel ready”, this seemed like the perfect time. The swim was delayed a week due to severe weather, and the temperature dropped. My pilot was taking readings of 55 – 56 degrees. I think it was more like 57 – 58, and certainly never above 60. This was more like a victory lap than a race for me, though I’m thrilled that all 10 swimmers finished. I believe this is the first time. Morty Berger and the NYC Swim folks really put on a good event that is logistically quite challenging.
Your Catalina Channel swim turned out to be pretty epically hard towards the end. What were you thinking in your head to keep it going once the ocean decided to dramatically increase the difficulty of your adventure?
Well, I knew there was the potential for a bit of epic, as the swimmers before me both left from the mainland, and right up to an hour before we left the marina, my pilot was unsure of which way we should swim. I’m glad we started at Catalina. I had such a great crew. When Suzie Dodds completed her swim in eighteen and a half hours, I said to Tobey, “I could never do that”. Her answer was something I kept in my head: “Yes you can, and if you have to, you will.” Tobey was in the water with me for about 6 hours total… at all the right moments: the start in the dark, the nosey shark incident, and the final push where she came out with another little gem; “Hey, lets go for a swim.” John, Tobey and Harris all joined me for the landing. Everyone would come on the deck during my feeds to shout out encouraging words… that really helped. I wasn’t keeping track of the time, but knew I was way past the expected 9 – 10 hour swim. As much as the currents thwarted me, I was fortunate to have comfortable water temps the whole time. It was 64 degrees at the start, dropped to 62 in the middle of the channel and went up to 67 by the finish… quite odd for the Catalina Channel.
With all the traveling I did this summer I was asked all the time if I was independently wealthy (which I’m not but would like to be!), I’m guessing with your even more dramatic than mine season you got the same line of questions. So to answer the question everyone has… what do you do to support all this marathon swimming?
Well, I’ve always been self employed, so the time off wasn’t much of an issue. I have a marble and granite fabrication shop, and the building business isn’t booming at the moment. I have no pets, no kids, no sports cars, no gambling addiction….. I guess what I’m trying to say is that Clare and I have made choices about the lifestyle we want to lead and we support each other’s ambitions. The cost of these swims does add up (I haven’t put a total $ amount together) but my year still cost less than a year’s tuition at an ivy league college…. a little perspective.
Dave swimming alongside kayaker Beth Barnes
What advice would you pass on for aspiring marathon swimmers like myself who want to graduate to major channel swims like you’re doing?
Stay healthy. Develop an efficient stroke that doesn’t cause you pain. Learn as much as you can about a swim… crew, swim a relay, be a support swimmer, read blogs. Plan early; many of these events book up far in advance. It is not unreasonable to commit to a swim before you are “channel ready”. Network, network, network.
Dave and SF Marathon Swimmer Suzie Dods
Where do you go from here? Now that you’ve knocked out the majority of the world’s most popular marathon swim targets what swims do you have your sights set on now? New channels? Far away lands? Any plans to revisit past conquests for a rematch?
I won’t rule out any rematches. Each of these swims have much appeal and I can’t imagine not revisiting any of them in the future. Now, having said that, I have a list that is quite long of channels, lakes and rivers that I need to explore… some well established swims with governing bodies, and some possible first assents….. stay tuned, I hope it will be a big year!