Countdown to the first day we can swim!

Monday, September 26, 2011

...And observer notes are up!!!

~31 miles later...


Back to MIT and starting my senior year. There is no greater feeling than to have been in Europe for a month, far removed from the stress and toilful life of being an MIT student. However, I am very glad to see everyone once again and a vacation was just what I needed to come back more focused.

In other news...OBSERVER NOTES ARE UP!! YAY!! Again the website is http://www.sealeopardcharter.com/2011/09/qing-li.html.

Some additional comments to supplement the observer notes (match my comments time noted by KO):

1. 19:03 Hesitation and reluctance in getting in water...I think, Anna Kokensparger would agree as well, that the worst part of any swim is first getting into cold water. Surprisingly, probably due to the nappy cream and vaseline, the water was not as frigid as I had originally expected. Also, in the grand scheme of things, what is 15 minute meandering to a 17-hour swim? 

2. 19:35 I made the dumb decision to wear a silicon cap. Unfortunately, my only latex cap a black MIT cap, which is difficult to spot through waves. Even though I stopped conditioning my hair the week leading up the swim, the cap still kept sliding around. Good thing was that the cap stayed on relatively well until the last 2 hours or so.

3. 20:45 For the record, I don't think I realized what sound the Klaxon made until much later in the swim. Since I was only concentrated on swimming, I apparently blocked out sounds from my mind. 

4. 00:25 Seaweed gave me quite a scare the first couple of times I swam into them. While the seaweed in Boston is much slipperier, the ones I hit in the Channel were stringy. I couldn't help myself from thinking of the times when Anna would say "eww it's hair!!"

5. 04:15 Happy and positive? Well, questionable. I tried not to let my doubts surface.

6. 05:55 The conditions were probably the worst that I had encountered the whole swim. With the strong winds and current, I was swept quite a distance down the Channel (see chart).

7. 11:25 I was rather confused as to why the dingy wasn't going in with me. And...I wasn't too happy about swimming back to the boat after landing. 

8. 11:50 I knew my pace was extremely slow. I didn't realized how slow it actually was until seeing the observer notes. The last 150 yard took ~10 mins? What?

9. Observer' note at end 
 (a) Keith gives me way too much credit. My preparation was full and complete only because I had amazing mentors through out this whole journey. As I had posted previously, I would not have been able to do this without the support of so many people, Stuart, Stuart, and Keith included!
(b) Point of information, I didn't have a printer at the hotel and had to hand copied my instruction/gear list 3 times. Let's just say it definitely did not help my wrist injury. 
(c) The cold afterwards was the worst feeling I had ever felt. I had mentioned in a previous post, when Mackenzie and Emma visited Boston, that trying to get warm was like microwaving a piece of frozen meat. Well, this felt like I was never going to warm up. Far from not being able to feel my fingertips and toes, my arms and legs were completely useless. My mom had to help me put on clothes and take off my suit. Because of the combination of feeling cold, relief, happiness, and gratitude, I started crying again. I know, lame right?



My name is officially on the White Horse Pub wall!

Anyways, it has been a year, one month, and twenty days since my first post and this will probably be my last post. I really hope you have enjoyed reading my adventures, learned something, and have been motivated to seize your own dreams. I had amazing fun. Again, thank you so much for the support!

Monday, August 29, 2011

As I touch French land...

There was nothing else I wanted to do more. But after 16 hours and 48 mins of hell, I LOVED every moment of it!!! Hard to believe, I know. Attempting this swim was 20% mental, 30% physical, another 20% mental, and 30% insanity.
I want to apologize for not posting on the blog earlier. I have been so overwhelmed with everyone's messages of congratulation. And rather than giving a blow by blow account of the 17 hr swim, I want to express my thanks to everyone who have helped me on this journey and give some highlights. The observer notes will be posted on the Sea Leopard website (www.sealeopardcharter.com). I will then put up another post on this blog that adds my thoughts and details if I feel it necessary.

So, first, as I have told some of you already, actually getting the opportunity to swim the English Channel is the cherry, the whipped cream, and the chocolate frosting of an amazing journey. This was a journey that allowed me learn and grow so much. However, despite the individual nature of swimming, I could not have imagined accomplishing this feat without the help of so many amazing people!! From big things (or for me, some huge things) such as the mental components to little details such as

footwear, I got great advice and words of encouragement from all over the world. It was the experience of a lifetime and a journey that I do not have words to even start to begin to describe.

Also, special thanks to my amazing crew. My captain Stuart, crewman, Stuart, and observer, Keith were amazing. They catered to all my needs, quite literally. Never having experienced such rough seas, my family and I put all faith in Stuart, Stuart, and Keith.


So, finally, in slightly non-sequential order, here are the highlights of my 2011 English Channel Crossing:


I want to begin and end with the finish because I believe this should be the part that is of greatest importance and should be, if all else is forgotten, remembered. I could not have imagined a better ending to the swim.

Just touching land before noon Friday August 26, the clouds and rain of the night before clears to reveal the red cliffs of Cape Gris Nez. I did not see the cliffs and light house until 2 hours before I landed. "Keep your head down, and get to france," Elaine had always said. So I did. As I strayed from the boat and headed into shallow waters, I closed my eyes, as I could see land on both sides by then. 20 paces, "ok I am in sheltered waters." Another 20 paces, "almost to the light house!" Land was just within arm's reach. As restaurant-goes wandered out to greet me and a seal willing joined me, the only thought on my mind was: solid ground never felt better.


Aside from the amazing landing, I probably saw the most amazing sunset of my life (this was unfortunately right before the weather took a turn for the worst, as if nature was mocking us). As the boat passed me slightly on my right, I saw the sunset behind the boat. The vividness of the red against the white cliffs of Dover was just as if I stepped into a National Geographic photo. I stopped to admire only for a few seconds, however, and turned my attention to the more pressing matter of getting across.

As many people know already, I have a terrible track record for swimming straight; this is mostly due to the fact that I swim with my eyes closed, or semi-closed. Well, unfortunately, in the middle of the English Channel, there are no lane lines to stop me from wondering away. Shortly after the sun dropped behind Dover, I got "a bit" confused. I took no less than 30 strokes in a circle and started to head back to Dover. I hypothesize that this was probably because of my predisposition to follow bright lights, like bugs. As I saw land off in the distance and my boat far away, I thought to myself, "where the hell am I?" and immediately following that, "oh...crap." Oops. I suppose it would not have been like me to not get lost at least one time during the swim. After this little incident, I switched to the right of the boat, so that the tide pushed me into the boat instead of away from the boat, and Stuart put a spotlight on me, so the crew could better see me.

The spotlight, perhaps, saved my life. Although I wore clear goggles from the beginning of the swim, because I have a tendency to swim with my eyes closed and the waves were so large, I had difficulty judging my distance from the boat, especially as the thunder clouds rolled in to create swells that made me, at times, think the boat might flip over on top of me. By shinning the light on me, I directed my focus and energy solely on trying to stay in the light. The pitch darkness of the water outside the light was Cold. Unfriendly. Fathomless. With the light, I washed away my thoughts of land, I forgot the bellowing wind, and I numbed my pain.

Throughout the swim, I was counting trees. "Treeing," a great piece of advice given by Coach Bill of MIT Master's swimming, is the idea triathletes use to forget about small things that go wrong during their race, and to channel all the negative thoughts into a tree. After passing that tree, they will forget about those thoughts and focus instead on what comes ahead. I can say that I counted a whole forest within those 17 hours. Not feeling well from the very beginning, I began to doubt my abilities to finish just one hour in. However, knowing what these negative thought could do to me mentally, I counted my strokes. "One, two, three, breath." "Ok, take a deep breath." "Tree, tree, tree." Whenever I started to again ask myself, "what if I don't finish," another tree went past.

While treeing was enough to calm my mind, nothing could calm my stomach. Sea-sickness afflicted my whole family. My mom was gone after an hour and as night fell, I began to take food orders from Stuart, Stuart, and Keith as my dad was down as well. While I did joke around a bit and tried to always bring a positive light to the terrible position that everyone was in, with a quick nod, smile, and thumbs up at the very least, my stomach turned and churned and I grimaced every time I took food. Three hours in, I finally could not hold it in. Ten minutes before the half hour tea break, I stopped short to "relieve" the pain. Vomiting did in fact, temporarily, relieve the pain. I suppose, as the second wave of sickness came about an hour later, I began to create a mind game out of these vomit attacks. Every time as I started to feel sick, I told myself, "No. Not until the next feed. No. Not yet."

Aside from the nausea, I have never been so cold for so long. Using a similar technique as I had with my vomit attacks, I told myself "I am getting hot tea next feed. Just go a little longer." The shivering was to the bone and did the tea actually work? I don't know. I estimate that I spent about a third of the swim shivering and another 2 hours after the swim to warm up. Tingling sensations ran up and down my limps; though I was not kicking much, my legs sent pulsations into the water as they seized up and shook uncontrollably. I knew day break would give me strength though. From hours 6 to 11, approximately 1am to 6am, when the water, air, and rain were the coldest, nothing more kept me going except that next cup of tea and the possibility of feeling the warm sensations of the sun.

After battling the sea-sickness, cold, lighting storm, and rocky shore, the most challenging part of the swim was the last five miles, as I already fully knew it would from my talks with the vice-chairman of the CSA, Clive. With my spirit bruised and my head spinning, as we headed towards the eleventh hour and light appeared, I began to see sea-birds, though still no land. I must be close!! However, as I swam on, the swells grew and fatigue set in. It became more difficult to stay at a good distance away from the boat and I struggled to to take my feed. I finally decided to ask where I was at. The answer I got: "Three and a half mile away. How long do you think it will take you?" Ha!! Three and a half miles? 6000 meters? That's just a two hour practice!! "Two hours. The waves are big!" I replied. "The swells will die down soon," I heard back. Well, long story short, the swells continued for quite a while and it took me five hours instead of the two I had hoped.

Hearing I was so close, however, gave me hope and renewed energy. I thought of everyone's support and the journey I had taken during this past year. I knew I could not have even actually tried to attempt the swim, forget about 3.5 miles from shore, without so many supporters. My goggles filled to the brim with tears (and it wasn't because my face got thrown into the edge of the boat). Though my shoulders hurt, my stomach churned, and the waves sloshed over me, it was the support of everyone that allowed me to find the courage and energy to continue to swim.
So as I finally come to the end again, I can't stress enough how thankful I am. Accomplishing such a feat surprises even me. My outlook on life has completely changed and I look forward to my next project, whether it involves swimming or not. So World, watch out, here I come!

Friday, August 26, 2011

How I Officially Crossed...Most of...the English Channel

For anyone following the tracker, you will know that I ended my attempt just 3 miles from cap gris nez. I got back to the hotel a few hours ago, took a bath (cause I haven't been immersed in water enough lately) and brooded about what went wrong. I have been awake for over 24 hours now but can't go to sleep so I'm going to write my account now.

I felt so on top of the world when I started that swim. The wind was higher than expected so the swells were large but I was on pace at 2 miles an hour and was loving every minute of it. From the 6 hour swim (in fact from every swim over 2 hours) I knew exactly when the shoulder pain would set in...around 1.5 hours. In the 6 hour swim it intensified around the 5 hour mark to the point where I could barely stroke with my left arm. I had been working on pull sets since I signed up for the swim and knew my shoulder endurance had improved, but still wasn't great. So I popped a few aspirin before the swim and had back up on the boat. If I could just hold 2 miles/hour I was looking at a 12 or 13 hour swim that would land me right on cap gris nez (the shortest distance).

There is a saying among channel swims to hope for the best but plan for the worst. Oh I wish all the hoping had worked. The large swells made all my support crew (my mom, dad, and sister) sea-sick. My mother, who doesn't normally get motion sickness, actually lasted till about 2.5 hours in but wasn't able to help the rest of the trip. Note: the pilot, Eric, officially designated them the worst support crew ever. Fortunately Eric and the first mate, Gary, filled in. Not ideal, but not a game ender. I just informed the crew on each stop when the next stop should be and what I needed. The worst part was I had lost the best encouragers. Eric and Gary were always upbeat, but didn't have quite the same connection.

As usual shoulder pain started 1.5 hours in. It's ok I told myself, maybe the aspirin hasn't kicked in yet. I will ask for more at the 4 hour mark if it doesn't get better.

The light began to fade at this point, and I have to say swimming into the night was one of the most exhilarating things I have ever done. I felt disembodied, isolated, and couldn't have guessed the distance to either shore had I wanted to. I realized it started to rain when Gary appeared in his bright red rain ensemble and the official observer, Steve, disappeared into the cabin.

At 4 hours I asked for more aspirin which was inserted into my gel pack. After my feed Gary also went into the cabin and I began to feel lonely. It sounds terrible, but I was almost happy when my family came to puke over the side because it meant I got to see a familiar figure.

The wind died down a little in the middle of the night while the precipitation turned from a drizzle into heavy rain. Made everything kind of blurry which enhanced the loneliness. It was very different than I had envisioned the swim. And then it started thundering and lightning. That was the only time I was actually scared on the trip, "Oh my God don't let me die...Eric will pull me out if it's dangerous, right?" I saw a bolt of lighting strike the ocean to my left, that was LOUD, but the storm ended without incident.

As the storm abated the wind picked up. Pilots don't like to take out swimmers when the wind is over a 4. This wind was a 7. Best wave pool ever, but not so good for my speed. Around 10 hours into the swim the sky began to lighten. "Feels like a problem-set all-nighter at school" I thought. My left shoulder was on fire by this point and was pinching in a way I hadn't felt before. "Keep going, keep going, the slower you go the more distance you have to swim in the end." Just slightly slower than my pace could add hours onto my swim since the shore falls off quickly from the cape on either side.

Around 30 min after dawn I started working some one-arm strokes to try to rest my left shoulder. Every feed I was asked how I felt, and every feed I said good or great. I did NOT want Eric to pull me out, so I was careful to only stroke one-arm when no one was on deck. At 11.5 hours into the swim, I asked Gary where we were.

"Only 20 yards from inland waters"

I didn't know what that meant at all, but it sounded good.

"So how long do you think that will take?"
"Probably around 5 hours"

What?!? How is that possible? Was I really that far from shore still??? Could I make it another 5 hours? I had been sure I could force through another 3, but 5? How was I so far off pace? I was expecting a delay of just a few hours, not a time almost half as long as what I had already completed. Just keep swimming, don't think, just swim.

Soon after that I noticed Steve had seen my one-armed strokes. $%+&. Ok, keep both arms going...why is he calling Eric? Stop looking at me! You have barely looked at me all night, stop looking at me now! Oh it hurt, I gave in and went back to some one-arm as they kept watching. At 12 hours they called me to the boat for what I thought was the scheduled feed, but they didn't have any food.

"Sydney," Eric said, "If you can't for sure make it another 5 hours, you should come in. The wind is just getting worse. Don't risk an injury or permanent damage and not make it anyway. The weather is terrible, don't feel bad about it."

I looked at Steve, he nodded. I looked at my mother, who had promised to be the one who would take no excuses. She said nothing, and I know she has NO problem speaking her mind if she disagrees with someone.

"It's the smart decision." Eric prompted.

Could I give this up? I had worked so hard! Why were they not encouraging me! They were supposed to say go! go! Don't you dare put a foot in this boat! Was it worth possibly ruining my senior season of swimming? Oh I was angry at them for bringing all my doubts to the surface. I didn't speak for a while, then nodded.

Back on the boat Eric showed me my progress. 20 miles in 12 hours, so 1.67 miles/hour instead of my goal of 2. Still when he pulled me out I was only 3 miles from shore! I had made it 20 miles, but somehow it would have taken me another 5 just to make the last three. The current was heading west quickly and was sweeping my past the cape. A little faster and I would have been swept into the cape, but as it was I would have had to wait until it reversed and caught the cape on the way back.

It was so close! Did I make the right choice? Could I have made it had I stayed in? I don't know, I just don't know. I am kicking myself for getting out, was I making excuses? I am absolutely positive I could have made it in calm weather. They say some days it is so calm the water looks like a mirror...I am insanely jealous of the people who get those days.


Last I heard Qing was still in, I really hope she makes it because it will be an extra epic swim.

Edit: Just found out that swells varied from 20 to 25 feet. Biggest wave pool I've ever been in for sure.

Also, Eric Hartley was an excellent pilot and did everything he could to ensure success.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

We Leave Tonight!!

The long wait is finally over and Eric has approved the weather for this evening! I am meeting him at the marina at 615 this evening (115 East Coast Time) so it looks like I will be setting off from Samphire Hoe around 7. The fast approach of the end of the neap tide means Qing is now swimming with Stewart so we get to swim at the same time, couldn't have worked out better!

I know many people have asked about trackers. Eric's boat, the Pathfinder, can be tracked at http://www.pathfindercharter.com/Tracker.html

Stewart's boat, the Sea Leopard, I will have to look up...

Hope to be posting soon about how amazing the swim went :)

Monday, August 22, 2011

Still Waiting...

The lots have been cast (or in this case the cards have been drawn) and the order is Sydney third and Qing fourth. The first and second swimmers have made their crossings so we are next in line, but due to windy weather it looks like the next possible day will be Wednesday. This is later than we expected, but the last day of neap tide is not until Saturday so there is still some flexibility.

On the plus side all this lead time has given us plenty of time to practice at the Dover Harbor and Folkstone Beach in waters that are the same temperature as the Channel. These waters are quite chilly to say the least, so I have decided to post the three stages of adjusting to cold water and the ways I have come to deal with it. They may sound kind of odd, but they work for me.


*incidently this graph describes the speed of my swimming as well since the colder I am the faster I try to swim to get warm

Stage 1: Initial Shock = OMG THAT'S SO COLD IT BURNS!!!
Coping mechanism - Lying to myself. My thought process is something like, "Yeah it burns, it burns because I am on fire!" If I just keep telling myself I'm actually really hot for some reason I feel happier.

Stage 2: Adjustment = Keenly aware of the cold water running over my body
Coping mechanism - Think of how much worse it was just a few minutes ago. Sometimes I pretend it is washing the fire away.

Stage 3: Steady State = Numbness
Coping mechanism - Actually at this point it is pretty easy to distract myself from any physical discomfort and enjoy the harbor. It is also a good time to just let my mind wander and relax a bit. While I wouldn't say I am "comfortable" at this point, the temperature is certainly bearable.

The next post should announce when I head out, thanks to everyone for their support! We could not be doing this without your help!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Dover/Folkstone is beautiful!!!!....Take Two

This time I am serious...


Sorry for not updating earlier. I arrived late Monday night, had wifi issues yesterday, and then finally met up with Sydney today.

We have been practicing in the REAL thing everyday. I suppose it seems rather surreal being here and actually about to do it. After a year of planning and practicing, we are ACTUALLY going to do it.

Anyways, I'm not going to say much more now; I will provide details after the swim. Sometime the thought of swim makes my stomach turn. At night, before I fall asleep, I start freaking out slightly. Just like Sydney, my heat starts racing and adrenaline starts rushing through my veins.


We'll post the boat tracker as it gets closer to our swims.


So until next time...keep sending in your encouragement!! We appreciate it a lot and they keep us going!!!!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Dover is beautiful!!!!...well, I wouldn't know


...but Portsmouth, NH was great!!



If anyone needs anything done to their passport I highly recommend Portsmouth: no one in line, friendly people, great beaches, and amazing seafood (it's a pretty great story, ask you about it if you are interested). After two, rather vexing and traumatizing, weeks of stress, I came out still alive and still in rather high spirits. I will be finally leaving for London out of Newark airport on Sunday. This was a good reminder to always factor in unforeseen events when planning!!


Anyways, going back to my original post, "What are YOU doing to prepare?!?" I have been SO AMPED for my chance to swim ever since I heard news of Mack and Emma's amazing successes 08/06 (13hr 5mins and 14hr 33mins, respectively) as well as the amazing Diana Nyad's swim from Cuba to Florida (although she didn't finish, I still have the highest respect for her and what she stands for).

To help everyone else be as amped as I am, I will providing my checklist for the things I plan to bring:

VALID passport..check!
Packed bags...check!
List of people to meet, places to go, and things to so...check!
Parents...check!
My "can do ALL" attitude...check!
A big smile...check!
Beer money from Elaine Howley for afterwards at the White Horse Pub...check!

...lastly and most importantly, I need to remember to breath (this is very difficult for me sometimes :D)


Bon voyage!!! England Channel, here I come!!!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Leaving for England today!!!

This summer has gone by incredibly fast and I am leaving for England in just a few hours! We (my family) will land in London early Saturday morning and Qing + her crew will join us Sunday. This gives us a little less than a week to train in the Dover Harbor and acclimate to the water, just as a reminder our window is from August 19th-20th, but with our numbers 3 and 4 it is likely we won't swim in the first few days. We will keep you all posted and put up the boat tracking link once we know when we are swimming.

In other news the local news station WVEC aired a brief piece about the swim on last night's news. It can be viewed at http://www.wvec.com/sports/Williamsburg-swimmer-to-challenge-the-English-Channel-127555918.html . I think it actually turned out pretty well.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Cross-training

People have recently been asking me about how much I have been swimming. Honestly, probably not as much as I should be: about 25-30 thousand meters (15-18 miles) a week. But, of course, I am doing other shenanigans when I am not swimming. Some of which I will discuss now...

Activity: Running
Equipment Needed: A good pair of shoes, treadmill/safe roads
Muscle groups worked: Legs/glute, cardio
Details: WARNING, can be dangerous for uncoordinated/easily distracted/aquatic athletes, aka me. I fear it like the plague.

Activity: Elliptical, Biking
Equipment Needed: Elliptical, bicycle
Muscle groups worked: Legs/glute, cardio
Details: It is much friendlier to the knees than running and give me the cardio workout I need. Plus, no chance of twisting or spraining an ankle. YES!!

Activity: Lunges + wall sits + squats
Equipment Needed: walls or garbage can + friend
Muscle groups worked: Legs/glute
Details: Simple activities like walking or getting up from a chair will be painful for 2 days after. The friend is only needed to counter-balance the force exerted on the garbage can.

Activity: Aqua-jogging + vertical kicking
Equipment Needed: A friend
Muscle groups worked: Legs/glute
Details: Newly found exercise this summer. Doing 30-40 mins of aqua-jogging definitely give you a great aerobic workout. Again, the friend is only needed so you don't look silly doing it by yourself and, of course, to catch up on the latest gossip.

...and to paying tribute to an awesome Saturday in Cape Cod with Sarah, Anna, Gil, and Logan. Much thanks to Gil's family for having us over!!
*Activity: Tubbing
Equipment Needed: Boat, Tubbing gear, Lifejacket
Muscle groups worked: Arms
Details: It's all fun and games until someone gets hurt (...or until my tongue starts bleeding and forms a blood blister).

*Activity: Dancing, jumping, and killing flies on a raft
Equipment Needed: Raft
Muscle groups worked: Everything? What does dexterity count under?
Details: Who needs music? This definitely help in my training to be a ninja-sniper for the CIA. (Wait what? I didn't say anything. That's not my goal in life!!)

*Activity: Towing a dead boat
Equipment Needed: A dead boat
Muscle groups worked: Legs/glut, abs, shoulders
Details:...I apparently take every opportunity to exercise. Although, if a boat stops working in the middle of an inlet, what are a few varsity swimmers to do?


'Nuff said.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Re: So, we're transferring to MIT... (smithchannelswim.wordpress.com)

So, I've decided to move to Northampton...

Why you ask? Here is a list...

1. For the amazing aged trees, blooming flowers, and timeless scenery.

2. For the, actually, swimmable river...anyone who claims that the Charles River is swimmable is crazy! Swimming in the Connecticut river (legality of which was questionable) could not have been more relaxing and enjoyable. All I wanted to do was float down the river, winding through trees, and watch the clouds go by. The peacefulness of the area was only punctured by the occasional boat (a floating house-boat almost ran over me) and of course our chatter when we stopped to rest. Unfortunately,
I forgot to get a picture :(

3. For amazing people who cooks
amazing food (thank you so much Emma, Mack, and co.)!!!

4. For cheap movie theater tickets. We saw Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 for $8.50 each. Compare this to Boston Common's $12.75!!

5. For delicious Herrell's Ice Cream. It definitely rivals JP licks and Toscanini's

6. ...and, of course, for Santa!! (Yankee Candle, Scenter of the Universe :D)





Best of luck to Emma and Mackenzie, who will attempt the English Channel at the beginning of August!!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

6 Hour Swim = No Problem!

What better way to spend 6 hours than swimming in the wide open Long Island Sound? The water was clear, the sun was shining, and the sky was a brilliant blue with no clouds to be seen. We could not have asked for better weather (or a better support crew in our boat).

One of the best parts of swimming in the Sound is its sheer size. Nothing to run into right? Wrong! I proved that notion false within the first 30 min of the swim when I swam smack into a huge orange buoy. Among the other "obstacles" we encountered include

1. About 10,000 jellyfish. Thankfully they were very small and harmless,but it was still strange to be grabbing something squishy about every 5 strokes
2. Seaweed - this was small and not too much of a pain, although Qing found some still in her ear the morning following the swim.
3. A blue claw crab? Actually neither Qing nor I saw the crab, but the boat crew claims one was chilling near us at one point. I have no idea what a crab was doing swimming near the surface of a 120 ft deep sound, maybe he was in training too?
4. Each other! Who knew swimming could be a contact sport? Qing and I both smacked each other in the face and I elbowed her in the nose, but she retaliated by bouncing a jellyfish off my head...totally uncalled for I know.

Despite such daunting obstacles, we prevailed and finished the 6 hour swim without major incident. We were both nervous going into the swim, especially since we had heard stories from friends that had not managed to finish their qualification swims, so our confidence was greatly boosted by our success. The swim also showed us areas we were unprepared for or need to work on for the August crossing. First and foremost, Ibuprofen or Advil is a must. Qing had some problems with a micro-tear in her shoulder and my left shoulder was screaming at me by 5 hours in. In fact, when we got out of the water I realized my left arm was basically useless. Fortunately my shoulder has returned to normal after a few days, but I know it will be my weakest point. Shoulder exercises and ice here I come! Vaseline will also be an important item as both Qing and I both endured chaffing from our suits. We were adequately prepared with food and drink, and the string attached to my water bottle proved to be an effective method of delivery. The mouth wash Qing brought was a life saver and really cut down on the awkward swollen feeling we got in our mouths after swimming for a few hours. Interestingly Qing and I both encountered a period of nausea a little over an hour and a half into the swim. It was not serious enough to impact our performance, but it was a reminder that throwing up while swimming in the ocean is not uncommon.

On the topic of nausea...thanks to those who helped out on the boat! Especially to our sea-sick passenger who shall not be named :) The biggest thanks of the day goes to Mr. Luchsinger who generously took us out on his boat. My mother and both of Qing's parents also came along to help out which was hugely helpful when providing food, water, mouthwash, and Vaseline. The only complaint I heard from the boat was that they didn't have any beer. Don't worry guys, we will make sure you are well stocked in August :)


Qing, Mr. Luchsinger, and I as we sail out of the marina. Smiling like fools to hide nervousness.


Looking at how close to each other we swam its no wonder there were multiple collisions.


Success! And still smiling at the end!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

From Boston Massachusetts, Happy 4th Everyone!!


Last week brought brilliant swimming conditions both at Walden on Wednesday and Nahant on Sunday. Since the Walden swim was followed by a social, I actually ended up biking for an hour and catching a ride to Walden early to swim an extra lap. Probably because of the biking, I wasn't able to feel the water until the second loop.

Compared to the weekend before, the conditions at Nahant could not have been more different: the weather was beautiful, the water temperature was 65 degrees, and the waves were basically non-existent. The group ended up swimming two and a half hours (9000 yards), stopping 5 times. Again, like at Walden, I didn't feel too great until the second half. Conclusion: I need to keep swimming, keep warm, and just relax.



In other news...

Inspired from a recent conversation about first world problems, I have decided to post some of the first world problems (and other issues) I ran into as I train for the Channel.

1. I forgot to shave my armpits before Nahant. The chafing was so bad I couldn't put my arms down. Well, at least now I smell nice from the lavender and chamomile Vaseline.

2. I keep wearing a different swim suit when I swim outside and always forgot to wear sunscreen. My back looks like someone chopped it into a million pieces.

3. I'm not coordinated enough to be on land. Running (suicides) ==> Fail ==> In love with sports tape

4. Fruit flavored gel packs taste disgusting...especially the raspberry

5. Training alone is super lonely. But I guess it is a little bit hard to talk to people while swimming long distances.

Speaking of long distances...6 hour swim this weekend with Syd :D

...'Til next time!!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Shout Out!!

Happy Birthday Mrs. G*!!! You're Great!


*AP US teacher, See Post Number 3 for Reference

Monday, June 27, 2011

Swimming with Chicas from Smith!!

Hit words/phrases/thoughts of the weekend:
Cold, "Black and Yellow, Black and Yellow," Cold, microwaving meat, COLD, need to get fat, cold, Smith, cold, "it's all for practice/the experience!!...right?", cold, waves, cold, gossip, Cold, FOOD!!, COLD, parking, freezing, MIT, cold,"Yeww, HAIR!!..oh wait it's just seaweed," :'(COLD!!, wet, sticky, Anna: "I keep thinking about hitting a dead hand".... O.o ....Us: "ANNA!! Why did you have to say that!!"


If you didn't get it from my hit words/phrases/thoughts list above: it was really COLD this weekend!! Not only was the water 61 degrees on Saturday at Lynn Beach and mid-60s on Sunday at Revere Beach, the weather was really crappy. On Saturday, it was around mid-60s, cloudy, and rainy. Sunday was low 70s and still cloudy. What is it today? Sunny and high-70s. Just our luck...Oh well, it's all for practice right? Since we don't know what conditions we will be swimming in, it was good to go through these, far from ideal, conditions. For that reason, we took the cold water, rainy weather, 7-8 feet waves, knee-nigh red algae shores, and the asperity of the ocean salt with (uhh vacillating) alacrity.

Anyways, enough of my complaining, here are some details of this awesome weekend...

Saturday:
"Black and Yellow, Black and Yellow"
I received a call from Emma and Mackenzie saying they were at MacGregor dorm (where I am staying) around 10am...I was still in bed. (Productivity fail. I had planned to get up early to bike and lift that morning. I couldn't fall asleep until 3 am though. Too excited maybe?) We got to Lynn Beach around 1pm. I can imagine that we looked quite silly when we got there. It was kind of like one of those pictures where you have to pick out the objects that didn't fit. First of all, the beach was very sparsely populated. Second, those who did decide to brave the weather wore multiple sweatshirts and/or wetsuits (if you were a surfer). Emma, Mackenzie, Anna, and I pittered down to the shoreline in our speedo one-pieces (in Anna's case: 2-piece). I don't know if people were impressed or just thought we were crazy, but we were definitely too concerned with actually getting into the water to care. The act of actually getting in the water was quite an ordeal. With every crashing wave, we inched towards the open sea, shrieking about the shockingly cold water and laughing nervously (well, maybe it was just me) at what we were about to attempt.


We swam about an hour before we
decided to get warm and defrost. It took forever to get warm and it was analogous to microwaving a piece of frozen meat. While my skin got warm, my insides were still freezing. My extremities felt this contrast the greatest; my fingers and toes tingled as my blood failed to warm them. Every time Anna opened the van door to throw out pistachio shells, I would recoil from the cold air.

After sitting in the car for an hour or so, we decided to try again. (Retrospectively, getting out made the second swim much worse) The second time we got in brought crappier weather, bigger waves, and no Anna. Although we ended up warming up faster than the first time, we didn't stay in as long. After a defining wave that crashed over us, we decided it was too dangerous to continue and struggled to shore.

I think, the Pour House half-off burger and Pinkberry frozen yogurt that night was well deserved. :D

Sunday:
Revere Beach was definitely better than Lynn beach in that the weather was much better and water warmer. Once again, getting in was rough but this time we shrieked about knee-high red algae. We had to wade through several feet of the slippery, sticky, weird stuff before we could find clear water. It was so GROSS!!

Revere Beach was much better for sighting. There were more buildings and five lifeguard stands, which were great to letting us know how far we swam and setting goal for when to stop. (At Lynn Beach, we ended up sighting surfers and telephone poles. The conversations went something like this: "Let's swim to that surfer." "The one with the paddle?" "No, the furthest one after the one with the paddle." or "Let's swim to the 12th telephone pole." "The one with the person next to it?" "Which one? All people are moving!")

We didn't end up swimming that much at Revere. We got out after an hour and decided not to go back in. This was partially because we had been tired from staying up late the night before and partially because we dreaded getting wet, cold, and covered in algae again.


On the whole though, this was a very successful weekend! Looking forward to more swimming fun!! :D

Update From Virginia

Hello Again Blog Followers!

It really is quite terrible how long it has taken me to post again and I sincerely apologize. Fortunately I have been much more faithful to the training than I have to recording the experience, and I will try to summarize what I have been up to the past few months.

So much to write about, I don't even know where to start! This summer I am interning at NASA Langley Research Center so I am fortunate to be close enough to home to have the support and help of my family; I really don't know how I would do this without them. My mother has taken on the title of coach, although defers to my father the "head" coach when they are telling me to do something I don't want to (like taking a cold bath...ugh). The two main aspects of training I am focusing on currently are racking up some yardage (kind of obvious I know) and cold water acclimation.

Getting in yardage actually isn't the hardest part, its finding a cold, or even cool, place to swim! All of the pools in the area are at minimum 83 F, more than 20 degrees warmer than what the channel will be when we swim in August. The times I get to swim in the river are a joy because it seems to average a temperature in the mid 70s - nice to swim in but still much warmer than ideal. Unfortunately this means I have to resort to cold showers and baths to acclimate my body to the cold. I made the mistake of "treating" myself to a warm shower a few days ago and boy do I regret it...it made going back to the cold twice as hard.
As for building up my endurance, I have found that it is very difficult to swim significant distances during the week when I am exhausted from work and the commute, so I limit weekday practices to only a few miles, never more than 4 a day, swimming at the local YMCA. On the weekends when I have more time, my parents and I drive out to a friend's house on the Chickahominy river to get in some open water mileage. We have tried swimming at several different times during the day and find early morning to be by far the best. There is minimal boat traffic, the sun hasn't come out in all its scorching glory, and no one has plans at 6 in the morning. This does mean I have to get up earlier on the weekends than I do for work (especially on Sunday when I have to be done in time for church at 10), but it's worth it and I get to nap in the afternoon.

Ah the Chickahominy river...one of the rivers Pocahontas would have frequented in her day, but let me tell you in reality it is not nearly as pristine as Disney's version. It is so full of dirt that while swimming I can never see past my elbow when I take a stroke. In a way I guess the lack of visibility is nice, if there is any trash or human pollution contaminating the river I can rarely see it. I did run into a rotting banana peel once because I couldn't see it until I was already upon it, and another time I found a wad of duct tape in my suit, but I don't think anything in the river is toxic so until I start growing an extra limb this is my training location. Not all of the river is gross however and the flora and fauna are quite beautiful. There are countless osprey nests and the babies are just hatching, so cute! The parents used to get nervous when I would get near, but they seem to accept my presence now. There are quite a few fish as well, but I can only see them when they jump or are unlucky enough to be snatched up by the osprey. We also have seen some herons and snakes...The first snake we saw was right when I was exiting the water and helping my parents pull out the canoe. A long black snake suddenly appeared not a foot from the canoe and swam underneath it. After doing some googling we decided it was probably a harmless northern water snake, but it was a reminder that the rivers here are home to cotton mouths as well. I can only pray that we never run into one of those.

I want to give a special thank you to the Felkers who helped me with my training when they came out to visit. You guys were great! Mr. Felker with all his expert canoe knowledge helped out my mother and Mrs. Felker was awesome, going out on the water for several hours despite getting motion sick. I can't wait for you guys to move back to Virginia!

I feel like I haven't even scratched the surface of everything I have done, but I am going to wrap this up before this post gets too long. Thanks you all for your support!

-Sydney

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Beautiful Day at Walden!!

Well...in a different sense I guess...



No one there except us












Rainy. Cold. Wet. BUT AWESOME :D

Friday, June 17, 2011

Terrible at this blogging thing much?

Yes. I am epically failing at updating. I think one of my issues (among many) is that I think of things I want to publish but forget/don't have time to write it down. Then by the time I want write an entry, it's usually only one or two days from something exciting and I think that I can summarize everything in one post. Long story short: I make too many excuses.

Training in May and early June was pretty dismal. With finals, starting summer, and moving to a different dorm, I slept really terrible hours: sleeping at 3am and getting up at 1pm. It wasn't that I didn't have plenty to do. However, going cold turkey after drink 3 caffeine drinks a day definitely did not help my situation. Forget working out, getting out of bed became a daily struggle.

REFORM!!
For training sake (and health sake) I have been trying to progressively get up earlier everyday. Pulling an all-nighter to work on my research project and to catch an early train jump started this change. Funny story with that is I ended up passing out at 7 pm the next day while on my laptop, half way off my bed.

I also increased my training intensity. My goal for each week is to swim 5-6 thousand meters each day and a dryland/lifting/cardo/abs session or at least work out twice a day. How is it going so far? As expected, I'm tired and sore. :( I actually find it pretty difficult to stay in the pool for the whole 5-6 thousand and my practices are not that creative. Although, how creative can one be when the best way to get in yardage (meterage? haha) is to do sets of 300, 500, and 1000s. Dryland with various MIT swim team members are always fun though (especially lunges with Anna Kokensparger).

Open water swims:
Although I have not entered into any open water races yet, I did swim in Long Island Sound when I went back home last weekend. Lessons learnt from that experience:
  1. Currents are a *****. When I was going against the current, I bared moved.
  2. Need new goggles. I have two problems with my current pair. I have a weird issue where, after an hour or so, my google would suction onto my eyes really tight and in really awkward positions. Hypothesis: my eyeballs are taking in the oxygen/air?? The goggle second problem is less mysterious. My goggles lost its anti-fog quality and the contrast of the cold water and body temperature quickens condensation.
  3. Salt water makes me really dehydrated. Actually, not only does it make me dehydrated, it also makes my mouth swollen. Blahhhh Clara had told me that using mouthwash should decrease the swelling. I'll have to try that on a longer swim.
I also went out to Walden Pond on Wednesday with a group in Boston. Walden is about 1.5 miles around the perimeter. Super fun! Pictures and more details to come...at some point haha

Last thing before I close this monster of a post, swimmers are not meant for land!! Twisted my ankle doing suicides. Oops. Living on ice and pain killers right now.

Over and out...to the beach (Revere) for more swimming!!! YAY!!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Finals Week!

Good luck everyone!!!

P.S. The Cosi New York Pastrami melt is an amazing 1000 calorie meal. Unfortunately, it doesn't feel so good if you swim right afterwards. :P

Monday, May 9, 2011

First day of long course!!

YAY!! The MIT Z-center pool finally got converted to long course for the summer.

In celebration, I did a set of 5000 meter practice with the following main set with a mix of snorkel, pull, swim, kick: 5x300, 5x200, 5x100

As I swam today, I began to make a list of the pluses and minuses of long course:

1. Plus, no turns!! Sweet! Less possibility of getting confused as to which side of the pool I'm on.
2. Minus, still run into walls? Because I swim with my eyes closed, some how I still manage to forget to turn at the wall until I'm too close.
3. Plus, able to set steady rhythm.
4. Minus, meters are longer than yards. To be exact, 1.0936133x longer. So that mean if I swim 100m, I swim 9 yards more; 500m, it is 46 yards more; 1000m, it is 93 yards more; 5000m, I swam 500 yards extra!!
5. Plus, more people can swim in the same lane! The probability of running into people is decreased dramatically. Although, with my skills at zig-zagging down the lane, my odds aren't reduced by much.
6. Minus, can't take a lane for myself. Especially when a swim team is practicing at the same time, only 3-4 lanes are open for rec swimming. Which means, I have to swim with old people.
7. Plus, summer is here! Or at this point, very near. Just several paper to write/revise, 2 finals, pack, and move to summer housing. No big, right? :P

Saturday, April 23, 2011

..aannnd we're BACK

This is what you have missed since the last post:
  1. Fan Crippen, highly decorated open-water swimmer died Oct. 24th, 2010 in United Arab Emirates. This encourages us more than ever to prepare properly as well as prepare for the worst.
  2. MIT Swimming and Diving had an awesome season!!! Won both men's and women's NEWMAC conference meet (first time ever for the the women, 3rd year straight for the men). Men's team got 4th at DIII Nationals, women's got 14th.
  3. Happy New Year!! (Thanksgiving, Christmas, and 21st birthday :P)
  4. Minor freak-outs every week for the past month: another long year at MIT winding to an end...OH NO we are almost done with junior year!!
  5. We started to finally train for the Channel swim (yay!). Goal: swim 6000 yards (3.5 miles) a day, cold showers, and sell T-shirts.
  6. Speaking of T-shirts, finally decided to get the shirts shipped. Please, please, please, please donate! The fees and stuff are ridiculous so we seriously appreciate any help we can get. The Order Form and PayPal Link are on the side planel. We have white in Design 1 and red and black in Design 2. Thanks everyone!!

A bit of new business:

For those of you who thought we were joking, please know I'm officially offended. Haha, jk. But seriously though: we are swimming in August. Most of the arrangements have already been made so full speed ahead and no turning back. ;) Although, the deadlines for our the swimming applications to the Channel Swimming Association are at the end of April. I still haven't sent in my information yet. Oooppps

Ah almost forgot, Sydney and I are in contact with 2 sophomores from Smith College, Mackenzie Bradley and Emma Reim, who will be swimming in August as well. Unfortunately, they are swimming on an earlier date. But we definitely hope to run in to them while in England. Best of luck to them both!!

Side note: The Smith newspaper wrote a lovely article on them. Although, Mackenzie quote, "we're both designed to swim long-distance. We can just keep going." (they are both distance swimmers) did make me doubt my abilities a bit. For the record, I was a sprint backstroker this varsity season.

Ah well, I have been feeling pretty good during my set of 500s and 1000s lately though. In a sadistic kind of way I actually like these sets now. I think has a lot to do with a change in my mental outlook during these sets. Especially due to switching over from doing no more than 200s during practice, I always had a mental block at the beginning because I kept thinking about how long the set was. I also had a mental block at the end as well because I would think back on how much I did and think ahh wow I swam so much, I must be tired now. The shift in thinking: in the beginning I celebrate the fact that I feel good; by the 300 I know there is only a 200 left (which is really 4x50s right?); at the end of the 500 I pick up the speed with whatever is left; if I'm doing 1000s, there is just another 500 left.

I have also been working on my stroke technique. I epically failed at swimming freestyle this year. So I decided the best way to approach this swim is to reconstruct my freestyle. The snorkel and pull sets have been very helpful for this. Unfortunately, I am not sure how much my left shoulder can take. I did something funny to it last year while doing the Vasa trainer.

Anyways, I think I ranted enough. I will try to provide details of my training and daily scheming with a high frequency as we head into the summer. Look forward to future posts!!