Guest Series: Ned’s SCAR Swim Challenge – Part 7

Finally, Ned has sent on a few photographs! Here is his report from Day 3 of the SCAR Swim Challenge, the Apache Lake 17 mile swim:

I woke in a hotel room with no phone, no web, no fridge, no cooking facilities and no open restaurant. It must not have been a pretty sight: sitting on the edge of the bed, covered in the first lot of zinc waiting to dry, eating three day old spaghetti and meatballs out of the largest zip lock bag in the world – with my right hand (the fingers alone just didn’t do it). It must have been pretty bad because I think the CNN weather girl changed the station from her side.

Photograph – Ned Denison

Headed up to the start of the Apache Lake swim (Day 3).

Down to the marina and Kent had arranged 50 breakfast burritos. It settled well on top of the spaghetti and I got to meet Darren Miller (completed six of the Oceans Seven swims) and a big hug for Jen Schumacher. Darren wasn’t really up on the cadence of the swims and deferred on the burrito thinking we were swimming in a matter of minutes. The wind was cold/howling and Kent decided to run the swim with the wind (thereby denying me my best chance of taking Gracie). The kayakers were transported first up river and I went to sleep (with jeans, wool socks/cap, three under-layers and a hoodie) in the back of an empty U-Haul trailer. I woke to 27 swimmers (in summer garb) who had figured out the wisdom of my trailer and we chatted a while longer.

Photograph – Ned Denison

The crew in the back of the U-Haul truck, Ned sleeping in the back…

It was then up the river by boat – another 40 minutes or so and onto the starting beach. Everybody brought a spare suit for Greg – just in case.  Again, it was up the river to yet another dam another set of buoys.

Kent billed this as 17 miles and I packed 8 litres of High5. I sprinted at the start out of fear. Something in the water was making a menacing growl and I was thinking 6+ feet of BIG HUNGRY catfish. Gracie and Sarah again took off and Jen passed me as well. She didn’t give me even a small smile or a wave – so I gave her a little bump, just for old time sake. A fourth lady passed and at about 3 miles I had a big gap behind me. The next 30 minutes must have been crap because as we passed half-way my “lead” had reduced by 80%. It was time to decide what this swim was going to be. Was I just going to try and slog it out? Or was I going to pick it up a bit and not let them pass me (it is NOT a race)?  I just imagined it was Gábor Molnár behind me and picked it up a bit. I pulled away from all but one, who was like the terminator!

I then made a very big mistake. Kent had said that the marina was the second or third point and I calculated the remaining number of right arm strokes. The sun was hot, the jet skis scary and the damn terminator just kept coming. At one point, my kayaker wasn’t sure if we went to the right where the three killer jets skis emanated or to the left where we could see a gap. She studied the map while the terminator kept coming and coming. She declared less than 2 miles through the invisible gap and off we went: I reset my counter to 1,400 right arm strokes. She handed me the last bottle maybe 100 m in front of the terminator (now probably just a skeleton swimming) and when I saw the finish it was “sod the drink” and sprint (ok, it was thrash wildly and gasp) the 500 m or so. It was 6½ hours or so… On to the boat and cheering for the terminator, who suddenly morphed into Liz Fry. We were fifth and sixth and Liz was the first with a cold beer. The sound of the beer opening was barely audible to me with ear plugs standing next to Liz – but it brought Greg O’Connor flying around the corner at an Olympic pace to claim the second and third beer.

We headed back and passed cheering all the remaining swimmers. Mo gave the biggest wave and the buzzards had by now come to the same decision as the rest of us – Mo had 20+ years of world class swimming left! My arms were seriously hurting but I still managed to find a massage table … and go back for seconds.

Photograph – Ned Denison

Mo Siegel – there are now “awards” but he isn’t doing too badly!

Dinner was festive and it was the absolute reminder of the swimming marathon class I had been enjoying. At least two of the kayakers are world class swimmers! And perhaps as special, I was swimming with some of the swimmers who contribute the MOST back to the sport: Greg – Boston Light organiser, Liz – Swim the Sound and Dave – 8 Bridges, and there were others: Gracie, Becky, BarbCatalina organisers … and others.

Mo was clenching his fists ready to go back to battle the bed bugs when Liz, Bob and I confessed to 20+ river bites. Mo calmed and headed off before he found out that nobody else had a single one. The start mystery was also solved: Darren missed the breakfast burrito and his stomach was growling after the 2-ish hour start gap. I was close: 6+ feet of BIG HUNGRY DARREN … a sound which will give me nightmares and probably affect the wildlife birth rate in the canyon for years to come.

A very pleasant evening was drawing to a close when Dave casually remarked: “I am taking you tomorrow, Denison”. Shit, the 10k night swim might not just be star gazing.

Guest Series: Ned’s SCAR Swim Challenge – Part 3

Here is Ned’s account of his first day of the SCAR Swim Challenge in Arizona:

I headed off to the pool today with Gracie while the others went shopping for water, trackers, video camera mountings and other stuff… Small world – she grew up with Julie Galloway who swam the channel while living in Dublin.

There was sort of an invitation to train at the local school pool, so she did all the talking as she is a swim coach and recently broke the long standing Catalina speed record. In her words: “Your reputation probably hasn’t reached Mesa, Arizona, Ned.”

She made her pitch to blank faces at the pool until a swim coach came up to me and said:  “You look like you are here for the SCAR swim. Welcome and swim as you want.”  Gracie claimed that it was the lumpy middle aged man in a Speedo look that did it … but she looked unconvinced.

I put on the zinc and some sun block stuff that she laughed at. She had 15 varieties of Southern California surf stuff. It was 104ºF with a blistering sun.

The girl can swim! I did manage to blast past here at one point. Ok, so she was sculling feet first at the time… 3,500 m – just to get the arms moving again and off to  lunch.

Liz Fry‘s (English Channel 2-way swimmer) sister hosted us with ribs, corn, beans and potato salad and my last beer for a while. I met Dave Barra (organiser of the 7 day Hudson River swim) who helped answer my staged swim questions a few months ago and Tori Gorman from Sydney, who brought regards from Dougal Hunt, who also swam the channel while living in Dublin. The world gets smaller and Tori spent a month in Dover last summer and met the Cork gang!

We then moved over to a sports bar for the official gathering … and met three more swimmers I knew from before and a few friends from Facebook. Lots of different mental approaches in the room: a few there to win, a few to prepare for the Manhattan race, some to complete and a few to have a lash (with seemingly no regard to completing). In fairness, a lot of confidence in the gang but it is early in the season and a lot of early season nerves.

Back at the house, it was like a scene from the TV show “The Wire”: white powder everywhere as about 50 bottles of carbo-drink and recovery drink was measured, mixed and divided between the freezer and fridge. My preparations were on the simple side, Barb has several varieties and Gracie was a real chemist with loads of different powders. Roger muttered something about drinking a can of Pepsi and the ladies looked concerned. I went to bed – Roger is a very experienced marathoner and will be fine in the 10 mile swim on Wednesday.

I need to swim in the shade if I am going to last the sun.  Despite seven sun bed sessions in Cork, I can feel a big burn coming!

Off to sleep now muttering “poli, poli, poli” – Swahili for “slowly”. Just like climbing Kilimanjaro, it is a long way, so go slowly.  The Cork translation would be “take it handy”. I have confidence for the 10 mile lake swim on Wednesday and this will help me.

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Guest Series: Ned’s SCAR Swim Challenge – Part 1

Over the next few days, I will be carrying reports from Ned Denison who is currently taking part in the SCAR Swim Challenge in Arizona. Here is the first installment:

It’s Sunday 29 April. I arrived in Phoenix Arizona at about 7:00 pm. I was met by Barbara Held (Triple Crown swimmer) and her Fire Captain friend and kayaker, Lee, in the biggest pickup truck I’ve ever seen.

My flights from London took about 16 hours. At the best of times, this would make me a bit sore but it was only 27 hours after completing the 1 mile every hour for 24 hours  in Guildford. Very sore, very old … and faced the daunting prospect of meeting Roger Finch (South African Triple Crown swimmer) and his lovely wife, Leslie, and he will want t0 have some beers…

I coped with one beer but must have missed some detailed of this 4 marathon swims in 4 days event: SCAR. I was sure it was three 10 mile swims plus 10 km night swim. It seems it is two 10 mile swims, a 17 mile swim then the 10 km night swim.

So, while I had no plan to enter Zurich this year, I seem to have drifted into a swim of the same distance. Just checking on Amazon for spare body parts…

There will be another update from Ned tomorrow. Hopefully, he will send on a few photographs too! Here’s a video from last year’s challenge to give you a feel for it:

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