Tag Archives: marathonswimmers.org

Loneswimmer.com is four years old

I had forgotten about the anniversary but I started LoneSwimmer.com on a whim on the afternoon of 18th of January, 2010. Little did I guess where it would lead.

Since then LoneSwimmer has grown year on year, and often month on month. It was viewed in 185 countries in 2013 though the countries that most read LoneSwimmer are the USA, UK, Ireland and Australia, in that order. English Channel aficionados will know those are the four biggest Channel swimming nurseries. It’s possible that LoneSwimmer, which amazingly won the inaugural 2012 award for the best sports and recreation blog in Ireland, may be the most popular entirely amateur open water swimming blog in the world! This is both gratifying and terrifying to me. Though as you may know I did once get some free goggles and paddles for review, nonetheless LoneSwimmer is just me, one average swimmer on the south-east coast of Ireland, still talking shite from the middle of nowhere (and making nothing from it). Let me mention up front here my invaluable behind-the-scenes editor, partner and second-shooter photographer and all round supporter Dee. The longer a post here is, or the more typos it contains, the less likely it is that Dee proofed it. Like this this one.

LoneSwimmer monthly charts 4 years no data
47 months of LoneSwimmer.com

Writing LoneSwimmer has been challenging, time-consuming, frustrating, dispiriting, heart-breaking, seemingly never-ending, boring and exciting. Remarkably like open water swimming in fact.

I have a typically cynical Irish view of many things, including “mission statements”, but I’ve striven to keep the blog on the (extended) subject of open water swimming, and to keep anything else about me or my life away from here, and that has occasionally not been easy, because … life. My original idea for this blog was to share everything I’ve learned the hard way about open water and that has remained my guiding principle. It has also meant increasingly covering pool training aspects and ranging into entirely unexpected areas. I discovered over the four years that there many things that open water swimmers all know, but that no-one had written down. So there are other versions and opinions of everything I write, and I’d encourage you to keep those opinions, or to seek them out elsewhere or to write them down and publish them yourself. I’ve been asked by a few people about writing blogs and I’m always happy to share all the many mistakes and long learning curve I’ve endured.

I re-organised the blog in mid-2013 to index all the How To articles and they range in utility for all levels, from beginners to resources for Channel and marathon swimmers. The compliment I value most continues to be the simple “Thanks” from anyone whom I’ve helped by something I’ve written.

When I started I just knew my own swimming friends here in Ireland. Now I have swimming friends all over the world.

I read many swimming blogs, so many I had to make a separate fixed page of links for your ease-of-use. Sometime after I started LoneSwimmer, I came across another blog called Freshwaterswimmer.com by American Channel swimmer, Evan Morrison. (That link will take you to the newer version of Evan’s blog; Farther, Colder, Rougher). Evan had started Freshwaterswimmer.com within two weeks of LoneSwimmer.com.

Somehow, and I’m not even sure how or when looking back, Evan and I became transatlantic writing partners and collaborators. I suspect it was partially because Evan and I agree on many aspects of marathon swimming and the people and challenges involved, and neither of us like people hoarding information to gain some spurious power. As you know by now, that link with Evan led through various discussions with many people to the formation of the marathonswimmers.org forum by Evan, who is the site owner, and myself.

The forum is now the most vibrant community of Channel, marathon and aspiring marathon swimmers globally. This in turn led to the Global Marathon Swimming Awards, the only peer-voted marathon awards in the world. And from there it led to the recent release of the Rules of Marathon Swimming by a core group of authors and reviewers, which rules have already been welcomed and endorsed by an astonishing number of well-known marathon swimmers from around the world. (If you haven’t endorsed the rules yet, regardless of your accomplishments or level, it’s never too late, you can do it over there or email me, or email rules@marathonswimmers.org).

The foundation of marathonswimmers.org and the writing and release of the rules of marathon swimming may be the two most important swimming-related things I have or ever will do, though Evan and I are not finished with our ideas. We both believe in the democratization of open water swimming and the power of community input and ideas. 

Whew. How did all this happen an average swimmer from and in the middle of nowhere?

My very first posts were about my local swimming area, Waterford’s then not widely-known but gorgeous Copper Coast. When people think of Ireland’s coast it is often the west and south-west coasts, but four years later the Copper Coast has now become better known and more appreciated. It’s a quiet, isolated 40 kilometre stretch of cliffs, intermittent coves and small villages, and it’s my playground. A small number of you have even come here to swim it with me and you are all always welcome to join me at play here.

Kilfarrassey rocks_MG_8854.resized
Kilfarrassey on The Copper Coast

My next post was about cold water habituation. Little did I realise that for four years I would continue to write article after article about cold water swimming.  I collected those ongoing articles into a Cold Water Swimming Index in mid 2013 and was amazed to find there were about 50 articles on that subject alone to which I continue to add. Surprisingly only nine months later, the index page itself is now the second most popular, and the most linked into and referenced page on LoneSwimmer. Two of the articles on that subject are the site’s most popular individual articles, the perennial and humourous Introducing a precise open water swimming temperature scale and the eternal question “What temperature of water is too cold to swim in?”.

This_is_your_brain_on_open-water_swimmingI’m not a naturally funny person, so when I write something humourous I get a special kick from it. I can’t draw, at all either, so I did one cartoon in a simple graphics package that I’ve seen appear elsewhere a few times since and I still think is accurate.

In 2011 I wrote an April’s Fools post that caused outrage across the Channel swimming world. I got some shall we say strong messages, which made me laugh all the more. I remember leaving the pool that Friday evening, to a phone that was almost red-hot with all the emails, calls and SMSes. DNOWS and many in Dover and elsewhere were all caught. That post is long deleted, I did a another one on a different subject  in 2012 that caught many actual Channel swimmers but when I suggested to Evan that we combine our blogs for the 2013 version, we once again sucked in more people, including, again, the open water swimming media. A good April’s Fool’s joke should sting the victims, and hopefully made them laugh later. Catching people globally once was great fun, twice even more, but three times? Well I don’t know what that says about you all, or me. I am now retired form April’s Fool’s jokes.

I almost stopped writing LoneSwimmer in late 2013, as was obvious to regular readers, for what was and continues to be a combination of many reasons but for the moment, LoneSwimmer struggles fitfully on. Actually even this post has had three different revisions, one more negative, and one more positive, than this one. I never know where LoneSwimmer is going, I never had a plan beyond that original idea. Most often I have panic, when I think I have already written everything I could say. Right now, as I write this, I don’t feel like continuing, but tomorrow I may be different. I’ve learned to mostly ignore how I feel about it. Sometimes writing has been almost all I have had to hang onto.

One thing I do know, is that had I not started writing LoneSwimmer I would never have written the posts of which I am proudest:

Two golden rules of open water and marathon swimming. This ideas in this post have become embedded in the rules of marathon swimming linked above. It’s worth it all for that alone.

My multi-part series on Trent Grimsey’s and Sylvain Estadieu’s English Channel records. Our sport to this day is still one that is essentially done in private and we still huddle around the electronic campfire  telling stories of swims. It was a fantastic honour that both swimmers and friends allowed me to see firsthand and later tell their stories. I have other stories of other friends, which were not covered here, not willingly, but because I did not think it was my place to so do. These most obviously include Rob Bohane, Alan Clack, Gábor Molnar, Owen O’Keeffe and Páraic Casey. I love covering swims, and you know where to find me…

Part Five of the series on Diana Nyad: Probity & Integrity. Evan & I, as co-founders of the forum were dragged into the astonishing unveiling of the truth in the Diana Nyad story on that extraordinary thread which set international headlines. I had written previously about her a few times before this series, changing from being a fan and supporter into a cynic and eventually an opponent, while the swimming and regular media embarrassed themselves, again, with their unquestioning sycophantic acceptance of her duplicitous lies and bullshit. I’ve been saying recently when asked, that when you see a sportsperson whom is suspected of cheating, who has an asterisk beside their name in the records books, someone had to put that asterisk there. Someone cared, someone wanted honesty and integrity in their sport. I believe all us honest swimmers put the asterisk after Diana Nyad’s name and I am proud that that post seems to articulate something with which every single swimmer I’ve met has agreed.

The series on MIMS 2013. I think NYCSwim treated most of the 2013 Manhattan Island Marathon Swim entrants shamefully and things currently look no better for 2014. I put a lot of effort into covering what happened, once again doing a news story which none of the actual swim news sites covered ,especially since LoneSwimmer isn’t a swim news blog.

Much of what I write is intended to be functional and/or instructive. For example, when I wrote down the etiquette of lane swimming, I wasn’t saying anything new. Others had written similar before me and I was just exercising the demons that all pool swimmers are plagued by, when joined by people who don’t know what they are doing. A couple of years later, those rules have now been read thousands and thousands of times.

When writing you can’t always go to the well. You’d run dry very quickly, run out of things to say. Had I stopped writing LoneSwimmer early on, maybe I wouldn’t go the well at all. I certainly wouldn’t have written this post from just over a week ago which I think is the single best post I’ve yet written.

Another Winter Dawn, my most popular image on Flickr.
Another Winter Dawn, on Flickr.

Had I never started writing LoneSwimmer, I’d also likely never have taken up photography. Luckily my tastes in photography tend toward the exact images that we open water swimmers enjoy, and which are often disregarded by others as mere landscapes.  You can check out my Flickr page  RSS in the sidebar and you can always contact me if you want prints of any photo here. For the record, this has never happened! I shall keep trying to get better.

I’m an average swimmer and resource-restricted so I don’t or can’t aspire to extraordinary undreamed of swims.

I’m Irish, where we as individuals are not encouraged to be proud of our own achievements and where as a country very many people are still in a very dark place, including myself.

Writing LoneSwimmer, friendships in the swimming community and your continued interest, all have allowed me to achieve and aspire to other things in swimming.

My name is Donal Buckley. Some people now even call me the lone swimmer. I’m a Channel Swimmer, and a swim blogger.

Thank you for visiting my site.

Introducing new Global standardised Marathon Swimming Rules

We humans cannot avoid applying patterns, recognising changes, marking time, and marking time. We impose arbitrary markers, and the years begin and pass and end with signs and notifications, anniversaries and announcements, resolutions and changes.

In 2012 Evan Morrison and I started the marathonswimmers.org forum. Evan and I believed marathon and aspiring marathon swimmers and the wider community of observers, fans, friends and others, needed someplace to connect, to make friends, ask questions and get answers, to essentially catch up with the online times. Nick Adam’s Google Channel Chat Group already existed but we wanted to supplement/improve the email-only format and build a public online space, something outside the constraints of a single organisation and outside commercial interests, and so the forum was born.

Marathon Swimmers New Banner cropped & levelled properly-resized

A second stage in the forum and global community development was the introduction at the end of 2012 of the forum’s Global Marathon Swimming Awards, for best solo female and male swims and the Barra award for most impressive body of swimming in a single year. In 2013 those awards were further expanded with the Barra award being divided into female and male categories, and the introduction of a Services to Marathon Swimming Award.

In the lead up to the formation of the forum there was a lively email discussion about the possibility of forming some kind of umbrella marathon organisation amongst a group of fairly well known swimmers, (and me, the Zelig of open water swimming!). Almost everyone came to the conclusion that this was not currently possible. This discussion was part of the origin of the forum.

With the forum now just coming up on its second anniversary Evan and I have not forgotten our desire to progress the development of global community of open water swimmers, and especially those of the marathon persuasion.

Some events of autumn 2013 showed that our sport was still woefully misunderstood by the wider public and media. Swimmers were even willing to deliberately mislead the public and media and use and abuse the loose and collegiate nature of the swimming community to further personal aims and in the process tarnish long-held traditions.

In 2013 Evan, (whom for those who don’t know him, is a creative powerhouse) had suggested we revisit our original intentions. And so we set out to write a draft umbrella set of marathon swimming rules with a core set of authors, comprised of Andrew MalinakElaine HowleyEvan and myself.

Over the course of a few months we edited and expanded and rewrote those rules, circulating to a wider global group for appraisal and criticism, before arriving at a final set by year’s end. Quite a few people from around the world contributed comments and feedback to the various drafts, they are named on the document and we thank them all.

So it is that with both pride and enthusiasm the four authors confidentially release the marathonswimmers.org global:

Rules of Marathon Swimming.

About these rules 

This is a set of guiding standarized rules and is the only such global rule set. If you wish to understand or use marathon swimming rules, barring accidental omissions in the writing, this set is as close to a core global set as we believe possible.

The rules have been peer-reviewed by many experienced swimmers including marathon and Channel swimmers and swim organisers all of whom are identified in the document.

This rule set can be used to govern any new swim by a single swimmer or by any organisation.

The document is open to further review and discussion.

Despite a number of people working on them and all our efforts, we expect that when we open these rules up the wider world and the wisdom of crowd-sourcing, improvements or edits will become obvious. Therefore we plan to review these rules with a core committee every year. In the meantime, suggestions can be made here, Evan’s blog or most especially on the forum and the core authors will be able to review at any time.

These rules cover the areas of observation, equipment, definitions, and swimming rules.

This document is available for anyone or any organisation to use or adapt, under a Creative Commons Attribution License with Derivative and Non-Derivative sections. This means anyone may use and partially adapt these rules to their own requirement, but they must attribute the original marathonswimmers.org forum rules. The sections which are covered by a Derivative License may be changed, but the sections which are covered by a Non-Derivative may NOT be changed.

These rules are not currently the explicit rule set of any existing marathon or Channel swimming organisation. They DO NOT supplant the existing rules of any marathon swimming organisation nor are they intended to so do. The rules DO NOT cover assisted swimming of any kind. Marathon swimming is about unassisted swimming, and as such assisted swimming is variable and beyond our scope of interest.

They are not an expression or elitism or exclusion, merely a codification of existing traditions for the benefit of the marathon and indeed non-marathon swimming world by a group of swimmers who feel the time has come for this, not for our own self-aggrandisement, but for the benefit of our sport and our friends and those we esteem.

The question of other swim types similar or related to marathon swimming will inevitably arise and many swimmers will swim other types of swims, or what we call Special Swim Types (Stage, Relay, Circumnavigation and Multi-Leg). Outside the core rules there is a supplement defining these other related swim types.

With the release of these rules, we will also be issuing a press release to major online and print media, including swim specific organisations such as H2O, Swimswam.com, FINA, Swimming World Magazine,  DNOWS, USMS. Please click here for the full press release

IMPORTANT: Evan points on the forum that acceptance by the marathon swimming community is vital. To this end he’s created an Endorsement page where you can leave your name without having to be a Form member. I would URGE to please so do.

Related links:

The announcement on the marathonswimmers.org forum

Evan’s blog announcement.

Direct link to rules.

Direct link to Press Release.

H2Open Magazine‘s article on rules release.

Swimswam article on rules release.

Swimming World Magazine article on rules release.

The Diana Nyad Controversy, a personal reflection – Part 1- Some History

I mentioned in my last post that this subject was outstanding.

A “review panel” was recently held to consider Diana Nyad’s claimed Cuba to Florida to swim. (On Tuesday 10th September, 2013)

This panel was unprecedented in marathon swimming. I had nothing to do with the genesis thereof nor arranging or my invitation to the panel.

I consider the holding of such a review panel, regardless of the motivation of the organisers, regardless of any future decision or announcement, an actual success for the marathon swimming community. Ordinary swimmers spoke out, and had to be listened to. Consequently I am inordinately proud of the marathonswimmers.org forum and all its members whatever their opinion.

The next morning, a few brief hours after the lengthy call, I left on a flight to the UK and Dover to crew for an English Channel swim. Then a second trip back to Dover after we got weathered-out on the first trip. So for the rest of the week , shrouded as I was in the Channel Bubble, having the craic with Channel swimmers and friends or sitting on Paraic’s Bench in Varne, I had no time to write about the events leading to the panel, the panel itself or the subsequent story.

The time and distance spent with swimmers from around the world in the home of long distance swimming, including crewing for Sylvain Estadieu’s astonishing English Channel butterfly swim, gave me a breathing space sadly lacking in the previous week.  Co-founder Evan Morrison and I were having to spend long hours moderating the discussion on the marathonswimmers.org forum, (for about five days it was taking me eight hours night, finishing at 1 or 2 a.m.) and Evan had to handle all the media requests, I being safely in the despicable land of Old Europe.

Following is my entirely personal perspective. It is not intended to be a comprehensive debate or exploration of the issue but instead to outline the leadup to the panel, and my current thoughts following the panel.

My opinions are informed by my own swimming and crewing experience, a little observing and quite a bit of swim writing by now. And also by discussions with other swimmers and friends from around the world.

While I have written some posts on the forum thread on this subject, a careful reading of the discussion will see it was some time I joined the debate. I’ll explain that below.

The discussion that stirred the press finally, is extensive. It is an order of magnitude greater than most discussions on the forum and will take hours if not days to read. It is technical, passionate, occasionally adversarial or personal, and highly recommended.

Finally, I want to explain in my opening that I’ve chosen to write here for three specific reasons:

  • My blog allows me the latitude of length. I can explore issues as I see fit without a word constraint.
  • Diana Nyad doesn’t look to marathon swimmers. She looks to an uncomprehending general public. LoneSwimmer.com reaches a more general audience than the forum, but it is still a specific audience.
  • As forum co-founder, I actually try to separate the functions of Administrator  and Moderator from my personal opinions. The behind-the-scenes moderation during the height of the controversy was considerable and I tried to be balanced. But on LoneSwimmer.com, I can explore and outline my own thoughts unconstrained by the role, even it is only to myself and Evan that this distinction is important.

*

Diana Nyad was a long distance swimmer in the 1970′s. Her swims included Around Manhattan and Lake Ontario. She was also unsuccessful in three attempts in the English Channel. In 1978 she attempted to swim from Cuba to Florida in a shark-cage and wasn’t successful. She retired in 1979 and spent a career as a successful journalist and author and latterly a motivational speaker. None other than Jim ‘Doc’ Counsilman, a legendary coach in swimming and the man most associated with the scientific study of the sport, famously said of Diana Nyad: “a very mediocre swimmer with a very good publicist”. I’m a mediocre swimmer, though I usually use the word ‘average’, so I don’t take that as an insult necessarily.

I was mostly unfamiliar with her except for her Bahamas to Florida distance-setting swim in 1979. My immersion, excuse the pun, into Channel and marathon swimming culture and history has been gradual. Like many Channel swimmers, in my early open water swimming days I knew little of the shared history, and few of the great names of our sport, though Diana Nyad was certainly not one of those, except maybe in her head or that of her supporters. There was also a rumour I’d heard that her Manhattan Island swim wasn’t entirely kosher, and we’ll return to this subject later.

Past the age of 60, Diana Nyad returned to distance swimming and an unsuccessful attempt to swim from Cuba to Florida in 2011, two attempts in 2012, and her most recent swim in 2013.

A search of my site will illustrate the change in my opinions. I went from being very interested and a mild fan, through disillusionment and disinterest, to an active contrary stance, before ultimately saying that I was done with any further comment. My opinions didn’t matter, I still don’t think they matter outside the swim community which is all I’m interested in. I am just a swim blogger and hype is always better than truth.

When I first posted about Diana Nyad out of interest, I had reached the dizzy heights of maybe 30 people a day reading the blog. By the time I’d become more antagonistic, I was reaching maybe 500 people a day average. That number hardly changes the world but I didn’t care about the world, the people read loneswimmer are the ones I care about and have written for, not the Diana Nyad fans, not for the public. But I really did mean I was increasingly disinterested and antipathetic. In the end I wanted to leave Diana Nyad to her own devices.

I want you to be clear that I am not veiling my opinions, not sucking you in with a link-bait title to take advantage of a story for site hits, nor do I care about increasing traffic outside my target area of open water swimmers. I’ve been vociferous in my opinions on the subject now for some time.

I don’t buy the hype. I don’t buy the empty exhortations. I don’t buy the story and I literally don’t buy any of the merchandise. My life is full of swimmers I’ve met whom I admire, who feats astonish and inspire me. I’m supportive of these people, so for me to develop such a strong adversarial opinion is in itself unusual.

And you know what? This my blog. You come here. You don’t like my opinion, that’s fine. But my opinion is free. I don’t charge you for it. So in that way, it’s worth exactly what you pay for it.

But if you come here with some stupid empty threat that I couldn’t do what Diana Nyad did, nor swim what she swam? That’s true but sod off because Diana Nyad couldn’t do what I did. I and my friends don’t take money from anyone to swim, we don’t twist the truth about swims, and as a consequence we can walk into any group of marathon swimmers in the world with our heads held high. If you are new here, looking to argue with me, you better be prepared to step into my world. My opinion shouldn’t matter to you but if you come here for it, it is a valid experienced opinion. Vacuous insults and treats (treats would be nice!) threats mean less than nothing to me and the mere fact of them only colours my opinion even more, because such behaviour is utterly at odds with almost everything I’ve experienced about the sport, which is usually open, welcoming, friendly, supportive and collaborative.

Right up front I want you to know my opinions and you might as well have them raw.

I had four main objections that had developed to Diana Nyad’s swims:

  1. Deliberate misleading of the public and supporters by not publishing any rules or guidelines before any of the swims.
  2. In the absence of published rules, seeming disregard of established and rules. Diana Nyad’s team’s use of the phrase English Channel Rules is deceptive to the general public because they never explain that English Channel rules are used worldwide.
  3. Obfuscation of actual events during swims. Briefly mentioned here, much more detail can be found on the forum.
  4. Online attacks of experienced marathon swimmers. This refers to the invitation by Diana Nyad of myself and others to respectfully take part in an online discussion of a proposed heat device. Those swimmers who took the bait were respectful, yet were treated with utter disrespect. I’ve noted Diana Nyad’s repeated masterful use of the word “respectfully” to imply that we are the one who lack it.

All four opinions were to later inform my reaction to the 2013 swim and the review panel so I will very briefly explain the context.

In the attempts of 2012, on both occasions Diana Nyad exited the water onto a boat. Prior to either swim I myself had never seen any mention that getting on the boat would be allowed.

The rules were never clarified, but it was mentioned by swim promoter Steve Munatones, AFTER the exit, that the swim would change to stage swim rules. Governing Rules for the swim were never actually explained before or after any of her swims, even as I write this over two weeks after the panel. Any claimed achievement without guiding rules is meaningless. It is akin to setting the world’s record for standing on one leg, but without rules which specify actually only using one leg … and instead using two legs.

The two other recent Cuba to Florida swimmers, Penny Palfrey and Chloe MacCardel, had both very clearly and transparently discussed their plans and the rules they would use before their respective swims. Penny even initiated a discussion about the use of stinger suits before her swim.

During the 2012 second attempt, the fourth overall it became clear from her own video by her own team that Diana Nyad held onto the boat. Along with this was the exiting of the water onto the boat.

In Part 2 I’ll explore the context of the panel some more and the events and questions before the panel.

In Part Three, I’ll discuss the panel, mostly my own input and interaction and in the final Part 4 where the post-swim and panel events have led me.

For transparency for visitors, below are links to three previous articles I’d written in 2012 on the subject of Diana Nyad.

Two Golden Rules. I’ve said that you can follow whatever swim rules you like, and that there are only two golden rules you need to follow. Publish the rules beforehand, and have a trusted reputable independent observer. Curiously, once again in the 2013 swim, Diana Nyad followed neither.

This post has been approved by the sport of open water swimming. Diana Nyad has made repeated statements that imply she has the blessing or approval of this mysterious organisation.

Comments on Diana Nyad’s heat drip device. A discussion of a questionable device and the treatment of swimmers by Diana Nyad.

Post Diana Nyad swim. The point at which I lost interest.

Comments are disabled for this post. If you really can’t wait until this series closes to insult me, the comments on About page is my preferred location. However unless you can add intelligence or relevant experience to the discussion, don’t expect your comment to see the light of day. 

MIMS 2013 – Part 5 – Conclusion and Recommendations

Once I finally decided to go ahead with this series of posts, I decided to wait until the “Quiet MIMS” swim of Saturday the 24th of August was finished, as I did not want it to in any way interfere with any of the swimmers. A marathon swim is always a challenging prospect for swimmers and I had no wish to even slightly disturb anyone’s mental equilibrium beforehand. The title “Quiet MIMS” is NYCSwim’s term for the swim that was open to, as far as I know, a maximum of ten swimmers from July’s MIMS. (They were offered this swim, not free, or for a fuel surcharge, but at a cost of $1,225). Nine swimmers took part. All completed the course. Congratulations to all!

*

Throughout this series I’ve asked you to keep to the forefront a question most swimmers would understand, a question many swimmers are now asking, based on NYCSwim’s own post-swim communication: Why exactly does MIMS cost an entry fee of $2150, if the fee doesn’t include a boat? That most of the swimmers who have ever swum MIMS have had a boat is irrelevant, when ten swimmers were left without a boat, NYCSwim did not offer any refund. I’ve previously included an NYCSwim post-swim email to one of the swimmers, and it’s worth repeating.

I know it sounds incredulous that we did not anticipate the boater shortage and the problems that spun from that, however it is the case every year that we do not have enough boaters signed up as the event approaches . . . and then they come out of the woodwork as a result of our final push in the days immediately beforehand.” 

*

The same day as MIMS 2012, while I was swimming around Manhattan, there was a four kilometre local swim race here in Ireland with 100 entrants on the same day. Things didn’t go very well. Tide timing was off and many swimmers were pulled from the water. As I was resting in New York the day after MIMS, I saw the emails, discussions and recriminations. Within a short period of the event, participants, both critical and otherwise, and organisers had their say, and public acknowledgements were made on both sides of mistakes and future improvements.

If such maturity can be shown for local swim, which is entirely voluntary, why is it that it can’t be shown by a commercial organisation that is taking an amount per swimmer that is a multiple by a factor of one hundred, and is known globally?

The Triple Crown of Swimming, is for (self-) promotion of MIMS, “to compare to the famous American horse-racing series” as I was told by the chief organiser and executive of NYCSwim last year and two of the swims are in the US. This would seem designed to appeal to that market, when either the Gibraltar or Cook Channels would make more sense as a third leg. NYCSwim has a FAQ about the English Channel to foster this notion of equivalence to the English Channel. Yet in correspondence to a MIMS 2013 swimmer complaint it wrote:

“Our event is not a solo swim like a channel crossing, and because of this we have to handle all the arrangements centrally. This has benefits—such as making our swim more affordable—and drawbacks”.

Many of the 2013 boat-assisted swimmers, who paid a substantial amount, include successful English and Catalina Channel swimmers (and other locations of course) with a considerable body of knowledge between them of various swims at all levels, including previous MIMS swims.

It’s hard to credit NYCSwim’s claim that MIMS is more affordable. There is no refund because of organisational failings on NYCSwim’s side. Those who wish to swim again face all the same financial costs. NYCSwim seems to want to be compared to or granted equivalence with the Catalina and English Channels, yet to be granted exemption in how it conducts MIMS, and to so do without the transparency available to Catalina and English Channel swimmers. These swimmers have a contract with a professional pilot, a governing organisations with rules, and voting rights for members. Comparing with the English Channel, which NYCSwim fosters: A swimmer who has booked an English Channel solo, who doesn’t get to swim due to weather or a boat problem or other, usually loses no more than the deposit with the pilot, the deposit size varying with the pilot. The worst case scenario is a loss of fifty percent of the total as some pilots require a payment of that amount in the year ending before the booked swim.

  • Should you consider swimming MIMS?

This post has seen quite a bit of prevarication on my side. What aided my decision was when I was asked by a friend about MIMS 2014 as their next swim. I’d already written a first draft of this and put it aside but I felt the need to answer that person and this question honestly so I sent them the considerably longer first draft of this series, (which has seen over twenty drafts since then). I finally responded and told them that while the idea of swimming around Manhattan is highly attractive, as it was for me, the financial risk that a person would take now seems too high in light of events of MIMS 2013. My own feeling is that any swimmer considering MIMS 2014 (or later), should not apply unless there is a clear indication that the organisation has made significant procedural improvements for the future.

All other considerations aside, disagreements with me on any of this aside, NYCSwim’s own words speak for themselves.

I know it sounds incredulous that we did not anticipate the boater shortage and the problems that spun from that, however it is the case every year that we do not have enough boaters signed up as the event approaches . . . and then they come out of the woodwork as a result of our final push in the days immediately beforehand.”  

Do you want to take that risk?

Following is a list of recommendations for NYCSwim.

  • Recommendations

These are based on this one average swimmer’s experience of swimming and general requirements for safety. I have had some valued input from many friends and correspondents around the world to this list, but it mostly contains my own ideas, though I believe others will have valuable additions. I believe these actions are required for future swimmers so MIMS can regain (because it has very definitely lost) its place and credibility as a premier global marathon swim event. Some of these recommendations come from other aspects of MIMS 2013 that I haven’t even touched on in this series, which are nonetheless also an indictment of NYCSwim’s handling of the event.

  • A contract between NYCSwim and each swimmer. This should include a guarantee of a boat per swimmer or an almost full refund (excluding an NYCSwim membership cost) should NYCSwim fail to provide a boat for the swimmer, or ensure the swim starts within a reasonable period of a designated and advertised start time.
  • Refunds for those swimmers caught up in the MIMS 2013 debacle who did not get to finish and who were listed as boat-assisted, regardless of whether or not they participated in the later “Quiet Swim”, excepting swimmers who might choose to forego the refund in favour of a public guarantee and free entry for 2014.
  • A procedure to verify and ensure in advance that the boats to be used are fit for use.
  • Pairing of skippers, swimmers and kayakers with contact details to the swimmers at least a week in advance. UPDATE: Please see the very interesting comment below from Harald Johnson, MIMS 1983 winner, about how things were done before the current NYC took over,when swimmers and boats were paired months in advance.
  • Confirmation that every boat skipper has a VFH radio and is familiar with its use with guidelines to every skipper of communication and evacuation procedures and foreseeable but abnormal events.
  • Skippers and kayakers to be present at the previous day’s briefing and participation in online briefings.
  • While retaining a maximum number of two crew as reasonable, all swimmers should be able to add or substitute crew up to two weeks before MIMS.
  • Remapping of the NYCSWim.org domain name to NYCSwim.com to make clear its commercial nature.
  • Risk Assessment and Safety Plans available on NYCSwim’s website.
  • Clarification of NYCSwim’s rule on water evacuation, specifically that the penalty for a swimmer refusing to evacuate per instructions is disqualification without appeal, in common with other swims.
  • NYCSwim previously had a policy or guideline of informing swimmers should water contamination be below acceptable levels. NYCSwim should re-iterate publicly its commitment to swimmer stakeholder safety and health.
  • NYCSwim should collate and publish annual figures of swimmer illness from each MIMS swim before opening up applications for the following year’s swim as part of its avowed Mission Statement.
  • NYCSwim should publish each year’s water cleanliness test results subsequent to its major swims (in the way that it already publishes previous year’s water temperatures) as part of its Mission Statement. It should improve the reporting of water quality tests on its website and keep these current.

NYCSwim aspires to be and designates itself as a premier global marathon swimming event. I have swum it myself and loved the swim and the location. Swimmers around the world should be confident of its organisation and I make these recommendations in the hope of that the Manhattan Island Marathon Swim will address its failings, improve and prosper.

To re-establish credibility NYCSwim must make changes. These changes must put swimmers first.

*

I’d like to close with some thanks once again to the many people, around the world who reviewed or contributed to this series, some of whom were consulted for their expertise in different areas: solo swimmers from MIMS 2013 and previously or eligible for future MIMS, relay swimmers, crew, volunteers, publishers, swim directors and lawyers. Without their assistance, these posts would never have been published. I am indebted to them all. I have been given permission for every quotation that I have used. ________________________________________________________________________________________________________ All facts I have researched to the best of my ability, any mistakes are unintentional and will be addressed if someone sends new, credible and verifiable information. _______________________________________________________________________________________________________

Other essential reading on this subject

Second-placed female swimmer Carol Cashell’s blog report

Initially-boat assisted and later successful Quiet swim finishers

Karen Throsby

Caitlin Rosen

The marathonswimmers.org forum discussion

25 signs of being a marathon swimmer

I came across this article on 25 signs that you might be a marathon swimmer, by Steve Munatones, on active.com because of a sudden slew of mentions of the article on Twitter. I think it was written some time ago, but I’m not sure.

I thought I’d see if I had the potential to be a marathon swimmer. :-)

1. Your favorite author is Lynne Cox.

Lynn Cox wrote a famous to swimmers autobiography of her life and adventures in long-distance swimming. She isn’t my favourite author, I read too much, but I understand the point. And of course I have the book. 

2. You have four jars of lanolin in your car.lanolin and other types of grease and lubrication

Alan Clack brought in 1.5 kilograms of lanolin in two jars from Canada for me when I was running out last year and worrying about the national shortage that non-one was taking seriously. I’ve got sufficient for about five four years now. (I gave Gábor a tub after I wrote that sentence). No, you can’t have any of mine.

3. You equate the sight of neoprene with someone scratching their fingernails on a blackboard.

I recently felt compelled to write a haiku about neoprene for myself while I was swimming skin in 8 degree water. Yes, you’ll probably get to see at some point in the future.

4. You are Facebook friends with 36 of the 49 Triple Crown swimmers.

I’m not on Facebook but I sure know many of them, whether personally, through email, or through the marathonswimmers.org forum. I’ve even collected autographs!

5. Ocean’s Seven is on your bucket list.

I fail this one. Ocean’s Seven has not been a dream of mine.

6. An email from Philip Rush is like winning the lottery.

I remember the excitement the first time I got copied on an email from Ted Eriskson. And Penny Palfrey. And Anne Cleveland, Scott Zornig, Dave Barra, Chloe McCardel, etc. Steve Munatones was the common point of origin for many of these emails. Lisa Cummins is one of my friends, Kevin Murphy sent me Christmas wishes and Steve Redmond rang me for a chat this morning. Shameless name-dropping!

Mixing Maxim
Mixing Maxim

7. You know the components of Maxim.

It’s just maltodextrin, aka rocket-fuel. I recently saw someone write somewhere that there is protein in it, which there isn’t. If you want the definitive discussion of maltodextrin in swimming, Evan’s blog is the place.

8. You feel like you’ve been to Sandycove even though you’ve never visited Europe.

Well I guess that’s obvious. Owen and I were talking recently and I reminded him of the Sandycove AGM a couple of years ago. I’d just created the Sandycove website and I wanted everyone to start pushing awareness of the website as the introduction to one of the world’s great open water swimming clubs, whenever they could, email signatures, forums, blogs etc. Almost everyone looked at me like I was mad. Two years later …

Sandycove panorama
Sandycove panorama

9. You read Donal Buckley‘s blog first thing in the morning.

That’s quite gratifying, and thanks to Steve for that comment. My blog, a sign of mental aberration! LoneSwimmer.com is three years at the end of this month, by the way. For the first time in my life I have a nickname. Well, one that can be repeated on polite society. I do not yet refer to myself in the third person though. Sometimes it’s really hard to come up with new stuff, when it’s the depths of winter, there’s not a lot to report and the time in the water is too short to be very inspired. My 2012 photos have helped recently.

10. The MarathonSwimmers Forum is your favorite online property.

Again, this is great. marathonswimmers.org is becoming what Evan and I hoped, a real online meeting place and discussion and argument place for the world’s marathon and aspirant marathon swimmers.

11. For you, single-digit swimming is doable, not dangerous.

Single digit swimming is bloody unavoidable if you want to be an open water swimmer in Ireland or the UK. I know enough to know there’s a huge difference between 9 C and 5 C.

12. When Mike Oram speaks, you listen.

I do indeed read everything Mike Oram commits to the Channel chat group. (I don’t agree with it all though).

13. When you see a body of water, you wonder what the water temperature is.

I don’t really wonder about temperature of bodies of water unless I am actually going to swim in them. Is that a yes or a no? I just assume there are all cold, it’s easier.

14. When you see a body of water, you Google it to see if it has even been swum.

Google Earth is one of the great modern additions to marathon swimming, and I wish to hell Google would update the entire Irish coast in full resolution, especially the bit around Dungarvan.

15. & 16. Your first question upon landing in San Francisco is, “Where is Aquatic Park?”. You know the difference between the Dolphin Club and South End Rowing Club.

I know where Aquatic Park is (though I haven’t swum there). And La Jolla in San Diego (I have swum there). I do feel my swimming Curriculum Vitae is somewhat remiss by not having a South End membership on it. Yet.

17. After your 100 x 100s, you head to the beach.

I’ve swum 27,000 metres in the pool with The Magnificent Seven and then we’ve gone immediately to the sea and swum in 7 degrees Celsius water. That one sea swim is what led to my reputation with Coach Eilis as being reckless.

Six of The Magnificent Seven. From left; Ciaran Byrne, Donal, Liam Maher, Jennifer Hurley, Rob Bohane, Gabor Molnar. Channel swimmers one and all.
Six of The Magnificent Seven. From left; Ciaran Byrne, Donal, Liam Maher, Jennifer Hurley, Rob Bohane, Gabor Molnar. Channel swimmers one and all.

18. Swimming extra on holidays is a given.

Isn’t swimming what holidays are for? A better way of explaining this is that you are going somewhere where there is no chance of a swim. But you take your swimming gear anyway.

19. You always wonder if you have done enough and stress out when others do more.

My solution to mileage concerns has been to try to swim at least a million metres per year regardless. I still stress.

20. You fret about every twinge in your shoulders.

Fret is too mild a word when it comes to shoulder pain worry. Before MIMS last year for two weeks I kept repeating to Dee and Lisa that something was wrong, something was wrong but I couldn’t explain it. Nothing was wrong, apparently.

21. “Nothing great is easy”, is your favorite quote.2010 Capt Webb Dawley Memorial 7 Nothing_Great_Is_Easy

Nothing Great is Easy becomes your favourite quote when you’ve earned it the hard way.

22. You love bioluminescence.

I do. I really do. Bioluminescense is the sea’s gift to night-swimmers.

The Purple Stinger
The Purple Stinger

23. & 24. You have considered—many times—how to punch a shark. You know more types of jellyfish than you do cats.

 

Sharks don’t actually exist. They are faked in the same studios as the moon landing. Jellyfish are a different matter. Those multitudinous feckers. I keep swimming into new types I don’t recognise. When did I ever think I’d start to recognise different species of jellyfish?  Are there more than two kinds of cat; nasty and more nasty?

25. You diet to gain bioprene.

I’ve lost weight recently and my cold water tolerance is badly affected. Bad bad Donal.

Well, do I pass? Can I become a marathon swimmer?

Global Marathon Swimmer Awards 2012 – The Winners

The voting for the inaugural Global Marathon Swimming Awards closed at the New Year and early last week the winners were announced. There were three categories of award for the first year, 2012:

  • Female Performance of the Year
  • Male Performance of the Year
  • The Barra Award for the most Impressive Overall Body of Work for the Year

Who was nominated?

Category: Solo Swim of the Year (Female) - the single most outstanding solo marathon swim by a female in 2012.

The nominees were:

  • Annaleise Carr - Lake Ontario crossing
  • Chloe McCardel - two-way English Channel crossing
  • Tina Neill - San Clemente Island to California mainland

Category: Solo Swim of the Year (Male) - the single most outstanding solo marathon swim by a male in 2012.

The nominees were:

  • Trent Grimsey - English Channel world record
  • Craig Lenning - Tsugaru Channel crossing
  • Bill Shipp - Lake Memphremagog crossing

Category: The Barra Award - the marathon swimmer (male or female) with the most impressive body of work, considered as a whole, in 2012.

The nominees were:

  • David Barra
  • Darren Miller
  • Anna-Carin Nordin
  • Stephen Redmond
  • Grace van der Byl

Why were these swimmers nominated?

Links to all the nominations can be seen here which includes links to the individual nominations AND the reasons for those nominations.

Who could vote?

Actual members of the forum can be assumed to be either marathon or aspirant marathon swimmers, or involved in the sport somehow. We believe peer recognition and the voting methods outlined below are the strength of the awards.

Why is voting restricted to Forum Members?

These awards do not have the reach, publicity nor media recognition of other awards. But those nominated and winning do have the knowledge and recognition that their efforts are respected and validated by the only people truly capable of appreciating their accomplishments; marathon swimmers, aspirant marathon swimmers, and those specifically interested in the sport, from around the world.

In most votes, voting is restricted (such as in national election where it is restricted to citizens) to those with interest in the specific subject. Otherwise vote rigging and vote-brigading for nationalistic or personal reasons, often not by the nominees become the dominant motive.

How was voting run?

Initially the awards were opened up to a nomination process. This allowed the possibility of  any swimmer worldwide being nominated, the only criteria being that they followed accepted marathon swimming rules. Private nominations could be made to the Administrators (Evan & I) who subsequently published those nominations.

The nomination process was open for four weeks.

The process then moved to a finalist short list which was open from November to the end of the year.

Only signed up members of the forum could vote. Every forum member had one vote per nominee and these were cast by “liking” the nominees. At the close of voting tallies of likes were taken and panel consisting of the Administrators and members of the forum agreed on the winners.

What precautions were taken to insure the integrity of the Global Marathon Swimmer Awards?

  • Care was taken to determine that no vote-brigading was carried out through any sudden influx of members.
  • No ongoing tallies of votes were published during voting. Letting potential voters know of the state of the voting during a vote, is one the oldest and greatest flaws of any voting process.
  • Multiple voting by members by using different devices or IP address was not possible as voting was per Forum Membership ID. Vote early, vote often may be a joke, but with the above two is the other greatest flaw of online voting.

Who were the winners?

Female Solo Swim of the Year

Tina Neill - Unprecedented 52-mile swim from San Clemente Island to the California mainland

Tina Neill
Tina Neill

Male Solo Swim of the Year

Trent Grimsey - English Channel world record (6 hours, 55 minutes)

Trent Grimsey headshot.resized

The Barra Award for most impressive body of work in 2012, considered as a whole

Grace van der Byl - New Catalina Channel overall world record; new records in all 7 stages (plus overall time) of the 8 Bridges Hudson River Swim

Grace van der Byl
Grace van der Byl

We would like to note that the Barra Award voting was extraordinarily close. Stephen Redmond was the runner-up to Grace by a margin of only two votes.

What do the winners receive?

Unfortunately, there is no physical award, Evan and I are just two guys, we wish we had physical awards to bestow. What the winners receive, for what it’s worth and along with all the nominees, are the respect and admiration of their peers and a significant number of the global marathon swimming population for their excellence and commitment to the marathon swimming tradition.

These are true swimming icons for us all to recognise, to celebrate and where possible, to attempt to emulate. They each embody the ethos of true marathon swimming, as indeed did all the nominees.

We congratulate them all, and thank the Forum Members for participating in the inaugural Awards.

(We are open to improvements and suggestions for next year). 

It’s a water world. Swim it.

Announcing the First Annual marathonswimmers.org Global Marathon Swimming Awards

Early in 2012, Evan Morrison, myself and a small group of well-known swimmers corresponded to discuss the possibility of initiating a global marathon swimming award.

Our desire was to focus exclusively on swimmers and swims which followed the traditionally accepted marathon swimming guidelines; single, non-stop, non-assisted swims over 10 kilometres. Our concern was that with the proliferation of new and alternative types of swims, all acceptable on their own merits, the long-established sport of unaided marathon and Channel swimming was losing visibility and confusion was growing. We believe in fact that in 2012 this problem has grown to an even greater extent, as I have written about previously.

This discussion led in turn to the creation of marathonswimmers.org, the first forum to support and promote traditional marathons swimming, for all abilities, from beginners to Aspirants, to experienced marathon and Channel swimmers. After seven months in operation, with a steadily increasing membership, including hundreds of Channel swimmers,  Evan and I we feel comfortable that marathonswimmers.org is healthy and that now is an apt time to announce the First Annual Global Marathon Swimming Awards.

This first year, there will be three categories.

Dave Barra & Donal Buckley on Brighton Beach

The Barra Award is named after forum Charter Member* and valued part of all our discussions and all-round funny guy, David Barra, who in one season completed English Channel, Catalina Channel, Manhattan Island Marathon Swim, Maui Channel, Tampa Bay Marathon Swim, Ederle Swim, and the Boston Light Swim. Dave’s email and forum signature is typical of a marathon swimmer’s ethos. “Anything worth doing, is worth overdoing“.

The awards selection will be by a nomination and vote process of the forum members, followed by a committee decision. Nominees do not have to be forum members. Only members of the marathonswimmers.org forum are eligible to nominate and vote, and with only one vote and nomination per category per member.

  • We will only consider swims for the calendar year of 2012. (Any meritorious swims occurring after the announcement in 2012 will instead be eligible in 2013).
  • We will not announce running totals, so there will be no leading of votes.
  • There will be no multiple votes possible per member or IP address.

More details are on the link.

It’s worth reiterating therefore that these awards will be: By Swimmers. For Swimmers.

* Forum Charter member were those involved in the early discussions who signed up early in the first round. It’s our way of recognising and thanking them for their help and early participation.

Related articles:

The announcement on Evan’s freshwaterswimmer.com.

marathon swimmers.org cropped & levelled banner

Announcing: marathonswimmers.org

Hello friends, future friends, open water swimmers, readers, Aspirants and marathon swimmers!

For some time Evan Morrison and some others and myself have been discussing global marathon swimming.

Marathon swimming is a tiny but still growing sport. As a group, we wish to see marathon swimming continue to be celebrated and encouraged and confusion with other types of swimming reduced (which intends no disrespect to those swimmers and swims). But Evan and I and many others adhere to 136 year old rules that have derived from Captain Webb‘s first English Channel swim in 1875.

As a step toward fostering and supporting marathon swimming, we’re inviting you to view and hopefully join The Marathon Swimmers Forum at marathonswimmers.org.

We had a “soft” launch last week with a small global invitation list in order to get some people involved before announcing the forum more widely and to test it and see if the idea was valid or potentially valuable, and the thirty-ish people signed up from the invitation list  includes some very successful marathon swimmers and also some Aspirants.

The CS&PF Channel email group, Facebook and various Association’s websites and blogs and email lists already play an important global role in communication, education and  connection. Marathonswimmers.org is not intended to replace or compete with any of those, or any other medium, but is hoped to promote, help and add to our global community.

It is intended to be open, global and to also allow anonymity.

Evan, (who is a committee member of Santa Barbara Channel Swimming Association) has registered the domain and there is no cost and no commercial element. It’s a free forum that we hope will become integral to the global marathon swimming community, both beginners and experienced swimmers. We’d love your participation.

We hope it will be useful for learning AND teaching, advice, sharing information and help, volunteering, making connections, encouragement, trackers, cheering, celebrations and congratulations, and whatever else you’re having yourself.

From beginner to the world’s most famous open water and marathons swimmers, all are welcome.

We dearly hope if this is your area of interest you will drop by and make it yours, (not ours).

Here’s to a marathon swimming world.

Please share this if you wish.

Regards
Donal & Evan