Oceans Seven......Pat's Adventure of a Lifetime

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Endurance training

Twelve years ago when I decided to start training for a 2.4 mile ocean swim, I didn't know if I could swim two laps of the pool. I knew how to swim. But after several years of NOT swimming, I was filled with self-doubt about my ability to swim that distance. However, I was determined to train for the Peaks to Portland as a tribute to my brother Robbie. As the months passed, I gradually added ten minutes to my workout then twenty minutes, etc. I remember the first time I swam one hour freestyle without stopping--- I felt like I had won an Olympic Gold Medal. The following year I continued to gradually extend my swim workouts to two hours per day. However, with work and family life, I had to create a training program that would work with my busy schedule. I planned on training 2-3 days a week with 3+ hours each day and on the other days I would have a shorter swim of one hour or I would incorporate cross training. As the years passed, I continued to add extra time to my "long day" workouts. After I swam the 2.4 mile swim, I never imagined that I would be a marathon swimmer several years later. I continued to add "time" to my workouts. Training for a marathon swim is very similar to training for a marathon run. You don't have to run or swim a marathon everyday but you need to have a "long training" day each week. And similar to running, an athlete should gradually build up their endurance. Depending on your level as a swimmer, it make take several years of training before you can swim a marathon distance. In my case, I realized I had the ability to swim a marathon distance after my ninth year of training. Last year I swam 32 miles in sixteen hours at the age of 57. However, everyone is different---a strong, young competitive swimmer may need only a year of endurance training to swim a marathon. You won't know what you are capable of doing, unless you try. So, go for it!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

***** New crew for 2011 *****

In the past two trips to England, I have been fortunate to have my son Tom, brothers Bill, Paul, Tom and nephew Joe as my boat crew. I want to thank each of them for their time and effort. They were so positive and uplifting during our stay in Dover. I will always treasure the moments we spent together. As a team, we discussed having a new crew. I am very proud to announce my crew for August 2011...... my brother Robbies' son Christopher (who will be 16 in 2011), nephew Kyle(same age and a wonderful swimmer), brother David and sister-in-law Jeannie.
Training of my new crew has already started as we prepare for 2011.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

White Cliffs of Dover (windy conditions)

Please excuse the poor quality of my video. It was very difficult to hold the camera steady due to windy conditions
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English Channel

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Sunday, July 26, 2009

Not This Year-Thanks to all my supporters

July 26, 2009 5:08:20 PM EDT
I will be returning to Maine without an attempt to cross the English Channel. Today the winds continued and my boat pilot said that although the winds would decrease for a short time this afternoon, it was not good for a crossing. I appreciated his honesty. I have trained hard for the past few years for this day but it was not meant to be for THIS year. My boat pilot is already booked for next summer. So, I have booked another attempt for August 2011, #1 slot, second neap tide. This grandma from Maine is very determined and I will not throw in the towel due to inclement weather. My plans for 2010 will be to swim two marathon swims--Catalina Channel (California) and the Strait of Gibraltar in Spain. I want to thank everyone for their many words of encouragement and support. I am so proud to live in the great state of Maine. I have received wonderful words of support from so many people throughout the state.......I can't thank you enough. A special thank you to Geoff and Conde for creating and updating my blog. And a special thank you to my family and friends who were a major support. To my crew---Brothers Tom, Paul, and Bill, son Tom, and nephew Joe----I greatly appreciate everything you have done. And lastly to my husband Jim---thank you for encouraging me to reach for my dream.
Pat

Final Hours

July 26, 2009 3:42:04 AM EDT
IF my swim occurs today at 1 PM, my crew and I will have to check-out from our campground today. We figured with a potential swim of 18 hrs and the boat ride back to Dover 3 hrs., we would have to depart for Heathrow after getting off the boat. My brothers fly out late on Monday and I fly out on Tuesday (I'm spending the night at a hotel near Heathrow). It's going to be a very tight schedule ----IF I swim. Current conditions are overcast skies, moderate wind, and the POTENTIAL of decreasing winds this afternoon. Tonight winds predicted 15 mph.
I am prepared for Reg's decision of "go" or "no go".
I will update you as soon as I hear from Reg.
Pat

Saturday, July 25, 2009

It's a GO....then quickly a NO go.

What a roller coaster ride of emotions. My brothers and I were getting in the car to head to the marina when we got the call that the swim was cancelled due to sudden change in the weather. The boat pilot asked me to call him at 3pm saturday (maine) to see about a 2 am swim on Sunday. This is my last chance because my brothers fly out on Monday. We will NOT reschedule.
I cannot believe what's happening.
I want to thank you all for all your words of encouragement and emails. I will make another post when I get the FINAL word whether or not my swim will take place.
-Pat

Friday, July 24, 2009

another cancelled swim

Friday, July 24, 2009 3:21 PM
I just got off the phone with my boat pilot Reg. My 2 am start has been cancelled due to continued winds. He said he would call me at 11 am Saturday (6am Eastern) for a POSSIBLE start at 2:30 pm Saturday. I am getting very worried that my swim might not take place. Sunday's forecast has changed--- now it's rain and high winds. I have a gut feeling that my last opportunity to swim will be tomorrow afternoon.
Enjoy the Peaks to Portland tomorrow. And say "hi" to all the swimmers for me.
Pat

Thursday, July 23, 2009

FILLING IN SOME GAP'S

I apologize in advance for the length of this post. While Pat has yet to swim there have been many dramatic twists that deserve some further explaination. Pat explains below how she was able to extend her stay. Another significant factor are the tides.
Everyone who lives near the ocean has familiarity with the fact that the magnitude of the High and Low tides varies during the month with the lunar cycle. In the last two weeks we have moved from the slack or NEAP tides to High/SPRING tides. Along with the higher tides are much stronger currents. In 1926 when Gertrude Ederle made her record-breaking crossing in 14 hours 39 minutes the conventional wisdom was to swim on the Spring tide and attempt to take advantage of those currents. Today the preference is to swim on the NEAP tide when the tide/currents are much less a factor. There are many variables that determine success or failure. Pat has learned for example that while we have heard about the tides, jellyfish, waves and hypothermia, etc. many have to withdraw from something as mundane as seasickness and vomiting. In this context the SPRING tide is just another variable to consider and try to put to use. It has however made it possible for Pat to swim this weekend as explained below. It is also why Pat is likely to start her swim at around 2 AM (9 PM EDT) to take maximum advantage of the tide and currents.
Geoff; please read on---

Thursday, July 23, 2009 4:29 PM

WEEKEND SWIM
I'll email you tomorrow with the update from Reg--- again I will hear from him at 8pm (3pm eastern)
Reg studied my chart of my swim last year. He said that the currents never assisted me that day. He believes with the right current, tide, and lack of wind would help me get across sooner. However, I know my pace and I don't see that happening.

July 23, 2009 4:49:13 PM EDT
10 DAY SLOT
I've received a number of emails asking about my 10-day slot. The rule is that a swimmer in a prior slot cannot "bump" a swimmer on the next 10-day slot. The next 10-day slot was reserved for swimmers going for a "double crossing" however the tides are only good this weekend for a one way crossing. The swimmer in the next camper happens to be preparing for a double crossing. We have been training together in Dover Harbor all week. She was happy to let me use the first days of her 10-day slot that were unsuitable for her swim.
I truly believe that many of the prayers and positive thoughts coming this way have helped. I greatly appreciate everyone’s support during the past couple of weeks.
Pat

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

bad news/ good news

Date: July 22, 2009 4:05:53 PM EDT
My boat pilot said that the winds have decreased enough for a 10 hour window. Because I estimate that my swim will take 16 hrs plus, he recommended not to swim and advised to wait. I mentioned to him that I was flying out on Saturday and the last day of my slot ends tomorrow. He said very good conditions are predicted for Saturday and Sunday. Also, saying that he would take me over the week-end. After discussing this problem with my husband, Jim said to go for it. So guess what? I have cancelled my flight back to Maine and I'm staying for the weekend. I've been training for the past three years and I'm going for it.
This has certainly been a roller coaster ride for the past week---but I have learned in life that sometimes things work out for a reason. And I'm so lucky to have such a wonderful husband who is very supportive of my dream

The Interminable Wait

Date: July 22, 2009 12:24:50 PM EDT
It's the direction of the wind that is a major factor in the final decision. If it's a headwind, the swim is cancelled . Reg said for every stroke forward the head wind would push a swimmer back--- making it a very difficult swim. I will update in three hours.
Pat
Date: July 22, 2009 12:12:47 PM EDT
I just got off the phone with Reg.----- the winds have decreased but not enough. He will wait three hours before he makes his final decision if the swim will take place at 1 am.
Pat

Nail biting time

Date: Wednesday, July 22, 2009 10:20 AM
I will hear from my boat pilot in two hours for the weather update and to confirm my swim. Currently it is VERY windy and the forecast predicts decrease winds for later today. It's getting to be nailbiting time-- tomorrow is my last day of my slot. I would feel better if it wasn't so windy.
Pat

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

another update

July 21, 2009 3:28:58 PM EDT
I spoke with my boat pilot a few minutes ago. He said that Wednesday's weather report shows improvement starting in the evening and Thursday looks good. He said to plan for a 1 AM start on Thursday.(England time zone)---- 8pm in Maine on Wednesday. I feel very confident that my swim will not be cancelled. Every swimmer here is talking about the great weather conditions coming in on Thursday. I will get the final updated weather report from him at 5 PM Wednesday ( noon eastern time). I will let everyone know shortly after hearing the final report. Keeping my fingers crossed.
Pat

update

July 21, 2009 2:34:12 PM EDT
My brothers will be calling you every few hours when my swim occurs----my boat pilot feels that Thursday will be THE DAY. The Press Herald called for an interview. I told them you have been updating the blog and would update on the day of the swim. If my swim starts, when it's night time --- please shut your phone off and get a good night sleep. You can get the voice mails when you get up. My brothers will give you, weather conditions, water temp, my status, and distance swum.
Wednesday forecast looks windy. Thursday looks good. When my boat pilot says it's time for my swim. I will let you know.
Pat

No GO - another cancelled swim

July 21, 2009 3:51:32 AM EDT
The winds have certainly improved. But there are headwinds coming in from France. Reg said that the winds will increase in about 6 hours ---making it a very difficult swim.
He cancelled for today. He wants me to call him tonight again for update on tomorrow's weather. But, he said that Thursday's forecast looks very promising (my last day of my slot). Last year I swam on my last slot day, maybe this will happen again. Trying to stay positive.
Pat

Monday, July 20, 2009

It might be a GO

July 20, 2009 3:20:22 PM EDT
I just got off the phone with my boat pilot at 8PM (3PM eastern). He said the winds are expected to diminish overnight. He wants me to call him at 8AM tomorrow (Tuesday) for update on conditions with a possible start at 10 AM. He said that another cold front is coming in and there is only a very short window of diminished winds. I'm very excited and I hope that I receive news tomorrow that it is a GO ! With the hopes of swimming tomorrow, I'm on cloud nine.
Pat

WAITING, AND WAITING AND WAITING

July 20, 2009 5:15:20 AM EDT
Another day of waiting. I have three days left of my ten day slot. And I hate to admit it, but I am starting to get VERY nervous that I won't have the opportunity to swim due to the weather. Each day I hear of one more swimmer who has departed from Dover without an attempt .
I'm trying to think positive-- I still have three more days of my slot.
Tonight at 8pm I will receive word from Reg about Tuesdays weather report. I've learned that the weather reports online about Dover is not accurate. One day we were having 50+ mph winds ,sunny and the weather report stated 25 mph and rainy. The locals joke about the weather similar to Maine----wait a minute and it will change.
Hope that you have good weather for Peaks to Portland.
Take care
Pat

Sunday, July 19, 2009

High Winds

July 19, 2009 3:26:21 PM EDT
Early this afternoon the strong winds returned. My brother Tom estimated the wind speed at 35 MPH. All swims have been cancelled for Monday. My last day of my slot is Thursday. I'm hoping and praying that the weather improves.
Pat

Wind Moderating

July 19, 2009 4:10:39 AM EDT
I will hear today (Sunday) from my boat pilot at 8pm local time (3 pm Eastern) on whether my swim will occur tomorrow. The winds have decreased significantly---(THANK GOD). I will send update as soon I receive word. My brothers are expected in Dover within the hour. I can't wait to see them.
Pat

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Praying to the Channel Gods

July 18, 2009 12:19:45 PM EDT
No change in the weather condition-- very windy all day. I swam in Dover Harbor this morning and I met Alison Streeter 's (world record holder for the most crossings in the English Channel ) mother at the beach. Her mother Freda was inducted in the International Swim Hall of Fame for her coaching. She is nicknamed "the general". And I can see why--- with a cigarette butt in her mouth, she was bloody yelling at the swimmers to stay in the harbor and swim, swim, swim. I had a good laugh.
I was not going to do any sightseeing but my son Tom convinced me to visit Canterbury Church for a short time. He could tell that I was still focused on my swim ---- I lit a candle, kneeled in prayer, and asked a priest to say a prayer for calm winds.--- I believe I covered all bases. And for good luck, I asked the Channel Gods for mercy. No harm in asking

Friday, July 17, 2009

Wicked Bad Weather (as they say in Maine)

July 17, 2009 3:41:41 PM EDT
I just received word from my boat pilot that all swims are cancelled for the weekend due to high winds. Many swimmers are going home tomorrow without a swim----very disappointing. The campground that I'm staying at overlooks the English Channel. We were able to see these massive waves crash over the bow of an oil tanker in the shipping lane. We tried to get video but it was to far away. My son returns to Maine on Monday to get back to work --so he will miss my chance to swim. My brothers arrive on Sunday morning for the last half of my slot. Hope your training is going well for the Peaks.
Pat

High Winds-No Attempts

Still waiting, High winds today(Friday) and no swimmers crossing today. I will hear from my boat pilot this evening for an update. I'm glad I stuck with my plan of no taper until I reached Dover. It's been great fun meeting other marathon swimmers some of them are world record holders. I've been invited by a board member of British Long Distance Swim Club to swim Lake Windemere next year. Also, I was invited to go to Spain to swim the Strait of Gibraltar by member of their swim club. Dover is the swimming mecca. Swimmers from all over the world chat about their country and the great swims out there. It's absolutely fascinating.
Take care and I'll update you when I hear from my boat pilot.
Pat

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Waiting

I met with Reg Brickell (boat pilot) and he has taken #2 slot out for his swim today. I will be next. # one slot did not swim. He thought that I may swim either on Saturday or Sunday depending on the wind. I will get more info on Friday. Today, one swimmer ended her swim two hours after her start due to hypothermia (water temp low 60's). I'm so glad that I started my cold acclimation in April. It has really helped. I am very well acclimated to the Channel.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Monday July 13th

I brought my lap top with me. I was glad to hear that Varne Ridge has wireless connnection.
Update on swim: It has been sunny and very breezy. A few swimmers went out and lasted only a short time (one was 2h). Number one slot for Reg has not been out due to the winds. I'm so glad I have him as my pilot. He wants to make sure the weather is calm before any attempts. My swim might not take place until later in the week---everything depends on the winds.
Today I swam in Dover Harbor for two hours---it felt like bathwater it was probably 62 degrees water temp.
Pat

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Channel Bound

Assuming all went according to plan Pat and her support team will now be on the other side of the Atlantic. Pat's son Tom is planning on making regular calls on status and I will add brief updates to the blog as I they come in.
The last two years of training all now focused on a 10 day window. It is now down to the raw essentials of Pat and the Channel.
Geoff

Thursday, July 9, 2009

THANK YOU

Dear Friends, Family, and Co-workers,

Before I leave for Dover on Saturday, I want to thank you for your heartfelt words of encouragement and support. It has meant so much to me.
A special thank you for my "spotters" who walked Pine Point Beach for several hours and for some, during torrential downpours. I deeply appreciate you taking the time out of your busy schedules to help me fulfill my dream. Thank you.
Also, I would like to thank the members and staff of the Casco Bay YMCA in Freeport. I can't thank them enough for everything they have done. I was so touched by a member who gave me their "34 year chip" of sobriety as a symbol of strength. I am honored to wear it on my channel crossing. Thank you.
A special thank you to Geoff and Conde for their time in creating such a wonderful blog of my English Channel swim---it is so appreciated.
Also, I would like to thank "Peak Performance" and "Lake Region Imports" for their support. To my husband Jim (my soul mate and the love of my life) thank you for being such a caring, supportive and understanding husband. To my daughter Sarah--thank you for your many, many, many words of encouragement. You're so special. And a special thank you to my son Tom who inspired me so many years ago to swim the Peaks to Portland as a tribute to my brother Robbie. Thank you for saying, "You could, if you tried."
When I begin my swim across the Channel, all of you will be in my thoughts. And, TOGETHER WE WILL reach France. My heartfelt thanks to all of you.
Love,
Pat

Monday, June 29, 2009

Tapering for a Marathon Swim

A marathon swim taper is different from a short swim taper. The rule of thumb is "the longer the swim, the shorter the taper." In my final days of training for the English Channel, I will continue to swim for many hours in a day. My taper begins on the day I leave for England. After arriving in Dover, I will train for no more that two hours per day in Dover Harbor. I will get plenty of rest during the day and no sightseeing until after my channel swim. This type of taper worked very well for me last year. The day of my channel swim I felt energized and strong.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Sports Massage for Swimmers

Over the past several years massage therapy has become very popular with marathon swimmers. And I include this as part of my preparation to swim the English Channel.
The following posting has been submitted by Jane Hoover, R.N., L.M.T. of Westbrook, Maine:
Massage by its very nature helps one to be more attuned to the body and to the interplay and unity of body, mind, and spirit. In taking on a challenge the magnitude of the English Channel, the significance of this awareness in the athlete cannot be overstated. Over the past months, Pat and I have focused on this awareness as well as on balance, relaxation, and working out any soreness, strains, or imbalances that have occurred.
Regarding balance, each muscle and muscle group has an agonist/antagonist relationship with another muscle or muscle group. Keeping these muscles and muscle groups as equal as possible in strength and flexibility gives the athlete greater power and less discomfort. For instance, swimming the freestyle stroke, the muscles of the chest are shortened and strengthened while the muscles of the upper back are stretched, which tends to weaken them. In massage sessions, we discuss these balancing situations and address them through massage working to open the chest muscles and stretching the upper back. Then, Pat takes this awareness to her training to include more backstroke to open and balance the chest. Massage provides a wonderful opportunity for this awareness-building in the athlete.
Massage also offers a time for the body and mind to come together in deep relaxation and rejuvenation. The athlete will emerge both relaxed and energized.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Tips for Night Swims (Open Water Swimmers)

Swimming at night, especially in the ocean, is an important part of my training for the English Channel. Safety is the first concern. Always have a spotter. I like to wear a yellow glow stick ( 3 inch) on the back of my swim cap and suit. My spotter wears a glow stick, too, so we can easily see each other. Also, swim in a safe zone away from boat traffic. My favorite place for a night swim is Pine Point (Maine). I will swim parallel to shore. Wear clear lens goggles-- NEVER wear tinted goggles at night because it will reduce your visibility.
Mental preparation for a night swim is extremely important. A swimmer needs to stay focus on positive thoughts. If your mind starts to wander down the path of the movie "JAWS", stop those frightening thoughts immediately and re-focus. Swimming at night is absolutely beautiful, especially if you're lucky enough to see a bio luminescent show ---light produced by a reaction of algae to water movement(swimmer). It's spectacular! Pine Point Beach offers one of the very best "light" shows for night swimmers. Remember to stay safe, think positive thoughts, and enjoy.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Nutrition during a marathon swim

Years ago, Captain Matthew Webb was the first person to successfully swim across the English Channel. During his swim, he ate raw meat and drank beef tea, brandy, and cod liver oil (YUK). Then later, Gertrude Ederle, the first woman to swim across the Channel, ate chicken, chocolate, sugar cubes and drank beef broth. Today most marathon swimmmers "drink" their carbs and protein. I tested several brands during my training. I finally found the brand that works well for me. I use the products by "Hammer Nutrition"---- Sustained Energy (powder) and 100% whey protein. I mix these powders with water prior to my swim. I tested these products several times during my ocean training. Trying something new on the day of a marathon is a major mistake. I would also recommend having canned peaches (a favorite among marathon swimmers) to help soothe your mouth and throat from the bitter taste of the English Channel.
If you have any questions about sports nutrition, I would highly recommend contacting "Peak Performance MultiSports, Marginal Way, Portland, Maine. They are experts in their field. They were a tremendous resource for me when I started my marathon swim training.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Training method "Total Body Confusion"

There are several types of training methods used by marathon swimmers. I use the training method called "Total Body Confusion" . It's simply training yourself physically and mentally to swim, swim, swim---no matter what happens. Some days I train early morning, the following day I start my swim after 4pm. It's very important to train at different times of the day---including night swims. If a swimmer only trains early morning, the swimmer may have a difficult time adjusting to a swim that begins late evening. So, it's very important to "mix" the time of day training to confuse your body. Included in this training method is swimming in choppy conditions. Again, a swimmer needs to "confuse" the body to swim no matter if the open water condition is calm or choppy. Also, swimming in clear water is wonderful but a swimmer needs to learn to swim through patches of seaweed and debris. Again, this confuses the body to swim, swim, swim. This type of training mentally prepares you for any open water swims.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Transitioning from pool to ocean

During my peak training months, I include transitioning from swimming in a pool to open water (Ocean). I started my transition on April 25 with a short 30 minute acclimation in the Atlantic (44 degrees) and a 5 hour pool workout. The following day I swam 4 hrs at the pool and a 30 minute fun swim in the ocean. I usually give myself a week of "fun" acclimating to the frigid waters here in Maine. I will swim a little freestyle, backstroke, and breaststroke during the first week of open water and include diving through the waves. This transition period includes having fun. After all, that's why I enjoy marathon swimming. I will continue this open water training technique the remainder of this week. Next week, I will extend my open water swims to 45 minutes and continue with long pool workouts. As soon as the ocean temp gets above 50 degrees, I will have longer swims in the ocean and shorter pool swims. I used this method of transitioning last year and worked very well for me.

Friday, April 24, 2009

At Last-Open water time-Brrrrrrrr

April 25th. Time to get back in the Ocean this weekend. Air temperature inland was  60's to 70s a Spring heatwave for Maine. Water temperature is in the 43 to 44 deg F.  No set time was planned however Pat spent a comfortable 30 minutes in the water while everyone on the beach was rugged up against the cool sea breeze.

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