Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Now this is extreme swim training: Inside the Coast Guard's Rescue Swimming School

The United States Coast Guard is the most underrated and most underfunded aspect of our armed forces. While in time of  peace most of our armed forces, (Navy, Air Force, and Army) summarily do drills and busy work to keep sharp the USCG is out there confronting armed smugglers, refugee crossings, small boat rescues, and other maritime safety duties. They are not only a defense force but also sanctioned as a policing body. Each member is highly skilled and one of the most import skills in that outfit is the ability to swim in extreme conditions.

Mens Journal has a robust article on how coast guard rescue swimmers are trained to swim in the most hazardous conditions - many are called, few are chosen:

From Men's Journal:
"...The average attrition rate of the program is 50 percent, but it varies wildly among classes. The class ahead of Via and Piasecki's, which is just about to graduate, began with 15 members and has only three left. Senior Chief George Marinkov, A-School's 52-year-old director – who appears to be chiseled out of granite – was one of only two members of his class to graduate.

The candidates follow a strict daily regimen of physical conditioning, practicing rescue skills, and coursework, starting at 7 am for up to three hours of dry-land training. Then they get in the water, where Kiest puts the group through excruciating physical paces. They swim sidestroke while holding a 10-pound brick aloft in one hand. "Buddy tows," pulling a partner in cross-chest carry for hundreds of yards, follow. Then they drop their bricks 12 feet to the bottom, shuttling them forward as far as they can before surfacing for a single breath of air. Kiest watches closely to make sure nobody takes two. He knows that no amount of instruction can prepare a class for the endless unpredictability of ocean rescues with life-or-death consequences. As if to remind himself of this, he has a tattoo on his calf: a pair of fins, a snorkel, and a mask clipped to a rescue hook, emblazoned with the A-School graduation numbers of the four swimmers who have died in the line of duty since the program's inception in 1984. The notion of self-sacrifice as the highest sort of valor is deeply held in the Rescue Swimmer community. It's even in their motto: "So others may live." ..."


If the Discovery Channel trailer is not enough for you, the NBC Nightly News has a stunning gallery of the students participating in this arduous course - sample image below. to see more click here: [Link]

Monday, October 28, 2013

All across the "swim-osphere" is the mugshot of a young woman named Stephanie North banned for life by USA Swimming.

First and foremost: presume her innocent. An orange jumpsuit does not make you guilty.

It was April 19, 2012 and a Canadian Coach in Ontario named Trent McNicol was accused of child molestation. He had been coaching for for the Whitby Dolphins and had produced 40 provincial champions over the course of his career. McNicol was named Ontario swim coach of the year in 2001 and had other accolades as well but on that fateful April day the bottom fell out from underneath him:

From the 
"...When he was charged, with no criminal record or previous allegations, McNicol was held for 24 hours and granted bail under conditions including avoiding places where children under 16 might gather. That meant parks — and swimming pools.

He had to temporarily leave his family behind in Whitby and live in his native Brantford under the supervision of his father. Durham police issued a news release with his photo, inviting other victims to come forward. None ever did. The story was splashed all over the news.

McNicol lost his job of six years with the Whitby Dolphins Swim Club. Swim Canada, Swim Ontario, the Coaching Association of Canada and the Canadian Swimming Coaches and Teachers Association all summarily revoked his credentials.

Even this blog jumped in and I must say I was bit accusatory till one day a year or so later I got a letter detailing how Coach McNicol's life was devastated and how how the charges were found to be without merit. I immediately corrected the very blogpost I made on the subject.

Mr McNicol's later said the following:
“To have it behind me is great,” McNicol said in an interview. “But I now have to spend the next — who knows? — six months, 20 years, rebuilding what I once had.”

Sunday, October 20, 2013

My process on how to compete safely in an open water race

I am not an Olympian nor am I a pro and even though I have done 7-Alcatraz crossings, about a dozen 2-mile pier-to-pier swims, an Ironman in Hawaii, and have been surfing most of my life, I still consider myself a mere average student of the sport and by no means a master, an expert or a coach in any way.

With that in mind, I do have experience in this area and I want to share my process so that ambitious swimmers may possibly learn from it. I encourage other swim bloggers to peer review this post and/or publish their own process since no other governing body seems to be doing so.

Here goes:  Your first race should be a simple one. A race that does not exceed a mile and is conducted in comfortable a setting.  A race that features glassy water and a location where the sharks and sea monsters are probably far away on business. I have never heard of an open water swimmer being attacked during a race in Los Angeles and we have several here ranging from hundreds-of-yards to miles-upon-miles. Pick a simple one.

This is the process I use for a safe open water race that is over a mile long; it's called the Alcatraz Sharkfest Swim. Every time I do an Alcatraz swim I am somewhat fearful, or more accurately, I am scared but I use those negative emotions as an inspiration to make sure I do it right. I will use the Sharkfest race as an example event.

1) Be prepared physically. Do not enter an open water race if you never have practiced in an open water setting. However, if you are one of those unfortunate citizens that does not have an ocean or a lake nearby or that you live in environment that is too harsh to practice in an open water setting then you must be able to swim a mile in a pool in under 35-40-minutes. (Swimming under 30-minutes is exponentially better.)

2) I come to the Alcatraz Sharkfest race at least a day early and sometimes two-days early and I do practice swims in Aquatic Park. This allows me to emotionally adjust to the water temps

3) The night before the race I do not overeat for there is nothing worse than swimming with indigestion in the morning. For breakfast I eat fruit and drink water only; you milage may vary but after the race it's eggs Benedict and Champagne for now it's time to celebrate

4)  Pre-race, I do a warm-up swim for about 500/600-yards to prepare my body for what I call the "water-temp shock" - Knowing how cold it is beforehand is in my opinion a lifesaver. When it's time to jump off the boat there will be no surprises as to how much it will hurt.

When I jump off the boat into the cold water of the San Francisco Bay it's thrilling beyond belief but for my Mediterranean-style body it is summarily painful and shocking. Once submerged my face, hands and feet feel like like they have been submerged into a vat of melted ice salted with acupuncture needles. (Yeah, it's that bad for me. My Anglo-Latin DNA (English/Italian) favors water over 68-degrees.)

Once I break surface I usually do a very slow butterfly so that I can get my face and hands out of the water for some brief respite rather than keeping it dunked while doing freestyle. It takes no less than 5-minutes for the shock to go away and that five minutes feels like a1/2-hour.

In cold water you will hyperventilate and your heart will start racing before you even take your first stroke, so swim slowly (as in slow motion) till you are breathing naturally and your heart has calmed down. I make sure I am one of the first people to jump off the boat so I can swim to the start and thus spend 10-minutes or so acclimatizing to the cold water. It works for me and as a result I can swim fast when the horn blows.

5) I always line up in the front and at the edge of the pack. I feel entitled to line up at the front because I come to the Sharkfest race in shape and prepared. In the Alcatraz Sharkfest races that I have competed in I have consistently placed in the upper 30% of the competitors . (I even got a third place trophy in my age group once) But even if you are slow aligning yourself at the edges of the pack provides cleaner water and less drama. If you feel that you will place in the bottom 30-percentile-or-lower then go towards the back so you are at least 10-feet away from the nearest swimmer. It's safer to pass people than to be swam over (I have been swam over so I know) so start slow and finish fast.

One year at an Alcatraz Sharkfest race the Cal Poly water polo team swam over me during a Plan-B swim due to the original course being cancelled due to intense fog. Since it was a time trial I should have started with the slower people and enjoyed the clean water. I am just over six-feet and I weigh about 195-pounds but these guys made me feel like I was a bloated cork in a toilet. Don't get in the way of faster swimmers; it's humiliating and dangerous for both of you.

6) When the horn sounds I swim hard because I am warmed-up, acclimatized and subsequently this allows me to swim at 70%-of-all-out-sprint. After two-hundred-yards I am free from the masses and can relax and pace.

7.) Be aware of your body: Internally be able to take inventory of your heart and lungs. Do they hurt, are they faltering, do you need to rest, do you feel anxiety? If so, take that rest and evaluate if you should resign or continue. A GREAT athlete knows when to quit and uses that failure to inspire and educate themselves for a better race next time. I know this because I once nearly drown in an Alcatraz swim. Failing is a good thing! See the post.

8) If you are swimming without a wetsuit in cold water, after the race you must get warm fluids into you as  soon as possible. If you can't get warm fluids immediately, go for a run to heat up your core and then get some clothes on. But quite frankly, drinking warm fluids is easier than running so get that hot coffee or whatever.

Finally, I repeat that I am not an expert, just a swimmer who has an opinion and a process. I hope it helps.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Make it 53-triathletes dead since 2007 - Man dies today in the "Pumpkinman triathlon" in Las Vegas

Swimming is an extreme sport and so few people get that. I once called for triathletes to get swim a certification for certain distances via the United States Masters Swimming (USMS) but what do I know? I suppose 10-deaths a year is an acceptable casualty for the United States Triathlon governing body. How lame and tragic.

From the Sacramento Bee
"... LAS VEGAS -- A 59-year-old man died Saturday while competing in the swimming leg of a triathlon in southern Nevada.

The Clark County Coroner's Office says Patrick Hayden was pronounced dead at 9:30 a.m. at Boulder City Hospital. ..."

Friday, October 18, 2013

ESPN Sunday: Trouble Beneath The Surface - 52 Triathlon deaths since 2007!

Oh God, I ave so much to contribute to this topic that entails mass starts, cold water, hot water, and the abilities of the swimmers who compete. With that mentioned ESPN is doing an investigative report on the subject which I endorse and will watch it Sunday and have more on it Monday.

Here is a trailer for the show:  [LINK]

From ESPN:  
"Something is obviously happening in that first swim leg. Something in that swim leg has gone amok, and it’s probably not one thing, it’s a combination." -- Jackie Wiggins, talking with’s Bonnie Ford about her husband who died in a May 2011 triathlon

"When things tend to go wrong in the swim it’s a tough animal because you’re in the middle of a major swim lane and it’s not like you can drive an ambulance up to the athlete." -- Bill Burke, triathlon race director, talking with Outside the Lines’ T.J. Quinn

Today on, Producer Greg Amante describes the behind-the-scenes making of Sunday’s OTL piece.

Guests on Sunday’s OTL:

John Mandrola (Cardiac electrophysiologist, Louisville, KY)

Larry Creswell, MD (Associate Professor of Surgery at the University of Mississippi)

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

LA Times: O.C. swim coach Todd Sousa gets 16 months in sex assault case

Details emerge on what this swim coach did and why he was convicted.

I want to offer up a potential process that would curtail most sexual abuse situations and create more employment opportunities for female coaches. Using simple math: Women should coach the girls and men should coach the boys.

Most pedophile incidents are heterosexual in nature, therefore segregating the sexes could probably reduce instances of sexual abuse by 90%-or-more.

For those kids that want otherwise, then implement a no one-on-one policy. I would like to see swimming clean itself up to the point where it becomes the de facto sport to send your kids into. Currently it is not and is probably the least certain in regards to the potential for sexual abuse.

From the L.A. Times
An Orange County swim instructor has been sentenced to 16 months in state prison for sexually assaulting two teenage females he met through coaching, authorities said Tuesday.

Todd Robert Sousa, 39, co-owned and taught classes for a swim school that offered lessons for children and adults, according to the Orange County district attorney's office.

He was accused of assaulting two 15-year-olds at an Orange County hotel in September 2009, prosecutors said. He had sex with one of the victims after she turned 16.


Monday, October 14, 2013

Sport drink doping: "dendrobium orchid extract" is really a methamphetamine analog... or is it?

A new over the counter "energy drink" has hit the market with a "drug" in it that has never been tested in human beings. The "drug" N,alpha diethylphenylethylamine looks exactly like meth but is not as strong.

From Quartz:

Though the makers of CRAZE, Driven Sports, claim that the active ingredient in their supplement comes from “dendrobium orchid extract,” said the statement, researchers could find no evidence that the substance they found in CRAZE comes from orchids or even that it exists anywhere in nature, leading them to conclude that it’s a synthetic drug.


But then a late stage semi-retraction

"... After publication we reached Marc Ullman, of law firm Ullman, Shapiro and Ullman LLP, which represents Driven Sports. Ullman said the NSF International study presented too little data to allow others to check the methodology and lacked a “reference standard,” a substance used as a comparison in evaluating new substances. The researchers, he says, also didn’t clarify whether they tested for another form of diethylphenylethylamine (N,beta-DEPEA), which he said would show up as the alpha form (N,alpha-DEPEA) in tests that don’t try to distinguish the two. Unlike the alpha form, the beta form “doesn’t have methamphetamine-like activity,” Ullman told Quartz. “It’s just grossly irresponsible for these authors to make the claim that CRAZE contains a designer drug.” We have also contacted NSF International for comment...."

Nonetheless, swimmer beware. You could get DQed a significant suspension over stupid, overly marketed energy drink or drinks.

California Governor Jerry Brown vetoes bill giving sex abuse victims more time to file lawsuits!

From the L.A. Times:
"... In an unusually detailed three-page veto message released Saturday, the Democratic governor, a former Jesuit seminarian, said the bill raised questions of equal treatment of public and private employers. Pointing to a centuries-long tradition of limiting the period when legal claims can be filed, Brown said institutions should feel secure that "past acts are indeed in the past and not subject to further lawsuits."

He also argued that the legislation, which would have in part lifted the statute of limitations on sexual abuse claims for one year to allow some childhood victims to file lawsuits, was "unfair" because it singled out private organizations, such as Catholic dioceses and the Boy Scouts. Public schools would not have been affected by the bill, something Brown called "a significant inequity." ..." 
Victims and lawmakers on the other hand were devastated. Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, a Democrat from Sacramento said it best: "....Nobody believes that someone who has perpetrated sexual abuse, especially against a child, should escape accountability for that kind of behavior..."

One has to ask if the upper management at USA Swimming, and by upper management I mean people like Chuck Wielgus and his pack of poodles who hired the lobbyists to defeat this bill, are popping Champagne corks in celebration?