4 October 2015: Open & Closed



Date: 4 October 2015.
Distance: 2.4 miles
Location: The Smith Aquatic & Fitness Center, Charlottesville, Virginia, 25 yard pool
Swimmers: Jett Shue, Alex Forasté, John Forasté
Lap Counter: Diane Forasté


TEAM G3 DID IT ! ! !

Team G3 refers to our 3 generations: Jett (my 13 year old grandson), Alex (my 39 year old son) and myself (69). And what did we do? Swam a continuous 2.4 miles, individually, but side by side. If the swimmers look a bit tired in the group picture above, we had just finished the swim, but . . .

WE DID IT ! ! !

This all began last December when we decided to enter the 2.4 mile Peluso Open Water Swim on the James River just outside of Richmond. (I had done the 5 mile event last year.) With the youngest age of eligibility being 13, Jett would qualify for the first time this year. And Alex and Jett were game. I was pleased and excited that the 3 of us would be able to do this together.

The James River swim was to be on Saturday, 3 October 2015. We had a support team of 3 kayakers (Kiersten, my daughter/Jett’s mother, and 2 friend’s of Alex’s) as well as a moral support team of Diane (my wife), Eli (Kiersten’s younger son), as well as Noni (Alex’s wife) and Audrey and Emma (their 2 daughters). But the rain fell almost continuously the week before - the most rainfall we had seen around here since we moved to Virginia 4 years ago. And Hurricane Joaquin only made things worse. As the graph below shows, the river had risen considerably by Wednesday and was projected to rise significantly more by Saturday, swim day. And, indeed, the river got too high, too fast and too dangerous. So, disappointedly, but understandably, the event was cancelled. There was no rain date. So, we figured we would just have to wait until next year until . . .


Alex said we should still swim the distance anyway. After all, we had designed our Team 3G t-shirts for swimmers as well as support crew. By the way, the t-shirts have a thunderbolt on the back. This, alluding apparently to our powerful speed, was suggested by Jett, as was the bright red color. We couldn’t see not wearing the t-shirts, but neither could we see wearing them without swimming the distance. So . . .

We considered Lake Inferior, our wonderful 100+ yard pond on Bundoran Farm where we live. It’s where I swim most of the summer. It’s a bit tedious to do laps there since there aren’t docks to define turning points or to push off from, but it’s still ’open water’ like the James River. However, the rain and Hurricane weather raised the water level there also, and the windy and chilly weather made the water difficult and freezing. So . . .

We decided to go inside, to make our open water swim a closed water swim (so to speak).


The Smith Pool in Charlottesville is a very nice 25 yard pool where I workout most of the year. We met there on Sunday (the day after the cancelled swim) at 10:00 when 6 lap lanes were scheduled to be open, thereby giving us our best chance of getting our own lanes. Ready to enter the water, we were upset to learn that a birthday party at 11:00 was going to close down 4 of the 6 lanes so they could use the diving board. And we couldn’t even count on full use of the remaining 2 lanes since they would need to stay available to anyone else wanting to swim laps. Sharing a lane by splitting (swimming on one side or the other) demands a little more effort than having your own lane, but circling with 3 or more is tedious and can be impossible to swim continuously unless all 3 swimmers maintain the same pace. Concerned, but with no other choice, we decided to start our swim in the only 2 unoccupied lanes and hope for the best. Alex and Jett shared one, saying they didn’t mind, and I swam solo in the other. We finally entered the water at 10:48. Diane was our lap counter. Kiersten took care of Eli and Audrey. Noni and Emma couldn’t make it.

In the pool, the water and air temperatures are controlled and, usually, comfortable. The water is always smooth. And the painted line and lane lines make navigation a non-issue, unlike swimming in open water. So, the conditions were perfect. But, you still have to swim - stroke after stroke after stroke, turn every 25 yards, and then stroke and stroke and stroke . . . . . We decided to observe the open water rules of neither stopping nor touching anything throughout (with the exception of pushing off the wall). So, the swim becomes an exercise in endurance, as much physical as mental. The distance of 2.4 miles becomes 4200 yards or 42 100s or 84 50s or 168 25s - and 167 turns. I always find it best to hold steady with long, strong strokes and no thought of letting up. It’s hard not to let up, but harder to let up and then have to pick it up again. Best to hold steady.


As we swam, we remained vigilant of the birthday party and diving board situation. Thankfully, it never happened, due to an understanding lifeguard. All 6 lanes stayed open and we got to keep our 2 lanes!

So, Jett finished in 1:18:20 (averaging 55.9 seconds per 50 yards), Alex in 1:25:24 (averaging 60.9 per 50) and I in 1:13:30 (averaging 52.5 per 50). I find our times interesting. Jett is a strong, young teenager who swims competitively; his sprint times are very good; I can’t come close to them anymore. And during this swim, he even mixed up his freestyle with some breast and backstroke. He will clearly get even faster as he gets older. Alex is a strong young adult who has completed a number of Olympic (1/2) triathlons; his strengths are biking first, running next and then swimming last; overall, those are big challenges that neither Jett nor I could do; I can’t even think about them. With the responsibilities to his environmental engineering job, his young family and work on his house, he only has so much time for training; he could clearly get faster if he had the time to workout more than he already does. While I, at a much older age, have the time to workout 3000+ yards 5x a week. So, I can still gather enough strength to push through a distance swim, yet know my times have increased significantly in the last 5+ years and will only increase more in the future.

Also, in his book, Good Swimming, my friend Win Wilson talks about how all of us are different in our muscular makeup. There are two basic types of muscle fibers - fast twitch and slow twitch . . . Fast-twitch muscles provide power and speed but have less staying power while slow-twitch muscle fibers have less power but are good for a longer duration. Each of us has a combination of the two types . . . but with greater degrees of one or the other. That must also speak to our different abilities.

Below is a very cool graph Alex put together from Diane’s lap sheet. The distance (laps) runs left to right; the lap times run from 40 seconds at the bottom to 70 seconds at the top. Jett (red) swam at a bunch of different paces, Alex (green) was quite consistent, swimming faster about a 1/3 of the way in, and I (blue) swam very steadily until slowing down towards the finish.


So, our swim evolved from open water to closed water, different than we had ever planned. But, as 3 generations, as Team G3, it was a wonderful thing to do.

TEAM G3 DID IT ! ! !

(A tip of the hat to Trent Theroux who, on 26 September, swam 40 miles around Aquidneck Island in Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island (my ol’ swimming hole). It took him 16.5 hours. An incomprehensible feat!)

(Photograph of lane lines ©John Forasté for Win Wilson’s book, Good Swimming.)