Santas go Surfing

Santas go Surfing on Coronado Beach

Santas go Surfing on Coronado Beach

Part of why this is so strange is that it’s my first Christmas in paradise and seeing people surf on Christmas Eve day is still novel. Trained beach lifeguards gather at 9:00 AM and hit the water in waves. That it’s not so notable to the locals goes to show you how new we are to the area because the surfing crowd easily outnumbered the spectators.

However, you too can gawk with us here.  Continue reading

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U.S. Nationals Swim Meet

A giant tribute by Omaha to the swimming events they hosted this summer.

Quickly following on the tail of the U.S. Olympic Trials, the U.S. Master Swimming association held our Summer Long Course Nationals in the very pool the olympians swam in. The facility was remarkable. The warm-up pool itself had something like 15 lanes while the competitive pool had 10 lanes of 50 meters. The water was a perfect temperature and, as we say in swimming, the pool was fast. Thousands of people attended this four day meet and I swam in six events.

Did I make a dent in world records? Did I set the world on fire with my awesome swimming skills?

Of course not!

However the calibre of swimming was such that records were broken all day, every day. This was truly a memorable event.

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Virgin Islands National Park

It was a day for wearing white and orange it seems. And why not? We were on vacation!

My wife is smart. After years of planning vacations she’s become really good at finding the right vacation destinations. In this case it was a Caribbean island which was conveniently a part of the U.S., had all the beach resort amenities that my ladies enjoy and lots of outdoor activities which I prefer.

The U.S. Virgin Islands is two thirds National Park! It has dramatically beautiful beaches, tremendous hiking trails, great undersea coral gardens, historic ruins and all on a compact  island. Seriously, there was plenty to keep me busy while they baked in the sun. Of the 20 official hiking trails within the park I hiked almost two thirds of them. One took Kelsey and me to the sea where we swam to cool off before returning to our mountain starting point.

We had a great time and may be where we head with grandkids … some day.

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My First 5K … Swim!

Across two days there were four swim events: Clinic, 1 mile, 2 mile, and 5 kilometer. Hundreds of people participated and, again this year, I was one of them. Bravo!

Not a run nor a walk but a 5K swim. The equivalent of 3.1 miles this event was three times around a modified 1-mile circuit on Lake Audubon in Reston, VA where I live. While I have swum longer outdoor distances, it hasn’t been for a while so this felt big. However, in the end the water was perfect, the weather was great and the swim was quite manageable.

During this 25th anniversary of the Jim McDonnell Lake Swim almost the whole family played roles. Beth managed the registration area which required an evening of prep and two mornings of commitments that started at 6:00 AM. Kelsey was a life guard throughout the events; she watched over swimmers from her perch in a canoe. Courtney intended to come be a spectator but overslept … such is life post graduating from college.

For some insight on the event you can visit their website here.

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From Atop Coit Tower


The Ferry Building sits at the end of Market Street in San Francisco and has been the primary fixture of the Embarcadero forever. The clock tower highlights it on the waterfront. Behind is the Bay Bridge.

Special things stand out and catch your eye. If it’s a tower on top of a hill then it grabs your attention any time you’re near by. Coit Tower is such a place and it stood within easy walking distance of where I disembarked from Alcatraz. 

Coit Tower stands in Pioneer Park atop Telegraph Hill in San Francisco.  (For me, that last sentence was loaded with place names from my youth.) 

The tower itself was built with a $100,000 donation from Lillie Hitchcock Coit to be used by the city to beautify San Francsico. The interior of the tower is lined with 1930s paintings promoting California agriculture; the work was funded by the WPA to support the arts during the Depression. I’m not sure the tower ever served much of a practical purpose but it certainly achieves its funder’s ambition. It is beautiful and views from the top are remarkable. A tiny elevator takes a few people at a time to the observation level and below are examples of what can be seen.

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Chichen Itza, not Chicken Pizza

Chichen Itza

I thought it was only culturally insensitive American’s who call this holy Mayan site “Chicken Pizza”. I was wrong. The tour guide called it that throughout our trip. What a sad day!

Recognize this structure? It’s one of the Seven Wonders of the World; it’s the Pyramid of Kukulcan at Chichen Itza in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. The math and astronomy and symbolism which make it a “wonder” are extensive. An overly long-winded tour guide laid it all out in detail. Information overload! All I can recite back is my impression: “Wow!”

Suffice to say, Chichen Itza once had over 400 structures and was the principal city of the Mayan civilization. It was the ceremonial heart of these people and was populated with religious leaders. Famous for so many things from its observatory, its pyramid, its ballcourt, and its war temple to its sacred well, its blood sacrifice, and its scale.

Chichen Itza

Only seven percent has been restored but it’s enough to blow you away. They’re discovering new things all the time and we saw excavation of an entirely new level of the pyramid. Our only disappointment was how limited access was to the structures. My expectations of full access were set in 1984 when last I visited. Obviously much had changed. Continue reading

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Family Together in Sunny Cancun

Sunny Cancun

I call them “My girls” with great pride. Fun in the sun is easy for them and the smiles on their faces say it all. Cancun was a wonderful destination for a winter’s vacation with family!

It happens all too infrequently anymore. With Courtney off at UVA and the Kelsey on a different school holiday calendar we have few windows in which to all be together. Winter breaks they have in common so this holiday season Beth made sure we took full advantage of it. Off to Cancun we went!

There’s something special about only having one agenda and no distractions. Courtney wasn’t trying to run off to see old friends. Kelsey didn’t have games or activities or homework to pull her away. We were all “stuck” in Cancun and we were living the relaxing experience together. Sun. Water. Warmth. We had their favorite ingredients in abundance and only wavered from relaxing on two occasions for tours to Isla Mujeres and Chichen Itza.

Sunny Cancun

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Brooklyn Bridge Swim

Brooklyn Bridge Swim

I had no camera and was lamenting not getting a picture of this event. Then I spotted an iPhone and begged a favor. Little did I know she’d also get the finish line, the bridge and the skyline in frame!

Third time’s a charm! In 2007 they lost my paperwork. In 2008 I showed up but the event was canceled due to a hurricane warning (a false alarm). Then, finally in 2009, my paperwork was in order and there was no hurricane and I was finally able to swim under the length of the world’s most beautiful bridge from Manhattan to Brooklyn.  Continue reading

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Foiled by a Hurricane

Brooklyn Bridge Swim Path

The course is to swim 1,000 meters from shore to shore across the East River of Manhattan under one of the world’s greatest structures, the marvelous Brooklyn Bridge.

This year it was going to happen. I was going to swim the East River. Everything was looking good. So far, Lady Luck was working with me. Hurricane Hanna wasn’t due to arrive in NYC till this evening.  We’d be done with the race and long gone before then. I was excited.

For the race, all systems were go. I left D.C. on Friday with fair weather and arrived a few hours later in NYC. Everything was going fine. To familiarize myself with the race I walked around the South Street Seaport area, checked out the course, and mapped my path from hotel to where the race was to begin. As you can see in the picture above, it was a beautiful afternoon. Saturday I would swim under the Brooklyn Bridge!

Once satisfied that I knew the lay of the land I headed to my hotel. As I stood at Reception checking-in I received a prerecorded announcement on my cell phone. “The race has been canceled.” The cancelation wasn’t due to anticipated bad weather during the event but instead due new safety precautions taken in the wake of Katrina. The police simply wanted to err on the side of caution.

This morning I still went. There on the pier were gathered a few dozen swimmers picking up t-shirts and chatting over coffee and donuts. It was a beautiful morning for a swim. The air was calm and warm; waves would not have been an issue. As a group we weren’t happy with the way things had played out but we understood. It just wasn’t to be this year … maybe next?

Watch this spot for a Brooklyn Bridge Swim entry in 12 months!

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National Swimming Championships

Long Course Nationals in Portland, Oregon

Long course pools are 50 meters and for my primary event I swam 30-laps ... and I came in sixth!

I was in Oregon during Nationals so why not attend? My instincts were to sign-up for a long distance event so the 1,500 meters it was. My team could use me in a few relays so I did that too. Little did I know that I’d enjoy it so much … I should have entered more events.

Amazingly, I came in sixth place in the 1,500 meters for men 45-49. The three relays didn’t do as well but regardless I sure enjoyed swimming with team mates and getting to know them better. Good people. Fun times.

Based on my 50-meter relay times I’ll do more short races in the future.

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