Friday, August 21, 2015

The Swim Clinic And Other Stuff

Sunday, August 16th, I attended a swim clinic at the Hilton Hawaiian Village beach, put on by veterans of the Waikiki Roughwater Swim.  About twenty people attended to learn more about the race, with particular emphasis on the final 842-meters.  The clinic took place at what will be the finish line on race day.

Michele went along and snapped this photo of the group, all paying very close attention to the speaker(s).  That's me, on the right, in the white shirt.

All aspects of the race were covered and many questions were answered.  Most of those present will be swimming the race for the first time, so the clinic was very informative.  After the discussion, swim caps were given out and we headed for the water.

The caps are leftovers from 2014.  They have a different sponsor this year, so the caps for race day will feature a new logo.  I've begun wearing this during training swims and what a difference!  Stand-up paddlers, aqua cyclists, snorkelers and other swimmers actually see me. :)

For the swimming portion of the clinic, two of our hosts were on paddle boards--one at the front leading the way and the other bringing up the rear.  Another swam with the group.  They led us out the Hilton Hotel channel, stopping along the way to point out navigation aids, discuss waves and currents and possible routes to best make it to the finish line.

It was a good experience to be sure.  Not only did I learn a great deal about the race, but finally got to swim a portion of the course.  To my great relief, the training I've been doing served me very well.  I felt very comfortable and there were no surprises.  At the end of the swim, one of the mentors offered me some tips to improve my technique.  I had no idea what a horrible swimmer I was!  He said my breathing was terrible and later, that I was a "weak swimmer".  I have no idea why I was singled out for this "help".  I dunno...maybe he didn't like my face. :) 

I explained that my "horrible breathing technique" came from a book written by a highly-respected swimming coach.  He was a little older than me and my thought was he was incapable of believing there could be anything knew, different, or better than his way.  By the way, "his way" is the old standard free-style method.  Nothing wrong with it, but I'm not set in my ways from a swimming standpoint, unlike him.  I told him that I'd been training by swimming the full-length of the race, in a decent time, but he either didn't hear me or had already decided it could not be possible.  Instead, he recommended I go to Ala Moana Beach Park and work there?

I was curious to hear him say that, and asked why that would that be better than training at Ft. DeRussy.  He muttered something about swimming from one point to another over there and it would add up to a mile.  I chuckled, and repeated my current training regimen, certain now that he just didn't hear me the first time.  About then, one of the younger mentors jumped in and asked me if I swam the eight laps non-stop.  I answered him and his response was, "Wow!".

That stopped the older gentleman from saying anything else.  My primary goal in signing-up for the race was to simply finish.  Not anymore!  In no way do I think I can beat the time of this old veteran of the race, but I'm certainly going to try...REALLY HARD!!

This past Tuesday, I once again swam the full-length of the race in just over 2.5-hours.  That makes five times.  Michele's trainer suggested that one needn't run a full marathon while training for one.  Weak swimmer, indeed!  Different strokes for different folks, I always say!

To leave this subject on a positive note...Thanks to the race committee for setting up the clinic and to the mentors who took the time to show us the ropes.

And here are some photos taken in recent days:

Billowing clouds catching the last sunlight on August 18th.  The camera was zoomed and brought the roof and communications masts of this downtown office tower pretty close.

Fireworks from Ford Island in Pearl Harbor on August 15th, commemorating the end of World War II.

A patriotic color spread.

A final photo.  These photos were taken from our lanai, which is about seven miles from Ford Island.

Sunset, August 17th.

This most curious looking fish is called a helmet gurnard.  Both Michele and I saw one on August 18th.  She was snorkeling and you know what I was doing. :)  The tide was going out that day and much of my swim I was barely above lots of coral.  It made it fairly easy to enjoy the fish while I worked.

The afternoon clouds above Waikiki on August 18th.  They were spectacular.

An aircraft we don't see very often.  It's a Boeing B-52 Stratofortress departing at sunset.

A long-line fishing boat heading to sea at sunset, August 20th.  I don't know about the crew, but for me, this would be a beautiful time to get underway.

The fading sun does a fine job of painting these high clouds orange and pink.  August 20th.

And finally...Ta-Da-a...Sunset, August 20th, 2015.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Where's Waldo (Gary)?

The simple answer is training for the Waikiki Roughwater Swim, now just three weeks away.  As of June 8th, I've spent nearly thirty-five hours in the Pacific, swimming almost thirty miles.  Between that and jogging just over seventeen miles each week, the energy required to create blog posts, or visit my favorite blogs simply hasn't been there.  I'm still painting, too, but not as much lately.

To the countless millions of visitors who visit this blog :)...Please accept my apologies and let me assure you that a few days after the race, I hope to have recovered sufficiently to return to a normal schedule.  Thanks for your patience.

PS  I have managed to take some photos between activities and naps:

"Dueling" parasail boats catching the tradewinds for their guest's flights on July 25th.

This photo wasn't taken by me.  On July 27th, the sailing yacht, "Celerity" (yup, it's spelled correctly) crossed the finish line of the 2015 Transpacific Yacht Race.  She was the first to arrive here after sailing from Los Angeles to Honolulu in the 48th edition of the famous Transpac yacht race.  Click on the link to learn all about it.  I'd love to give credit to whoever took this great photo, however time and age have contributed to a memory fog and I'm at a loss.  The boats departed from San Pedro over three days in mid-July.  By the end of July, all boats had arrived in Honolulu and were busy with an awards ceremony and lots of parties.

This large canvas currently resides on a living room wall.  Between the physical activities, I began working on a painting for our home a couple of weeks ago.  The idea was something suggestive of a coral reef, with several realist attempts being painted over.  This decidedly non-objective effort has not bothered either of us enough for a return to the studio...yet!  Have you ever tried to paint the essence of something?  I like this one (so far) because nothing in it looks like, suggests, or even remotely reminds me of anything.  Well, other than that elusive "essence" of a coral reef. :)

Usually, I make it home from my run at sunset.  This one was on August 11th.

This was the August 12th edition.  Quite spectacular.

So, tomorrow at eight AM, I'll be at a swim clinic put on by organizers of the Waikiki Roughwater Swim.  They will probably tell us first time entrants what to expect on race day and answer our questions.  After that, we'll get in the water.  They may offer a little coaching for us, but I'm not sure.  I hope you all get to sleep-in and have a leisurely Sunday. :)    

Friday, July 24, 2015

Two-And-A-Half Hours

Yesterday was my third time swimming in the ocean for two-and-a-half hours.  There is no comparison to pool swims--even using a current generator--for lots of reasons besides the obvious tides, waves and currents.  Ocean swimming is much more challenging--at least double the effort required--when you add navigation, coral avoidance and sun and saltwater effects.

Luckily, the development of SPF-30 (and higher) sunblock saves me from most of the sun's radiation  and a good set of goggles protect my eyes.  All other challenges must be overcome the old-fashioned way:  By practice and experience.  Stand-up paddle boards, kayaks, aqua cycles and snorkelers are the main hazards.  To avoid any nasty collisions, I must first be always vigilant and keep my head on a swivel.  Course adjustments, including stopping, are often required during the third of a mile transit between the Hilton Hotel pier and the Outrigger Hotel jetty.  On average, the time to negotiate the 2.4-miles has been 2.5-hours, so my actual race time "should be" less.  My hope is it will be something of a relief only having to worry about other swimmers during the race.

Now that I'm fairly comfortable in the ocean and can handle the man-made obstacles, the experience is much more enjoyable.  The colorful fish and other ocean creatures are beautiful and interesting to see as I make eight trips between the piers.  Yesterday, I saw a small eel wriggling along the bottom, with a small curious fish tagging along.  Three sea turtles were grazing on algae about five feet below me.  I don't know for sure, but they looked like the group I see most every time.  Tropical fish are always there, too, being moved about by tide and/or currents as I pass over their reef home.  All seem to know I mean them no harm and they seldom take any evasive action.

Quite by accident yesterday, I saw my first flat fish.  It may have been a small flounder.  It was barely a foot or less below, as I glided perilously close to an expanse of coral.  Nearly invisible due to its superb camouflage, it moved just enough to catch my eye.  What a treat to see something new during the swim!  As I approach the Hilton Hotel pier, there is often a crowd of people waiting to board the boat which will transport them out to the tourist submarines.  I swim up close to the pier and can see the cameras snapping photos of this crazy person in goggles simply swimming and swimming.  I wonder how many (if any) of them ever swam in the ocean beyond the beach area.  I wonder if any of them will be inspired to try ocean swimming.  Being an inspiration to others would be a good thing.

Thanks to Google Images, here are some photos of what I see during my training swims:

An aqua cycle.  People love them because they're simple, easy and fun.  Sometimes, however, the occupants fail to look for swimmers and all I can do is change course, or stop and let them pass.  It's hard to get upset, after all, the people are on vacation in paradise and having a wonderful time. :)

Stand-up paddle boards.  Growing in popularity, at times, these are my nemesis.  Beginners are so busy trying to stay upright on their boards, they don't often consider things like where they're going or who they are about to run over.  With a couple of strokes, they can move quite a distance, so I can't take my eyes off them for long.

This is an image of a typical two-person kayak, available for rent at Ft. DeRussy.  These move through the water pretty fast, too, but usually the fun-seekers (being seated) see me in time and alter course.

The state fish of Hawaii and one of my favorites, the Humuhumunukunukuapua'a.  I see these amazingly colorful trigger fish everywhere during my swims.  I might add, in various sizes and subtle color variations.

It took a lot of searching, but even this flounder is bigger than the one I saw yesterday.  It's markings are pretty close.   

This image is a great example of the flounder's ability to mimic its surroundings and also why I nearly missed seeing it.  I wonder how many I've seen, but didn't see.

Another frequently seen reef inhabitant, the puffer fish.  Many varieties of polka dots and colors, too.

This may, or may not be, the type of eel I saw.  It was wriggling on the sandy bottom, exactly like a snake and there are "snake" eels in Hawaiian waters.  This one looks like it uses the more normal wavy fin propulsion.

I see lots of these angel fish and others with different colors.  Searching the many images of tropical fish, including those in Hawaiian waters, failed to produce most of the other fish I see, so maybe I'll need to ask Santa to get me a waterproof GoPro for Christmas!  Yeah!  That should do it!

And finally, the "Holy Grail" of tropical fish.  A couple of times--maybe due to oxygen debt--I thought I saw one, but cannot be certain.  They're just as elusive as the "Green Flash".  Just have to keep swimming and maybe someday...

So, what does one do after such a Herculean task?  Wh-y-y...mosey up to the Beach Bar after a refreshing cold water rinse, for sustenance and liquid refreshment, of course. :))  All the books say you lose lots of water swimming for such a long time--ironically, even when you're in it!  Not one to argue with experts, I immediately ordered up twelve ounces of Long Board Lager.  Needing something to replenish the lost calories, we tried something we'd never seen or heard of before:  Pork "Wings".  Now, I don't always keep up on current events, so I asked the lady at the snack bar if pigs had finally learned to fly.  She laughed, but then told me she'd prefer those to normal old chicken wings.  They sounded good to me and also had a solid endorsement from someone who should know.  Take a look: 

Michele's delicate hand with the last "pig wing".  Yes, we went all-in, adding french fries to go along with the beverages.  The "wings" were fabulous!  Moist and juicy, tender and flavorful.  Who knew?!  PS:  No dinner last night!!  We-l-l-l...hardly anything. :)

The "business" part of the Beach Bar.  Swimsuits are most definitely authorized here and it doesn't get much more casual than that.

A partial view from our table.  And to think that just an hour before I was working hard in that water.

I hope some of you who are lucky enough to live by an ocean--preferably a warm one--take the opportunity to try swimming in it.  It burns a gazillion calories and is pretty easy on the old body compared to jogging or other full-gravity workouts.  I most strongly endorse it!   

Have a good weekend everyone!  

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Rainbows, Sunsets And Two Hours In The Ocean

Recent days have brought some rain showers, an abundance of rainbows and fiery sunsets to the islands.  A tropical depression which formed a couple thousand miles to the southeast of Hawaii, failed to become a hurricane, or even a tropical storm, but as it passed to the northeast of the islands, its presence was felt.  It slowed the trade winds, brought us some clouds, a few showers, lots of rainbows, and some very colorful sunsets.

Of course, that does little to stop folks here from going about their daily activities, including the thousands of tourists.  We decided to go the beach today and nary a drop of rain fell.  I continued trying to reach my training goal of swimming for two hours, while Michele snorkeled, trying to find the stingray I saw Monday.  She swam for nearly two hours, but no stingray sighting, and I finally made it to the elusive two-hour mark.  Being able to swim for two hours in the current, tide and swells buoys my confidence that I'll have a good shot at completing the Waikiki Roughwater Swim on September 5th.  We'll see how it plays out. :)

For those of you who have never seen a stingray...This is pretty-much what I saw on Monday, only with a bit more sand flying.  Michele was in hopes of seeing the critter today, but no luck. :(

Proof!  After two hours in the ocean, my fingers were "pickled".  I was telling fellow blogger Jennifer Rose Phillip about an unexpected side effect of spending that much time in the sea:  It numbs my mouth, especially the taste buds responsible for tasting salt.  Sensory overload?

Sunset, July 7th, 2015.  Click on the photos for a closer view. 

July 8th, 2015, morning rainbow.

A bit more of the spectrum is visible in this photo.

This one graced the harbor.

And finally, this was our sunset tonight, 10 July 2015.  Not too shabby! :)

Hope everyone out there had a good day!  Enjoy your weekend, too!     

Monday, July 6, 2015

Fireworks, Planetary Conjunction And Flowers

Independence Day evening we were on the lanai and able to see four different fireworks shows!  At the same time, Venus and Jupiter put on their own astronomical show for us.  Monday, life returned to normal and I was at Ft. DeRussy for a training swim.  The Waikiki Roughwater Swim is just two months away, so I've shifted my workouts from the current generator in the building pool, to the ocean.  I'm trying to build-up my endurance (and tolerance) for a couple of hours in the sun and salt water.

Today, the tide was going out as I began swimming, and it had me zooming along heading toward Diamond Head, but going nowhere fast heading west.  I swam about 1.5-miles today in about an hour-and-a-half.  With two months to train, my hope is to be able to complete the event in less than two-and-a-half hours.  It'll all depend on conditions the day of the race.  I'm a pretty strong swimmer, but today was an eye-opener.  I could see how easy it would be for someone unfamiliar with the tides and currents to panic when swimming hard and not moving.

Besides getting a great workout today, I saw two sea turtles "grazing" on the sea floor, as well as, my first manta (or sting) ray.  It was nuzzling it's large mouth in the sand, definitely after unseen prey.  Based on the size, my guess was that it was young.  I've written an email to the folks who operate manta ray excursions on the Big Island and hope they might have a guess as to which type of ray it was.  I promise to report back when I know.  According to the experts, manta rays eat plankton, while sting rays dine on shellfish.  Hm-m...the ray I saw appeared to fit the sting ray profile, but we'll see.

As I was walking through the grounds after the swim, I couldn't help taking a few photos of the beautiful flowering trees.  Hope you enjoy the show!

Almost forgot:  Firefighters were busy on O'ahu on the 4th, fighting a brush fire and a fire at a recycling center, both well to the west of us.  This smoke plume is from the brush fire.  Click on any of the photos in this post, for a closer view.

Smoke billows from the recycling center fire.

A view of the fireworks show at Ala Moana Beach Park.

A big shell, also at Ala Moana.

This was from the Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam fireworks show.  I had to zoom-out quite far to get both the fireworks and Venus and Jupiter in the frame.  Please click on the image to bring it closer.

Venus, on the left, and Jupiter on the right.  A planetary conjunction isn't all-that rare, but they sure are impressive.  The next photo will put the conjunction in a better context.

West O'ahu and the planets on July 4th, 2015.

Out of sequence, but this was the 4th of July sunset.  On to Monday.

About noon, Monday, July 6th, Hale Koa Hotel grounds.

I thought the blue umbrella looked quite striking in this setting.

Yellow-orange flowers adorn these trees.  The building is the Hale Koa Hotel.

A closer look at the gorgeous flowers.

An arbor covered with purple bougainvillea.  I've photographed this many times and always find it too beautiful to resist.

That's it for today.  Have a nice tomorrow everyone.

**Ray Update:   Monday afternoon, I received the following response to my "Manta or Sting Ray?" email sent to Manta Advocates Hawaii.

It was from Ms Martina Wing,
Manta Ray Advocate, Educator and Under Water Photographer,
Ocean Wings Hawaii, Inc.:
"Hi Gary, thanks for reaching out to us.
"Nuzzling in the sand" sounds like feeding behavior of a Spotted Eagle Ray or a Sting Ray.
Eagle Rays and Sting Rays are bottom feeders; Manta Rays feed on plankton by filtering water through their cavernous big mouths in mid-water.
Please let me know if you have additional questions.
I love to share my knowledge about our beautiful gentle giants.
With Aloha"
Here's a link to Manta Advocates Hawaii
Thanks, Martina!