Monday, July 17, 2017

Swimmer Blog - Michael Garr

By Michael Garr, Save The Bay Swimmer

The Save The Bay Swim has always been a challenge for me. It has represented an enigma as so many things in life do. I took up ocean swimming two years after I got interested in swimming as a way to stay fit and active. It was several years later that I did my first Save The Bay Swim. By that time, I was accustomed to the open water and to rough conditions. I used a wetsuit and surprised myself by finishing in under an hour, in a strong northerly breeze. That was the same year many kayakers had to be rescued by their swimmers.

The Swim can also be a smooth enjoyable experience when the winds are calm. As an experienced sailor and a sea going scientist, I know that proper preparation is essential to surviving the test of the open water. For the swimmer, this means time spent testing oneself in the worst conditions to be expected. As a coach, I know that nothing can take the place of good technique and consistent practice. My personal method to achieving an easier time of swimming the Save The Bay has been to refine my technique, maintain a regular open water regiment and to become relaxed in my swimming to where I do not get tired, winded or struggle. The Swim borders on being a marathon effort and requires a strong sense of navigation as well. I truly enjoy the swim.

There is a strong tradition about this Swim in Rhode Island. Among competitive pool swimmers it's their chance to prove what they can do in the open water. Groups of competitive men and women consistently try to stay at the front of the pack and edge each other out. If you tell an acquaintance from Rhode Island that you are a swimmer, their first question is always "do you do Save The Bay?" Or "have you swum the Bay?" There simply isn't any other question. It's as if you're second rate or a pretender if you haven't and very accomplished if you have. Last year, I started coaching and offered free open water swimming training sessions to folks who were going to try the swim for the first time. With no formal swim training the Swim is too long. Pool training is good up to a point, but navigation and conditions can put the swimmer at risk. It has been really wonderful to be able to make swimming easier for folks by concentrating on the fundamentals.

Finally, as a scientist, I have to say the mission of Save The Bay to educate folks about the need to maintain a healthy biosphere, especially on our local level, but also globally, is a necessary thing. It's so essential that there is no reason not to applaud and support Save The Bay through the Swim. I am proud to participate, and I love the camaraderie of the swimmers, the festive nature, food and the appreciative and hard working volunteers. It's quite an event! But it's not enough. All of us need to wake up to the cause of Save The Bay, or we will lose our beautiful place to live!

See you at The Swim

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