Sunday, November 22, 2015

Ultima Discount Increased!

This just in from the "sweeten the deal while remaining sugar free" department, the nice people at Ultima have upped the discount. Use code ELAINE35 for 35% off and free shipping at

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

I'm in the Ultima Ambassador Program--that means a 20% discount for you!

I'm so excited to announce that I've been selected to be an ambassador for Ultima Replenisher, the electrolyte replacement drink I use in training and in all my swims. This is an extraordinarily awesome thing for me to be able to say, given that I've been a loyal user of Ultima since 2006 when I first started getting into marathon swimming.

I was introduced to it by Lisa Mikkelsen, who'd used it for years on her trail runs, marathons, ultra marathons, and IRONMAN triathlons, and now uses it to kick some serious butt in many different CrossFit competitions. It's good stuff, comes in a range of tasty flavors, and is easy to add to a water bottle. I use a scoop of it every morning at swim practice to get me through a 75-minute, warm-water training session. Longer sessions call for more scoops, but the baseline keeps me happy and moving the right way.

I learned first-hand during my first Boston Light Swim in 2006 just how important electrolytes are. Though I'd been using Ultima in training and during the swim, I hadn't completely worked out the right dose for me--I use more than most people and tend to use more than what's recommended on the package. I sweat a lot, and it seems even in cold water, I lose electrolytes.

I finished that first Boston Light Swim in 2006 in second place for the women, and should have been out-of-my-mind happy at having achieved a big goal that had initially totally intimidated me and that I had worked really hard toward for most of a year. But by the time I got home to my apartment in Waltham, I was weepy and feeling sad and a little unsure what to do with myself. I showered and put on my race t-shirt. Still no surge of accomplishment. Instead, I felt profoundly depressed and wasn't sure whether I should go to bed, call my mom and cry, or just wander out into traffic or put my head in the oven.

I decided I must be hungry, even though I didn't feel hungry. I didn't have much in the way of food in the house so forced myself down the stairs and out to the Skellig, a now-closed (*sob*) Irish pub about 2 blocks from my apartment. The walk seemed to take forever and I thought about turning back several times. But over the many years I've struggled with depression, I know that being out among other people in the world, even when it feels like the last thing you want to do, can be helpful in snapping out of a funk. I could feel the funk calling, so I went in search of a beer and a burger.

I sat at the bar, looking forlorn and a bit sunburned. The bartender poured me a beer, and it tasted OK, but not the quenching elixir of victory I had expected. I perused the menu, on the verge of tears, and selected the burger and fries. I kept telling myself that I should eat and I would probably feel better after I did, so I dutifully listened to my inner counselor and placed the order.

When the food arrived, I munched absentmindedly on a fry and wondered why I felt so lousy. A few fries later, my mood began to lift. I then felt very hungry and plowed through the burger and cleared the plate of fries. Within about 10 minutes of that food hitting my stomach, the fog lifted and I began to feel elated. I'd just swum the Boston Light! I'd actually done it. And done it well! And holy shit, I was a marathon swimmer. OMG, a MARATHON swimmer! Could it be? I proceeded to have a fabulous time at the bar, showing off my hard-earned t-shirt to anyone who would listen (and a few who didn't). I went home a couple hours later with a warm, full belly and a heart full of triumph and self-confidence.

So what had happened? I told the story to Paula Garland, an accomplished ultra marathon runner and mountain biker who would later crew for me in Lake George and without missing a beat, she said, "Oh, your electrolytes were off."

Say what?

I pressed for more info and she explained that for some people, an imbalance or reduction in electrolytes in the system can lead to feeling weepy and depressed. These sorts of feelings are very much grounded in the biochemistry of what's floating around in the blood, and they can shut down a swim or run in record time because the feelings can be so overwhelming and crippling. What she described was exactly what I'd felt. And the fact that it went away almost the instant salty french fries passed my lips added further evidence that her diagnosis was accurate.

So I took her words to heart and tinkered with my electrolyte soup. I added more, and lo and behold, the next time I did a marathon swim, the weepiness never surfaced. Since then, there have been a few times when I've gotten low during a swim, most notably during my English Channel swim when about 8 hours in I started crying and feeling very down and convinced that I would never make it. Mark, knowing the story of my first Boston Light, wisely sent down a concentrated dose of Ultima at the next feed. An hour later, I was back to flying high and making great progress in the Channel. I finished about 4 hours later.

So I attribute a lot of my success to Ultima and I couldn't be happier to be part of the team representing this great product!

If you want to try if for yourself, use the coupon code ELAINE20 when shopping on the Ultima Replenisher website to save 20% off your order. And enjoy!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Writer's Digest Awards, 2015, 2nd Place Win for Bearing Witness

For the 4th year running, I earned an award from the Writer's Digest Annual Competition. This year, I took second place in the magazine feature article category for "Bearing Witness," a story published in the May-June 2015 issue of SWIMMER magazine. The profile piece about Taylor Krauss--a filmmaker and founder of the non-profit Voices of Rwanda organization that's documenting the histories of Tutsi survivors of the Rwandan genocide in 1994--was one of the most important things I think I've ever written. I was moved to tears by his story and the stories of the people he's working with, and I was grateful to have the chance to meet Taylor and learn about his work and life.

I'll leave it there. You can read for yourself here.

I'm eagerly awaiting the release of the compilation book of all the winning entries because I'm much looking forward to reading the story that beat this one! I'm obviously biased, but I'm struggling to see how something did. Then again, the first place winner, Rebecca L. Rhodes, has been on the top 10 list with me for many years, too, so no doubt she's a superlative writer and her entry earned the top spot.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Hello, Blog-o-land!

I've been away a while. And I'm not quite ready to jump back in with both feet. But wanted to put up a quick post to say, "hey. It's been a while." But I'm still here, and I have lots of updates to come soon. It was a wickedly busy summer with a few epic events, so stay tuned for more Tales of the Beer Baby...

Sunday, August 16, 2015

BLS Post-Swim Press Release

August 16, 2015


SOUTH BOSTON, Massachusetts—As anticipated, 53-year-old Penny Palfrey of Seventeen-Seventy, Queensland, Australia, handily won the 8-mile Boston Light Swim across Boston Harbor yesterday with a time of 2:56:48. The win adds to the legendary status of Palfrey and the lengthy list of successful swims this long-time open water swimmer and grandmother has completed.

Sneaking onto the podium behind Palfrey was 63-year-old James Clifford of Poolesville, MD, the oldest male competitor in the race. Clifford finished second overall, first for the men, in a time of 3:08:22, edging out third place finisher Jennifer Olsen, 44, of Natick, MA, who finished third in a time of 3:11:28.

The race began in the water in the shadow of America’s first lighthouse at 7 a.m. yesterday after a moment of silence in observance of the passing of Southie resident Paul Turner. Swimmers jumped off their boats and churned their way across 8 miles of cold water, which ranged from 64 to 68 degrees, without wetsuits.

Weather conditions were calm, hot, and sunny—perfect for a long swim back to Boston. Of the 24 solo competitors who started the swim, 4 terminated their swims early due to cold or other issues and one swimmer was very close to the finishline when time expired. Race Directors Elaine Howley and Greg O’Connor must enforce a strict 5-hour time limit that’s dictated by the U.S. Coast Guard event permit and the changing tide. “We hate having to ask swimmers to leave the water when time expires like that,” Howley said, “especially when they are within sight of the finishline, but it’s necessary to protect the integrity of the event and to ensure we can continue to run it in future years. Hopefully, the impacted swimmer will train this winter and be able to come back and finish it next year.”

This year, 11 men and 13 women participated as solo swimmers. Another 23 swimmers took part as members of six different relay teams. Many of the swimmers who participated brought intensely personal and inspiring stories with them of their journey to this marathon swim. First time Boston Light Swim finisher Patty Grey, 64, of Mesa, AZ, swam in memory of her brother who had always wanted to do the swim with her.

The Boston Light Swim staff wishes to congratulate all the swimmers. Thank you to event sponsors Massachusetts Open Water Swimming Association (MOWSA), Harpoon Brewery, DRINKMaple, Carbo-Pro, and FINIS. The Directors would also like to express a huge thank you to all the volunteers who assisted as well as the boaters who made this race possible.

For more information, visit us online at

Solo Results

  1.  Penny Palfrey, F53, Queensland AUS, 2:56:48
  2. James Clifford, M63, Poolesville, MD, 3:08:22
  3. Jen Olsen, F44, Natick, MA, 3:11:22
  4. Katharine Owen, F36, Arlington, MA, 3:18:14
  5.  Frederick Hirsch, M54, Hull, MA, 3:24:33
  6. Barbara Held, F61, San Diego, CA, 3:26:01
  7.  Michael Klonsky, M53, Lynnfield, MA, 3:29:06
  8. David Conners, M47, San Francisco, CA, 3:37:15
  9. Richard Born, M53, Jamaica Plain, MA, 3:38:52
  10. Kristin Hutchins, F48, San Francisco, CA, 3:42:49
  11. Amy Frick, F49, Chester, VA, 3:55:49
  12. Patty Gray, F64, Mesa, AZ, 3:56:41
  13. Jeffrey Pinnix, M41, Mansfield, MA, 4:04:19
  14. Rachel Petersen, F25, Littleton, CO, 4:11:37
  15. Patrick Couture, M49, Quebec, CAN, 4:23:12
  16. Martina Pavlicova, F43, New York, NY, 4:27:22
  17. John Gale, M59, Portland, ME, 4:38:08 
  18. James Long, M45, Chester, UK, 4:44:15
  19. Nabil Radouane M38, Collegeville, PA, 4:48:49
  20. Dan Grodinsky, M33, Quebec, CAN DNF
  21. Martha Wood, F52, Manchester, MA DNF
  22. Jef Mallett, M53, Huntington Woods, MI DNF
  23. Donald Sorterup, M48, Tiverton, RI DNF
  24. Shannon Dinan, F47, Salem, MA DNF (Time expired)

Relay Results

  1. Beer Gutz & Coconutz: Tommy Gainer, Lidia MacDonald-Carr, Katelyn Kidney, Sean Barrow, 3:05:11
  2. A Fin & A Prayer: Katie O’Dair, Julie Mulkerrin, Lynne Mulkerrin, Juliette Byrnes, 3:29:06
  3. Team Johnson: James Burden, Jim Kindelan, Franklin Johnson, 3:31:36
  4.  Sachuset Ocean Swimmers – III: Jane Cheney, Neil Greenspan, Lynne Czech, Michael Garr, 3:57:46
  5. SOS II: Christopher Daly, Judy Beckman, Jonathan Cooper, Rita Hansen, 4:31:41
  6. Schuylkill Expressions: Louise Hyder-Darlington, Charles Bender, Diane McManus, Hugh Darlington, 4:52:01   

Thursday, August 13, 2015

BLS Pre-Event Press Release

August 13, 2015


SOUTH BOSTON, Massachusetts—Is it 1908? Because that’s the last time a headline like the above ran with relation to the annual 8-mile Boston Light Swim, a perennial favorite among marathon swimmers around the world. Way back then, sexy swimming powerhouse Annette Kellerman wowed the crowds at Revere Beach in her scandalous, adapted men’s bathing suit and was arrested for her bold expression of function over fashion.

This year, 53-year-old Penny Palfrey of Queensland, Australia will likely create fewer legal waves as she follows in her countrywoman’s steps to make history in the Boston Harbor on Saturday. Joining her will be 23 other solo swimmers and 6 relay teams hailing from near and far.

Earlier this month, Palfrey—a legendary open water swimmer and grandmother who has a long and impressive string of brutal ocean marathon swims to her name—became the third person to complete a second Triple Crown with a successful swim across the Catalina Channel. The Triple Crown consists of solo swims of the 21-mile English Channel, the 20-mile Catalina Channel in southern California, and a 28.5-mile circumnavigation of Manhattan Island. To date, fewer than 120 people worldwide have completed a single Triple Crown, and now Palfrey has done it twice.

Palfrey also held a world record for the longest solo ocean swim for her 67.26-mile trek between Grand Cayman and Little Cayman Islands that she completed in 2011. Her record was broken last October by fellow Australian marathon swimmer Chloe McCardle.

Joining Palfrey in the water on this significantly shorter but no less exciting 8-mile journey across Boston Harbor will be 61-year-old Barbara Held, a former firefighter and paramedic from San Diego. Also a Triple Crown swimmer, Held completed that trio of tough swims all while over the age of 50, earning her “Half Century Club” status. She’s also the oldest woman to have thus far completed the Triple Crown of Marathon Swimming.

The field also boasts marathon swimming newcomer Jef Mallett, 53, the artist behind the syndicated comic strip Frazz that details the life and athletic pursuits of the strip’s eponymous songwriter turned elementary school janitor. Mallett, an accomplished cyclist and triathlete from Detroit is tackling his first major marathon swim in this event, and has been training hard for the cold and unpredictable conditions he may encounter in the harbor.

Competitors will start in the water at 7 a.m. just off of Little Brewster Island in the shadow of America’s first lighthouse, the Boston Light. The marathon swim runs for eight miles amid the Boston Harbor Islands National Park and finishes at the famed L-Street Bathhouse in South Boston. Spectators are encouraged to arrive at the L-Street Beach to cheer in the finishers beginning at 9 a.m.

The historic race, dubbed the “Granddaddy of American Open Water Swims,” began in 1907. The race is considered one of the most difficult open water swimming races in the world because of the chilly 58-degree water temperature typically found at the start, variable conditions, and strong tidal flows. Swimmers and their crews must carefully train for and navigate these challenges accordingly, and completion is not guaranteed.

Most swimmers manage to complete the swim within three to five hours. There is a five-hour time limit on the course, and safety is the primary concern for Race Directors Elaine Howley and Greg O’Connor, who are running the event for the seventh year in a row. The event safety plan includes a motorized support boat assigned to each swimmer, Coast Guard and Environmental Police coverage, as well as dedicated Boston EMS personnel on standby should any swimmers experience difficulty during or after the race.

Higher-than-typical water temperatures in the harbor this year and a clear forecast bode well, but swimmers will be missing a traditional landmark along the route due to the demolition earlier this year of the Long Island Bridge. “The warmer water is a big positive from a safety standpoint,” Howley says, “as fewer swimmers are likely to experience hypothermia during the swim. But it does change the complexion of the race a bit. Part of the appeal is that this is a very cold, very difficult swim,” she explains. “The loss of the Long Island Bridge, which was an iconic landmark that signaled the halfway point in the race, will also subtly change swimmers’ experiences in the harbor.”

This year, 24 solo swimmers were selected by lottery to participate. The field consists of 11 women and 13 men. Penny Palfrey and Barbara Held are expected to lead the way, but may be challenged by local swimmers Jennifer Olsen, 44, of Natick and Katharine Owen, 36, of Arlington for the win. The women’s field is especially fast this year and is expected to dominate the finisher’s podium.

The Boston Light Swim staff wishes all swimmers a safe and personally fulfilling crossing. This year’s race is sponsored by the Massachusetts Open Water Swimming Association (MOWSA), Harpoon Brewery, DRINKMaple, Carbo-Pro, and FINIS. An after-party will be held on the beach at the L-Street Bathhouse, followed by a celebration at the world-famous L-Street Tavern on L-Street in Southie.

For more information, visit us online at

Solo Entrants

  • Barbara Held, 61, San Diego, CA
  • James Long, 45, Chester, UK
  • Richard Born, 53, Jamaica Plain, MA
  • Penny Palfrey, 53, Queensland, AUS
  • Patrick Couture, 49, Quebec, CAN
  • Donald Sorterup, 48, Tiverton, RI
  • Dan Grodinsky, 33, Quebec, CAN
  • Michael Klonsky, 53, Lynnfield, MA
  • Martina Pavlicova, 43, New York, NY
  • Amy Frick, 49, Chester, VA
  • Shannon Dinan, 47, Salem, MA
  • Jen Olsen, 44, Natick, MA
  • Patty Gray, 64, Mesa, AZ
  • John Gale, 59, Portland, ME
  • Rachel Petersen, 25, Littleton, CO
  • Jeffrey Pinnix, 41, Mansfield, MA
  • Frederick Hirsch, 64, Hull, MA
  • David Conners, 47, San Francisco, CA
  •  Kristin  Hutchins, 48, San Francisco, CA
  •  James Clifford, 63, Poolesville, MD
  •  Nabil Radouane 38, Collegeville, PA
  •  Martha Wood, 52, Manchester, MA
  •  Jef Mallett, 53, Huntington Woods, MI
  •   Katharine Owen, 36, Arlington, MA

Relay Teams

Three-Person Team                    
  •   Team Johnson: James Burden, Jim Kindelan, Franklin Johnson

Four–Person Teams
  •  Sachuset Ocean Swimmers - III: Jane Cheney, Neil Greenspan, Lynne Czech, Michael Garr
  • A Fin & A Prayer: Katie O’Dair, Julie Mulkerrin, Lynne Mulkerrin, Juliette Byrnes
  • Beer Gutz & Coconutz: Tommy Gainer, Lidia MacDonald-Carr, Katelyn Kidney, Sean Barrow
  • Schuylkill Expressions: Louise Hyder-Darlington, Charles Bender, Diane McManus, Hugh Darlington
  • SOS II: Christopher Daly, Judy Beckman, Jonathan Cooper, Rita Hansen

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Rob Konrad's Excellent Adventure

Rob Konrad as a Miami Dolphin
Credit: Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images via abc news
In the early hours of January 8, 2015, former Miami Dolphins player Rob Konrad had a major mishap at sea. He was reportedly fishing alone about 10 miles off the Florida coast when he hooked a fish that dragged him overboard. His boat was stuck on autopilot and was found a couple days later, run aground on Deadman's Reef.

In the water as the sun was heading down, Konrad had little choice but to swim for land. He did, and arrived on shore some 16 hours later. Cold, exhausted, probably a little disoriented and scared. But he'd survived an amazing trek in chilly, 65-degree water.

At first, the story seemed too unbelievable, too far-fetched to be true. But the marathon swimming community scrambled for charts and evidence (as is our wont) and it looks like Konrad's story could be entirely true as he reported it.

Given that Konrad is famous and the story incredible, it got a lot of press coverage. Konrad attended St. John's Prep in Danvers, so the local press jumped on it, playing up the local connection. That's where Greg and I got dragged in to comment (they found us through the Massachusetts Open Water Swimming Association and being marathon swimmers, we're the experts, apparently!) on what we thought happened. You can watch the CBS affiliate story here.

USMS was also contacted for comment on the story by Men's Health magazine, and given that I'm the open water "expert" on staff, the lead was sent my way. The writer had some great questions and the final piece took a different angle than a lot of the other coverage out there-- a refreshing change of pace.

It sure was an interesting episode and I'm curious to see if anything else comes of it down the road. Will there be a tell-all, story-of-survival book deal inked? Was he actually fishing or out there alone of was he out in the middle of nowhere for some other (sinister/nefarious/dumb/scandalous) reason? Maybe nothing will ever come of it, and it's just a curious footnote at the almost-never-traversed intersection of pro football and marathon swimming.

All I can say is, it's a good thing he was a Miami Dolphin. Surely that affiliation ensured his ability to swim to sure and bought him safe passage in the sea...

Other press coverage of Rob's ordeal:
Police video, ABC News
News story, ABC News 
Daily News of Open Water Swimming
Dead Spin
New York Times
Huffington Post
Miami Herald