Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Cuba – Florida – Ireland – Scotland - World Open Water Swimming Association Man, Woman, Performance & Offering of the Year Awards

On June 19th 2012 thousands of people around the world followed my swim tracker while I swam for over 41 hours straight in the challenging waters of the Florida Straits between Cuba and Florida. I was devastated when my team gave me the bad news that I had to leave the water because it would impossible to reach Florida due to strong adverse currents.

At that time I’d swum 80 miles, the equivalent of four out of the five distances equivalent to the English Channel to reach my goal, further than any other person in history in these water without the use of a shark cage.

Then just a few weeks later I was in 12/13C cold water for 11 ½ hours attempting to become only the 14th person in history to swim the North Channel, between Ireland and Scotland and complete the seven swims know as the Ocean’s Seven.

If you were one of those people who stayed up at night and cheered me on, or watched my tracker as you left for work and was amazed when I was still swimming when you came home. If you were inspired to get off the couch and do a little more with your day then please consider voting for me in this year’s world open water swimming awards.

Follow the links below to read about the nominees in the men’s, woman’s, performance and offerings for 2012 and a little more information about my swims this year and why I was considered worthy of a nomination in the 2012 World Open Water Swimming Associations performance of the year awards.

I had an amazing team behind me, their support in the USA, Cuba and Ireland was rock solid and incredible. So whilst this nomination has my name on it, to me this is acknowledgment of their commitment and hard work as well as my own, so a vote for me is a vote for them, should you consider me worthy of your vote, thank you very much!

The 2012 World Open Water Swimming Association voting is now open, please feel free to tell your family and friends every vote counts!
You, your family and  friends can also make comments on Facebook, Twitter and Google+. It's nice for the global aquatic community to know about all the nominees and their accomplishments during 2012. Congratulations to all the nominees this year.

My wonderful Cuba - Florida Team

Hemingway Marina, Cuba - the start of my 41+ hours swim.

Anne Marie Ward and me in Ireland
Congratulations to my dear friend Mr Flowers also nominated this year!

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Swim the Suck, Chattanooga, Tennessee Video Clip – by Penny

Recently I’ve started putting together a few photos to make a little video clip from them, (thanks to the help of YouTube).

This weekend I made this short video about our recent trip to Chattanooga to participate in their 10 mile swim event named Swim the Suck. The wildlife and autumn/fall colours were amazing! I hope you enjoy.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Swim the Suck, Chattanooga, Tennessee, October 2012

One of the most wonderful things about our sport to me, are the great friends I make around the world. People who love to swim, especially people who love to swim in open water. We have a common bond, a love for the water, the wildlife, the environment and the challenges that nature presents us with.

Open water swimmers tend to be friendly and supportive of one another. These days with the help of the internet, chat groups and social media I have many friends around the globe whom I haven’t yet met in person. Karah Nazor Friberg was one such friend; we’d had many email conversations on a variety of topics over the past few years, building our friendship across the globe.
It was early November 2011 when I received an email from Karah asking if I would like to go to Chattanooga, Tennessee to take part in a swim she was organising in October 2012, an event called Swim the Suck.
Chris and I knew little about the area, but I was keen to meet Karah and exited to take part in her 10 mile swim and enjoy the company of other swimmers. Karah told us about Chattanooga, the surrounding area and about her swim which is held in the beautiful Tennessee Gorge, she wrote us about the wonderful views from Signal and Lookout Mountains, about the outdoor activities which included rafting and hiking and of nearby places to visit such as the Smoky Mountains. Chris and I became very excited about our trip to Tennessee in October 2012.
On October 2nd we commenced our long journey from our hometown of Townsville through Brisbane, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Atlanta where we stayed overnight then drove north to Chattanooga the following day.
Photo by Karen Nazor Hill
Karah was there to meet us and give us instructions on how to get to our accommodations for the duration of our stay. She also told us about a one mile swim event she was holding that evening called the Snail Darter. We learned that the Snail Darter was a small fish, native to the Little Tennessee River and was an endangered species. It was subsequently the centre of a legal battle which held up the construction of the Tellico Dam for two years. Karah’s father Hank Hill was in the centre of this landmark environmental case Hill v TVA which went all the way to the supreme court and saved the little Snail Darter fish whose status has now been down listed from endangered to threatened.

Chris and I were keen to take part in the swim and loosen up from the many hours of travel over the past two days. When we arrived to register for the event we met Borut and Martin Strel also known as the “Big River Man”. Martin is famous for swimming many of the world’s biggest rivers including the Amazon! The Snail Darter was a low-key fun event which somehow I won the women’s division and was presented with a flying pink pig! 
Chris Palfrey, Karah Nazor Friberg,
Penny & Martin Strel
The following day we spent the morning at the Chattanooga Aquarium then in the evening went to Martin Strel’s movie night to watch his film “Big River Man” which Chris and I enjoyed very much before a group of us including Martin and Borut socialised at a local venue suitably named Big River!
Friday, was pre race day so Chris and I spent a quiet day resting and organising our gear for Swim the Suck the following day. In the evening we met with all the swimmers, kayakers and supporters for the pre swim briefing at Outdoor Chattanooga, a pasta dinner and a short presentation by myself and Martin Strel.
Saturday greeted us with cool overcast conditions and a few scattered showers, quite different from the beautiful sunny previous few days, the water temperature was fine though and reported to be around 74F (approx 21/22C).
The Swim the Suck was great, swimming 10 miles downstream through the beautiful Tennessee River Gorge surrounded by the Cumberland Mountains with a good push for the current generated by controlled water released from the Chickamauga Dam. The start was at Suck Creek, (hence the name) there was plenty of parking for the 70 swimmers and 80 or so kayakers and organisers.
Norman Davis image by Phyllis Williams
As usual the start was a busy time for all, with swimmers and kayakers finding their respective partners amongst the crowd both in and upon the water. But with the limited swimmer numbers, the width of the river and the varying speeds of the swimmers I think most of us got away to a comfortable start. The first swimmer completed the course in 3 hours 22 minutes and the final swimmers coming in at 6 hrs 45 minutes.
The finish of the swim was at a lovely private property at Living Waters, where we found our bags of dry clothes and towels that we’d left at the start which had been shuttled to the finish ready for our arrival, there was a beautiful log fire burning, hot coffee, sandwiches, fruit and a small tent for changing into dry clothes. When we were ready there was a shuttle bus to take us to The Pot House which is where the post swim celebrations were to take place along with plenty of hot food and drinks. This was a very well organised, friendly, fun and social event in a truly beautiful part of the world.
At the post swim celebrations Chris and I met Bo and Tami Chamberlain and Tim Shults who was Chris’ kayaker during the swim, both families had their children babysat for the day so they could come out on the water and kayak for swimmers. Before we knew it we’d teed up a day of rafting for the following morning with Bo and Tami and their two daughters Zoe and Emma on the Ocoee River, a little downstream of where the white-water rafting events took place in the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, to be followed by a chilly meal at Tim and his wife Berry’s home! This was a wonderful day, the rafting trip was well organised by Bo and Tami who are both former river guides, we thoroughly enjoyed the natural beauty of the Ocoee river and then our visit to Tim and Berry’s rustic home high on Signal Mountain.
Zoe swimming the Snail Darter
Photo by Phyllis Williams

The following two days we spent enjoying swimming and kayaking on Chickamauga Lake. Then on Wednesday evening we had a very important date with Zoe who had just turned 11 years old. After the Snail Darter race the previous week Chris had promised Zoe that we’d swim the Snail Darter 1 mile course with her the following Wednesday. So today was the big day and we met with Zoe and the C.O.W.S. (Chattanooga Open Water Swimmers) for their weekly swim. Zoe did just great, she swam well, learned about swimming in the open water with a current and with the company of two kayakers, Chris, myself and one or two other swimmers at just 11 years old Zoe completed the 1 mile Snail Darter course in 18 minutes! Well done Zoe!
Black Bear at Cades Cove
Photo by Chris Palfrey
Our flight home was scheduled for Saturday; so with only a few days left before we had to return home to Australia Chris and I drove to the Great Smoky Mountains just a few hours north east of Chattanooga. We were so lucky with the weather; it was a perfect, clear day so we headed straight to Clingmans’ Dome where we could see for miles across the beautiful mountain ranges and enjoyed a four hour hike with breathtaking views. The following morning our destination was Cades Cove a 12 mile, one way loop road with several places to stop and take in the views or go for hikes. Chris and I hiked the five miles round trip to Abrams Falls and on our return whilst driving out of Cades Cove we noticed right beside us in the woods was a black bear! This bear was a bit of a show off, he cruised through the woods, climbed to the top of a tree next to our car and then down again, sauntered along the road beside the two cars ahead of us, crossed the road in front of them, then continued on his way through the woods on the opposite side of the road. He wasn’t in the slightest worried about the cars or the people in them excitedly watching and taking photos as he went on his way.
A huge thank you to Karah Nazor Friberg and Philip Grimes at Outdoor Chattanooga for putting on a wonderful event, thank you to the kayakers and all involved in helping out and organising this year’s fantastic swim, and to fellow swimmers and locals for their friendship and hospitality. And as always a big thank you to all the sponsors of the Swim the Suck 2012. THANK YOU!
Interested in Swim the Suck 2013? Nominations open on 1/1/2013 for a tentative date of 5th October 2013 www.swimthesuck10mile.com
Outdoor Chattanooga   http://www.outdoorchattanooga.com/  
Martin Strel “Big River Man” http://www.strel-swimming.com/ 

Monday, 10 September 2012

Mystery Swim in the Magical Whitsunday Islands - 8th September 2012

Driving into Airlie Beach in the Whitsundays on Friday evening took me back thirty years. It was here that I’d caught the bus up from Sydney just a few weeks after my arrival into Australia in 1982. Coming from England and just twenty years old the backpacker feel to Airlie, the sailing, the fabulously warm weather, and the beautiful Whitsunday Islands were all very attractive to me. It didn’t take me long to find work in Airlie in ‘82 and this past weekend I found myself reminiscing about my time here thirty years ago, rowing to shore from the yacht I was living on, in a little pink t-shirt dress to work at Pinkie’s Coffee shop on the corner of the shingly beach where I used to leave my dingy.

Chris and I had made arrangements to meet with Whitsunday locals Christie Leet, Michael Hanisch, Brisbane swimmer Leigh Trevan, our pilots and kayakers early on Saturday morning then motor Christie’s boat over to Daydream Island. From there we planned to swim the 13 kilometres back to Airlie Beach. One of the main challenges of the swim we expected were the strong tidal flows between the islands and possibly choppy conditions as we passed by Funnel Bay.

We were greeted with a beautiful day, the light winds were slightly stronger than expected and the currents not quite in our favour as we’d hoped, but the water was beautiful. Swimming in a group of five was fun and I was in no hurry to get the swim finished on this occasion. There was time for me to stop and take several photographs along the way and listen to the excited voices of the children on our support boat tell us about the whales they’d seen, with one mother pushing her calf up to the surface for air.

4 hours and 49 minutes after we’d left Daydream Island, we five intrepid swimmers walked happily out of the water together at a small shingly cove in Airlie Beach.
In the evening the five swimmers and Dawn our boat support crew gathered together for a meal and a good swimming yak while cheering on our local footy team the Cowboys as they played (and won) a “do or die” semi final against the Brisbane Broncos back home in Townsville. All in all it was a wonderful way to spend a weekend and set a new swim course for others to follow in the future.


Monday, 27 August 2012

Team Palfrey Channelling Champions Dan Boyle and Barbara Held with a Double Triple Crown!

This past week has been a great one for two of my Cuba – Florida support team members.
On Tuesday 21st August my dear friend, support crew member and fellow open water swimmer DanBoyle was successful in swimming the Catalina Channel in 10hrs 55 minutes. Dan had previously swum the Manhattan Islands Marathon in 2005 and the English Channel in 2006. Dan’s success in the Catalina Channel makes him the 59th person to complete the Triple Crown of open water swimming.
Dan Boyle and Barbara Held training in Cuba 2012
Dan’s success was closely followed on Friday 24th August by another of my wonderful support crew members Barbara Held who was successful in conquering the English Channel in 12 hours and 10 minutes. Barbara has also completed the Manhattan Island Marathon and the Catalina Channel making her another member of the Triple Crown Club. Congratulations to both Dan and Barbara on their fabulous achievements!



Thursday, 23 August 2012

The Luck of the Irish....

....was not on my side during my recent trip to Ireland, but the love of the Irish certainly was.
My journey started out on July 25th from my home about half an hour from the Townsville airport, there was the usual hour or so to wait after check-in before my long journey to Donigal in the North Western corner of Ireland began. From Townsville there was a two hour flight to Brisbane, a few hours to get from the domestic to the international terminals in Brisbane and through customs and immigration. An eight hour flight to Singapore, a couple of hours there and then a thirteen hour flight to London Heathrow, now for the tricky part navigating my way between terminals in Heathrow airport with very little sleep in time to catch my flight from Heathrow to Dublin.
Dublin is where I met Irish swimmer Nuala Moore who’d flown up from Dingle in the South Western corner of Ireland to greet me and join me for the weekend at her friend and fellow open water swimmer Anne Marie Ward’s home.
From Dublin we boarded a bus for a three and a half hour ride up to Letterkenny where we were met by the friendly, wide open arms of Anne Marie. This part of the journey proved a little easier than expected...I had no luggage to carry since it (yes both my bags) had been lost somewhere between Townsville and Dublin! Our first stop in Letterkenny was to buy some new socks and undies to get me by until my luggage arrived over the following two days.
Nuala, Anne Marie and I had a wonderful time over the next few days before Nuala had to leave us and return home with the promise to come back up to Bangor in Northern Ireland to help on my North Channel swim. Meanwhile Anne Marie and I diligently trained twice a day in a bid to get me acclimatised as quickly as possible for my 21 mile swim between Ireland and Scotland in 12-13C waters.
My North Channel swim was always going to be a battle of time. Living in the tropics and following shortly after my Cuba – Florida swim attempt in June, I knew I could only stay in water at these temperatures for a limited amount of time, to be successful on my crossing I needed everything to go right. Finally the weather settled and Anne Marie, her friend Brendan and I drove down to Bangor and booked into a local hotel, while Nuala scooted across the country using all resources, trains, planes and automobiles to be in Bangor in time for my swim early the following morning.
The weather forecast was for winds from the North West in the morning turning Westerly in the afternoon. This was looking good and I hoped to have the wind behind me for most of my crossing. However on the day of my swim the wind blew a cold North Easterly the entire day. The headwind slowed my progress and I was unable to reach the Scottish coast before the tide changed and began to push me back towards Ireland. I’d been in the cold 12.9-13.6 waters of the North Channel for around 11.5 hours, much longer than I hoped my swim would take and my team made the correct decision to pull me from the water.
The following day Naula returned home and Anne Marie, Brendan and I drove back to Donegal. I had quite some time until my flight home to Australia and changing my flights proved too expensive, Anne Marie and her family made me very welcome, they had many visitors that week since there was a Christening in the family, the entire family graciously made me feel welcome and join all the festive activities before I bussed it back down to Dublin for a little sightseeing a few days before my departure.

Whilst in Dublin I had time to dwell on all the training, money, planning and efforts I’d ploughed into my swimming this year. My dreams had been to swim across the Florida Straits between Cuba and Florida then complete the Ocean’s Seven by swimming the North Channel. I’d been unable to complete either of these two swims. I wrote to a friend that I was overwhelmingly disappointed with the outcome of my swimming this year.
After returning home I saw a woman who loves to follow my swimming and is always interested in my latest adventures, she asked about my swim in Ireland and I told her that I hadn’t made it...her reply was “Never mind I’m sure you gave it your best, did you have a good time?”
Her question rocked me for a moment, my answer was definitely yes! “Well, that’s what’s important then.” she said.
It’s so true, this year I’ve travelled to some wonderful places, met some wonderful people, felt the love of the Irish and so many others.
I fell down, I got up again and I brushed myself off.....with the help of my friends - Thank You!


Sunday, 5 August 2012

The North Channel – Between Ireland and Scotland – Penny Palfrey

Swimming for over 41 hours between Cuba and Florida takes a large toll on the body. The past six weeks have been a balance of recovery and training in preparation for my North Channel swim between Ireland and Scotland this month.

Over the past two weeks my training’s consisted of two swims per day in the recently cold, (for me) wet and windy weather of Donegal in North Western Ireland where I’m staying with North Channel swimmer Anne Marie Ward and spent a few fun days with open water swimmer Nuala Moore of Dingle, South West Ireland.
The important thing for me now is to acclimatise to the much colder waters of the North Channel in comparison to the tropical waters of the Florida Straits. I lost four kilograms during and following my Cuba – Florida attempt so I’ve been trying to gain some weight to prepare for the cold waters of the North Channel.  Other challenges swimmers face here are Jellyfish, strong currents and changeable weather conditions.

The North Channel is my final swim in the Oceans Seven Challenge; the six I’ve previously completed are the English Channel, Cook Strait NZ, Gibraltar Strait between Spain and Morocco, Molokai/Kaiwi Channel Hawaii, the Catalina Channel Southern California, and the Tsugaru Strait in Japan.

Links; http://dailynews.openwaterswimming.com/2012/07/oceans-seven-times-two.html

Stay posted for more information and thank you for following – Penny Palfrey