Archives For Open Water Swim

Open Water Swimming

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I started swimming with a Masters swim team in the summer before I turned 50.

Some parents at the swim club where we belonged hired a coach who held three morning practices a week. After that summer I followed the coach to the indoor team she was coaching and I have been swimming year round ever since.

Together my teammates and I have swum up the Hudson River and across the Chesapeake Bay and the mouth of the Potomac and have trained together for Iron Man triathlons and marathons.

This weekend I hosted five of my teammates in Lake Placid where we competed in the annual race along the submerged cable that marks the Iron Man course. They each did fantastic, winning their respective age groups and being awarded the loaf of bread  that is traditionally given as the award for first place.

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The next day, they agreed to join me on a hike to Mount Colvin and Blake Peak, to bring my total to 38 high peaks summited of the 46 that I am trying to climb by next August 1st.

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The day was perfect and we were greeted with a rainbow as we started the hike. The trails were still muddy from the recent rain but the views at Colvin were spectacular and we watched Marcy emerge as the morning clouds lifted away. The hike out and back to Blake was hard because there were several rock faces that needed to be scrambled and our boots and shoes were slippery from the mud. We were pretty tired when we returned to Colvin to finish the food we had brought with us and to even out the water we were carrying.

I suggested that we detour on our way down to visit the Fish Hawk and Indian Head cliffs that overlook the Lower Ausable Lake. When asked how much further it would add to the trip I replied, “just a couple hundred yards more.” The side trip to the cliffs was closer to a mile and included a steep climb that was made even harder by the fact that when we reached it we were already exhausted from ten hours of hiking.

My companions took it in stride and we rested while enjoying the spectacular view of the lake and valley from atop the cliffs before hiking down to Lake Road and back to the car.

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Later, while eating pizza for dinner, the conversation turned to my estimation skills. While I had been nearly exact on all of my mileage and time estimates throughout the day, I had missed the estimate to the cliffs by nearly a mile. They joked about it and I am sure I will be teased about this miscalculation for years to come.

It has been nearly seven years since I started swimming and over this time coaches and teammates have come and gone. They have moved on to new jobs and new cities and have been replaced by the new friends with whom I train today. Eventually, the friends I hiked with yesterday will also move away as they build their own families and careers.

And like the swimmers who came before them, I will miss them and remind them as they leave that in life, just as in hiking, something great always awaits us down the trail, just a couple hundred yards more.



We bought the station wagon in 2003 and gave it to Abby last week. Today she loaded it with a bicycle, her guitar and some clothes, waved goodbye and started a cross-country road trip to Berkeley for graduate school.

Over the last thirteen years I have driven that car to hundreds of swim practices and meets and to camping trips and birthday parties with her friends. Every summer we drove it to the Adirondacks, often listening to Jim Dale read aloud the seven book story of Harry and Ron and Hermione.

When Abby went away to high school I drove it to visit her, sometimes twice a week during swimming and water polo seasons. One Christmas her present to me was five hours of music on CDs to keep me company during those long drives. When she graduated we drove it to a music festival in Tennessee and camped behind it for three very hot days and muggy nights.


After Abby moved to Chicago for college most of my trips in the station wagon involved swimming events with new friends. I drove it to open water swims in Ocean City and New York and to Lake Placid to hike and ski with friends. It carried my bike to the Iron Man and my canoe to Cooperstown.

But of all these travels, I cherish most the memories of the times when Abby was younger and we would stop at the Knoebels amusement park on our way home from visiting my mother as her health deteriorated.

It was about halfway and Abby loved riding the two wooden roller coasters there. On nice summer days we would spend a few hours riding the Phoenix and the Twister and maybe take a swim in the large swimming pool before grabbing a quick meal and finishing the rest of the drive. It was the perfect remedy to help us feel better no matter how sad our visit had left us.

Abby is now on her way to Berkeley driving the station wagon we bought in 2003. I love the memories made in that car and I’m not sure when I’ll replace it. But when I do I’ll be sure to find my way back to Knoebels Grove to ride the roller coasters and maybe swim a while in the large pool there.




A bench by a stream

November 8, 2014 — Leave a comment

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In early June, I purchased a new bike to use during the 2014 Lake Placid Iron Man and spent the last weeks of my training practicing on it, mostly while circling Lake Montebello hundreds of time. I rode it on the course once before the race, just before the road to Keene was re-paved. It handled well during the ride but I felt uncomfortable when riding in an aerodynamic position, especially down the steep hill leaving Lake Placid. My center of gravity seemed too high and way too far forward and I felt that the slightest mistake would send me tumbling to the ground.

The days leading up to the race were beautiful. An easy run on Thursday was followed by a short bike ride on Friday in perfect weather. A flat rear tire greeted me when I brought the bike out the basement door on Saturday morning. There was no clear puncture and although I thought I found a small piece of glass poking through the tire, I was not sure I had found the source of the leak before replacing the tube

I woke early on race day and walked to the transition area with my brother and a bike pump fearing that the tire would be flat again. It was pretty cold but the sky was clearing and I was optimistic that the predicted rain might not actually appear. The rear tire was fine.

I was at the beach early, trying to get towards the front at the start but ultimately only made it to the fourth wave. I did not wear a wetsuit and kept my sweatshirt and sweatpants on until the last-minute when I left them, never to be seen again, neatly folded next to a trash can.

I stayed far left during the swim and swam by the wet-suited competitors bunched tightly and colliding with each other while following the cable that connected the course buoys. It started to rain within the first 800 meters and with one half mile left the thunder-storm hit. I watched the lightning flashes as I breathed to the right side and the short delay before the thunder-claps told me the storm was moving towards us very quickly. I swam as fast as I could to get back to the finish of the swim course and waved to Kathy and Abby as I ran up the chute leading from the shore.

I spent a long time transitioning to the bike portion of the race. It was raining hard and the thunder-storm was in full force. I was soaked even before I mounted my bike. None of us were in a hurry during the fourteen mile ride down to Keene in the pouring rain. Once we reached the bottom the rain eased and the rest of the ride went by without incident.

I felt good at the start of the run. I was on schedule and certain that I could finish with time to spare. I ran for five minutes and then walked for thirty-seconds, guided by a Garmin watch that beeped on cue. I repeated that cycle fifty-nine times before crossing the finish line.

During the run I passed by a memorial to the 10th Mountain Division next to a small stream. I promised myself that someday I would come back and visit it for a while.

Which is what I did today.

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Manhattan Transfer

October 26, 2014 — 1 Comment


I never see the dawn that I don’t say to myself perhaps.

John Dos Passos, author Manhattan Transfer (1925)

In the summer of 1972, I pulled on a green bathing suit, jumped into Lake Crumhorn and breaststroked behind a wooden rowboat for forty-five minutes to earn my Mile Swim Badge from the Boy Scouts of America. I would not participate in an open water swim again until September 19, 2010, when I swam three miles as part of Baltimore’s inaugural Swim Across America. Since then I have swum past the Hudson River’s Little Red Lighthouse three times, across the Chesapeake Bay and the Potomac River at its widest point, up and down the Chester, Nanticoke and Patapsco Rivers and along the Chicago skyline in Lake Michigan and the Atlantic shoreline in Ocean City. At each of these swims I paid the modest entry fee and sometimes a small donation, but never really focused on using the swims to raise money to help others.

During this year’s Lighthouse swim I came to really appreciate the amazing friendships that I have formed through open water swimming. It occurred to me that without the support of my friends who have trained, travelled and competed with me I would never have accomplished any of this. As I finished the swim and climbed the stairs out of the Hudson I decided to form a team for next year’s relay race around Manhattan and to use the event to raise money for Swim Free, a charity that funds learn-to-swim programs at community pools in underserved areas.

My relay-mates are amazing people. Tim, our captain, was born on April 1st in the bathroom of the house where his parents still live. That one sentence explains a lot about Tim. He is the type of guy who can’t wait to get started, whether on the deck before a routine practice or on the shore at the start of a long open water swim. “Let’s do this,” he’ll proclaim and then we are off and swimming. Tim out in front and the rest of us trailing behind. At the end of the swim, his is the first face you will see, smiling and offering encouragement as the rest of us finish. Tim trains with passion and the example he sets has inspired me to work hard and follow him, first up the Hudson River and then on a seven and one-half mile swim across the Potomac and at many more swims since then. Tim taught me to believe in myself as a swimmer and that confidence has made all the difference.

I met Claudia for the first time early on the Sunday morning following my first Lighthouse swim. I had stayed in New York too long and had a long drive to get back to Baltimore in time for its third Swim Across America event. I showed up at the swim club parking lot after only two hours of sleep, threw her the keys to my car and asked her to drive. She not only drove me to the swim and back that day, she also swam next to me for three miles, stroke for stroke to make sure I was okay. Since then she has completed the Ocean City, Purple and Potomac River swims and a 70.3 mile triathlon. She is my favorite training partner and a wonderful and caring person with an infectious smile.

Sandra and I became friends on a subway ride from Dykman Street to SoHo when she tagged along with our group first to a nice bar at the southern tip of Manhattan, then back towards the Empire State Building and on to the 24-hour McDonald’s on 33rd and Seventh Avenue. There is nothing quite so delicious as chicken McNuggets and french fries to cap off a night out after a hard swim. Sandra spends her summers training in the Atlantic near Sandy Hook with the “Sunrise Crew” who can be found in the ocean or nearby river at 5:30 AM on every Tuesday and Thursday between June and October. When she is not busy raising her two young children, Sandra regularly swims in ocean mile races while still finding time to enjoy a 5k swim on most summer weekends.

Tim is well-known to NYC Swim, having consistently finished near the top during the last three Lighthouse swims. I, on the other hand, am a middle of the pack guy at best. Sandra has also completed three Lighthouse swims and although Claudia has not yet participated in a NYC Swim event she too is a very accomplished open water swimmer. Tim and Sandra aspire to solo swims around Manhattan, which I know they will one day accomplish. My dream is to spend a month one summer swimming as much of the Hudson as possible and I hope to convince Claudia, Tim and Sandra to swim parts of it with me.

Tim often mentions to me that he has met his best friends through swimming. I could not agree more. I am amazed at how swimming has brought Tim, Claudia and Sandra into my life. We are from different parts of the country and come from different backgrounds. If you drew a straight line connecting the places where we were born it would stretch 3,333 miles. But somehow through a maze of circumstances, opportunities and life choices we have intersected and become friends. That is what swimming has done for me and what it can do for others.

If fortunate enough to be selected for this year’s race our team will train hard and give the swim our maximum effort. And when the four of us cross the finish line together we will each be the better for our efforts, having given back a little to the sport that has given us so much.


A few words of thanks

July 27, 2014 — 11 Comments

Piglet noticed that even though he had a very small heart, it could hold a rather large amount of gratitude.

A. A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

On July 22, 2013, I bought a new pair of running shoes and started this journey. Since then I’ve swum 545 miles, ran 693 and biked for 4,542 miles more. Along the way I’ve jogged through downtown Bucharest and along the shore of the Black Sea; biked with Lucy in Sofia; swum in the Atlantic Ocean, Chesapeake Bay and the Hudson, Chester and Potomac Rivers; had one serious bike crash and taught the bartender at the Times Square Applebees how to make a perfect Martini. The 2014 Lake Placid Iron Man has just started and I will soon be swimming in Mirror Lake with number 367 painted on my arms. If all goes well sometime before midnight tonight I will add another 140.6 miles to these totals and then stop keeping track.

I have approached today’s race with mixed emotions. On some days I would wake brimming with confidence. On others full of self-doubt wondering what I had gotten myself into when I signed up for this. But no matter how I felt when each day began by its end I always fell asleep reflecting on how fortunate I was to have the support of my family and friends as I worked to achieve this goal. And for that I offer these few words of thanks.

First and foremost I thank Kathy who has supported and encouraged me throughout this journey as I transformed from someone who didn’t really exercise much into a dedicated athlete spending most of his spare time either swimming, running or biking. She has been with me from the start when I bought a new bike so that I could start riding it to work and never complained when I followed that purchase with a road bike, a folding bike and most recently a high-end carbon fiber racing bike.

I appreciate very much the swim coaching I have received over the years, starting with Bruce Rinker, followed by Katie, Bethany, Natalie, Zach, Joe and Lindsey. More than the coaching though, I am deeply grateful for the lane mates who have put up with me over the last four years, especially Will, Andrew, Bob, Suzanna, Krista, Brittany, Sarah, Corrine and Lauren. You have made swimming fun for me and I will never forget the times we spent together on our road trips to Bivalve, New York and Point Lookout. Thanks also to Dean, Jim, Ryan, Michele, Kelly, Miguel, Laura and Phil, experienced Iron Man finishers who have offered encouragement and great suggestions along the way. Elysia and Molly are among the dozens of other Marylanders who are here to race and volunteer. I wish them a safe and successful journey across the lake, over the mountains, through the forests and beside the rivers today.

I would not be the bicyclist I am today were it not for Bob, Dave, PJ, Mike and Charlie. You have taught me the joy of long distance cycling with friends and for that I am truly grateful.

The hardest part of the training for me has been the running and I will not set any records on the marathon portion of today’s race. Of all the disciplines however, my running has improved the most and for this I remember fondly and thank Dave, Parnell and John; Valerie; Josh and Glenn; and Kyle, Eric, Jim, Dave, Beth and Monica.

I owe special debts of gratitude to Tim who taught me to believe in myself as a swimmer and to Claudia who encouraged me to start this blog, swam with me in the very cold and rough Atlantic and during an emotional Purple Swim and trained with me for my first triathlon. I will cherish our friendships always.

And finally I am most grateful to Abby who helped me fall back in love with swimming which, after all, is what started this in the first place.

When I was in Lake Placid over Memorial Day weekend, a triathlon club from New York was also in town training. From time to time I would be passed by a member of that club who would call out to me “You can do it!” I would give a slight nod or a wave but didn’t really understand what was going on until later when I saw two members from the club pass each other by. The first yelled out the familiar “You can do it!” to which the second responded “I love you baby!”

Thank you again for the friendship, love and support that have brought me to the point where I really believe I can do this today. And with that let me close simply by saying to each of you, very sincerely, “I love you baby.”

Running on empty . . .

October 7, 2013 — 3 Comments

On Sunday I started and finished my first triathlon at Centennial Park in Ellicott City.

The swim was wonderful. It was slightly less than a mile in distance and the water was warm. The 56 mile bike ride that came next went better than I had expected. I had trained on the course several times over the summer and knew it well. I got off the bike three and one half hours after I started the swim and all that was left was a 13.1 mile run.

By this time I was exhausted. My back was sore and it was way too hot to be jogging through hilly Ellicott City. I would spend almost as much time as it had taken to complete the bike course to finish the run.

As I slowly jogged, mile after mile, I found myself thinking back to the first time I had to run a race against a clock. It was during the summer of 1979 when, rather than return to lifeguarding, I volunteered to attend two weeks of training with the 101st Infantry Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

On the first day we were organized into a Company composed of two Platoons and for some unknown reason I was made a Platoon leader. Three other ROTC cadets from Dillard University were also given leadership positions. Parnell and John were two of my squad leaders and Dave, a senior at Dillard, was made Company commander. The four of us were put in charge of front line infantry troops serving with the 101st and none of us knew what we were doing.

Early on the Drill Instructors punished our mistakes by making the four of us do push ups. When our performance didn’t improve, they made everyone under our command join us, which only made our jobs harder as we quickly lost the confidence of the soldiers we were supposed to lead through formations and march to training.

I was overwhelmed and in way over my head. I thought I had signed up for a couple of weeks of rappelling out of helicopters and instead found myself being ridiculed at every turn. I remember standing in line for the pay phone, using a handful of quarters to call home to tell my dad in a shaky voice that I didn’t know what I was doing. There was nothing he could say during that call to make me feel better.

Dave caught the brunt of the Drill Instructors’ harassment but, unlike me, he never let it get to him. He knew he was doing it wrong, but rather than make excuses or feel sorry for himself he worked to get it right. Over the next week the four of us became friends. We borrowed a copy of the Army’s field manual on “Drill and Ceremony” and learned the proper way to organize a formation and to march troops. Eventually the push ups stopped and we settled into Army life.

In our free time we would play pick up basketball at a nearby enlisted-mens’ gym and John would try, without much success, to improve my jump shot. We talked about our plans for the future. They all wanted to be infantry officers. I hoped to go to law school. Parnell was already a father. I had not yet had a girlfriend.

There were silly rules that we were made to follow during the course, one of which was that only people who had passed the course could walk on the bridges over the many ditches that surrounded the training facilities. Every day we would come to a perfectly nice bridge, pass it by and instead run through a ditch or jump across a stream. And each time we did, John would proclaim that he was going to dance across the first bridge he came upon after we graduated.

The course consisted of a series of graded exercises and we needed to earn a certain number of points to pass. As the end of training approached, Dave was short on points. The last exercise was a 10 mile march in full gear that needed to be completed in less than four hours. The faster you finished, the more points you earned. In order to pass, Dave would need to finish the march in about two hours.

I had plenty of points and could have walked the ten-mile course and still graduated. Instead I learned about loyalty to friends that day and when Parnell and John declared that they were going to run the course with Dave, I decided to join them. Together the four of us ran in fatigues and combat boots, carrying rucksacks and fake M-16s made out of hard rubber. It was June, we were in Kentucky, and it was really hot. It was hard work and from time to time Dave, Parnell or I would drop back and John would encourage us to keep up so we could all dance across those bridges. I don’t remember what our time was when we finished that run, but later that day we all graduated together and John celebrated by dancing across the first bridge we passed.

I would never lead troops again during my military career, but would instead become a lawyer assigned to the Secretary of the Army’s staff. I never saw Dave, Parnell or John again after these pictures were taken and I don’t know what became of them, although I’m certain they each made fine infantry officers and served the Army well. The badge I earned that hot day in Kentucky is hung on my office wall. I cherish it along with the memory of the three cadets from Dillard who taught me the value of teamwork, friendship and loyalty on a long and hot run in June of 1979.

I eventually crossed the finish line six hours and ten minutes after I started the swim. I sat down, drank a Gatorade and wished there was a bridge nearby to dance across.

Fahrenheit 66.74

September 21, 2013 — 1 Comment

It’s 4:35 A.M. and I am awake. The swim up the Hudson starts soon and I shower, pack, check out and head to the Grand Central taxi stand to meet up with Katie and Krista. I check the event website for the last time and confirm today’s water temperature. 66.74. I decide to leave the wetsuit in my suitcase.

New York may be the city that never sleeps, but Grand Central terminal takes a break from 2 to 5:30 in the morning. Standing on 42nd street I watch the partiers from last night sit along the window fronts waiting for the doors to open, chilly in short dresses and bare feet holding high heels in their hands. The scene is made all the more confusing by the line of customers who have waited overnight to buy the latest iPhone at a nearby store.

Krista and Katie arrive and we catch a cab to the 79th Street boat basin. We are early and stop at McDonalds and Starbucks for a quick breakfast.

We make it to check in, get our caps and numbers and listen to the simple race briefing: “That way [north], that way, 10 K. Stay near the marks.” A right side breather’s dream.

We start in asssigned waves shortly after sunrise. It is colder than last year and the water is dirtier. I taste petroleum from the boat basin to the bridge. The current is kinder though, and I improve on last year’s time significantly.

We celebrate our accomplishments over lunch with an old friend from this year’s Potomac River Swim and a new friend who recently swam the English Channel. We take the A train to 42nd street and bar hop until our bus leaves.

Along the way I teach a bartender how to make a perfect Martini. Three times. It has been a very good day.

I shot the cover photo on this web page last year just before I swam in the Hudson River from 79th street to beyond the George Washington Bridge. Today I am traveling north with four friends to do it again.


We are on the 1:45 Megabus from Baltimore to New York and will cross three rivers along the way, each of which brings back special New York memories for me.

With 150 miles to go, we cross high above the Susquehanna River at the north end of the Chesapeake Bay. I grew up on this river in a small town called Sidney in upstate New York. In junior high, after reading Huck Finn, my friend Jim and I built a small raft using discarded styrofoam packaging we found behind the Honda Motorcycle dealership that briefly did business in the village. Our plan at the time was to raft south for a few days to see how far we could travel on it. We lost the raft to a heavy rain storm and loose square knot and that adventure ended before it began.

In years to come, I would canoe many miles of the river, first in Boy Scouts and then later in annual canoe races with friends from high school.

Shortly after leaving Maryland we cross the Delaware River into New Jersey. When Abby was younger, we canoed the river along the border between New York and Pennsylvania with other classmates and their fathers. We slept in lean-tos, made spaghetti and meatballs for 16 over a camp stove in the pouring rain and visited the site of Woodstock in nearby Bethel. It was the first of several memorable canoe trips I would take with this group.

We end today’s trip crossing under the Hudson in the Lincoln Tunnel. I have not yet canoed this river but, if all goes as planned, by this time tomorrow I will have swum it twice.

Six of us made the trip last year and all but one have returned to do it again. We drove to my sister’s house in New Jersey the night before, awoke early and took a train to Penn Station. A short subway ride later we were at the start point. We registered, were given color-coded swim caps and had numbers drawn on our arms in black marker.

The conditions last year were perfect. The timing of the tides allowed us to start around 9:30 in the morning and the water was warm. By the time we entered the water the tide had shifted and was pushing us quickly north towards our destination a little over ten kilometers away. It was a wonderful day spent with wonderful friends in a wonderful place.

I expect it will be colder tomorrow, but just as nice.

Tim (“T-Dog”) Methric

Tim Methric is the nicest swimmer you will ever meet. He is the founder and inspirational leader of the informal “Charm City Masters” swim team of which I am a proud member. If all goes as planned, next weekend he will move from Canton to Ellicott City.

Tim was born on April 1st in the bathroom of the house where his parents still live. That one sentence explains a lot about Tim. He is the type of guy who can’t wait to get started, whether on the deck before a routine practice or on the shore at the start of a long open water swim. “Let’s do this,” he’ll proclaim and then we are off and swimming. Tim out in front and the rest of us trailing behind. At the end of the swim, his is the first face you will see, smiling and offering encouragement as the rest of us finish.

Tim moved to Canton four years ago to accept a temporary teaching position at Towson University. He liked Baltimore so much he decided to stay after he finished at Towson. A life-long swimmer, he quickly joined a Masters swim team. He started with the team a year before me, at a time when it had different coaches. That team was vibrant, full of strong swimmers and tri-athletes who welcomed Tim to his new home. He met his best friend on that team and in several weeks will marry her.

Unfortunately, the team fell apart shortly after I joined, when new coaches were hired and new rules were imposed by the owner of the pool. Tim stayed on after almost everyone else left and over the last three years has been instrumental in our team’s rebirth.

Tim trains with passion and the example he sets has inspired me to work hard and follow him, first up the Hudson River and then on a seven and one-half mile swim across the Potomac. I have written about how Bruce and Abby taught me the joy of swimming. Tim taught me to believe in myself as a swimmer, and that confidence has made all the difference.

And for this I offer my thanks to Tim and my best wishes to Tim and Kathleen as they begin their next adventure, together.


August 4, 2013 — 1 Comment

Earlier today I finished the 3 mile Purple Swim to support pancreatic cancer research. There was a one mile swim followed by a two mile swim with the option to swim both, which is what my friends and I chose to do this morning.

The day was beautiful and the conditions were perfect. The humidity was low, with a water temperature in the high 70s. The water surface was basically flat. It was like swimming in a pool without having to do any flip turns.

At the end of each swim, I walked ashore and under the purple banner pictured above and remembered all the times my father encouraged me to finish what I started. My father never rushed into these matters. He waited, let things simmer a bit, and then said just the right thing to convince me to keep going.

I now realize that by encouraging me in this way, my father taught me a more valuable lesson. And that lesson was that once you know you can finish whatever you start, you will never be afraid to push your limits and strive for higher goals.

I just signed up for the “Half Full” triathlon scheduled for October 6th in Ellicott City. Until this morning, my plan had been to swim, bike and run for a total of 40 miles. Inspired by the memory of my father's lessons, I instead signed up for the 70 mile course.

I don't know how I'll do on October 6th, but I will finish.



My father, Edwin Paul Hoskins, was born on February 27, 1930, in Ithaca, New York, the youngest child of Edwin Ray Hoskins and Ethel Bernice Williams.

He was not a stellar student. He attended Cornell University for a year or so, did not do well, and enlisted in the Army shortly before the outbreak of the Korean Conflict. After his honorable discharge, he finished college and then law school. He spent a few years as an Assistant Attorney General before starting a law practice in Sidney, New York, where he worked regularly until he died. He married Mary Ann McGrath on January 24, 1959.

He became jaundiced in 1994, shortly after our daughter Abigail was born. The doctors originally hoped that removing his gallbladder was all that would be necessary, but quickly discovered pancreatic cancer. After doctors at Johns Hopkins performed the Whipple procedure, he spent the summer of 1994 recovering at our house in Baltimore, resting for many hours in a hammock we had hung on the porch. Although Abby doesn’t remember much about his stay, he enjoyed visiting with her everyday that summer.

He returned to New York in great spirits and spent the next two years living his life to the fullest. At first the prognosis seemed promising, but ultimately the cancer returned and spread to his lungs.

He died on July 13, 1996, on my mother’s 62nd birthday. I left him earlier that day to drive back to Baltimore, explaining that I would visit him again on the next weekend. He died shortly after I finished the drive. We buried him in Ithaca two days later.

My next open water swim is this Sunday at Rocky Point Beach and Park. Together with several friends, I will complete the three-mile Purple Swim to help raise money for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.

Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer death and it has the lowest relative survival rate of any major cancer. For this reason, of the 45,000 Americans who will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer this year, only 7,000 will be alive in five years. Because of these grim statistics, pancreatic cancer is the least-studied of all major cancer killers with only two percent of the National Cancer Institute’s annual budget dedicated to pancreatic cancer research. With only so much money to go around, cancer researchers have focused their efforts on other, more survivable, cancers where their research can do the most good.

Although the treatment provided my father did not cure him, I am forever grateful to the doctors who did their best and gave my father two years to get to know his granddaughter. And for this reason I will swim on Sunday in memory of him and in honor of the families who are currently struggling with a disease for which there will likely never be a cure.


Edwin Paul Hoskins
February 27, 1930 to July 13, 1996

The Atlantic Ocean is an amazing place to swim, but very intimidating. Yesterday, with a couple hundred other swimmers, I participated in the inaugural Ocean City Swim for Brain Research. My good friend and training partner, Claudia, swam the race as well. All in all it was a very well run event. The event staff treated us great and we were well protected both during the swim and after the finish.

The swim course was marked by a buoy line set 300 meters from shore. Swimming that far offshore was a new experience for me. Although the swells were gentle, the bobbing they caused was disorienting. When on top of a swell, you could see for miles. But, if you happened to take a breath while in the trough all you saw was water. These conditions made swimming a straight course difficult. You had to time the sighting to correspond with the swells and catch a quick glimpse of the buoy before sinking into the trough. Although we swam in following seas, the current seemed to push us to the Northeast, away from the shore. We must have zigzagged our way up the coast because we passed within a few feet of some of the buoys, but fifty meters from others.

The air was blisteringly hot in Ocean City yesterday, with no shade at any of the start points. When the nine mile swimmers started at 9:30 a.m., there were a few joggers and bikers on the boardwalk. Two hours later at the start of the three mile swim, it was too hot to even walk on the sand. With no shade anywhere, we tried to keep as much skin covered for as long as possible, and kept spraying and respraying the exposed parts with sunscreen.

The water was cold, about 65 degrees. This caused a number of nine mile swimmers to abandon the swim within minutes of starting. After learning of this, most of the three-milers decided to pull on wetsuits. This wasn’t an option for Claudia and me because we hadn’t brought any. We didn’t bother with much of a warm up before the start. I jumped a few waves and then immediately body surfed the next one to the shore, having decided that nothing would be gained by getting cold before the start. Our original goal had been to improve on the time we swam at last year’s three mile Swim Across America. As we walked back to our towels, that goal changed simply to finishing the swim.

The start of the race involved the new experience of getting beyond the breakers. We took a conservative approach and, because the current was flowing to the North, jogged to the South a little before entering the water to insure that we had the current at our backs when we reached the turn buoy.

I rely on the buddy system when swimming in open water. Even if I don’t have a teammate with me, I always stay close to other swimmers. From a psychological standpoint, I think I need to able to see someone else at all times in order to remain calm and relaxed. Yesterday, swimming far from shore, it proved especially important to have a teammate swimming next to me.

It was too cold to just put your head down and start freestyle so the first hundred yards were swum with heads up breaststroke. After getting our breathing under control, we started swimming for the finish and things slowly got warmer. Although we started close to last, we ultimately caught and passed about a third of the swimmers in front of us, (most of whom were wearing wetsuits) and the paddle boarders who were guarding them. Even with the slow start and sighting breaks, our pace was about 2 minutes per hundred meters.

The bottoms of my feet never got warm. My hands were fine until the end when I started losing feeling in my right hand. The numbness slowly climbed to my wrist and forearm and had reached my bicep by the time I made it to the finish. I had a similar feeling in my left leg as my calf muscle slowly cramped from the ankle to my knee. It was frustrating because I couldn’t find a way to generate the heat necessary to keep my arm and leg warm. Kicking harder didn’t work, nor did clenching and flexing my fingers during the recovery portion of the arm stroke.

At the race briefing we were told that the buoys would be 1,000 meters apart and that the last buoy would be orange and closer to shore. Pretty straight forward, I thought. Pass four yellows, head towards the shore to find the orange, turn left and head for the beach. Each time we neared a buoy, Claudia and I would stop briefly, exchange a few words of encouragement to make sure neither of us had become disoriented, and then ride the swell until we could sight the next buoy. After the third buoy, I repeated a line we often use during a workout, “half-way home.” Then it was head down, elbows high and on to the next buoy.

I had a good sight on the fourth buoy and felt strong as it got closer with each stroke. We reached it, took our break, and I started looking towards the shore for the orange buoy. It wasn’t there. Looking North, all I saw was more buoys. A nearby paddle boarder told us we only had eleven blocks to go. This made me laugh inside because, while that information would have helped if we were walking up the Coastal Highway, it was useless to us as we bobbed up and down 300 meters from shore.

Counting the buoys didn’t matter any more. We’d swim to one, exchange a few words of encouragement and swim to the next. I’m not sure if we passed two or three more buoys, but before we knew it we had reached the orange buoy. A quick left turn and another fifty strokes or so and we were being thrown onto the shore by the breaking waves. Not the most graceful exit from a body of water, but it worked.

A nice sized crowd of vacationers cheered enthusiastically and I felt surprisingly good as we climbed the beach to the finish. We were escorted to chairs and given water and Gatorade. This was followed by chicken and peanut butter sandwiches, bananas, cookies and brownies. I was dizzy for a while, but ultimately recovered okay.

As we sat on the finish beach waiting for the bus to come and take us back downtown, we watched other swimmers finish and, in some instances, suffer. Ultimately three ambulances were called. Two for hypothermic swimmers and a third for a swimmer experiencing breathing difficulties. This brought home to me the harsh reality that open water swimming, despite all of its joys, is not a sport without inherent risks, especially when the conditions are not optimal.

Which is why I am grateful to have had a friend swimming to my right yesterday. Thanks again, Claudia.