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Around the block in 52 days – CBS reports on the 3100 mile race in N.Y.

CBS-3100
Great coverage for a great bunch of world elite runners on → CBS news

The 18th edition of the annual Self-Transcendence 3,100 Mile Race of New York – called ‘The Mount Everest of ultramarathons’ by The New York  Times – started on June 15th and will end on August 6. Of the 14 runners, the first ones already finished, in first place Sarvagata Ukrainsky (from Ukraine), who has run the race for the 4th time now, followed by Yuri Trostenyuk in 2nd place in his 2nd 3100 mile race.  Vasu will finish in 3rd place in his 3rd race!  For Pranjal Milovnik in 4th place, it is his 10th edition of the race. And for Stutisheel (Ukraine) in 5th place it will be his 8th finish. (See → result details.)

3100-miles-girls

From left to right: Jayasalini Abramovskikh (RU), Sarah Barnett (AUS), Nidhruvi Zimmerman (A) – still happy after about 36 days of running over 2 marathons (50-60 miles or more) daily!

I am particularly impressed, however, by the 3 girls in the race, Sarah from Australia, Nidhruvi from Vienna, Austria, and Jayasalini from Russia – with their absolutely inspiring performances. Having done one 6-day-race myself in April 2010 I have just a small idea of what the runners have to be going through in terms of physical and mental challenges and sometimes excruciating pains – on the one hand. On the other hand, there are many transformative spiritual experiences and deep inner experiences of satisfaction, peace and even ecstasy – which will permeate the entire being and be absorbed  and felt #even more for weeks and months after the race is finished. For deeper insights into the world of this mind-blowing challenge there are Utpal’s great daily posts about the race and its runners, with live interviews, photos and very knowledgeble background and inside information on → www.perfectionjourney.

Main website: www.3100.srichinmoyraces.org/main-3100

My life’s only road:
Forward.
My heart’s only road:
Inward.
My soul’s only road:
Upward.

Sri Chinmoy, Morning blessing-call-prayers

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Abhejali – our next team member to “conquer” the Strait of Gibraltar!

Abhejali-Tarifa

Joining Continents

“Swimming to Africa”, i.e. swimming the Strait of Gibraltar from the southernmost tip of Europe (Tarifa, Spain) to Africa (Morocco) – 15-20 km – is not comparable to an English Channel swim, but bridging two continents has a special magic to it. And there are similar challenges: unpredictable weather, days of waiting, currents, fog, huge container ships in the shipping lanes – but nicer marine life. The success rate is higher since the swim is shorter and easier – but you never know exactly what the currents and wind will do on your day, or if you get to swim at all.  (→ See the post about my own Gibraltar Straits swim Oct. 2012)

Video

On Monday, Sept. 16th, 2013, Abhejali Bernadova from Zlin, Czech Republic, fastest swimmer in our international English Channel relay 2009, English Channel solo swimmer 2011 and Manhattan Island Finisher 2012, became the 2nd Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team member to conquer the Strait of Gibraltar – in a very good 4 hours 35 minutes. Which made her the 3rd Czech Strait woman to do so – and the fastest of them! Conditions were less than ideal, windforce 3-4 most of the way – the AGNEC certificate says windforce 4 – and on the video the waves and whitecaps of the first hours are quite impressive compared to my own swim in 2012. Luckily everyone had taken seasickness pills – so seasickness only became a problem when they went dolphin watching (again) a few days later. Sunday, when a leftover team from the week before got to swim, was still sunny and calm (the photo at the top was taken on Sunday), but on Monday, on swim day, even though only windforce 2 was predicted, the Straits showed a different face.

Not easy, but very beautiful

Abhejali was still very lucky:
1. She got to swim at all (it is not rare for swimmers to come and not get a shot at all due to the weather).
2. She had an early morning start at 8 a.m, and the current – although unfavourable at the start – was not very strong near Africa. On the way back the pilot measured the current 5 km off Tarifa – and it had become basically unswimmable!
3. Abhejali had great company: not only her helpers and of course the boat pilots, but lots of dolphins! On one video she keeps swimming without looking up for quite a while – because she was looking at the dolphins swimming only a few meters below her. When a huge container boat passed, dolphins were surfing on its big bow waves! Her helpers saw them everywhere. “I had wanted to swim with dolphins,” she said, “and it worked!”

Map-Abhejali

On the website of ACNEC there is a link where you can follow the tracker of the pilot boats, Columba Uno or Columba Dos

In the first hour she only swam 2 km due to the strong currents (almost full moon), but after 2 hours she was told in 20 min. she would be half way – so she was able to pick up speed. One shoulder soon started to hurt from swimming in the waves – which she had not been able to practice in training – and pain killers did not help very much.

Finish Abhejali Gibraltar Straits“It was not easy, but it was very beautiful,” Abhejali said after her swim.

What will be next?, I asked her. Catalina, Cook Straits – or any other of the 7 Oceans swims? Maybe later, she says. She would love to swim from Europe to Asia (the Bosporus – an even shorter swim). “But now I’d also love to go back to running a little”, she says – a 24 hour and 100 km champion in her country, and lover and long time co-organizer of the World Harmony/Peace Run.

→ Videos of Abhejali swimming the Strait of Gibraltar, Sept. 16, 2013

→ more Photos

Link to ACNEG – the organisation for Strait of Gibraltar swims (swim list is not up to date on the website!)

→ Abhejali and myself at the IMSHOF ceremony in Long Beach, California, September 2012

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Adriano Passini – our team`s new English Channel swimmer!

End of July was extremely eventful. I went to England to join an international team for the last part of the “Great British Peace Run” from Cardiff to Ipswich, be part of the inauguration ceremony of a Peace Statue of Sri Chinmoy – the founder of the World Harmony Peace Run and of our Marathon Team -  in Ipswich Chantry Park on July 28th, and to pay a short visit to Dover on the way back to Heidelberg.

From Brazil to Dover, from Dover to France

Just then, on Saturday, July 27th, Adriano Passini (32), an aviation engineer from Sao Paulo, became the first member of the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team Brazil  to successfully swim the English Channel, in a fantastic time of 11 hours 10 min – the 44th EC swim by a member of the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team.  Adriano Passini with the Brazilian flag - having conquered the English Channel!He was supported with tons of experience and lots of selfgiving dedication by Karteek Clarke from Scotland (“Scottish King of the Channel” with 10x EC) and his friend Ashirvad from Brazil, and expertly guided by “Gentleman-pilot” Chris Osmond on Seafarer 11, who in 2011 also safely landed our boys relay team and my friend and teammate Abhejali Bernadova (Czech Republic) on the French side.

Chris Osmond, Seafarer II, Adriano (the beaming hero) and Karteek

Adriano – a vegetarian – had prepared himself very well for at least 2 years, physically, mentally and spiritually, including meditation – and even concentrated intensely on the exact swim date. And it worked! He had a daylight start and finish, a few hours of heavy rain and fog, but with the sun coming out at the end. He was very focussed and positive throughout the swim. The strong spring tide currents were no problem for him. To stay warm he may have swum extra fast. The water temperature had been a bit of a concern for him, finding no colder water than 19°C in Brazil, but he was wise to come early enough to Dover to get acclimatized in the harbour and not accept an earlier swim offer, and he was totally fine until the glorious finish in bright sunlight.

Adriano getting closer to Cap Griz Nez - and the sun coming out

Determination wins the day…

Read more: On his blog 10x EC-veteran Karteek shares a longer report from a helper`s perspective with more info about Adriano`s preparation and the swim itself.

…and sleep overtakes an exhausted helper:

Helping a Channel swimmer is hard and tiring work!

Congratulations banner at Varne Ridge Caravan Park - is there a more inspiring place to stay for a Channel aspirant?Varne Ridge Caravan Park - which better place to stay for Channel aspirant

One day later at the Sri Chinmoy Peace Statue ceremony in Ipswich: the Mayor of Ipswich with 4 Channel swimmers (together 14 EC solos and 2 realys):

Sri Chinmoy Peace Statue, Mayor of Ipswich with 4 Channel swimmers and 14 EC solos

The swim course, courtesy CS&PF:

Swim course English Channel Adriano Passini

One of Adriano`s favourite mantras or spiritual aphorisms for a positive, impossibility-challenging attitude, which he used in preparation as well as during his swim, is by his spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy (IMSHOF honouree 2012!):

“We are all truly unlimited,
If we only dare to try
And have faith.”
- Sri Chinmoy

AAIMG_0760

Mission accomplished!

“The message of self-transcendence
Is itself satisfaction,
Far beyond our imagination.” - Sri Chinmoy

“Self-transcendence-joy
Unmistakably knows
No equal.” - Sri Chinmoy

Kevin-Murphy-Adriano

 

 

 

 

 

We also paid a nice visit to Kevin Murhpy,  “King of the Channel” (34 solo crossings) and secretary of the CS&PF. He has so many amazing stories, he could fill a number of books! Never heard his story before how he got lost on the African coast when swimming the Strait of Gibraltar!

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Swimming to Africa: Gibraltar Strait Swim – the longer story

“Prepare for the worst – hope for the best.” This English Channel motto definitely also applies to swimming the Strait of Gibraltar.

Swimming the Strait of Gibraltar - Europe to Africa - Gibraltar Straits Swim 2012 in magic conditions!

It can be extremely easy – only half a Zurich lake marathon swim! – and it can be “the hardest swim of my life” (Armin Wunder). Pat Gallant-Charette (EC in 15:57) had swum the Strait o Gibraltar at age 59 in only 3 hours 28, supported by some amazing currents as Rafael explained, whereas a fellow countryman who swam the English Channel in 11 hours 20 had to battle it out for 7 hours 30 min., due to a strong current that kept him swimming in one place for 2 hours.View across the Strait of Gibraltar from Europe to Africa - Gibraltar Strait Swim 2012

When I was invited to participate in the Moroccan part of the World Harmony Run in 2008, I wondered “Why not swim from Spain (Europe) to Africa?”, and another dream was born. I soon realised, however, that it is not so easy and inexpensive as one might think, even if the distance between the two continents at the narrowest point of the Strait of Gibraltar is only 14,4 km. Just to get there by plane, train and bus (or rented car), then having to allow for the possibility of a bad weather period like at the English Channel, and even the possibility of being stopped by fog, wind picking up or erratic strong currents that can give a hard time even to fast swimmers. Boat and registration alone are 1700 €uro (for more info see ACNEC).

After reaching one of my bigger goals – the Channel-Triathlon Dover-Calais-Brussels-Aachen in 2010, “Swimming to Africa”, i.e. swimming across the Strait of Gibraltar seemed a nice smaller challenge. Still I was in doubt about my chances as a sub 3 km/h swimmer in open water. I missed the registration starting Dec. 1st, 2010, and when I was getting ready to register in Dec. 2011, I hesitated just for a few days – now only the second week of October was left (yes, they do take bookings into the second and even third week of October!)

Dedicated to the 25th Anniversary of the World Harmony Run

But it turned out to be a blessing. We experienced warm air (19-24°C), warm water (20°C most of the way, with only a few cold patches and currents nearer to Africa), quite a few calm days – and appartment prices are lower after the main season.  Tarifa, where swimmers will stay to wait for their swim, is dubbed the world’s kite surfing capital and is much more peaceful now – the summer craze is over, and training swims at the endless kite surfers beach Playa los Lances, with beautiful clear water and softly rolling waves, is less dangerous.

Holding the World Harmony Run torch with Rafael, head of ACNEG, the organisation for Gibraltar Strait swims - Vasanti`s Gibraltar Straits swim 2012

I was happy to be able to dedicate the swim to the 25th anniversary of the World Harmony Run - and almost everyone got the opportunity to hold the World Harmony Run torch!

Booked for Oct 7-15th I arrived the night of the 4th, briefly talked to Rafael, the president of ACNEG the next morning, to meet for detailed information on Sunday evening (the 7th) , with a view to swimming on Tuesday or Wednesday the 9th or 10th around 8:30 a.m. “You are a slower swimmer,” he said, “you need the right combination of wind and currents”. Wednesday would be best with half an hour more tidal support. This sounded quite reassuring. I had come with a cold from a final 3 hour cold swim at home, feeling quite weak, and hoped to be able to get well and acclimatise in time. Albena, my helper from Edinburg, was due Saturday (6th) late at night. Shortly before she arrived, a text message from Rafael came: “If tomorrow the weather is good we’ll try to cross. I’ll inform you by morning.” O no, not this experience again! I was still sick, unprepared and uninformed about any details, and stores were closed on Sunday. I called Rafael to learn a possible start would be at 1 p.m. I realised that would force me to stop if I needed longer than 7 hours – since the sun was setting at 8 p.m. and there is no night swimming allowed in the Straits. Also wind and currents did not look too good on the internet. I sent a text message to Rafael that I wanted a fair chance. My inner voice said: no swim for me on Sunday. Even if there was mist predicted for Tuesday and fog for Wednesday morning. Luckily, there was no call on Sunday morning, so no discussion was needed. We had time for a proper briefing with everyone later in the day, more shopping on Monday, rest, food and two more training swims in the colder coastal water, before the final call came – for Tuesday.

A Magic Day

Swimming the Straits of Gibraltar - the start - Gibraltar Straits swim 2012Ginger tea and Paracetamol helped me once again, and on Oct. 9th, at 8:30 a.m., I felt o.k., mas o menos. It was quite misty – and at the starting point at Tarifa island, ready to go, there was a discussion between the two pilots – Christina on Columbia 2 and Fernando on the small craft (who had swam the Straits 5 times, fast!) – for a few minutes whether it would be safe to give it a try or not. Albena obviously asked the right questions to help with the decision – according to the forecast the mist would lift soon and the sun was already visible in the East. So off we went. I had to swim towards the rocks, but the swells were powerful – so we started a few meters away.

Swimming to Africa - Swimming the Straits of Gibraltar 2012 I swam into a beautiful calm day. Soon the rays of the sun lit up the dusky water below me. Apart from the schools of fish at the rocks at the start I did not see much marine life: one single fish, one lonley jelly, and some whitish marshmallow-like things speeding under me in the currents at the end. Albena saw a few dolphins in the distance at the start and a flying fish at the end.

Swiming the Straits of Gibraltar - Separation Zone - Gibraltar Straits Swim 2012In the Straits, the bigger boat is always guiding you, going in front (which I like – but to be sure the boat stays so far away that it is definitely not assisting the swimmer!!!), and the smaller craft mostly stays beside you with your helper and food. Feeding in calm water is easily done by hand – we still used rope to retrieve the cup or bottle. My feeding plan was: first feed after 45 min., then 40, 35 and 30 min. intervals. Mainly 2 dl hot ginger tea or Bengal Spice tea mixed with maxim (every 30 min) plus fruit sugar (on the hour), in between an additional piece of banana, canned peach, half a tiger sweet or Chia seeds (endurance runners’ secret). We had brought loads, but hardly needed anything – just as on the Zurich lake.Gibraltar Straits Swim 2012 - Separation Zone  - Swimming to Africa

After 2.5 hours I was in the “separation zone” – “what a baby channel”, I had to smile to myself. The traffic seemed not heavy at all, and from the water you even see less. Thanks to modern communication, the ships try to keep a distance of 1 km away from the swimmer. Only if a ship does not pay attention, a swimmer may be taken out of the water and put back in at the same spot once the ship has passed. It is not an advantage, but Swimming to Africa - Swimming the Straits of Gibraltar 2012 - Feeding time, with Africa closerather a disadvantage for the swimmer, says Rafael, and I am sure I would feel the same. I started to feel free now – the mind had calmed down, some inner singing started, I enjoyed the rhythm, the peace, the vastness – the beauty of long distance swims. After 3.5 hours Albena told me: only 2 km to go. I calculated: will I be able make it under 5 hours? Then I might go for the Cook Straits. But then I got a little more of my money`s worth. An unexpectedly strong current started to push me to the East, so we had to take a little detour to Africa. “If you sprint for 15 min. we can make it in 30 more minutes,” I was told. about to land - Swimming to Africa - Gibraltar Straits Swim 2012But I am not a good sprinter, although I gave it my best, doing intervals for an hour or so. Pushing hard when you pretty much know you will make it (there was hardly any question), is fun. Half an hour became an hour and half – then Marsa point was getting closer and closer. Albena later told me they wanted to land me – like many swimmers – at Perejil island, which belongs to Africa but is Spanish territory, and she protested heavily. So I had to swim a bit further, which in retrospect I am very grateful for. After 5 hours 25 min. I touched Africa at the foot of the famous Jebel Musa! Swimmer no. 373 in the solo non wetsuit category of the ACNEG annals (yes, you can do relays and use wetsuits, and you can even swim side by side as a team, up to 4 persons or so.), and the first member of the International Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team. (One member of our team had tried before but never got a chance to swim.)

Swiming the Straits of Gibraltar -touching Africa - Gibraltar Straits Swim 2012Back on the boat, we held the torch of the World Harmony Run together, which had been present also at the IMSHOF Ceremony in Long Beach and in my last EC swim and relay. Oceans and waterways are connecting people – an idea embodied in the torch. And one of my favourite mantras in the water, along with special songs or aphorisms, is “peace”, in the rhythm of my stroke.

I had intended to dedicate the swim also to Tegla Louroupe`s Peace Academy – but fundraising is not my thing. I was thinking of the kids during my swim – and next year, with the Harmony Run bigger in Africa, we will go there again, and we have been supporting the school and other projects for quite some time and will continue to do so.

We made it! Holding the World Harmony Run torch at the end of our Gibraltar Straits Swim 2012Albena was a great helper, and she loved the whole experience, even getting into the water with me for a few strokes.

The second swimmer on my tide was less lucky. The following day was calm, but thick fog prevented any swim, after that the winds picked up. When he finally started, a strong tidal westward current around Tarifa island made the skipper change the start to the rocks east of the harbour (also more northern) – and after 3 hours he was pushed so far to the east that there was no chance of landing any more.

Conclusion: prepare for the worst, even a no-swim – and pray for a great day! And take the whole stay in Tarifa as a holiday – if the swim works, great, if not (only 10 % failure rate I am told), at least you got so see nice places (go whale and dolphin watching, visit Tanger etc.) and meet nice people, hopefully!

Gibraltar Straits Swim 2012 - official AGNEC certificate - Vasanti`s Swim to Africa As a training swim for the Channel, lake Windermere or the Zurich lake may be more helpful. But “Swimming to Africa” has its own special magic. Back home in Heidelberg now, part of me and my heart is still there in Tarifa, feeling the sand under my feet, gliding through the clear and powerful water, or marvelling at the glittering lights on the African coast at night, looking ever so close from the rooftop terrace of our appartment. By the way, registration for the Zurich Lake Int. Self-Transcendence Marathon Swim just started!

For more info on Swimming the Strait of Gibraltar see the website of ACNEC.

For a foto slideshow pls. click here

And this is where we stayed, a very nice and affordable place, with a beautiful view (in the main season probably quite noisy with lots of young kite surfers): Residential Luna.

Last not least, one of my favourite “mantras”, also in training:

“Be courageous

Be determined

Be self-giving

The goal will be all yours.”

- Sri Chinmoy

PS: Here a fascinating report about Penny Palfrey`s Gibraltar Straits 2-way swim in 2010 in much more difficult conditions – and with a Great White on the way back (I had no idea they exist there!!!)
And another report on “The Challenges of Gibraltar”

Interview in German → on Swim.de

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Global Open Water Conference – Honouring Sri Chinmoy

Sri-Chinmoy-To-Be-Inducted-In-The-Hall-Of-Fame

Honourees IMSHOF 2012

It was a nice adventure and a great honour to be invited to the Global Open Water Swimming Conference Sept. 21st/22nd 2012 on the Queen Mary, in Long Beach, California, to accept the IMSHOF award for Sri Chinmoy, who was beingSri Chinmoy honoured posthumously for his decades of inspiration and mentorship in the with Big River Man Martin Strel and AbhejaliOpen Water and Channel swimming world. I felt like a tiny fish among so many great fish (Diana Nyad, OW Greta Anderson, swimming legend, holding the World Harmony Run Torchlegend Greta Anderson, “Big River Man” Martin Strel (who was lifted by Sri Chinmoy in 2004), Penny Lee Dean, Marcos Diaz (U.N. Goodwill and Ocean Ambassador), Marcy MacDonald, Elisabeth Fry, Torch Bearer Award for Steven MunatonesDr. Jane Katz (who has trained some of our team`s Channel swimmers in N.Y.), Michael Read (King of the Channel 1997-2005), Ned Denison, Peace Swimmer Nejib Diana Nyad - Cuba to FloridaBelhedi and many others) – and it was extremely inspiring to meet with and listen to so many open water greats – and to speak to them about Sri Chinmoy and the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team – and introduce the new book “Sport and Meditation”.

Many guests and speakers enjoyed holding theNehjib Belhedi - Swim for Peace Across Tunesia World Harmony Torch and making a wish for peace, and the Torch was finally invited also into the group photo with all the IMSHOF honourees.

Steven Munatones, main organiser of the Conference (with co-organiser Lexie Kelly on the left and Shelley Taylor-Smith on the right), was awarded the Torch Bearer Award of the World Harmony Run for his tireless efforts in promoting the spirit of self-transcendence and international friendship, inspiring and joining so many people across the world in their various quests in the open water world.

The 3rd day of the conference was marked by the “Swim Across America” iSwim Across American the Marine Stadium of Long Beach with races of various distances – and around 350 participants. Training for Gibraltar, I chose the 10 k olympic distance and was quite happy to finish in 3 h 25 - more than a minute before Mike Read, King of the English Channel from 1997-2005 with 33 crossings. Abhejali did 1.5 k in 27 min 26.

We were three from our Sri Chinmoy our team at the conferenceMarathon Team: myself (EC 1985 and 2010, Zurich lakes etc.), Abhejali Bernadova from Czech Republic (English Channel 2011, Manhattan Island Marathon Swim 2012, Zurich lake etc.), Bigalita Egger, L.A. (ultrarunner, several 10 day races in New York at age 70+) and Ahelee (EC solo 2001), a good friend, and we had a great time during, before and after the conference! Thank you everyone for your support – and the IMSHOF for their amazing efforts!
Dr Jane Katz Ned DenisonMarcos Diaz

Individual Self-Transcendence

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Sri Chinmoy inducted into the IMSHoF

Sri Chinmoy holding the World Harmony Run TorchThe International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame has selected the honorees for the year 2012.  The award presentation will take place at the 2012 Global Open Water Swimming Conference in Long Beach, California.
Sri Chinmoy, founder of the international Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team, is one of the honorees
“for his considerable achievements as an administrator and mentor among long distance swimmers.” (Kevin Murphy, King of the Channel and President of the Board of Directors, IMSHoF)
The Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team is known worldwide for its many athletic events, especially in the field of ultra- or endurance events, including the International Zurich Lake Self-Transcendence Marathon-Swim. In the spirit of self‑transcendence, his students have completed extraordinary feats of endurance. Members of the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team, who have received many awards, honors and recognitions, have swum the English Channel over forty times solo, and 3 times in relays (see list).

Interestingly, all of the team members are or have been vegetarians for years at the time of their swim and used regular meditation not only as part of their training but also as an integral part of their lifestyle.

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