March of the Penguins: Get Ready for the New Year's Day Run-Swim

With only days to go before the greatest event on Earth, the New Year’s Day run-swim, I’ve been training with a vengeance by repeatedly dashing full-speed into a giant block of dry ice while wearing only nylon shorts, and then hanging upside down in a 55-gallon drum packed with seaweed and piña colada Slurpees.

For the uninitiated, this exhilarating, southeastern Connecticut tradition for nearly half a century consists of a group run from Mystic to Fishers Island Sound followed by a leap into the frigid water, and then a high-speed ambulance transport to the I.C.U. — all right, I made up that last part.

I’ve chronicled this madcap celebration so many times I’ll spare details, except to remind everybody that like last year we will be starting at noon Wednesday at St. Mark’s Church on Pearl Street, and then rambling south along Noank Road, detouring up the nasty hill on Brook Street and winding up at Esker Point Beach on Groton Long Point Road, a distance of about 3.3 miles.

In past years we’ve left from the Pequot Avenue home of marathon legend Johnny Kelley and plunged in at Groton Long Point’s Main Beach, but after Kell’s death and bridge construction the course and diving-in point have changed.

Bill Billing of Mystic and I have the record for participating the most consecutive years — I forget; it’s either 136 or 137 — while Kim Murphy of Stonington is one year behind. I bumped into both of them a week or so ago and they look terrible — I don’t think either can hobble more than a few yards, let alone run 3.3 miles, so I’m pretty confident one day I’ll have sole possession of first place, which will be my crowning achievement, to illustrate how shallow and unproductive my life has been. (Just kidding, guys — we’ll all be loping together for a few more decades).

Anyway, the event is free, open to the public, and has no formal name, organization or purpose other than to have a good time. Hope to see you there.

This time of year is also a good time to reflect on the past 12 months, and I look back at 2013 with joy and delight tempered by shock and sadness.

The Boston Marathon bombing stopped me at about mile 25.5 last year, and I still can’t process that awful tragedy except to say we all mourn the deaths and injuries inflicted by madmen, and most of us who ran last year vow to return stronger and more determined to finish the course next April.

I’ve been training with Phil Plouffe of Mystic, who ran side-by-side with me last year until we reached Commonwealth Avenue, less than a mile from the finish, when

everything froze. We’ll cross the finish line next time.

My son, Tom, who blazed through the course in 2 hours and 42 minutes and finished long before the bombs detonated, is now living in New Mexico but also plans to return for the 2014 Boston Marathon.

None of us who were there will ever forget Boston 2013, but that bitter memory is offset somewhat by the many happy, silly and transcendent experiences over the past year: climbing snow-covered Wildcat Mountain and Carter Dome in New Hampshire in January; making maple syrup in February and log chairs in March; winning a Triple Crown of kayak races in the tandem division with my buddy, Ian Frenkel – the 5-mile Essex River Race in Essex, Mass., in May; the 20-mile Blackburn Challenge around Cape Ann in Gloucester, Mass., in July; and the 14-mile Lighthouse Race on Long Island Sound in September; whitewater rafting in August on Utah’s Green River with friends and family, with my son as the guide; and perhaps my greatest victory, taking first place in a rake vs. leaf blower competition in November.

I’ve also battled, with mixed results, an annoying cardinal tapping for months on windows in our house; beetles that devoured my Brussels sprouts and grape leaves; and a wily catbird that kept finding its way into my blueberry enclosure.

I’ve enjoyed relating these experiences and especially have appreciated feedback from readers – even those who’ve called me an idiot or worse.

Happy New Year, everybody! Here’s hoping 2014 is even better than ’13.

 

Reader Comments

MORE BLOGS

An Explorer’s Guide To The Great Indoors: Hotels Designed For ‘Adventurers’

During decades of traipsing through the wilderness I’ve slept, or attempted to sleep, in every conceivable indoor and outdoor quarters: in freshly dug snow caves; alongside bug-infested swamps; during thunderstorms with no tent; in the...

Alligators, Gorillas, Bears, Snakes, Even Cows: Danger Lurks Where You Least Expect It

The awful story this week about a 2-year-old boy who witnesses said was pulled by an alligator into a lagoon near a Walt Disney World hotel in Orlando, Florida and later found dead serves as a reminder that danger lurks even in "The...

This Bud’s For You: The Unofficial King Of Beer Litter

While kayaking the other morning I spotted a small, dark object poking above the lake surface 100 yards or so ahead, and I was pretty sure it was the head of a turtle until I drew closer and realized the sad truth: just another beer...

Chaotic Fun At The Essex River Race

Shortly before the start of the late-great Rose Arts Road Race several years ago, a 10.47-mile running competition over the hills of Norwich considered one of New England’s toughest courses, my friend Bob and I decided to jog a couple miles...

Tom And Steve’s Excellent Adventures In The Northwest Part III: Kayaking Off The Oregon Coast And Columbia River Gorge; Hiking On Mount Saint Helens

Propelled by the sound of crashing surf, my son Tom and I scrambled over a low dune and then gazed in awe.

A Connecticut Yankee In The Northwest Part II: A Cross-Country Ski Adventure, Of Sorts, At Oregon's Crater Lake

Lugging back-country skis and poles on our shoulders, my son Tom and I trudged along the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway at Oregon’s Crater Lake National Park, searching for a section of road that had not been plowed.

A Connecticut Yankee In The Northwest: Stunning Views, Adventures On Land And Water (Part I)

As I clambered toward the crest of the Mist Trail in California’s Yosemite National Park a couple weeks ago, spray from the thunderous Nevada Fall washed over me, but I was already soaked, with sweat, after gaining nearly 2,000 feet of...

Vacations From Hell: At Least They’re Memorable

Just between us, don’t you hate it when friends or coworkers post photos on Facebook of awesome journeys to exotic destinations – or if they’re really old-school, send postcards depicting glorious sunsets, sparkling lakes,...

In Stride With Women Runners: Amby Burfoot Celebrates Their History In A New Book

Back in the Dark Ages when I was growing up, one of the worst insults an adolescent male could hurl at one of his buddies was, "You run like a girl!"

Danger, Swan Attack! Quick, Wring Its Neck!

It’s difficult to imagine a more outrageous example of idiotic government overreaction than this week’s incident involving a mute swan on Five Mile Pond in Danielson, which would almost be laughable if the outcome weren’t so...

The Parable Of The Rope: An Icy Mountain Drama In New Hampshire's Carter Notch

With a blustery breeze making the 8-degree temperature feel as if were a few notches below zero, our group didn’t intend to dawdle while scrambling back to civilization. The mountain hut where we spent the night had been so frigid my boots...

Over The Falls! A Salmon River Adventure

You know that feeling when you’re about to attempt something adventurous that at first seemed it would be fun, but then doubts about your safety and sanity crept in? Oh no! Too late!