Self-Transcendence Swim Run 2011

Harriman state park is just 30 miles away from all the heat and hub bub of New York city. Summer has its slender golden period that stretches invitingly between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Before and after these magical dates summer does not officially exist to most folks. While this window of time remains opens however many feel obliged to take advantage of the opportunity and to flee their life in the city, which is so often defined by concrete and stress. A state park has either access to the ocean or a lake, and is always conjoined with a beach.  This combination of natural elements is for many then the ideal destination to escape to. Harriman State park has its gorgeous Welch lake as its showpiece, and nearly 47,000 acres of unspoiled forested splendor. With its tantalizing proximity to the big apple it is not hard to visualize the sweaty hoards spilling onto the freeway and heading north to find sun and solace on its wide flat beaches and a generous expanse of nature trails. Yet after Labor day this mass exodus abruptly slows to a trickle. Harriman state park and particularly Lake Welch become still and almost desolate. Yet nature nature is not constrained by the fickleness of a calender and continues to offer its quiet charm and primal beauty throughout the year. It is in this unique setting that for the last 3 years that the Self-Transcendence Swim Run has taken place. It is an event that so far has not attracted unwieldy numbers and yet the number of entrants while comfortable offers a real challenge for individual as well as teams alike. In describing the event the web site is clear and accurate about what the swim run has to offer. Through a well marked and beautiful course, home-made lunch, medals for all finishers and especially a large community of committed and encouraging volunteers we try to offer a race atmosphere where beginners and veteran athletes alike can excel and transcend their own previous limits.

photo by Annurakta

It is an event sponsored by the Sri Chinmoy marathon team but the prime co-coordinators and organizers are Boijayanti and Suchitra. As to why they chose to have the event here Boijayanti says, “Lake Welch worked out because it is beautiful, and the Parks people were very accommodating.” The biggest bonus was that the entire race, which consists of a 1km swim and a 10 km run could take place all within the generous dimensions of the park itself.

“The first year we had 47 participants.” As we are talking registration is still taking place. There are a few no shows and some unexpected stragglers tend to show up at the last minute. The number will turn out to be almost exactly as it was the first year. The support crew working with the girls is impressive. There are lots of people working at all the little jobs that make the event feel well run and yet you cannot help but feel that there is a real family atmosphere here as well. Boijayanti says, “Every year it gets a little smoother. There are always bumps and kinks that need to be worked out.” Suchitra adds, “it is absolutely great. We love it.” She confesses that they both have a not so secret wish to do the race one day themselves. Yet, “it is so special to be the organizers. You get to go through the whole process, and you feel so satisfied at the end when everything goes well, and everything is okay.” They have granted me a few minutes of chat as the swirl of entrants flows and bobs around them. I ask if they were ever scared about organizing the event the first year. There is a knowing glance exchanged between them and Boijayanti chimes, “terrified.” Suchitra adds, “we get scared every year.” (Laughter)”It’s definitely feeling much more routine. A little less stressful, yet there is always something that comes up and is new, and you have to deal with it. So it is always exciting. “ Click to play interview

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“I swim a lot.” Frank Carroll. He has come today to of course swim and to run but it is pretty obvious that if it weren’t for some injuries he would rather be spending a lot more time running and spend somewhat less time in the pool. Not too long ago when he was in high school and college he says, “I was one of the best runners in New England. And now as I have aged I can barely lift my legs off the ground when I run. I mean I can’t run at all. I can only shuffle. Because I can’t run I have been swimming for years. That is my major work out.”

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Hyunsoo Park

Catkin Bacon

Colin Smith

Gangane

Jessic McAnneny

Mitrasena

It is a unique perspective when you are chest deep in a still warm lake and then a powerful splashing phalanx of swimmers surges out into the lake towards you. I am desperately holding onto my stillness and camera as they come closer and closer and yet I feel a desperate urge to stroke off across the lake with them. Then my thoughts turn to next year and being in a different position. right click to make any pic big

Colin Smith says he found out about the race from his friend searching the internet. When asked what he would like to do here today he says simply, “go as fast as I can.”Click to play interview

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He finishes 10th overall with a time of 1:12:56

Erin Jedlicka finishes 11th overall in a time of 1:13:03

Participating as a relay team is a big part of encouraging athletes to take part. Some teams plan in advance but sometimes teams are thrown together by fate. Snigdha found out she had lost her partner only at 6 am.

When she called Palash she said, “sure I’ll do it, I just have to get my shoes. Within 5 minutes I was saved. It is one of the miracles of our lives.” Palash adds, “I have never considered myself as a miracle.” Click to play interview 

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Photo by Annurakta

“It was very interesting.  I am not a water creature.”  Granantan Boyle may have second thoughts about his swimming abilities but on land he was faster than anybody else over 10km.  He was the overall winner in 57:52.  His hopes of swimming around 20 minutes were realized when he swam 20:41. When asked how he compared to all the other swimmers he says he felt as though everyone else was in front of him.

I ask him when he actually practiced any swimming at all.  “The last couple of weeks.”(laughs) “I was more nervous before this race than even a marathon.”  He says he doesn’t feel comfortable in the water.  “I have been concentrating on the marathon for the past 6 years.” Click to play interview

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Crosby Jurkiewicz was 2nd overall in a time of 1:00:49.  “This is my first duathlon.  I don’t have a bike so that eliminates me doing a triathlon.”  When asked what he like about the event, “Everyone was so friendly.  It was just great seeing all the motivation and the cheering.  All the volunteers I really appreciate all their efforts, working hard.  This was a great day to do a competition.

Crosby is just 21 and was the first swimmer out of the water in a time of 16:37.  Granatan was 4 minutes faster over 10km.  He says of Granatan, “he was really fast.  He is awesome.”

As for other races, “I definitely enjoyed it so I will probably do some more.  This is my first one so I guess I will see where it takes me.”  Click to play interview

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Shobhavati Davies is the first girl and 8th overall.  Of her race she says, “O it was lovely.  This is the first time I have done anything like this so it is a new experience.”  She has been an active runner for some years but of her swimming she says, “I have trained but never competed.”

With her running today, “I had to push with my running, my legs turned to jelly but I am very grateful.”  Click to play interview

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“What I like about it, is that it is very challenging.”  Pulak Viscardi has participated in this event in each of its 3 years.  “The only part that gets you is the first part of the swim.  Getting to the first buoy.  That is the hardest part.”  He describes simply getting the stroke rhythm and breathing organized.  “So many things.”

Now as we are talking he is standing on the beach with his medal.  “It feels good.  I am grateful.”  click to play interview

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There is no better example of fulfilling a pledge for home cooking at the event then to see Rambha cooking her classic barbecued corn.  The sizzle and aroma can be experienced and enjoyed from far off.  The taste is even better.

Her recipe uses, honey, mustard, barbecue sauce, and “all kinds of spices.”  Click for a taste 

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The appearance of Banshidar at the event is a surprise for me and perhaps even for him.  He hasn’t done anything like this in many years and yet felt inspired to participate.

He says that he doesn’t really train swimming but the secret to that is, “I do quite a lot of surfing.  So I kind of relied on that.  I haven’t done any straight swimming at all, just surfing.  I just did it the best I could and then ran it the best I could.  It’s great fun.  It’s all a great vibe.  Nice little small family group.  I could feel the energy.  I could feel the inspiration energy coming through.”

“I saw a big smile in the sky and just kept focusing on that smile.  That is what it is all about, joy.”

click to play interview

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JOY

Give joy;
Earth will be yours.
Take joy;
Heaven will be yours.
Become joy;
God will claim you,
Earth will need you,
Heaven will treasure you.

Sri Chinmoy, Lord, Receive This Little Undying Cry, Agni Press, 1975.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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