May You Have Days Like This
by Terry Laughlin

Posted on September 26th, 2011
On Saturday (Sept 24) I participated in one of the most memorable of all open water events, the Little Red Lighthouse Swim in the Hudson River in uptown Manhattan. The LRLS is memorable for several reasons. It’s the largest 10K swim in the US, drawing over 300 participants from as far afield as Australia and Russia, and as nearby as 20 minutes walk (my good friend Gilles Chalandon).  It’s also incredibly scenic. The course changes from year to year, some years going north and other years south, as it did Saturday. But one constant is that at some point you will swim under the George Washington Bridge and past the Little Red Lighthouse which lends its name. This year we checked in at the West Harlem Park, on the river at 130th St. We then boarded a ferry to ride north to 254th St in Riverdale, the Bronx. There, we jumped into the river and swam back down to the finish at 130th St – a distance of 6.2 miles, but aided by a current.
But, it’s not just a swim; it’s also a race. And on Saturday, I swam the poorest race I’ve had this summer. Virtually everything that might have gone wrong did. Sometimes you have days like that.
Fortunately–far more often–you have days like this:
1) It was a beautiful early fall day and I can’t think of a better way to spend it.
2) I saw literally dozens of good friends–all of whom have become friends because of our shared love of swimming in open water. Among them was my good friend Lennart Larsson who traveled to NY from Sweden so we could do this swim together. I also met quite a few  TI enthusiasts for the first time.
3) After the race, Gilles invited a group of us (Dave Barra, Willie Miller, Rondi Davies, John Humenik, Janet Harris, Lisa Neidrauer, Lennart and me) to his nearby apartment on 157th St where he and his wife Shelly fed us piles of crepes and we talked for hours more about open water swimming, and about Dave’s attempt five days earlier to swim twice around Manhattan, an effort supported by most of those at Gilles’ apartment.
4) But the most special part of the day happened because of one of the factors that hurt my race results.  After jumping off the ferry, rushing to catch my wave since the start horn sounded before I was ready to go, I jammed my goggles on my face and made about 100 meters before they were completely filled with water. That happened three or four more times before I  finally gave up and stuck them in my suit. I swam the first three miles without goggles. Visibility was difficult and I worried a bit about whether I might get an eye infection. But then a young man swimming next to me noticed I was swimming without goggles, stopped and put a hand out. I stopped and he said “Do you need goggles? I have a spare pair.” He reached into his suit and pulled them out. I put them on and we both resumed swimming. That’s truly an open water  moment, demonstrating the warm sense of collegiality, more than competition,  that differentiates open water from pool racing.
I swam the final 3 miles of the race with a smile and a warm feeling just thinking about it. After finishing I found my benefactor on shore and  learned that he is a 15 year old high school swimmer. from Grand Island NY named Yusuf Eltagori, whose ambition is to swim completely around Manhattan.  I was hugely impressed to find someone of his age with such mature vision and ambition and with the presence of mind to behave so thoughtfully and generously.
A perfect day. May you have many like it.
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5 Responses to “May You Have Days Like This”

  1. Dongho Choi says:

    Hello Terry,

    It was so nice meeting you out there. Little Red Lighthouse Swim (LRLS) last Saturday was my first 6-mile swim and longest open water swim ever, yet I have to say that I’ve really enjoyed every stroke for the entire 6 miles. Someone four years ago suggested that I should get a copy of “Total Immersion” if I really wanted to swim well. And that was just became the beginning of whole new chapter in my life. The book “Total Immersion” has “changed my life” since then. I can’t wait for your new book. Next year at LRLS I hope I appreciate more scenery around the Hudson River while swimming and hope to spare my extra goggles with someone as well. It was just a perfect day!

    All the best!

    Dongho

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  2. Steve Howard says:

    Terry,

    Your experience in the 1oK swim with the 15 year old Yusuf Eltagori is inspiring and very impressive. I congratulate Yusuf on both helping a fellow swimmer and also his ambition to swim around Manhattan.

    One of the best accounts of a swim I have ever read!

    Steve Howard

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  3. Sam Piccolotti says:

    Terry,
    What a great story of swimming and humanity. It is also very impressive to see a 15yr old with such ambition and maturity. It sounds like there are more great accomplishments ahead of him.

    Cheers,
    Sam

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  4. Angela Lowry says:

    What a great post! I had a day like that when I swam the Golden Gate Bridge last year. Such a great sport with wonderful people all around you willing to help!

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