The Kamari to Perissa Run in 8.1 * 10^-14 Parsecs: Swimming towards apotheosis

This is the third in a three part series. The first can be found here. The second can be found here. You can find a map of my adventure in earlier posts… 

Ms. Diana Nyad delayed my latest post. She stole the thunder, the clouds, the high and low pressure systems and the entire scene… It was kind of hard to be excited about my puny swim when you compare it to her epic 115 mile swim .. But then again, she had a dream which she made real, and my dream was a little bit less ambitious, but I did it… So hey.

So there I was stuck in the Deep Blue section of my swim… The clock read 38 minutes, and I could not see Perissa. And in front I could see this gate that I started to refer to as Scylla and Charybdis.


This was starting to suck. My arms started to hurt really badly, not from exhaustion but from the waves slapping against them. Memo to the staff, wet suits protect you against water burn…

So I took a breather, started to do the breast stroke, and wondered, was this just beyond my grasp?

I looked at my cousin and asked: how far to go, and he said – dude you’re 3/4 of the way there.

Kostis later admitted he was worried about me at that point in time and was wondering whether  he should encourage me to bail or encourage me to go for it.

The reality is he told me what I needed to hear, that I was as close to the end as I ever would be.

Digging in some more, I started to swim… and as I approached the two rocks,


I saw for the first time yachts anchored off the coast of Perissa.

Seeing those boats from behind the mountain meant I was done. So I raised my arms in a victory salute, and then dug in for the final push.

This is my favorite picture of the whole swim …

Taken just as I am turning towards the beach. Still a considerable way out, but on final approach.

As I headed towards the beach, there were a couple of boats moored against the cliff. In particular one boat was set up in such a way as to give a certain degree of privacy to its owners who were swimming in a little bay. You can see the moor line here…

They were a couple that was obviously engaged in some kind of intimate act in the water… Whereas my cousin went around the boat, I was so tired that I went behind the boat. And lo and behold our mutual surprise when they saw me swimming. Hopefully, I wasn’t too much of a buzz kill for the mood.

And with that, I entered final approach…

When I finally reached the shore, all I could do is stagger onto the beach

And then raise my arms in joy

and let them collapse in exhaustion…

I had conquered my mountain.

My first reaction was: FOOOOD.. And wouldn’t you know it that at 9am… there aren’t that many food options on a beach… Something about people waking up later… So I had the best tasting croissants of my life… I know if I eat them again, they will be vile, but after that epic swim, they tasted AWESOME.

On the boat ride back I had this look of complete shell shock captured by my wife here:

I wasn’t really capable of real thought… I was just feeling this amazing sense of accomplishment, I had finally conquered this mountain that had so dominated my life…

Later in the evening though, my accomplishment hit me like a ton of bricks. There was no feeling of ecstasy, instead there was a profound sense of melancholy…

This mountain …


had become a symbol in my life. A thing that stood between here and there… And it was a thing to be conquered, to be mastered.

Every summer, I would go in the water,

stare at the water

and look at this mountain and say: Some day I’ll get around it.

And I finally had.

And there was this emptiness in my heart. What was I supposed to dream about now? What hill was I supposed to climb now? Time was moving forward, and things that were in the future were now firmly in the past. And I was feeling old. That with this swim the last of my childhood dreams were accomplished.

And I was thinking… what next?

Maybe I could jump off the mountain,

but that seemed scary. Or maybe to Perissa and back? But that seemed like I was creating meaningless challenges…

And then Ms. Nyad swam to Cuba, and I was thinking… Well… There is this island that you can see in the background of this picture…

And it’s only 8km around …


And I’ve always wanted to swim around the Volcano… After all there is something surreal about the whole experience…

And the melancholy was lifted, as I realized there is also a new hill to climb, a new mountain to master, a new distance to swim. There is a metaphor about life here… But I need to go train.



Garmin Rocks

After my Garmin was lost during my first triathlon, I called Garmin and asked for some kind of discount… They graciously sold me a refurbished unit for 99$.

Given that they has no reason to do that, after all it was a  force majeure, their gesture is greatly appreciated.

Their UI sucks but their customer support rocks.

The 30km and I have unfinished business

Last year at the Athens Marathon, I hit the 30km at about 4 hours and then just fell apart.

Here’s what I wrote in my race report:

This was the part that was supposed to be easy. I was supposed to go flying down this.




Instead it took a superhuman effort to run. My legs were like: NOOOOO. I couldn’t move them.

Part of me thinks that I tried to shift gears and the gear shifting fried the transmission. Part of me thinks I was just tired. 4 km from the end my body started to function again, so I am thinking it was the gear shift I attempted.

Oh well lesson learned. Don’t shift gears. And don’t assume you went too slow in the first 30km… Or more to the point get a damn Garmin watch so you can more accurately measure your progress!

After a year of training and improving my running technique, I know what happened

  1. Pushed too hard on the uphill.
  2. When I moved to the downhill didn’t have enough experience to realize my legs would feel like jelly just because of the switch to a steep downhill. My body wasn’t exhausted, instead my body was experiencing a natural change, but my brain freaked out costing me precious time ..

This year, there will be no collapse.

Mr. 30k you and I have some unfinished business, see you on November 10th.


The Kamari to Perissa Run in 8.1 * 10^-14 Parsecs: Getting half-way there

Part 1 can be found here. 

To make this story a little bit more comprehensible, let me share this map of my journey…


Swimming from Kamari to Perissa began uneventfully enough.

My cousin and his two sons showed up at the beach

ready to support me on my adventure. The presence of fish bait, fish nets, and hooks worried me a little bit. So I told my wife that if Kostis showed up with a fish that had hair to be very suspicious of its provenance…

Kostis just smiled…

Standing at the edge of the beach, staring at the distance in front of me

I pondered this moment…

Before we started this adventure, I told Kostis that we would call it a day if I was swimming after 45 minutes and I still wasn’t in sight of Perissa. After all, something horribly wrong would have happened if it took me more than 45 minutes to swim less than 1400 meters.

The first three minutes until panic point were going to be a desperate attempt to keep my adrenaline level down. I needed to go slowly and methodically. Keep my breathing under control and pace in line with what I needed. So with a throaty cheer and a salute to Poseidon,

I jumped into the water.

And swam.


After about three minutes, I crossed panic point,

paused for a moment, and then started my real swim.

Off in the distance of this picture, you’ll notice a point in the water. And from this angle it would appear that once you got there, you reached the turn for Perissa, but no, you would be mistaken. Like many false peaks, this point was also a false finish…

One my personal daemons is that swimming in the water is nerve-racking. If you looked to the left all you saw was the open sea

and if you looked in the water all you could see was the unchanging blue water.

And so I started to swim, remembering that this wasn’t so bad, it was after all only 1400 meters…

For the next 30 or so minutes, I would just swim, and the distance I covered increased. And yet, the progress seemed so marginal. One piece of rock


looked indistinguishable from another piece of rock.

All I could do is swim, and swim and swim.

While I was swimming we passed a gentleman fishing on the rocks. And he saw my cousin’s boat moving slowly, and he was cross because the boat was disturbing his fish. And then when he saw me he was startled, his eyes bugged out. As for me, I just noticed him breaking the endlessly monotony of the rocks.

After about 15 minutes, I took a break. Without a GPS, without a map, and with no visual clues, I had no idea how far I had gone. All I could hope and pray was that my swimming was moving me at the pace I was accustomed to…

My original plan called for me to swim pretty far from the mountain cliff, both for safety reasons, and to avoid the cross current the waves caused when they bounced off the mountains and to minimize the distance. Once I started swimming, the foreboding deep blue waters caused me to swim a lot closer to the cliffs.

I don’t really know how to describe what it felt like to swim in the deep blue waters. The waters are not that deep, but the color is a very dark deep blue. The isolation and quiet is very disturbing for a child of the 20th century. You feel like a speck of life suspended in space, only one terrible accident away from death. There is a perfect stillness and perfect fear. Every stroke you make in the waters propels you forward, or so you hope because there is so little to indicate progress. The rocks don’t change that fast. And the water is an endless void.

Swimming in that blue water, in that perfect stillness was too intimidating and so I hugged the cliffs desperately to avoid that feeling of isolation …

Even seeing an infrequent fish was a pleasant reminder that I was not alone…

At some point, I finally made it past that edge of the mountain I had seen from the beach …

And then I moved into true open water. The cliff edge of the mountain ended, and shot straight down into the sea, and I was now swimming in the dark blue expanse or the section I call The Deep Blue after the Luc Besson film…

At first I panicked. This was scary. I wanted to call out to Kostis and beg him to pick me up, but then humiliation and fear and stupidity took over. I wasn’t going to quit now…

So I embraced the moment, I let myself go and swam.

The thing about this part of the swim is that the water was different. For the first time in my life I was swimming in true open water. I wasn’t swimming in water that was sheltered by some mountains, or so shallow that you could see the bottom or in a bay. These were waves and currents that started in Crete creating powerful, deep, mystical movements. And my body felt so powerless and connected to the sea in that moment.

That portion of the swim was a moment of pure serenity. When I need to find my center, my sense of peace, I go back to that moment in the water.

Every stroke, every motion was both pointless and full of meaning. I couldn’t see any progress being made, I couldn’t feel myself moving, and yet I knew I was moving.

I was a small speck of life in the cosmos, alone and yet part of everything…

For about 19 minutes straight I just swam…

And then reality set in… At around the 35th minute, I was kind of like – d*n, this was supposed to be over like 10 minutes ago…

Somewhere in the middle of The Deep Blue section of water, I ground to a halt.

My arm started to hurt from the waves slapping against them – boy did the water sting. I was tired. And the far edge of the blue section did not seem to be coming any closer. And the serenity I was feeling was starting to retreat …

Floating in the water, I wondered about what to do next, to go forward? To stop? To quit?

I looked at Kostis, who was  looking at me with a worried expression on his face. Something had gone wrong, something had gone wrong with my plan… Was the current worse than I had anticipated? Was I somehow going slower than I expected? What the hell was going on?

Turns out I was a little bit off on the distance…


Because of the depth of the water, and my decision to hug the coast line, the distance turned out to be 2500 meters, not less than 1500. 2500 meters was going to take about 1 hour not 30 minutes. At the 35 minute, I was a little bit more than half way done.

This was a bit of a problem. I hadn’t eaten enough for an hour-long swim, nor had I prepared myself mentally for an hour-long swim. My body was ready to stop…

Off in the distance, at the edge of The Deep Blue, I saw two rocks framing a window… And I said, I wasn’t going to stop until I went through that window, even if I had to stop every two to three minutes …

Part 1 can be found here.

The rest in part 3.



The Kamari to Perissa Run in 8.1 * 10^-14 Parsecs: Preludes and Nocturnes

One of the coolest parts of my life has been that I am from Santorini.

And one of the most amazing accidents of my life is that my grandfather decided to buy a house on the beach.

That house,

right next to the mountain that separates Kamari from Perissa, is one of the anchors of my life.

And that mountain has always stood there as a forbidding barrier. And ever since I ever walked on the beach staring at the mountain, I swore I would find a way across it.

As a teenager, I took a boat around the mountain to Perissa.


After college, when I lost a lot of weight and got into shape, I walked over the mountain to Perissa.


Later on in life, my wife and I biked from Kamari to Perissa.


Now at 40, all that remained was to swim around this mountain and I would have conquered it. This fearsome obstacle would be just another pile of rocks that stood between me and where I wanted to go…

Now swimming around the mountain is a challenge for three reasons.

  1. The distance is non-trivial
  2. For a small but significant section you are swimming in truly open water
  3. The weather had to cooperate

And of the three reasons, the first was what stood in my way all these years.

But thanks to my recent efforts to get into shape for a triathlon, and soon to be half-ironman and perhaps later ironman, my ability to swim long distances has improved significantly.

And so just before I did my first Olympic Tri, I decided to map out the distance and discovered it was less than 1500 meters …

Convinced the time had come, I plotted and planned to swim around the mountain to Perissa.

Arriving in Santorini, my one main obstacle was a support crew. Although the distance seemed short enough, I was worried about other boats, and random bad luck turning an adventure into a tragedy. Fortunately my cousin Kostis and his two sons Vassilis and Dimos

came to the rescue. Kostis has a small inflatable craft that he offered to navigate next to me while I was swimming providing support during my swim.

The day before my historic swim, I tried to swim out around the point visible in the picture of my house. And 10 feet from the point, I had a panic attack. I realized that for so many years this seemed like the edge of the known world, and that swimming beyond the edge of the known world was damn scary.

And then I remembered how scary the dark blue water of the Aegean is, and panicked some more.

And then I wondered what the hell was I doing. But the plans had been set in motion, and the swim had to begin…

After all Kostis and his two sons planned to show up at 8:30 in the morning for what was going to be a 30 minute, 1500 meter open water swim…

Part 2 can be found here.