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Friday, March 27, 2015

Re-invention Through Butterfly, Making Up For Lost Time

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

Word has it that Dan Provjansky is going to have a second bout with the Red River of the North in Andy Magness' annual Extreme North Dakota Watersports Endurance Test (END-WET), a 36-mile (57.9 km) marathon swim from rural North Dakota to East Grand Forks, Minnesota.

Projansky finished the entire 57.9 km swim butterfly in 12 hours 2 minutes last year in 68-70ºF (20ºC+) conditions with the mandatory International Swimming Hall of Fame SafeSwimmer™ Float bobbing behind him.

Darren Miller, the winner of the inaugural END-WET in 2012, recalls the experience. "It is a very unique race due to its remoteness in North Dakota and Minnesota. I loved hearing stories of the locals who thought it was very dangerous to swim down a river dividing the states. The reality was Andy and his team at ENDracing put on one amazing event and took every safety precaution necessary to insure our safety and success."

As the river winds through two states, Projanksy is able to take advantage of the natural landscape by navigating easily due to his breathe-forward butterfly stroke. "The ability to sight and swim in water that is fast-moving with low visibility is necessary as well," says Miller.

Picture a bright, sunny day, river water, 'plains' landscape, occasional downed trees a few railroad trestles. Everyone was great, and I could not be more happy with how the event turned out. The Mayor even gave me the key to Grand Forks, North Dakota. It was a wonderful memory."

We spoke with Projansky as he trains out of his native state of Illinois:

Daily News of Open Water Swimming: How do you train for a butterfly END-WET? How many days of the week do you train? What distances do you swim? All butterfly?

Dan Projansky: I swim three days a week usually. During the late spring and summer months I might swim four days a week. Once in a while, I may do a back-to-back workout. For example, I may swim both Saturday and Sunday.

I have a routine in the gym that I do on my swimming off-days. I have to keep in mind that I am no youngster anymore. So, from time to time, especially in the winter, I may take off two days in a row from working out.

When I hit the pool, I just swim butterfly. The only freestyle that I do is about 100 yards for a cool-down. From March on, I usually pack on the long workouts. Yesterday I swam for three hours straight. I have to admit, about half of the time I use a underwater music player.

Daily News of Open Water Swimming: Do you ever cramp up? If so, where? How do you swim through it?

Dan Projansky: During my swims, I seldom cramp up. I have been using a protein drink, but it really helps me that I drink the mix every 100 lengths. I also carry a few 16 ounce bottles with me in my inflatable buoys when training outside. I swim with two inflatable buoys. I also take Advil before my swim; it seems to help with muscle swelling and my recovery is less painful.

Daily News of Open Water Swimming: Would you ever like to compete against the other butterflying open water swimmers around the world like Brenton Williams?

Dan Projansky: I have a ton of respect for Brenton Williams and Sylvain Estadieu. Brenton swims in really cold water and Sylvain completed the English Channel. Those guys are really terrific. What makes me so different is that I am old. I will be 57 this April.

Daily News of Open Water Swimming: Why is it that butterflyer open water swimmers are primarily older swimmers? You would think butterfly is a young person's stroke?

Dan Projansky: I'm not really sure why open water butterfly is mostly done by us old geezers. It may have something to do with the fact that we need to slow things down, and butterfly is a slower stroke.

Daily News of Open Water Swimming: Any tips you think you can give to Michael Phelps? Any tips you would like to learn from Michael Phelps?

Dan Projansky: Michael Phelps is one of my favorite athletes. When he is ready to become a masters swimmer and wants to swim fly for 27 or 36 miles, I would love to have a go at it with him. I have no tips for him now. I'm a puny grain of sand compared to what he has accomplished.

Daily News of Open Water Swimming: Why butterfly?

Dan Projansky: The reason I swim all butterfly is a bit personal. I don't mind sharing a little though. I am a competitive guy by nature. When I was doing triathlons, I never finished above the halfway mark in rankings in my age bracket. I got tired of being average. My sprint times got slower because of all the cross training. I was doing Ironman triathlons.

I felt like I needed to re-invent myself and have fun again and forget about being average and losing in masters meets. There is this guy in Chicago who does the butterfrog in a wetsuit each September during the Big Shoulders 5K Swim. I decided to try it all butterfly without a wetsuit. I did it. I did it again the following year. I then went to the upper peninsula of Michigan in 2009 to try a 10 km marathon swim. I did it, but I wore a shorty wetsuit. I felt like I should of tried it without a wetsuit, and I was mad at myself.

Two weeks later I swam across Lake Geneva Wisconsin for SwimForFreedom, a charity for Special Operation Warrior Foundation. I did that freestyle. It was then that I knew I wanted to swim across Lake Geneva all butterfly. In 2010, I did it. I did it in 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014. 8.2 miles [butterfly].

The END-WET river swim in North Dakota was a big test for me. The race directors were very supportive and went out of their way to make me succeed. Last year it was upped from 27 miles to 36 miles. I nailed it.

I want to try a 50-mile swim one day if I could only find the right venue. I'm game for it. [Editor's Note: we suggest Lake Powell in Utah.]

Another reason why I do all butterfly is because I want to make up for past failures and bad choices I made when I was a youth. First off, my mother was not supportive. I wanted to attend a private school in downstate Illinois and swim on the team, but my parents were divorced and my mother would not give me the guarantee that she would not marry her boyfriend. By not having that guarantee, I couldn't in my mind be comfortable with getting Illinois state financial assistance and then have to leave the private school for a state school. So she forced me in a decision to attend a school I really didn't want to attend.

I made the swim team as a walk-on but quickly got caught up in partying and I developed a negative attitude that affected me in really bad ways. I quit the team. I got depressed and partied too much. My grades went in the tank. I transferred after my sophomore year and turned my college experience into more of a positive one by attending Northern Illinois University.

But I never swam competitively in college. And dang it, I never broke the 1:00 mark in the 100 fly.

I guess I lived with these disappointments for too long.

So as I neared 50 years of age, I decided to recapture the opportunity I had, but didn't have the forethought or guidance to carry out what was available to me as a youth. Anger and competitive juices steered me towards to my re-invention. I just decided to go for it.

I didn't want age to be an excuse for me in not attaining my obsession with the butterfly stroke and swimming in general. Look, I know I am in the rear of the field in each race; but, instead of being a average freestyler, I am the first in the butterfly division.

Photo courtesy of Patty Hermann shows Dan Projansky wore a rash guard by Rip Curl.

Copyright © 2015 by World Open Water Swimming Association

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