Best of luck to this weekend's ultra swimmers (& 1-mile course swimmers too)!
Hey thanks! I am definitely ready for a 4.5 mile lake swim or pool swim, no problem at all.
But, I swam in the Potomac last week on a day with current and some small waves and was like, "Really? This is HARD!" I then read some GCBS race reports from last year (allegedly an "easy year") talking about the waves/chop. So, now I am totally, totally freaked out.
I swam in the Potomac River last week too... at the Potomac River Sharkfest, along the Gov Henry Nice Rte 301 Bridge. It WAS rough!! Whitecaps on the river, creating strong chop and currents. I attribute those unusually tough conditions to the heavy rains we got on Friday night. The Sea Was Angry!!
Conditions on the Chesapeake Bay were much better the two times I swam it (2005 & 2009). I'm guessing the Bay will be better tomorrow than the River was last weekend, since we haven't had that kindof rain this week.
Conditions on the Bay could not have been any better than they were today for the 21st Annual Great Chesapeake Bay Swim! The water was fairly calm, and the water temps were pretty close to ideal (prob in the mid-70s, altho I did not hear them announce the water temp). Sighting was pretty good for the 1-mile... a triangle swim around 2 orange bouys, maybe about 30-inches in diameter. Not too much bumping and commotion early on... different from the egg-beater starts at many big triathlons. Lots of support boats out there (I believe they had more volunteers than participants!).
640 finishers for the 4.4-mile and 441 for the 1-mile. Crazy Fast swims today! A 17 year old kid dropped a 1:28 to win the 4.4 mile, and a 16 year old kid broke 18 mins to win the 1-mile! I had a pretty strong race, finishing in 20:15... good enough for 8th overall and 1st M25-29. A great day! I highly recommend both of these races to anyone looking for an open water swim next year!
I guess you could call this my very first race report, despite having been with DCTri for over a year.. It's kinda long, but hopefully, my experience will benefit someone who is interested in this race for next year. I did the 4.4 mile crossing.
When I first heard about this race, it sounded awesome -- overcoming a geographical barrier. And I knew that's the way I wanted to swim it, without stopping at the food/water boats along the way. Sort of like original settlers might have done when they came upon the Chesapeake Bay (although they probably didn't have access to a wetsuit).
Also, I figured signing up for this race would motivate me to get to the pool all winter, and thus improve my swimming for triathlons.
There are a million marathon training plans -- 4.4 open water swimming training plans, not so much. So I basically approached it as a marathon, and just did a long swim each week, increasing the distance, and middle distance stuff a couple other days during the week. Since my goal was just to finish, I figured I didn't have to go too nuts (plus I had biking and running to keep up with). I swam a total of 20 miles in both January and February; 25 miles in April; and 26 miles in May. I ended up doing lots of swims in the 2.0 to 2.5 range; four swims of 3 miles, and two swims of 4 miles. In no way am I saying that this was "good" preparation, but it is what I did.
The last week before the race was horrible. I did a swim in the Potomac and was confronted with big waves and strong current (seemed like I was barely moving). The waves kept slamming into me like I was getting punched in the face. A normal stroke was really difficult.
To make matters worse, I happened to be going to Dover exactly a week before the race and crossed the Chesapeake Bay bridge. The water looked really, really angry. Big chop. I saw these two guys trying to fish from a boat and they kept getting violently tossed all around. Unfortunately, that scene stuck in my head and played over and over for the entire week.
A few days before the race, I did a Google search for race reports and most talked about how harsh the conditions were and how they had to swim at a 45 degree angle just to go straight. These people did lots (and I mean LOTS) more training than I did.
So my confidence had definitely waned by the time I pulled into the parking lot on the day of the race. I got on the bus to the start and struck up a conversation with the woman sitting next to me who said this was her third GCBS. I asked if she had any tips, but she said, no, because she had never finished. She went on at length about how she got seasick, threw up, and a bunch of other stuff I just didn't need to focus on right then. The only motivating thing she said is that when you get pulled from the race, the rescue boat remains on the water to assist other swimmers, so they don't take you to shore until the race is over. Last year, she spent three hours in the rescue boat and there was NO WAY I was going to do that.
My confidence returned when the bus pulled in and I saw the Chesapeake. I'm not going to call it glass, but the Bay was in a very, very good mood. Clearly, I had gotten lucky. This was definitely going to be do-able.
I may have enjoyed my first marathon the most because there were no time pressures, only the desire to finish. I approached this swim the same way. Mostly it was uneventful. The bumping at the start was no worse than what goes on at any tri (at least for the wave one swimmers, I heard it was worse for the "fast" wave two swimmers).
If there was a current, I really didn't notice it. Once between the bridges it was just a good swim, like I was in the pool and had a really big lane to myself. Sighting is obviously a breeze. It was very encouraging to be able to see those two giant suspension supports in the middle and then the truss part of the bridge(that looks like an erector set) near the end and always be making substantial progress on them when I sighted.
The swim obviously goes on for a long time, but there really just isn't much to report. There a certain monotony, but then I'd remember where I was swimming and it was kind of a thrill. Mostly the water was pretty warm, but sometimes we hit really cold patches that were refreshing. It's a bit spooky to think that the bottom was 200 feet below and shore was miles away.
All the bridge supports are clearly numbered. I wish I had known the exact number of the one where we turned to Hemmingway's. That would have relieved the tension of possibly missing it. It also would have reduced the "aren't we there yet" frustration. Oddly, the race got very crowded at this point. In addition, perhaps I had slowed, but the current seemed more substantial at this point, but nothing outrageous.
In another post Luke mentioned to hug the left side after the turn, which I did. I think that helped a lot. The crowd that seemed to form as we came to the turn didn't do that and it made me concerned that I had made a mistake as I was alone again. But it was definitely the correct move (thanks, Luke).
While the finished seemed to approach slowly, it was great to have swum from one side of the Bay to the other.
The people you meet on these bus rides are a slice of life! I met a guy after Escape From Alcatraz in 2010 who sat next to Andy Potts on the bus ride to the start. He told me their convo went something like this:
Newbie I Just Met: "So, what do you do for a living?"
Andy Potts: "These!"
As chance would have it, this newbie had exceptional luck in who he sat next to. Only in triathlon can you end up sitting next to a former Olympian (just think... this would be like taking the Subway to a Yankees game and sitting next to Derek Jeter!). On the ferry to Alcatraz I saw Potts too... standing in the bathroom line behind about a dozen people. Everyone truly is equal in this sport!
It appears your luck on the bus was not so good. Most everyone in this sport is great to talk to, very open to offering advice and encouragement. However, there is a small percentage of @$$holes out there who will discourage you and bring you down... sometimes it's intentional, but most of the time they're just pessamistic people who don't realize what a negative effect they have on others around them, particularly newbies. Without noticing it, this woman's words became a huge obstacle that threatened to erode several months of hard work (and risk the chances of a good time in rare near-perfect conditions!) Similarly, people like to sound off online about all of their bad experiences, but there aren't a lot of folks out there that like to spread the good news about great conditions, well run races, exceptional volunteers, good post-race food, cool t-shirt designs, or any one of several other big positives the Bay Swim had going for it this year!
Clearly there is a moral to this story... we need to be careful not to listen to these negative people, and not to be like them! We need to raise each other up, not knock each other down! What you say to the random people you meet along the way can really encourage them, or it can intimidate and scare off newbies to the point that they may never attempt something as crazy and awesome as crossing the Bay!
When it comes to the marathon, I always say, I don't care if it takes you 2 hours or 7 hours... to complete that distance is a great accomplishment! This certainly holds true for The Great Chesapeake Bay Swim, what I like to call the marathon of swimming. Congrats on making it! You'll never be initmidated by a tri swim again!