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Great Chesapeake Bay Swim
CREATED: 01/13/12 by HappyRunner REPLIES: 5
HappyRunner's ravatar HappyRunner    JOINED: 1/15/11    POSTS: 281
Great Chesapeake Bay Swim
POSTED: 1/13/12 12:48 PM

Totally psyched -- just got accepted into the Great Chesapeake Bay Swim. Anyone else doing this one? Any insider tips from those who have done it in the past?

keepingitawesome's ravatar keepingitawesome    JOINED: 5/4/09    POSTS: 19
RE: Great Chesapeake Bay Swim
POSTED: 1/13/12 2:57 PM

I am in too! This will be my first year doing it and I am totally psyched!

2 of my friends were able to get in as well, 1 of whom has done this swim 2 prior times. She is also in DC Tri and makes an AWESOME training buddy!

I plan on getting a season pass to Sandy Point State Park, so we will be making frequent trips to get in as much open water swim practice as we can. Send me your contact information, and I will make sure we keep you updated!

Lindy Smith

Luke's ravatar Luke    JOINED: 11/28/10    POSTS: 423
RE: Great Chesapeake Bay Swim
POSTED: 1/13/12 4:02 PM

I'm not doing the 4.4 Mile GCBS this year, but I am a 2-time veteran (2005 & 2009). Here are my 2 cents:

-First of all, this race is totally awesome... it's swimming's version of the marathon! Make sure to buy a 4.4 sticker at the post-race celebration to put on your car, just like the 26.2 stickers!

-Get there early! Since this is a point-to-point race, you park at the end (Hemingway's Restaurant) and then take a bus back to the start (Sandy Point State Park). Make sure to leave yourself enough time for the bus ride. This ride is also a great opportunity to look out the window and see the course. Assuming you're coming from DC, you will also get a chance to look out the window and see the course on the drive up, as the end at Hemingway's Restaurant is on the other side of the bay.

-The race is wetsuit-optional, but I would definitely wear a wetsuit... with the wake/chop, the wetsuit will make a huge difference. If you don't have a wetsuit, you can rent one at Bonzai Sports in Falls Church... Bonzai usually has a wetsuit drop-off at the race, so you don't need to go back to the store to return it.

-4.4 miles is a long way... make sure to take energy when you're out there! The race has (or at least used to have) a boat at the mid-point with water and bananas. It's wise to stop here to rehydrate and get some energy. I also taped a few GU packets to my wetsuit to tear off along the way.

-Don't forget to apply body glide where the wetsuit will rub. Also, don't forget to put on sunscreen, as you will get a pretty nice back tan over 2 hours in the water. I forgot to do this in 2009, and paid the price for it! My neck got torn up pretty bad under the wetsuit, and the pain was compounded by the sunburn I got on my neck.

-Watch the current! The race start time is scheduled such that most people will be in the middle of the channel at low tide. The tide will push you one way for the first half of the race, and the other way during the second half of the race. If you're not careful, it will push you all the way to the bridge on the edge. Not only is it dangerous to swim into the bridge (you'll get scratched up), but you will also get disqualified if you swim outside of the bridges.

-Since the race is timed so that most people are in the middle of the channel at low tide, the slower wave (wave 1) starts before the faster wave (wave 2) by about 15 minutes. This is different than the wave start at most races. Plan your pre-race schedule accordingly.

-When the race leaves the shipping channel for the last half mile swim to shore, make sure to stay close to the shore on the left to minimize the distance you have to go.

-Times are heavily influenced by the current, so you cannot compare times from year to year. I was in better shape and did a better job staying on course in 2009, yet my time was only a minute faster.

-This is a great race to have family and friends come watch... at least at the end! While you really can't see people during the race (you'd have to look out from your car on the bridge!), it's a big accomplishment, and fun to watch people finish! Plus, you can get some great seafood nearby!

-Lastly, Thank a volunteer afterwards! The race has more volunteers than it has competitors!

Hope this helps! Good luck in The Marathon of Swimming!
Remember, it's Just 1 Lap!


HappyRunner's ravatar HappyRunner    JOINED: 1/15/11    POSTS: 281
RE: Great Chesapeake Bay Swim
POSTED: 5/13/12 7:11 PM

This is coming up fast -- appreciate Luke's advice, anyone else have some hints?

I think I heard that you stay between the two bridges, so sighting is not an issue -- is that right? The thing that worries me the most is current and chop.

Luke's ravatar Luke    JOINED: 11/28/10    POSTS: 423
RE: Great Chesapeake Bay Swim
POSTED: 5/13/12 10:30 PM

Sighting is only really an issue at two points in the race. First, in the middle of the race, there is a boat with water, bananas, and other energy. Be on the lookout for this, as I missed it last time (I had some GU duct-taped to the zipcord on my wetsuit, so I was fine, but it would be nice to stop here for some water and energy if you see it). Second, after you exit the spans of the bridge (about 600-800m before the end, if I recall correctly), make sure to stay fairly close to the shore on the left (but not too close, as there are rocks) as the finish is close to the left edge... just don't let yourself swim off to sea like I did in 2005... that could add some time!

Current and chop depends entirely on the conditions from year to year. Some years its rough, and over 20% of people don't finish. Other years its fine. They schedule the race start times so that the bulk of the swimmers will be in the middle of the channel at low tide, when conditions are the best (hence the reason why the fastest swimmers start in wave 2). Times of the fastest swimmers can vary by as much as 5 minutes from year to year due to the conditions. The big thing to watch out for is the direction the current pushes you... because it changes! At the start of the race, you will feel the current pushing you to one side of the channel (sideways). Then the current will die down a bit at low tide, before it starts to push you in the opposite direction!

Good luck! I signed up for the 1-mile Bay Challenge, so maybe I'll see you there!

Just 1 Lap!

HappyRunner's ravatar HappyRunner    JOINED: 1/15/11    POSTS: 281
RE: Great Chesapeake Bay Swim
POSTED: 5/14/12 11:16 AM

I'm probably being stupid, but I'm not planning on stopping at the "refuel boat" in the middle. Part of the allure of this race for me is making an unassisted crossing, from one side to the other. Consuming gel that I carried myself would be consistent with that, but I better incorporate that into training swims asap. Good tips -- thanks!

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