Manhattan Island Marathon Swim - 2007
A little background
First - a few thanks:
Leslie Thomas (Swim-Art) - for coaching and getting me through another long swim. There were a number of times when I didn't think I would make it, but she kept me going, fixed my stroke, and got me to the finish.
My brother - for helping out on the boat and keeping me entertained during the swim.
Everyone that called/e-mailed - we had some problems with the phone during the swim (I can't recommend a Treo), but it was great to pickup the voicemails afterwards.
Saturday was a beautiful day - sunny, a slight breeze, and fairly warm. The swim started in the South Cove at Battery Park, which is on the southwest tip of Manhattan. We got down there around 7:30am and joked around a bit, doused each other in sunblock, lubed up, had in depth conversations about different types of lube - your 'normal' run-of-the-mill distance swimming conversation.
The race started about 15 minutes late - not a huge deal, but the current was pushing upriver, and we needed to make it a few hundred yards downriver before reaching the East River. The water temp was warm - well, it's all relative.
After a false start or two, we were off. The start was a little hectic - too many swimmers trying to beat the current, along with some kayakers who shouldn't have been in the mix at that point. My goggles got knocked off, but otherwise, I managed just fine. I did catch a glance or two of the Statue of Liberty, but it was fairly far off in the distance.
I settled into my pace - nothing too fast, as I wanted to take it easy on my shoulder. I'm not sure what it was, but I did something to my shoulder a few weeks ago, and was worried that I might not be able to finish. I'd been icing my shoulder daily, taking a lot of Ibuprofen, as well as some joint 'medicine' (anything with deer antler velvet is not medicine) - I was willing to do anything to try to get it better. I figured I'd start the swim and do the best I could, but told myself that I would get out early if I thought I was causing any permanent damage. I made a point to swim backstroke or breaststroke under ever bridge, and take my time during feeds.
The swim up the East River was great because there was always something different to look at - the Brooklyn Bridge, the Chrysler (I think that's the one) and Empire State buildings, etc. We swam fairly close to the UN, and I really had to strain and turn my head to see the top of the building. We had a pretty strong current pushing us up the East River - I would have enjoyed spending more time here.
Next up was the Harlem - there's definitely a difference in the water. I never had a problem with pollution in any of the rivers, but the Harlem has more silt than the others. There's not as much to look at in terms of tall buildings, but there's more greenery, Yankee Stadium, etc. The Harlem is a bit thinner than the East River, and there were a few more people cheering us on.
This was definitely the slow part of the swim for me. The current in Harlem is weak, and I get a little bored / lose my motivation after a few hours. There were times when I could feel my left arm grind against the socket, which was fairly unpleasant and worrisome. We corrected a few things with my stroke, and just kept a slow steady pace.
The top of the island is really nice - you wouldn't know you were in a city because of all the trees, except for the trains and cars going across the bridges. The water is also a little clearer up there. This was one of my favorite parts of the swim - it was a beautiful part of the river, but probably more importantly, because it meant that I just had to turn the bend and swim down the Hudson.
The Hudson was fairly choppy due to the wind blowing upriver. But it was sort of fun, and I find that I can make up a lot of lost time compared to people that are used to swimming in flat water. We passed the GW bridge after maybe an hour, and then the sewage treatment plant. (People told me that I'd be able to hear the water coming out of the plant, but I never noticed anything.)
Although it had been a sunny day, an afternoon storm came up from Jersey, and they pulled all the swimmers out of the water due to lightning. We pulled up just south of the Boat Basin, and waited out the storm for about 1 hour 15 min. (All swimmers were pulled from the water - the leader was only a few hundred yards from the finish when she got pulled.) I had an energy bar and some water, and did my best to relax, stay warm, and not tighten up too much.
While waiting, we noticed that some of the boats that were tied up were starting to turn - a sign that the tide was changing. If true, this would be the end of the race - I still had a ways to go, and the tide would get stronger as time went on, and as I moved further down the island.
We finally got the word to jump back in - the only time I felt cold during the swim. My arms were tight for the first few strokes, but loosened up pretty quickly.
I tried to pick up the pace - I was really worried about the tide changing, and felt pretty good about my shoulder standing up for the rest of the swim. I swam a strong pace, and tried to keep my feeds as short as possible, to make every minute count. I watched the tops of buildings in the distance go by, but nothing passed as quickly as I wanted it to.
I think I had two feeds after the storm, at which point we finally got close to Battery Park. I was still very worried about the tide changing, but we moved a little closer to shore, which made it easier to see how quickly I was moving.
We finally reached the North Cove - just a few hundred yards above the South Cover where the finish line is. I was still so worried about the tide changing though, so kept a fairly good pace, or as much of one as I could manage, to the finish line.
Total time was just about 10 hours, including the stop for lightning. While it wasn't at the pace that I was hoping to do back when my shoulder was healthy, it was a lot more than I thought I'd be able to do just a few days before the swim. The scenery was great, and it was fun to experience three different rivers in one swim. The water quality, I have to say, is really pretty good - I did get a few mouthfuls of water in each river, but it never tasted bad - I've experienced worse water in the Bay Area.
Overall, the swim was great - I would highly recommend it. Thanks again to everyone for your e-mails, calls, and support.