One of the more popular long-distance open water races in the US is the Great Chesapeake Bay Swim. A 4.4-mile point-to-point swim across the bay and between the two spans of the Bay Bridge, the GCBS routinely sells out months in advance.
The 2012 GCBS was today. A couple friends were swimming, so I was browsing the results just now. And I was reminded of why I will never do this swim.
Here are the results. They probably don’t mean anything to you… but what if I told you that eight of the top ten finishers wore wetsuits! Yet the main results page doesn’t specify whether the swimmer was artificially assisted by neoprene. There’s a separate non-wetsuit results page – but it’s relegated to a separate link. As if it’s of secondary importance. As if they are the exceptions.
Nor do the age-group awards distinguish between swimmers and wetsuit-assisted swimmers.
I respectfully disagree. Skin swimmers aren’t the exceptions. They are the default. This is not triathlon. In open-water swimming, wetsuits are the exception. If you want to offer a “wetsuit-assisted” category, fine – but don’t intermingle their results with swimmers who did it for real, without assistance.
What about the two skin swimmers in the Top 10? Fred Hviid (a Spanish Olympian) and my friend Abby. Is it accurate to say Fred finished second overall, and Abby finished 9th (2nd female)? Um, no. An accurate statement would be: Fred won and Abby was second (first female). The other eight swimmers were wearing wetsuits, and were competing in a different race.
The water temperature in the Bay today was 75F. The air temp was in the 80s. I don’t care if you have 6% bodyfat – you don’t need a wetsuit. What about safety? If you can’t safely finish a 4.4-mile swim without a wetsuit to keep you afloat, perhaps you shouldn’t be doing a 4.4-mile swim in the first place.
Who am I to tell the GCBS how to run their race? I am nobody. Just a guy with an opinion. And my opinion won’t matter – clearly the GCBS doesn’t need my business.
Anyway, congrats to Fred on the win, and congrats to Abby on being the first female (second overall).