In the “GPS snapshots” I’ve shown in the last couple posts, you can see how far apart each swimmer is (6 of them, anyway) in terms of distance. Four hours into the race, for example, Erica Rose was 455m ahead of Ollie Wilkinson, who was in turn 135m ahead of John Van Wisse.
Another way to model the race is to look at when each swimmer passes a given landmark. This shows how far apart each swimmer is on a different dimension – time. Using the GPS tracks provided by NYC Swim, we can actually calculate “split times” for each swimmer between any landmark we choose. And, using those split times, we can calculate each swimmer’s speed (including current) for each segment.
For the purposes of this study, I chose 11 landmarks – three in the East River (Pier 11, Queensboro Bridge, and the Randall Island footbridge), two in the Harlem (Macombs Dam Bridge and Spuyten Duyvil), and six in the Hudson (GW Bridge, Riverbank Park, 79th St, 34th St, Pier 40, and the finish at South Cove).…
I don’t really remember passing through Hell Gate and into the Harlem River. But there were signs: The river narrowed, the current slowed, the surface chop smoothed out, and the water was noticeably warmer (72-73F, compared to 67 in South Cove). Most of all, there was the taste. While the East River had been mildly salty (with the flood tide moving water from the Atlantic), and the Hudson would be distinctly sweet (with the ebb tide moving water from upstate), the Harlem had an altogether different mouthfeel. “Industrial” is the word that comes to mind.
The Harlem is a long, tough slog. The current – especially at first, and especially for the leaders – is slower.…
The Staten Island ferry terminal marks the southernmost tip of Manhattan, and the confluence of the Hudson and East Rivers. The ferry – which carries 75,000 passengers per day and operates 24/7/365 – has figured prominently in several attempts to circum-swim the island.
In 2009 (as shown in a recent documentary) the entire MIMS field was held up shortly after the start as the ferry departed, allowing trailing swimmers to pull even with then-leaders John Van Wisse and Penny Palfrey. In 1995, Shelley Taylor-Smith was forced to tread water for crucial minutes during a record attempt as the ferry docked. She eventually did eclipse Kris Rutford‘s 4-year old record by 9 minutes – and her incredible time of 5:45 still stands.…
I set off around the Battery at a relaxed pace – giving myself a chance to warm up and see how things sort out. I figured I’d try to stay on Van Wisse’s heels for a while (he started just to my left), so I was surprised when he fell behind after a couple hundred meters, out of my field of vision.
The first few minutes of MIMS are typically chaotic, as kayakers attempt to hook up with their swimmers while the field is still compressed. The GPS tracks aren’t reliable at this time because the kayaks (which carry the transponders) may or may not be next to their respective swimmers. Thankfully, Terry O’Malley (paddler for Michael Gregory) shot some video from his kayak of these first few minutes:
Like Rashomon, unexpected insights arise from different perspectives.…
When we left off in Part 1, I was enjoying the view from South Cove and trying to find a measure of peace before setting off on the 28.5-mile adventure-slash-race. I always try to make room for a few moments of solitude in my pre-race routine – a parcel of grass, an empty park bench – to rid myself of tension and to reflect on how fortunate I am to be there.
This turned out to be especially important on the morning of MIMS, because it was a scene. Reporters, cameramen, families, friends, random onlookers – not to mention the field itself, full of well-known marathon swimmers from around the world. MIMS 2011 was particularly circus-like due to the Global Open Water Swimming Conference taking place in NYC the same weekend.…
To me, there’s something quite special about the moment someone enters the water to begin a marathon swim. It’s an act of great courage; a willing surrender to a foreign and potentially dangerous environment; an acceptance of inevitable pain and struggle soon to be experienced.
The moment is even more dramatic when “entering the water” requires jumping from a dock – as in MIMS. Tom M. (a.k.a. bklynpolar on Flickr) and his camera were on the dock for the MIMS start, and captured these moments for a number of swimmers. Here are the “jump shots” for the top 8 seeds, in descending order. Click to enlarge.
A few minutes before 10am Saturday, I jumped off a dock on the far southwestern tip of Manhattan and into the Hudson River. After a brief countdown I began a journey that would bring me around the Battery, up the East and Harlem Rivers, and back down the Hudson to the very same dock. 28 and a half miles in 7 and a half hours (give or take).
I had a lot on my mind in that moment – suspended in midair, before plunging into the 67-degree water – not all of it relevant to the task at hand. But some portion of my thoughts were directed at the question of how it was that I found myself there – jumping off the dock at South Cove.…
Without a team, a 24-mile swim doesn’t happen. Simple as that. And the swim’s success – it’s efficiency – depends on the quality of the team. Long swims are isolating experiences: A swimmer and his thoughts. But there’s an irony: The longer the swim, the more you utterly depend on your support team.
So any discussion of my experience in Tampa Bay must begin with my team.
The Team (L-R): Kathy, Carl, Pat, Michael, Kim… Frankland Bridge in the distance. (Photo Credit: Distance Matters)
NOTE: I wrote this as preface to my Tampa report, but it got a bit long so I decided to put it in a separate post. It’s not really specific to Tampa, anyway.
What’s a marathon swim? Without any historical reference point (as for marathon runs), there are various definitions. The official FINA and (as of 2008) Olympic distance is 10K – which has the virtue of similar finish times as marathon runs. Penny Lee Dean sets the bar at 16 miles. Ted Erikson says 10 miles. Steven Munatones, as usual, wrote a nice overview of the issue.
I’m not really interested in debating what is or isn’t a marathon swim, though I do think:
It must be in open water.
It should be nearly impossible (or at least very difficult) to finish without refueling mid-swim.
Pre-race with college roommate and swim team-mate John
My second visit to the Nike Swim Miami went much better than the first, even if my time (2:27:51) didn’t really reflect it. I felt strong from start to finish and held my stroke rate consistently in the high 60′s / low 70′s. Even accounting for slight navigational errors, 2:27-high seems way off – even more so considering the favorable (if somewhat warm) conditions and buoyantly saline water.
The course was probably a bit longer than 2K – and then compounded over 5 laps. But that’s just the nature of the game in open water. Who knows what times mean. Even, apparently, with a closed-loop course under neutral conditions.
Despite my best efforts, the 2010 open-water season is now over! Like Rob, my original plan was relatively modest compared to the end result (though it seemed ambitious at the time). At first, I aimed to run the gauntlet of USMS open-water national championship series – North Carolina, California, Colorado, Virginia, and Indiana – and finish off the season at Big Shoulders in Chicago.
As the year wore on, I found excuses – one by one – to add more events. For the Nike Swim Miami, it was an excuse to visit an old college roommate. For the Cascade Lakes Festival, I got to meet up with my parents and visit my grandmother. For Madison, the drive from Chicago was too short to pass up.…
Preview post here.
Daily News of OWS article here.
The phrase “little red lighthouse” may evoke something quaint and isolated – possibly in Maine – but make no mistake: This is a big, urban swim. After a summer of so many rural lake swims, I was looking for an excuse to try one of NYC Swim‘s well regarded events. Most were either too short to justify traveling to New York or, as in the case of MIMS and Ederle, longer than I was ready to do this year.…
And now, for a belated report on the Diamond Lake Open Water Challenge, in which I partook two Saturdays ago, September 18. I had been waiting on the official photos from the day, but no such luck. The images below I either took myself or scavenged off Facebook.
I hadn’t planned to do this race, but late last month I had one of those “Oh, what the hell” moments, and that was that. Even as the official Olympic marathon swim distance, 10K’s are still pretty rare below the elite level. And this one was less than a 2 hour drive from Chicago. I saw it as an opportunity to see what I could do in a casual setting, where I probably wouldn’t be racing anyone, in water that wasn’t 84 degrees – in other words, everything the Noblesville 10K wasn’t.…
The more I think about it, the more I suspect that the Cascade Lake Swim Series & Festival was the highlight of my Great Summer of Open Water. I was reminded of this when I recently discovered Bob Needham’s report, which includes some gorgeous photos — and even a video! The video captures the frantic finish of the 1500m race. You can see me stumbling in at the very end (I’m the one without the B70).
It should be obvious why I prefer in-water finishes …
Official write-up here.
Rob Aquatics write-up here.
What the gods giveth, they can – and do – taketh away. This is Chicago, people!
Big Shoulders ’09 was a picture-perfect beach day, with calm 73-degree water. This year, the remnants of Tropical Storm Hermine blew through, giving us clouds, rain, wind, and choppy, cold water (62-63 degress F).
It’s all in the game, though, right? Open-water swimming isn’t supposed to be predictable – that’s what pools are for! Maybe you get a beach day, or maybe you get a storm. Maybe the water is calm and comfortable, or maybe it’s churning and cold. The more you can suck it up and say, “I don’t care. It’s the same water for everyone” – the more successful you’ll be.…