Paul Newsome wins MIMS: Reflections from the escort boat

Paul Newsome wins MIMS: Reflections from the escort boat

– Previously: MIMS 2013, Part 1: A perfect storm

Last month I crewed for Swim Smooth founder Paul Newsome on his victorious Manhattan Island Marathon Swim. Though we had not met in person, Paul read my 2011 MIMS report and felt I could assist him in navigating the twists, turns, and tricky currents of the rivers around Manhattan.

It was a great honor and pleasure to meet and spend the weekend with Paul, his business partner Adam, his paddler Amanda, and all the rest of the Perth squad. They treated me very well, and I left New York City with a swirling headful of inspiring memories and new friendships.

I’ll defer to Paul’s story of his own swim. Instead, these are more general reflections on the experience of seeing MIMS from on the water – quite different, naturally, than being in the water.

Hannah (observer) and Evan, before the start.
Hannah (observer) and Evan, before the start. Photo by Adam Young.

“Expect the unexpected.”

A well-worn chestnut of open water swimming, of which MIMS 2013 often reminded us. The day before the race, the Daily News of Open Water Swimming reported on the apparent female domination of MIMS, proclaiming one the “overwhelming favorite.” Instead, men swept the podium, 1-2-3.…

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MIMS 2013, Part 1: A perfect storm

MIMS 2013, Part 1: A perfect storm

MIMS 2013 was a disappointing, even heartbreaking experience for a number of very accomplished and competent marathon swimmers. Of the 39 soloists who started from Pier A, only 11 made it around the island unassisted – compared to 100% finish rates in 2011 and 2012.

I’m not in a position to grasp all the factors that contributed to the situation on race day – I daresay none of the swimmers are, either – but my sense is that it was a perfect storm of bad luck. Perhaps some human error (as should be expected in chaotic, stressful situations), but mostly just bad luck.

- A storm (literally), producing several inches of rainfall that swelled the rivers, inhibiting the predicted flood tide and amplifying the predicted ebb.

NYC-region weather radar - the day before MIMS.
NYC-region weather radar – the day before MIMS.

- Unseasonably cold water temperatures (61F/16C in the East & Harlem Rivers; a couple degrees warmer in the Hudson). The qualifying swim of 4 hours in 61F is designed to weed out unacclimatized swimmers; nonetheless, some swimmers were unprepared for the cold.…

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MIMS 2013

MIMS 2013

It’s that time of year again! In the weeks leading up to the annual Manhattan Island Marathon Swim, the solo field starts trawling the internet en masse, looking for free last-minute advice. I always know MIMS is approaching when the incoming search-engine hits start spiking for my MIMS 2011 report.

I figured I’d save everyone some time and put all my MIMS posts in one place.

Race Report: Manhattan Island Marathon Swim 2011

Other MIMS Posts

Photo by Hannah B.
Photo by Hannah B.

I’m excited to return to New York City this weekend for the first time since the Ederle Swim in 2011.…

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Guest Post: Abby Nunn on winning the 2012 Manhattan Island Marathon Swim

Guest Post: Abby Nunn on winning the 2012 Manhattan Island Marathon Swim

Abby Nunn has had a big couple of months. In May, she graduated from Yale University with a degree in History of Science and Medicine. A scholar-athlete in the truest sense, Abby received the Kiphuth Award for highest GPA among varsity athletes – while specializing in distance freestyle for the Lady Bulldog swimmers.

Five weeks later, Abby became the 30th champion of the Manhattan Island Marathon Swim.

I got to know Abby through the Marathon Swimmers Forum, and have enjoyed keeping in touch as she prepared for her biggest swim yet (her previous-longest was the 12.5-mile Swim Around Key West).

One interesting bit of trivia about Abby is that she’s a 6-beat kicker – which is unusual for an ultra-distance swimmer. Back in March she asked the Forum: Is 6-beat kicking prudent for a marathon swim? Apparently, she had been advised that “trying to maintain [a 6-beat kick] for 7-8 hours is counterproductive/a waste of energy, if not impossible.”

Some Forum members agreed with this sentiment. I did not. If someone has been 6-beat kicking her entire swimming career; 6-beat kicking in training; 6-beat kicking in the 500/1000/1650 pool events; 6-beat kicking in 5km open-water races; 6-beat kicking around Key West – why would she fundamentally change her stroke for MIMS? 

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MIMS 2012

MIMS 2012

I will be live-tweeting the 2012 Manhattan Island Marathon Swim from NYC Swim’s Twitter account – follow along at twitter.com/nycswim, starting around 10:20am Eastern, Saturday.

Many friends will be in the water, on the water, or otherwise involved in this great celebration of marathon swimming. I wish everyone the best.

For convenience, here are links to my report from MIMS 2011:

MIMS with French subtitles

MIMS with French subtitles

Here’s a neat video by Paris-New York.TV (whatever that is) about the 2011 Manhattan Island Marathon Swim.


I make a brief appearance from 1:35-1:38.

I’m off to New York again this weekend for my final marathon of the season: the Ederle Swim. Check my Twitter feed for info on GPS tracking & other commentary.…

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A northeast open-water golden age

A northeast open-water golden age

What an exciting time to be a marathon swimmer in the northeast US!

The region already hosts three of the nation’s four annual ultra-marathon races – the Manhattan Island Marathon Swim, Swim Across the Sound, and the Ederle Swim.

Then there’s the recent spate of “record attempt” swims in the waters around New York City. In June, Liz Fry became the first person to complete a 35-mile “double Ederle” – from Manhattan to Sandy Hook, NJ and back. Last month, Lance Ogren took down the one-way Ederle record in spectacular fashion, shaving 58 minutes off the previous mark. Two days from now, David Barra will take on a double MIMS (twice around the island), in pursuit of Skip Storch‘s 2007 record of 20:56. And finally, at the end of September my MIMS nemesis Ollie Wilkinson (all in good fun, Ollie!) will race local NYC speedster Rondi Davies ‘round Manhattan, challenging Shelley Taylor-Smith’s legendary record of 5:45.

Morty Berger and NYC Swim put a ton of groundwork and meticulous research into these swims, so it’s no surprise to see these new standards being set.…

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MIMS: Three rivers, Three races

MIMS: Three rivers, Three races

Readers may be curious to see split times for the full rivers (East, Harlem, & Hudson) – not just the “segments” shown in the previous two posts. So here they are.

You’ll notice a new swimmer in the mix here: Sarah Thomas from Colorado. Originally seeded 8th, Sarah managed to slip into 5th place overall with a roaring swim down the Hudson. Well done, Sarah!



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Race Report: Manhattan Island Marathon Swim (Part 6 of 6)

Race Report: Manhattan Island Marathon Swim (Part 6 of 6)

As I rounded the 90-degree bend in the upper Harlem River into Spuyten Duyvil, I was not a happy swimmer. My shoulders throbbed – seemingly immune to pharmaceutical intervention. I had gone from 3rd in the upper reaches of the East River, to 4th (when John VW passed me just before Hell Gate), to 5th (when Miguel A. passed me near the Triborough Bridge), and finally to 6th (when Miguel S. passed me somewhere between the Third Ave Bridge and the Madison Ave Bridge).

My 20-minute feeds – Maxim interspersed with Perpetuem – kept me going, but just barely. My speed had been gradually deteriorating since Roosevelt Island in the East River. By now we’d passed all the swimmers from the first two waves… but I could see another boat creeping up on me. It was Sarah Thomas from Colorado.

The visual drabness of the Harlem gives way, in the Spuyten Duyvil area, to a more interesting view: the Columbia “C Rock,” the Henry Hudson Bridge looming high above, and finally, the railroad bridge marking the entrance to the Hudson:

Image courtesy of Wikipedia


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The story of the splits: East & Harlem Rivers

The story of the splits: East & Harlem Rivers

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).…

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