The fastest swims around Manhattan (Part 2)

The fastest swims around Manhattan (Part 2)

Part 1.

Shelley Taylor-Smith recorded the fastest swim around Manhattan (5:45:25) in 1995, but it was a special “record attempt” swim scheduled on an unusually fast tide. What are the fastest swims in the regular Manhattan Island Marathon Swim race, which is typically held on a slower tide? Over the 29 years of the modern MIMS, the 10 fastest swims are as follows:

  1. Tobie Smith, 1999, 6:32:41
  2. Tammy van Wisse, 1999, 6:51:31
  3. Rob Copeland, 1999, 6:52:49
  4. Susie Maroney, 1990, 7:00:27
  5. Matthew Nance, 1990, 7:04:53
  6. Jim Barber, 1991, 7:06:34
  7. Kris Rutford, 1991, 7:06:44
  8. Matthew Wood, 1990, 7:07:32
  9. Susie Maroney, 1994, 7:08:10
  10. Igor de Souza, 1991, 7:08:20

Interestingly, 9 of the 10 fastest times happened in just 3 years – 1990, 1991, and 1999. The 3 fastest times were all in one year – 1999. Perhaps these years were “stacked” with outstanding swimmers. Another possibility is that these years saw especially favorable conditions (faster currents, smoother water, warmer water, etc.).

One simple method of estimating the effect of conditions is to find the median time in each annual race – and compare each individual to the median of that year.…

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Swimming vs. Tide Surfing around Manhattan (Part 1)

Swimming vs. Tide Surfing around Manhattan (Part 1)

It’s well known that Shelley Taylor-Smith holds the record for the fastest swim around Manhattan: 5 hours, 45 minutes, 25 seconds.

What’s not quite as well known is that she achieved this feat on a special “fast tide” – a convergence of maritime conditions in the East, Harlem, and Hudson Rivers that occurs only once or twice a year, if at all.

With the founding of the modern Manhattan Island Marathon Swim race in 1982, and more sophisticated understanding of tide cycles, a string of specially planned solo “record attempt” swims were undertaken in the ’80s and ’90s, all on fast tides. After Diana Nyad‘s 1975 swim in 7 hours, 57 minutes, the record was lowered six times by four different people over the next 20 years:

  • 7:14 – Drury Gallagher in 1982
  • 6:48 – Paul Asmuth in 1983
  • 6:41 – Drury Gallagher in 1983
  • 6:12 – Shelley Taylor-Smith in 1985
  • 5:54 – Kris Rutford in 1992
  • 5:45:25 – Shelley Taylor-Smith in 1995

Her record has stood ever since, despite an assault last year by world-class marathon swimmers Petar Stoychev and Mark Warkentin.…

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On training logs, and a 2010 retrospective

On training logs, and a 2010 retrospective

Among swimmers, runners, cyclists, weightlifters – really, any athlete in a quantifiable sport – it’s common practice to keep a training log. In high school and college, I kept a log only sporadically – and I really regret it now. I’d love to look back on some of the sets I did in those days.

Since I got back into swimming a year and a half ago, I’ve been much more conscientious about keeping a log, and I think it’s really helped – motivating me to get to practice, and helping me gauge progress. I split my training log between two documents: a text file where I write what I did in each workout (sets, intervals, times, etc.), and a spreadsheet where I log the total distance I swim each day. In two adjacent columns of the spreadsheet, I also keep a 7-day running total (how much I’ve swum in the past week), and an average of the previous four 7-day totals (i.e., 4-week moving average).

I like the 7-day running total for its straightforwardness – “What have I done in the past week?” But I think the 4-week average is actually a better indicator of my fitness level at any given point.…

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Fun Google tricks

Fun Google tricks

Have you ever wondered…

How many [yards] can I swim in [4 hours] if I hold a pace of [1:15] per [100 yards] … and you wanted an answer right now? Perhaps you didn’t have a calculator handy, or didn’t want to fire up Excel… or maybe you just didn’t feel like thinking very hard.

Observe:

Or, perhaps you have wondered…

If I swim [10K] in [2 hours, 45 minutes], what is my pace per [100m] ?

In conclusion: Bing sucks, people.*

* Full disclosure: I am a former employee of Google.

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MIMS finishing times: 1982-2010

MIMS finishing times: 1982-2010

Five months until MIMS! In the meantime, some data porn for your enjoyment (click to enlarge):

The NYC Swim website has MIMS results as far back as 1915, but the modern version of MIMS as an annual marathon swim race began in 1982, when Drury Gallagher founded the Manhattan Island Swimming Association.

The chart above shows every MIMS finishing time from 1982-2010 (black dots), along with the slowest, fastest, and median time of each year (blue, green, & red lines, respectively). Only participants in the annual MIMS race are shown – no solo attempts (e.g., Shelley Taylor-Smith’s record swim of 5:45 in 1995).

Big Shoulders Stats: Finishing times

Big Shoulders Stats: Finishing times

People say times don’t matter in open water – or at least that you don’t always know what they mean. And perhaps that’s part of its attraction. While in the pool “the clock never lies,” in open water it’s not much more than a ranking device.

Even so, I’ve been surprised by how closely most of my open-water pace times have approximated my pool speed at various distances – from 1:15 at 1 mile (Huntersville), to 1:17 at 1.5 miles (Livermore), to 1:19 at 2 miles (H’ville again) up to 6K (Windsor), and 1:22 at 10K (Noblesville).

When an event has been staged for many years, though – at the same location, on the same course layout – comparing times makes a little more sense. Big Shoulders is one such event.

In that spirit, here are the finish times in Big Shoulders across the 12 years of available data, starting with the 5K race:

5K times

That chart is a little busy, so let’s unpack it:

  • Each black dot represents one swim. The dots are “jiggered” slightly to the left or right of their corresponding year (so more of them are visible).


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2010: the two-thirds review

2010: the two-thirds review

In the first 8 months of 2010 I swam 452.4 miles (796,224 yards). Here’s the mileage by month, with days out of the water: 52.1 (7 days off), 52.8 (2 days off), 63.7 (3 days off), 60.0 (4 days off), 45.7 (8 days off), 64.1 (5 days off), 52.9 (6 days off), and 61.2 (6 days off).

I’m pretty happy with that consistency. The only somewhat anomalous month was May (45 miles), during which I got sick and missed 6 days in a row right before Atlanta Nationals.

This coming month will be an important one in preparing for the 10-mile swim on October 16. Assuming I stay healthy (fingers crossed), I have a soft goal of 75 miles (132,000 yards) for September.…

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Big Shoulders Stats: A local race?

Big Shoulders Stats: A local race?

More Big Shoulders stats, from my custom-made aggregate file. Here’s the proportion of Big Shoulders participants hailing from Illinois, Indiana, and “other” – i.e., anyplace besides IL and IN.

Clearly, Illinois locals still predominate, but recent years have seen a greater influx of out-of-state swimmers. In 2009, almost 30% came from outside of Illinois and Indiana – an all-time high.…

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Big Shoulders Stats: Participation by Age

Big Shoulders Stats: Participation by Age

More fun with Big Shoulders stats. We’ve been looking at participation – so what about age? Masters swimming is traditionally dominated by people in their 40′s and 50′s – is the same true here?

It seems the modal age is actually a bit younger in Big Shoulders – lots of people in their 30′s. But the “50′s” have been mounting a furious comeback (see the blue line) – perhaps a baby boomer effect.

My custom aggregate CSV file, from which I calculated these stats, is available here.…

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