I did it!
I finished the 4.4-mile Great Chesapeake Bay Swim in 2:22:05, good for 13th out of 26 in my age group, 74th among the 180 women, 237 out of 542 overall. I’ve done the 1-mile version twice, and placed in my age group each time. But in so many ways, for so many reasons, this was NOTHING like the 1-miler.
Watch for the full race report later this week. For now, a few observations, and some photos:
- This was the hardest athletic event I’ve ever participated in. That includes several other open-water swims of distances up to 5K, and my two marathons, including one in which I suffered severe digestive difficulties. That means mentally and physically, since you had to adjust to changing conditions and expectations every few strokes, alternating between the euphoria of swimming long, smooth strokes beneath a monolithic feat of engineering and the frustration of spending an entire mile swimming at a 45-degree angle to go in a straight line against what was described by the race director as a “gentle” ebb tide. I never, ever want to experience a tide that is NOT gentle.
- The people who sign up for this race are talented, well-trained swimmers. At the risk of sounding cocky, I’m used to being able to get out ahead of the “Cuisinart start” pretty quickly. Not the case yesterday. The lead pack of my wave (the slower of the two) stayed together for the entire first mile (which was a 23-minute breeze, by the way). So cool, and so humbling.
- I’ve never done an open-water swim with such a sense of adventure. For most of the race, I’d lift up my head to sight, and realize my next marker was a shipping channel of the Chesapeake Bay, for goodness sake!
- I’ve never felt LESS isolation during an open-water swim. Usually, there are long stretches when I’m all alone in the water. I was never farther than a few strokes away from another swimmer on Sunday. After that terrible second mile (did I mention how strong the tide was? And that I had to swim at a 45-degree angle to avoid getting sucked off the course? And that it took me 45 minutes? I did? Oh, OK), I stopped at a “snack boat” to get a Dixie cup of water and to commiserate with fellow swimmers—i.e., “That tide! 45 degrees! AmIright?AmIright?”
Now, a few photos: