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Chesapeake Bay 4.4 Mile Swim 2006 - SwimOther

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Annapolis, Maryland
United States
73F / 23C
Total Time = 2h 17m 27s
Overall Rank = 195/416
Age Group = M35-39
Age Group Rank = 39/65
Pre-race routine:

This year the swim was a late start, with the first wave timed to begin at 2 pm. So, unlike most races, I was able to sleep in a little, eat some breakfast, and leave the house at 9:30. Arrived at the bus pickup around 10:30 and rode over to the starting area in Sandy Point State Park. Found the group from Central MD YMCA Masters and hung out waiting for the race to begin. Ate some lunch, met some people, and eventually found my wife and 2 older daughters who came to watch the start.
Event warmup:

Just an extensive stretching routine, especially focusing on my back and legs, which were sore from Friday night's full course triathlon workout. No swimming or running in the warm up today.
  • 2h 17m 27s
  • 7744 yards
  • 01m 46s / 100 yards

After a long wait for the race to start, we lined up on the beach. I was in Wave 1 (of 2 total waves). The water looked calm and smooth on the western shores of the bay and it promised to be a good swim. The race started and the initial sprint began....

The first mile flew by. I lined up on the beach as far right as I could to get the straightest line possible to the buoys that mark the turn under the north span of the bridge. There was very little contact with other swimmers and I got out ahead of most of my wave. Once between the 2 spans of the bridges in the giant swim lane there was only light chop and no noticable current. At the first mile buoy I took a split on my watch and saw it was at 21 minutes and some change. Holy cow! This race is going fast! I moved to the center of the swimming lane to get some clear water and avoid contact with other swimmers and kept on going.

Mile 2, however, provided a quick wake-up call. I was reminded that yes, this is the Bay Swim and yes, there are strong tidal currents in the bay. Note that if a swimmer is pushed out of the swim lane, defined by the inside edges of the north and south spans of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, the swimmer is immediately DQ'd and pulled from the water by the kayaks that line the course. The primary force to push you into the DQ boat is the tidal pull in the bay, which on this day was an ebb tide (flowing from north to south). Somewhere in the 2nd mile of this swim you enter the deeper shipping channel, in which the tidal pull is typically the strongest. So all of a sudden the southern span of the bridge was looming directly overhead, and I realized I had underestimated the strength of the current on this day and that I was dangerously close to a DQ. So, at this point the strategy changes from "swim fast and straight" to "vector upstream to get away from this bridge and avoid DQ". This, of course, is a colossal waste of energy. I fought the currents by swimming in a diagonal direction, sighting on the supports of the north span and trying to move back to the middle of the swim lane. Every time I made some progress, or at least thought I had, I'd look up to the right and see that bridge still looming overhead. At one point I saw the mile 2 marker, a giant orange buoy floating dead center in the swim lane. I was on the extreme right of the swim lane fighting hard to move back to center, and I set a goal to pass the 2 mile marker on the left. I missed by 30 yards. My watch reported a split for mile 2 of almost 33 minutes, over ELEVEN minutes slower than mile 1. That paints a good picture of the influence of the tidal pull on the swimmers in this race.

I had hoped that after mile 2, in my opinion the toughest portion of this race,it would get easier and I could settle back into a rythmic pace and start to make up some lost time, but it was another 30+ minutes of the same; fighting to stay off the south span and get through the currents. At the end of the third mile I was pretty much spent, and had accepted the fact that today was all about finishing without a DQ. The chop in the bay picked up approaching the eastern shore and I swallowed a ton of water.

I still held out hope that the 4th mile would get easier, but as the chop increased, and I swallowed more water, my pace didn't pick up much. The last sprint to the finish ended up being in water only 1-2 feet deep in places which further inhibited our ability to finish with a strong sprint. I came up to the finish line and miraculously heard my wife and kids calling me, I even spotted them in the crowd and gave them a thumbs up as I ran across the finish line.

After the race the swimmers milling around in the finisher's area all told the same story; Miles 2 and 3 kicked our butts. The ebb tide was particularly strong and caused fits for everybody, so I felt a bit better about my 2:17 finish (prior finishes are 2:20 in '04 and 2:05 in '05). I think that with a better tactical execution I would have done better this year, but I'm not too dissapointed with the results.
What would you do differently?:

I think I made a serious tactical error in the start of the race by moving into the center of the swim lane before knowing what the currents were like. This strategy worked well for me last year, when the currents were much less of a factor and wind/waves/chop were much more intense. This year, however, it proved to be a mistake as I was caught too far center and was never able to get back to a comfortable location in the swim lane and forget about DQ. Thus I expended too much energy swimming upstream and ran out of fuel too early. I probably should have hugged the northern span of the bridge as much as possible early in the race to position myself better for the onslaught of the tides.

Post race
What limited your ability to perform faster:

1. Tough conditions in the water. 2. Bad tactical decisions on my part. 3. training volume can always improve.

Event comments:

As always this one-of-a-kind event was well run and is a great experience. Hopefully I'll be back next year, thought the registration process is moving to a lottery style and nobody is guarenteed a returning slot without making a hefty donation by June 30th.

Last updated: 2006-05-08 12:00 AM
02:17:27 | 7744 yards | 01m 46s / 100yards
Age Group: 39/65
Overall: 195/416
Performance: Average
According to my watch: Mile 1 21:30; Mile 2 32:50; Mile 3 33:12; Remainder of race (1.4 miles) 49:00 These splits are not exact and the buoys were not necessarily accurately placed
Suit: sleeveless Xterra Vortex
Course: 4.4 mile swim across Chesapeake Bay, from Sandy Point State Park beach on the western shore to the marina at Hemingway's on the eastern shore of Kent Island. From the beach start swim about 300 yards then move under the Bay Bridge in between the north and south spans. From this point on the swim follows the Bay Bridge to the last quarter mile, where you exit from under the bridge and finish at a small beach in the marina district.
Start type: Wade Plus: Waves
Water temp: 70F / 21C Current: High
200M Perf. Good Remainder: Average
Breathing: Average Drafting:
Waves: Navigation: Good
Rounding: Average
Post race
Weight change: %
Overall: Average
Mental exertion [1-5] 3
Physical exertion [1-5] 4
Good race? Ok
Course challenge Just right
Organized? Yes
Events on-time? Yes
Lots of volunteers? Yes
Plenty of drinks? Yes
Post race activities: Good
Race evaluation [1-5] 5

2006-06-20 1:05 AM

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Subject: Chesapeake Bay 4.4 Mile Swim 2006
This race report is a bit late - we left for vacation immediately following the race.

Edited by econway 2006-06-20 1:07 AM

2006-06-20 6:18 AM
in reply to: #459786

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Dodge County, MN (out in the corn)
Subject: RE: Chesapeake Bay 4.4 Mile Swim 2006
Wow! I'm seriously impressed! That's one killer swim and you did great. Nice job!

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