4.4 Mile Bay Swim 6/12/05
For an early riser, a 10:30 AM start seems like an eternity. I actually added a few minutes to my estimated finish time just because I didn’t want to wait until 10:45 AM for the “faster” wave. This was the third time at the 4.4 miler for me. After a go at the one miler in ’02 I decided that I liked open water swimming and was ready to go for the 4.4. This year, I made my way across the bridge around 8:00 noticing the chop and blasting Vital Idol all the way.
I’ve learned from years past not to try to get there too early. I got there, hopped on the bus to go back over the bridge for the start at Sandy Point. I saw Bill “Jellyfish” Wheeler just as the bus started to head out of the park-and-ride. I was tempted to climb across the isle, the other swimmers on the port side of the bus, open the window and yell “Hey Jellyfish”, but thought better of it.
The first year I didn’t think to bring food. Like most swimmers I’d never gone two more than two consecutive hours without eating in my life, much less while I swim. I was ready to chew my arm off about the time we got started. Luckily, I had some vanilla gue stuffed in my wetsuit sleeve which I ate at about mile 2. It tasted like a friggen three course meal. So, when I finished that year I was very pleased to discover that there was a TON of food. I ate way too much too quickly and was pretty sick on the ride home that year.
This time I ate a good breakfast before I left (Cheerios and orange juice) then ate a banana and drank Cera Sport & water in the car on the drive down. I brought a muffin and PB&J to eat while waiting. I didn’t bring enough water. Last year they had water and sports drinks at registration. This year they were on the other side of the beach and I didn’t hear about them until I’d already filled up my small water bottle several times. No biggie it’s the same water I drink at home (I think).
I found a few nice people to chat with while waiting, so time went pretty quickly. Deciding against the super-sized muffin, I downed the PB&J and several bottles of water. After a long pre-race meeting (got hot standing in the wetsuit) it was finally time to get down to the beach for the start.
This year, I decided to try something new. The plan was to start as far to the right as I could get, swim at full sprint straight out to the end of the rocks, hang a right and go under the bridge. I figure this cut off some distance, but the main advantage was that there would be no one to kick or ram in to me. If you start to the left you have to make your way across everyone starting to the right (if you are at all fast) and you get hit from the right, behind and in front.
Starting to the right worked out great! It was hard to tell with the chop, but I think I was out in front for a while. I knew there was no way that I was going to keep that pace for the entire event. I slowed and targeted the first guy that passed me for drafting. It worked for a short while, but between the chop, my swim mechanics (head down is faster), and the visibility in the water it was very difficult to draft. Beyond the protection of the jetty’s and making my way towards the eastbound span I could really start to feel the current working against me. I added a bit more kick to compensate and headed east and sighting the 1 mile buoy.
Quick comment on strategy and tides: You have to stay between the two spans (except for entry in the beginning and exit at the end) or you get DQ’d. The current in the bay depends on the winds, and tides. As the tide goes up, water is pulled in from the Atlantic and the current flows north, as the tide goes down, the water is pushed out and the current flows south. In between is called slack tied, and there is relatively no current. The swim is timed so that you start off against the current, then reach the shipping lanes at slack tide and then finally get pushed out towards the marina when the tide is going down and the current flows south towards the finish line. The winds were from the south so this would create (in addition to the chop) some current pushing us north during slack tide.
My strategy was to stay to the right (eastbound) span until slack tide then move to the left (westbound) span at slack tide and finally let the current push me out towards the finish. Last year I tired this and must have gotten the timing wrong, because the current pulled me south when I got to the shipping lanes. I had to swim directly against the current (I know everyone says don’t do that) to get back to the middle then fought it all the way to the end.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch: On my way to the one mile mark, I kept trying to draft, but kept getting tossed by the chop either ending up on top of the draft “victim” or completely loosing track of them. I swam past next to the first buoy and had the presence of mind to hit the lap button on my watch. According to review mode that was 00:22:08.81 (148 heart rate) either that was damb fast, or the buoy was close. I’ll go with damb fast for now.
The next mile around the bend of the bridges was good until I realized there was no food stashed in my wetsuit. I had left it in my bag. No biggie I saw the food boat. Yes, the food boat! I thought they were just kidding about it the first two years because I was too distracted with the whole swimming thing to notice. The nice man on the food boat gave me a banana and cup of water. This was at mile 2 and 00:34:36.65 (163 hr) according to my watch. It didn’t feel that slow, but maybe the food boat cost me more time than I thought.
With a recovery and some new energy I scrambled down the center. I felt better about my navigation this year and, except for the diesel fumes and chop, it was very pleasant. At this point in the swim you feel like you are out there on your own. The spans are at their max height and the swimmers are spread out enough that you don’t see any other swim caps unless you really look for them. I didn’t see the mile 3 buoy until I was right up on at 00:29:09.73 (163 hr).
The next stretch is painful. You think you are done because the road comes down pretty close to the water and you are just slogging through the water progress feels pretty slow, the bridges get closer together and I started to see some people from the 10:45 wave pass me. The rely cruel thing is that the numbers painted on the bridge pylons go down to about 40 but then start over at like 53, so it’s hard to gauge when you need to get out. Finally, I reached the fourth buoy, with a split of 00:35:40.21 (146 hr). I started looking for the exit. I saw it and the swimmer pack started to get dense again. I had a few run ins but nothing that serious. I got back into my grove and didn’t see the exit buoy until I rand directly into it. After untangling myself from the rope I turned 90 deg heading out to the other side of the jetty.
After looking up I could swear it was further off than years past. Resisting the urge to stand I kept in my groove, breathing on my left so I could see the jetty. I thought of all the yummy food at the finish and kicked it into high gear.
I stood up ran out to the timing mats and the race was done! I made my way up the beach and saw my parents at the finish line (just like high school swim team). Dad gave me a towel I hugged mom.
The food was good. My best time so far. Ahhhh.
Out Of 621
First Name GEOFFREY
Last Name MATRANGOLA
Winning Time for Your Division 1:29:24