Place: 243/602, 10/23 AG
This was my first Bay Swim, so I was extremely nervous. I am a strong swimmer, but I had never done an open water swim this far under potentially choppy and/or strong current conditions. I got a ride to Sandy Point State Park with fellow ABC (Annapolis Breakfast Club) folks and we arrived around 7:00. We claimed some picnic tables, then just chilled until packet pick up was ready for us. One of my friends drew me a diagram of the swim route so I could see where I would enter and exit the channel. Sometime between 7:30 and 8:00 they were finally ready at packet pick up. I got my packet, and there was some confusion for a bit as we tried to figure out why some people who were supposed to be in wave 2 had green caps and some had pink. We were reassured that since wave 1 all had red caps, we were, in fact, supposed to be in wave 2.
After packet pick up, all we could do was wait. Having been warned by the veteran Bay swimmers not to try and stop at the hydration boats (you won't want to start again), I was trying to make sure I was amply hydrated. I think I made 4 trips to the bathroom before putting my wet suit on at about 9:30. At that point, the pre race meeting got started. They warned us in the meeting that there was a current pushing towards the left, which should reverse direction around 12:15. Well, I certainly hope I'm close to finishing by then, so that's not really useful. Anyway, my strategy, since I am an equal opportunity breather (I breath to both sides) was to just watch and make sure I was staying between the 2 spans of the bridge.
After the pre race meeting, I made my way down to the beach to check out the water temperature. I was told between 70 and 74 degrees, depending on the depth of the water. 74 will be rather warm by the end of the swim in a wet suit, even a sleeveless one, but 70 would feel nice during the middle of the swim. The water itself looked very calm, so that was good. No chop to deal with. Well, sometime after 10:00 the first wave finally went off. I made my way across the timing mat with the rest of wave 2. I positioned myself to the left of the middle to minimize the sharp turn through the span. I had been warned about the chaotic start, but really, I thought this start was less crowded then
some triathlons I've done. Maybe it was because I hung back about 10 seconds to let the crazy race people get away. I had no intentions of racing this thing. I just wanted to finish! I started pretty easy, just hanging behind everyone until I cut into the channel.
Once in the channel, I tried to take it easy to make sure I had enough energy to finish. 4.4 miles is a long way to swim. Unfortunately, that strategy died a quick death when I quickly realized that that current they warned about in the pre race meeting was, in fact, strongly pushing me towards the left hand span. I got a nice close up of the numbers on the span before I got my bearing corrected. I was suddenly swimming at about a 45 degree angle, at which course I stayed until past the 3 mile marker.
So, now I was swimming harder than I really wanted, but I made it to the 1 mile marker without any further trouble. Round about there I passed my first red cap person. Then I made it to the 2 mile marker and the first hydration boat waaaay off the the right. Good thing I wasn't planning on stopping. From mile 2 to mile 3, it was just stroke, stroke, breath, stroke, stroke, stroke, stroke, breath, always making sure that left hand span wasn't getting any closer. After a long seeming time, I saw the 3 mile marker, but no hydration boat. Well, I'd been told I might not see it given the size of the channel. I didn't want to stop anyway. At that point, I started cutting over towards the right hand span as best I could, still fighting that current. I finally made it to the middle of the channel, lifted my head up to sight, and discovered the missing hydration boat anchored
right in the middle of the channel, directly in front of me! Great, I thought, now I get to dodge the boat. I kept cutting towards the right and made it over the anchor lines.
After that, I could see the 4 mile marker waaaay off in the distance. By then I could tell my fuel was starting to run low. My arms were feeling leaden and man was I hungry! The problem with swimming in cool water is that your body temperature doesn't rise and your appetite does not get suppressed (hence the infamous swimmers' appetites). I made my way slowly and surely towards that 4 mile marker and the turn past the right hand span. I could feel the water getting much warmer. As I passed through the right hand span, I could see the wall leading
to Hemmingway's. I had been warned about that last 800-1000 meters of the swim, and how it seems to take forever! I completely agree. All I could think about as I watched that wall on my left was how glad I was that there was no more current. I didn't think I could keep off that wall if there was one. I just kept my head down and kept stroking until my hand finally hit sand under water. I stood up and stumbled my way across the timing mat. I did it! I finished! 4.4 miles!
Will I do it again? We will see. I think, under normal circumstance, I would rather do Eagleman. Given yesterday's heat, however, I was definitely glad I did the Bay Swim this year!
Congrats to all Eagleman and Bay Swim athletes!