Monday, July 7, 2014

My account of MIMS

Sorry this is so late getting posted. I had really bad internet service on the East Coast. 

Saturday, June 28th, 2014. Manhattan Island, New York City. 

MIMS 2014 group 2
I was up by 4:00 a.m. to get ready and be at pier 25 at 5:20. I was surprisingly calm and had slept surprisingly well, even if I did get to bed much later than I had hoped. We arrived at pier 25 by taxi at 5:30 a.m. I went to check in and panicked, because I had forgotten ID. When putting on a suit and gathering up all of my swim gear, ID is not the thing I think to bring. Fortunately my parents were crewing for me, and looking the their IDs and and the family resemblance, they told me I was just fine. Whew. As everyone was checking in and getting ready, I was able to meet some really great swimmers from all over the world. The marathon swimming world really is a small world. I had heard stories about various swims that people had done, where crazy things had happened, and now I was able to meet some of those people. After all the crews had been loaded on the boats, one of the Irish guys suggested that we take a picture with all of the swimmers right before we loaded into the zodiacs that would take us to  Pier A for the start of the swim. 

The 28th was scheduled to be a slow current day and to get windy in the late afternoon, so there was a big push to start the race early. We ended up jumping in the water at 7:30. The first thing a bunch of us said to each other was, "Wow, the water is so warm!" It was between 70 and 73 depending on the section of the swim.  On Friday during the pre-race webinar, we were told that there were not enough kayaker volunteers and that they would need 4 volunteers to just swim with a support boat and no kayaker. This is what I have always done, so I volunteered. So, while most of the other swimmers kayakers found them and helped lead them around the southern tip of the island, I just started swimming, trying to stay in the crowd and follow some of the other kayakers. It seemed to be going okay, but then I noticed that I was a lot further out in the middle of the river than all the other swimmers. I veered in a bit and kept going, hoping that my support boat would find me soon. They eventually found me about 20 minutes into the swim. The boat captain was not used to being a guide and was just used to being a support, so he would switch whether he was on my right or on my left, sometimes he would go in front or back of me, and occasionally he was nowhere near me. This made it difficult for me to tell where I was going. I was having to spot a lot, and try and follow other swimmers and kayakers. I was really frustrated with this. By the time we reached Brooklyn Bridge, I was in last place. The current in the East River was so fast that we flew up that in about half an hour. The problem was that some of the swimmers had gotten to the Harlem River before the currents and tides had changed, so they had spent half an hour swimming in place. It was here that I caught up to the first group of 8 swimmers and stayed with them all the way to the end. 

Passing Yankee Stadium
The Harlem River was really warm, 72-73 degrees and not salty at all, unlike the East, which had been a little salty. For the first section of the Harlem there was a current going against us, so it was incredibly slow going. There was one point that I got a little frustrated, because the building I was watching as I was breathing to the left continued to be by my side for 10 minutes or so, and it was not a huge building. I felt like I was not moving at all. I wasn't the only one, no one was moving. Finally the current changed a bit and we were swimming in still water. There was not really any current helping us, but at least it was not pushing us backwards. There were a couple sections of the Harlem, where I ran into  so garbage and gross stuff, but that was really only when the race officials would move us right by the wall. As long as we were a little further out, it was fine. I was right with another swimmer the entire time my feeds were always about 3 minutes before his and he would pass me on my feed, then a few minutes later when he was feeding I would pass him. This went on the entire length of the Harlem. I lost him in the Hudson, so I don't know where he finished compared to me. I got a little frustrated in the Harlem, because it was much longer than I thought it would be. It looks so much shorter on the map, but it never seemed to end! Finally in the last mile or two of the Harlem, during one of my feeds, a kayaker came up and said that the guy he was paddling for brought his own, and now had two. He had just noticed that I did not have one; would I like him to paddle for me. "Hell Yes!" was my thought. My support boat had been telling me to go every-which-way, and I was really tired of it. The swim went much more smoothly and faster once I had a paddler! Thank you Sam Nicaise. 

George Washington Bridge
The final stretch was the Hudson River. I swear there was a mile section right as the Harlem came out into the Hudson that the water was 75 plus degrees. It was so warm on the top that as my hand would go deeper when I was pulling I would think, "Oh, that feels better, I wish it was that cool on my face." George Washington Bridge is huge and it seems to take forever to get there. There is not much current in that area, but I felt like I was moving along pretty well. I would think, "Okay, on the next feed I will be there." This happened for 3 or 4 feeds-it took forever! 

About halfway down the Hudson my crew and paddler told me to sprint. They said there were 3 swimmers in front of me that I was gaining on and if I really pushed it, I would catch them. So I started sprinting. I kept sprinting and 2 hours later I finally passed one of the swimmers. My crew kept shouting at me to push harder. In fact, I got really pissed at them. They could see how close I was to catching another swimmer, so they decided to let me keep pushing and not waist time with a feed. I could tell they skipped one feed, and thought they might have skipped two. I had gotten pretty good at telling that half hour time period. My stomach was hurting, because I was so hungry. My mouth was dry and the water was by now really choppy. I kept thinking,"You get in this damn water and try and sprint without anyone letting you have any food, you little piece of S***! I can't push it harder if I don't have any energy!" Finally I stopped and told Sam I couldn't sprint anymore without a drink. That helped. About 45 minutes after that I saw that 20 feet in front of me was another swimmer. I really picked it up even more and I passed by him only a couple feet away. I continued to get further ahead of him and finished about 500 yards before him. The chop was pretty awful for the last 2 hours. Some of the time I couldn't see Sam, even though he was only a couple of feet away. I know I swallowed a bit of water here, and it was not particularly pleasant to swim in. 

The finish at Pier A
 For the last hour of the swim I was watching the Freedom Tower in front of me on my left. I knew the finish was right by that, so I just had to get there. It was really neat for the last little bit to see all of the people watching and cheering us on from the pier. Finally at North Cove, Sam turned off, and I knew I was really close to the end. I pushed even harder, following the seawall until I saw the big orange buoy floating in the water right where we started at Pier A. I sprinted the finish and whacked the buoy. The first thing I heard when I finished was a little gong thing and  someone shout, "Number 9."   I finished 8th of the 23. 

I swam out to my support boat, and road with my crew back to Pier 25. My uncle, aunt, and cousin were there waiting and said they had watched my swim past them. I skipped out on the massage and dried off and got straight on the shuttle to the the restaurant, where I found Sam my paddler to sit next too. 

I have completed my Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming goal and I am really happy to have done it. There were 4 of us who completed the Triple Crown in this group as well as my training partner Gordon Gridley who swam in the first group of MIMS. I am sure there are a few others too. I was the 87th person to complete the Triple Crown. I am always asked which of the three was the hardest. The answer is that they are so different they are hard to compare. All of them had their own challenges. For me, the English Channel was probably a little harder than the other two, because it was my first big open water swim. 

I am planning several more swims for the future. Right now I am looking to do the Cook Straight next year and the Straight of Gibraltar with Gordon in 2016. 
Triple Crown! 

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