|| article archive
A Chesapeake Bay Swim Experience
Bby Jon Wood
Don, his wife Mickie and Jen and I all drove up together Sunday morning to
Sandy Park State Park for the beginning of the ride. Also, Jonathan Savitch
followed along in his car and later took pictures. We arrived at 8:15 am
and encountered a bit of a traffic jam getting into the park, otherwise
everything went smoothly. I had thought that we were swimming from west to
east, but were surprised to learn that we were at the start on the west
side. Fortunately, we had two non-swimming drivers for the two cars and it
wasn't a problem.
The start reminded me of salmon spawning and if I ever do this swim again,
remind me to let everyone else go ahead before I get into the water. I
kicked and got kicked more times than I could count in the first three
minutes of the race. Nothing terrible but mostly avoidable. My goggles
didn't leak a single drop the whole time, probably because they were
considerably warmer in the minutes before the swim, compared with the usual
0545 start time.
Jen, Don and I didn't wear wetsuits, and I don't know yet if Bill wore one. The
vast majority of the field wore wetsuits. I noticed one guy with bandages
along the back of the neck in anticipation of chaffing marks. Chaffing was
what I was trying to avoid by not wearing the wetsuit. I put lots of
petroleum jelly in my armpits. In some of my longer training swims I had
ended up with red marks there. There was a great T-shirt worn by some club
Don was telling me about. The front said "We're not leavin' till we're
heavin" and the back said "It's just one lap."
It was a warm day and the water was said to be about 70F. I looked up the
water temperature at 11 am yesterday on the web site. It was 70.7F. It
didn't ever feel cold, even though the water temperature varied quite a bit
from place to place. We had been told that there were two currents, first
from the left, then a placid portion, then a current from the right, but all
I really felt was the current from the left. In that first part of the
course, I found myself on the far right side, next to the pylons and in
danger of being pushed out of the course and ended up swimming at an angle
to make forward progress. We might have been working against a head current
towards the end. At least it felt that way.
For long stretches I was in the water all by myself. And then another
swimmer would come along and I would kick him in the head. Not on purpose,
you understand, but just by some application of Murphy's Law: "If two
swimmer are on the same 4.4 mile stretch of water one will kick the other in
the head at some point." Actually, I did this three or four times in the
middle part. At about a third to a half way across, I noticed that there
was a kayaker that seemed to be tracking me, and he stayed near me pretty
much to the end. Sometimes he was ahead of me, sometimes on the left and
sometimes on the right, but he never got very far away. Which was great,
because after not seeing any swimmers or boats for what seemed like an hour
it wasn't hard to believe that the course was really somewhere else. With
him I could believe that I was still in the race.
The view of the bridges from the water was simply spectacular. It reminded
me of a science fiction set with roadways that curved high above us and
disappeared into the mist. The left bridge was higher than the right, which
threw me off in my calculations of where between the bridges I was swimming.
You see, I thought I was in the middle, but as the left bridge got higher
and higher I was actually swimming to the right. And when the current
kicked in, I was all the way at the edge. I corrected and then found after
a while that I still was on the edge. That's when I started respecting the
current's ability to put me out of the race if I wasn't careful.
It really was a perfect day for the swim. I did end up with some good
sunburns across my forehead and my nose and on my upper arms, but no
jellyfish were mentioned. The water was pretty smooth at one or two feet
and only occasionally did I drink any water because of an unexpected swell.
Jen and Don finished within a few minutes of each other, and Bill and I
finished way later. I think I overtrained in the last week with 20,000 yards
through Thursday. My Reston 2 mile time was at a 32:30 min/mile pace and I
had had a good taper. Bill, on the other hand, didn't train at all and
simply gutted it out, the stud. Ed Pagett, who swims at the Mount Vernon
pool also came in two and a half hours.
We didn't stay for the awards ceremony, so don't know what happened there,
but one of my co-workers told me he saw last night some news footage of a
"mass of humanity" in the water.
I haven't found a date for next years swim on the web site yet. Anyone know
what the date will be?
back to top
Jon Wood is a member of Alexandria Masters Swimming, and swam the 4.4 mile Great Chesapeake Bay Swim on June 11, 2000.