My "triple" race weekend (Chesapeake Swim, Part 2, long)

My "triple" race weekend (Chesapeake Swim, Part 2, long)

Post by Iron Pe » Fri, 19 Jun 1998 04:00:00

     I drove from Parvin State Park in NJ over to Annapolis, MD for my next
and the highlight of the weekend, the Great Chesapeake Bay Swim. This 4.4 mile
monster will answer some things about my swimming ability that the Ironman swim

cannot. In all the swims I've done, including the 2 milers in the pool as well
as both IM swims, I come out of the water very strong and feeling that I can do

another 2.4 miles. Is there a point in swimming when I can actually weaken? If
so, after how many miles?
     I had to drive across the Bay Bridges (the site of the Swim) to get to my
hotel. I was overwhelmed by how far it was from shore to shore! I was thinking
to myself,"Why the hell did you want to do this for? This is crazy!"
     On race morning I drove across the bridge again, with those same
feelings. We were to park in a Park and Ride lot on Kent Island
(the finish line) and get bussed back over the bridge to Sandy Point State Park

for the start. As the bus was crossing the bridge, several boats that were in
the water had that sickening rolling look to it. The water is definitely choppy

     I was amazed by the perfect organization of this race. First, the timing
the start is different from year to year and is determined by the tides. As
any river or bay or ocean for that matter, there is a tide cycle that happens
each day. In the case of the Chespeake Bay, there is a flood tide when water
rushes north into the bay, and an ebb tide when water rushes from the bay,
into the ocean.The local NOAA office regularly checks the tide cycle and it's
relationship to weather, shipping, etc., and gives warnings if the need arises.

The organizers of the race depend on the NOAA to give the time where the tide
at its minimum (between the flood tide and the ebb tide is an interittant
with little or no tide, called the "slack tide"). They then determine the start

of the race so that slack tide hits when the bulk of the swimmers are in the
middle of the Bay. In this case, it was 10:50AM. At this time, a weakening
tide will great the stronger swimmers.
     Another example of perfect organization? The "Armada". It was called the
"Armada" for a very good reason. Just the sight of all those boats in the Bay
enough to understand the name. This is the only time in the Bay that the
shipping lanes are closed and in order to make sure that no ships slip by, a
blockade consisting of several Naval vessels was used. Closer to the swim
course, about 50 or so smaller motorized vessels plus a whole slew of canoes
kayaks were there to assist in the safety of the swim. Even if you were willing

to drown, you couldn't do it here!
     There were two waves in the race, with the slower swimmers shoving off
first. They also had cutoff times; they stop the swimmers who fail to make each

mile marker every 45 minutes (the countdown starts once the second wave shoves
off). I was placed into the faster wave (I guess 53 minutes for an IM swim
me "fast").
      The course was well was the Bay Bridges. For those of you who

haven't seen the Bay Bridges before, I will give you a brief description. It is

a "twin span", or 2 bridges, each bearing one way of traffic. The bridges
themselves look like an engineering marvel, allowing 2 lanes of shipping to
underneath. The west end of the bridges are steel suspension, like the Golden
Gate bridge, while the eastern end bears a steel structure, like that famous
bridge in Sydney. And it's a mind boggling four and a half miles long! The
course was between the two spans all the way to the end, then veers out the
south side, along a jetty and finally to shore.
     About an hour before the swim I met Sea Williams (Sea2river), an RST
regular who was also
doing the swim. He's done this swim 5 times prior to this, and he stated that
these conditions are the best he's ever seen in this race (water was 67
degrees, sunny weather). I was also
looking for Eric Weiss, but for some reason or another wasn't present for this
    Well, the gun went off...and I was swimming right for the first trestles of

the bridges. It took about 5 minutes to get there, but once in, I hugged the
northern span for a bit since the bridge did curve a little to the left at the
beginning. At about 10 minutes after getting between the spans I found that I
was having a blast! Damn, this was fun! I kept behind a swimmer in the
beginning, staying in her draft until my stroke started to come together.
     I finally get to the western shipping lane at the mile 1 marker. Right
here, the water got choppy.
When the stroke is going well though, I can stay on top of those waves, and
actually make them help instead of hurt. Stroke, stroke, stroke...get to the
other side of the lane. At beginnig of the second mile I saw the first aid
aid stations in the water! I've never seen this before! I pass by without
stopping. The water in spots does get a little calmer in between the shipping
lanes, and since I need to exit out the south side, I needed to edge myself to
the southern span. This was not an easy feat. Apparently, the "slack" tide
hasn't been reached yet, and I needed to actually fight my way to the southern
side of the bridge. I figure I'm out toward the front someplace, since all I
are the different colored caps of the first wave. At the 3 mile mark, I reach
the eastern shipping lane of the Bay, still pretty much strong...until I reach
the end of the lane.
     From then on, the waves got big...REALLY BIG! And I discovered the truth
about staying on top of the waves in the beginning. It takes a lot of energy!
Energy that is starting to diminish on me. Instead of finding myself on top of
the waves, I am being crushed by them at this point. I discovered also that I
was not completing my stroke. Once I realized this I corrected my stroke, but
required concentration to maintain it. A couple of people also passed me by
After what seemed like forever I finally made it to the end of the spans and
out the south side for the last 0.4 miles to the finish. Once out, the waves
instantly dimished, giving some strength back into my stroke. With the shore
in sight I caught a second wind and swam nicely all the way to the finish. I
up, nearly fell as the *** rushed out of my head, and ran up to the finish
with a smile on my face...1:39:06. That was good for 50th place overall and 9th

in my age group. I sat around, chatted with a couple of people, watching the
swimmers as they leave the shade of the bridges and making their way over the
final leg to shore. It was an amazing sight! It was just a unique race crossing
the Chesapeake Bay. What a great experience!
     I left for home about 2 hours later
wandering if I would do this race again. I also had some painfully delicious
thoughts of another race that I might be doing several years down the road. Can

I actually do it? The thought of me doing a double-ironman is fiction right
but I admit that the seed has been planted. When it will germinate is the
lingering question.

Next up, the anticlimatic 5k (I promise, it'll be very short. <g>)
"Iron Pete" Priolo        +--------+
                          |26      |
IMC'96: 10:36:37          |   Fe   |   '98 IMC, GCT, BSLT
IMC'97: 10:42:53          |        |
                 "THE BEST ELEMENT OF RACING"


My "triple" race weekend (Chesapeake Swim, Part 2, long)

Post by Stewart Co » Sun, 21 Jun 1998 04:00:00

Great report Pete, I felt like I was in the water with you. Luckily for me,
I wasn't. Four miles of open water just seems sooo long.

Thanks -- Stewart Cox

Great race report snipped.