Open Water Swim

Open Water Swim

Post by Neal Henderso » Sat, 30 Jul 1994 06:14:11

    Last weekend, I went down to Sea Isle City Beach in New Jersey.
Friday night, I took my friend out and then carried him home 10 blocks
(great leg workout!).  On Saturday morning I went out for a nice run
along the beach, just before the rain started.  Then  the rain came
and I had a chance to watch the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon on TV
and practice my visualization techniques - pretty cool!  Greg Welch
and his wife Sian are a pretty studly couple if you ask me.  Finally,
the rain stopped and I got a chance to get in the ocean water and
practice some open water swimming.  I asked the lifeguard if he minded
if I swam out past the breakers and swam parallel to the beach for
about 200 yards.  He was pretty cool with it since I was sporting my
PSU LIfeguard shorts and had a wetsuit in my hands.  
    I don't know why I had brought my wet suit, but I had made a good
choice.  The water temperature on the previous days had been in the
low to mid seventies the guard told me.  With the rain and the storms
that had moved in, the water temperature had dropped to 58-62 degrees
- a little chilly by most standards.  After my first 200 yard pass, I
got out of the water and began to walk back up the beach for another
one.  I think that the water there was colder than any race I have
ever done including the past two races that I've done in Columbia MD.
Then another lifeguard came walking down the beach and he asked me if
I was doing the Sea Isle City 1 Mile Ocean Swim.  I asked him where it
was and when it started.  At 5:15, I began my scramble, for the race
started at 6:00.  I raced back to my friends house to get my checkbook
and keys.  I then raced down to 44th street to the registration.
    Approximately 400 people were registered for the swim and I got to
the start at 60th street 5 minutes before the start and quickly donned
my wetsuit.  The water was very rough and it seemed even colder than
it did before.  I estimated that about 1 in 20 people had a wet suit
on - those who didn't I pitied, but not enough to offer my suit.
Standing on the beach, I looked over to my left and saw a pretty well
built dude who looked remakably like Jeff Devlin, sans wet suit.  I
stared at him and decided to ask him if he was the real thing.  Well,
Jeff Devlin it was!! I congratulated him on his race at Powerman and
asked him how he was feeling.  He replied that he hoped that he made
it through the race without freezing - someone had told him that the
water would be in the seventies, so he left his wetsuit at home.  
     When the starter's gun went off, all 400 or so of us raced,
jumped, and dove into the frigid water.  I learned very quickly that
most of the people in this race had strong swimming backgrounds from
all the kicking that was going on.  Then we spread out a little bit
and began to battle the waves.  The format was to swim out 200 meters
or so and then swim parallel to the beach ~1200 meters, and then cut
straight in at the last buoy for the 200 meter return to the beach.
The waves and current made for a very difficult swim.  By the time we
reached the buoy to turn in my feet, face, and my arms were extremely
cold - anyone without a wetsuit on was pretty damn tough in my book.
     On the way in , about 40 or 50 meters from the beach I felt my
arm touch something very hard, definitely not sand.  It turned out to
be a row of telephone pole type pilings set up as a sea break.  I got
dragged across them by one wave until I managed to swim off to the
side of them.  I turned around and saw a few others run into the same
problem I had.  I finally made it to the beach - though I was 100 to
120 meters past the finish. I ran up the beach and through the chute
in 31:18.  Wasn't it last week that I swam a 26:30 at Tupper Lake, NY
for 1.2 miles??  I saw a purplish looking Jef Devlin up on the
boardwalk-he almost resembled Barney! I guess the cold water and rough
conditions took their toll on the field.  There were numerous boats
picking up the unlucky folks, and the ambulance line was too long to
wait in to check out my bleeding neck, so I grabbed a hot dog at the
finish line  and ran back down the beach to my car. Just another day
of training.  
            Neal Henderson
            PSU Triathlon Club