Greg Walsh

A blog since 2002

Big Swim

Monday June 17, 2002

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Short Story--On Sunday, I swam the Dodge Great Chesapeake Bay Swim. It was 4.4 miles of rough, choppy water underneath the Bay Bridge in Annapolis. My time was 2hr56min, which was about 4 minutes faster than my goal time. I was 549 out of 581...doesn't sound that good except we started with around 650...70 some people dropped out. The winner of the whole thing was something like 1hr 25 minutes...he swam 19 minute miles...whew doggy.

Long Story--I was in the first 300 people to go. When the horn went off, it was 300 red capped people running into the water at once all headed for two giant beach balls--our first waypoint in the swim-- before we started under the bridge...total anarchy. I was kicked and grabbed and kicked some more before everyone thinned out.

When we got to the 1st waypoint, we could see the painting barges under the bridge. Supposedly, they've been there for three years. Not a problem unless you count the rusty anchor wires that come off them into the swim lane. The water started to get really choppy and I was getting pulled back towards land due to the flood tide.

A little past the one mile mark, it was like swimming at the beach. Everytime I went to take a breath, a wave would break in my face making me swallow the tastey Chesapeake Bay water. I saw people stopping and raising their hands, the signal to be pulled out by one of the 100 boats that were there for safety. It got pretty scarey but I kept moving until I hit the 2 mile mark.

The race director said that there would be a boat at the halfway point with food like crackers, nilla wafers, water, and bannanas. I was getting so hungry thinking about this oasis in the middle of the race, but, I never found it. Luckily the tide turned to a slack tide meaning it wasn't moving in either direction. I had about an hour of this before the tide would shift and begin pulling me out to the sea side.

At mile three, I was beginning to get tired and my shoulders were getting sore. I was alternating breathing on both sides but it still hurt. The waves picked up and it was frustrating again. More waves breaking in my face, but now there was a lot of sea spray from the wind and the waves making it harder to see. Everyonce in awhile I spot someone else swimming near me.

So I finally get to mile 4 and see two beach ball down the way. That's where I'd have to manuever under the bridge and avoid the pylons that were on both sides. The tide wanted to push me under the bridge before I was ready to go. Did I mention I was tired? Once I got through the bridge, I could see the shore and the finish line. That started the hardest ten minutes of my life.

There was a point where the current was really strong and I wasn't, so, I began to get pulled out of the race lanes for a little. I had to really try hard and started swimming as fast and as hard as I could. Then I heard a kayacker yelling "Left!!! Left!!" I popped my head out of the water and there was no more land, no more bouys, and no more finish line. I momentarily freaked until I turned 3/4 of the way around and realized I had somehow got all discomboobulated...yes that's a word. I started heading back to the finish line and I just wasn't moving. Ten minutes of paddling, breast stroking, more paddling while my shoulder muscles burned from overuse in the waves and my stomache was growling because I was so hungry...

I finally reached down and felt ground, stood up and walked/hobbled to the finish line while my fans and other people were cheering. The guy said "Great Job!...under 3 hours"... I moved up the line, a little disoriented from not walking for three hours and I saw all of these people with doughnuts. A table filled with chocolate doughnuts! And right next to it, a table filled with Subway turkey subs! That's how all always remember the Bay swim...2 hours of waves, 10 of the longest minutes of pain all culminating in chocolate doughnuts and turkey subs.

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