After a year of exile, I once again claimed a spot in the Great Chesapeake Bay Swim, the annual aquatic trek from Sandy Point State Park to Kent Island. I was really excited for the race this year because of my enforced absence last year, and the nerves kind of kicked in a bit the day before.
Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t really interested in helping me out. I’m a serious pansy when it comes to hot weather, and hot weather combined with really warm water temperatures in the bay (78 degrees! Holy crap!) combined to make the day a huge challenge for me. The first problem came when I failed to keep water with me during the wait for the first wave to start. I’d already sent my bag (with my water) off to the other side of the bay, so there I sat for at least 30 minutes in the heat, waiting for the first wave to get started. Then, after crossing the timing mats, the wait for the second wave dragged on and on… I was dehydrated before even getting in the water. The first 2.5 miles were terrible. I felt weak and listless and had no energy.
Due to the really warm water and the long wait on shore, I stopped for water at both aid boats on the course this year. That’s a huge change, since I usually trek on through without stopping at any. Around mile 2, the current really seemed to kick in, and a lot of swimmers were fighting to avoid getting swept under the southern span. I did my share of diagonal swimming until about halfway through mile three. I think the tide was turning at that point and bringing in some cooler water from the south. The water never got anywhere close to cold, but the temperature seemed to ease up from ghastly hot to somewhat warm, with a few fabulously cool spots that made me want to stop and tread water for a while.
By the time I reached mile four, the energy gel I’d tucked in my suit and the water I’d gotten at the aid boats had kicked in, and along with the cooler water, I was able to put in a bit more of a push. By the time I got to the turn out from the bridges, I was actually feeling somewhat strong and was able to sprint in to the finish ahead of another swimmer. I wasn’t happy with my time, but I’m glad I finished (the first goal of any open water swim), and that I was able to finish relatively strong. I also managed to place second in my age group and finish in the top 15 overall for women, so it really could have been a lot worse.
So, lessons learned for next year…and here’s hoping for water temperatures in the 60s!