Saturday, September 29, 2012

To the Lighthouse...and Beyond!

Last week at this time I was emerging from the Hudson River at Dyckman Street (aka 200th St in Manhattan) after a 10.2K journey up the river from 79th St. It was my longest continuous swim to date and yet it took almost 20 minutes LESS than my previous long swim of 4.4miles in the Chesapeake last year. The reason for that is due to the tidal nature of the Hudson River which is actually a misnomer as the Hudson is an estuary once you get south of Troy, NY near Albany. This means that I was not "swimming upstream" on Saturday, though a few people gave me crazy looks when I told them we swam south to north. I forget that a lot of people aren't as familiar with the rivers as swimmers are and this leads to a lot of wacky, entertaining questions from curious onlookers.
Back to the swim- I showed up early on Saturday morning to volunteer before the race because I wasn't able to help out at any other races this year, so it was quiet and empty in Riverside park as the sun lit up the buildings across the way in NJ. It was going to be a beautiful day, I could feel it. I helped set up the start area and kept busy with little chores until it was time to get myself ready to swim. I really enjoyed volunteering, even if my job was silly at one point (I was directing swimmers to pick up their chips, lest they should walk away without it) because it kept me busy and occupied all morning. The alternative would have been pacing at home and then getting nervous waiting at the start area, so I was happy for the distraction. Besides, the NYC Swim crew consists of really nice, fun people.
I managed to catch up with a bunch of friends before the race and talk about things other than swimming, which was a great way to spend the morning. Before I knew it, it was time to line up in the corrals and I had to wave goodbye to my buddies. Sally and I were separated for the start, she was in the wave right before mine and I was sad to be starting without her. We always swim together and so I spent most of the race glancing at the swimmers around me hoping to spot her. When it was our turn, my wave hopped in and treaded water for about a minute while Morty counted down. It was nice to be able to adjust to the water for a second before taking off, I like it much better than a beach start. There were only one or two dopes in wetsuits in my wave that swam on top of everyone as we made our way out to the first buoy, but everyone else was behaving themselves. Really, it is always the wetsuit folks trying to swim over me, I'm guessing they just don't feel it through the suit when they hit you. The water temp was PERFECT for a long swim, around 70 degrees and so crisp and clear. No one ever believes me when I say that the Hudson is clean and beautiful, but it was.
The start was smooth and before I knew it I was on my way up the river, picking off the buoys one by one. The only problem with the orange buoys was that my wave was wearing orange caps in the exact same shade as the buoys! When you are glancing up to sight the next buoy, the distant buoy is the exact same size as the person's cap ahead of you. It was impossible to tell the difference at times. There were a few rogue yellow buoys along the way which always make me think "shit, why is this one yellow? Did I miss something?" because the "turn" buoy in a race is usually a different color. It seemed to take a week to get to the George Washington Bridge, but the scenery was so beautiful along the way that I never got bored. I love swimming towards the bridge, it has been "my bridge" for 7 years now since we live a few blocks north of it and I run over or under it or past it several times a week. I could feel the current and wind pushing me along at certain points along the way, but especially as I got close to the bridge and its namesake little buddy, the Little Red Lighthouse. The water wasn't nearly as flat as it seemed earlier in the morning, but it was nowhere near as rough as it was during MIMS relay in August. I flipped over and did some backstroke under the bridge and even stopped for a second on the north side to hear the roar of the cars passing overhead. I love this neighborhood and being under the bridge was just another way to enjoy it. I know the west side "skyline" pretty well and was able to figure out where I was along the way for the entire race. As we swam past the bridge, I knew there was about 1.4 miles to go (or is it 1.2? whatever) and I watched for neighborhood landmarks along the way. I spotted the Pumpkin House peering out at the river from 184th St and The Cloisters peeking out from the trees of my beloved Fort Tryon Park. It was a fun perspective and looking for landmarks kept my mind occupied as I pushed further north in search of the finish. My shoulders and back were aching and  I was simply getting tired. I could see several buoys ahead, but one of the ones I was using to guide me suddenly started moving and I realized it was on the back of a BOAT. According to my hubby, some of the finish buoys had drifted upstream and had to be brought back by the support boats. The finish area was generally confusing, but that might be the result of exhaustion, and it wasn't entirely clear when to turn towards the finish. Unfortunately, the kayaks didn't direct us to turn soon enough and everyone seemed to be drifting upstream as we tried to head for the shore. That was really tough at the end of 6+ miles and it made me a little nervous because the alternative to swimming really hard for the finish was to smack into the rocks north of the finish line. Eek. Luckily, no one seemed to get hurt, but it was an unwelcome challenge after swimming so far.
At the end of the race I was all smiles, I swam 10.2 Kilometers! Wow! The quest for bigger and better things continues...

Post-race I had brunch with Sally, Rebecca (who swims with me at MPHC on the team) Dave and Chuck at La Marina, a new and "hip" restaurant at Dyckman St and the river. I remember waiting a while for my food and probably being cranky about it, but I'm sure it was good. The restaurant itself is pretty new, but it replaced and old restaurant that closed a few years ago at the same location. They've done some really nice work on the place and the location offers stunning views of the GWB and the Palisades. It was a nice place to sit and recover post-race. I was too useless to do anything but eat after all of that swimming. Quite possibly the best part about the race finish was that Sally, Chuck, Dave and I could WALK HOME! Yay! The only other time that happens is at the Coogan's 5K run.

So, if you're thinking about taking your swimming up a notch next year, I HIGHLY recommend looking into the Little Red Lighthouse Swim. It was a beautiful course, well organized, and really fun.
I managed to come in #135 (out of 299 entrants/284 finishers) in a time of 2:23! My original plan to come in under two hours was adjusted when Morty explained that the tide wouldn't be nearly as fast as years past, a point that was made obvious by the lead finisher's time of 1:48 (vs 1:20 in 2011) so I am more than happy with my time. I took it easy, pacing myself like I would for a marathon and I know now that I can tackle the distance and probably at a faster pace next time.