**check your results here! (pdf download)
Looking for a cold water adventure to extend your open water season into November? This is it dude! With an air temperature that wasn’t quite 50 degrees and water temps hovering around 54-55 it was a special kind of cold that I hadn’t experienced before. I’ve swam in much colder water without a wetsuit, but the effect of piling cold air on top of things really makes a big difference! Although this is pretty crazy to most people, it was excellent experience for me and some of the things I have percolating in the back of my head for sometime in the future.
My whirlwind cold water NYC adventure started Friday night in San Luis Obispo. I hopped a plane to LAX and then a red eye to JFK. I landed a little after 7am having gotten not much sleep and hurried out to the street to hop in open water marathon man Dave Barra’s car. He was cool enough to come pick me up and drive me out to the swim which saved me a huge amount of city-I’ve-never-been-to stress. We got to Coney Island and the NY Aquarium way early and hung out in the room they had set aside for event participants. Since we had a while I tried to partake in a mix of socializing, helping here and there with set up (at one point I was pushing a generator on a dolly down the Boardwalk!), and attempting to take a mini nap. Somewhere in the middle of all of that I made a trip down to the water to dunk my feet and formally introduce myself to the Atlantic Ocean. That water burned pretty good… I guessed we were a solid 55 degrees which matched what was announced later in the day. While moving about I finally got to meet some swimmers that I had been wanting to meet in person. Suzie Dods was there (and ran the NYC marathon on Sunday!)… funny we both live in California and would meet for the first time in New York. And I met Mo Siegal as well who just did the Ederle swim amongst a big list of other huge swims this summer.
At 10:30 we got a pre-race briefing on the course and safety. Once it got closer to 11 we marched on out to the water. The good news is it was sunny, the bad news is it was still cold outside. Down by the start I decided to just embrace it. I stripped down to my suit and BodyGlided myself up and chatted with the other swimmers. I think we had upwards of 50-60 people participating and a good majority of them were going skins although there were wetsuits in the mix.
They lined us up on the beach and did a bit of a countdown to the start. As one would expect there was a little rush to the water and then most of us slowed down considerably as that water started hitting a little higher! I took my sweet time getting in as I am prone to do with cold water. I eased in and let the small waves get me wetter as I waded deeper. By the time I pushed off and started swimming for real I think there was only one person still working on getting in behind me.
To get started we had to swim to a white buoy and then hang a left to swim up towards Brighton Beach. I couldn’t see the buoy in the glare of the sun so I just followed green swim caps. On that first stretch to the first Orange buoy (there was one orange buoy on each end of the course) I was really doubting the wisdom of my decision to fly cross country over night and then hop into a really cold long swim. My body was burning and the wind across the top of the water wasn’t particularly pleasant. I’ll admit there was a little internal debate about the merits of just turning in at the one mile point (you could swim 1 or 2 miles or go for a full 5k). That idea wasn’t in any danger of winning out, but it was at least getting heard :)
As I made my way out to that buoy I was aiming for green caps again since I couldn’t actually see the buoy. I figured a lot of the swimmers in the water were locals and knew where things were. I gradually passed various groups of swimmers that got a head start on me while I was busy taking my time getting in the water.
Things really thinned out after the 1 mile marker where the majority of the swimmers turned in, but I still had some company around me. I’m not sure how many did each swim (1 mile, 2 mile, 5k) but a little less than 10 of us went the full distance.
As I swam out towards the pier buoy it felt like the current was working against me a little bit… once I swam around it it felt like it was going against me there too. Fun! A lot of other people said the same thing so it wasn’t just me. I saw someone stop a few times near me and I stopped just to make sure she was cool. I think she was just having a goggle malfunction. Since I was stopped anyways I grabbed my camera for a few quick shots. Before I got started again Mo Siegal came cruising through and made sure to say hello :)
Although I was definitely cold I was totally in control of it now. My only major worry was my left shoulder which has been giving me trouble. I could feel that it was pissed off while I was swimming, but the cold numbed it out enough that it didn’t really effect my swim too much. I just put my head down and ground out that last stretch to the other far end buoy. I couldn’t see it for a long time so I just guessed at where it was. I sort of drifted out a ways until I could actually see it. Once that orange ball finally popped up I readjusted my line and aimed for it.
The last leg of the swim was a blur. I was happy to be there but happy to almost be done. At the white buoy I made the turn home and swam it in. I stood up once my hand scraped sand on the bottom. Like I usually do I walked it in to the finish line because I’m not much for running. I was done around 1:45 which is slow for a 5k but given the cold and the current I think it was just fine. At the finish line I was greeted by Dave with a borrowed towel (I traveled so light for this trip that I didn’t have room in my backpack for a towel) and then some volunteers wrapped me up like a baked potato in one of those weird tin foil looking space blanket things. I didn’t really want it though so I asked to be de-baked-potatoed so I could just dry off. I was doing pretty well on the beach with just a towel chatting with some of the people down by the finish line. A lot of them were a little taken aback by my post cold swim not so coldness. I’m not sure how or why my body processes it so well but I’m glad it does. It did strike me as a good idea however to go get some dry clothes on. I walked it back to the aquarium and by the time I got to the boardwalk I had a bit of a tremor going from the wind blowing across me. It wasn’t a full blown shiver, but it was the closest I’ve gotten to one from swimming.
CIBBOWS is a fun crowd, I like them a lot. Post swim we had a room at the Aquarium to hang out and warm up. I got into some dry clothes and skipped the hot tea and coffee and found myself a beer. It was a pretty good idea. Once everyone was settled and cleaned up from the swim a bunch of us went down to Ruby’s Bar which is a long time Coney Island mainstay that’s being pushed out of it’s current location. I don’t know all the details but a lot of people are less than pleased with this and a large group of people were out to support them on what was looking to be their last day in business on the boardwalk.
After a couple of hot dogs we split and drove all over with Dave and Rachel. He dropped me off at Cristian’s house who was putting me up for the weekend. He was also the race director for the swim and a fellow nominee for World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year! We ventured out for some dinner at a Korean joint in his neighborhood and then I pretty promptly crashed out. After a red eye flight, a few beers, and a big long cold swim my body was done for the day! The good news was Sunday was going to include one more trip to the beach :)