Race Swimming

Boston Light Swim

On August 18, 2012 at 7:00 am I jumped into the water to start what would be an 8 miles, 7 islands, 1 swim journey. Last fall Mike K. came up with the idea of some of the Stiles pond Scummers doing the Boston Light Swim as a relay. I thought it sounded like a pretty cool idea. Originally it was going to be Mike K., Erin C., Jan D. and myself. Jan bailed on us because the water was going to be too cold! Just kidding Jan! It turns out that it was the day her son was moving in at college and she obviously couldn’t miss out on that. Karen L. another one of the Stiles Scummers jumped at the chance to freeze in the cold waters of Boston Harbor and take Jan’s place.

There were all kinds of swimmers entered into the event. Some had gone to the Olympic trials, others had crossed the English Channel and there was even another team from Stiles pond!

The Boston Light Swim is a tide assisted swim and it is import to start on time. That meant getting down to Boston by 5:15 for check in and heading out 8 miles on our boat to the start at Little Brewster island where the Boston Light house is. The night before at the mandatory meeting we were warned that any lightening could end the event before it even starts and that storms would be moving through early in the morning. Everyone was hoping they would stay to the south of us. When I checked my phone just as we were heading out to the start the radar did not look good at all, showing heavy rain coming our way. Thankfully we were not seeing any lightening that would have cancelled the event.

On the way out to the start looking back toward Boston you could see the rain coming down. It wasn’t raining by us yet though, so that was good. On the way out we decided that I would go first because I was going to drive the boat while Mike was swimming and we would have Karen and Erin swim in between us to give us time to dry off a little bit and be ready to drive. On the way out Karen casually mentions that she doesn’t do well on boats and needs to get in the water soon!! Uh oh!! I offered to let Karen be the first in the water but she declined and said second would be good enough. I think that was a relief to Erin because it delayed her getting into the water.

Let’s talk about the water for a minute. We were told the night before that the water temperature had been between 68 and 73 all week. Yeah, sure it was, it just happened to drop 5 or 6 degrees in one night! The official temperature after the race was reported to be between 63-64 for the entire swim.

Ok, back to the boat and the start of the race. The other thing we agreed on before the start was that we were each going to do 10 minute shifts. Why? Because Joe said do 10 minute shifts, duh!!

7:00 AM – The horn blows! I jump into the water. My first thought is “bullshit, this water is not 68 degrees”. I start swimming and for the most part I’m trying to calm myself down because I feel like I’m flailing about because I’m cold. After about 5 minutes I start to feel better and finally slow myself down and get into a little bit of a rhythm. Then just as I was starting to feel pretty good I see Erin waving me in. My first turn is over. Great now I can get warm! In my head I was thinking I wish I could swim a little longer now that I’m cold and used to the water anyway. I make my way to the back of the boat grab the ladder and Karen jumps in.

I’m pretty much freezing and shivering uncontrollably, not a big surprise really, but I thought after only 10 minutes in the water I wouldn’t have been that cold. I throw my sweatshirt on and wrap my large beach towel around me and continue to shiver. Mike is up next so while he gets ready I take over steering the boat. Erin looks at me and asks how was it, I lie and tell her it isn’t too bad. She knows I’m lying because I’m still shivering like crazy. Ten minutes later Erin is in for her first swim and to finish off our first rotation through the line up. In 40 minutes we manage to swim almost 2 miles! With the tide rising we were really moving as the race director had predicted we all would.

The water was relatively calm for an ocean swim and the rain that was on the radar never really showed up out in the harbor. The second rotation through was probably the roughest water we saw with a little bit of chop and the wind blowing the boat around a little bit.

We went through the rotation one more time and all decided that on our next time in we would go for 15 minutes at a time instead of 10. Actually my first 3 swims were 10 minutes and Karen was the first to start the 15 minute turn. At the pace we were going it looked like we would all swim only 4 times each.

As we closed in on the finish Erin would be bringing us in to the finish line. So as we got closer to the beach Karen and I jumped in to join Erin and finish together. Unfortunately Mike had to dock the boat and couldn’t swim in with us. Our official time was 3:13:24.

We ended up being the third team to finish. The first team was the other team from Stiles, finishing about 6 minutes in front of us. We gave them a pretty good run for the first half of the race, but as we passed under the bridge by Long Island they just pulled away.

Here is the path we swam

I had a good time and I would definitely do the Boston Light Swim again. Probably only as a relay because I don’t think I could last for 8 miles in the cold water and this year was considered warm! Thank you to Mike, Erin and Karen for including me on their team. It was definitely a great experience!

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