Stage 6 was everything that I thought it would be and everything that I thought it wouldn’t be. The water was warmer then what I thought it would be, which being from Arizona is somewhat of a relief. Even though you train in cold water whenever you can the water can heat up pretty quickly once the heat comes into the triple digits. My husband looked up the temp at one of the piers that we had passed and it said that the water temp was between 67 and 70 degrees. The water was rough and choppy. I have swam in rough water during my Catalina Channel crossing but that was the ocean and a much wider body of water. This water is obviously more narrow and when the wind whips across it, which it was doing all day, it creates one hell of a chop. That’s when you really have to rely on your swim training and just focus on getting a good catch each stroke, keeping your head down and just allowing the waves to bounce you around. The more you fight the quicker you will tire.
The beauty of this swim is that you have a very wide range, in speed, of swimmers. Alice Ma, from San Jose, CA, and I did a relay and once we got past the thrashing of the beginning, we ended up in the middle of the pack, if that’s what you can call it, as everyone is pretty spread out. I was first in and since Alice and I were a relay, we weren’t on the main boat that took the rest of the swimmers to the starting point underneath the Tapan Zee. Your heart pounds as you realize that this is what all those early morning swims were for and when they say go it’s not like in a triathlon where you can get swam over or kicked as swimmers jockey for position, it’s put your head down and look for your kayaker who are very skilled at getting next to you and steering you down the path of least resistance. Our kayaker was Jim Marcinek. He was amazing. He always reassured us that we were doing excellent and had to wave me over to him several times, as I was starting to drift too far away.
In the middle of the swim the wind did die down just a smidgen to give you a reprieve in how hard you had to swim. The end of the swim is by far the sweetest as you you feel the shadow of the George Washington Bridge and keeping swimming until you know that you are just beyond the bridge itself. I’ve done many swims but knowing that you made it to the next bridge after being tossed around is an amazing feeling of relief and prideful satisfaction of conquering the 15.7 miles. Our finish time was 4:38:24.
Most swimmers don’t do relays for this swim and you may wonder why we did. Well I had torn my rotator cuff in my right should several years ago and the doctor was able to repair it but informed me that it couldn’t take 8+ hours in the water and if I tore it again then he wouldn’t be able to repair it. So relays it has been. I would highly recommend it as you get a chance to view New York from a different perspective then the other swimmers. Granted some would say that you have the opportunity to get a break and you do but with the wind blowing you are doing your best to stay warm so that your muscles don’t freeze up on you, sometimes being in the water the whole time can have it’s advantages.
The saddest part about this swim was the loss of Charles Van Der Horst. I didn’t know him personally or have a chance to chat with him but from what I read this man was an amazing researcher who contributed a lot to the advancement of HIV/AIDS research.
I will be back another time to do stage 7 as it was cancelled. So, Alice and I were unable to do it.
If you have the opportunity to do one stage or several stages I would highly recommend this swim. NYOW is very professional and it is well organized. The goody bag is one of the best that I have ever received.