Race Report: Manhattan Island Marathon Swim (Part 3)


I set off around the Battery at a relaxed pace – giving myself a chance to warm up and see how things sort out. I figured I’d try to stay on Van Wisse’s heels for a while (he started just to my left), so I was surprised when he fell behind after a couple hundred meters, out of my field of vision.

The first few minutes of MIMS are typically chaotic, as kayakers attempt to hook up with their swimmers while the field is still compressed. The GPS tracks aren’t reliable at this time because the kayaks (which carry the transponders) may or may not be next to their respective swimmers. Thankfully, Terry O’Malley (paddler for Michael Gregory) shot some video from his kayak of these first few minutes:

Like Rashomon, unexpected insights arise from different perspectives. For example, the video reveals that Ollie Wilkinson, not Erica Rose, was the first swimmer to pass the yellow buoy marking the exit from South Cove. A few notes, with corresponding timestamps:

  • 1:14-20 – Just ahead and to the right of Terry is my paddler, Ilene Levenson – in the red cap with the big ‘6’ on her back.
  • 1:16 – The race begins.
  • 1:24-30 – The three swimmers closest to the camera are, in order: Michael Gregory, me, and John Van Wisse. You can see Ollie Wilkinson already with a bodylength lead and, further toward the top of the screen, Erica Rose in 2nd.
  • 1:45 – Ollie is the first to pass the yellow buoy, followed by Erica (1:45+), me (1:47), and John (1:47+).
  • 1:56 – I take a left breath and notice John already falling out of my peripheral vision. That’s interesting, I thought. I am feeling smooth, controlled, and “light” in the water.
  • 2:03-16 – Notice John’s distinctive choppy stroke (79 SPM) in the middle of the screen. I’m about a bodylength ahead of him, closer to shore, stroking at 66 SPM. Ollie and Erica are now 2-3 bodylengths ahead of me, at the far right edge of the screen.
  • 2:20-3:00 – The camera pans to the trailing swimmers.
  • 3:03 – “I gotta go to the bathroom!”
  • 3:25-40 – A closer view of John VW.
  • 3:50-4:00 – Camera pans toward front of pack. Me… Ollie… Erica.
  • 4:00 – There’s Ilene again!

The video ends 2 minutes, 49 seconds into the race. At 10 minutes elapsed time, the leaders are approaching the Staten Island ferry terminal. Here’s the orientation of the top 6-seeded swimmers, according to the GPS tracks:

1=Van Wisse. 2=Wilkinson. 3=Rose. 4=Arrobas. 5=Suner. 6=Morrison.

The tracks at this point show me slightly ahead of Ollie, but I’m almost certain I was on his heels. This is probably an artifact of our kayakers’ locations. The distance between Erica and Miguel Arrobas (#4) is 107 meters. Miguel Suñer (#5) is “off the radar” here because his kayaker/GPS was, for some reason, up ahead near the Brooklyn Bridge.

We will soon be entering the East River, where a 3+ knot current will shoot us up toward Hell Gate with astonishing speed.

To be continued…

10 thoughts on “Race Report: Manhattan Island Marathon Swim (Part 3)”

  1. Congratulations from your Tampa Bay boat crew of Pat and Michael!!! Another great finish and an amazing swim. Best of luck as you prepare for the Catalina Channel swim as we will be closely watching that race too. Standing by for your 2012 Tampa Bay return and title defense should you be that crazy or Michael says he is up for being on your relay team and is good for at least a mile and you can do the other 23! Congrats again!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.