Race Report: Manhattan Island Marathon Swim (Part 5)

I don’t really remember passing through Hell Gate and into the Harlem River. But there were signs: The river narrowed, the current slowed, the surface chop smoothed out, and the water was noticeably warmer (72-73F, compared to 67 in South Cove). Most of all, there was the taste. While the East River had been mildly salty (with the flood tide moving water from the Atlantic), and the Hudson would be distinctly sweet (with the ebb tide moving water from upstate), the Harlem had an altogether different mouthfeel. “Industrial” is the word that comes to mind.

The Harlem is a long, tough slog. The current – especially at first, and especially for the leaders – is slower. There’s nothing much to see, aside from the 13 bridges (more than I could keep track of). Most people are experiencing at least some fatigue, yet the entire length of the Hudson remains. At 7.5 miles, the Harlem represents just over a quarter of the MIMS distance – but at least a third of the time swimmers typically spend in the water. The Harlem is the least interesting part of MIMS – and therefore the toughest.

Here’s a typical view:

Photo Credit: Hannah B.

What about the race? How ’bout a Cliff’s Notes version:

  • Erica’s lead got bigger.
  • John caught up to Ollie, passed him briefly, but then fell back again. Ollie entered the Hudson in 2nd, followed closely by John.
  • I got passed by Miguel Arrobas, then by Miguel Suñer, and entered the Hudson solidly in 6th place.
  • Miguel S. passed Miguel A.

And the GPS snapshots for the rest of the Harlem (click to enlarge):

And the distances between each of the top 6:

2:00 – Rose (300m) Wilkinson (50m) Van Wisse (10m) Morrison (20m) Arrobas (45m) Suñer
2:30 – Rose (350m) Wilkinson (10m) Van Wisse (80m) Arrobas (65m) Morrison (80m) Suñer
3:00 – Rose (430m) Van Wisse (15m) Wilkinson (120m) Arrobas (70m) Suñer (35m) Morrison
3:30 – Rose (495m) Wilkinson (135m) Van Wisse (135m) Suñer (40m) Arrobas
4:00 – Rose (455m) Wilkinson (135m) Van Wisse (150m) Suñer (180m) Morrison

Close observers will notice missing GPS tracks for me at 3:30, and for Miguel A. at 4:00. That would be our kayakers making pitstops at the Columbia boathouse.

There’s not much else to say about the Harlem, really. One feed bled into the next, and one bridge bled into the next. I was in survival mode – I knew I was losing ground on the leaders, and my shoulders were unimpressed by the ibuprofen I just took. Nothing to do but just keep plugging away. If I ended up in 6th then, well, whatever. That was my seed ranking anyway.

Remember Rule #1 of marathon swimming: Whatever happens (within reason) — keep going. Don’t ever give up.

And remember Rule #1 of MIMS: Anything can happen in the Hudson.

To be continued…

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