Location: Bivalve, MD (20 miles southwest of Salisbury)
Date: May 3, 2009 at 10 a.m.
Distance: 3 miles
The Nanticoke River Swim served as my “long open-water swim” in preparation for the Chesapeake Bay Swim. Three Richmond-area swimmers and I made the four-and-a-half hour trek north. We stayed in Salisbury, the nearest town, a half-hour’s drive from Cedar Hill Marina. Check-in took place the day before the race, and the staff was cheerful and very helpful. While checking in, I watched some race entrants take a practice swim. Ah, if we’d only planned ahead!
At check-in, a race official explained to me that the race course consisted of a triangular loop. Each side of the loop was .4-.45 of a mile. After the mass start, racers swam about .25 of a mile alongside a rock jetty to the triangle, and completed two loops before swimming back to the shore.
After check-in, my party and I chose Zia’s, a local, family-owned pastaria, for our pre-race dinner. Our portions were generous and the service was quick and friendly. If you’re looking for an alternative to a chain before the Nanticoke River Swim, go here.
Take a look at this nifty Google Map to view the 2008 race course. (Swimmers in 2008 completed just one loop of a larger triangle with sides of .9mi.)
On race day, the water was a balmy 68 degrees. I was VERY comfortable in a sleeveless wetsuit. The weather was overcast; the sky was grey and a little drizzly. I felt strong during my first loop. As is often the case, the second loop was more challenging–and not just because my muscles started fatiguing. The current picked up and the water became choppy. Toward the end of the race, it felt as rough as the San Francisco Bay last summer!
I timed myself on each loop with my trusty Sportcount, and was astonished post-race when I compared my times from segments from triangle one with triangle two. All but the final leg of the triangle and my swim to shore were just 30 seconds to one minute different. In a distance event in a meet, of course, this kind of timing discrepancy would be unacceptable. In the open water, with so many variables, it can be a miracle. If you’ve never timed yourself at intervals during a race, I’d highly recommend trying it for the educational experience and pacing purposes.
I felt very prepared for this race, and was happy with the preparation from my training regimen of three to four 3,000-4,000 yard masters practices and one long swim per weekend. As I said, I got tired at the end–who wouldn’t?– but after the race, I knew that if I needed to, I was conditioned enough that if I’d paced myself properly, I could have done the 4.4 miles that day. That was a good feeling to have when my longest swim in 2009 was about 6,000 yards.
After posing for the usual photos for the papparazi before peeling off my wetsuit, I ventured over to the post-race party. Chips, burgers, and hot dogs were the only sustenance offered. As a non-red-meat eater, I was disappointed, but fortunately, I had a bag of Trader Joe’s Go Raw trail mix to sustain me until lunch in Annapolis.
I would definitely compete in this race in the future if I had less than 220 miles to travel to get to Bivalve. Because of the distance of the race and the water temperature and conditions, this race was probably the best open-water opportunity to practice for the Bay Swim.