Category Archives: Chesapeake Bay Swim

Why is this woman smiling?

Elizabeth, somewhere in the middle of the Great Chesapeake Bay Swim.


Great Chesapeake Bay Swim video

A nice long GCBS video from 2008 to get you excited for 2010.  The Web site is for the medical practice of Dr. Tripp Bradd, a physician and swimmer.


And then there’s the other Bay Bridge swim

We’ve been thinking about some fun “challenges” for open water swimming (like the 50-state Life List, where you aim to complete an open water race in every state.  Yes, Alaska has one: the Pennock Island Challenge ((and by the way, if anyone’s swimming that this year, we’d love a race report!)).  Triathlons count too.)  I have 48 to go…

So here’s a challenge for the continent-spanning OW swimmers out there: we’ll call it the “Bay 2 Bay Challenge.”  Swim the Great Chesapeake Bay Swim and the Ti2Y 1.5 mile Bay Bridge Swim in San Francisco.  If you already have the GCBS under your belt, er, Speedo, there’s still time to put the Ti2Y on your calendar for ’09.

Here’s the details, from the race organizers:

5th Annual Ti2Y 1.5 mile Bay Bridge Swim
Saturday September 26, 2009

This challenging 1.5 mile course begins off the shores of Treasure Island and ends in San Francisco at Rincon Park. A swift ferry ride from the Port of San Francisco shuttles you off the coast of Treasure Island where the course begins. Swim parallel to the San Francisco/Oakland Bay Bridge and finish at Rincon Park.

This is the only open water swim on the Bay Bridge side of Alcatraz. Expect choppy waters around 57-64 degrees and amazing views of the San Francisco skyline. The numbers are limited to 400 swimmers so sign up now. Register at Any questions email

A few more details:

wetsuit legal? Yes, both wetsuit, and, for the bold and bare-loving, a “skin” category too.

qualifying swim or time required? No time required—but the organizers say this is NOT an event for a novice/first-time OW swimmer (cold, choppy waters and current to be expected).

USMS or USAT sanctioned? No license needed for this swim.

If you complete the Bay 2 Bay Challenge tell us your story!  Or heck, we’d welcome a race report on the Ti2Y anyway.

A video perspective of the Chesapeake Bay Swim

Thanks to Mary Ruppe and her production crew. Check out the race start. Why is one swimmer wearing a green cap? Watch this if you want a first-hand perspective of packet pick-up, the mass start, and the race finish. Mary, the second-place woman, made it across in 1:52 — an hour faster than I did.

Guest Post: Jonah Holland, Chesapeake Bay Swim 2008

Richmond’s own Jonah Holland raced the GCBS last year and wrote about it on her blog, Triathlonmom. It’s a real account of a triathlete competing in the Bay Swim for the very first time. I’ve posted the first paragraph below, but you can click over to Jonah’s blog to read her full account!

Race Report: Great Chesapeake Bay Swim 2008


I guess I should start in telling this story be telling you where my journey began. I’m not sure what year it was, perhaps it was 1983 when I was 10, or perhaps it was several years later. I read an article in The Washington Post. It was a first person account of swimming across the Chesapeake Bay — some kind of officially organized event…..The author described hearing this kayaker blow a lifeguard whistle repeatedly. The author/swimmer couldn’t figure out what he was doing wrong, was he breaking some rule? Going off course? Later he found out that the man swimming beside him was blind and was following the sound of the whistle to get across the Bay.

distance + speed = holy grail

As noted here before, I’m a newcomer to the world of competitive swimming. I entered my first swim race (open water–I have yet to compete in a pool) shortly after my 45th birthday.  On the one hand, this means that I don’t have the benefit of years of swim conditioning and competition behind me.  On the other hand, I don’t have to reflect back wistfully on lost glory and those good old days when I could really put up the times.  Instead, I can see a steady, if gradual, improvement in my swim pace since I began real training less than 2 years ago.  I swim three days a week, by myself (a master’s team would be nice, but none of the local ones fit my schedule AND location together), so fortunately I’m capable of a fairly high level of self-inflicted suffering.

However, without the benefit of coaching, I’ve struggled with the question of how to get faster while training for distance, since both last year and this year I have had the Bay Swim’s 4.4 miles looming in my future.  That’s a lot of 100 repeats.

So here’s a post from Alex Kostich at that answers just that questions:  How to Boost Your Swim Speed Over the Long Haul.  For my own purposes, I put aside the laughable notion, as suggested within the article, that I could manage even a single 100 at a 1:09 pace, and simply translated the numbers towards my own goals (which include, as I believe I’ve mentioned previously, a sub-25-minute pool 1650).

“This workout is a basic yardage-covering workout, with an emphasis on repeating 100 yards at a consistently faster time than one normally swims in automatic mode. It covers distance without sacrificing quality, and the repetitive nature of the main set provides ample opportunity to swim fast and maintain race pace.”

Here’s another good article, from, with a lot of good suggestions for training for speed over distance.  OK, and it does all seem to come down to lots of shorter repeats.

“Rely more on repeats of 200 meters and less. It’s one of the best ways to train effectively for longer races. Because you can hold a much faster average pace for, say, 15 x 100-meter repeats than for a straight 1500 meters, you train your muscles and energy systems to do what it takes to move your body at faster speeds for that distance. You also get less fatigued than if you tried to swim the same pace in longer repeats, helping you maintain consistency in your training. Finally, it’s much easier to maintain good Stroke Length (and train efficiency into your muscle memory) on shorter repeats.”

OK, so that means that for today’s distance-day swim (goal: 6750 yards) I’d have to swim… 34 X 200.  That’s a lotta repeats.  Um, I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Training for Chesapeake Bay Swim 2009

Caroline and Allison both made it through this year’s lottery to get into the 2009 Bay Swim, along with friends and fellow Richmonders Elizabeth and John.  All of us are relative newcomers to OW distance swimming–that is, all of us have taken it up within the last few years–and some of us are newcomers to competitive swimming in general  With the swim only a little more than 4 months away now, we’ll post some updates about how we are all approaching our training, plus discussions of other related topics, and then we’ll see how it all comes out at the swim!

Recently, we were discussing recovery food/beverage.  Ideally, after a long, hard workout, you want to put some kind of recovery food or beverage into your system right away.  But I know from experience that if I don’t have something with me at the pool, it’s easy for an hour or more can to pass before I find myself sitting down to my post-swim nosh.

After some experimenting with various possibilities, Elizabeth has settled on taking portable, aseptic boxes of chocolate milk with her to drink right after her workout (Horizon organic is good, and you can purchase it in multi-pack boxes at Costco, according to Elizabeth).  Elizabeth reports, “After drinking these consistently after all my workouts, I began to feel stronger and have been able to work out longer and harder before becoming fatigued.”

Allison favors Think bars following her morning workouts.

As previously noted on this blog, I’m partial to nonfat milk with Ovaltine and coffee (hot or cold).  In a recent issue, Bicycling magazine gave the thumbs-up to the value of milk and Ovaltine as recovery beverage.   I feel so cutting edge….

I’ve been lax about getting to my recovery calories within that desirable window of time, so I’m going to try to improve on that point, as I’m not recovering as well as I’d like.