Thursday, 18 June 2009

Manhattan Island Marathon race report, 6th June

After arriving in Manhattan on Wednesday, Friday was spent a compulsory pre-race safety briefing on Governors Island. 5 hours of tedium ensued, although I am sure that the procedure for evacuating the Hudson River in the event of nuclear war will prove useful at some point in the future.

Race day itself – 4am start. Rocked up to Battery Park and put on loads of Vaseline and paced about a lot frowning. There were loads of Australians knocking about who have evidently done a lot more training than me and the scene generally resembled the set from Land of the Giants. NYPD turned up – they all have bad hair cuts for some reason – they proceeded to eat donuts and swear at the boat officials.

In the East River, mid-town with Rick, kayaker #1

7.15am the race finally got underway. Slight delay to the start – who knows why. The swimmers jumped in the water and the organisers swiftly removed the steps, hence ensuring there was no turning back. I was escorted by two kayakers and a boat. We hooned it up the East river (pictured above) with a strong tidal assist. The water in the East and Harlem rivers was pretty warm (64Fish) although it was considerably colder in the Hudson possibly due to the Atlantic. Swimming under the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges proved an immense experience.

Having passed the UN - no sign of Ban Ki-moon despite appeals for a wave - we entered Hell’s Gate. Three rivers meet and the currents are going all over the shop. It proved very hard to get through and 3 or 4 swimmers were pulled out. Thereafter the Harlem River – and the dead dog sampling began. I worked on the assumption that anything which touched me in the river was a dog. I did an Economics degree so wild assumptions come easily. 3 dogs encountered by the time we passed the Yankees stadium plus lots of bits of wood too.

In the Harlem River – drinking Maxim and appealing for pain killers

My crew did a tremendous job of preparing feeds and motivation. To swim for 8 hours, you have to drink a lot of Maxim, a carbohydrate liquid drink. It tastes awful, makes you vomit and destroys your stomach for at least a week, but is otherwise highly effective. I had 13 feeds in 8 hours and limited the feeding time to about 15 seconds each. You are not allowed to touch boat or crew whilst feeding and it’s actually quite stressful trying to take as much liquid as possible in a short period whilst avoiding swallowing river water.

Finally we cleared the Harlem River and entered the Hudson. This was the only time it got choppy and I recall having my left and right arms in completely opposite currents. We made it to mid-town on the Westside and I was cheered by thoughts of Ronan Keating. I finally finished in 8 hours 19 minutes and 44 second in 11th place (of 25). The Australia winner, John van Wisse, has finished more than an hour before and was looking unreasonably fresh - Australia won the men’s and women’s races by miles – not a good omen for the Ashes.


I would like to thank: Chrissie Thirlwell, Matt Jackson, The General, Nick Adams, The moo, Irene and Barrie, Cliff Golding, my parents, Otter Swimming Club, the German, Rick and Len (kayakers) and Swimtrek for all of their generous help

The competitions:
How many Deads Dogs are in the Harlem River?

The winner goes to ****David Blackwood who guessed 5 dogs****. The answer is in fact 3 dogs and a giraffe which is a visiting circus “dropped” in the river two years ago. NB - I am assuming a ratio of 1 giraffe to 2 dogs so David wins. The ratio may be ridiculous but so is the competition so no appeals please. Special commendation goes to John Weiss who’s estimating methodology was impressive but ultimately wrong– see here*. He wins some bonus onion rings

Why is Otter Lane 3 the Best?

Easy really – the answer is C – “’cos we’ve got the German”. ****Fiona Marshall wins a bottle of Veuve Cliquot and some onion rings****. Commendation to James Peaches for his critique of other lanes…apparently there are high volumes of dead dogs in lane 5 too (his words not mine, ladies). He gets some onion rings.


Finally – the small print. I am compelled to acknowledge that Conor Rowley is (presently) a better swimmer than me and that I will pay 75 quid to a charity of his choice. I can only say that he should get a job and stop messing about doing so much training

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