View Full Version : Pensacola bridge swim / first 10K

February 6th, 2012, 11:40 AM

I'm looking for a first 10K swim to enter. Completing the distance or dealing with waves don't worry me, but the cold does, since I am a skinny runner type and I sometimes turn into a popsicle. So I was considering either Miami or Pensacola. Pensacola is preferable because it's within driving distance, but the web site for the event is not really updated. Most of the links aren't working, and the contact email bounced back to me.

Has anyone out there done Pensacola who could describe it a little bit? The race is May 20 this year--not sure if that's when it's always been held. Is this a good "warm" first 10K to choose? What about sharks? Is there current? Is the course well marked? Is there a cutoff time?

thanks so much.

February 6th, 2012, 03:23 PM
I swam the 10k here last year, was my first 10k, and first organized open water swim in a long time. It was the weekend before memorial day last year, same as this year. Since I had never swam the swim before, I presume that this is the norm.

The 10k is an out and back course, parallel to the 3 mile long US 98 bridge between Pensacola and Gulf Breeze. Whereas the 5k starts in Pensacola and finishes in Gulf Breeze, the 10k starts in Gulf Breeze, swims to Pensacola, turns around and swims back. Both races finish at the same time on the same beach behind the Bay Breeze Resort in Gulf Breeze. There were sufficient buoys to sight off of, and the buoys must be kept on the right. This puts you maybe 150 yards west of the bridge on the way out. You can swim closer to the bridge coming home, but I don't think that's the faster line. The turnaround point is a strange concrete structure near Pensacola, in the bay, that I've never found an answer what it actually is.

Last year, conditions were, in my mind, pretty close to ideal. The air at the start was around 75, and the water was about the same temperature. The water was glassy, and the only waves were wake off the support craft for the race. Because they were with the race, they were very polite and the wake was extremely minimal. I had heard that in 2010 there was some tide that pulled some people off course, but last year, if there was any, it was very minimal, as I didn't notice any. If there is a tidal current, it would be going across you, east if rising, west if falling, entering or exiting the bay.

There is a cutoff time, I think it's about 4 hours. If you have made it past the channel in the middle of the bridge before the cutoff time, I think they are more flexible, as there was a finisher listed at a 4:14 and another at 4:18. They have to be out of the way before the Coast Guard stops issuing the advisory about swimmers in the main channel.

Last year, there were 13 finishers for the 10k, so on the way out, there's a good chance you will be swimming by yourself. There were all skill levels, ranging from a winning time of 2:13 (Sean Ryan, national 5k champ), to the 4:18. I was fortunate enough to have someone off my hip up to the turnaround. On the way back, I started catching people swimming the 5k (the 5k started 30 minutes or so after we started), so it wasn't as lonely.

As for wildlife, I didn't see any. I learned after the race that the strange clicking noise I heard was dolphins, and apparently some of the SUP marshals saw them. I know that there are sharks in the gulf, I would imagine there are some in the Bay, but there weren't any problems with them last year.

I do agree that the race website isn't all that informative. I've had a lot of trouble getting information out of the race organization. However, I was very pleased with how the race came together last year, and I do know that they have started answering emails regarding the 25k swim that they are staging the 18th.

I think I answered all your questions, and may have rambled a bit. Let me know if you have any other questions.

February 7th, 2012, 09:02 AM
Thank you so much. That was really informative. The course setup sounds great. I'm a little worried about the temperature. I know 75 is warmer than most of the open water swims out there, but I still get pretty cold after a couple hours in 75, and a 10k would take me more than 3 hours, maybe closer to 4. I guess I need to figure out how to get tougher, because if I didn't get cold I feel like I could swim forever.

Anyway thanks for the info and I'm working on some colder swimming to see if I can improve.

Franco P
February 7th, 2012, 02:00 PM
I did this swim in 2010 and I believe the temperature was 77-78. It was not cold. There was a tide pushing you away from the bridge on the way back and very few stayed to the left of the bouys as the day went on. Overall it was an enjoyable, well run event. Really nice towels for awards (almost everyone got one) and a full lunch with beer. It is extremely convenient to stay right at hotel and walk down steps to beach for start of race. I thought the water was pretty clear and don't recall any marine life. I do remember seeing the dolphins the evening before the swim.

The cutoff was announced at 4 hours but we were told they would be reasonable with enforcement. Times were pretty slow from 2:25-4:58. Only 4 of 23 swimmers under 3 hours and one wore fins.

The only thing I would have hoped for was more support on the return. There were periods where no support was in sight and there was other boat traffic. I don't know if it is still the case, but in 2010 you could bring your own kayaker. I would recommend doing so if that is an option for you.

I would like to return some day to do this swim or the 25K. The water was beautiful and the swim is very reasonable but I would pay a lot more to have a kayaker.

Good luck.

February 8th, 2012, 07:26 AM
That's a great review too, especially the part about the food and beer. Great motivation. What hotel did you stay in?

I think for this year it says kayaks are required, but luckily I have someone who is willing. NOAA does show an average May water temp of 78, which I think is borderline what I could handle--fingers crossed it will be that, plus a warm day. But I'm sure there is also a possibility of getting the 75 degrees the other reviewer mentioned. Maybe working on my side is that it's been such a mild winter here in the south.

Franco P
February 8th, 2012, 05:05 PM
I believe the Hotel is now the Quality Inn Gulf Breeze. Formerly the Gulf Breeze Inn. This location was the start and finish for the 10K event as well as the packet pickup, pre-race meeting and luncheon and awards ceremony. It is nothing fancy but met my needs and had a decent restaurant.

February 8th, 2012, 05:41 PM
I believe the Hotel is now the Quality Inn Gulf Breeze. Formerly the Gulf Breeze Inn. This location was the start and finish for the 10K event as well as the packet pickup, pre-race meeting and luncheon and awards ceremony. It is nothing fancy but met my needs and had a decent restaurant.
That hotel information is correct. I didn't realize there was an awards ceremony, and took off too quickly to catch it last year. Good to know for this year.