I had a terrific experience yesterday at the 2 Bridges Swim in the Hudson River at Poughkeepsie. The event featured an afternoon start time, which allowed those of us from the city to catch a late-morning MetroNorth train from Grand Central. The day was gorgeous, making for a beautiful ride up, with the train tracks running along the east side of the Hudson. I always bring a book on the train, but I don’t think I read more than a few pages—mostly I chilled out and watched the river roll by during the hour-and-a-half trip up.
I got to Poughkeepsie on the early side, and ran into my friend and Iceland teammate Amanda in the train station. We made our way down to the river together (an easy 5-minute walk from the train station.) Once there, I saw race directors Rondi and Dave and a bunch of CIBBBOWS volunteers, and made myself helpful by helping tote drinks down to the registration area. There were already a number of swimmers gathered in the pavilion, seeking relief in the shade (the race coincided with a heat wave). Susan from Maine recognized me and introduced me to her teammates Kirsten and John, and I was happy to chat with them for a bit, and admire their very cool matching swimsuits. Maybe slknight will post a picture on her blog?
I checked in and got my number, enjoyed visiting with other swimmers and volunteers, and eventually changed into my suit and got ready to swim. Soon we all made our way down to the dock for the pre-race meeting and 3 pm start.
Poughkeepsie has two bridges spanning the Hudson that are located just 900 meters apart. The Walkway over the Hudson, now a pedestrian span, is a restored 19th-century railroad bridge. To the south, the Mid-Hudson Bridge carries car traffic. Yesterday’s 5K race started near the midpoint of the two, on the east bank of the river, and had us swimming 2 counter-clockwise loops around each of the two bridges’ easternmost stanchions (one loop for the 2.5k). Three buoys were placed in a triangle around each of the stanchions to keep us well away from them (something about a security zone there). The race was scheduled for the slack between ebb and flood, so the tides were changing from south to north over the course of the swim.
The race had an in-water start and an on-land official finish, though the race director requested that we honor our swim-finish order when exiting the water via the boat ramp. The race instructions were given right by the boat ramp, and while listening to them most of us swimmers were huddled into the little rectangle of shade afforded by a nearby building—it was a very sunny afternoon, with temps in the low 90s, and the swimmers in wetsuits especially were wilting a bit. I was very happy when we were allowed to enter the water for the start. The river at 65 degrees felt very refreshing. I paddled around a bit while waiting for the start countdown to begin. Near shore we were sheltered from the wind, but the flag on the pedestrian bridge was blowing stiffly, and Willie pointed out to everyone in our wave (all the 5k’ers) how the buoy we were to round before heading from the bridge was pulling northward on its anchor cable—not from the current, which was headed the other way, but from the wind—and that taking a wide berth to the south of it to avoid the cable would be wise.
Once the race started I stayed wide of the field, which stretched out pretty quickly. At the first bridge stanchion I saw my CIBBOWS buddy Eli, but after that I didn’t see any other swimmers much for the rest of the swim. Swimming north, with the wind, was easy—gentle swells seemed to just push us along—but everyone agreed that swimming south against the wind was harder. I enjoyed the bouncy ride against the swells as they broke over me, though, and appreciated the contrast between the two as I changed directions.
On the first lap I swam easily, and took in the sights—the church steeples rising from the town of Poughkeepsie, the bridges, the big flat barge passing by as I made rounded the Mid-Hudson Bridge stanchion for the first time. In the shadow of the bridges it was noticeably cooler. I did some backstroke in those spots, and admired their arching grace. The water seemed very clean and pleasant. About half way through the second lap I got my first taste of it and was surprised that it wasn’t salty—I’m so used to swimming in the ocean that the season’s first taste of freshwater came as a bit of a shock.
On the second lap I picked up the pace a bit, and especially enjoyed swimming aggressively against the chop on the backstretch. The swells made it difficult to spot other swimmers, but I decided that if there were any within catching distance now would be the time to go after them. (It turned out there weren’t, or at least not any I saw, but the faster pace was ended up being enjoyable for its own sake). I took a better line on the second loop—on the first I had swung out a bit wide out into the river. As I neared the last stanchion I could tell by my progress towards it that the tide had definitely turned northward. I kept near to shore on the final stretch so that I wouldn’t have too far to go in after rounding the finish buoy.
I stretched out on the last half-leg, and was enjoying the ride in with both the current and wind assist. As I was swimming the final stretch into shoreh, I turned over to do some backstroke, and caught sight of my friend Yuta making up ground quickly behind me, so I turned back over and swam honest freestyle to the finish, maintaining a few strokes lead. He was the first swimmer in my wave I had seen since roughly 500m into the 5k swim (I had passed by a few of the 2.5k’ers, who started after us).
We exited carefully on the boat ramp, assisted by CIBBOWS stalwarts Tom and Patty. On shore there were bunches of excited swimmers to chat with, and more swimmers coming in to cheer for. The sky clouded over for a bit and threatened a rainstorm, but it never materialized. Soon all the finishers were in, and it was time for dinner and awards at the lovely dockside restaurant after.
I finished up 10th overall in the non-wetsuit 5k, and 3rd woman behind Susan and Hannah. My TNYA teammate Charles won the non-wetsuit 5k overall. It was fun hanging out with everyone—swimmers, kayakers, volunteers—afterwards. I saw a lot of smiles, and it seemed like everyone had a good time. Kudos to Rondi and Dave for another exceptionally well-run event!