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The MIMS + 10 days

July 15, 2008

Ah Manhattan, a crazy busy city that was crazy hot and muggy.   Jane, Cathy and I arrived on Thursday July 3rd.  Cathy had a pretty crazy experience with the shuttle service and spent almost 4 hours in the JFK airport.  It was almost longer than her entire flight, while she was struggling to get the shuttle to actually let her on…Jane and I were taking a quick cat nap after the red eye flight.  Thankfully the Marriot had our rooms ready for a very early check in.  Thank you Marriot. 

Once Cathy arrived we headed down to the water front for lunch and then began walking around town.  I faded quickly and headed back to the hotel around 4pm to rest.  Jane and Cathy took the time to go through the US Sports Museum.  I really wanted to go as the US Women’s Sports Hall of Fame was there, but alas it was not to be this trip.  (Note:  One of these times I’m going to go to NYC and actually play the tourist.) 

Friday was mostly uneventful.  We had the swimmers meeting over at Governer’s Island.  The field of swimmers this year was amazing.  In the room there were probably 10 English Channel swimmers, at least 3 people who had completed the Catalina Channel, plus 4 previous winners of the MIMS.  Needless to say, I was pretty excited and intimidated.  Morty, the race organizer, went through the details and then we were all headed back to Manhattan.  My crew and I decided to hit Greenwich Village for dinner that night before the big fireworks.

We watched the fireworks on TV and out our hotel windows.  It was an incredible display.  One that after the grand finale I was off to bed to get ready for the swim on Saturday.

Saturday arrived sooner than I was ready.  Cathy and Jane had gone to meet the safety boat, as we connected about 20 minutes into the swim at Pier 11.  And I was off to South Cove to check in and get ready.  Again it was great to be around all the swimmers, plenty whom I’ve read about online or talked to via email. 

The kayakers started to arrive in South Cove and I quickly met my 2 kayakers, Tracy and Jack.  They were both in orange kayaks so I was hoping that would make them easy to spot while in the water.   I spent a lot of time before the start just looking at the water in South Cove.  I guess I was trying to determine if it looked as bad as I thought or if it wasn’t as polluted as I thought.  I think it was less even with the dead pidgeon floating on it’s back with legs sticking out of the water.  I made a mental note to avoid that bird for the start.  Yes there were odd bits of flotsam and jetsam, but nothing that seemed too out of the ordinary. 

We all started in the water at South Cove.  Man did the race start out fast and man were we all bunched together.  I spent the first few minutes worrying about connecting with my kayakers, but they managed to find me and we started on our way.  The water was a lot warmer than I expected at 73.  I didn’t think that I would really notice the New York skyline, but I did see quite a bit.  We arrived at Pier 11 before I even knew it.  There were Jane and Cathy on our support boat “The Sushi” with Captain George and John our observer.  I was glad to see them.  However, I noticed that the swimmers were all still really close.  It was time for me to get serious and race, which I think I sort of accomplished…until the Harlem river.  I made it through Hells Gate without much fanfare.  (Note: To those swimmers out there, yes this is a little bumpy but not nearly what I imagined).  Then I was headed against the current.  Not so much fun staring at the same building for a while.  My guess is that I was making about 0.5 miles an hour.  I just kept waiting it out as Morty said that the tide would turn, but “WHEN????”  It is about this time that I started to get what seems to be my normal headache.  I think I tweaked my neck while doing some funky sighting. 

Then there was the shoulder pain.  And shortly there after was the extremely foul mental attitude that I just couldn’t shake.  Let me go through my list of excuses right now “The water is too hot.”  “I’m tired” “My shoulders hurt” “My neck hurts” “When are we going to be out of the Harlem” “When is my feeding?” “I want to get out” “Damn is it hot! (note: Harlem temp 76)” “Stupid jellyfish”  There were a few others but they aren’t appropriate to print.  Every athlete and person goes through those moments when we just want to get out and be done with it all.  This apparently was my swim.  Thankfully I have a crew that won’t let me get within 10 feet of the boat when I’m in this mood.  Cathy, Jane and John kept me going despite the tears…oh yes there were a lot of tears.  Jane’s account to my mother and ultimately you all was very tame compared to the grumpiness that they endured.  I was very unhappy.

Cathy and Jane kept mentioning just push through to the Hudson and you’ll get a push from the current.  Ok keep on pushing Michelle.  When we reached the Spuyten Divel, 2 swimmers shot past me as if I was doing the doggy paddle.  Talk about bruising an already fragile (ok broken) mental state.  But I kept pushing and we entered the Hudson…where there was no current.  AWESOME!  Luckily the water was cooler than the Harlem.

I did what every athlete that wants to get out does at some point.  I sweared and told myself, just 1000 more strokes then see where you are at.  After 1000 it was OK 1000 more Michelle.  Jane and Cathy just kept supporting me as did Tracy and Jack from their kayaks.  (Note:  I owe a huge thank you to Tracy, Jack, John and George.  I swam my best, but you didn’t see my best side.  Thank you for staying with me).  Then Tracy and Jack peeled off at North Cove and I was to swim next to “The Sushi”.  I actually calmed down some after this.  Perhaps I’m just a bit more comfortable swimming right next to my safety boat and seeing my crew with each breath.  Or maybe it was the fact that I was about 0.25-0.5 miles away from the finish.  Either way I made it to the wall and I started to hear 2 of my friends shouting their heads off.  Which now when I think about it is really quite amusing.  Scott and Heidi had traveled up from Washington DC to see the finish.  And I could see them as the current pushed me along to the finish…finally some current.  I got passed by one last swimmer before ultimately finishing in 7 hours 55 minutes and 31 seconds.  Kris, the swimmer, asked me if I had fun.  Poor Kris got a sour response from me.  (Yes, mom I apologized later). 

I climbed out of the water and promptly started crying when I saw David Nagel, the official photographer.  To anyone out there, may you be blessed with an event photographer like David.  He is kind, caring, understanding and just a great guy.  He looked at me and said “I know.  I know.  But you finished.”  It made all the difference.

Scott became the very caring very doting friend.  “What can I get you?”  Do you need water, banana, cookie, pizza? What do you need?”  I kept responding that I was fine and just needed to get dressed and wanted to watch the swimmers come in.  I don’t think Scott quite understood that I could just be relatively “normal” after the swim.  I kept reminding him that I didn’t need to sit down as my legs didn’t do anything for almost 8 hours.  Gotta love my distance stroke without a kick.

After the swim it was back to the hotel for a shower and a quick change before heading to the banquet.  It was at the banquet that I found out that while I was hitting jellyfish and tree debris that my crew and kayakers were seeing quite a bit more.  According to the pilots there was a lot of tree debris in the rivers, more than in previous years.  Then there were shoes, trash bags, and one 3 foot tall Daffy Duck face down in the Harlem.  Apparently Tracy mentioned “It isn’t a good day when Daffy’s face down in the river.”   

The banquet was a really nice affair where we all talked about the day’s swim.  I came off lucky on the jellyfish stings as they restricted themselves to my arms, legs and stomach (dang the one or two that made it down my suit).  Some of the swimmers got them across the face.  I also found out that the Top 10 individual swimmers all finished within 30 minutes of each other.  Now that is a tight field.  I managed to place 9th, which isn’t where I wanted, but I did finish with in my goal time.  I guess with the crabby pants attitude that I had this all in all was a successful swim. 

I left the banquet around 10:30pm to head to pack as Jane and I were being picked up to go to the airport at 3am.  FYI – not the ideal traveling scenario.  I made it back to Portland in one piece with a pretty sore neck and left shoulder.  I spent Sunday resting and doing laundry. 

Monday the 7th, I was back up and at morning swim practice.  It felt good to stretch out.  I’ve been spending the last 10 days getting back into my swim and shoulder rehab routine.  Mostly I am doing very well.  I’m still recovering though as I couldn’t even make 6×200 on the 3:00minutes in practice the other day.  Oh well, it will be back soon enough.  Heck I’m off to Boston for the Boston Light Marathon swim on August 2nd so it better be back.

Thank you to everyone that supported me through the swim. 

To Jane, Cathy, John, Tracy, Jack and George – Thank you so much for making me push onwards even though it was the last thing I wanted to do.  Thank you for enduring the rain without complaining and staying by my side.  I couldn’t have asked for a better support crew, pilot, kayakers and observer.

People have been asking me “Are you going to do it again?”  I’m not going to rule it out.  The MIMS is an amazingly organized race with a ton of support.  The MIF, selection committee, volunteers, photographers, etc do an amazing job registering, selecting swimmers, and caring for the swimmers.  For this reason alone it is worth another attempt.  Thank you too all involved for making this such a great open water event.

PS.  I’m working on getting the photos posted….soon.

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