The swim is the best thing in the world.* You’ll be divided into your waves based on your age. Your swim cap will be color coded to reflect this wave. After transition closes you have about an hour before the race starts. This sounds like a long time, but it’s not. You have time to use the porta potty one last time, take last minute photos, put on your wetsuit, pray, and stand in line.
What to bring to the swim start? You’ll bring your drop bag up, so anything you want at the finish goes in there.
Flip flops: these can be throw away shoes, shoes you put in your drop bag, or shoes strategically placed under a bench so you don’t have to run to transition after the run barefoot. Katie prefers to toss them because the last thing she needs is to have to worry about finding her shoes, getting them on her feet and running without falling while shuffling along to T1.
The start: you’ll start in waves of 15 every 20 seconds. As the wave before you starts, your wave will line up behind them on the barge. The further out you are in the water the faster the current will be. The current is your friend, but if this sounds scary, move closer to the wall.
Your time starts as soon as the foot bearing your timing chip leaves the barge. You can jump in the water feet first, or you can sit on the edge and scoot in. Since she panics a little in the water, Sirrah likes a nice relaxed scoot off the barge.
Whether you jump or scoot, as soon as you’re in the water, you’re moving. Like we said, the current is your friend; so 20 seconds later, when the next wave jumps in, you’ll be long gone. The Manhattan wall will be on your left and there are periodic distance markers painted on it. New Jersey is on your right. Don’t swim in that direction.
If you start to feel tired or freaked out during the swim, like Sirrah sometimes does, you have options. One option she used her first year was switching strokes- she actually swam on her back for periods when she needed to catch her breath (and no one swam over her). Another option is just to take a little break- tread water for a few seconds, breath in and out, look around, then get back to business. If you really freak out you can hold on to one of the many kayaks all along the course. You won’t be disqualified as long as you don’t use it to push yourself forward. The kayakers have the discretion to pull you if they think you’re in danger, so if you do hold on to one, let them know verbally that you are ok.
Get out of the water: The swim will be over faster than you think. Even Sirrah, swimming like half of it on her back the first year, finished in under 30 minutes. As you approach the ramp on the exit barge, KEEP SWIMMING. You want to basically swim till your belly hits the metal ramp. It’s a little crowded but there are lots of volunteers who’s job it is to grab your arms and pull you to your feet on the ramp. Use them. Don’t let your feet drag, cause guys, the Hudson is shallow here and you will touch the slimy unknown that lies beneath.
The swim exit is about .2mi from the transition areas. As you start to run there:
- Use the water hoses that are set up at the exit to wipe your face. You don’t want to run the rest of the race with a Hudson mustache.
- Start to take off your wetsuit. Our coaches recommend only taking it off to your waist because running with a wet, heavy wetsuit in your arms is unwieldy but running with it all the way on will get wicked hot.
*This is one of those mantras people, like Sirrah, who are afraid of open water have to repeat to themselves.