Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Juneathon Day 29 - Liberty Island Swim Race Report

The Liberty Island Swim was held at about 6PM on Friday, June 24th, 2011.

The timing of the event, I thought might have to do with the tide, but more importantly, the island is closed.
All of those Statue of Liberty tourists head on to their next patriotic adventure.

This Race Report will cover how I got to and through this race.

I was researching the English Channel swim, because, ya know, some day.
And I found this Manhattan Island Marathon Swim. 28.5 mile swim in NYC.
Part of the NYC Swim series.
They organize swims in the waters of New York to promote awareness that the water is safe.

I saw the Liberty Island Swim on their website and immediately fell in love.
For the distance, .7 miles, it looked kinda expensive at about $100.
No matter. How cool would that swim be?

You needed to qualify with fairly strict requirements last year.
My attempt, a Did-Not-Start for their Great Hudson River swim, left me swimming with disappointment.

But, they relaxed the qualification standard this year and as I mentioned a few weeks ago, I easily qualified with an indoor pool 1-mile time trial.
It was all set.

To the Island
I live about 2 hours from the Statue of Liberty.
My little brother, my kiddos and I left at about 8:30AM on Friday.
Arrived on the New Jersey side, Liberty State Park in Jersey City, New Jersey at about 11AM.

I had pre-purchased tickets for the Statue Ferry.

The tickets can also include a walk up the Statue's Pedestal which is the big, stone base.
If you're really special, and you book far in advance, you can also get tickets to walk up to her crown.

When I was a kid, that's what you did.
You went and you walked all the way up.

But, at a minimum, 9/11 terrorist threats and I'm sure other reasons have limited the lucky people that can take that trek.
In our case, we could not enter the actual statue. I only had ferry tickets.
That was OK. Sometimes, upon arriving at the island, you have to wait in line for over an hour to go into the statue. Would rather avoid that. Kids get restless.

If you were participating in the swim and leaving from the New Jersey side, you needed to take the official Statue Ferry.
From the New York side, you could take that same type of ferry, or a private charter boat hired by the NYC Swim group. Many people did just that.

Once on the Ferry, we first visited Ellis Island.
Along the way we saw a pirate ship.

I'll note that on both Ellis Island and Liberty Island, a small pizza and fries can feed 3 people and costs less than $10. We brought our own drinks, but they do have water fountains, also.

Ellis Island could be your entire day.

You can research relatives that arrived on a boat.
The Immigration Station, a really big building, on Ellis Island is a wealth of information within its exhibits.

We had to cruise through it because the kids don't like to stand around and read stuff.
Like stuff about the first immigrant to pass through, 14 year old Annie Moore of Ireland.

There's also an open field on Ellis Island, so we brought and played frisbee.
The wind onto the island kills a frisbee game.

We watched a 20 minute movie about immigrants.
You should watch it.

People so desperate for freedom.
Left their home with $5 and the clothes on their back.
Minimal possessions.
Traveled great distances just to get to a port.
Then to board a steamboat.
Packed on the boat like cattle.
The trip across the Atlantic took 1 week to 1 month.
With little food and drink. And sanitation.

All of that to escape the injustices in your home country.
To go to the new world.
To find fortune.
To find freedom.

If the entire state of Arizona today could just understand what America means to people throughout the world, maybe they wouldn't be such pricks to immigrants.
It's not like we "chose" to be born here.
It just kinda worked out that way.
And most of us Like the USA. Like it enough. (Note: I love the USA, best country on Earth.)

Something like 12 million immigrants passed through Ellis Island.
But as you may know, Just Arriving on the island didn't mean you would stay.
They could send you back. Or quarantine you.
Because you were sick. Because you were disabled. Because you were crazy.
Even back at Ellis Island, they really only wanted people that could make America better.
Probably not fair. Probably heart breaking. But still worth the risk.

Wow, enough of that.

2 hours later, we caught the ferry to Liberty Island.

You approach the island and everyone is in awe.
To see the Statue.

For the first 10 years. That statue was just glowing copper.
No green oxidation.
Imagine seeing that as you arrived in America.
Gives me chills.

Our arrival was slightly less symbolic.

First I checked in for the swim at the NYC Swim tables right in the main square.

They even had a big container of Vaseline sitting next to the sign-in sheets.
For those annoying, chafing armpits.

Then, we played catch.
Played tag.
Tried to look at Manhattan through those big binoculars that cost a quarter.

Took a ton of pictures of the Statue.

Her name by the way, as I told some swimmers as we waded for the start:
"Liberty Enlightening the World"

So what do you know about the statue?
She was made in France.
A symbol of the freedom that France desired. A political expression.

Her right arm and torch were the first parts to touch American soil.
Sent to Philadelphia for the Centennial Exhibition.
To drum up interest.
To drum up funding.

The Statue was originally raised in France.
But she was headed to America once we got money together to build that Pedestal.

So then she was dismantled, boxed up, and shipped over to America.
Reassembled and there she stands.

There's much more to that story, read about it some time.

About 1 hour before the swim, I changed into my tri shorts.
I still cannot believe they fit me again. Well, fit OK.

Of course every other guy swimmer on the island had the same idea.
And wanted to use the same bathroom stall. Just outside the gift shop. The handicap stall.
Took a while.

Normal visitors were leaving the island by about 5PM as the swimmers went to a pre-race meeting.
Goodles observed that the guy swimmers were wearing "little bathing suits." 

That was funny.
I could not hear a word said during the meeting but it probably had something to do with swimming.

Then, they herded us over to the dock.
There was the private ferry in the dock.

We lined up single-file by number. Do you believe we successfully did that?
I think there were 275 registered swimmers and maybe 250 showed up.

In line, we were issued timing chips, then we gradually filled the boat.
That was unexpected. I figured we would jump right into the water.
Being on the boat was nice as it had started to rain.
The sky looked worse than it really was, but the word "lightning" was spoken many times in fear.

Somebody gave the all clear and we started jumping/being-pushed off the boat into the water.

That took a while.
We treaded water for a bit.

I don't remember a countdown or gun, but we were off.

I got knocked in the face by legs. By arms. By waves.
It was great.

I managed 2 strokes per breath.
I was swallowing alot of water due to the waves.

I got hit in the left eye by a body or a wave.
My goggle flooded.
The water, unlike the pool or ocean, did not burn.
I quickly emptied the left goggle on the fly and pushed ahead.

My goggles flooded again so I pushed them on extra tight. Like suction cups.

Now as you expect.
I'm gonna recommend you do this race. It is heaven.
But be warned.
Every breath.
Every breath tasted like fuel. Like boat fuel and exhaust. Diesel.
I'm blaming all of the idling safety boats around the island.

That taste.
That was gross.
You could not escape it.
And there were 2 flavors. 1 flavor on the first half. A different flavor on the second half. Yuck.
You got used to it.

We swam counter clockwise.
First half of the race keep the buoys to your left.
Second half of the race keep the buoys to your right.

While swimming, you had a decent amount of space to yourself.
I was not being passed by many people. I was drafting and passing.
I try to be careful not to thwap other swimmers as I pass.

Cornering each buoy did get crowded.
I stayed near the buoy.

There was alot of support in the water.
This swim felt very safe.

This swim was difficult.
I was doing alot of work because of the tide.
1/4 of the way, my right foot cramped up. Thanks.
Not sure what that was about.

After each buoy, I'd pause and look up at the Statue. What a sight.
Next time I promise to swim with my camera.

At the halfway point you have to swim around a dock that extends far into the water.

I was way too close to the dock for my comfort because I stayed inside.
It worked out.

Ah, the second half of the swim.
Keep the buoys to your right.
Which meant, keep the island to your left.

I swam close to the island.
It was very well spread out now
At times, I had trouble finding other swimmers to make sure I was on course.
Well. You couldn't exactly get lost, but I do like to follow the pack.

Around the final turn.
This is nice.
My left arm, the inside arm, my hand keeps hitting seaweed.

Why am I hitting sea weed?

I hit the island.
The sea wall must extend out a little bit.
Too funny.
Just a little scratch.

So this is the final turn. The finish is ahead.
You are going to exit up a small staircase onto the dock.

I notice.
I notice my wedding ring slipping off my finger.
What a story that would have been. 
And my obituary.
Slipped the ring back over my knuckle. Whew.

My entire right leg cramps up.
It is now a club.
Thanks again.
I drag it toward the finish and give one final push.
It gets crowded again.

Out of the water.

Up the stairs.


We get a beautiful finisher's medal.

I find my kiddos.
We watch the remaining swimmers on the backside of the island.
HoneyBunny sprays me off with a hose.
Half of it goes in my mouth.

There is a BBQ on the island, but at $25/ticket, we pass.
Wait for the private ferry off the island.
First stop, New York.
We look out the window.

On to New Jersey.
The kids shred up the boat's dance floor. Nice touch.

New Jersey, we are back.

To the car.
Stop for dinner.
Home before midnight.
Long Day.

I'll be back next year.
My little brother won't. He hated the whole trip.
The kids will.
So many people asking HoneyBunny if she'll be swimming the island one day.
She just might. She's got a great backstroke at the moment. It is magical to watch her swim.

My arms, around my shoulders, they hurt the following day.
They had cramped up after the race. Very unusual.
I blame it on the effort to overcome the tide.

So this was a race report.
I was more than pleased with my time.

Finished in the top 50%. And I'm a triathlete. I don't kick. One day I would love to kick.

But for me this was not a race.

This Liberty Island Swim, not a race, was a dream fulfilled.
I am so thankful to have had the opportunity.

I'm also thankful to have Juneathoned today.
1 mile in the dark.

1 day left. Let's go.


Anne said...

What a great day! Congrats on fulfilling another of your dreams Mike!

Denise said...

ew, the fuel taste sounds horrible!!! i seriously get anxious reading your swimming reports. this open water business is not for me! actually going to practice in a lake this wknd, not looking forward to it.

you should have corrected her w/ the little bathing suit comment by informing her they are called "weiner bikiners" or "banana hammocks." yes, i'm mature like that.

Lindsay said...

loved the report. the race sounds so cool but i still have my ows complex. had to chuckle at goodles and the "small bathing suits". glad this wasn't your obit too :)

Anonymous said...

My favorite race report of yours, ever. What a great story: the educational info., the photos, the video, the personal anedotes. Everything, just great.

OK, except for when you give us a grandiose dose of the angst-yet-thrill of coming to America, immigrant dream come true... followed immediately by the mention of chafing armpits. Feeling of splendor, gone! HA!

Little bro hated the whole trip? You've got to be kidding me. Where's his sense of adventure? Too bad & at his age, too. Someday, he'll wish he had more stories to tell. You, on the other hand, will have plenty :-)