Here I am 3 hours and 34 minutes later, having made my way all the way around Harrington Sound in Bermuda last Sunday. I was down there for the Race Around the Sound, which gathered together over 150 off-island swimmers plus 75 or so Bermudians to swim a variety of distances: 800m, 2km, 4km, 7.25km, and my race, the full 10km (6.2 miles).
When I started swimming again with a Master’s group in Branford this past January, I hadn’t done any serious swimming since finishing high school in ’85. I swam a few shorter races this summer, 1 and 2 miles, but this was the longest by far.
We started at the Aquarium, which the kids later told me was really great, treading water behind a lane line while the outgoing tide pulled us back slightly. There’s only one entrance to the Sound, so other than at the very start there wasn’t any current.
Most of the race was close to shore, in a few places in shallow water above coral, though at the start and again at about the 6km mark we cut across deep bays. The water was clear and gorgeous. Lots of fish.
I felt good going out, but it was a very fast field — mostly former or current college swimmers, and quite a few people who compete in US National Master’s meets. I did not stay with the front of the pack.
For the first couple hours, I thought a lot about bouyancy and what swimmers call “feel for the water.” Things were feeling pretty good until after the second stop, at 4km to go. I took an awkward route to get into that check point, because I wasn’t quite sure where to go — it’s hard to see from down in the water — and the wind picked up a bit. I should have been feeling great — over half-done — but as I started the 4km – 2km leg, going from point to point on the south shore of the Sound, I felt sluggish in the water. The wind had come up and waves splashed my face whenever I breathed to the right. I didn’t have any doubt that I would finish the race — I wasn’t going to sink — but for a half-hour or so, I wasn’t cleaving the water as I’d have liked.
But the funny thing was, I got back into my rhythm. After the final check point at 2km, I felt strong, fast, fluid again. My shoulders ached, and my mouth was salt-dry, but I could turn over my stroke a bit quicker and got back some of my feel for moving through the water. It was a long haul up the west side of the sound, past houses and docks, but it was great to finish strong.
Soon I’ll be ready for another race. Maybe just a little bit shorter? Or I hear the Little Red Lighthouse swim in NYC is a 10km but with a current assist…