Yet another Great Chesapeake Bay Swim thread (newbie)

Hi all.  I have read several threads/blogs on the Internet (marathon swimming forums, slowtwitch), related to Great Chesapeake Bay Swim.  And will plow through the old ones here. 

Just starting my own, in case anyone has kind-to-newbie advice.

TLDR background:

I'm a smooth but slow freestyler.  Never been on a swim team (at all).  Signed up for the GCBS and "won" the lottery.  I am qualified (barely).  Requires a 40 minute open water 1500m swim.  And I turned a 38+ minute lake swim as part of a triathlon last summer.  

Want to build my distance speed so that I can complete the GCBS without getting yanked. I've read about "the current in the shipping channel" and "the pier of shame" for people who get pulled for not being fast enough.  

Not that freaked out by the distance or the open water.  I mean sure...they are absolutely non-trivial.  But still, once you're in the soup, you just swim.  I did several 5000m (continuous) pool swims over the holidays.  Tolerated it OK although goggles start hurting after an hour.  Definitely concerned about my pace though.  FWIW, I seem to swim faster in open water than the pool.  Despite sighting and all that.  Or maybe it was the race.  Hoping GCBS is easier for sighting...but presumably will be worse for waves and current.

Have a bum right shoulder (skiing dislocation, operation, dislocated again).  Very surprised I can tolerate swimming, but so far so good.  Been doing 2-5K since last summer.  No sprints, just down and back.  

P.s.  Completely new to Masters (signed up today).  Going to look into my local group.  And maybe a rec center private coach (seems quite reasonable).

P.s.s.  Also doing some running and biking (pretty light, knees bad too...but building up).  In between jobs so lots of time, but will need to reduce volume if I get staffed.  

P.s.s.s.  I'm not using a wetsuit.  Speedo city.

  • I did the GCBS once way back in the late 90s (I was on active duty in the Navy and living in nearby Severna Park, MD). I don’t know if things have changed over the years with how it all operates. But WRT to “sighting” in the GCBS, I didn’t really find that to be an issue at all. You get in the water at the state park adjacent to the bridge(s), swim a few hundred yards to the bridge(s), under the north, westbound bridge…then you swim between the two bridges across the bay. It’s like they’re big huge lane lines. When you get to the far side, you swim under the south, eastbound bridge, and into the marina where you finish. For me, however, being beneath those huge bridges was a little freaky.
    WRT to the currents — By the time I did the swim in the late 90s, they had already gotten NOAA and the USCG involved to predict the tides. I actually met the guy who originally established and organized the swim. He told me that the first couple of years he just ran everything out of the back of his station wagon. They had a few Coast Guard rescues when currents took swimmers well south of the bridge. But then NOAA got involved, and they were on hand to make minor adjustment to the start time right up to a few minutes to the start. I.e. they have a general start time set well in advance. A day or two before they might adjust it +/- by several minutes. Then the day of the swim they’ll make minor +/- adjustments. When I did the swim, NOAA had a booth set up there explaining the tidal currents in the area, and how they impact the start time. What was interesting to me was that as the tide is going OUT on one side of the bay, it’s coming IN on the other side. Likewise, there can be surface currents in one direction, and a current in the opposite direction at a depth of 10 feet. Anyway…they’re on top of all that to make it as safe as possible for the swimmers.
    With regard to the waves…like any open water swim the conditions can vary. I recall that the only really wavy part for me was out in the shipping channel. The waves were only 2-3 feet, but it didn’t seem “rough” per se. Before, and after the shipping channel it was relatively smooth.
    You didn’t mention where you’re located. But when I did the GCBS, living nearby, I got in with a local open water swim group. We did training swims for it in the Severn and Magothy rivers and tributaries. Those were some interesting swims.
    Good luck, and hope you have a great experience.
  • Thanks man.  My active duty days are well behind me.  Carried the CTs on fast attack subs though.

    I'm actually more worried about my base swimming level than the tactical aspects.  Looking into getting a coach.