Masters Results and News

10/4/15 - By Charlie Van Der Horst,  (click here for cool flyover of course)

Erik and I drove down Saturday afternoon in a rain storm just in time to hear the instructions for the required pre-meeting including how the race organizers would blow the whistle 5 times in case of lightning and try to get us back to shore somehow (we rolled our eyes at the word ‘try’ and ‘whistle’ as neither one of us can hear a thing with the swimming cap on). The oft repeated instruction was to hug the docks but avoid the barnacles and avoid the marshes with sharp oysters making it sound like we would be swimming a gauntlet.
Both of us were somewhat nervous. For me, this would be my longest race, having done only 3.1 miles in August. The race was also the most technical as we had to navigate between marshes, locating channels, under 3 bridges at high tide, and navigating currents and tide coming and going. Since I get lost when given 2 buoys and a straight line, I was sure, I would end up in Myrtle Beach, SC.
We slept pretty well, neither one of us waking the other with our snores or farts. We set the alarm for 5 AM wanting to eat at least 90 minutes before the 7 AM start. Downing my usual 2 packets of instant oatmeal and a cup of Best Western coffee, we drove 10 minutes to the Dockside restaurant in the dark.
There were 54 men and 20 women signed up for the 3.5 mile race and 28 women and 38 men for the 1.3 mile swim. All were milling about in various states’ of undress waiting to get their arms and legs marked with their numbers, in line for the portajohn, and drinking a last minute coffee or Gatorade. Erik and I looked anxiously out through the gloomy drizzle and dark from the upper deck, trying to discern where we would be swimming.
The start began on the dock behind The Dockside restaurant on Airlie Place Road; one at a time we crossed the timing mat and jumped or dove in. Feeling unsure about what pace I could do, I stayed at the back of the swimmers on the dock.
The water was cool but a perfect temperature for a competition. Assorted white yachts and gray wooden docks loomed over us under the cloudy rainy sky; the first bridge just to the left of the start. I deliberately tried to avoid my usual pitfall of starting at a sprint pace, settling into what I thought were strong smooth, long strokes with good rotation and reach but immediately started passing people.  In retrospect, I made the right choice in moving to the back on the dock as it meant that right up to the end, there was always someone I could sight and reel in, the swimming equivalent of road kill, passing 48 people in the process. After the first right turn under the Rt 74 bridge into Lee’s Cut, the shore and first buoy curved off to the right but the buoy after that was a straighter and shorter route. Ignoring the other swimmers far to the right along shore, I took the direct route, only to end up running into a green reed packed marsh. Erik had the same idea (only faster and sooner) than I and decided to just plow through the reeds with sharp ends scratching his chest and abdomen. Not realizing I could swim through the marsh, I decided to swim around adding precious minutes. Approaching the boat anchored at mile one, the current and head wind picked up blowing large masses of floating reed mats into me and slowing me down (keep head down and chug on). Shortly after I made a right turn into Banks Channel and swam under the second route 74 bridge.  Moving under the bridges at high tide was a tad eerie. On the approach, the distance between the water and concrete undergirding appears insufficient as if  I would be squished. Instead of my normal every 10 stroke sighting, I lift my head up almost every other stroke, not believing I’ll be able to swim under.
After the bridge I saw the mile 2 boat, bobbing in the current with a race helper handing out gels and Gatorade. Although, I didn’t need either, I thought I should practice for my Bermuda 10K by stopping, avoiding holding on to the boat, and drinking upright while bobbing in the waves. It was a little harder than I expected as I swallowed equal amounts of sea water and gel/Gatorade in the waves.
The race director had told us to sight on the water tower in the far distance while swimming in Banks Channel which I was able to do. Although I am not sure if the current was pushing me along, it felt like that and I settled into a nice easy pattern of breathing 3 on the left, 3 on the right, 3 on the left and lifting my head to sight. After the 3rd bridge, route 76, I made another sharp right turn into Mott’s Channel only to see a wide vista of marshes and open water ahead and to the left and the island with docks (and barnacles!) on the right.  There was a red buoy ahead on the right hugging the shore and a distant yellow buoy straight ahead next to what I later found out was an apartment complex called Seapath Towers with a possible more direct path through what seemed like a marsh or island. I stopped at one of the race boats and asked where I should go and the guide pointed toward the red buoy on the right near the shore. I headed in that direction and down what I thought was the channel only to realize that other swimmers were taking the straight path to the yellow buoy and I was swimming in the wrong direction. Luckily, I had some gas left in the tank and made a beeline,  determined to pass the 4 swimmers taking the short cut. I passed them and finished in 1:52:25, 18th among the 52 men and first in my age group; 24th among the 72 men and women. Erik finished 1:32:55 or 4th among the men, 5th overall. The winning time was 1:22:55. All in all, lots of fun and an event I’ll try to do every year.
For your enjoyment I also have attached a picture of the 1973-74 Duke Varsity Swim Team. I am kneeling in the second row, far right and Bob Crowder, is the 3rd one in from the right, same row.