Marcia Cleveland Manhattan Marathon Log
Manhattan Island Swim Journal - 1996-08-01
Boat: Miss Risse Pilot: Scott Woodie
Kayak: Richard Clifford
Crew: Mark Green, Terry Tyner, Kira Dale
Observer: Robert Makatura
Photographer: Ricky Flores (Gannett)
Log of Events, as recorded by Terry and Kira Marciaís comments are in italics
The first time I considered doing this swim was during the 1995 race, as I was swimming against the Current in the lower Harlem River and being passed. I wondered at the time what I could do if I swam around Manhattan with the start time set to favor my ability so I would catch the optimal tides. Fifty-one weeks and hundreds of training miles later, I found out.
Mark and I checked into a Manhattan hotel around 4:30 PM on Wednesday night and were eating dinner by 5 PM. Soon thereafter we went to sleep, at least I tried to. Mark had no problem but I was wide awake until about 8:30 PM, thinking about what was about to transpire in the next few hours. Although I wasnít as anxious as the night before the Channel, on both occasions I just wanted to stop the clock for a little while. This past year had been very difficult for both of us: 30 weeks of construction on our house and several months trying to furnish it, Markís new job which involves a lot of international travel, the Blizzard of Ď96, plus the usual stresses and strains of day-to-day living. I had established my own training regime and stuck with it for the most part. Now I would see if it worked.
We had set the alarm for midnight but the phone rang at 11:34 PM. Scott Woodie wanted to let us know he might be as much as a half hour late picking us up at Pier 11, due to thunderstorms.
We got out of bed at midnight and got the last minute equipment together then drove down to Pier 11 where we met Terry around 1 AM. The whole scene was surreal - a cool rainy night on the lower East Side piers. Robert and Kira showed up around 1:15 AM. I felt fairly calm since I knew that everything we could control was taken care of - the other variables would somehow fall into place. But as the minutes ticked by and Scott still wasnít there, I started to feel anxious because I didnít know how long it would take us to get from Pier 11 to 96th Street, and then to get ready for the start.
Scott showed up around 1:35 AM. We were loaded and gone in 5 minutes, zooming north in the East River. I joked that this would be the speed of the boat when I would be swimming in the East River. The shoreline looked so bright from all the lights and came as a relief.
We arrived at the 96th Street Wall around 2:05 AM; Richard was waiting for us, with assistance from our friends, Kirk Rundhaug and Carolyn Janeisch. The kayak was quickly lowered into the water and I started to peel off layers of clothing to get ready to swim.
When we were parked at the wall, I leaned over the side and put some water in my silocone bathing cap, getting the effect of "pasting" it to my hair. This was one of the few mistakes I made during the swim: this cap slipped around my head the entire swim and I played with it a lot. I should have worn a latex cap; it would have fit more snugly and securely.
By 2:13 AM, the boat was at Mill Rock. Robert and Kira started greasing me up using Vaseline and latex gloves. I received the usual liberal dousing under my arms, around my neck, under my suit straps, between my legs. During this time, my light stick was pinned to the back of my suit. Mark confirmed the course with Scott and synchronized watches with Terry. The minutes were cruising by rapidly but everything was set; I only shook a little bit. Iím actually glad that I didnít have a lot of time to sit around and look into the ink black water and worry.
Mark gave me a 10 second countdown, starting at 2:19:50 AM. I jumped into the water with 2 seconds to go and started swimming exactly on time. I was very apprehensive at first about swimming in the dark but within 5 minutes, nestled between two very competent pilots, I was comfortable and calm. Doing a night swim at the end of June proved to be enormously helpful at calming me down in the darkness.
My strategy for this swim was to go for it from the start. I wanted to get as much mileage under my belt (suit?) as quickly as possibly. Mark and I agreed before the start that I would be allowed to know how I was doing time-wise, if I asked. For this swim, I swam only about 20,000 yards the week before and did not swim at all for two days before it. In the months before, I averaged 30-40,000 yards per week coupled with lots of open water swims this summer. When I began my swim, I felt great. My stroke felt solid and my turnover was quick and firm.
Temperatures at Start: Air: 64į
2:20:00 AM Start! Stroke Count (SC):80
2:28 AM at the Footbridge, 3 minutes ahead of Shelley Taylorís World Record pace of 5:45. Keeping SC at 80.
I took my first pee at 110th Street, just south of the gigantic, scary-looking pier. Nobody even knew it.
2:48:22 AM Triborough Bridge, SC 80
Just before this bridge, I hit a soft submerged something, like a piece of clothing which scared me a little. As not planned, we went through the center span of the Triborough (instead of the planned far left) since that was the best tack at the time. Also, it was very dark by the wall.
It took me a while to settle down between the boat and the kayak. I wasnít sure which one I was supposed to use as a guide so I gravitated between the two for about an hour. I eventually went with the kayak, always knowing that the boat was close at fin.
3:14 AM Yankee Stadium, SC 80
3:20 AM First feeding.
Richard didnít understand that he was supposed to pour the liquid from the thermos Mark had given him so he simply handed me a packet of GU in one of the cups and then the thermos. I unscrewed the top and drank out of it, instead of the cup. After this feeding, Richard was right on target: he handed me an opened packet of GU which I handed back to him after draining, then I received one cup of liquid to chug quickly followed by another. Fast stretch then back into the race. Total elapsed time: 10-15 seconds.
I was very psyched that we had gotten to Yankee Stadium before the first feeding because I knew this was where Shelley had been. I couldnít actually see the Stadium but I always knew about what street we were at in the Harlem because of the bridges. Swimming under the bridges was cool, totally reverse of day: now it was dark then got really light, from all the bridge lights. Also, I could hear the traffic above and see how fast the Current was moving by how quickly we zoomed under each one.
3:43 AM Roberto Clemente State Park, SC 80
I cranked up the Harlem, conducting my own little race with myself. It was fun and I was never bored. Throughout the swim, sometimes I would see if I could get in front of both the kayak and the boat, by inches that is. Of course it is totally silly for me to think that I could actually maintain such a "lead" because Scott and Richard were paying such close attention to my position.
3:49 AM Feeding: 1 GU, 1 cup CC, stretch, a little breaststroke (??)
3:54 AM University Bridge
One of my favorite bridges because of all the beautiful lattice work.
I felt excellent and continued to crank, knowing that this pace was OK.
4:00 AM Talking to Richard in the kayak. SC 82. Perking up a little bit.
"I want 2 cups of liquid next feeding." I was feeling a little bit parched from my recent effort and decided to take the extra few seconds at each feeding now to do something about it rather than wish in 3 hours I had.
4:01 AM 1st? pee - our little one achieves "potty trained" status (hardly slows down.)
It was actually #3, just thought Iíd let the boat know to check in with them and let them know I was fine in a lot of ways.
After we passed the 207th Street Subway Transit Yard, the skyline became darker and would remain so until the George Washington Bridge, about 45 minutes away. I often wondered if I would hit something that would freak me out but I also knew it was better to spend my energies elsewhere since I was being well taken care of by my crew and the gods watching over Manhattan Island swimmers.
4:06 AM 10th Avenue/Broadway Bridge
We were on the left hand side and came quite close to a construction barge. Richard got up right next to it, I was about 8 feet away but could see how fast we were going by it. Recited Ogden Nashís "Tin Wedding Whistle" a few times to keep my mind occupied.
4:09 AM A noisy train passed us by on the Metro North Harlem Line, around Marble Hill.
I watched this train for a little while since I didnít know the train line operated "after hours." Figured out it was some sort of construction or freight train. It sort of amazes me that I was comfortable enough to sightsee on some train instead of worrying about the dark, creepy water right in front of me.
Passed by the Columbia ĎCí, under the Henry Hudson Bridge, and veered to the far left at Spuyten Duyvil.
4:15:49 AM Spuyten Duyvil (Kira made a great illustration in the log of a devil spitting!!) It is DARK here. Some Debris. SC 82
Went under the farthest left side with Richard, felt fine and only worried a little about scraping myself on a rock from the bottom (No chance!) The boat went through the middle and caught up to us on the other side. I am always relieved when the Amtrak bridge is open for the boat.
It was really dark but kind of cool. I could see the bright lights of the George Washington Bridge ahead. Thinking about what my 4-year old nephew had told me recently, "We had barbecued spaghetti for dinner," made me laugh.
4:19:30 AM HUDSON!! Yippee!
Yippee - the water was calm and flat! So much better than in 1995!
4:21:20 AM FOOD. "doing fine."
I didnít talk to the boat much, only Richard when necessary. I had a job to do and it wasnít worth the energy. They like me better when I am quiet.
4:25 AM "5 MIN. SPRINT" SC 86/84
Mark wanted to do this sprint because I was dropping way off the pace chart established by Tim Johnson. Later, he figured out the chart was wrong. Mark decided to not do anymore of these because he didnít feel the overall effect was beneficial: my stroke count dropped into the 70s right afterwards. He felt it was better to have me sustain a constant 80 SC than to bounce around. It was dark and I only could read the greaseboard at the start of the sprint; the boat was too far away when I think it was over because Mark and Terry turned a light on something written on the greaseboard.
4:43 AM George Washington Bridge SC 80 (so steady)
Seems to be perking up again.
No Blue Line Cement Barge passing up river - a first!
4:49 AM Feeding SC 80
A lot of heavy treading, little stretch.
By this time, my left shoulder was starting to hurt and I asked Richard for one of those little magic green pills (Orudus) during the next feeding.
4:53 AM Barge waves
4:56 AM SEWAGE TREATMENT PLANT - yuck (for Kira, it wasnít bad for me at all.) We were sticking to the course plan: stay close into the shore until the GW Bridge (and the little red lighthouse) then veer out a little by the Sewage Treatment Plant. Because it was still fairly dark and we were out far enough from the shore, I had a hard time knowing specifically where I was in the Hudson River, especially after 120th Street (Riverside Church).
5:21 AM Feeding at 79th Street Boat Basin
1 Orudus, 1 GU, 2 cups liquid quick stretch
Before the swim, I thought it would be a good thing if we got to 79th Street Boat Basin in under 3 hours since this spot would be about half way. When this feeding came, I knew it was about three hours but it was too dark to see the Boat Basin and I actually didnít know where I was. I wanted to know the time and was getting a little frustrated that Mark hadnít been letting me know. As it turns out, although my pace was steady, the speed of the Current wasnít quite as steady as had been predicted so my pace was bouncing around, from below Shelleyís pace of 21 minute miles (in a 7 knot Current) to 28 minute miles (2 knot Current) in the northern Harlem and Hudson. Mark didnít want to frustrate and confuse me by posting the time. I silently resided myself to "no news is good news" and "Shut up and swim."
5:30 AM Little stretch. We have light (pink light). Nice drawing by Kira of a sun.
It was obvious the day was going to be overcast and it was.
Somewhere in here, I sang Happy Birthday to Becky Fenson.
5:38 AM Intrepid 46th Street
I only knew that we had passed this because I looked back at it after I saw the Lincoln Tunnel vents, at 38th Street.
5:50 AM Food. Left shoulder hurting before, fine now.
Lips chapped (?) Vaseline next feeding (?)
That little green pill was helping a lot.
5:57 AM PIER 57 (How Ďbout that coinckydinky?)
The best was yet to come, in finishing in 5 hours, 57 minutes.
I remembered the formula: Pier number = Street number minus 40. We were at 17th Street.
SC 78 Quickly back up
6:10 AM PIER 40
6:13 AM Holland Tunnel
I was getting really annoyed about not knowing how I was doing. How hard should I push? I figured that to stop and debate the issue would only waste precious time so I kept cranking. Richard told me a feedings, "Youíre doing fine." At one point I did get a sign that I was 3 minutes off of Kris Rutfordís American record time (5:53).
One of the buildings in the World Financial Center has a clock on top which I desperately tried to make out but simply couldnít. Oh well! It just wasnít meant for me to know the time of day right now.
6:21 AM World Trade Center Wall
It was weird approaching the Battery and not being almost finished, like usual (My previous swims had always started at the Battery.) I felt I was in friendly waters.
6:22:25 AM Feeding
1 Orudus, a mouthful of river water, 1 GU, 2 liquids
We were close to the wall and I could see people on shore. I was trying to swim fast in order to "beat the Staten Island Ferry." My left shoulder hurt A LOT!!
6:35 AM Battery Fire Boat House
I spotted the Staten Island Ferry pulling out and raced like mad to beat the incoming one which I couldnít see yet. As we got closer to itís berth, I could see two ferries crossing and hoped that the larger one was the outgoing one. No such luck. I knew if we didnít pass itís berth soon, we would have to wait for a few minutes but worse for me, I was thinking about all the turbulent water it would kick up, possibly pulling me into it. I just kept going AFAP (as fast as possible) and realized that the ferry was tacking slightly up the East River. Scott had radioed the Ferry Captain and asked him to yield to us which he did, one of those gracious New York miracles. When we passed the Ferry, I heard this loud friendly blast and knew it was for me. Although I couldnít see them, several commuters were excitedly waving from the deck. This whole scene had made me very anxious but Iím glad it turned out for the best. J
Just as this ferry episode was unfolding, a lot of trash materialized right in front of the docking piers: plastic bottles, boards, vegetation, your garden variety garbage selection. As I was trying to frantically navigate past the ferry, I was also swimming through all this trash. My crew helped to keep me very calm through all this with lots of hand signals and understanding looks because there was no other route. I realized a lyric from Steve Miller Bandís "Swing Time" had been going through my mind over and over for awhile, "Weíve been working so hard, weíve been working so hard.."
6:50 AM Feeding, Stretch
It takes a lot longer (~20 minutes) to get around the Battery (WTC Wall to Pier 11) than I expected (2 minutes.) And I had to swim it all because the currents are strong with all the boat traffic and converging rivers.
6:55 AM Pier 17 SC 80/79
I was ready for this to be over any time now, my shoulder was causing me a lot of pain and I was tired from my "ferry sprint." This part of the river is usually the start, when I am freshest. Now I was looking forward to the end.
6:57:30 AM Brooklyn Bridge
Markís mother was up top and saw the boat and the kayak but not me.
The water was getting increasingly rougher - lots of swells.
7:15 AM Williamsburg Bridge
We went under the far left (Manhattan) side instead under the center because of barge traffic.
7:21 AM Feeding
1 GU, 2 cups liquid
Iím glad Becky Fenson had warned me not to "over-GU" like she felt she did in the Channel two weeks earlier. I always felt like I had enough food for energy but not too much that I felt full.
7:41 AM Water Club/34th Street
Current 4.8/5.0 knots
7:49 AM United Nations
Current 5.4 knots
I knew we were getting close and I would be able to deal with the shoulder pain for 2 more miles. Between the Battery to Roosevelt Island, I donít remember much: I was cranking and it was painful and I wanted to finish. Surprisingly, I did feel cold between the Brooklyn Bridge and around 34th Street. All the fooling around with my silicone cap had allowed enough cold water to get to my head and slightly chill my brain. The overcast weather provided no warmth.
7:51 AM Roosevelt Island
Current almost 6 knots
Very choppy in here, until the end.
7:59 AM 59th Street Bridge
Current isnít great
Past the 59th Street Bridge, Richard pulled me far over to the Manhattan wall where the Current was better and we were really flying. It was cool!
Somewhere in here, I saw John Gatti riding a bike along the Manhattan shore, waving a towel. He really perked me up and I knew he wasnít going to let up or go away. I cranked.
Around 79th Street, I saw Dad, Susan, and Dee run along the shore. The Current was moving me so fast that they ran at full tilt and still couldnít keep up. It really motivated me to know that they were there and I bore down and went for it, AFAP.
I was almost done. We raced for Mill Rock.
96th Street/Mill Rock Park
I was breathing hard after swimming 5 Current-assisted miles in under an hour (from a few blocks south of the 14th Street Con Ed plant.) I rolled over on my back, thanked Richard and my crew, and climbed up the back ladder of Miss Risse. My left shoulder hurt a lot, the tendons in my right forearm started to complain (from pulling so hard for so long) but it felt wonderful to have swum so well around Manhattan. All the months of long, hard, unglamorous training were worth it. I loved what I doing.
Many thanks to a great boat crew: Mark Green, Terry Tyner, Kira Dale, and Robert Makatura;
A superb boat pilot: Scott Woodie - youíre the best!; and A terrific kayaker: Richard Clifford.
Letís hear it for Indian and Buoy Sprints!
Thanks Mark for all your love and support. You are there every stroke of the way.