Scratch...scratch...scratch....One swimmer after another wearily emerged from the water at West Neck Beach Saturday morning after their longest swims ever, and crossed off their latest achievements from their personal "bucket lists." First-time 5K swimmers Karen Ruth, E.J. Voss and Bonnie Millen, and first-time 5-Milers Gae Polisner and Annmarie Kearney-Woods joined veteran distance swimmers Rob Martell and Rob Ripp -- along with paddleboarders Carole Wickham and Kathy Wickham and a veritable fleet of support kayakers organized by Barry Goldblatt -- in a challenging and memorable long distance round-trip swim from West Neck Beach northward to the point at Lloyd Neck (for the 5K swimmers) and eastward around the point nearly to the Sandhole (for the 5-Mile Swimmers). After a laptop-aided orientation by Pod-Father and Explorer-in-Chief Rob Martell, who with his training partner Christine K. pioneered the routes the swimmers were about to follow, the swimmers paired up with their designated kayakers or paddleboarders and headed toward the water, which was still shrouded in an early morning fog. One by one they started swimming, and were whisked away by an outrushing tide that virtually hurled the swimmers northward. Kayakers simply rested their paddles on the gunwales and let the current carry them alongside the whooshing swimmers. Rob Ripp, who quickly found the "Gulf Stream" in the center of the harbor, was flung northward as if shot from a cannon, outpacing even Rob Martell, and the two kayakers who were accompanying him struggled to keep pace with his flying body -- and to turn him before he reached Connecticut!
|Rob Ripp on the beach...1/4 mile past the turnpoint|
("Where are you guys??")
But, alas, for both the 5K and the 5-mile swimmers, this was a round-trip swim, and most of the return trip was against that same onrushing current....For the 5-Mile swimmers, the current was most forceful at the point, and even the strongest swimmers swam, seemingly in place, for long minutes until, inch by inch, and one by one, they all made their way around the turn and into the home stretch while their kayakers hollered encouragement. With "home" still a mile and a half away, though, and arms and shoulders beginning to ache, this was where both the 5K and the 5-mile swimmers proved themselves to be true champions: putting their heads down, throwing their arms forward, and stroking relentlessly toward West Neck Beach and their goals...(and a well-deserved reward of bagels and bananas from Rob Martell and chocolate chip cookies from "The Muffin-Woman" Susan Robinson!).
"Some passing comments on the 5 Milers.. Rob R- kick ass pace and no wonder you can swim around Manhattan. Gae.. 3hrs 2 yrs ago for 5K.. this year 3 hrs for 5MILES..No more said.. i am seeing at 10K in your future.... AnneMarie.. Never gave up.. 4 hrs swimming. Very few people ANYWHERE can swim that long. .. for everyone.. that last mile from Fort Hill is like those last miles of a Marathon.. Lastly the entrance to the CS Harbor- swimming and getting nowhere. You have to experience it to believe.
"Some passing comments on the 5Kers..40 minutes out to the turn point. sweet.! When I planned the 5Mile route, I never imagined early turn backs. The tide plan was set up to help the 5miles swimmers as they swam longer - 3+ hours , the tide would turn and help them the last mile or two. BUT For the 5kers , it was full against the tide going back ( at least not full moon tide ). Extraordinary endurance for all three of you. That was no easy 5K, its was very tough and you all accomplished it , like other things, without giving up when the conditions could have easily been seen as too hard. !! :)"