Those Crazy Bridge Swimmers!
by Charlie Helm
Sunday, July 12th, I decided to go check out the start of the annual 11-mile Portland Bridge Swim to see what these crazy swimmers and their kayak escorts looked like. Unexpectedly waking up at 5:45am that morning made my choice to check it out easier, as well. I also wanted to cheer on one of my teammates who was doing the swim and see what other Masters swimmers I know might be crazy enough to give this madness a try. I soon discovered that most of my Masters friends were “trying” this event for the first time. Must be a bucket-list thing or something. After offering my usual coaching advice (take it out fast and hold it!) plus asking if people heard about the killer sturgeon that live near the bridges (this was mostly for the out of town swimmers attending) I tried to say hello to as many friends as possible before the first of many waves of swimmers and their escorts moved off to the river to begin their journey.
While I consider myself primarily a pool swimmer, I usually do a few open water events each summer, but limit myself to either the 1-mile or 1500 meter events or less. While many swimmers try all the distances, I’ve never been motivated to go for the longer events. When asked why I don’t try a 5-k or 10-k swim, I visualize my 1500 in my mind and repeat the experience in a loop until it adds up to the longer distances—then I’m good! This 11-mile bridge swim aroused my curiosity. I became very interested in each swimmers preparation for this type of marathon event. It hadn’t occurred to me that the swimmers need to drink and fuel during this type of distance event and I became curious with the different strategies many swimmers were employing. What type/s of beverages would they be drinking? Solid food or gel-type fuel or a combo? Bar-b-que on the kayak? How often? Regular beer or light? This event also gives the escorting kayakers a big workout as well. I was a bit surprised I didn’t find a good sized “boom-box” lashed to the front of the kayak—if I were swimming or rowing for 11-miles and 5-plus hours, I would want my tunes to rock out with!
After watching all the waves of 60 individual swimmers plus relays head for downtown, I returned home and checked up during the rest of the day with the Facebook updates many were posting.
“Well done” for all the swimmers, escorts, and volunteers who made Marisa’s Bridge Party a success!