Every marathon swimmer knows that each splash is a learning experience… an opportunity to grow wiser and more deeply connected to the bodies of water we immerse ourselves in. A circumnavigation of Manhattan offers three “rivers” to commune with; each with unique characteristics that are affected by its sister “rivers’, the Long Island sound, the New York Harbor, and countless atmospheric possibilities. Add to this equation the human element, and its easy to see that putting together an event like MIMS is a daunting task, and a multiple circumnavigation…. mind boggling. With months of planning in the bank, the arrival of two tropical storms to the region created a period of increased flow to the Hudson River; knocking aside the predicted ebb and flood schedules for a few weeks.

Additionally, much of the Catskill and Adirondack Mountains were released from their heights to begin a journey to the sea in the form of reddish brown silt and mud. The “red cloud” was the cause of the recent cancellation of a favorite NYCSWIM event, the two-mile swim around Governors Island just a week ago. Though visible in satellite images the discoloration was hardly noticeable to a swimmer, and the Harlem River indeed looks quite inviting from a few feet above. Of course, directing a swim event around Manhattan is like going to bat against two Cy Young award winners at the same time, and Morty Berger has an excellent batting average. Even as a few curveballs were hurled at us (in the form of East River closures due to U.N. security protocol), just days before our scheduled splash, he kept the inning alive as we scrambled to come up with a “Plan B”. Of course this meant rescheduling, readjusting, reconfirming, and in a few cases, coming up with last minute substitutions. That this came together at all is a great testimony to the incredible support that the open water community can count on in New York. I am deeply indebted to the kayakers, and boat crews for their reliability and attention to safety details. The kayak schedule involved 5 paddlers working in shifts of 3, and linking up from three different locations.


Splash time was a little before 6 PM near the footbridge at 103st. Kayakers Gary, Margaret and Brad quickly fell into formation… Gary as point man, Margaret to my left and Brad to my right. I imagined how cool this would be from a bird’s eye view. We had a smaller boat leading, with crew members Janet, Willie and Gilles, and the mother ship stayed mostly behind with Morty, Rondi, John and Sharoz on board. They were responsible for mixing my feeds and getting them to Brad. Rondi was busy keeping stats of the swim as well. It was dark before we made it to the Hudson, The glow of the city at night had little warming effect, especially as the paddlers dropped back one at a time to don more layers to fend off the evening chill; still, the light reflecting off the water continued to build as we approached each bridge then… brief shadow, and light again. Janet was in the water near me, and with the added light, I could see the familiar smile on her face as we crossed under the Broadway Bridge, the Henry Hudson Bridge, and through Spuytin Duyvel (the bridge was open) into the Hudson. The “slightly briney” Harlem gave way to a noticeably fresher taste and colder temperature rather abruptly at the Henry Hudson Bridge. Was this an affirmation that the Hudson was still draining Irene from the Catskills? Perhaps. There was also a noticeable difference in temperature at a depth of about 18 inches…. Fresh cold water sitting on top of warmer brackish? By this time, the tight hamstring that I was babying by not kicking too much was cramping a bit, and to survive I stopped kicking all together. I guess this combined with the decreased buoyant effect of fresher water meant that my legs were dropping and creating some increased drag. I was telling myself that if I could hold out through the night, the sunrise would give me the boost I needed to finish strong, but unlike some other marathon swims I’ve done, you can’t just tough it out around Manhattan. There are deadlines to meet, miss one by too large a margin; and its over. I was falling off pace.

Hannah was now kayaking on my right, and after Gilles, and Willie each joined me in the water… Gilles for 90 minutes and Willie for 2 hours, Janet was back.

The temperature seemed to hold steady until we got near the battery where I felt another drop. Little bioluminescent creatures were now greeting us as we disturbed them with nearly every stroke.

We headed north in the east river. The Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Williamsburg Bridges passed slowly….nothing like the rapid fire succession like during MIMS. Again, I focused on getting to daybreak to evaluate how I was doing, but was informed that we were now about an hour behind schedule, and it was inevitable that the tide would turn against us before lap 2. Teddy never got his chance to paddle for me though I was happy to see him out there, even if we didn’t have a chance to chat.

There is a lot of data to sort through, and a bit of time to start planning another go around. All in all, it was an incredible night in the water. I am fortunate to have been able to share it with so many good friends.

MIMS Recap

WOW! So much to say about this event… I almost don’t know where to start, so forgive me if this entry seems a bit disjointed.

Many of you have met Clare at some OW event or another, so you know that it would be impossible for me to pursue these goals without her support. I thought you might like to hear her perspective, so, the blue text is Clare…

MIMS is much more than a swim; it is an event that people train years for, and travel half way around the world (and it seems, more often than not that those who travel the furthest swim the fastest also), to participate in. It is one third of the Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming, though the only one of the three that is held as a race.

The entry goes on line some 6 months before race day, and closes out in less time than it takes to swim from the Bklyn Bridge to the UN Building on a flood tide…. (+/- 41 minutes for me yesterday). The international field of MIMS 2010 was stacked high with marathon swim ringers (sw-ingers?) and it was truly humbling to be surrounded by such aquatic achievement… I am honored to call many of them my friends. For most, the days before such an event are filled with jet lag, and last minute preparations but a few out-of-towners were able to find a brief window to join me and a few other CIBBOWS hosts for a couple of pre-MIMS swims at Brighton Beach… Sakura, Amanda, Leticia, Suzie, Isabel, Craig… hope you guys enjoyed our little slice of heaven.

History – My Last Attempt

In 2006, I first attempted to swim MIMS. I was a six beat kicker; cocky and inexperienced and spent the week prior to the race moving my residence…. carrying heavy boxes and furniture for days. Additionally, the days leading up to and including race day were cursed with heavy rains and violent thunder storms. I drove my crew to their early morning check-in at pier 11 and walked across town to the swimmer check-in…. in flip flops… in heavy rain… wet and cold with 2 hours to go to splash time. At the start, swimmers enter the water by number (alphabetically)… i was 1st or 2nd, the water was in the high 50’s and it seemed like 10 minutes (it was probably less) until we started swimming. My hamstrings were tight and I was cold from the start. Feeding from my kayaker was awkward, so my boat was tossing me my bottle, I was treading water and tossing my bottle back to the boat… very inefficient and time consuming…. and draining what time I had left on my legs. I plodded along, made the cut-offs and came into a large patch of trash (bottles, bags, leaves, dead fish, etc) at 3/4ths the way up the Harlem River. My kayaker pulled up to me and instructed me to “swim with your head up!”… I did, and negotiated my way to “clear” water (a relative term when speaking of the modern age Harlem River), but lost my legs in the process. I spent the next 30 minutes trying to stretch out the cramps… right leg-marginal… left leg- no good. Not making any progress…. I resigned.

I should also add that seconds after David resigned in the Harlem River, they pulled all swimmers out due to inclement weather, so who knows that if he had stayed an extra couple of minutes or so in the H2O and had been pulled as well whether he would have reentered the race that day.

MIMS 2010

I wake up at 3:30… alarm is set for 4:00… start boiling water… mix up bottles… check list: Feed stick – check, towels – check, camera – check, M&M’s – check (with peanuts?…. of course), etc etc ad infinitum.

Pack bags… load car… drive to “crew check-in”… drop off Clare… hugs, kisses, good lucks, thumbs ups, good byes.

Drive to “swimmer check-in” with fellow swimmer Craig Lenning.

Find the “boys room”… drink my pre-race cocktail… check in… suit up… get numbered… boys room II… sunscreen… lube up… boys room III (bushes this time)… ear plugs… cap…. here come the kayakers.

The sight of 70 kayakers squeezing into this little cove is awesome. Many swimmers can only identify their kayakers by their bib numbers, but I have been swimming with Danielle and Mike through the spring and we have our routine pretty well worked out… I’m pretty lucky. They are easy for me to spot and we exchange greetings. I know they will “pick me up” easily even in the crowd of swimmers and boats. Keep you’re head down, shut up and swim David.

We get in the water on time… it warmer than I thought it would be… much warmer than Brighton Beach. I still plan to go with hot feeds for a while… I should get used to them.

My swim plan: Cruise the East River: Build the Harlem River: Race the Hudson River. In actuality, it went something like this: Race up the East River: Hang on in the Harlem River: Hold steady to South Cove.


Mike and Danielle picked me up somewhere around the southern tip of Manhattan. As my race # was 1, my boat was holding the northern most position, close to the Bklyn bridge. My instructions were to link up, get into formation and on our way as a “pod” before I would take my first feed. Slightly north of the Bklyn Bridge (yes… backstroke of course), first feed at 8:02, stroke rate 70. I feel great and hold steady at 70 spm through the East River… this is a pretty high rate for me. At Hellgate, I take a line outside the cove and pass a few other swimmers. I remember being on the other side of this situation in ’06, so I can say quite definitively “this is better”. It seems like no time has passed and I am taking my fifth feeding, at the footbridge that crosses the Harlem RIver… time 9:23. I spent the next three hours in the Harlem River. These were the most difficult for me emotionally and physically. There is an industrial section of the Harlem river where the smell and taste of diesel fuel was quite strong. That combined with the cigar smoke (which I later discovered were coming from my boat observer) caused me to gag a few times, but I only lost my cookies once. I had to actively police my mind from dwelling on that 2006 resignation, and it was hard to find that happy place among the diesel. My stroke rate was holding and soon enough I was in the upper Harlem which is quite beautiful.

Some landmarks and times:

10:06 – Triboro (RFK) Bridge
11:03 – Yankee Stadium (no more hot feeds)
11:43 – Boathouse (pit stop for kayakers)
12:26 – Spuytin Duyvil

At SD, there is a very low railroad bridge, and then… The Mighty Hudson! The water changes dramatically. There is a wind from the south that makes it difficult for me to find a comfortable stroke rate and breathing pattern. I settle into something slower and more deliberate.

For me, emotionally, the day was over. The demons of ’06; gone. I did it! I just have to swim another 10 miles against the wind and climb up that aluminum ladder. Time to enjoy the ride home with Clare and Danielle and Mike…. stroke rate: 66.

Most swimmers agree that the first hour in the Hudson is the longest stretch of the race. The George Washington Bridge plays tricks on you. It appears so close but remains out of reach. A few swimmers pass me between Spuytin Duyvil and the GW. I recognize Craig and Sakura as they go by… it feels good to see them going into the home stretch strong! (don’t wait for me)

More landmarks and times:

12:46 – GW Bridge
1:26 – Columbia Pres. Hospital (wave to Drs Gray and Sommers… thanks for the heart repair!)
1:46 – Sewage Plant
2:26 – 79st boat basin
3:00 – Chelsea Piers

Finish Time 8 hrs 30 mins

………5 weeks to Catalina………

Team Barracuda – Swimmer: David, Crew: Clare, Kayakers: Danielle and Mike.


As the only support crew on board, and with the memory of 2006 at the back of my mind, my main objective was to ensure that DB get through the Harlem River and into the Hudson. The night before the race we had discussed the option of hot feeds because of the H2O temperature was a little chilly, and the feeds would be a good way to prepare for the EC. So the morning of the race, we prepared the mother-mix, (2, 64 oz containers with 12 scoops each of 1st endurance EFS) to which I would add warm H2O for the feeds. Throughout the swim DB would have the option of feeding from one bottle or taking just regular temp H2O. The plan was to place the two bottles in the “Barra feedstick” patent #409, and pass them to our kayaker for the feeds.

Race Time

My boat arrived around 6:30am, I and the observer boarded. I soon realised that our small vessel did not have a Loo/toilet onboard. Umm, I would have to improvise and use all my girl scout skills for the day. At Brooklyn Bridge, I soon spotted DB, as his stroke is pretty unique. He was out front in the pack, so I knew he was cruising along at a faster rate than usual and his stroke looked steady and relaxed. – He was in race mode. I wondered if that had anything to do with the pre-race drink? Nearby, I saw John Huminick’s support boat, and his relay team waved and cheered “Go Dave.” At the first feed I soon found that passing the bottle to the kayakers was a much easier and efficient option, so the feedstick was retired. However, I do think that the feedstick will be useful on a larger vessel for feeding a swimmer from deck, but I would like to test my hypothesis. (So, if anyone would like to do a marathon swim in Tahiti, I would be happy to crew for them.) As for the course, lucky for us, we were fortunate to have a seasoned boat captain and kayakers who guided us down the East River and got DB the best current assist. DB flew by Hell’s Gate and into the Harlem River. I must admit as soon as we entered the Harlem, I knew that for DB the physical and emotional challenge began here. As he mentioned previously, the aroma and nutty favour of the river was a gastronomical hinderance, and I too could smell the fumes on deck myself. I had no idea that he could smell the cigar smoke of our boat observer, and that this helped contribute to DB upchucking his feed. I do admit that I became more alert when DB lost his lunch, but as soon as he took his next feeding, and kept that down, I soon relaxed. He cruised through the Harlem, and when he passed the section of the river where he had been pulled previously, I grew more confident. Once the Hudson was in sight, the swim was within his grasp. On the upper west side, we cruised passed Columbia Pres Hospital, where DB had had heart surgery a year ago, and I gave a quick shout out to Dr. Gray, his cardiologist. I knew the Hudson was where the race began, but I was still impressed when I saw the swimmers pick up their pace, and sprint down to the finish. As soon as I saw DB reach the finish line I said to myself: one down, two to go…