Success in Manhattan!

Chloe before the start of the swim looking for her paddler Niles Furlong

Chloe’s Post-race blog after winning the 2010 Manhattan Island Marathon Race.

“25-year-old Chloe Mccardel of Melbourne, Australia went toe-to-toe with 35-year-old Spanish marathon swimmer Jaime Callabero of San Sebastian all day long – alternating in the lead – to nip him by less than 10 meters at the end and win the 2010 Manhattan Island Marathon Swim.” Steven Monatones, http://www.dailynewsofopenwaterswimming.com/2010/06/long-line-of-australian-champions-in.html

Steve’s account provides a glimpse into the fierce rivalry at the front end of the Manhattan Island Marathon Race. During the last 1km of the race the crowd were on their feet screaming, the respective support boats and paddlers were pushing their swimmers to keep sprinting (they had already been screaming for the previous 9km) and most importantly the two swimmers were fighting for top position. But there could be only one overall winner…

Paul and I had talked strategy before this big race. We had decided not to blog or talk about my racing strategy or which position I had hoped to finish in the lead up to this event. We took a low-key, no-pressure approach when asked how I expected to place in the field. After all, there were 20 or so English Channel solo swimmers (a few quick times in there) and quite a few swimmers with fast Catalina Channel times involved in this event so we knew we were taking on a strong field with both a cold water marathon background and also a very fast pace. It would have been difficult to guess the outcome even if we had tried!

We researched the field and considered my strengths and weaknesses. My only international marathon (besides the Maui Channel) was a much slower English Channel time then I believe I am capable of and this was all the information my competitors had to work with. I was not the favourite (no, not favorite – this is an Aussie’s blog!!), no-one (besides my support team and some Australian supporters) appeared to have me on the radar for a podium position. And that was the way I liked it!

Race Start, and they are off!!!

As the swimmers were entering the water (in South Cove, Battery Park in New York City) most were not concerned with their starting position. There was no intense jostling that is part-and-parcel of the immensely popular and lightening fast 1-2km ocean water swims over summer around Melbourne which I am accustomed. I found a favourable position and used my strong kick and quick pace (gleaned from many sprint sessions with Coach Buddy) to secure a strong early lead. I remember someone being close to me for about 50m. I was waiting to reach the pier, about 800m from the start, where I would pick up my paddler. I had been concerned that it would be very busy with multiple swimmers picking up their paddlers near me. Luckily, I was clear of the field and an easy pick for Niles Furlong to join me. Team McCardel had started the race with a single swimmer and gained a paddler!!

Getting into a great rhythm with Niles Furlong my paddler :)

I had two competitors (and no, I won’t share who exactly!) in mind that I wanted to be clear of. I was hoping to be in the top three solos for the entire race and sprint the last 5km – if required. Once I knew I was at the front of all the competitors at a pace that was not too strenuous I found a rhythm that worked well to maintain a strong pace and lead. I was concentrating on my swimming and building a rhythm with my paddler that I didn’t really notice the support boat (with Paul my AMAZING boyfriend and personal support person, Bernard the observer and Charlie the boat captain) join Team McCardel. I would like to think it gravitated towards us J Niles had a great orange flag about 1.5m above his paddle boat which made him very visible.  

It was this strong pace which further cemented my position in the lead. It is very exciting and also a little unnerving to be setting the pace. I didn’t know exactly how far the competitors were behind me or whether I was burning too much energy too soon as I had never raced any of them previously. I did know I was swimming a strong pace and I needed to reduce the time between my feeds which we had previously set at 45min intervals. I didn’t wish to burn the candles at both ends!!

I felt much better with more frequent feeds. Niles was my paddler who was in charge of giving me each feed. I was accustomed to Paul feeding me so this was a slight change in routine but it worked really well! Niles had paddled this race on numerous previous occasions and he was very polished at this activity. I relied heavily on Niles for directions as I had never swam this race before and also because I had chatted to Paul and we had decided to hand over complete trust to our paddlers and boat captain.

Support boat: Charlie in blue (boat captain), Bernard flying the Race T-Shirt (observer) and Paul (my support person) taking the photo!!

Speaking of paddlers… Our Team McCardel family was about to grow! Unbeknown to me, a swimmer had dropped out. I found out (later) it was one of the favourites of the race, and who many Americans were hoping and believing would take top honours. Her 2 paddlers were now swimmerless! Niles being in-tune with not only my needs but also the whole race quickly picked up on this fact. He requested support from Richard Clifford (a legend of the Manhattan Island race and Catalina Channel crossings, and who had beaten Nile’s 2nd placed swimmer home last year) who shortly joined us on a ‘consulting’ basis. Niles remained my lead paddler and feeder which I preferred because I had found a great connection and rhythm with him. It was great to hear after the race that Richard helped other swimmers in the field too!! Our family had grown!!! But wait…. There’s more, the race is only just getting started!!

… I have a lot more adventure to share with you and people to thank (including the wonderful organising committee and army of volunteers…) the race was nearly 8 hours after all!!! … I will post the second half of the blog and more pics in the next few days. Thanks for your continued support and patience :)

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