Here’s a first person account from Jake Bright. Jake is an open water swimming enthusiast and writer based in New York.
As a New York City based open water swimmer smallmouth bass and crystal clear vision to the bottom is not what I am accustomed to seeing. That was the view in the Harbor Springs Coastal Crawl, a series of Lake Michigan open water races from 800 meters to 5K.
Doing the 5K, this race had special significance to me as I grew up in the area and love fresh water. The picturesque Northwest Lower Michigan stretch (Traverse City, Charlevoix, Petoskey and Harbor Springs) running up Lake Michigan’s shoreline to the Mackinac Bridge is one of the U.S.’s gem summer vacation spots. With its charming small towns, cherry orchards, and vineyards, it’s been referred to as the Hamptons of the Midwest. The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, located nearby in Leelanau County, was voted “The Most Beautiful Place in America” by Good Morning America viewers.
After countless summer days spent in Lake Michigan as a kid, I can also point to the region for my ho-hum response to swimming in anything but agua fresca, where nothing can eat you. Celebrating 20 years, the Coastal Crawl’s 2013 motto, “No Salt, No Sharks, No Worries” definitely rang a bell.
The out and back 5K course along Harbor Point was fast and scenic. I really did see bass resting off the white sand drop off down to the bottom. Other swimmers were visible through my goggles for yards around me. Rounding the point, where the waves can pick up and water turn rough; it was pleasantly calm to the half way marker. Compared to East Coast open water swims, with multiple buoys, kayaks, and impending whistles blows for veering, the Coastal Crawl course was wide open. It definitely tested one’s open water sighting and navigating abilities. On the final stretch into Zorn Park, I made sure I sighted about every 8-10 strokes. In addition to bilateral breathing, I’ve also been adding a breath on successive strokes (a quick left right breath) about every 10 strokes. It takes practice to pull it off without messing up streamlining, timing and rhythm, but more oxygen, especially at the end of a 5K, definitely helps.
I took second in my age group. Todd Mercer of Great Lakes State Masters added another 5K overall Coastal Crawl win, hitting the sand in an hour and four minutes. About 200 swimmers participated everyone’s collective strokes adding up to support a good cause.
Proceeds from this year’s races benefited Hammerhead Swim Club, a local competitive group for youth ages 6 – 18.