Friday, October 10, 2014

Great Ohio River Swim

"It was terrifying."  That's my typical response after I finish the Great Ohio River Swim.  I've participated (almost) every year since I discovered the race in 2009.  You're supposed to do things that terrify you, right?  This post is the story about why I decided to participate in the Great Ohio River Swim, what fears I had to conquer to be successful, and how I did in the race over several different years.

I've always been fascinated by the Ohio River.  I think its beautiful and I'd love to live somewhere with a view of it (not an option with my current salary and living standards!).  My Dad always told me about how dangerous the river is, how the current is really strong and can sweep you away.  So the next obvious step is to find a way to get myself into that river, right?
Sunrise, 2014
Many years after this conversation with my father, I found myself standing on Serpentine Wall with official lifeguard sanctioned approval to hurl myself into the river. They even had a lifeguard on a jet ski with a floating backboard!

Here is a picture of me sitting on the side of the river contemplating what I'm about to do.  I can tell I was feeling nervous when this picture was taken because of what I'm doing with my feet :)
photo credit to flickr user: OhioRiverWay
That first year, that I did the swim, 2009, I won the first place medal for my age group!  It was so awesome!  I'm the kind of athlete that participates in races as a motivator to exercise, not because I'm particularly fast, or particularly strong!  I certainly didn't have any expectations of getting a ribbon or a medal! 
photo credit to flickr user: OhioRiverWay
I met a girl that was around my age and we hung out before the race and after.  She cut her foot on the wall, where there are apparently some really mean mussels that will cut you if you push off the wall to start the swim (disclaimer: they warn you about the mussels in the pre-race meeting!).  This was my fastest ever time, in the 14 minute range! 
photo credit to flickr user: OhioRiverWay
I always find the race itself terrifying.  I usually get a quarter of the way across the river before I remember that I don't really like to swim in bodies of water where you can't see straight through the water.  I start thinking about giant fish swimming around under me...

I'm sure this is just a joke...
Anyway, if you let yourself get terrified while you're in the middle of the river you needlessly waste energy and get tired quicker.  My saving grace is when I get to the turn around buoy and look back to see one of the most magnificent views of downtown Cincinnati you ever will see.

So, I had a really good time that first year.  I immediately decided to do the race again the following year.

The second year that I did the swim, my (now) boyfriend came out to see me.  We had met a dinner party and it was our first time going out just the two of us without our friends (nothing breaks the ice like wearing your swim suit on a first date!!)  That year, 2010, I was in denial about a leg injury from running the Flying Pig Marathon that spring.  I got caught up in the swift current and had to swim upstream to make it to the turn-around buoy.  It was awful.  It took me over 26 minutes.  He took me to Pompilios for lunch after the race, and I consoled myself in a bowl of spaghetti (side note: we've been connected at the hip ever since!)

The third year, 2011, I skipped the swim!  I chickened out and decided to watch from the shore instead.  My leg was still being a bother and was sore.  I'm still disappointed that I decided not to swim that year!

In 2012, I was back with a vengeance.  No way was I going to chicken out again!  I made it across and back in just under 20 minutes.

In 2013, I'd been focusing on doing things I loved (training to run/walk a 10 mile race, taking a cake decorating class, doing yoga), and competing in the River Swim was right up there!  I finished the race in 19:54.

This year, 2014, I thought about chickening out up until the point I jumped in the water.  Well, perhaps slightly past that point because the water was so cold (mid-70's) that it took my breath away.  But once you start swimming, you are already so far away from the wall...

I came in 4th out of 5 people in my age group this year.  I finished the race in 18:48, my fastest time since the first year that I competed in the race.  I credit my success to some long summer days swimming laps after work at the O'Connor Sports Center on Xavier University's campus (did you know that part time students get full access to the fitness center, even if they're only taking one class at a time?!).
After the race with my biggest fan
Will I be doing the race again?  Yeah, I'll be there.  

For me, the Great Ohio River Swim is about conquering my fears, about challenging my body to fight it's way against the current, about something that other people think is a little crazy.  If you are thinking about doing the swim and have questions about it, feel free to drop me a line through the comments, or hit me up on twitter @amytashcraft!

related reading:
One year, I swam the Louisville based Ohio River Swim.  You can read about that experience by clicking here

I also have some great pictures of the Ohio River at flood stage (it was a 'pond stage' in my 2014 pictures).  If you'd like to see the flood pictures, click here.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome Post AMY!!!!! awesome! Maybe if you thought about that BIG ASS TOOTHY fish under you you would have gone even faster!!! But I'm not doing it. not bc of the fish though!