By Steven Munatones
NEW YORK, New York, June 7. JOHN Van Wisse swam a steady 78 strokes per minute throughout the annual Manhattan Island Marathon Swim to defend his 2008 title with a 7 hours 10 minutes and 35 second victory. Penny Palfrey, who has had a recent run of great marathon swims, finished second in 7 hours 17 minutes and 7 seconds. Michael Renford, also from Australia, came in third in 7 hours 29 minutes and 4 seconds to complete the Australian trifecta. Like Van Wisse's stroke count, the top three finishers swam strongly and steadily throughout the 28.5-mile course around New York City.
The day started out with overcast skies and water temperatures hovering between 60-62°F (15.5-16.6°C), but it gradually gave way to bright blue skies and a beautiful day of sunshine and a relatively calm swim.
"I didn't feel cold," said Van Wisse who won his third race after victories in 2000 and 2008. Asked how he felt, Van Wisse explained, "I go with my rhythm. It's a lot of preparation [to train for the race]. I felt good and was leaving some [energy] in the tank for when we got to the Hudson River."
Palfrey similarly kept up a solid 84 stroke-per-minute pace throughout the race, but could not hang on to her younger competitor once they reached the fast-moving current in the Hudson River.
"I am happy and satisfied with the race. You do the best you can do. It was a bit choppy at the end [when the winds came up and the swimmers faced oncoming surface chop], I thought the wind was going to behind us."
After considering her career filled with major marathon swims, including a 14-hour 51-minute 30-mile solo swim from the Big Island to Maui in Hawaii earlier this year where she faced ocean swells up to 20 feet, Palfrey was prepared for anything.
As was Michael Redford, who has the genes for marathon swimming. Redford, 47, is the son of Des Redford who completed 19 English Channel crossings in his career. Redford was extremely happy with his performance, but candidly explained that he went through some bad spots.
"Right around the four-hour mark, I was fatigued. My stroke count went from 70 strokes per minute to 66. Then, around the 6-hour mark, I was not enjoying myself. But, I got through it and love the whole race. Hey, this is Manhattan, an iconic place, a city of energy."
Redford finished in 7 hours and 29 minutes and was considering his next challenge, the Catalina Channel.
"[The Manhattan Island Marathon Swim] is a different experience than swimming the English Channel. I love this race. When I completed the English Channel in 2007 in 12 hours and 10 minutes, it was like a dream come true. But, now everyone is telling me that I have to do the Triple Crown, so I guess I am going to have to attempt the Catalina Channel."
Like the 25 other solo swimmers and several relays, the effort required to train for and complete a circumnavigation of Manhattan Island is considerable, but the swim seems to spark an inner energy and a strong motivation to continue the sport in its multiple of formats and venues.
The overall placing and times are below:
(1) John Van Wisse: 7:10:35
(2) Vicelords: 7:12:01 (6-person relay)
(3) Penny Palfrey: 7:17:07
(4) Michael Redford: 7:29:04
(5) Mighty Mermaids: 7:33.09 (6-person relay)
(6) Team Mexico: 7:40:22 (4-person relay)
(7) Lennard Lee: 7:41:09
(8) Elizabeth Fry: 7:44:47
(9) Marcella MacDonald: 7:48:59
(10) Conor Rowley: 7:52:15
(11) Lance Ogren: 7:59:44
(12) Jon Ennis: 8:02:25
(13) Mariel Hawley: 8:08:15.
(14) Rob Deakin: 8:19:50
(15) Antonio Arguelles: 8:21:11
(16) Chris Palfrey: 8:21:40
(17) Jane McCormick: 8:24:40
(18) Leticia Flores Hernandez: 8:30:12
(19) Maria Matheu: 8:31:00
(20) Elaine Howley: 8:39:50
(21) NY Harbor Seals: 8:40:33 (2-person relay)
(22) George Hunihan: 8:41:54
(23) NY Nadadores: 8:45:39 (4-person relay)
(24) Brooklyn Masters Double Take: 8:47:05 (4-person relay)
(25) Sea Lice: 8:51:37 (2-person relay)
(26) Kathleen Jaeger: 8:53:07
(27) Willy Blumentals: 9:05:15
DNF: Ricardo Grossman, Stephen Autry, Cara McAteer, Suzie Dods, Four Loops (4-person relay), Asphalt Green Triathlon Club (4-person relay)