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English Channel 2017

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Bob Burrow

It was back to my roots Portland, Oregon for what I think was my first open water swim event in my home state and a quick visit to see family. The Portland Bridge Swim is a 11 mile swim down the Willamette River swimming under all 12 bridges from the Sellwood Bridge to the St. John’s bridge. This year’s swim was also host to the US Masters Swimming Open Water Ultra Distance Championship.

Arriving a couple days before we were able to get some good family time together with notable highlights being a trip to the St. Paul Rodeo and a pre-swim family BBQ.

I squeezed in a pre-race reconnaissance swim with my friend Cindy, Queen of the Willamette River swimming and founder of Oregon Wild Swimming. She shared with me some pre-race tips, guidance and river lore. The river temp felt wonderful.

Portland weather was on its best behavior and it was beautiful for the big day.  I arrived early for check-in with my first time and first class support team of daughter Courtney and niece Sarah. The race goes from the new Sellwood Bridge to the St. Johns Bridge at Cathedral Park, 11 miles downstream.

The river was calm and glassy as I took off in the first wave in a field of 100 swimmers.

(above-green suit and cap)

It was smooth sailing (swimming) as we approached the Ross Island Bridge and downtown Portland despite a large barge that caused some momentary confusion.

After the Ross Island Bridge it was a series of eight bridges pretty close together through downtown.  I breathe to the left so it was easy to see the skyline and my stalwart support crew chatting with each other.

These series of bridges were opportune vantage points for my raving fans-my family. It was great!

From the last bridge in downtown, the Fremont Bridge/405 Bridge, to the finish the St. John Bridge it was a long slog literally and figuratively.  It was basically a suffer fest!

Quitting was never an option.  I thought often about my friend who died two days before the swim and her family and it certainly put my small suffering in perspective*.  I finally reached the St. Johns Bridge and Cathedral Park after 5 hours and 18 minutes (an hour longer than expected). It was very much a welcome sight to see the bridge’s twin towers.  I stumbled on to the beach with cheers from my Oregon family that was patient enough to wait for me to finish.

The Portland Bridge Swim is a beautiful swim and well run. While this wasn’t my best day I did have several learnings along the way.

  • Do your training-I may have been slightly undertrained. Not much as I swim a lot but slightly.
  • Swim your own race-I got competitive and threw pacing to the wind.
  • Stick with your nutrition plan-this is where my swim went “off the rails”. I pushed my 30 minute feeds to 45 or 60 minutes. I hardly ate any gu and I barely drank one bottle of electrolytes in 5 hours. This was a complete rookie mistake!

It’s good to be humbled every once in awhile, to learn from you experience and to move forward and that is exactly what I have done.

*This swim and blog is dedicated to my friend Julie L who passed suddenly and much too young.

I couldn’t help myself to post a few rodeo picks since it was so fun!

“Sometimes I think life is just a rodeo…the trick is to ride and make it to the bell.”~John Fogarty

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