Spring training has been conducted by American baseball players since the 1890’s, a springtime ritual to prepare for the official professional baseball season that runs through the summer and ends in fall.
Similarly, Ron Collins began his own version of open water spring training with the start of the first Tampa Bay Marathon Swim in western Florida in 1999. The 38.6 km sea swim – often held in windy, rough water conditions months before the channel swimming season begins in the English Channel and Catalina Channel – is a great test of one’s stamina and pre-season preparations.
45-year-old Jim Loreto [shown above in video] said of his 12 hour 28 minute swim, “I have tremendous respect for Tampa Bay and this marathon swim. It is an elite and iconic event that tries a swimmer greatly both physically and mentally. What a great event. Swimming that long and that storm almost got me pulled you can see why I was so pumped at finish line It is such a cool event and honored to finish and humbled.”
50-year-old Karen Zemlin of Plymouth, Minnesota won in 9 hours 55 minutes.
Collins described her achievement, “Swimming on a calm day, going the length of Tampa Bay in less than 10 hours is an amazing feat. Karen was able to battle choppy 1-2 foot waves and a 15-knot wind right from the start to win the event.
The winds fell to about 8 knots in the afternoon, so the waves were less daunting by the time they reached the Gandy Bridge. The late-afternoon seabreeze stirred winds and caused isolated thunderstorms as the last swimmer reached the finish at 7:36 pm.”
Soloist Zemlin was only 23 minutes behind the Spunky Old Seamen relay that finished in 9 hours 32 minutes. 53-year-old Seth Huston and 51-year-old Greg Jablonski were the first to make it to the finish line at Ben T. Davis Beach.
Huston said, “We swam in hour shifts, knocking our last shift to 45 minutes to even out our time in the water. I was impressed with the race organizers and all the precautions taken to ensure all participants safety.
The first 5+ hours were definitely challenging. We had two-foot swells rolling through and a lot of chop with wind gusts. Finding a rhythm proved difficult. After passing under the Gandy Bridge at the seventh hour, the winds were coming from the south and the bay calmed down.
It was great to swim north toward Ben T. Davis Beach and see our team flag wide open facing north with the wind. Staying on top of our hydration and nutrition during each hour break was big for us. I would also say the water temperature ranged from 73-76°F and was perfect for this long swim.”
Jablonski agreed, “It was a great event. We had an awesome day. Shawn and the safety crew did a great job guiding us through the bay.”
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