Race Report: New Amsterdam City Swim

Jumping in the Hudson at New Amsterdam City Swim

That’s me finishing the New Amsterdam City Swim! (Photo: Alex Saveliev/Beemster Cheese)

I did it! I’m jumped into the Hudson River in New York City for the first annual 1-mile New Amsterdam City Swim on Sunday, June 21 to raise $675 for ALS research at ProjectMinE. As a group, the New Amsterdam City Swimmers have raised almost $438,000 so far. Thank you again to everyone who donated! I appreciate it so much. Hopefully we’re one step closer to curing ALS!

Race Report: New Amsterdam City Swim

Finisher! (Photo: New Amsterdam City Swim)

What threatened to be a thunderstormy day, turned into a scorcher—88 degrees, sun blinking bright, and humidity around 90 percent. By the time I jumped into the Hudson, I was good and ready! The water was welcoming and downright refreshing at 68 degrees.

For all my nervousness going into the swim, I needn’t have worried.

My plan going into the swim was to stay calm, cool, collected, and knock it out at an easy pace. I set out according to plan and manged to stick with it. I kept my pace easy peasy while focusing on my breath and my pull. It paid off.

Much to my surprise, I crushed it. I finished 15 out of 146 women! What!? Throw men into the mix and I was 77th among 351 swimmers in a time of 23:32 for the 1-mile course.

Jumping in the Hudson at New Amsterdam City Swim


Wish I could say the same of most of my running races! This just goes to show, once again, that I’m a much better swimmer than I am a runner. Which is probably why I work so hard at running!

Jumping in the Hudson at New Amsterdam City Swim

Finished announcing in Queens! (Photo: RunKarlaRun.com)

Queens 10K

My day started at 5 a.m., when my alarm woke me to announce at the NYRR Queens 10K in Flushing Meadows Corona Park. I was on site and at the mike at 6:30 a.m. for pre-race announcements.

The rainy, overcast morning turned into a hot, steamy day, and one that was a bit longer than usual for a 10K. The start of the race was delayed an hour due to heavy rain flooding the course.

While I made morning announcements for runners, NYRR employees were busy bailing water off the course—literally. Before it was a park, Flushing Meadows was a marsh that eventually became a landfill during the industrial era. It wasn’t until the 1930s that the site was rehabbed to host the World’s Fair and in the 1960s it became a park. But once a marsh, always a marsh. As a result, the Queens 10K course is particularly flood prone.

By 9 a.m., the rain stopped, the course was clear, and the race was finally underway. I moved to the finish to cheer runners in.

Jumping in the Hudson at New Amsterdam City Swim

Queens 10K (Photo: RunKarlaRun.com)

But the main subway train that ferried runners to the start suffered a shutdown and resulting chaos, so race officials kept the start open much longer than usual to allow train-riding runners a chance to race. That meant the course was open longer than usual. The final finishers came in just before 11:30 a.m., and I hung up my announcer hat for the day.

I got home around 1 p.m., 8 hours after my day began, all of it spent standing. I didn’t even get a seat on the subway ride home. I was beat. So I walked my dog, wolfed down a slice of pizza, and took a quick 40 minute snooze before heading to downtown Manhattan for the swim. At 2 p.m., my alarm was ringing again. I pulled on my swimsuit, grabbed my bag, and ran out the door.

New Amsterdam City Swim

Jumping in the Hudson at New Amsterdam City Swim

Ah! Arriving on site (Photo: RunKarlaRun.com)

The Start

The New Amsterdam City Swim started at Pier 45 at the Hudson River Park in the West Village of Manhattan. Check-in for the 3:45 pm start closed at 3 p.m.

I got there just in time to get my race-issued swim cap and timing chip, drink some water and eat half of a Quaker protein bar that came in my race bag.

I had a major headache, which often happens later in the day when I’ve had an early start. Food and water usually helps. A friend also had Tylenol, so I took some to help get me through. I shy away from taking pain killers when exercising, but my head was throbbing, so I went for it.

Jumping in the Hudson at New Amsterdam City Swim

Vera and I are ready! (Photo: Susan Bayat)

Wrestling my wetsuit onto my sweaty skin proved to be a 2-woman job. My wetsuit now has numerous finger-nail sized gashes in the neoprene from such abuse over the years. My friend and running teammate, Vera, and I readied together. She’s the one who roped me into doing the race.

By the time they called our wave, Wave 1, to the start we were baking in black neoprene and ready to jump in. Thankfully, the Tylenol, food, and water had kicked in and my headache was gone.

The start of the swim was timed with the end of high tide, so that the southbound current would be in our favor as the water flowed out to sea before low tide. The Hudson is actually a tidal estuary, where the salty ocean tides meet the river’s fresh water current in New York Bay. As such, the currents swirling around NYC change every six hours or so to the whims of the ocean tides. Amid the hustle and bustle of the city, it’s easy to forget that NYC sits like teeth in the jaws of the mighty Atlantic Ocean.

Separated into six waves, we entered a floating dock attached to the pier three at a time. Then, one swimmer at a time, we jumped off the dock, timing chips strapped to our ankles. The mouth of the Hudson River in New York Bay is brackish, and I immediately tasted the salt on my lips as I plunged into the water. But jumping in was one of the most fun parts of the day. How often do you get to jump off a barge into the Hudson River in New York City? That was a first for me! I felt like screaming, “Wheeeeee!”

Jumping in the Hudson at New Amsterdam City Swim

The starting dock (Photo: RunKarlaRun.com)

The Swim

The swim was incredibly well-organized with a fleet of lifeguards in kayaks and on surfboards lining the course. The first leg of the race had us swimming across the current, parallel to the pier, for almost a quarter-mile. The first red buoy past the pier signaled a left turn that would take us down river.

Jumping in the Hudson at New Amsterdam City Swim

The course

That first leg was the toughest part of the swim. Swimming across a current always takes work, and the water had a large amount of chop and big swells coming from the wake of large boats on the river. One second the water was down here, then it was up there.

But I just stuck with my race plan—slow and steady. I knew I’d be tired from an already busy day. So I just plugged along, but passed a bunch of swimmers right out of the gate. When I finally made the turn at the red buoy and started moving downstream with the current, I felt the difference immediately. Suddenly, my strokes were much more effective. Magic!

But the chop and swells didn’t let up. If anything, they were a touch more violent. More than a few times I went to take a breath only to have water crash over my head. A few swells were big enough that I stopped my front crawl to ride the swell out with breaststroke, staying on top of the water. It’s no wonder—shortly after I got out of the water, I saw an enormous cruise ship motoring down the river. I hope we gave the passengers something to see!

Jumping in the Hudson at New Amsterdam City Swim

Swimming with giants! (Photo: Alex Saveliev/Beemster Cheese)

Who knows what sort of massive and speedy boats cruised by while I was swimming.

I managed to get into a nice groove in this part of the race, picking my head up to check my line-of-site every 10 to 20 strokes, and riding out the swells when they tossed me around. Dare I say it? I was having fun. I even managed to pass a few more swimmers. And I only noticed one swimmer passing me.

I knew there would be six buoys on the course, but I lost count. We swam downstream for half a mile. I thought I had one more buoy before another left turn at the three-quarter-mile mark that would take me back across the current on an easy diagonal line.

But as I kept pushing forward, I saw and then heard one of the lifeguards motioning me to a yellow buoy near the finish. I tread water for a second to get my bearings and happily realized he was motioning me into the finish pier. Suddenly, the race seemed like it flew by.

Jumping in the Hudson at New Amsterdam City Swim

Finishing steps on the pier (Photo: Alex Saveliev/Beemster Cheese)

The Finish

What do you call making a bee-line in the water? A dolphin-line? Whatever it is, I did it, once I saw the finish. I passed two men in the water along the way, finally reaching a ladder on a dock. I waited in the water behind one man as he climbed the ladder, then hoisted myself out of the water.

I took my sweet time, meandering up a long ramp onto the pier. I didn’t realize that the timing mat was at the top of the ramp, and not on the dock, until two men almost knocked me over as they raced each other to the finish. Haha, so much for finishing strong! Once I saw them running, I started moseying too.

Race Report: New Amsterdam City Swim

Laughing as two men nearly bowled me over at the finish. (Photo: Alex Saveliev/Beemster Cheese)

I finally hit the timing pad on the pier as one volunteer hung a medal around my neck and another draped a robe across my shoulders. I did it! I finished my longest open-water swim, and in the Hudson River too!

Jumping in the Hudson at New Amsterdam City Swim

Medals (Photo: Alex Saveliev/Beemster Cheese)

My official time for the 1-mile course was 23:32. I was 15 among 146 women, 77 of 351 swimmers overall. When I found out how well I’d placed, I almost wished I had pushed myself to see how well I really could have done. Nonetheless, I’m ecstatic with how I did.

Jumping in the Hudson at New Amsterdam City Swim

High five! (Photo: Alex Saveliev/Beemster Cheese)

And that scary Hudson River water everyone jokes about? Not scary at all! I’ve swum in much murkier water, colder water, dirtier water, and smellier water, too. I didn’t get the “Hudson Mustache” that so many people joke about. Only one tiny fleck of flotsam and jetsam clung to me as I exited the river. Overall, it was actually really refreshing! Based on this experience, I personally wouldn’t hesitate to swim in the Hudson again.

Jumping in the Hudson at New Amsterdam City Swim

Cheese! Ice Cream! Yum! (Photo: Alex Saveliev/Beemster Cheese)

The Festival

The Finish Festival and Pier Party was awesome. Fresh water showers greets us after the swim, along with men’s and women’s changing tents. The only hitch in the entire event was a baggage kerfuffle. Wave 1’s bags weren’t yet at the pier when I arrived, and somehow, my bag got placed with a later wave. So I didn’t end up getting my bag for over an hour.

Jumping in the Hudson at New Amsterdam City Swim

Eating some Beemster Cheese in my new robe. (Photo: Alex Saveliev/Beemster Cheese)

It was no matter. I had a plush robe, courtesy of race sponsor Dove Men+Care. Dove was also offering free mini-massages. I waited behind just one other swimmer for a glorious 15-minute rub down.

Then I inhaled a Giant King Cone from the complimentary Good Humor cart (and proceeded to get chocolate all over my new, white robe), followed by a scoop of One Sweet Whirled at the complimentary Ben & Jerry’s truck. (Yes, swimming makes me really hungry for ice cream!) And because I decided I hadn’t eaten enough dairy yet, I scarfed some Beemster Dutch Gouda beside an adorable inflatable cow.

I found Vera and we traded race stories as we waited for our bags. A nice gent who already had his bag let me borrow his phone to call a friend who was meeting me at the festival.

My friend found me just as my bag arrived. So I changed clothes and we hit the party. She nabbed a free beer at the Heineken tent, we bought Greek pitas at one of the food trucks, and washed them down with watermelon and cookies in a tent filled with complimentary PepsiCo products—Pepsi, Lay’s potato chips, Quaker Oats—and other goodies like mini-Beemster grilled cheese sandwiches. The spread was incredible.

A DJ played as we waited for the headlining entertainment to take the stage at 6:30. Once again, the skies opened up and it started pouring rain. As my friend and I got soaked, we couldn’t stop laughing. It was that kind of a day—crazy, giddy fun.

Jumping in the Hudson at New Amsterdam City Swim

Party time! (Photo: Alex Saveliev/Beemster Cheese)

The Takeaway

The inaugural New Amsterdam City Swim was an awesome event. I might not have signed up for this one on my own, but I’m so glad my friend, Vera, invited me to swim. Swimming in the Hudson River beside downtown Manhattan’s skyscrapers felt like a surreal experience—in a good way. And the after party truly felt like a celebration. Best of all, we raised a collective $438,000 for an ambitious DNA mapping project that aims to cure ALS. I’m already hoping I’ll be able to join again next year.

Jumping in the Hudson at New Amsterdam City Swim

From Mermaid to Human again! (Photo: RunKarlaRun.com)

The New Amsterdam City Swim comped my entry into the race, but I still raised money for ALS! As always, all posts are purely my own. I firmly believe in being honest about my experiences. Seriously. For more information, check out my Disclosure Policy.

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Karla Bruning


Karla Bruning is a race announcer at the TCS New York City Marathon + other major events, TV host for the New York City Triathlon + contributor to Shape, Redbook, Runner's World + other publications. She used to report for Newsweek but spent her free time squeezing in workouts. Now it's her job. She's run 8 marathons, 30 halves, 10 triathlons + open water swims. When she's not running, talking about running or writing about running, she's snuggling her baby, spoiling her dog + compulsively traveling.


06 2015

13 Comments Add Yours ↓

The upper is the most recent comment

  1. 1

    Amazing! I can’t swim for .1 miles let alone 1 mile! And that was after working hard at the Queens 10K too (awesome to get to see you there! …before the nightmare that was that race started). By the way, the 7 train is evil and ALWAYS has issues. Always. Anyway, CONGRATULATIONS ON A SUPER DUPER AMAZING JOB! YAY YOU! :)
    Kellie recently posted..One More Week…My Profile

    • Karla Bruning

      Thank you, Kellie! Always wonderful to see your smile! I felt bad for all you runners out there on Sunday. That was CRAZY humid. I was sweating and I was just standing….in the shade!

  2. 3

    You did amazing! I’m so proud of you doing so well for both swimming and raising money. You had an epic day with announcing the Queens 10K and then swimming. Glad everything worked out.

    When I did the NYC Tri, I enjoyed the Hudson’s strong current down, which made the swim portion so much easier.
    Elle recently posted..O’burg 5K – A Major Race in a Miner TownMy Profile

    • Karla Bruning

      Thank you! And thank you again for donating! That current is everything! I did a half-mile ocean open water swim a few summers ago that took about the same amount of time as this one-mile swim because we had to fight a current most of the time. Swimming with the current is so much easier!

  3. 5

    Congratulations, that’s really incredible and lovely pics!. It sounds really cool to swim in open water like that. I’ve swam in the ocean of course, but this sounds like such a different experience. Also, swimming makes me hungry period. When I was a kid, I would pour half and half over nectarines post-swimming (though ice cream was a go-to as well). I wonder if there’s something in that dairy craving?

    Also, I think there’s an essay in this:
    “This just goes to show, once again, that I’m a much better swimmer than I am a runner. Which is probably why I work so hard at running!”

    Congrats again!
    Diann recently posted..Running Love, Audrey Hepburn’s Healthy Living Secrets, and the Empathetic BrainMy Profile

    • Karla Bruning

      Thank you, Diann! And you may be right about an essay there. I’ll mull it over. Peaches and cream would be amazing post-swim. I got into the habit of eating dairy after swimming as a kid. On swim team, our coach used to tell us not to eat any dairy 24 hours before a big race because it takes so long to digest. So after not having dairy for a day or two, I’d always crave it!

  4. 7

    This is incredibly cool! What a neat race. I’ve only ever done “swim only” races as practice swims, and never somewhere neat like the Hudson.
    Megan recently posted..Wednesday Workout RecapMy Profile

    • Karla Bruning

      It was a really cool experience. This was my second open-water swim only race. I really enjoy them!

  5. 9

    Well done Karla! What a day!

    BTW – are you planning a fall marathon? Check out this course elevation I am doing in November (cool weather!) http://static1.1.sqspcdn.com/static/f/738667/26197491/1430780114907/HMR2H_2015_FULL_COURSE_MAP.pdf?token=5vIEnvbgg2D5eSg7HLDAhEN0y40%3D
    Kristi@Blog for an Average Runner recently posted..Marathon Training Starts SoonMy Profile

    • Karla Bruning

      Thank you, Kristi! Holy cow, that elevation chart is amazing! EXACTLY what I want! Unfortunately, it’s the same day as the TCS New York City Marathon, which I’ll be working once again as a race announcer. If only! Looks like it will be a great PR course for you!

      • 11

        Never even thought about the fact the two races were on the same weekend. You will definitely be busy that day too, just in a different way!
        As for a PR, I am hoping! To be honest if I could manage a 4:29:59 I would be thrilled. I would just like to say I can run a marathon in under 4 and a half hours.
        Kristi@Blog for an Average Runner recently posted..Marathon Training Starts SoonMy Profile

  6. 12

    Reminds me of when Kramer swam in the Hudson! You’re braver than me – don’t think I’d do that unless I was on a plane that landed in the Hudson. Jealous of your swimming ability Karla – no wonder you do so well in triathlons.
    Ewen recently posted..Last in the ACT Cross Country ChampionshipsMy Profile

    • Karla Bruning

      Haha, I forgot about that Seinfeld episode! Thankfully, NYC’s stretch of the Hudson meets US Environmental Protection Agency standards for safe swimming. Not sure you could convince me to jump in otherwise!


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