Sunday, January 21, 2018
Sports

Manhattan marathon swim awaits two bay area men

The 28.5-mile Swim around Manhattan will be hard, but not nearly as tough as covering the length of Tampa Bay one stroke at a time.

Or at least that's what open-water swimming buddies Chris Burke and Dr. Mark Smitherman hope when they hit the water in New York on Saturday morning.

"In the 2012 Tampa Bay Marathon swim, I got stopped at Mile 18 because of lightning," said Burke, a 52-year-old contractor from St. Petersburg. "I went back the next year and finished in 12 hours, 15 minutes, which is a lot longer than what I think the swim around Manhattan will take."

Burke and Smitherman, an internal medicine specialist from Clearwater, plan to make this weekend's race the first leg of their quest to complete the triple crown of open-water swimming, which comprises the Swim around Manhattan, the 21-mile swim across the English Channel and the 20.2-mile swim across the Catalina Channel in Southern California.

"I know we can make it around Manhattan," said Burke, who trains at St. Pete Masters at North Shore Pool. "But we've been training hard because we don't want to be the last guys out of the water."

Burke was a college athlete who swam the mile at Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania, but didn't venture into the open water until his children were grown. "I could not have done it when my kids were young," he said. "It takes a lot of time, but fortunately my wife is very understanding and supportive."

Burke started off with the Hurricane Man Swim on Pass-A-Grille, where he does much of his open-water training, then moved on to the 12.5-mile Swim around Key West. "You just build up over time," he said.

At 6 feet 2 and 225 pounds, Burke considers himself a "big guy," which helps when conditions get rough. "Just think about it. When there are waves, would you rather be in a canoe or the Queen Mary?" he said.

Smitherman, 56, was also a pool swimmer who hit the ocean looking for new challenges. "I get barraged with emails and phone calls and always have a million things in my head," he said. "Open-water swimming is the one time I can allow myself to be totally bored and think about whatever I want."

Burke and Smitherman have both seen rough water and know how to deal with the cold. They had to qualify for Saturday's race by doing a four-hour swim in 58-degree water.

"The cold is going to be their biggest challenge," said Clearwater's Ron Collins, founder of the Tampa Bay Marathon Swim and a Swim around Manhattan finisher. "They are not used to those kind of temperatures."

Burke and Smitherman can expect to hit the water early, take advantage of the incoming tide to carry them up the East River, beneath the Brooklyn Bridge and north along FDR Drive. Each swimmer will have a support boat to keep other watercraft away and supply them with food and drink.

The swimmers will then pass beneath the Williamsburg Bridge, which links Brooklyn with the Lower East Side and through Hell Gate, where the tides of Long Island Sound meet the southerly flowing Harlem River and the northerly flowing East River. "These tides create whirlpools hazardous even to small boats," according to the race literature.

Once the swimmers hit the Hudson River, it's a straight shot all the way down to Battery Park where, if they are lucky, the swimmers will finish roughly nine hours and 27,000 strokes after they started.

"I've got confidence in these guys," Collins said. "If anybody is ready for it, they are. I guess you could call them both experts."

Terry Tomalin can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8808.

Comments
What’s gone wrong with the Lightning?

What’s gone wrong with the Lightning?

It didn't take the sound of a door slamming in the dressing room Saturday night to sense this Lightning team is frustrated. Tampa Bay felt like it worked hard – at least, harder than Thursday's listless loss to Vegas – yet dropped anothe...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Lightning falls to Wild, its fifth loss in seven games

Lightning falls to Wild, its fifth loss in seven games

ST. PAUL, Minn. — The Lightning said all the right things about needing to look in the mirror and do some soul-searching during its recent funk. Veterans said they had to lead the way. Coach Jon Cooper believed this eight-game trip would "show us wha...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Why free agency hasn’t turned out fun (yet) for ex-Rays pitcher Alex Cobb

Why free agency hasn’t turned out fun (yet) for ex-Rays pitcher Alex Cobb

RHP Alex Cobb never expected to be going into late January without knowing where he was going for spring training.The longtime Ray's first foray into free agency hasn't gone as planned, much like the 150-plus others waiting for something to give in a...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Wozniacki advances to quarterfinals

Wozniacki advances to quarterfinals

MELBOURNE, Australia — Second-seeded Caroline Wozniacki is through to the Australian Open quarterfinals and with a chance to regain the No. 1 ranking in women’s tennis. Wozniacki beat Magdalena Rybarikova 6-3, 6-0 today at Rod Laver Arena. Rybarikova...
Published: 01/20/18

Sports in brief

SPORTSNO AIR FORCE GAMES; NFL BROADCASTS ABROAD IN JEOPARDYThe federal government shutdown prompted the Air Force Academy on Saturday to call off sports events and upended plans for military outside the United States wanting to follow today’s NFL con...
Published: 01/20/18
Florida wins big SEC showdown with Kentucky

Florida wins big SEC showdown with Kentucky

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Jalen Hudson came off the bench to score 17, and Chris Chiozza, Keith Stone and Kevarrius Hayes contributed clutch baskets down the stretch as Florida rallied to upset No. 18 Kentucky 66-64 Saturday night. "We were able to win it jus...
Published: 01/20/18

Avalanche climbs into playoff spot with ninth straight win

DENVER — The Avalanche has gone from pushover to powerhouse in less than a season, and its recent streak is evoking memories of past glory. Nathan MacKinnon, Erik Johnson and Mikko Rantanen had a goal and an assist each, Jonathan Bernier made 27 save...
Published: 01/20/18
After rout, LeBron scoffs at playoffs

After rout, LeBron scoffs at playoffs

CLEVELAND — LeBron James came up just short of 30,000 points. Oklahoma City nearly got there, too. Unable to stop Paul George, Russell Westbrook or Carmelo Anthony, the Cavaliers were embarrassed 148-124 Saturday by the Thunder, which not only rolled...
Published: 01/20/18
McIlroy shoots third-round 65, trails by 1 at Abu Dhabi

McIlroy shoots third-round 65, trails by 1 at Abu Dhabi

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — Rory McIlroy fired 7-under 65 Saturday in the third round of the Abu Dhabi Championship to move one shot behind co-leaders Ross Fisher and Thomas Pieters. Fisher shot 65 and overnight leader Pieters added 67 to reach...
Published: 01/20/18

Sunday’s sports on TV/radio

TODAYCollege basketballMiami at N.C. StatenoonCh. 44Rutgers at MichigannoonBig TenWomen: South Carolina at KentuckynoonESPNUWomen: Marquette at VillanovanoonFS1Women: George Washington at DaytonnoonCBSSNWomen: Virginia Tech at Virginia12:30 p.m.Fox S...
Published: 01/20/18