Monday, August 3, 2009

Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus

This past Sunday's Dwight Crum Pier-to-Pier Swim in Manhattan Beach, California saw 1,140 swimmers enter a glassy Pacific Ocean under mild overcast conditions. Because the swim has exploded in size, the traditional mass start is no longer safe or feasible. For the first time since 1962 when the race was founded, the men and women were separated in different heats.

As a result, the men and women had different views of the race, a long-running tradition in the Californian open water swimming calendar.

"It was an easy start this year," recalled Diane Graner Gallas (shown above), the women's winner who has won numerous races up and down the California coast, usually competing in the lead pack with men. "Because the men and women were separated, it was an easier than normal. This year, I was able to swim around the [first] pier by myself and swam by myself the entire way. I didn't see any other women around me."

"I have been doing this race since I was 14," said the 45-year-old Diane who won the women's race in 48:17 over two teenagers, 16-year-old Marisa Purcell and 18-year-old Taylor Spivey. "Usually, [the start] is much more difficult and is the hardest part of this race."

The men painted a different picture.

Second-place Wadley, a 29-year-old who goes by one name, recalled, "The start was horrible. It was [more difficult] than the Hawaiian Ironman. Everyone goes all-out to the pier with such a small window of opportunity. It was a smash fest."

Simon Millar, a manager to Hollywood stars, said, "It was tough in the beginning. We were swimming against a current, but it was good." Even after missing out on a last wave into the finish as he chased the lead pack, Simon still came out with a smile, "I love this race."

Thousands agree. The 2-mile course is parallel to a boardwalk in front of rows of multi-million homes along the Southern Californian coast. The swimmers are funneled along the course by hundreds of escort boats and lifeguards on paddleboards and finish to music and a boisterous beach volleyball tournament as part of the long-running International Surf Festival.

The race was won by Sean Lemm who caught a great wave to seal his victory, "It was great. The conditions were nice."

999 swimmers officially completed the 47th edition of the open water swimming tradition.