Why the numbers on the pylons at the Chesapeake Bay Swim are screwy, I have the reason

Kevin_in_MDKevin_in_MD Senior Member
edited June 2015 in General Discussion

I reckon a fair number of us have done this race, and in the process noticed the numbers on the pylons in the water. If you were counting them like I have, you also noticed they change numbers all of a sudden, you're going along looking at the numbers and seeing 47, 48, 49 etc, then you start seeing 32 and winder if time has stopped.

This is the info for the eastbound (southern) span.

Here's the deal.

The Bay Bridge has 65 "bents" and 57 "piers." A bent is a bridge support, a pier is usually a bridge support with one column, though not always. In this case it appears that the concrete supports are the bents and the others are the piers.

So as you go start the race you see the numbers go up, there are 29 bents at the start so the numbers go from 1-29.

Then you start seeing the piers, numbered 1-57, then when you get close to the eastern side of the bay, you get to more bents, these start at 30, starting over from the 29 on the western side of the bay. And you go up from 30 to 65.

I have been wondering this for 15 years and hope you enjoy this nugget.



  • So on that note, who among us will be counting the piers and bents from the water next Sunday? I will!

  • ksmithksmith La Jolla, CAMember

    I will too! Looks like the water should be nice and warm for next Sunday as well, I am excited for the event.

  • I will be there this year. It has a crazy late start time this year!

  • I will be there!

    Excellence is born of preparation, dedication, focus and tenacity; compromise on any of these and you become average.

  • Kevin_in_MDKevin_in_MD Senior Member

    Apparently on the west bound span it is just 1, 1a, 2, 2a etc

  • swimmer25kswimmer25k Charter Member

    Besides staying between the spans, the only pier that matters is the last one. :D

  • bluemermaid9bluemermaid9 Boca Raton, FL, United StatesSenior Member

    I'll be there, too! (First timer). @Kevin_in_MD: this engineer thanks you for your nugget.

    BTW, for those of you who've this race, how does this race director handle hydration?

  • Bluemermaid9, they put two support boats out on the course (I forget at which mile markers) that have things like water and bananas and nilla wafers. I never stop at them unless I'm in dire straits, because I can be stupidly competitive sometimes, and the boats are usually way on the opposite side of the course and require swimming well out of my way. I'm still trying to figure out some hydrodynamic method of carrying water with me...

  • bluemermaid9bluemermaid9 Boca Raton, FL, United StatesSenior Member

    @grappledunk: Thank you! That makes me feel better. I might have to figure out where to carry gel packs... Ugh. First timer woes...

  • Kevin_in_MDKevin_in_MD Senior Member

    BTW, for those of you who've this race, how does this race director handle hydration?

    The race director says that the boats will be at 2 miles and 3 miles.

    However, in my experience the boats
    1. May or may not be there and
    2. Can be anywhere at all along the course.

    Also, if you are being pushed from left to right, the boat can easily be on the complete other upstream side of the course, the left side in this case. Depending on how fast the tide is moving getting to it might be very difficult or damn near impossible.

    My suggestion is to pay attention to your nutrition before the race, there will be a lot of sitting around waiting possibly on a hot shadeless beach.

    I put two get flasks full of gatorade with maltodextrin mixed in, in my wetsuit. It's 9ish ounces total but it's something .

  • bluemermaid9bluemermaid9 Boca Raton, FL, United StatesSenior Member

    @Kevin_in_MD, you're a treasure trove of information! I've been training with a Gatorade/Carbo Pro mix and it works so well, I'd rather have it on race day. I'm trying your flask idea. Thank you!!!

  • wendyv34wendyv34 Vashon, WASenior Member

    Those collapsible plastic water bottles go into a swimsuit pretty well: http://www.rei.com/product/768123/platypus-plusbottle-1-liter-water-bottle-with-pushpull-cap

    I also like the Gatorade/Carbo Pro mix. I've tried Carbo Pro with Golazo, a tasty & natural Gatorade alternative (organic & made in Seattle), which I really love.


    It's always a bad hair day when you work at a pool.

  • wendyv34wendyv34 Vashon, WASenior Member

    That would be tougher in a wetsuit. If it was sleeveless, you might be able to get one in through the arm hole. I can't stand wearing a wetsuit long enough to need a feed stop. I've decided that chafing is more miserable than being cold.

    In a swim suit it can go anywhere it feels comfortable... and you don't mind an extra bulge. :\">


    It's always a bad hair day when you work at a pool.

  • wendyv34wendyv34 Vashon, WASenior Member

    Now that I think about it, Gatorade Prime packages would probably fit in a wetsuit. They're 4oz, 100 calories. I'd probably duct tape the pull tab to the package along one edge so it didn't escape and float away.


    It's always a bad hair day when you work at a pool.

  • I appreciate the lesson on the pylons, I was counting down as I struggled against the flood tide, must admit I lost count as I tried to make my way out from between the spans.

    Wow! Great race and great weather, but it took me 3.5 hours. Just glad to finish since I couldn't really do much training volume because of shoulder impingement issues, and happy that I could swim for 3.5 hours straight, since I have the Suck coming up in several months and figured 4 hours for that. I was a bit befuddled by the tidal flow in the Chesapeake swim, lulled by the organizer's description of mild currents. I think I was swimming at about 45 degree angle to hold my position within the channel. Wasn't really sure of the proper angle to compensate and probably wasn't optimizing the angle. What are other's thoughts on the current this year? Never had to deal with cross currents before, with the constraints of staying on a relatively narrow path between the spans. I thought it was a pretty tough swim, especially at the exit. I will confess that I walked in from where I could stand after the jetty. But I wore no wet suit!

  • Kevin_in_MDKevin_in_MD Senior Member

    sjwhitemd said:
    What are other's thoughts on the current this year?

    I find when we start on an outgoing tide that the currents are harder to deal with.

    The southern spans have the two island anchors for the main channel, when the outgoing tide the water has to move around those islands and it moves quickly, as you near them you get pulled south and pushed back a little bit.

    And then as you finish you have the incoming tide that doesn't want you to get out from under the bridge.

    Tides moving the opposite way tend to make it seem easier for me.

  • EllisEllis Baltimore, MarylandMember

    Thanks Kevin. I had an article published in Chesapeake Bay Magazine after my 2004 swim that posed this very question. A decade later the answer was provided by the all knowing inter-webs.

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