With school out and summer having begun, Connor Bowman headed up to New York City to spend a Saturday seeing some of the sights.
But Bowman, a Princeton resident and Hun School junior, didn't use the subway, taxi cabs, or buses to get around Manhattan.
Instead, Bowman hit the water at the South Cove in Battery Park City at 6:30 a.m. on June 24 as part of a six-person relay team taking part in the annual 28.5 mile Manhattan Island Marathon Swim, a full counter-clockwise circumnavigation of the island of Manhattan.
Bowman, a swimming and water polo standout at Hun, led off the event for Team Tischman, which included his father, Ron Bowman, former Hun teammate Andrew Philhower, and Princeton resident Doug Myers.
Despite having competed in numerous triathlon and countless swim meets, Bowman admitted that the first plunge into the tidal estuary of the Hudson River was an eye-opener
"It's kind of a shock," said Bowman, noting that the water temperature was in the low 60s. "Depending on how cold it is, it can give you a headache."
In order to deal with the conditions, Bowman utilized some mind games. "It helps to get a song into your mind," said Bowman, who ended up swimming three relay legs for the team which completed the course in about 8 and a half hours.
"You try to fall into a pace; you just try to feel good. You try to set goals as you go along, trying to catch up with the support boats. It was a surreal experience."
Predictably, Bowman encountered more than just cold water and strong currents in his swims. "I had heard stories about people hitting dead dogs in the water," said Bowman with a slight laugh. "I did swim into some condoms and maxi-pads at one point."
For Bowman, choppy water and fatigue posed the biggest challenges. "In my third leg, I kept getting hit by waves," recalled Bowman, who will spend much of the rest of his summer at the Nassau Swim Club, working as a lifeguard together with competing for and helping to coach the club's swim team. "When I was getting tired, I would lengthen my stroke."
Bowman's father, Ron, was the driving force in putting together the team for the event. "I have heard of this event for years, it is the second most famous distance swim behind the English Channel," said Bowman, 45, a commercial real estate executive who has competed in about 15 triathlons and ran the Boston Marathon this past April. "I had thought about entering before so when an organizer called this year, we decided to do it."
In reflecting on the swim, Bowman acknowledged that it was quite a challenge "There was something for everyone," said the Bowman, noting that swimmers are not allowed to wear wet suits in the event.
"The currents were changing. At times you went into the currents which was rough. At other times, the current helped you. Swimming up near Hell's Gate in the 90s was really tough. I had a negative current; I was paddling hard and getting nowhere."
Despite such tough moments. Bowman was able to get a unique view of Manhattan. "It was fun seeing sites like the GW Bridge and the Chelsea Piers from the water," said Bowman, who is planning to enter the event again and may want to do it just with Connor in order to become the first father-son team to complete the gruelling relay. "There was a kayak and a boat with you to make sure that you didn't go off course."
The unique nature of the event made for an interesting post-race journey. "We were laughing and shivering all the way home," said Bowman with a chuckle.
The younger Bowman, for his part, won't soon forget the experience. "It was a real adventure," said the younger Bowman. "I was sore, I got a massage on Sunday."
Of course, when you take the scenic route around Manhattan like Bowman a little pain has to come with the territory.
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