That… was a hell of a swim… this morning I did the Swim Around the Rock held by Water World Swimming. It was an out to Alcatraz, then around, and back which adds up to about 3.25 miles. I got to the beach around 6:15am and soaked in the view which consisted of a solid sheet of fog just past the mouth of Aquatic Park, uh oh. When I was signing in and getting my race number there was talk about how the race course might have to change depending on what the Coast Guard would let us do. Option A was the full around the rock, Option B was touch the rock and turn back, and Option C was a one way crossing from the rock back to Aquatic Park. While I was out on the beach I saw my new Rose Bowl friends and my buddy Tony from the SCAQ blog dropped in as well. He’s swimming the one way race tomorrow and he wanted to come see me swim.
After waiting for maybe 15 minutes past 7 we finally got clearance from the Coast Guard, they were going to let us swim the full thing! Yay! There was a short scramble to get everyone assembled on the beach and ready to go. I wanted to get in early to get used to the water real quick but that wasn’t on the menu. They sent us off and me along with a few other dudes in the skins kinda took our time getting in. I didn’t want to dawdle too much because there were only 30 swimmers and I at least wanted to be swimming with people for the first part of the swim. After a few minutes the water temp mellowed out and I was blissfully unaware of how cold it was.
I felt pretty good on the swim out of the park and was happy to see a ton of kayakers waiting for us just outside. I think there were as many kayaks as there were swimmers, plus zodiac boats and other craft floating around. As I made my way into the bay the swell and chop started to pick up, but in a fun way not a scary way. I had a swimmer on either side of me for the first 15-20 minutes, but after that it was quite a while before I saw anyone else in the water. The way out to Alcatraz was deceptively far. The island looked like it was right there… forever. It kept getting bigger and I kept not getting there! After lots and lots of swimming I finally got up to the Rock and started to navigate around it. It was cool to be right there up on it and I really wanted to take some pictures but I kinda had work to do :)
Out on the other side there were a few kayakers waiting and 1 started to follow me and another guy back towards the city. I had a hard time distinguishing anything on the shore to navigate off of. I remembered my buddy from Rose Bowl mention the green of Fort Mason and I looked for a big green patch. That was pretty easy to stay on top of. I kept that to my extreme right to compensate for the tide that would much rather see me take a tour of the Golden Gate Bridge. After a little bit I asked the kayaker for a little guidance because I couldn’t really make out the non-wooded portions of the shoreline between the fog and my lack of glasses. He told me to shoot for Coit Tower, the water was moving faster than expected and a lot of people had been blown way off course. I took that and made my line for Coit best I could. I was feeling fine in the water and it felt like I was getting stronger as I went. Maybe a little more than half way back a boat came and scooped me up. It already had another dude on it. I looked at the nearest kayaker and asked him if I was way off track or something and he said I probably had the best line of anyone out there. I asked what the deal was when I got on the boat and they said they were taking everyone out and repositioning them (edit: turns out about 4 wetsuited swimmers made it in before they picked everyone else up, the guy in the boat said everyone and I assumed that meant everyone… congrats to you guys that made it! I’m very impressed!). I was bummed that I had to hop in a boat, but you don’t argue with the man in the boat. Currents, time, and boat traffic were all working against us and this was a safety inspired maneuver. The few minutes I was on the boat I enjoyed the view and watched the other boats full of swimmers make their way closer to Aquatic Park.
Once I was back in the water (which had gotten way colder in the few minutes I was out of it!) I jammed back through the mouth of the park and tried to really hustle to the beach. I was kind of out there by myself and figured I was way behind. I put my head down and finished strong. I swam way up to some real shallow water and could hear all kinds of cheering and a cow bell. I stood up to run in and promptly fell down into the water again… heh, whoops. I smiled and gave a little fist pump as I got back up and crossed the finish line. To my surprise there weren’t so many swimmers back on the beach yet. I wandered the beach a little bit wondering where Heidi was (she was way out on the breakwater) and watched swimmers come rolling in. I also made my way over to the incoming kayakers to thank them for keeping us all safe and on track in the bay.
Once everyone was on the beach we started to do some awards. They worked from the bottom to the top and gave out separate awards for skin and wet suit swimmers. Inexplicably I was the first swimmer to hit the beach not in a wet suit and something like 4-5 overall. No way! I got a really awesome award for being first for the guys and then they gave an overall award for skin swimmers that was even awesomer! Totally unexpected but totally cool. I’ve never really won anything like that and to get such a cool couple of awards for it was just really fantastical for me!
All told it was a really good event, the crew was great, and the kayakers did an excellent job. I felt safe the whole time I was out there, even when I couldn’t see anybody in any direction, and everyone was really friendly. Hopefully one of these days I can pop back out in the bay with guys.
After the awards portion of the morning I made my way next door to the South End Rowing Club to meet Karen Rogers who is getting ready for her big Farrollon Island swim next month. We’ve been friends online and chatted back and forth before but never met in person. She gave me the quick tour of the club and we got to talk for a few minutes before she had to run off to a meeting with her swim crew. You can check out what she’s up to over on her swim’s Facebook page.
Tomorrow morning I’m off to Livermore for the 1-3 mile open water champs… hopefully my body agrees with me on that one… I’m starting to feel that swim a bit!