In a little less than a month my friend Karen Rogers is going to swim from the Farallones Islands all the way into San Francisco’s Aquatic Park. This is a really gnarly 30+ mile swim that’s only been accomplished by a few and never by a woman, but as Karen will tell you she’s the right girl for the job!
Karen is having a fundraiser hosted by Bob Roper June 27th in San Francisco to help with the expedition. It’s a $25 donation at the door, runs 1pm-6pm, and is taking place at 1000 North Point, Fontana Towers Conference Room in San Francisco. All the info is available here on Facebook. If you can’t make it out to the event but have a soft spot for bold aquatic adventure like I do, you can also make a donation via PayPal on her website: karenmrogers.com (it’s down a little bit on the left hand side)
I had a chance this week to ask her some questions about her upcoming swim, check it out!
Why the Farallones Islands? It’s a pretty bold choice! What drew you to this particular swim and how long have you been dreaming about taking it on?
I am a hometown girl that doesn’t want to travel too far to challenge myself. There is so much great open water swimming in California that I can’t quite get myself to think about anything else. The Farallones is one of the last big open water challenges that hasn’t been conquered by a female and I am just the girl for the job.When I was in 4th grade my class took a trip to the Farallones. I am not sure who in their right mind thought it was a good idea to take a group of kids out there because everyone including my teacher was sea sick. As we started to head back to SF I thought to myself that it would be easier to swim back. That is the first time the thought crossed my mind.The Farallones Islands are well known as being “biologically diverse,” what’s the plan to mitigate any trouble with the locals?I like your term “biologically diverse”, in other words you are really asking about the white sharks. I had the honor to meet and talk with Scot Anderson, biologist and white shark expert that lived on the island for many seasons. He told me that in all of the time he spent on the island there were no shark sightings in July. They are still on vacation near Hawaii or starting their trek back to the Farallones. The rest of the sea life that inhabit the area I deal with during every training swim. I truly believe that I am not very evolved and do not belong on land myself. So, when I am in the water I feel at home and at ease. When I come in contact with my fellow sea creatures it does not bother me.Spending that much time in the water is a major mental feat on top of being a major physical accomplishment. What goes through your head on a swim that long?Not much goes through my head on a marathon swim. That is the beauty of this sport. On a daily basis, being a wife and a mother of two teenage boys, there is not much time in which someone doesn’t need me or something from me. When I am in the water it is the complete opposite of my daily routine. All I hear is the water rushing past my head and the rhythmic sound of my breathing. It is a working meditation. I cherish every moment that I am in the water and my mind is blank. The disassociation is my favorite part.
Since the swim is taking place in San Francisco, the water isn’t exactly tropical. What do you do to build up a tolerance for the cold water?Actually the water in the bay feels tropical to me compared to the water out near the Farallones. The bay at this point is a warm 56 degrees while the water 10+ miles out of the Golden Gate is holding steady at 49. In the past 3 years I have learned that I have an incredible tolerance for cold water. I am not bothered by 49 degrees. I prepare for these temperatures by staying acclimated to the cold water year round. The San Francisco bay is the perfect training ground for cold water swimming.What’s the frostiest water you can tolerate?The frostiest temperature I have swum was Lake Tahoe in January 2009, 41 degrees for a 20 minute swim. It was exhilarating.A swim like this is a pretty big undertaking, what kind of a crew did you need to assemble to make this swim (and all the training swims) happen?I feel that I definitely have home field advantage here.You are right that this swim is a big undertaking. There is no way that I would be able to do this swim without the help of the South End Rowing Club and its members. The South end has been around since 1873. Some of the south enders have been members for many generations, passing down valuable knowledge about the San Francisco bay. These key players are invaluable to the success of my team.I am blessed with the help of the great Bob Roper. He organizes all of my training swims. He has worked countless hours helping me because he believes that I am the right girl for the job. A big part of my team is Chris “El Sharko” Blakeslee, experienced English Channel swimmer, surfer and all around great guy. His job is my safety. Sharko is in charge of me when I get in the water, how fast or slow I need to go and he has the ultimate call if I were to be pulled. Additionally I have kayakers, a few pacers, feeder, communications, navigators and a medic on my team.We’re less than a month out from the swim now, but the date could be anywhere from July 2nd to the 7th. What’s the best way for the rest of us to follow along at home and know which day you end up going for it?We will know at least 24 hours in advance when the go date will be, all is dependent on wind, fog and waves. Once we know exactly the day, my facebook page, twitter page and website will be updated. Once in the water I can be tracked live via my SPOT GPS in almost real time on google maps. A link can be found on my website. www.karenmrogers.comHave you picked out the next big challenge yet, or is that still in the works?Still can’t get my head out of California after this swim, I would like to swim Catalina and the Santa Barbara channel. All of those are stepping stones towards a much bigger goal I have had for many years, swimming the coast of California. Point to point swims along the coast, educating people about the delicacy of our coastline as we move down it. I would like to have my entire team on a bus, eating local food. Really just looking to have a epic California adventure with all of my friends.