Thursday, July 3, 2014

Race Report: Touch Alcatraz And Go!!

Our Low-Altitude, Low Temperature training camp this month, at the In-Laws' house in Marin County, CA put us right next to the San Francisco Bay.  An open water swim or two was definitely part of the plan, but Karen found an organized swim from San Francisco's Aquatic Park to Alcatraz and back, which was just too cool for me to resist:

Between the movie Escape From Alcatraz and the triathlon of the same name, I've always found this swim to be particularly enticing, yet intimidating, with famously cold water and currents created by the tide washing in and out of the Bay under the nearby Golden Gate bridge.  I was asked about sharks, but for whatever reason, I'm not worried about them.

A quick trip over the Golden Gate bridge early on Saturday got me to the SF Aquatic Park.  We congregated and discussed the race--from the Aquatic Park to Alcatraz and back, 2.5 miles, right at high tide to minimize the Bay's famous currents.

1.25 miles to the Rock!

People introduced themselves, and finished with two numbers.  One said, "26 and 27."  Another, "40 and 41." Split times? I wondered.  No, someone explained, total Alcatraz crossings. 

After a prayer led by the coach, we lined up.  I splashed water on my face.  Cold, but at 60 degrees, no worse than Lake Coeur D'Alene in June of 2012.  Then we were off.  A few strokes, a goggle adjustment, a few more strokes, and I was in the game.  No more fear of finishing, freezing, feeding the sharks.  There were numerous support kayakers in the water, and there was always at least one nearby.  Sighting out to Alcatraz and the boat was easy.  The boat that we touched, sitting parallel to Alcatraz, came up quickly, probably with a current assist.  The slower pace of the way back confirmed this.  Ghirardelli Square seemed to remain in place no matter how many times I looked up.

A misjudgement in sighting references left me a couple hundred yards East of the mouth of Aquatic Park, so I got a little extra racing for my money.  Finally, I paddled into the finish 2.5+ miles later, 1 hour, 6 minutes, and 55 seconds later, in 4th place:

Greeting a fellow traveler afterwards
The official video:

This was a very well-run, enjoyable, safe experience.  I'd recommend it for anyone who thinks they can do the distance.  $260 wasn't cheap, but neither is renting a big boat, or appropriate kayak support for a field limited to 20 people.  I'd definitely do another.