Saturday, July 9, 2011


OK, here we go.  Today was a day of severe ups and downs.
Got up at 0530 and my father in law and we were out the door soon.  Got to the race start with plenty of time to spare and set up.  I met up with my dad's friend George and he chatted with me a bit then marked my numbers on me. 
Nature called and I went to the port-a-johns only to be told they had no toilet paper in them.  What???  I had to walk to the hotel down the street to find a bathroom.  Got back and found Suzie and handed over what I wanted her to carry for me.  When the safety briefing was over, the start was going to be in 7 minutes.  I hurried out of my clothes and greased up.  Was completely ready with 2 minutes to go.  I chatted with the guy next to me and I noticed something amazing and quite hysterical.  The swimmers had segregated themselves.  All the swimmer to my left were in wetsuits and all the skin swimmers were on the right with me.  Someone else noticed this and yelled. "Yeah, this is where the REAL swimmers are!"  I couldn't help but laugh with the other non wetsuit swimmers. 
Countdown from 10 then we were off.  I ran in quickly and tried to get acclimated as soon as I could.  I was able to adjust to the 60 degree water faster than normal and by the time I was even 1/3 heading out of the cove, my breathing had elongated and my body felt completely fine.  This was a very good sign.  As soon as I cleared the cove, Suzie was at my side.  It was good seeing her there and I knew that the work we put in yesterday was going to pay off.  She stayed right where I wanted her to and did a fantastic job of paddling on the way to the Rock.  She was good on the signals too directing me to move in a particular direction or to come closer to her.  All messages to me were under 5 seconds and very concise.  No please, thank you, or manners, just straight info...just the way it should be!

We made a perfect line to Alcatraz and I stopped bilateral breathing and just took air on my left so I could keep looking at the island.  It was amazing.  I had such a great time looking at the prison and island that I found myself elongating my strokes more than needed so I could take a longer breath to look at the island more.  Halfway around we stopped for gel and a drink.  Suzie never touched me as we exchanged items.  I always try to observe the English Channel rules of swimming by never touching anything or anyone and vice versa.  It's just the way I feel and other serious swimmers are the same way. 

After my stop, I passed a full body rubber on the outside.  He had "I'm a triathlete" written all over him!  As soon as I passed this guy I thought, "I bet this rubber tries to draft off me."  I was right.  Not even 10 seconds after I had cleared him, he was directly behind me.  This pissed me off something fierce.  I popped my head up and yelled, "Oh F**k no!  This guy is NOT going to get a free ride off me."  This made Suzie laugh.  I made a very sharp sudden turn and sprinted for about 150 yards.  I turned around and he was way behind me.  Grrrrrrrrrrr.
When we were rounding the last part of the island before we could see San Francisco again, Suzie told me that the water is going to be going crazy so be ready.  She could not be more correct.  The way the island is with the cross currents, water comes in from all directions and goes everywhere.  It was EXTREMELY choppy and I found myself in what I can only describe as a whirlpool.  I was getting pulled to the left, then forward, then backwards, then to the right, repeat.  All this with the waves coming in from several different directions and at a 3-5 foot difference.  One stroke I would not be able to clear my arm or even my shoulder and the next stroke, there was no water there and I would drop a few feet.  It was REALLY fun!!!  I had this huge smile on my face and kept Suzie at ease from worrying about me by yelling, "WEEEEEE" every once and awhile.  I meant it too.

Now the adventure began!  I stayed close to the island to the point where we told previously to start heading in.  We did just that but the ebb tide had picked up quite a bit and had gone up to at least 2.+.  Suzie and I didn't realize how strong it was going until we had cleared the island.  We adjusted our direction and I started going at an angle to head back to the cove opening.  It was not enough.  I saw several people being pushed way off course and some even were getting yanked out or just flat out quitting.  A boat came by us and told me to get on back so he could move me.  I asked if he could just ignore me and he said he would.  Suzie and I talked for a few seconds and we decided that I really needed to push myself all out for several minutes to overcome the current and wind that were pushing us more and more away from the cove entrence.  I got in a strong rythem and pushed myself to just below my "redline" and held it there.  I was making good progress but I knew that this was going to add some serious time and distance to my swim.  I don't care!  I am there to finish on my own and my paddler and I are experienced enough and determined enough to do what it takes to finish.  We both acknowledged this even though no words were said. 
I was making some good progress when another larger boat came up and pulled next to me.  He did not ask, he DEMANDED that I get in the boat so he could reposition me. Suzie knew who this guy was and told him I'm fine, she is with me and I'm making progress.  He got mad and started yelling at us!  He starts yelling at her for being so irresponsible for letting me get this far out.  WTF?  She can't control the wind and ebb tide!  We just deal with it and we WERE!  I go to start moving a bit and this jackass pulls the boat directly in front of me!  He starts yelling at us again and demanding even more that I get in.  I was pissed now and know this guy was not going to let me move.  I yelled at him, "Hey, there is no reason to talk to her like that.  I'm getting in the boat so SHUT IT!"  I swam up to the boat and he lowered a ladder down.  I hesitated grabbing it because I knew what was going to happen.  As soon as I touched the ladder, my heart sank and I felt like I had just been forced to quit.  I felt like a quitter and there was not a damn thing I could do about it. 
It gets better!  There were 4 other people on the boat.  Jackass just SITS THERE!!!  He didn't go for more swimmers and I'm just sitting there getting angrier by the second.  Finally after several minutes, I ask (in the "nicest" tone I could muster at that moment), "Are we going to move??"  I'm cold at this point and then he takes off to "reposition" us.  Now the wind is blowing on me making me even more cold.  Jackass does not go parallel to the shorline, he angles IN to the cove shorline which will make our swim shorter.  I'm now EXTREMELY pissed off and I'm actually biting my lip so I don't scream my head off at this guy.  The cherry on top was when he finally stops, he YELLS at us, "You all better stay together, it's safer that way."  F-You man!  This is a RACE, not a swim, I'm not grouping with anyone.  I jumped back in and just as I expected, I was cold and the water felt cold.  I then started swimming and my shoulders and arms had gone stiff.  My anger meter was on 10 and I could actually feel heat being regenerated inside of me because of how pissed I was.  I took off like a bat out of hell.  I found my redline and stayed at it not caring about anyone or anything.  I entered the cove and swam even harder.  I was cold, my arms were stiff, and I had lost my paddler.  All of this AFTER, I was forced to get out even though there was no logical reason for me to be forced out.  I went all out to the finish swearing constantly in my head.  I cleared the beach and the race organizer Pedro gave me my medal and asked how the swim was.  I did not look at him or say one word to him.  I did look at George and thank him for being there.  Suzie could tell I was mad and came over to talk to me.  We discussed what had happened and she was also "less than happy" that we were cut off and talked to the way we were.  There was NO logical reason why I had to be "repositioned" even though I was in no danger and was making progress.  I was also the ONLY one there with my own paddler!  Yeah, I'm in REAL danger.
I was told that I was the third skin swimmer to finish and my time was 1:55.  I wanted to break 2 hours and I did, but not on my own.

The good things were that Suzie did an AMAZING job paddling for me and being exactly what I needed from her to be for that swim.  I always felt safe, strong, and confident with her there.  Suzie, you can be my wingman anyday!  The island was also great to look at.  I had more fun than can be described looking at it that close and all the way around.
The bad things were that this race was POORLY planned.  No TP in the port-a-johns.  No waver signing for the paddlers.  No coordination of paddlers on the other side of the island.  No real communication for people that were doing fine.  Forcing people to move when they did not need to.  Then shortening the swim instead of repositioning them just so you can get done faster. 
I keep focusing on the positives and I will probably be back to swim in the Bay again but I promise this forever, I WILL NEVER DO ANOTHER SWIM EVENT THAT SWIMWORLD HAS ANYTHING TO DO WITH EVER AGAIN!!!  I will never recommend them to anyone and I will never forget that this "race" cost me $250 and was not even close to worth it for what I got out of it.  Even the food at the end was pathetic.  
Ok, back to happy thoughts.  After my swim, I cleaned up then spent the day going all over San Francisco sight seeing and doing all of the tourist stuff with my father in law. 
Suzie took a lot of pictures but they need to be developed then scanned before posting here.  Going to bed now and have to be rested for the long drive home tomorrow.
Thank you all who posted positive messages for me.  It did mean a lot.  Please check out the link for ALS awareness  I have on top of this blog.
Thanks again.


  1. Sorry it didn't turn out exactly like you wanted. Glad you had a good time and got to spend time with Suzie. That's a huge bonus. I bet you'll be back there someday and it'll go better for you. It's valuable experience you get.

  2. They did the same thing with us last year with the repositioning... all but 4 wesuiters got moved. It sucked. I won last year for skins but it didn't feel legit to me due to the whole forced boat ride situation.

  3. Sorry things didn't go your way on the swim. I'm glad you still had a good time and got to swim in the bay.

  4. Gords, yes I'm going back on day for sure but only with people like Suzie and her friends that do swims like this.
    Rob, the swim definitely didn't feel legit. I understand why some people needed to be moved. I was not one of them.

  5. Goody - This is quite a tale. I have never heard of race organizers operating this way, and it sounds like they are accustomed to "solving the problem" in such a manner. I don't blame you for being pretty chapped about the whole experience, and particularly what sounds like pretty shabby treatment from these guys. The good news is that it was a challenging swim, with wind, waves, currents, and confused seas; for that you should be proud that your persevered (and persevered quite well, by the sounds of it). Forget the disappointment, put another swim in the "W" column, and set your sights on Catalina for 2012.