Sharkfest!

Well, today was the big Sharkfest Alcatraz swim… I’m proud to say I not only completed it, but did it in 36 minutes and 42 seconds, much faster than I was anticipating! For those of you who don’t know, this is a 1.5 mile swim that starts at the Alcatraz Island, crosses the San Francisco Bay, and ends at the Aquatic Park.

Yesterday before we left town, I headed over to get a mani/pedi and decided to go with a shark theme. I think it turned out really cute, especially considering I had to explain what a shark was to the nail lady. I did get some compliments on the ferry this morning, so I consider them a hit!

Shark!!!
Shark!!!

After that, we dropped Shadow at the kennel and headed for the Bay. Little did we know until about a week ago, but today San Francisco hosted the Amgen Tour of California, Sharkfest, AND Bay To Breakers. No wonder we had a really hard time finding a hotel! We ended up at a shady place out in Alameda, but it was clean and we got there late, so all we did was sleep.

This morning started with a 4:30am wakeup. Those of you that know me know that I get really nervous before races. I normally have an upset stomach, a hard time eating, and sometimes a headache. This morning actually felt pretty good… honestly, the best I’ve felt in a long time about any race. We headed over the Bay Bridge (note to self: they don’t take credit cards, so if you don’t have the cash, you get a $30 toll violation) and into the city. One thing I have to give the race organizers credit for was being very clear on what roads were closed – they gave fantastic directions into the city and listed out the times that the different roads would close.

Once we got to the Bay and parked, it was time to walk in. We had about a mile walk to the check in, but it was along the shore and was really nice. The weather could not have been more beautiful today… clear (no fog at all!), warm, and calm. We stood in line to get our hands marked (you had to have your numbers on both), get our mandatory yellow swim caps, get our timing chips, and pick up the very important t-shirts. My favorite part of any race is the t-shirt/medal!

Swim Shirt
Swim Shirt

After that was the inevitable wait… the sucky part. We hit the porta-potties and then did what I’ve now termed as “the wetsuit wiggle”. Those of you who have ever watched someone try to put on a wetsuit know that there is generally a lot of wiggling, sweating, and pulling. Now imagine ~800 people doing that. It was pretty hilarious. We had the pre-race briefing and then it was time for what the organizers called the race “parade”, which basically consisted of all 800 people walking about a mile to get on the ferries (there were 2).

Once we got on board, we headed out to the Bay. Everyone was excited and talking – either asking questions about where to sight (you have to pick a point to swim at and stick to it – if you’re not careful you can get caught in this funky current that sweeps you towards the Golden Gate Bridge) or sharing past Sharkfest experiences. At this point, I still wasn’t that nervous. Once we got out to the island we had to wait for about 20 minutes and then they opened the doors. This was where shit got real – you made the jump from ferry to water. Mike and I were some of the first swimmers in the water. It was not nearly as cold as I had expected… my hands and feet were a little cold, but I had been expecting to feel like I had hypothermia.

We waited about 10-15 minutes for the rest of the people to jump and then the ferry horn blew. Everyone started cheering and screaming and swimming. The beginning was a little scary only because everyone was all bunched together and swimming over the top of each other. Once I got into my own space and my rhythm it felt pretty good! I even made a point to stop about halfway across to look back at the island and to look over at the Golden Gate – how many people get to see those things from the water in the middle of the Bay?

My sighting was almost dead on – I came in pretty darned close to where I wanted. The problem was that I was about 100 yards off and right in the really strong current, so for a minute I had to swim like hell to get away from it. I actually had the conscious thought “this is how people drown in the ocean!”. After that it was smooth sailing in… the finish was lined with people cheering and a bunch of guys dressed like prisoners (get it? Alcatraz?). I headed over to the refreshment area where I had the best cup of water and trail mix of my life! Then I met up with Mike (who finished about 2 minutes after me).

Post-Swim Car Shot
Post-Swim Car Shot

This race was so much fun! I’m so glad I did it and I might even do it again next year!

Bucket List Update:

  • Buy a house – completed 2007
  • Get married – completed 2011
  • Run a marathon – completed 2012
  • Ride my bike up the Alp d’Huez – completed 2012
  • Swim Alcatraz – completed 2013
  • Own a horse
  • Have babies
  • Climb Half Dome
  • See the Fall on the East coast
  • Visit Africa
  • Visit Australia

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