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Alcatraz weekend

September 1, 2008

The last weekend in August, I met up with my family in San Francisco California for the Alcatraz Challenge.  (Wait this was the last weekend in August…oh well you know what I mean). 

My mom, dad, sister and brother-in-law made the trip to California.  Now they arrived in town on Friday 08/22 afternoon.  I arrived a little later and of course I took public transportation into town.  Public transportation in San Francisco is amazing, except when you are lugging a 50 lb suitcase and a 20 lb computer bag.  BART was an easy trip, but it was the trolley and the walk in Fisherman’s Wharf that got a little hairy. 

One of my swimming friends, Jessica Sullivan, was super nice and helped to get the South End Rowing Club to put on a good swim on Friday afternoon.  Unfortunately, I missed the swim.  I was supposed to be there at 5:30pm, but with the public transportation and the gradually rising crabbiness I decided it wasn’t the best option to make a first impression with some potentially new open water swimming friends.   Katie (my sis), Dan (her husband) and I did go to South End to meet people for happy hour.  I LOVED this place.  It was like a museum and a sports club all in one.  And everyone was so nice.  I of course asked if any were participating in Saturday’s swim.  They politely laughed and said “No, we can swim Alcatraz for free.”  Now they did have a point.  I’m hoping that someday I get back there soon to actually partake in a swim.

Saturday morning came pretty quickly for me, but I wasn’t dealing with jetlag like my family.  Dan graciously said he would take Katie and I down to the start at 5:15am.  God bless him.  We quickly checked in and I believe my sister was seriously beginning to contemplate why she had said yes to doing the run portion of the relay.  For me, it was just great to have everyone there and do an event with my sis. 

As the sun started to come up, we started to see all the other Barracudas.  Jim Teisher, Martin Held, and Laurie Kilborn had all made the trip down for the event.  Of course I think Joe Oakes probably had a hand in some persuasion.  Dang that old man!  Jim and Martin were doing the swim only, but Martin was crazy and was going to do it all butterfly.  Jim was tackling his first-ish cold rough open water swim.  Laurie was nuts and was doing the whole thing.  We boarded the trolley for the ride to the ferry.

After a quick briefing and some waiting, we all boarded a Blue and Gold and started our trip.  Martin was a big hit on the ferry as he had a large tub of vaseline.  It seems many of the competitors had forgotten to lube up to avoid the chaffing.  Too bad he couldn’t charge people.

The ferry out to Alcatraz is really pretty quick and unlike the Sharkfest swim last June, there was a timing pad at the door of the ferry.  As soon as you hit the door, your time started.  I wished everyone a good swim and then I took off.  I did spend some time gazing around and enjoying the sites.  The South Enders are right there is no view of San Francisco and Alcatraz like one from the water. 

There wasn’t much of a current during this swim which was kind of nice.  The water was pretty flat as well.  About halfway through the swim, I noticed another fellow swimmer looking back towards Alcatraz.  I thought his face looked a little concerned so I stopped and asked if everything was ok.  He assured me it was, but I was still a little confused.  Then he came out with it…he was relieving himself.  I just started to laugh and then gave him a wide berth.  I’ve heard that guys sometimes have trouble peeing and swimming at the same time.  I think it just goes to show that men weren’t designed to multi-task.  (sorry guys!).

Coming out of the water, I decided to run.  I know…I know…I don’t run, but my sister was waiting.  I went up through the chute and there she was ready to hit the road.  We exchanged the timer and Katie was off towards the Golden Gate bridge.  Dad and I stayed behind to warm up and change (I changed and my dad held my stuff).  Dan and my mom headed up to the Golden Gate to hopefully see Katie on her journey. 

We didn’t have to wait long for Katie to return.  She was back in just under 1 hour and 10 minutes.  It was a killer time for her first long run.  Plus with the stairs up to the bridge…WOW!

After we were all back together, I had the opportunity to introduce my family to Joe Oakes and the other Barracuda swimmers.  We had some great times and then it was back to the hotel.

Saturday afternoon we took off on our holiday.  It was off to San Luis Obispo to visit my great aunt and see her home.  Talk about the best place in the world.  Her home is amazing and very rejuvenating.  I spent all day Sunday sitting and reading a book.  Now typically I can only sit in the sun for about 2 hours.  So I grabbed my book and only did some strategic sunscreen placement (I left my legs unprotected).  I wanted to recover some vitamin D stores and my legs can usually withstand more sun.  After what I thought was 2 hours I looked over at my dad and asked “Dad, it’s gotta be like what 12:00pm?”  “Um, no Michelle it’s like 3:30pm.”  Oh this was not going to be pretty.  In my relaxing mode of reading and looking out to see apparently 5+ hours had past and I have now learned how to turn my legs into jerky.  Ah good times.

Monday morning we again enjoyed the house and company before heading back up the coast to Santa Clara to visit my uncle and aunt.  They too have just a lovely home and it was great company.  Man did we have some great laughs.  Plus I got a promise that I would get the super good super yummy homemade marinara sauce recipe from my aunt.  I’m telling you this is huge.  Her family comes from Sicily so you know it is good.  I’m sure I’ll manage to botch it up somehow.

Tuesday we spent the morning enjoying a clear beautiful San Francisco morning and having lunch at Scoma’s.  By far the best meal that I had this weekend with the exception of the home cooked meal in San Luis Obispo.

Now I’m just trying to get back into the swim of things and prepare for Catalina Channel in October.

Swim Notes:

  • If the event is early in the morning consider when the sun rises as you may want to pack a headlamp.  Trying to use a Honeypot in the dark is not…I repeat NOT a fun experience.
  • Don’t forget your rash guard!
  • If you see a guy treading water and he is ok, chose a wide path.
  • Learn to multi-task.  Practice makes perfect 🙂
  • Plan to take some holiday time to recharge the batteries.

Here is a really inspirational video that my friend Jessica Sullivan put together of her Channel swim.  She didn’t make it due to a rough day out in the Channel, but man she put in one hell of a swim!  She even landed herself in the ER (A&E for those in the UK) from battling so hard.  I receive so much inspiration from the people that just go after their dreams and just TRY regardless of the outcome.  You may want to grab a tissue before watching.



One Response to “Alcatraz weekend”

  1. Hey Michelle,
    I just found this – great site! Thanks for the shout out. Let me know when you are headed down this way again.

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