The night before, James had asked permission to sleep in, which I granted. After 2 years of his triathlon support (middle of the night wake-ups and chauffeuring to 6am start-lines), this was the best way of saying ‘thanks’ that I could offer! Besides that, I was meeting Tracy Anne and we would have each other to support. I knew that James would be there in time to see me get on the Ferry, and to greet me again at the finish line. Oh yes, the finish line! This would be the first time I would be getting out of the water, running through the gates, and NOT be on my way to T1 (transition to the bike). I would have the WHOLE DAY to do whatever I wanted!
7:35am Pre-race Announcements
The announcement was made that there would be 900 athletes in the water, 12 of which were from Canada. At least that’s what I think I heard, but only 2 of us from North Vancouver! There were attempts at swimming jokes and other such things all in attempts to try to get us to relax, but all we really wanted to know was what the ocean conditions were like. Finally sighting instructions were given and water temperature announced. 62 degrees! WARM! AWESOME!
James found me (us) during pre-race announcements and walked with us, along with Tracy Anne’s partner Ian, all the way to the Blue & Gold Fleet Ferry dock at Pier 41. My mom and Greg had also come down early and miraculously found us in the crowd! Pictures were taken, hugs given, and there were big smiles all around. My mother never expected to be in San Francisco with me to watch me swim across the Bay! Then again, neither did I!
As we lined up to get on the ferry, tension and excitement were high. Once inside, we opted to stay on the lower/main deck rather than head up top into the open. The ride would be windy and cold, and we wanted to conserve body heat for as long as possible. As we pulled away from the dock, we watched as James and Ian became dots on the pier. I wondered what they were thinking. The only thing on my mind was “HOLY CRAP THIS IS ACTUALLY HAPPENING”. One look at Tracy Anne confirmed to me she was thinking the same thing.
As we pulled up alongside Alcatraz, I was thankful I had been there the day before to get my bearings. I knew exactly where I was and where to sight. As the doors opened there was a loud WHOOP! from everyone, along with wishes of luck and pats on the back.
Then it was my turn. Goggles pressed against my face, I leapt from the ferry. The minute I hit the water, all anxiety left me. It was WARM, and I was back in my element. I turned around to watch Tracy Anne jump in, and then we were on our way. The swim to the start line actually took longer than I anticipated, and was thankful that we had decided to be near the front of the line to jump.
Once positioned, I looked around. It was a sea of yellow caps against the backdrop of Alcatraz. It was awesome. Seconds later the ferry horn blew and we were OFF! I had lost Tracy Anne shortly after swimming to the start line, so I said a silent wish of luck to her, and put my head down.
As with any mass start swim, the first 10 or 15 minutes are pretty congested, then things spread out and everyone gets into their rhythm. I was surprised with how fast I got into mine, and was happy with how strong I was feeling. As recommended by event organizers and veteran swimmers, I turned around at mid-point to take in the view. It was spectacular. Bobbing half way between Alcatraz and the San Francisco shoreline, I got a sense of what it must have felt like for the escapees, assuming they got that far, the feeling that they just might make it! I WAS going to make it being the only difference. :)
As I got closer to the entrance of the Aquatic Park, I stopped to ask a kayaker if I should stay on my sight line or start aiming for the lead boat sitting at the entrance. After a quick look at her watch, she told me I was in good time, and I could head towards the boat. Nervously, I did. Then changed my mind. Why? Because I had a race plan. AND, because it had been so clearly stated to us that to aim directly for the opening to the park, the current would sweep us past it. I decided that a few minutes added to my time were worth more to me than missing the entrance and not finishing.
The closer I got to the entrance, the harder the swim became. The current was strong at the entrance, and lingered for about 50 meters or so once inside. The last 400m of the swim seemed to be the LONGEST! I could see the finish line, but it seemed to take FOREVER to get to it! On my last sight, I was able to read the time. It read 46:38. HOLY CRAP! I thought, and picked up my pace. One minute later I was out of the water and running through the gates. ALL SMILES. My mom was at the finish and snapped a picture. As I was turning around to watch the excitement, Tracy Anne was coming out of the water! We screamed and more pictures were taken. We had DONE IT! And in better times than expected! I had finished 3 minutes faster than my best time at home for the same distance when training. I was ecstatic.
All in all, it was a great day to make our escape. The conditions were perfect, and we were well prepared. So now it’s your turn! DO IT. It is an unforgettable experience