Saturday, August 29, 2009

Rockland Breakwater race report or Starfish 1.4 mile or Tropical Storm Danny Race

The Breakwater on a sunny day... not at all what it looked like today.

Imagine if you can ....
Seas 4-6 feet. White caps. Constant driving chop. Wind speed 20 m.p.h. Pelting rain. Air 53. Water 60. Oh yeah, Tropical Storm Danny was bearing down on little ol' Rockland Maine.

But I make this sound more exciting than it was. Once we got in the water all that disappeared and all that was left was 60 degree water that felt goood and a little swim with lots of fun people including my pals the IronMatron and Kathy the Alcatraz escapee.

On account of the weather conditions the race was shortened from an upside down "J" loop around the lighthouse to a straight 1.4 mile out and back along the breakwater (down from a 1.6 mile). The breakwater did it's job and completely protected us from the crashing surf and monster waves on the other side. On our side it was mostly flat and warm with the only inconvenience being a multitude of lobster pots. Can't get more Maine than that.

They had the Rockland Police, a Rockland EMT, the Marine Patrol, the Coast Guard and a whole slew of lifeguards and kayakers. We were watched over.

I was arm for arm with Mike and Dave for about .3 miles, which was fun but I had to apologize because I kept knocking into them as they created a wave that kept pulling me closer to them. After that I went closer to the breakwater to cut down on the distance I ultimately would swim and lost them. For the rest of race I was alone mostly. On the way back along the breakwater were dozens of starfish which were a pleasant distraction.

It all went by pretty quickly..... I apologize for the lack of pictures but it was too rainy and cold to even attempt any photography (pictures are from last year).

Final stats:
3rd OA
1st woman
time tba....

And congrats to Mary who was 2nd woman in the 1.6, Cheryl who was 1st woman in the 3.2 and Kathy who was 2nd woman in the 3.2 mile race! that's a no "gomer" zone. Way to swim hard women!

Monday, August 24, 2009

New header

ya like?

Features Kathy (orange) and I (green) swimming to Richmond Island earlier this summer on a gorgeous and calm Sunday morning.

This was one of those summer swims that gets me through the long dark and frigid days in January.

Climate change?

From WCSH in Portland Maine...
"As of 7PM another 0.17" of rain had been recorded at the Portland Jetport. This brought the monthly precipitation total to 3.45" and the meteorological summer (June, July & August) total to 20.61" which is the wettest summer ever."

The ocean here in Portland has topped 70 degrees Farenheit many times in the last two weeks, just as The New York Times reported the warmest ocean temperatures ever this July.

Today the body surfing was amazing today thanks to Hurricane Bill, while yesterday the beaches were closed due to the tremendous and dangerous waves. A 7-year old girl died in Acadia National Park after being swept away at Thunder Hole by a rogue wave along with her parents. She was found dead later. Kind of puts it all in perspective.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Alcatraz Sharkfest 2009 Race Report

Here's the thing.

It is totally do-able.

Now I know. There is a lot of hype around this race. But the truth is.... you could do it too.

It was FUN. Kathy and I got there early. Probably too early. Like 5:45. Alcatraz was still shrouded in fog with the lighthouse beacon still cutting out over the sea. Slowly people trickled in and by 6:55 we took our last trip to the porta-john and suited up. It was cold so it felt good to be covered in neoprene. The pre-race talk didn't give much in the way of direction as I had been lead to believe and hoped. They joked about beach closings in Santa Cruz and other nearby locales due to shark sightings! Then all 900 of us (there were 1000+ registered) started the "parade" to Pier 41 to catch the ferry.

By the time the ferry actually departed we were sleepy and feeling sweaty in our suits. We laid our heads back and nearly fell asleep... he he. "Ho hum another race", we joked. Helped keep the nerves at a manageable level. To our surprise we rounded Alcatraz and circumnavigated the whole island ending up on the far eastern side, just peaking a view of SF. We were told to line up in groups of 3 and Kathy and I jumped to it. This was the best part. Just standing there in anticipation. All suited up and peering out through the dark large bulkhead out to the sparking sunshine and turquoise water. Like leaping into heaven. And then we jumped! The water was perfect. Refreshingly cold but no numbing.

We went straight to the start line (the other ferry had almost disembarked everyone) and wiggled our way to the front. And kept wiggling. Too many large men in the way. Literally not more then 1 min 30 seconds passed (just long enough to relieve myself, sorry folks) and we saw a visual countdown underway on one of the boats - 10 - 9- 8- 7 -6- 5 - 4- 3- 2- 1 ... and neither I nor any of the people around me waited for the horn. We just took off.

Here is where I unintentionally made a good move. I kept my head above water and swam "tarzan" for about 10 strokes. It kept me from being kicked in the face I am pretty sure. By then I had enough space to hunker down and get serious about going all out for a bit before settling into a normal pace.

It was choppy and there were small and quick swells. For those in Maine, I figure it was like swimming Pine Point on a windy day. Just doable but tiring. I admit I spaced out a bit in the middle of the race. I was able to sight pretty well off the large orange buoys on the back of the pace boat, but couldn't make out much more. During the middle 1/3 most people I could see were to my left with many fewer to my right. I thought this was good, but in retrospect I think I should have taken a harder in line to the right. I had to keep redirecting myself that way probably b/c of the current. Tony from the SCAQ blog reported that many swimmers (him included) were "swept off course by 300-yards or so due to an aggressive high tide flow moving through the bay". Probably this is what I thought was just me not swimming straight. Part of the fun of open water!

However once inside the breakwater, I was in my element. Only about 3-4 minutes of the race were left but I gunned it and passed LOTS of people here. It was much flatter and easier to make some good headway here so I enjoyed myself. This was fun!

Final stats:
47th OA / 655 in the wetsuit division (120 non-wetsuit competitiors)
7th woman OA
1st AG

Kudos to Kathy my fabulous training partner who was 3rd woman overall in 36:37 !! Way to go!

Only 2 Mainers in the race and we both won our age groups. Go Maine!

This is a race I will definitely do again.

Kathy and I in our post-race euphoria... yeah baby!!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

New Training Technique

1. Get large, very large, inner tube.
2. Fill with approximately 150 lbs of kids
3. Secure rope to tube and self.
4. Tow around for 30 minutes.

Great workout for my back and lats. Forced my head down a bit and made me widen out my stroke. Felt good and the kids loved it!!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Sick of this weather...

"Monday was the third day in a row of no rain at the Portland Jetport this month.Quite remarkable when you consider that since June 7 the longest we have gone with no precipitation in Portland is two days." From the weather report.

Fogged out today for a swim to Richmond Island. Fogged out yesterday but we swam anyways. The cormorants and stripers kept us company. We could barely see the waves breaking on the beach as we swam in water about 3-4 feet deep. I am so glad we did it though. It was beautiful. Usually we don't on account of safety... but now Kathy has this nifty contraption which, while it makes us feel safer because we can see it, doesn't actually make us any safer b/c there is no way that a boat could see it.

I think we need to retrofit it with a flag and flashing beacon.

This weather pattern --- which I think is global climate change coming to fruition -- really stinks. Summers are the only (well most) redeeming thing about living in Maine and now we are losing them to rainy cool Seattle weather? Ugh.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Getting psyched for Alcatraz "Sharkfest" 2009


Congratulations on your entry in the 17th annual ALCATRAZ SHARKFEST SWIM, scheduled for Saturday, August 15th, 2009. You will attempt the challenge which only one Alcatraz prisoner – John Paul Scott – successfully completed. Of course, Scott was discovered the morning after his escape on the rocks near Fort Point. He was taken to an Army hospital in the Presidio, where he was treated for shock and hypothermia before being returned to the island prison. Both the Anglin Brothers and Frank Lee Morris made it off the island, but were never seen again. Their fate remains unknown. Be prepared for the experience of a lifetime!

Okay there are no sharks right?

Only 900 people at the start?

And how cold is the water? 55-58 degrees...

I've been collecting advice over the past year from various people. Here are some tidbits.... (names have been changed to protect my informants)

"The race is not that tough. It is more about overcoming your fear."

"Have the time of your life! This is terribly exciting and a lot of fun.
It is something you will tell your grandchildren about because everybody
knows that `you can't escape from Alcatraz'. "

"There is always a cross current but your host will know the water. They will do
the test swims the day of, and the day before, your swim and they will
tell you what to shoot for."

"Here is the trick, swim to the edge of the island once you jump off the boat and then ask the kyakers which way the tide is running, If it is definitively moving in, swim directly towards aquatic park, don't arc towards it like they recommend. If the tide is slack then do the arc like they tell you."

"Don't become obsessed with your time. This could not be a
certifiable swim. I say this because there is no starting line and no
one honors the starting horn. It takes 10 minutes to get 700 swimmers
in the water (3 swimmers jumping in parallel every 5 seconds from two
doors). Swimmers hit the water, and go for it. "

"Pause a few times to take in the breathtaking view. The Golden Gate on
your right. The Oakland Bay Bridge on your left and San Francisco in
front. J had a camera stuffed into her suit and stopped
several times to take photos. Check behind occasionally to see how far
Alcatraz has moved right or left. This can give you a good feel how you
are doing in the current."

"There are tons of sharks in the S.F. Bay but no man-eating ones like the
Great Whites for example."

The plan (for now)...

wear the suit.... apply shark faux tattoo...

follow the map...


Do you have some advice for me?