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!
47th OA / 655 in the wetsuit division (120 non-wetsuit competitiors)
7th woman OA
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!!