I really think so

New Year’s day 2013 marked the beginning of the year of my 10th anniversary of swimming !!!!!

It doesn’t seem like 10 years ago that I discovered that “masters swimming” included people that weren’t olympians, and that “swim workouts” even existed. I’m historically a tennis player, and always thought swimmers just went to the pool and did continuous laps until they either fainted or won a gold medal. I don’t mean I learned to swim 10 years ago. I was born and bred at the beach (Freshwater) and was taught to swim as a baby, but tennis was always my sport.


I was probably the newest SERC member to show up for their New Year’s Alcatraz Swim 2013 at the sparrow’s fart, and receive my fabulous Where’s Waldo scarf. I was designated swimmer number 27, which I thought was a good omen, as 27 is a cubic number, the root of which is 3, which is half of my favourite number.

Always the nervous Nelly, I’d slept about 4 hours the night before, but felt better after some coffee in the Food Room, which I’m sure has another, more SERCially acceptable name. Eggs are always my favourite post-swim food, so this was a happy sight!


As expected of an Alcatraz virgin, the pre-race briefing confused me. Apparently the tide was ebbing, but expected to turn just a little before the medium speed swimmer reached Aquatic Park. I wasn’t sure if I was slow or medium but there were 46 watercraft assisting the swimmers and we were assured that we’d be redirected if we went off course.

We jumped from the eastern side of Alcatraz becauase the tide was ebbing when we started. Our boat went all the way around the island before we jumped, which was good for photos like this, but so very cold!!! the outside temperature was in the 40’s and very windy.

golden gate bridge

Here’s a quick sketch I ran up before the jump. It’s Miss Farralones, the other boatload. It was a little choppy. More than it looks in the picture.


Here’s the view we had from the boat just before the jump. No Golden Gate Bridge yet, but it was beautifully clear to the right shortly after the jump. I was happy to meet another Australian on the boat. After so many years, the accent still stands out to me from any distance.



The jump.

I think I was second last off the boat. The wind was so cold I waited til the last minute before rolling up my parka and throwing it in a bag. After a short 2 day acclimation period, I really doubted my ability to do the swim. My embarrassing Catalina failure in 2011 had trashed my confidence in all areas… So nervous. So silly.

The plunge wasn’t so bad at all.

Green. That pause in time when you’re underwater and everything is so green and peaceful. Time to see one’s fingers, and have a little peace. Warmer than the air. Surfacing was another matter. The water was about 51 and that was fine compared to the outside temperature, but I always take 5 minutes to gasp away my nerves and this was no exception. Backstroke, head-up breaststroke, hyperventillating with nerves,I promised myself that if I didn’t give the swim a stellar effort I’d ban myself from The Point for a year!! All this took less than 5 minutes and I was on my way.

Just after the jump and during my panicked backstroke period, a paddleboarder told me I was heading too far west and I should aim for the “opening”.I guess that was all the direction I needed, because I put my head down and forced myself to swim in a calm manner, towards the leftmost tower of the Fontina Towers. That was all that was visible above the chop!!! For most of the swim I thought I was the only person out there! i had to talk myself into calm a few times, knowing that there were many people who could see me and that the chop was the only thing stopping me from seeing the 100 other swimmers..

So, I just swam, aiming for the left Tower, knowing I’d be redirected if off course..

Suddenly The Opening was there. Just as suddenly I was swallowed up by the Bay and spat out like a cork. Apparently the race directions were spot on and, just a few feet from the opeining, the tide changed, and a ribbon of wild water resulted. I think I was too confused to know what was going on, and swam like the dickens towards the opening. I managed to enjoy it , though, and saw many other swimmers converging. Had a huge laugh with another swimmer while being thrashed around.

What a rush

here’s a view I took the next day from the Opening. I guess it’s what we would have seen had the wild surf not been present the previous day.


I felt cold the whole time. Not really cold, just “skin” cold, if you know what I mean. My core was fine. I have to confess that a 2 month break for shoulder pain and sickness (including prednisone), I’m really chubby. So a short acclimation allowed me to do about 50 minutes at 51 degrees without too much suffering.

I bought an expensive, novelty suit for the occasion. That helped a lot…


WEll, I FINISHED!!!!! but chaffed horrendously during the swim. The photo below is 3 days after my Alcatraz swim. C’est la vie!!


Most importantly,.I can never go to San Francisco without thinking of Carol the whole time….


I’ve already sent in the cheque to renew my SERC membership for 2013. It means we’ll be eating potatoes for the rest of the month (never fear kids, i’m a good cook) but it’s worth it to me to have a home away from home in a place I love. SERC is now a second home to me.

I wish I’d had a more meaningful song in my head during the swim, but the Japanese Anime themed hotel I stayed in took care of it………yeah!!!