29 May 2007

8 Hour Swim - check!

Thank you to Alice, Brenda, Marta, Nigel and Joel for making this swim happen. I swam from about 8:30 - 4:30 and it was rough and windy the whole way. At two hours I knew it was going to be a long swim because my shoulders were already hurting. We headed towards Candlestick for two and half hours, turned back towards the club (and a sailboat regatta) and cruised in for a change of crew at about 1:30. I swam around the cove while Joel hopped in the zodiac to relieve Brenda. We headed towards Chrissy Field and I started to get cold. The water was only 54 degrees. I was shivering from about 5 hours to six and a half hours. I felt very cold and very tired. At six hours I felt much worse than I did finishing my 6 hour swim a month before. I continued on and my shoulders started to hurt more and more. We arrived at the cove and still had an hour. Alice got in with me which was a huge motivator. We did several small coves and then Alice got out early to make sure the showers were warm and the sauna was on. I was greeted on the beach after eight hours, two minutes and twenty two seconds by my roommate Kristina and Alice. I thought that I would need to crawl up on the beach, but I was fine to walk and made my way into the shower. I sat for several minutes and couldn't believe I was done. This was the hardest swim that I had ever done.
Up next: 10 hours on June 9th!

24 May 2007

Today's S.F. Chronicle

Paul McHugh's article about the City Limits Swim attempt and South End's Bay to Breakers swim appears on the back page of the sports section of today's Chronicle.

You can also find the article at: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/chronicle/a/2007/05/24/SPGFVQ0D3L1.DTL

It was the P.E. teachers at school who noticed first. I guess they read the sports section cover to cover.

The article mentions my blog and today I got over 50 hits! That is more than I usually get in a whole month.

Thank you to Paul for being part of our swim adventure on Sunday morning and for accurately and beautifully describing the bay swimming experience.

21 May 2007

Candlestick to Diablo Point

The swim started just below the city limits on the bay side at 3:26 a.m. on Sunday May 20th. The water felt warm when I got in. I stayed right next to Duke, who was escorting me in a kayak. For the first half of an hour, I couldn't see much. The southern part of the city is not well lit and I couldn't make out the Bay Bridge yet. It took me about an hour and a half to get into a good rhythm with my stroke. I wasn't scared and I felt calm and confidant with Duke and my crew on board the "Magic Woman" watching over me. As I approached the Bay Bridge at about 4:45 a.m. the color of the sky changed and revealed the very first hint of the light of day. The sun wouldn't rise for another hour and 15 minutes. By now, the lights of downtown San Francisco were clearly visible and I felt like I have made some progress. We continued on, past the Ferry Building, the piers along the Embarcadero and towards the Golden Gate. As we approached Alcatraz, a container ship passed on my right. I was a little nervous, but stayed right next to Duke in the kayak. As we got closer to the Gate, the water got a little more rough but I continued on. I swam under the Golden Gate full of enthusiasm. I didn't know for sure that conditions would allow us to continue this far and I felt like I had a chance of making it as long as I could make the turn to head South down the coast. It was smooth sailing under the Golden Gate and then conditions changed dramatically. 7-9 foot swell had been forecast and now I was in the middle of it. The wind caused the swell to break so they were like waves. Because of the geography of that area, the huge cresting swell was hitting me from three different directions. I saw the Duke skillfully maintaining the kayak and the boat moving side to side but I was in the middle of too much water to see anything else around me. All of the sudden everyone was telling me to swim South, towards the South tower and towards Mile Rock. An incoming ship was approaching fast and I had to get out of the way. I felt like things had gotten bad very quickly and that if they got any worse I would be in trouble. I told Duke I wanted out. The boat got close to me quickly and Dan pulled me out. I wasn't tired, just scared. I started shivering about 5 minutes after I got out but I hadn't felt cold during the swim. Heather and Alice helped me get warm and we headed back into the bay. As we went back through the Golden Gate, I looked back to where I had just been and the water looked more calm than it had been when I was just there. Things can change so fast in the open ocean. Mark dropped us and all of our stuff off at a dock near South End and I headed in for a shower and sauna.

After we were all warm and dry, Alice, Heather, Duke and I went out for breakfast and discussed the swim. This swim put us all in a situation that we had never been in before. I was scared and doubted myself for just a moment. We discussed what we learned and what we could all do differently next time.

I feel stronger, more confident in my crew and better prepared for the Channel. I feel fortunate that this happened on a training swim and not on my way to France.

THANK YOU to Dan and Anna for coming up with the idea for the swim and asking me to be a part of it.

THANK YOU to Mark Chow and his crew for donating his time and his boat.

THANK YOU to Alice and Heather for monitoring me in the water and keeping me well fed.

THANK YOU to Duke Dahlin for paddling next to me, especially in the dark!

Next up: 8 hours on Sunday the 27th.

20 May 2007

Update on Swim Around the City Attempt

Let's call it Candlestick to Diablo Point. I made it to about 1 mile past the Golden Gate when huge swells cresting from three directions left me feeling like I was up against several walls of water. I asked to be pulled. The only thing we didn't have a contingency plan for happened. I wanted to get out.

Right now I feel great about how much I did do and lucky that we had this experience before we get to the Channel. Details and photos to follow.

Thank you for all of your support.

19 May 2007

Countdown Until S.F. City Limits Attempt

It is 5:34 p.m. At 1:30 a.m. tomorrow morning I will be boarding a boat at the Berkeley Marina with Alice, Heather, Duke, Paul from the Chronicle, Dan McLauglin and boat captain Mark Chow. We'll head over to just South of Candlestick Park where I will jump in the water at 3 a.m. Duke will be kayaking for me. We'll both have 2 glow sticks attached for visibility.

Sleep tight and dream of smooth fast water outside the Gate!

18 May 2007

3 Hours Under Sunny Skies

Last Sunday Bob, Cory, Nigel and his son Tristan and Ruben piloted for me out and around our cove. It was pretty much the same course that Nigel and I took a month before when we were stuck in the pouring rain swimming against the tide. This time, the weather was beautiful and the water was about 2 degrees warmer. Inside the breakwater, outside the breakwater towards Fort Mason on a 2.6 knot flood tide. We made more progress than I expected against that tide and made it almost all the way to Yacht Harbor before turning around and heading into the cove for the last half hour. I felt well cared for with my flotilla of four pilots! Bob was the official time keeper and paddled along next to me on a paddle board. Cory was in charge of feedings and was in a kayak. Nigel and his son were in a double kayak and Ruben just happened to meet us at the opening in a row boat. He had planned to just go out for a row, but when he saw that there was an Channel aspirant in the water, he decided to join our crew.

This Sunday I jump at 3 a.m. for an attempt at a 21 mile S.F. city limits swim. We are still looking for a second boat, as the boat captain of our primary boat is concerned about his own fatigue as the swim continues. Please e-mail me if you have any connections to people with boats who might be interested in being involved in this historical swim.

On the 27th I'll do my 8 hour swim in the bay, June 1st is not only my last day of school but the date of the South End Swimming to France fundraising party. A week later I'll set out on my last long swim...10 hours in the 9th.

08 May 2007

10 Coves of Death

In 2002, I swam the 5 Coves of Death for the first time. 5 Coves of Death is held every year on the 5th of May at 5 p.m. It is the qualifying swim for the Bay to Breakers swim (Bay Bridge to Ocean Beach) held later in the month. Each "cove" is about one mile.

On my 5th time around in 2002, I saw Elizabeth Leahy swim behind the Balclutha for the 10th time in completing her 10 Coves of Death. Her pilot told me that she was training for the English Channel. At that moment I knew that they year I swam the English Channel, I would swim 10 Coves of Death. At that time, I didn't know when that would be.

Elizabeth swam the English Channel later that summer. Last Sunday I swam 10 Coves of Death in 4 hours and 11 minutes.

It is a difficult swim. You are with the tide sometimes, against it at other times. It is not a swim that is planned with ideal tide conditions in mind. Legend has it that for it to be a true "cove of death" that you are required to take a shot of tequila each time around. I have never done that. For me what makes it a cove of death is going behind the large historical ships of Aquatic Park. This year those include the Balclutha, Eppleton Hall and our new neighbor, the Thayer.

Alice, Amber and I started at 3 p.m. so that we would be able to finish with the rest of the pack at about 7. Alice was in a kayak and would be in charge of my feedings. Amber was swimming, but quickly got ahead and maintained her lead for the rest of the swim.

The water temperature was 54 degrees. It felt much better than it did a few weeks ago, but 54 is still not warm. The cove was full of cold spots that felt like they were 50 degrees.

The swim was uneventful from a swimmer's perspective, but Alice told me later that on 6 of my 10 times around she spotted a HUGE sea lion between the goal posts and the repair. Once she changed direction so quickly to avoid a seal that she paddled my leg. Alice did a great job maintaining a calm presence in the kayak while I just kept on swimming.

When I finished my 5th cove, the rest of the swimmers were just starting. It gave me energy to see South Enders cheering from our dock as I came around for coves 6-10. Cove #6 I swam alone while Alice walked on the beach to stretch her back. She was back in the kayak for coves #7 and #8. At the beginning of #9, Alice gave the kayak to Marta and went in to change into her suit. With one and half coves left, Alice swam out to Marta and me to finish up the swim. Just like in San Diego, it was great to have Alice swim next to me as we finished #9 and headed into #10. My stroke rate stayed the same throughout (74 strokes/minute) and although I was tired at the end, I recovered quickly. I only felt cold in the real cold spots but Marta told me my skin looked purple, which is a sign of hypothermia.

I socialized on the beach at the finish, not even feeling the urge to rush to the shower and sauna. I walked past the party on the patio at South End and looked forward to a great dinner.

The fatigue and exhaustion from 6 hours on the 28th and 4 hours on the 5th is starting to wear on me. I have been having trouble sleeping, yet my body desperately wants to rest.

Thank you to Amber for being a part of the 10 coves.

Thank you to Marta for turning disappointment into teamwork!

Thank you to Alice for kayaking, feeding me, counting my strokes and finding a way to swim where she can match me stroke for stroke after I have been swimming for 4 hours.