Swimming from Alcatraz

Yesterday, was the third time I’ve swum from Alcatraz. I don’t know why all those prisoners couldn’t escape? It’s almost like they didn’t have wetsuits and swim practice and kayak guides.

I needed to practice before the race next weekend and I really, really needed to understand how currents and tides work. Last year, I didn’t understand so well and even though I swam hard I got stuck in an eddy about 200y from the shore. I could see the people and the finish line, but I never got any closer. I lost so much time on that swim.

The swim was particularly good yesterday, because one of the race directors was on the boat. I asked him a lot of questions about how the current would be different next week and what you should site off of and the direction you should swim.

He was there because his niece or daughter or family friend — this super fast 17-year-old swimmer — was doing it for the first time. So, he asks me how fast I swim? What are my times? I just said I was racing pro, which isn’t really an answer, but yeah. Then he swears he’s heard of me (Bullshit!) and then he puts me in charge of making sure this girl gets to shore. I’ll swim with her and watch out for her.

Then, she asks how fast I can swim a 500y. So, I just made up some number, because shit, I don’t know, NOT FAST is how fast I can swim a 500y. And I figured, duh, she can swim faster than me for anything in the pool, but I’m not too bad once you get in open water and swim for a long time. Of course, she said she could swim it in 5:20. So. Awesome.

This was all no problem. It was actually good; I thought it’d be good practice.

But, I jump in, look around, and she is still standing on the boat freaking out. And the boat is drifting away. Uh.

I wait and clean out my goggles and she catches up. I check with her, she says we’re good to go. I swim about 15 strokes and can’t see her anywhere. I stop, look back, and she’s gone. Just nowhere.

Fantastic, I lost the race director’s daughter or whatever. Awesome.

There’s a bunch of people, spread out to my right, headed more right than I want to go. I can’t tell if she’s in that group, because I can’t tell who’s who. I’m not sure she hasn’t dropped me. I don’t see anyone by themselves. And as I’m looking, people continue to drift farther apart. I’m going to get left by myself in the middle of the Bay. Then, I’ll start freaking out.

All the people are heading very right. I want to head more straight. I see two guys way up ahead, slightly to the left, with a kayaker. They’re really far ahead, but I decide to go for it instead of getting left behind. I put my head down and sprinted.

The swim, itself, was good. I stopped and talked to the kayaker a lot, because we went a drastically different line than the whole rest of the group. They went right; we went straight/left. I’m not sure which was faster. We got to the shore first. And as we swum into Aquatic Park I looked back and there was three people behind me not just two. The girl came back! I didn’t lose her!


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