Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Catching Up on October II

The morning after the pork fest/30th birthday party for our friend, I did the Tiburon Mile Swim.

I really needed this. The past few weeks had been humbling. I remembered that it was the combo of running, swimming, and cycling, that I did during 2005-2006 that gave me pride & energy like I hadn't had in years. So it seemed logical to get back to the roots -- maybe get some of my mojo back so to speak.

Pure open water swims are a mixed bag for me though -- I have to admit. My record of notable open water events;

Escape from the Rock: Yanked out of the water 200 yards from Aquatic Park (damn those kayakers for steering me wrong).

TI2Y: 70 minutes of long slow waterborne misery -- should have listened to the kayakers that time, and aimed straight for the bay bridge instead of the Gap building.

And those were AFTER blowing a big chunk of cash on Total Immersion (that's for another time).

Was told by several veterans of the Tiburon Mile that it was a very fast course. It was only 1.15 miles (1 nautical mile), and you swim with an ebb pushing you. One woman I spoke with told me she was able to do the course in around 35 minutes, despite taking 70 minutes and change for alcatraz. Decided to use that as my benchmark.

It was beautiful though that morning. Me and the better half were running late, and essentially had to run from the parking lot to the assembly area that morning.

But damn was that morning beautiful. That rich guy with a blinged out yacht, the Maltese Falcon, also decided to make an appearance that day, parking his yacht right into Tiburon Harbor. Then everyone loaded the ferries for Angel Island.

Funny -- I've always been very nervous before the big swims. But I've always loved that moment of anticipation. Walking around alone on the big ferry loaded with swimmers -- some in wetsuits, some in bare skin, listening to the conversation, checking the gear, and eyeing the course, there's nothing like it. I love that feeling. Even rough swims like Alcatraz and TI2Y, moments like those make it worth, being part of this strange fraternity/sorority of cold water freaks.

Standing on Ayala Cove, waiting for my wave to start, I looked behind me. The sea wall was lined up with the wetsuit swimmers. The right side was where all the bare skin and elite swimmers were lining up to head out ahead of us. At that moment, I thought of what an old teacher once said to me, that no day at our school was ordinary, that every moment there was unusual, and was to be valued because everything outside was ordinary and boring.

He was full of it.

That morning on Ayala Cove -- that was no ordinary day. I wouldn't trade that moment for anything. There was no class anywhere that could match that moment.

My wave came. Oddly enough, the first 10 minutes were the choppiest part of the swim. Cramming several hundred swimmers into a narrow channel between the yachts anchored in the cove and the shore on the left, the waters of the cove became incredibly rough from all the limbs and bodies flailing. More experienced open water swimmers & triathletes say that being in the pack allows you to draft, that you shouldn't fear all the bodies flailing themselves all around you. I beg to differ -- even if you aren't scared, all that churning, starting and stopping, screws up my rhythm.

After we all got into the open water between Angel Island and Tiburon, everyone spread out. I was for the most part alone. I tried to remember what Coach Pedro told me a few days before -- aim for the slope of the hill to the right of the harbor, then turn left. Did that for most of the swim, and I got my rhythm.

Eventually -- Murphy's Law will always hit. As I got closer to the finish, I got more disoriented -- go figure. I think the direction changes during that 3rd probably cost me some time. I finished in 42 minutes. Slower than I wanted, but faster speed per mile than my previous swims.

The finish, was also, one of those situations you can't help but laugh at. As everyone starts filing into the finish area -- a narrow channel in the small marina at Tiburon -- it gets crowded again. There was a girl just head of me coming up to the finish ramp. I got a little too close to her as we were both heading in -- so the bottom of her foot whacked me right in the chin. Didn't really hurt, but I couldn't help but stop swimming for a second and look at her as she pulled away -- it felt ridiculous.

Honestly though -- for all the difficulties -- I'd do it again. This was my favorite of the big open water bay swims during the past 2 years.

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