Thursday, June 14, 2018

Getting ready to escape! And the practice swim!

I didn't necessarily mean to throw all my bucket-list items in consecutive years.  Ironman was planned.  Then Andrea convinced me to sign up for the Chesapeake Bay swim lottery.  I honestly wasn't expecting to get in on my first try; it takes many people multiple years to get selected.  But then in the 4th of 4 rounds, my name was selected.  I knew the Alcatraz swim was lingering there on my list, and I had no intention of going after that goal this year.  Then.. I was talking to Dani who had gotten in off the lottery for the triathlon.  The triathlon was never my goal - there are a lot of areas I want to challenge myself, but biking San Francisco hills is just not one of them.  There are a few opportunities to swim from Alcatraz throughout the year and that was what I had planned on doing.  On a whim though, I looked at the relay option and realized you don't have to go through the lottery to sign up for a relay.  Hmm.... OK, but who would bike?  And run?  Suddenly the stars aligned and I reached out to Lucy, the bike leader for the Wakefield rides I had done through Ironman training.  She's living in Houston now, spending summers in Colorado, and happened to be free and interested in joining me!  I checked with a few people about the run but didn't find any interest, so I decided to do that part myself.  I mean, how hard could 8 miles be???

During the week or so before the race, we got an email solicitation about practice swims they were holding where you could swim all or part of the race course.  INTERESTING!  Last year, the swim portion of the triathlon was canceled.  I know it would have been rare to have the swim canceled two years in a row, but this was a bucket list item and doing the practice swim would give me 2 chances to complete it.  I opened the link and they wanted over $200 for the luxury of torturing yourself!  I hesitated.  That's a lot of money and I was somewhat worried that I may be too traumatized from the practice swim for the race the next day. 
But then... the stars aligned once again.  The Washington Capitals made the Stanley Cup playoffs.  I received a text from Jon during game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals that they had released the schedule and we'd have home games on Saturday (the day before the race) and Monday (the day I was flying home....due into Dulles at 8:30pm).  Yikes!  There was no way I was going to miss my first chance at going to a Stanley Cup playoff game.  I knew I couldn't go on Saturday but I quickly jumped online and changed my Monday flight to arrive in DC earlier.  Do you know how much money people will spend on a Stanley Cup playoff ticket?  Let's suffice it to say that the sale of the Saturday night ticket not only covered my flight change fee, but it also covered the ridiculous price of the practice swim (with money to spare!).  So I signed up.
I met Dani in the San Francisco airport around noon on Friday.  We checked into the hotel, ate lunch and then made our way to board the boat for our Alcatraz tour.  This would be my first of 3 trips to Alcatraz Island.....with only one of those being a round trip.  We spent the afternoon walking around Alcatraz and by the time we got back were too tired to think about doing a quick run (me) or swim (Dani), so settled for eating dinner and heading to bed early.
I woke up early on Saturday and headed down for the practice swim.  The email update suggested arriving in your wetsuit, so I put mine on in the hotel room and then grabbed an uber.  People were definitely staring at me walking around in a wetsuit as if it were normal clothing, and it turns out that most people put their wetsuits on right there at the dock.  Oh well, glad my [brand new] wetsuit is pretty comfortable (and that's only semi-sarcasm).  The boat we took for the practice swim was much smaller than the ferry we'd be taking for the race.  It only fit about 25 people and it was a pretty bumpy ride.  Nervous! 
When we got to Alcatraz, we practiced jumping off the way we would on Sunday, and when you get to the edge, there was no time to think about it, you just had to jump!  And then there was no time to think about the shock of the coldness of the water because somebody else was about to jump on top of you.  I swam away from the boat, happy that I'd decided to put on the neoprene sleeves and neoprene booties.  My hands were freezing though.  The coaches did a little in-water briefing and most of us treaded water with our hands out to keep them from going numb.  Then we were off.... it wasn't so bad!  I did start to acclimate to the water temperature as I started swimming.  We were to sight the towers at aquatic park, and then the piers, and then this white dome thing, and finally the red-roofed building.  A coach kayaked up to me and told me that I'd been sighting the towers for too long and it was time to switch to the piers.  I glanced at my watch and it had only been 7 minutes - that was fast!  Less than a minute later my watch buzzed indicating I'd gone 500 yards.  Really?  In 8 minutes?  It must be broken.
I kept on swimming and swimming trying to spot the piers and then the dome.  I was alone except for some kayakers but tried to follow a group in front of me.  Finally another kayaker told me that I was too close to the rocky shoreline - should have stayed about a football field away - and I'd have to swim back out to get around the yellow buoy and head to shore.  I reached the beach and realized I was so happy to have done the practice swim.  And my garmin wasn't broken - just under 39 min total for the 1.5 miles.  That's a fast swim; compare it to my 47 mins for a 1.2 mile swim!  Now, no matter what happens on race day, I can say that I have completed the swim from Alcatraz! 
I headed back to the hotel to meet up with Dani who had done her own swim at aquatic park.  We set up my travel fan in front of our wetsuits, hoping they would dry in the next 24 hours, ate breakfast and set out for the expo and to pick up Dani's bike.  We did the 45 min walk to pick up her bike, grabbed a few necessities from the sports store and then got to the expo where we spent a lot of time checking in, collecting our race goodies and buying a couple extras.  We met up with Paula and Tommy, and Lucy, the cyclist of my relay. 
Exhausted from the full day in the sun, Dani and I returned to the hotel where we met up with Lucy for dinner and to watch game 3 of the Caps playoffs.  Thankfully the 8pm EST start time meant a later afternoon time on the west coast.  After the game, we headed to bed knowing we had another early wake up call in the morning.... race day!

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