Route: Golden Gate Bridge to Bay Bridge
Distance: 10Km (~6miles)
Flood Tide: 3+ Knots
Finish Time: 1:34:40 (One Hour Thirty Four minutes and 40 Seconds)
It was Murali Krishna (MK) who pushed a bunch of us to register for the B2B10K swim. He sent out an email saying he had signed up! It does not take much cajoling for this group to sign up. Mouli, Chakri and I signed up. We had all trained well enough (Read Alcatraz and back) and were decently prepared for this swim.
We left Sunnyvale at 5:00am and after picking up MK at the ferry building in San Francisco we made our way to Capurro’s for the pre-swim briefing. After parking our car at the end of a nearly empty Van Ness street, a guy gets out of the next car and strikes up a conversation. He proceeds to explain to us that he intends to swim from the Golden Gate Bridge all the way to the Bay Bridge…6 miles, he said after an appropriate ‘let it sink in’ pause. After a brief silence we told him we were doing the same swim! He felt a bit embarrassed that he had gone on about his swim, but we all had a nice laugh about his boasting.
Capurro’s was already crowded and bustling when we got there. We collected our yellow caps and our blanket (No T-shirts, medals, buckles – just a nice warm blanket makes up the race bag) signed in and waited for the legendary Bob Roper to begin the meeting. The meeting was quick and all of us first timers had a bunch of questions. Mark Rosen who was pretty much a co-race director was extremely helpful, very patient and really assuring with is answers. There were some ground rules,
1) Be on the boat immediately after this meeting as we will sail at 7:00.
2) Once aboard, get ready and be ready to jump in upon the our orders.
3) Listen to the kayakers and boat captains, their say is final.
Much to our consternation there was very little information about the sighting and swim path that we had to follow. We were told that the kayakers and boats would help us along the way. Just aim for the Aquatic Park entrance and keep going past pier 39, and the pickup boat will be at the base of the Bay Bridge pillar.
We all walked to board the Bay Celebrations and Stan came by. He said he would be biking around to check on our progress and would stay for breakfast after we were done. Once aboard, we set about getting ready. Mouli was doing the swim without a wetsuit! Crazy guy! The rest of us suited up.
Around 7:35AM there was a bit of chop and the calm foggy morning had become a windy choppy morning. 7:45AM the call went out, ‘Jump!, jump!, JUMP!’ I saw MK standing at the jump off as I was pretty much pushed off the Bay Celebrations (even though I was ready to jump). The first few minutes in the water were really disorienting and confusing. It felt like the tide was sucking us out under the Golden Gate Bridge towards the open ocean…there were a few muffled screams and concerned shouts as a few swimmers were on the verge of panic. I managed to look back and see that we were not really going back out, but it did seem confusing indeed. I quickly asked the other two swimmers I was with to look back and calm down, I pointed towards the bay and said ‘We go that way…lets go’. There was a follow up ‘Are you sure?’ and I said ‘yes I am’…off we went. The water was choppy and I quickly found myself alone…not a kayak in sight! I just dug my head into the water and plowed on. About 15 minutes in a kayak came into sight and he gave me a ‘thumbs up’, that really felt good and I just pushed on.
About 30 mins in I saw a swimmer waving his hands. I stopped and asked if all was ok, he shouted back (rather calmly) ‘I’ve been bitten by a seal…I need to get out!’ I saw a boat making its way towards him and so I plugged on (The thought of blood and sharks did cross my mind :-)) . I went past the AP opening, past pier 39 and made a right turn to see the Bay Bridge in front of me. The thing about open water is, no matter how close you think the destination is, it is pretty far :-) - I had to ask the kayak for directions as I could not see the Bay Celebrations and was worried I would head past the Bay Bridge. He said I had caught a great line and I should just keep going…another smile and thumbs up…off I went.
About an hour and 20 minutes in, a RIB swung by – the lady was waiving her hands and wildly pointing towards the shore…I looked up at the Kayak and he smiled so I just kept going on. The RIB was back in about 5 minutes…she said something to the kayak and he asked me to correct course and make a sharp right towards the shore. Finally I saw the Bay Celebrations! After a bit of struggle I managed to get up that ladder and back on the boat. Most of the swimmers had already finished…and there was a good bit of energy. I grabbed some water and the two folks I had chatted with at the start, came by to say thanks! That was sweet of them. I asked the crew about the weird start and the feeling of being pulled out to the ocean, even though the tide was coming in pretty fast. The explanation was that the boat (Bay Celebrations) was moving into the bay faster than us, so it felt like we were being dragged out into the Pacific!
A note from the organizers:
"Congratulations to all swimmers on an inspiring and fast swim in challenging conditions of 20 knot winds and 2 foot chop.
Thanks also to all of the pilots, paddle boarders, kayakers, boat captains for ensuring the safety of all swimmers. There is no swim without your great volunteer help!
And many thanks to all other volunteers for spotting, check-in and all around help. Special thanks to SF Police and Fire Department for their support."
It was a good swim and a bit tricky at the start. All in all a very well managed event. Big round of cheers to Bob Roper, Mark Rosen, Lee Bruno and all the volunteers!
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