Friday, April 13, 2007


HIT and TAG Swim
Golden Gate Triathletes on last Sunday's Swim.

DON'T FREAK OUT! DON'T FREAK OUT! I yelled in my head. I was directing the thought to Ariane who was 5 feet behind me. We were at the mouth of Aquatic Park, subjected to the same conditions you'd find on the greater part of the bay. The water was flooding back into the bay creating a current headed towards the city. Twice a day the water in San Francisco Bay ebbs out and floods back in, ebbs and floods. Alcatraz to San Francisco swims are usually timed to take advantage of the state between these two forces, what they call "slack" - less current. Swimmers inside the park don't have to worry so much unless they venture out of the mouth of the park. "You'll be fine, it's rough out here but as you can see, once you stop swimming your head pops up and you can breathe easier, you'll float over the waves." I shouted at her. The last two weeks I've been posting a "6PM TGIF Swim" on our club calendar. Last week I got three swimmers, this week I only got one - Ariane. She was also on the last one. She's in our TAG Tri-training group, a beginner to triathlon like most of the TAG participants but not in athletics. She's definitely at the top of the class. She out bikes most people in the group with her mountain bike, that's like a Ford truck out driving sport coupes. She's a strong runner as well and has been doing well on the swim. She had never swam the perimeter to the mouth of the park but she was up for it. Time to go beyond the buoy line. The currents were stronger than I expected. The wind was strong and blowing the same direction of the moving water. By the time we got to the mouth of the protected area we were headlong into waves. These were small waves, I would say a foot at the most but when you are in the swim position you are flat on the surface of the water. When you turn your head to breathe these small waves look like walls come to take your air away:) Sometimes your mouth doesn't even clear, you turn your head only to more water washing over your face. It only takes one mouthful of water to get you all discombobulated. You start gagging and wheezing and you can scare yourself to a panic. We made it to the mouth of the park okay but she was clearly uncomfortable with the oncoming waves, it was so choppy out there. Small waves would roll over your head. So instead of lingering at the mouth and enjoying the view of the Golden Gate Bridge we headed straight back in. The way back was choppy, breathing on the right side was a no go, water was being driven straight into my mouth. In the pool breathing is automatic. Your body twists through the water and when you're ready for air you let your head follow through with your body and as your mouth clears, you take a breath - one smooth motion. Out there on those fun, fun conditions, you have the added step of looking before you breathe. Sometimes you even have to pick your head up just so you can clear the chop, definitely breaking out of the streamlined position. I don't always remember to look so I swallowed a few mouthfuls myself...mmmm electrolytes with extra stuff thrown in. Ah it was great, I enjoy it when it gets rough. I particularly like it when there are rolling swells. Soon as we left the opening Ariane was ok. The whole time we had opportunities to turn back but I think the roughness of the water at the opening caught her off guard, she kept it together nicely. Just like a trail run, the rougher stuff is a lot more fun and forces you to pay attention. A few minutes later we were back in calmer water.

So these swims have been a great addition to my workouts. I hit the bay 3 times a week now, a nice break for my legs. Good to get the upper body involved in those whole fitness thing. These swims also help stretch out my back, God knows how tight I get in my back and shoulders because of all the computer work and biking. Love the open water, hate the pool. So it goes.


  1. That sounds intense! Good for your friend for getting out of her comfort zone. I keep thinking I should try swimming to stretch my limits.

  2. OMG! There is no freakin way you could get me in taht water! OK, I envy you guys:) One day, when my kids are out of the house, I'll pick something new that I am scared of.

  3. RICK Said:I hit the bay 3 times a week now, a nice break for my legs. Good to get the upper body involved in those whole fitness thing
    VERY Nice Rick, that's a great addition!!! but can U swim pulling a flappy Tire--LOL ummm I can FLOAT next to you in my Tire :-)

  4. I kind of freaked out just reading this. In the Bay, I'm just as scared of the temperature as the current. There's no way I could hit that cold water three times per week.

    Hope your TGIF club goes well.