Sunday, July 22, 2012

Golden Gate Splash and Dash

I had great fun participating in the Golden Gate Splash and Dash last weekend. I used to live in San Francisco and it doesn't take much of a reason for me to go back and visit. The Splash and Dash is a first time event organized as part of the year long festivities to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the opening of the Golden Gate Bridge. I have run, walked or biked over the bridge many times, but this was my first opportunity to swim underneath it and I couldn't resist. My friend Antonio who swam with my Masters swim team in Seattle until he moved to San Francisco invited me to participate with him.

About to go into the briefing with Antonio and his teammates
After a briefing at the South End Rowing club we walked to the boat and it took us out to the south end of the bridge. We saw quite a few dolphins swimming in the bay during the boat ride. We ended up sitting around on the boat for a good hour or so before the start which gave me plenty of time to obsess about how cold the water might feel (reported to be 57 degrees), whether we would encounter sharks, dolphins or boats, whether I could jump into the water without losing my goggles, whether the waves or currents would prevent me from finishing the swim, etc. Nothing like doing something for the first time to bring on the anxiety parade!

Approximate swimming route

We had two options for the start of the swim. We could jump into the cold water and tread water until the gun sounded, or wait until the gun sounded and then jump in. I managed to time it perfectly and jumped just as the gun went off so that I could immediately begin swimming hard in an attempt to warm up. My goggles stayed on and I was good to go. 

Swimmers treading water behind the kayaks waiting to start
View of the swimmers from the bridge
 The water was much clearer than I expected and it was amazing to see the bridge, Alcatraz, the San Francisco skyline, and the bay bridge all while swimming. We started on the ocean side of the bridge (see rough diagram above) and were instructed to swim underneath the bridge around the mid-point. They had told us to roll onto our backs and yell when under the bridge to hear an echo which I tried but didn't manage to hear the echo. About the time I crossed under the bridge, the water become much choppier and I was rolling in the waves, but overall the water was reasonably smooth and the current felt like it was assisting us. They had timed the start at the slack end of low tide, so any current should have been pulling us into the bay which was along the direction we were headed. All too soon, the bridge was behind me and I was entering Horseshoe Bay with very calm water leading to Fort Baker where we would transition for the run. The bay seemed to last forever but was a nice place to swim. According to the splits, I finished the 1.6 mile swim in 34 minutes which was quite a bit faster than I expected. So maybe that current was helping us quite a bit!

Running route
After removing the wetsuit and putting on running shoes, I was off to climb the hill back up to the bridge and run the 10K back to Aquatic Park at the end of Fisherman's wharf. The running course (shown above) was open to all users and quite crowded at times, especially on the bridge. As a runner, I have to admit it that it was quite enjoyable to pass people on the running portion of the event, presumably because they are primarily swimmers. I finished in 1 hour 26 minutes, 10th overall if I interpret the results correctly. I highly recommend this event to anyone interested in swimming across the bay under the bridge, assuming they have the event again in subsequent years.

At the finish line with Francine

1 comment:

  1. Congrats on yet another amazing effort Mike! Geez....I'd have sunk.