Sunday, September 13, 2009

Making the Case for Open Water

We just got back from a local open water swim and it sure was fun to see so many swimmers from around the area as well as a few famous ones who traveled in for the event. Today was the Tiburon Mile; the 10th annual time the event has been staged with the money raised this year going to Hospice by the Bay. This swim in San Francisco Bay begins with folks gathering in the town of Tiburon, CA doing all the usual things: registering, picking up numbers and ankle bracelets, goodie bags etc. Then all the swimmers get on one of two ferries and head across the open water known locally as Raccoon Straits to Angel Island. There they disembark and head for the beach area for the starting line.

Once the gun sounds it is a mad dash for the water and the best spot in the pack. Depending upon your goals, you either charge toward the front, enduring the rough going as swimmers vie for their preferred line or you hang back a little looking for your own "sweet spot" as you settle in for the more or less one mile swim back to the town. As you get into the harbor there is a well marked chute which leads you up onto a small patch of sand and gravel where your ankle bracelet trips the electronic eye and records your finish with both elapsed time and place.

There are multiple divisions from elite to age group to wetsuit. It is fun and challenging all at the same time. You swim with some of the world's fastest open water swimmers even if you are a weekend warrior type. The finish area is complete with ardent well wishers and curious town folk just out for a Sunday morning coffee.

But what is extremely fun to watch is the expressions of the predominant pool swimmers who are making their annual open water swim or even perhaps their first attempt. The water is a chilly 55 or so degrees, you cannot see the bottom, there is no line to follow, people are pushing each other - sometimes intentionally, most times not - there is a current to deal with and usually some wave action plus today there were seals frolicking near the entrance to the harbor.

Most folks learned something about themselves today in their pursuit of adventure. We saw lots of smiles and folks being proud of their personal victories. What we liked was the fact that many of the pool only swimmers got out of their comfort zones today. Regardless of how fast they were in comparison to the field they all had an experience they will remember for many years. Nearly all who started finished; to our knowledge no one was seriously injured and several hours later we are guessing that most if not all have warmed back up enough to allow themselves a well earned feeling of contentedness.

So if you are a pool only swimmer check your local listings for an open water event near you and give it a try...and conversely, if you are an open water or tri-athlete check with your local Masters swim scene and go racing in the pool sometime before your season is over. It is always interesting to step outside your immediate comfort zone! Let us know how it goes for you!

1 comment:

Steven Munatones said...

Thank you very much for being so supportive of open water swimming.