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AJDawg
February 9th, 2013, 08:21 PM
Has anyone here ever done this swim? It looks pretty intimidating for a mainly pool swimmer like me but I'm intrigued by it and it would give me a chance to visit relatives in the Bay area.

=> Is it pretty much for elite swimmers and tri-athletes?
=> Do they have regularly scheduled events just for swimmers?
=> What kind of conditioning shape should one be in to reasonably attempt it?
=> What kind of training would you recommend?

Thanks.

AJD

jaadams1
February 9th, 2013, 10:07 PM
=> Do they have regularly scheduled events just for swimmers?
Pretty sure this is only a non-swimmer event. Keeps it more interesting!

Sportygeek
February 10th, 2013, 07:42 AM
Has anyone here ever done this swim? It looks pretty intimidating for a mainly pool swimmer like me but I'm intrigued by it and it would give me a chance to visit relatives in the Bay area.

=> Is it pretty much for elite swimmers and tri-athletes?

I internet-know several people who have done it. Most entrants are triathletes. Most are not elites. There are quite a lot of relay teans each year, so if you want to just swim, that's more than OK.


=> What kind of conditioning shape should one be in to reasonably attempt it?
=> What kind of training would you recommend?

If you possibly can, do some open water training before the event. Sighting in open water, drafting, dealing with chop or athletes swimming over you - they're specific skills. Some people are much better pool swimmers than open water swimmers, and vice versa.

badrunnergoodswimmer
February 10th, 2013, 09:19 AM
I have not done it. But, have read numerous threads and spoken to those who have. Biggest issue is managing the cold water. Lots written about 2-3 caps and temp changes over the course of the swim. Second, is that the course is different every time due to currents and perhaps boat drop off location. A lot of local knowledge and good sighting skills makes for a more enjoyable swim.

Most people who take triathlon seriously (not necessary podium finishers) have it on their bucket list.

aqueoushumor
February 10th, 2013, 01:42 PM
I have not done it. But, have read numerous threads and spoken to those who have. Biggest issue is managing the cold water. Lots written about 2-3 caps and temp changes over the course of the swim. Second, is that the course is different every time due to currents and perhaps boat drop off location. A lot of local knowledge and good sighting skills makes for a more enjoyable swim.

Most people who take triathlon seriously (not necessary podium finishers) have it on their bucket list.

I have done this 3 times, and I highly recommend it. All swimmers have to do this at some point. Most are not elite. But, you should be able to comfortably swim 1.5-2 miles in the pool with a least a 40 min/mile pace at the very minimum. Then, get as much time in open water as you can. Cold, chop, currents, sighting, fears, emotions, breathing, wetsuit use or not...Read as much as you can, and talk to anyone who knows anything. If you can get to the Bay Area sometime, the Aquatic Park is a great place to train and familiarize yourself with the "terrain." This will be the adventure of a lifetime with bragging rights forever!

lefty
February 11th, 2013, 12:21 PM
I have done this 3 times, and I highly recommend it. All swimmers have to do this at some point. Most are not elite. But, you should be able to comfortably swim 1.5-2 miles in the pool with a least a 40 min/mile pace at the very minimum. Then, get as much time in open water as you can. Cold, chop, currents, sighting, fears, emotions, breathing, wetsuit use or not...Read as much as you can, and talk to anyone who knows anything. If you can get to the Bay Area sometime, the Aquatic Park is a great place to train and familiarize yourself with the "terrain." This will be the adventure of a lifetime with bragging rights forever!

It was kind of funny, but of all the races I have ever done, I found sighting least valuable with Alcatraz. You cannot pick a spot to swim to, the current is simply going to pull you too far south. Basically you try and swim straight across and let the current do the work. My sighting consisted of "can I see other people around me." Oh and take a look at the golden gate bridge a couple of times. Not many get that vantage point in their life.

THe cold, man, it just sucks. People spend hundres of hours traing, pay alot of money to sign up for the race, travel to SF, get up at 3:30 AM to get on the boat but then stop swimming first 20 meters because it is too cold. It takes 2-3 minutes for your wetsuit to fill up with cold water, and another 3-4 for your body to heat up the trapped water. So after maybe 5-10 minutes everything will feel just fine. Well, your face will be cold and you won't be able to control your facial muscles, but what does that matter!

Indianaman79
February 11th, 2013, 02:55 PM
Has anyone here ever done this swim? It looks pretty intimidating for a mainly pool swimmer like me but I'm intrigued by it and it would give me a chance to visit relatives in the Bay area.

=> Is it pretty much for elite swimmers and tri-athletes?
=> Do they have regularly scheduled events just for swimmers?
=> What kind of conditioning shape should one be in to reasonably attempt it?
=> What kind of training would you recommend?

Thanks.

AJD



I was going to do this swim and read up on it. Sharks freak me out - that's why i live in Indiana - almost as far away from them as possible. I've never heard of or read about a shark attack during this swim but the possibility is still out there. People say great white sharks don't venture into the harbor past the golden gate bridge. Well i started doing research to see if this was true and came upon a site where they tag great whites and release them for tracking. MOST of them didn't go past the golden gate, but a few sure did. that was enough for me not to do it. however - some helpful hints below:

=> What kind of conditioning shape should one be in to reasonably attempt it?
do a 2.5k or a 5k open water swim in flat water - ideally a lake. if you have any difficulty with that swim, then i wouldn't attempt this one until the flat water can be accomplished with ease

=> What kind of training would you recommend?

-best training i came up with was going to a water park and swimming across a wave pool non stop until the guards called break - usually 30-45 min.
-if you have never done an open water swim where the water is below 70 degrees, you MUST try this first. its quite a shock jumping into 59 degree water when you train in 80 degree water, even with a wetsuit.
-swim 1000's picking your head up out of the water every 5-7 strokes - this really wears you out
- while swimming 1000's don't touch the wall. you can do a flip, but continue swimming without touching the wall.

clh5775
February 13th, 2013, 11:42 PM
I have never done the Escape from Alcatraz Tri but have done the Alcatraz Swim twice. The first time I started swimming at the Aquatic Park in SF on July 16th 3 times a week and swam the Alcatraz Swim on August 7th. The water temp that year was 61 degrees and I swam without a wetsuit. I have been a pool swimmer my entire life and swore I would NEVER venture into the San Francisco Bay but now I'm hooked. I only swim a mile a day in the pool and 3 times a week go over to SF to swim for 40-50 minutes in the cold water. I did start wearing a wetsuit this winter when the water temp dipped below 50 degrees. The Escape From Alcatraz this year is the first weekend in March so the water temp will probably be around 50 degrees. I have also done the Golden Gate Bridge Swim twice and will do it again this year. Wetsuits take some getting used to as well. They are more bouyant and it affects your kick and your stroke.

swim4me
February 17th, 2013, 08:28 PM
I have also done the Alcatraz Swim twice. I live in Texas, but was born in San Francisco, so this was a bucket list for me the first time and I went with a friend the second time. To prepare, I did some open water swims in a nearby lake and took cold showers as the race got closer. During one swim practice in a pool, my team mates lines up on either side of me with kick boards and made the water very rough for me as I passed by. I wore a wetsuit because I just couldn't see going from 80 degree water to low 60 degree water. When I got to SF, I did a practice swim in my wetsuit in the Aquatic Park and then when the big day came, I jumped from the boat into the water and started swimming. It was a little cold at first, but the adrenaline kept me warm. Both times, the currents gave me the most trouble and kayaks had to let me know i was off course, but I loved the swims and swimming in the SF Bay. I wil do it again, just need to work it into my other travel.

Ripple
February 18th, 2013, 05:53 PM
This guy has done it 870 times and written books about both open water swimming and Alcatraz. One of his books might be a good starting point.
http://openwaterpedia.com/index.php?title=Gary_Emich
http://www.lanelinestoshorelines.com/

vwood123
November 30th, 2013, 08:44 PM
Gary Emich book is the best information you can obtain pertains to swimming from Alcatraz.
I have made the swim 10 times. My last one October 2013. I am 76 years old and a slow swimmer, but I swim 4 days a week in the Ocean in Southern California. San francisco is about 5 degrees colder [55F] than my SoCal location, the water temperature is not that bad if you wear a wet suit. I swim without a wet suit in 60F water for about 45 minuets each session. The body acclimates, so get into doing some cold water swimming. It is invigorating !!

Midas
December 3rd, 2013, 04:38 PM
Has anyone here ever done this swim? It looks pretty intimidating for a mainly pool swimmer like me but I'm intrigued by it and it would give me a chance to visit relatives in the Bay area.

=> Is it pretty much for elite swimmers and tri-athletes?
=> Do they have regularly scheduled events just for swimmers?
=> What kind of conditioning shape should one be in to reasonably attempt it?
=> What kind of training would you recommend?

Thanks.

AJD

Edit: Woah--I just noticed that this is a resurrected thread and I just spent 15 minutes answering what is probably a long dead question. Well, hopefully someone finds my ramblings somewhat useful...

Which Alcatraz swim are you talking about specifically? If you mean the Escape from Alcatraz triathlon, that's pretty hard to get into. I think you either need to qualify for it or make your way through multiple lotteries. I'm not sure I'd recommend that race from someone who's never done an open water swim before.

If you mean one of the pure Alcatraz swims, there are several (maybe even many). I do the Enviro Sports Alcatraz Sharkfest every year, and that's one of the big ones (close to 1000 participants). The South End Rowing Club also puts one on, and there are others as folks have mentioned.

I'm also a member of the Dolphin Club, which is one of the two swimming and boating clubs located in Aquatic Park in San Francisco and I've done a number of Club only Alcatraz swims.

I'm by no means an expert (I've only done about 8-10 crossings all told) but I have at least *some* experience so I'll try to answer your questions (though frankly most of the other responders have done a great job already).

=> Is it pretty much for elite swimmers and tri-athletes? That depends on which event you mean. If you mean the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon, then that is heavily weighted towards elite and at least very experienced triathletes. The others all run the gamut and I would not feel worried if you have limited experience.

=> Do they have regularly scheduled events just for swimmers? The Sharkfest and the South End Club swims are both strictly swims. Enviro Sports puts on an Escape from the Rock Tri, and I think you can sign up for the swim only if you want. Not sure about the Escape from Alcatraz Tri. There are so many people that want to do the whole thing, I'm not sure you can enter swim only but I don't know.

=> What kind of conditioning shape should one be in to reasonably attempt it? Depends on how good of a swimmer you are. If you can swim the mile in a pool in 30 minutes or so, you'll be fine.

=> What kind of training would you recommend? It would be great to get in some open water training if you've never done it before. Maybe enter a local open water race?

The key, however, and I cannot stress this enough, is that you should get in the Bay a few times before the race. Acclimating to the cold water is very important, even if you're wearing a wetsuit. If you're not from SF, I would get there a few days before the swim and get into Aquatic Park every day and swim. There is a string of buoys along the shoreline that approximates a quarter mile that is perfect for swimming along. I would NOT recommend swimming outside of Aquatic Park, as you're liable to get run over by a boat unless you have a very good escort. Stay in for only a short time your first day and then try to build on that until race day. Ideally, you're building up to staying in the water for at least as long as it will take you to make the crossing. I'd say most people make it in 30-45 minutes, but a fair number take up to an hour. The winner of the Sharkfest this year did it in 24 minutes (no wetsuit) but she is an elite level swimmer that just comes to make the rest of us look bad.

The Dolphin Club and South End Rowing Club have public day access on alternating days for a very moderate fee, which will get you access to a locker and showers (and a sauna) for after your swims. Worth taking advantage of.

One final bit of advice--listen to where they tell you to aim for. The currents in the Bay can be deceiving and are strongest close to shore. If they are telling you to aim significantly left of the finish--that's where you should aim or you will run a high risk of being pushed off course and unable to finish.

Happy to answer other questions.

ChuckL
December 9th, 2013, 07:07 PM
I have done this swim five times, twice without a wetsuit, and I am not an elite swimmer. A few thoughts. Don't be intimidated into believing this swim is for elite swimmers only. It's not. It's just another 1.2 mile open water swim with a few variables that need to be managed. The most important variable is the current. Currents in the San Francisco Bay frequently exceed 5 mph and you cannot out swim them. The Alcatraz swims almost always coincide with predicted "slack tides" which mean the race is swum at the very end or very beginning of a tidal shift. This give you a window in which to complete your swim with little tidal effect. However, there is almost always some tidal effect that must be compensated for by swimming into it slightly and adjusting as you get closer. Race officials will typically tell you to sight well to the left or right of your finish zone and I would strongly advise you to listen. This means your swim trajectory will look like a giant horizontal arc where you start your swim sighting, for example, at 10 o'clock to make the 12 o'clock finish. You will need to adjust your arc as you get closer. Once, I thought I could swim in a straight line and get there faster. I didn't listen and the current got the best of me and had to be repositioned by a police boat. If you are swimming from Alcatraz to Aquatic Park, the breakwater opening into Aquatic Park is only 60 yards wide and is not easily, if at all, visible from the jump zone at Alacatraz. Instead, I use the multi-story buildings in the background to sight from; they are big and provide an excellent visual reference, much better than the orange bouy towed behind the lead boat. Ask someone on the boat where the buildings are relative to the opening before you jump. If you do not swim into the tide as instructed you may well miss this opening. There seems to be a regular stronger current that runs along the breakwater to Aquatic Park even during slack tide which could easily prevent you from making the opening if you do not approach the opening from the up current. Thus, the arc. It's another 400+ yards from the opening to the sand beach finish. I cannot advise you on swim management if you are swimming to Crissy Field. Your boat start at Alcatraz means an instant plunge into cold water so be prepared; keep your breathing under control and swim slowly to the starting bouys in order to maintain your composure and focus. One final thing. Be sure to stop somewhere mid-channel. The view is amazing. You will be able to see the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island, the San Francisco skyline, and the Bay Bridge all at the same time from your unique vantage point. Don't miss it. Enjoy.