View Full Version : Alcatraz Shark Swim

the texillectual
February 5th, 2004, 04:01 PM
Greetings all

I'm planning to swim the Alcatraz Shark Swim in July. I'm very excited about it. I'm new to swimming but I've consistently put in 45 minute swims three or four times each week since October. I've timed my mile (please confirm 36 laps or 72 lengths) at 33 minutes. I plan to do open water swims when things warm up a bit. But in the mean time, what can I do to prepare myself in the pool? Longer swims? Should I minimize my wall push during flip turns to more closely simulate open water conditions? Once I hit the open water, what's the best way to approximate distances?

Also, I'd love to read stories of your Alcatraz swim experiences.

Rob Copeland
February 5th, 2004, 06:52 PM

So many questions and so few answersÖ

First, yes doing flip turns will help. Open turns give swimmers a couple of seconds of extra rest and a breath or two, which you wonít get when swimming in the open water. Also, flip turns give you a bit of a rest (4 or 5 seconds without arm rotation) but you donít get that extra breath. It does make a difference.

If your body is up to it and you have the time, then by all means increase your distance and intensity. Also, do a few navigation drills, such as heads up swimming looking at the far wall) or sight breathing drill (swim normal crawl, except after each breath instead of rotating your head down, rotate forward and down so you look at the far wall before you put your face underwater), or swim 99ís (4 lengths of the pool without touching the walls at each end, as you get to the wall do a quick 180 keeping your head underwater and without pushing off the wall start swimming the opposite direction, it gets a little tricky in shallow pools).

And the best way to approximate distance in open water is to forget about distance and focus on time. Or if you want an approximation then go with your pool times as a guide. Swim 33 minutes in the open water and call it a mile, swim 66 call it 2.

February 5th, 2004, 11:56 PM
You should also practice by swimming in COLD water. San Francisco Bay is going to be about 60 degrees F in July. You should have practiced in cold open water. (I swam in Aquatic Park (which is where you will come ashore if you swim it correctly) a couple of years ago for about 30 minutes. After I sat in the sauna for about 45 minutes trying to warm up. (ok I am a wimp and I like warm water).


February 6th, 2004, 08:35 PM
I swam the sharkfest 2 years ago. There are about 900 in that swim this. It is an in water start so it can get cold treading water. You may want to try doing some open water swims in some of the lakes around here, or even the columbia river. Many people struggled with the change from pool to ocean. Many wear wetsuits also. I swam a differnet alcatraz swim last year & the water was 61 degrees. Hard jump in!

the texillectual
February 7th, 2004, 01:18 AM
Thanks for the info. I'm a bit concerned about the start. I've read in this forum about getting kicked by the masses. I'm also concerned about having my goggles knocked off. Do open water swimmers carry extras?

February 9th, 2004, 12:12 AM
A couple of suggestions.
Make sure you are very aware of your body balance in the water. Know how to readjust your balance if you find your legs sinking. When you lift your head to sight, remember to readjust your balance quickly. This is especially important in rough water (If we wanted predictability we would swim in a pool;)).
In rough water you will need a couple of 'different styles' of freestyle. You may need to adjust the tempo of your arms to avoid stroking air, or keep with the roll of the waves and maximize the wave ride. You may also need to change the tempo of the kick so you can surf a wave.
Include lots of drills in your workouts as these can come in handy in rough water. Drills for the catch are important as you need to be able to press on the catch when sighting. There are a couple of different ways of sighting. Experiment and see which way you prefer. Then each 3-4 lengths practise sighting. This will strengthen your neck muscles and you will also learn how to sight smoothly and readjust your balance again.
In 61 degree water, stride jump in so that your head does not get wet. Tread water and let your body adjust to the temperature. Then put your head in. If you dive in and you are not used to the cold water a 'vaso vagal' reaction can occur. You could experience an irregular heart beat, or it can cause swimmers to hyperventilate. Also if the cold water makes it's way into your inner ear, it will affect your vestibular apparatus and you will feel dizzy. It may help to swim with ear plugs, but make sure you train with these. You never do anything different on race day.
Yes the start of open water swims can be a little chaotic. Goggles do get knocked off, some people choose the aquaseal masks as these take a bit more effort to come off.
I would also suggest that you do a lot of swimming in the cooler water to find how your body takes this temperature. Train in all weather, as we can't pick race day!
Good Luck.
Happy training.
"To motivate, add water"
"Fear is a reaction, courage is a decision"

Rob Copeland
February 9th, 2004, 10:38 AM
I donít know of anyone who brings a spare pair of goggles in the water on swims, unless they allow personal escort crafts, which they donít have at the Shark. One suggestion however, put your goggles on before your cap. This way if the goggles are dislodged they are very likely to remain with your head.

Also, the best way to avoid being kicked, dunked, or otherwise abused at the start is to give yourself some separation from other swimmers at the start. Either move left or right of the mass or start a little behind the main pack. If your primary goal is finish the race a few extra seconds delay at the start wonít hurt and may even help you get a rhythm established. If your goal is to win, then get the most advantageous position and prepare to battle the masses until you have pulled ahead of the field.