So, first things first -- we're done. We finished. Its all over. Humongous sigh of relief.
Now, for those of you who don't care about anything other than did we get eaten or not, this is where you can stop reading. No nips, no bites and no bumps. No sharks. Sorry.
For those of you who want all the gory details, who might possibly swim this some day or whatever, here goes:
The day started early, mostly because none of us could sleep. At 6:15am we left the hotel at Fisherman's Wharf to walk the 6 blocks to the Aquatic Park. We spent the next hour going through registration, getting everything set and ready to roll. All our stomachs were turning over and over. Half were going with the 'don't eat anything so your stomach is empty' tactic, while others were approaching the swim with the 'eat lots so you have energy' mentality. Some were just trying not to yak...
After some time, they blew the horn and all the swimmers left the grandstands and walked about 8 blocks in what they called the 'athlete's parade.' Mostly this was just something they called part of the show, when in reality the boats were down at by Pier 39 and we were clear up the street.
So there we were, at 8am, walking in a procession along the Wharf, and I have to say, it was sorta interesting -- 800 people of all sorts, shapes and sizes in speedos and wetsuits, marching down the main drag at Fisherman's Wharf.
Anyways, soon we boarded the boats and found ourselves sitting on the floor as we trawled out to the island. There were hundreds of people, littering every open spot on the ferry. Some were in the zone, some joking with buddies, and others looked pretty freaked out. I'm pretty sure we fit into the latter-most category.
Soon the boats stopped, the doors opened and the horn blasted. This signaled it was time to jump, and start swimming the 200 yards to the line of kayaks that marked the starting line. So, we did. And holy crap. It was cold and there were bodies everywhere. 51 degree water was what we heard. Let's just say, when you hit that, its like someone punching you in the stomach.
This is where we all lost track of each other.
Neither of us had made it to the starting line before the horn sounded to start the race, so right off the bat we were behind the 8-ball. Grrrr. From there, for about the first half mile of the race we both struggled quite a bit. The water was cold and choppy. It was difficult to get a rhythm.
We both stuck with it and eventually hit our strides... sorta. For both of us, this was a difficult swim. Though we'd trained, open water swimming on the open sea was challenging. One trick we had to figure out was breathing. It seemed like about every fourth breath you would roll over to get a breath and catch a swell square on, filling your mouth with tasty saltwater. We figured, by the end of the race, we'd each sucked down about a gallon of seawater. YUM!
The second challenge was we found ourselves getting turned around, swimming in zig zags, and needing to look up often to orient ourselves to our destination. Landmarks were difficult to pick out and with tides and swells, swimming a straight line proved to be very hard.
Oh, and add getting banged around by the other 798+ bodies in the water to the formula as well. That was messed up.
NOTE: The sky didn't look like this for us. This is a picture from last year. It was about 65 degrees, windy and overcast.
At about the 1.25 mile mark, we hit the rough waters guarding the narrow inlet into the aquatic park. Once we'd made it through that, we had about 500 meters left to go. It was the home stretch. There were crowds cheering, and people lining the beach.
At the :54 minute mark, Steff came out of the water, exhilarated to have finished, unassisted, her first ever open water swimming competition. She promptly ran over to her waiting brothers and gave them all high-fives and exclaimed, "We made it! We did it!" Steff totally tore it up.
A few minutes later, at the 1:02 mark, Matt zig zagged his way to shore. He'd made the swim unassisted as well, but was showing a bit more effect. Upon reaching the sandy beach, he staggered up, quite unaware of what was happening. As he walked down the corridor of people a paramedic caught up to him and walked him down the path, making sure he was OK. Later he was quoted as saying, "It felt like the worst case of light headedness I've ever had."
(Matt just finishing)
Matt sat down on the steps for a few minutes, gradually gained his senses back and went and found the family.
When we finally met back up on the beach, we were giddy. All seven family members made it. We were done.
(Post Race Lineup)
We spent the next hour or so hanging out with all the fellow swimmers. They had free hot chocolate, clam chowder and bagels. It was cold, we were wet and tired, but our spirits were super high. We'd done the big one. We'd conquered Sharkfest... and it feels good.
Oh... there was one injury to report: Steff's wetsuit gave her a few problems. Despite rubbing slippery stuff on her neck to prevent chaffing, she suffered some pretty bad friction burns.
Thanks for everyone's support.