Location: Aquatic Park, San Francisco Bay
Date: Thursday March 17th, 2011
Air Temperature: 55.4 Degree
Water Temperature: 53.8
This evening I am signed up for a group swim with Water World, led by Pedro, the instructions direct me to meet at Aquatic Park at 6:00pm, where there is a 10 minute stretch and jog along the beach, then into the water at 6:30pm. I make my way down to Aquatic Park, I am wrapped up in my down vest, white hat, fleece leggings and ice breaker merino socks made in New Zealand. (I borrowed those from my sister Robbin after checking out the SanFrancisco Bay water temperature.)
|Aquatic Park with Alcatraz in the background|
The air is cool and the water looks even cooler, this is my first time to Aquatic Park, I arrive early to scope out the meeting place for tomorrow morning’s Golden Gate swim with Swim Art. I am also excited to check out the legendary swim clubs at Aquatic Park, there are two located right on the beach and I have been fortunate to chat with Veronika, a new friend back in Stowe, she used to live in San Francisco and swam with the Dolphin Swim Club, she now lives in Vermont and has shared stories of swimming in San Francisco Bay, I can’t wait to see the area for myself and to hear more of Veronika’s stories when I return. I take a few pictures to bring home to show her, I wonder if things have changed much since she swam here.
|The Dolphin Swim Club|
It is soon 6:00pm and I head over to the meeting spot to keep an eye out for Pedro and any other swimmers in the group….. tick, tick, tick……time goes by and no one appears, “oh well I ‘ll give it until 6:10pm and see if someone shows”…..tick, tick, tick…..6:10pm, still no one, not a Pedro in sight, the sun begins to lower in the sky and things are feeling decidedly chillier, ” OK maybe I’ll wait until 6:30pm, that is when the directions say they actually jump in, if they are not here by then I guess it’s not meant to be tonight”.
I settle in on the steps by the beach and watch the world go by. There are 3 teenage kids throwing a frisbee waist deep in the water in their clothes, ” now that’s gotta be chilly” I think to myself, there are couples walking along the beach, cyclists riding along the bike path and people like me sitting and taking it all in, looking out to sea.
I stare at Alcatraz, I am fascinated by the island and the buildings on it, I think of those that thought of trying to escape, was it pending doom the thought of sneaking into the fridgid waters of San Francisco Bay and facing head on into the swell, the waves , the CURRENT, the cold, did those that attempted the crossing make it, were they all presumed perished, did they really perish?
As I am pondering I notice some swimmers swimming in Aquatic Park, they are coming out from the swim clubs one by one, sometimes in small groups of 2 or 3 swimmers, they are swimming alongside the shore, there are buoys marking an out and back course, I look in awe….” there are others like ME!”
It is now 6:35pm, I acknowledge to myself that Pedro is not showing up tonight, it is getting dark, windy and cold, it would be much easier to give myself permission to leave but I can’t, I want to swim and decide to go look a little closer at the Dolphin Swim club.
The swim club is open to members, guests are also welcome Tuesday, Thursdays and Sundays from 10:00am-6:00pm for a $6.50 fee, I quietly ring the bell, by the bell a sign says something like this, “don’t keep ringing, we may take some time to get to the door but we’ll get there”. I wait and timidly ring the bell again, a few minutes later I hear footsteps and a very friendly women opens the door….” that is the most feeble ring I have ever heard!” she says, I explain that I am visiting from out of town and was hoping to catch a swim, however I understand that it is after 6pm and guest hours are closed, the women smiles and looks over her shoulder to an equally friendly fellow, ” I think we can make an exception don’t you think?”, he smiles and nods and she says ” I’ve got a few minutes, I ‘ll give you a tour”, and she did, up the old wooden stairs, I could feel the history ozzing out from the walls, they were ladened with old photographs of swimmers and boats and at the top of the stairs a fantastic old photo of Aquatic Park, she leads me further up the stairs to a locker room that seems to be spilling over with swim suits, caps, goggles and towels all hanging from lockers and pegs, it is drenched in personality and I LOVE IT! Next she leads me to the HOT showers and wait for it………… the SAUNA, ahhh! Finally she shows me to the door that leads to the beach, ” the course is marked, it is a 1/4 mile down and 1/4 back, one lap is half a mile, have a good swim”
I say thanks so much……and she is gone.
|Aquatic Park; Photograph at the top of the stairs in the Dolphin Swim Club|
By now it is dusk and fast on the way is the dark of the night, there are no more swimmers on the course, just me heading out for my first experience in the waters of San Francisco Bay. I walk into the water, my thighs burn, I dive in and stroke out fast, my arms burn, ” aw mate this is brutal ” , I stroke out to the first buoy, I am not warming up at all, ” how am I going to swing swimming Golden Gate tomorrow if I am feeling like this in Aquatic Park”, “OK, I can do this, just one lap, that’s half a mile. then you can get out, just there and back, it will be over before you know it, there and back, there and back” I repeat it in my head, I am having trouble seeing the last buoy, it is dark, the water looks black, I make it and turn around for the homeward stretch and THEN….wouldn’t you know it I began to feel better, stronger, more relaxed and Yes warmer, I actually think I can do 2 laps and swim a mile, in fact I KNOW I CAN swim another lap. That had been my goal this evening, 30 minutes in Aquatic Park and I know I can do it. Before I know it I am walking out of the water and into the Dolphin Swim Club, into the friendly locker room and into the HOT SHOWER, what a treat, no struggling getting clothes on in the cold, I am straight in to the shower. Finally I pry myself out of the shower and into the SAUNA, ahhhhhhhh this is amazing, my body sucks in the heat, there are two other women who are also warming up, it was fun to talk to them and hear about the Dolphin Swim Club.
After a long stretch I decide ” enough decadance” it is time to get dressed and search out something to refuel with and prepare for tomorrow’s swim, 7:00am back at Aquatic Park, that is less than 12 hours away and I am beside myself with excitement….or is it nervous excitement, regardless time to get some rest.
What will the conditions be like tomorrow? I’ll keep you posted!
|Aquatic Park: getting dark|