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"Take The Rock" Veteran Swim Challenge Pages

Take The Rock Instructions and Information

The Take The Rock swim is scheduled to take place in September of this year. An early morning swim gets us good water, low chop, and low wind. It will also get us the warmest water of the year since the Bay has had all summer to collect heat. We'll start with a safety briefing, load up on carbs, fat and water, and get on the Transport Boat to be taken out to the "Jump Point" where we'll be met by the escort kayakers. We'll get sighting directions from the Swim Director, and when he gives the order to jump we'll start our swim to the beach at Aquatic Park.

The Alcatraz event will be preceded by training swims and three required qualification swims which aim at bringing you forward in open water skill and endurance. The Alcatraz event will begin with mandatory breakfast briefings at the assembly point.

At the conclusion of the swim we'll feast, and, we'll have done something that many of us have just been waiting for the right opportunity to do.

Here is some useful information to help you make this a success...

Training:

Showing up on time is the first rule of swim training in the Bay because as the old saying goes, The tide waits for no person. We're not going to be doing our loop swims when we know there is a heavy current situation coming and there will be windows of opportunity we must use. The training swims will start on time in order to catch the best water, and we will not wait for anyone for any reason...the tides do not care about the traffic on the bridge or anything else!

The key to a successful swim is practice, confidence in our skills, being fit, trained in how to use the advantages salt water offers swimmers, and more practice. There will be a number of training sessions made available to you at no cost and the coaches need to see you at a minimum of three “qualifying” swims. You are encouraged to get an hour of exercise every day leading up to the swim to build cardio and this can be walking, jogging, pool work, or doing laps at Aquatic Park. The coaches will decide whether or not you are ready to Take The Rock and they will help you as much as possible, but they must see you in the water.

The Rock is a little more than a mile from the beach at Aquatic Park, so by the time we make our jump we'll have already shown that we can swim a distance of two miles in Aquatic Park, and we can swim in wave conditions. The coaches are going to teach us how to do this, so it's up to us to pay careful attention.

Practice as often as possible!!! Stay in the water for at least an hour when you practice.

Qualifying Swims:

The three Required Qualification Swims that we will do in groups and led by Locos coaches:

1) Introduction to Open Water Swimming: Acclimate to sea water in the Bay, do some laps, float, learn how to trust your wetsuit and use the extra buoyancy of salt water.

2) Endurance and Skill Development: We’ll practice the special skills that will help us demonstrate the ability to swim a distance of 2 miles in the Aquatic Park environment. No time limit. By now you will know and have practiced the techniques for endurance in open water. Your comfort level will be high. We’ll do the “Two Loops” swim within Aquatic Park Cove.

3) Open Water Conditions Experience: We will try out our new skill set on a swim out thru the entrance to Aquatic Park and a short distance into the SF Bay in order to experience swimming in wave conditions. Once you complete this requirement you will have the skills, the endurance, and the confidence for a successful Alcatraz swim.

Wetsuit:
All participants are going to use full triathlete wetsuits which can be rented from Sports Basement or purchased. Scuba diving, surfing, farmer-john, shorty, and other types of wetsuits are not for this swim. Regardless of whether you have swum in the Bay without a wetsuit, for this swim you need one for insurance purposes. You cannot sink if you are wearing a wetsuit! If you use the Sports Basement be sure to mention you are a Veteran and get the 10% discount.

Sharks? What sharks?
White Sharks like deep deep water, which the Bay doesn't have and they stay out of the bay. Little sharks do live in the bay but are afraid of humans. Of course you can tell your friends that you swam in ‘shark infested’ waters but no need to get jumpy at shadows in the water. You are more likely to be visited by a curious seal or sea lion than anything (a few swimmers have been bumped by seals so don’t be alarmed). In a group swim the only other animal you are likely to see is another human.

Swim Cap:
We'll use the same color latex caps with our names and a swimmer number written on them. If you swim on your own at a lake or in bay, ALWAYS wear a red, yellow, pink, orange or other bright cap so people can see you. Any other color makes it impossible to see you.

Escort Kayakers:
The role of the escort kayaker is to keep you safe, and to assist you. NEVER grasp the side of a kayak or you'll put the kayaker in the water with you! ONLY touch the front tip or nose of the kayak, and ONLY with permission from the kayaker. Ask first if it's okay to hold on to the nose of his or her boat. Again, NEVER touch the side of a kayak.

The escort kayakers are watching you. If you need to speak with one simply raise your hand and if you need to shout to get their attention. The escort people are in radio contact with the Committee Boat, they can answer questions, give you directional guidance, and if nothing else a friendly face to help get you thru. These people are your volunteer guardian angels, so be sure to thank them!

If an escort kayaker gives you a specific direction it's not a "request", it's an "order". They know what they're doing and you can trust their decisions.

Pick-Up:
There are times when a swimmer needs to get out of the water and there are two people who make that call. First of all is YOU. If you want to get out for any reason just raise your hand and get the attention of your escort kayaker. Discuss it with him or her and try to relax while the power boat comes to pick you up. The second person who can decide to have you picked up is your escort kayaker. If your escort kayaker requests a pick up for you Do Not Argue. They will have discussed it with the Swim Director and there will be a valid reason. Not to worry though, the Bay isn't going anywhere and you can swim again.

Check out the YouTube videos made by SF Bay coach Leslie Thomas of Swim Art.

Sighting:
This is important because you need to know how to get to your destination! Pick your on-shore target and go! You kayak escort and your Swim Director will tell you what to sight on, based on their observation of your progress in the water and what's happening with the current on the day of your swim. Don’t stop and sight rather sight while swimming. Every time you stop means the current pushes you away from where you are going and you don’t want to swim more distance! See Leslie's YouTube video.

Breathing takes concentration and practice. Staying loose and relaxed, and using a nice and easy stroke will help as will Leslie's video on the subject of breathing.

​Problems and Solutions:

Maybe you had some of these experiences...I have, and they are all manageable if You Don't Quit.....

1) Problem: Water is too cold.
Solution: Eat something with fats and/or carbs awhile before your swim and get a little exercise - like run down the beach and back. Once you get in the water start moving and keep moving. Swim cap, ear plugs, wetsuit! Tip: Some hot tea or hot chocolate before you swim helps you to start with a warm core. Also, there is a saying in the open water swimming world “think cold, swim cold” - - avoid this. Swimming in cold water can make you feel alive and that is a great thing to focus on.

2) Problem: Vertigo.
Solution: Wear ear plugs. Cold water in the inner ear can cause vertigo. Ear plugs will also keep you warm since you lose heat through your head.
Tip: Doc’s ear plugs are keep the water out while letting you hear - - so you can hear instructions. You can also find them on www.swimoutlet.com.

Wax ear plugs are cheap and a lot of people like them but they can be tough to get out of your ear sometimes and you won’t be able to hear the coach.

3) Problem: Goggles leak.

Solution: Take them back to where you bought them and get another, different pair. There IS a pair that will fit you. Tip: Buy the ones that fit, not necessarily the ones that are cheap or expensive. Don’t use new goggles on the day of your swim, always test goggles during training (this applies to anything, food, drink, wetsuit, bathing suit etc etc). Wear your goggles with a clean face...no lotion, sunscreen, makeup, etc. Hold your goggles with one hand when you jump in the water so they don’t come off. For anti-fog spit works well, but so do store-bought formulations.

4) Problem: Claustrophobia.
Solution: Your wetsuit may be too tight around the neck. Go back to the rental store and get a different suit. Tip: try a different brand wetsuit or sleeveless wetsuit - - they are warm and may feel less constrictive as well.

5) Problem: Exhaustion early in the practice.
Solution: Take your time, take it very slowly and let your body warm up. This can take as long as 30 minutes. Alternatively, go for a brief hike before you suit up to swim. Also, take a few strokes, then a couple of rest strokes, then a few more strokes. Tip: Use the 1st 10 - 15 minutes as warm up. Stretch out your stroke and focus your mind on counting your strokes. Try not to let you mind become too consumed with the feeling of being tired or exhausted….the body follows the mind. Concentrate on what you are doing with your hands.

6 Problem: Out of breath.
Solution: See above. Vary your swim with resting breast strokes and resting back strokes. Breathe deeply in and out in a measured way, do not pant with short breaths. Give your lungs time to absorb O2. Relax relax relax. Tip: Count your strokes 1, 2, 3, ...20, repeat. Calm your mind and help your body to relax. Slow down.

7 Problem: I feel too out of shape to do this.
Solution: As you practice your body will gain strength where you need it, and you will gain muscle memory. You will find yourself working less hard and being more relaxed. It just takes a little practice. Tip: Practice is key and remember to eat a bit more protein and carbs. But, don’t go overboard. “Eat to train, not train to eat”.

8 Problem: Doubt, Panic and Fear.
The best way to deal with Doubt, Panic and Fear is to practice until you are completely comfortable in the water. The place to do that is at Aquatic Park, with a coach and or swim buddies.

If you find yourself getting anxious in the water breathe slowly and deeply, pause for a moment and do breaststroke or backstroke (its best not to stop entirely since the current will carry you away from your destination), let your wetsuit hold you up, and talk to yourself calmly. Raise your hand and let your kayak escort person you are experiencing anxiety and talk it over with him or her.

9 Problem: Leg Cramps.
Leg cramps can happen for a variety of reasons including stress, trying to swim too fast, inadequate hydration, cold, and kicking too hard and using fins (which is why we don’t use them).

If you feel yourself getting a leg cramp slow down and RELAX. Drag your legs in the water and don’t kick. If a cramp persists or increases in intensity talk to an escort kayaker about it and prepare to be picked up. A warm shower should clear it up for you. To prevent cramps in the future, try to add more magnesium to your diet. There are magnesium supplements. Remember, you are in training and your body is being taxed so you may need more nutrients and minerals to ensure your muscles fire effectively and to help your system.

10 Problem: I always swim in a crooked line.

Most of us have a dominant right or left hand. Sometimes we tend to swim in a circle opposite our dominant side. (This happens to hikers too who get "lost" in the woods and discover they pass the same spot.) Tip: Learn and practice the art of Sighting. It's easy and it will get you to your destination. See Leslie Thomas's youtube video on Sighting.

11 Problem: My mind takes me on a Worry Journey when I'm swimming.
Tip: Use a mantra to help you focus on your swim. Make one up or try one of these: Keep on swimming. I can do this. One Two Three Four One Two Three Four....you get the picture. Keep it very simple and repetitive, hypnotic even. Say the mantra out loud as you swim and you'll get into a rhythm. Next thing you know you'll be walking out onto the beach with a silly grin on your face!

Many swimmers have experienced some or all of these things and have come close to giving up, but they're glad they didn't! Talk about the hurdle you are working on overcoming and you'll discover there is an answer from your fellow swimmers and coaches. We are here to succeed and have a great experience. A major positive element of this experience is to confront and overcome our personal hurdles. Do Not Quit!

Table of Contents

Page title Most recent update Last edited by
Visit our website July 11, 2016 9:12 AM Michael E.
Swim from Alcatraz: 'My lung transplant dad August 12, 2013 10:32 AM Earle C.
About "Take The Rock" Veteran Swim Challenge July 19, 2016 9:49 PM Earle C.

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