This is Karah's account of the Bay to Breakers swim. It should be noted that her innate modesty doesn't allow her to relate that she recently started open water swimming without a wetsuit, that she has the best stroke of anyone in the club, and that it keeps getting harder to stay in front of her. Thanks to Kit for being a first time pilot.
"B2B 2007 Recap by Karah Nazor
Chapter 1: The Alarm Clock.
Alarm went off at 3:40 a.m. Despite having endured years and years of 5:00 a.m. swim practices, I have never in my life woken up so early for a swim, but, the tides don’t wait, etc., etc. A few minutes later I picked up my younger brother Kit (a tall, cute, smart and athletic
25 years old surfer, skateboarder, snowboarding, kick balling, stem cell scientist at UCSF, we moved to SF on the same day) who
volunteered to kayak pilot for Julian and myself. We arrived at the
club on time at 4:30 and tried to busy ourselves assembling zodiacs, etc. Still had NO idea what time the jump was.
Chapter 2: The Briefing.
Bobby’s briefing began at 5:00ish. The instructions were:
1) Pilots to keep swimmers 30-40 yards to the right of the south tower
of the Golden Gate Bridge because a big shipping vessel will be coming through on the north side.
2) After the GG Bridge, expect the water to change considerably and
expect big rolling waves to be sweeping in
3) Swimmers to closely follow your pilots who will be looking for Mile
Rock. Stay to the right of Mile Rock. Based on conditions, the race director will make the decision whether or not to take swimmers into the beach.
4) Start looking for seal rocks, where there will be surfers, swim
into the beach.
5) Who drew those detailed cartoon maps of the swims by the way? I
Chapter 3: The Jump
At 5:30ish we 10 eager swimmers marched over to he escort boat waiting for us at the dock behind Capurros. Thanks to the captain. Despite the strong ebb, it was a smooth and DRY ride to the Bay Bridge. Ate one of Paul’s Gu’s, saw Jessica et al. swimming towards Alcatraz, examined Julian’s ingrown toenails, admired Diesel’s strong and smooth freestyle stroke (who jumped 15 minutes early), and before I knew it we were in the cold fast water.
Breathing to the left I witnessed a magnificent sunrise behind Treasure Island. Kept looking for our pilot Kit and assumed we would find him around Pier 39. From the beginning, John Walker, Julian and myself kept together pretty much stroke for stroke (thanks guys for staying with me at the end- I know I slowed the pace down considerably).
Chapter 4: The Washington Venture
I thought we would take the usual line from the Bay Bridge to Club to be primed for a straight shot in to the south tower of the GG Bridge, but Bobby kept pointing us in the direction of Alcatraz. This was a fun yet unexpected line. Finally, Julian, John and I met up with Kit in front of the Island. Kit said he had been there for at least 45 minutes battling the ebb to keep his position in front of Alcatraz, he’s got blisters on his hands to prove it. Had a sip of Gatorade and Ju Gued. Being so near Alcatraz, we were actually lined up for the ebb to take us straight towards the North Tower. A few strokes past Alcatraz, we saw the mammoth Washington Venture shipping vessel appear mysteriously like a ghost under the north side of the GG Bridge (as expected). As we were also on the north side, it was super unsettling to see that this beast was aimed directly at us! It was at the moment that I realized how tiny swimmers are in comparison and was very grateful to have the row boat and Kit there making us more visible.
As per race briefing, Kit started taking us left across the channel to head towards the south tower as the ship was obviously claimed the northern side. We would have had to sprint to make it over there, but in my opinion, could have made it. Luckily, we got served. The ship busted out a most unexpected and excellent maneuver by aggressively cutting right towards Chrissy Field. Kit said he was unaware a ship of this size could change its course so rapidly. So we responded and changed our direction back to the north shore and the boat ended up passing us on our left with much room to spare. The striking image of that ship and its disgusting turn will be hard to soon forget.
Chapter 5: Beyond the Golden Gate Bridge We ended up going under the Golden Gate Bridge at around midspan I think. On such a clear day, Mile Rock was visible from the water level within a couple of minutes. It’s a pretty obvious marker with a large white man-made tower on it. Bobby is correct, it is a different world on the other side of the GG Bridge. Not breakers, just huge yet gentle and regular rolling blue waves. They were hypnotizing in a way. Our pilots were only 10-15 yards in front of us, but when we were at the bottom of one wave, they were at the top of the next, making it difficult to sight them. Every second or third wave, or so, when I was at the top, I could spot our pilots on their way down the wave, and they were way to my left. I felt like the current was pushing us towards the right and our pilots were directing us to the left, towards mile rock.
Like those before me have said, I don’t have a clear recollection of what happened after Mile Rock, I was in a hallucinatory state. The bright and warm sun was shining down on the water giving it the shiny metallic effect and also creating a haze that made it difficult to see the mountains to the right or the golden gate bridge behind me. It was an unusual vision seeing Bobby and Tawny cruise up and down these huge waves in the zodiac. That looked fun, and cold. Their zodiac entered and exited my dream a couple of times. I guess Bobby gave our pilots the go ahead to take us into the beach.
By the time we reached Mile Rock, I must have chugged a couple of liters of the sea and felt incredibly bloated and a little dizzy. I must have told Julian I had swallowed a lot of water because he gave me a very timely demonstration of how to breath in these conditions by rolling almost completely over on my back and opening my mouth only when I am looking at the sky. I adopted this technique the rest of the way in. I know I had slowed down considerably, thanks Julian and John for staying with me, I am sure you guys had to let off the gas.
I knew I would feel so much better if- in the words of Johnny Diesel- I could vomit. I didn’t vomit, but the tasty bay water finagled its way out of my system at my other end. Got some relief from that.
Sorry to those who were behind me ☺. Diana Craig may kill me for saying this, but she said this is something she too has experienced.
Sharko told me the Bay is “Not a bad place to have it.” I agree, much better than the Muni, for example.
Chapter 6: Ocean Beach
I kind of remember seeing Cliff House and Seal Rocks. But I couldn’t at all gauge how far we were from the beach. It felt like we were miles out there - but we really weren’t. It wasn’t until I saw Kit looking backwards and waiting for the perfect wave to roll in to catch a ride into the beach that I knew we were close. A surfer was there encouraging us to swim into the beach as well. As a sponsored body surfer, I wasn’t phased by the breakers past of the swim, but I remember experiencing difficulty coming to my feet, and was grateful to take Julian’s hand and have him escort me to the beach. Kit claims we had a conversation about the swim on the beach, but I do not remember it.
Thankfully, dearest Melissa Braisted was there with the beach crew and quickly draped me with a warm fleece blanket and walked/carried me to her car. I think I would have collapsed without her. I felt very odd in the car ride, I couldn’t talk, but I managed to say “I think I am going to throw up.” Paul Springer held his insulative cap open in front of me to use as a barf bag. I kept thinking I should sit by the window, but couldn’t communicate this. The other weird thing is that my quads seized up and I couldn’t put my feet on the floor of the car no matter how hard I tried. I am kind of saddened that I got so weak.
I'd like to think I'm tougher and could hang with Michelle Deasy, Julian, and Jessica on their 6+ hour swims.
Chapter 7: Breakfast!
We were served up an amazing breakfast by Robin and her family which consisted of cheesy eggs with asparagus, hash browns, sausage, mango and biscuits. After a quick nap in the sauna, the food, coffee and a couple of stimulating head massages from Diesel’s BJ300 vibrating alien head massager thingy, I thought I was back in fighting form. I realized I wasn’t when I went to work a few hours later and tried to have a conversation with my boss about my experiment. I couldn’t remember the name of the protein that I have been working on for the past 7 years. It’s called PrP- the prion protein- but I kept calling
it CRC and CDC. Oops.
Bobby is right, it is a different world on the other side of the bridge. It’s a world I would like to become more intimate with. I want to go back there today and tomorrow. I propose having quarterly bay to breakers swims. Despite my digestive “issues” and intense flirtation with hypothermia at the end of the swim, I would do it
again in a heartbeat. Next time I will make a conscious effort to
watch my breathing technique and not swallow so much of the Bay. And I’ll wear my insulative cap. I truly felt like I was a daughter of the sea, I felt warm and happy frolicking in her vast openness and very secure because of the pilots. I love open water and the SERC."