On Sunday morning March 3, you will rack your bike and board shuttle buses at Marina Green to take you to the Start Boat, the Hornblower's San Francisco Belle at Pier 3. Here you will receive your timing chip at Pier 3 and board the boat. Athletes will be organized on the boat by age group as determined by the Race Staff.
You will have a numbered plastic bag given to you at packet pick-up that you will be able bring with you on the Sunday morning shuttle and will leave at Pier 3. This bag will contain any appropriate items you bring/wear that morning (i.e. light sweat suit and sandals) but do not want to take with you on the boat for the swim. Do NOT bring valuables such as iPods and wedding rings, and try to keep the items left in your boat bag to a minimum. This bag will be transported back to Marina Green by Race Staff in a large box truck for pick-up in the bag corral adjacent to the Race Expo after your finish (more details on the transition bags in our upcoming Newsletter, "Must Know Info" on February 21).
For the 'One Way' boat cruise out to the start of the race, you will bring/wear the items in which you will swim. Depending upon the air temperature, don't put your wetsuit on too early as this will have you potentially overheated. You will have plenty of time to put the wetsuit on while on the boat. Booties are allowed during the swim and this year we highly recommend them; gloves are NOT allowed. We also recommend bringing two pairs of goggles in case one pair unexpectedly breaks. We suggest a personal swim cap (latex is best) IN ADDITION to the one you receive in your race packet; one swim cap is ok but two will give you a little more warmth. You may opt to wear a neoprene cap (aka a 'squid lid') as it is going to be slightly colder in the water this year, however please note that the chin strap restricts breathing and any time you cover the ears you lose 30% of your balance and you have a tendency to lose the 'feel' of the water. Keep in mind it is AIR temperature, not necessarily water temperature where you will notice the most difference this year.
If you need to bring critical items on the boat that you will not need while swimming (i.e. glasses or asthma inhalers), we will have a special collection bin for those items that Race Staff will bring back to the Medical Tent adjacent to the finish line at Marina Green. This does NOT include iPods or similar devices - please do NOT bring iPods, etc. with you in the morning.
All athletes will start in order of age group or division as dictated by race staff and position on boat. Past year's exodus off the California Belle has taken too much time; athletes were still hesitantly jumping 10 minutes after the start of the race. This is not a time to be mentally weak, BE READY TO JUMP!!
This year the start will last approximately six to seven minutes for all 2000 participants to jump from the start boat and begin the race. When you jump from the boat into the water, it is a huge shock to your system. Be prepared for the cold water (52 to 54 degrees) and if you have time on the weeks or days prior to the race, you may want to go to Aquatic Park by Ghirardelli Square, about a half mile east of Marina Green and get in the San Francisco Bay for 10 to 20 minutes to feel the water temp or take a few showers or soaks in cold water.
The water temperature will be approximately 52-54 degrees Fahrenheit and there should be minimal chop because the race will start at 7:30 AM prior to the winds picking up. The current on race morning will be pulling participants west (towards the Golden Gate Bridge). As a result, as participants 'swim across the river' left to right, they will be 'pulled' in the correct direction to end up right in front of the St Francis Yacht Club adjacent to the swim exit. Hot Tip: For information on sighting during the swim, please view all the instructional videos on the Official Event Website.
Make sure you take the time to enjoy this experience of swimming from Alcatraz. Approximately five to ten minutes into the swim we suggest you roll on your back to make sure you are making some movement and not stuck in a swirling eddy current keeping you from leaving the Rock. This will also give you the quick opportunity to take in the moment and beautiful sights of Alcatraz and the San Francisco skyline.
Yes there is marine life in San Francisco Bay including sharks, seals, and sea lions. The half-dozen different types of sharks San Francisco has within the Bay itself are small, three to four feet in length, and hang out well below the surface of the water. Despite rumors, these sharks are not interested in Escape Participants. Larger sharks do live outside the Bay where it is saltier; sharks of any significant size do not generally come in the Bay because it is comprised of brackish water (half salt and half fresh water). San Francisco Bay has 500 miles of Sierra snow melt running into the bay, so between the fresh water and the silt, the big sharks like to stay away from the Bay's waters. Harbor seals and sea lions may come by to see what swimmers are up to due to their curious temperaments, but the sheer numbers of swimmers, lifeguard vessels and support boats keep them at a distance.
If you need help while swimming, there will be over 100 water craft in the Bay to assist you. Should you simply need a minute or two to rest and re-orient yourself, you can hold on to the bow of a kayak, get settled, rest a minute and keep going as this will not DQ you. If you need to be repositioned you will be put on a small boat and repositioned. Listen to and abide by the aquatic personnel in the water craft, kayaks, Jet Skis and boats as they are there to assist you and keep you on course. There is a one-hour cut-off time for the swim. Anyone not finished after 60 minutes will be picked up and assisted to shore where they will be allowed to finish the race without penalty.
Swim Exit Transition and Short Run to Main Transition
When you are finished with the swim, depending upon the air temperature you may or may not want to get your wetsuit off prior to running to Marina Green. The longer you have the wetsuit on the harder it is to get off when the water drains out of the suit, but this year for warmth it may be better to take your wetsuit off at Marina Green. You will have a small gear bag waiting for you at the mini-transition area at the swim exit. (This bag is given to you during packet pick-up and turned in to Race Staff on SATURDAY during Packet Pick-up. Note: this is different to past years where we collected swim exit bags on Sunday morning. More on this process in our upcoming newsletter, "Must Know Info" on February 21). In this bag you should have a small towel, maybe a small bottle of water to rinse, and a light pair of shoes to wear during the short transition run from swim exit to the main transition at Marina Green. (Key Tip- This is a "3 pairs of shoes" race, one pair will be left at Pier 3, one will be used for the short run from swim exit to Marina Green, and one will be needed for the 8-mile run. If you choose to use the same pair of shoes for the short swim exit run and the regular 8-mile run you will find on the second run that the shoes are heavy and waterlogged, not good news as you head for the Sand Ladder.) For any items left at swim exit including your wetsuit, you and only you are responsible for placing your items IN THE plastic gear bag. Please do NOT ask a volunteer or another competitor to do this for you. Only you are responsible for your items. You do have the option of simply carrying this bag or even just your wetsuit back to the main Transition with you as you complete the warm-up run.
Yes the Pro's and Elite Age Groupers sometimes go shoeless and wear the wetsuit to the Marina Green transition but here's why: 1) Pro's are participating for the prize money and 2) Keeping the wetsuit creates extra time to promote their wetsuit sponsor. As an age grouper, comfort and staying warm should be your main focus; running bare foot for a half mile will trash the soles of your water logged feet.
At this point, you are ready to transition to the bike. Look for Nutrition information and tips in our upcoming newsletter and Bike information and tips in the following newsletter.
And remember, you can always visit our Frequently Asked Questions and Race Tips on our website for more information.