Swim Report: Kirby Cove to Aquatic Park

Two days before Bay to Breakers in May (yes, it’s a belated report), an oversubscribed volunteer corps opened up a couple spots on another SERC club swim: Kirby Cove to Aquatic Park. Kirby Cove is the same beach on the Marin Headlands where Cathy finished her “Three Bridges” swim in March. Outside the Golden Gate, but not as far as Point Diablo or Point Bonita. At 4.2 miles (current-assisted), it’s one of the longer SERC club swims, so a bit odd to have on the same weekend as Bay to Breakers.

I wasn’t planning to swim that morning and showed up to help kayak or time. It turned out there were plenty of volunteers, so I figured what the hell… I paid my fee and changed, like a chubby Clark Kent, into my drag suit and parka. Game on.

We motored out to Kirby Cove on the Silver Fox, 24 swimmers and a gaggle of paddlers. The swim was scheduled to start just before slack tide at the Golden Gate (0832), building into a 4.7-knot flood (1134).

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Exact water temp is unknown because the NOAA-Crissy Field buoy was out, but I’d guess it was about 57F (13.9C). Air temp was mid-50s at the start, becoming warmer and quite sunny as the morning progressed.

Once everyone had swum into shore from the boat, we set off in two “pods” – the six fastest swimmers at 8:15, preceded by everyone else at 8:11.  Heading out I took too straight of a line into the channel, thinking it would get me into the current faster. This was stupid: I should have angled straight for mid-span of the Bridge (there wasn’t much current then anyway). That’s precisely what the leader did, and by the time I corrected my course, I was 25m behind.

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Red line = my course. Blue line = straight tangent to Golden Gate Bridge mid-span

We were not assigned paddlers on a one-to-one basis, but within a few minutes I noticed Hank and his son shadowing me in a tandem kayak. I was treating this as a self-navigated swim, but they were a comforting presence and definitely helped keep me on a straighter line with less sighting.

I reached the Golden Gate Bridge, a bit north of mid-span, in 17 minutes, 30 seconds (0.77 miles, 2.64mph). Around this time I lost track of the leader. Oh well, I thought: I’m not trying to race this anyway. Not a race!! 

I saw a wooden rowboat off to my right (toward south tower), but no swimmer. Turned out he was there, but on the other side of the rowboat.

Full GPS tracks
Full GPS tracks (click to expand)

Onward I swam, angling across the shipping channel toward my destination. Meanwhile, it was turning into a glorious day! I felt the warmth of the sun on my back, and the Bay was as calm as it ever gets.

I watched the Palace of Fine Arts come and go, and soon the piers of Fort Mason came into view. Hank was motioning me to head further in, but I ignored him until around Gashouse,  taking my chances on missing the Opening. I did have a bit of a scramble right at the Opening – the flood was really picking up now – but I made it safely at 1 hour, 12 minutes, 12 seconds elapsed time (54:42 for the Bridge-to-Opening segment, 3.2 miles, 3.51 mph).

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Once inside the Cove, I saw no one behind me so I took a very relaxed pace toward the SERC beach. This, along with my failing to account for the effect of the flood inside the cove (pushing me too far east), caused a very close call at the finish.

As I approached the SERC pier, I finally noticed I was off course, and started crabbing back. At the same instant, I noticed Darrin suddenly almost even with me, sprinting straight in to the finish. He almost got me. I found a final burst of speed and cleared the water first.

It’s not a race, people. Not a race!

I’m sure the timekeepers were highly entertained. Final time 1:17:06.

And a fine warm-up for Bay to Breakers…

See Dan Boyle’s Flickr page for some excellent GoPro images and video of the event.

Improving the Swedish goggle? Testing the Nootca 5

Along with Strokemaker paddles, the original Malmsten Swedish goggle is a design that has withstood the test of time. While I’m generally eager to embrace new technologies, I’ve worn the same model of swim goggles for over 20 years now.

Swedes are stereotyped as a pool swimming goggle, but I’ve seen no compelling reason to embrace gaskets in the open water. Why mess with a good thing? Take note of my goggle choice in my four longest swims (clockwise from top-left, the Tampa Bay Marathon Swim, Santa Barbara Channel, Catalina Channel, and Manhattan Island Marathon Swim):

At the same time, I’ll concede some occasional frustration with the cheap materials in classic Swedes – the scratch-proneness of the lenses, and the ultra-short lifespan of the latex straps. So, my interest was piqued when Steven Keegan – founder of Nootca and formerly a product designer with Speedo and Nike Swim – answered my “Super Swede” challenge and offered to let me try his Swede-“inspired” Nootca 5 goggle.

[Nootca on SwimOutlet]

The Nootca 5 had ambitious claims: not only upgrading the materials over the original Swede, but also improving the “water flow, durability, and vision.” I approached these claims with all due skepticism. And I was surprised by what I found.

Nootca Unboxed (click to enlarge).

The Nootcas make a good first impression. Held securely in a recyclable cardboard box, the goggles come pre-assembled with a silicone nose piece and detailed, well-written instructions for switching to the alternative string-and-bridge nosepiece.

Also included is a microfiber cloth pouch, for that extra layer of security against scratches.

Nootca stock photo
Nootca stock photo

As for the goggles themselves: I was immediately struck by the aesthetics (one of the big draws of original Swedes compared to say, Hind Compys or, god forbid, Aquaspheres).

The lenses are sleek and polished, and, so far as I can tell in several months of use, fairly scratch-resistant (especially with conscientious use of the carrying pouch). Along with the silicone head strap, the goggles live up to Nootca’s promise of higher quality materials over the original Swede.

Nootca stock photo
Nootca stock photo

What about Nootca’s claims of improved design over the original Swede? A high bar, indeed – but again, I’d say mostly fulfilled. The lenses seem slightly “longer” on the sides than original Swedes, which improves peripheral vision while still maintaining a low profile. Note how snugly the goggles fit in my eye sockets:

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Now, a couple of minor quibbles:

  • I found that the included silicone nosepiece didn’t want to stay in place. When I place the goggles on my face and pull the strap behind my head, the nosepiece “slips” and becomes too wide. This may be specific to my facial structure, I don’t know for sure – but in any case, Steven mentioned there was an update to the nosepiece “in the works.”
  • After my trouble with the silicone nosepiece, I switched it out for the alternative Malmsten-style string-and-bridge. Here, I found that the bridge itself was just slightly too wide, such that it blocked me from tying the string narrow enough. Perhaps I have an unusually narrow nose bridge? In any case, my ever-so-handy girlfriend pointed out that I could fix the problem simply by snipping the end off the bridge to make it narrower.
  • And finally, I must admit, I think the thin layer of silicone in the gasket is an unfortunate concession. I actually like the hard plastic of traditional Swedes. Not just the aesthetics of it, but also because even the highest-quality silicone will eventually degrade. On the other hand, some may find the added comfort is worth the theoretical sacrifice in durability.

All considered, and in spite of these quibbles, I really like the Nootca 5’s. They retain the minimalist beauty of original Swedes (with a couple thoughtful design enhancements) while upgrading the quality of the materials. The vision in particular is quite expansive, which I appreciate in open water settings.

Nootca stock photo
Nootca stock photo

From my email correspondence with Steven Keegan, I get the impression of a thoughtful designer/entrepreneur who takes pride in his creations. Nootca is pretty much a one-man show; a goggle-only boutique competing against giant corporations like Nike and Speedo. So, I’m happy to spread the word about this product.

For an interesting interview with Steven, see here.

While I received my Nootca 5’s as a complimentary review product, I also put my money where my mouth is and bought two additional pairs with my own funds – the green/smokes and the clears, to join my browns.

Nootca goggles are available at Nootca.com as well as SwimOutlet.

If you prefer gasketed goggles, you might consider one of Nootca’s other models – the 207 or the Eleven. Steven kindly sent a pair of Elevens for my girlfriend to try. Read her review, comparing them favorably to her usual Speedo Vanquishers, on the Marathon Swimmers Forum.

Marathon Swimming Nutrition – Index of Articles

I’ve written a variety of posts over the last few years on nutritional considerations in marathon swimming. Here they are in one place for your reference.


Series: The Art & Science of Marathon Swimming Nutrition

On Recovery Drinks – includes a DIY powdered recovery drink recipe

On Maltodextrin – Maxim vs. Carbo Pro

Series: On Nutritional Science in Marathon Swimming

On Peter Attia’s nutrition webinar

Marathon swimming and low-carbohydrate diets

My New, New Beach

[Read “My New Beach” from last year]

Not explicitly mentioned here yet, but implied between the lines, is that I’ve moved again. This time, to San Francisco.

My new beach, a six minute walk door to sand, isn’t quite as “secret” as the last one.

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Ocean Beach, San Francisco. Panoramic photo courtesy of Wikimedia commons – click to enlarge.

The “Outside Lands” of San Francisco, with Ocean Beach along its western flank, are reputed to be foggy and windswept. In my two months here – typically the foggiest of the year – I’ve found that reputation to be vastly overstated.

The Pacific Ocean from my window. Farallon Islands at center.
The Pacific Ocean from my window. Farallon Islands at center.

And so another new adventure commences…

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Looking north from my nearest dune.
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Looking south from my nearest dune.

The Ocean is your Mother – let her love and caress you.

— Randy Brown

The second time, at swim camp…

It’s no hyperbole, just a simple statement of fact, that Jamie Patrick‘s Swim Camp last year changed the course of my life. I returned this year for the “Lake Tahoe Edition” for several reasons, most important of which was to honor the 2012 edition, and the man who organized it, for introducing me to a beautiful new friend.

My very first pair of FINIS Agility paddles

😉

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Photo by Lynn K.

This year’s swim camp was a hoot, albeit a different sort of hoot. Which was, naturally, a function of both different people and a different environment. Like last year, “swim camp” was a bit of a misnomer. “Camp for people who swim” would be more accurate.

Among this year’s highlights was a swim in Emerald Bay and around its island (the only one in Tahoe, known as Fannette). It couldn’t have been more perfect, save perhaps an earlier jump time to avoid boat traffic. Good lord, what beautiful water, as if from a dream.

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Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe, from the access trail. Unfortunately the boat-hiring tourists like it too.

The island in the middle of the bay (Fannette) has a steep drop-off on all sides, of the sort that usually terrifies me, but for whatever reason Tahoe’s vast depths don’t bother me. No resident apex predators, perhaps?

We also went for a dip in the Truckee River, of which most of the swimmable portion is only inches deep. Nonetheless, a hoot.

Tahoe is a profoundly special place, more than any freshwater lake I’ve experienced, and I can understand the protectiveness. I hope to return soon.

Photo by Lynn K.
Photo by Lynn K.

Thank you, Jamie, for your generosity, hospitality, good cheer… and the FINIS Agility paddles, which continue to enrich my life.

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Reports from other campers:

Delicious craft beer provided by Phil Cutti, co-founder of Headlands Brewing Company.

Sharks Live in the Ocean, Part 2

[Read Part 1]

When we swim in the ocean we share the water with an abundance of other life, some of it larger and toothier than we are. Just because we don’t see them doesn’t mean they’re not there. And just because they’re there doesn’t mean they care about us, or want anything to do with us.

Members of the South End Rowing Club and Dolphin Club, who share a beach on Aquatic Park, San Francisco, were recently reminded of these truths when a three-foot juvenile salmon shark swam into the cove and spent a few minutes cruising around near our docks. Salmon sharks sport a distinctive white underbelly and are sometimes mistaken for juvenile Great Whites. Though adults can grow to 10 feet long, they’re generally not considered a threat to humans.

Some footage taken by South Ender Gary Emich:

[Link to YouTube video]

The shark is behaving oddly and appears disoriented. According to the Pelagic Shark Research Foundation in Santa Cruz, this shark may be suffering from a carnobacterium infection and resulting blindness. The PSRF has received several other reports recently of sharks beaching themselves elsewhere in Northern California.

salmon shark

Salmon shark (not the one in the video).

I didn’t swim at the South End the morning our confused fish friend visited us. But actually, I wish that I had. Though the idea of a shark cruising around Aquatic Park is startling, the primary emotion I feel watching that video is not fear but sympathy and curiosity. Sympathy for his suffering, and curiosity at seeing an animal that typically avoids human contact, swimming silently, anonymously, indifferently below our stroking arms.

Related external post: