Friday, October 27, 2006

Escape from Alcatraz: Photos, Results & Conclusions

Well, the final results are in. I really did “Escape from Alcatraz”. On the 15th of October I swam from “The Rock” to San Francisco in 57 minutes 16 seconds. I placed 97th out of 110 male swim-only participants. There were many hundreds of participants because the swim was part of a triathlon and, of course, there were female participants as well. Therefore in the total group of participants I certainly placed higher but the organizers do not provide the overall statistics. Nevertheless I am disappointed.

So the interesting thing is that my brain very quickly switched from “Can I do it?” to “Why didn’t I do it faster?” – from being afraid to being combative.

Attached are some photos:

What to do on a sunday morning
What to do on a Sunday morning.JPG

Kathy von Nagel took this picture of me, my daughter Cynthia and hundreds of rubbermen walking along Fisherman’s wharf to the ferry that took us to Alcatraz. I am one of the few dressed because I did the swim without a wet suit. The sight of so many people dressed in black rubber was an unusual sight and stopped the traffic.

IMG005 – IMG017.JPG

Pictures taken by Nick Reynolds. Nick did the swim and while we chatted afterwards I found out that he did the swim with a waterproof camera. These pictures are very real.


Picture by Norman Dole (member of my reception crew) showing swimmers arriving in Aquatic Park.


Picture by Norman of a very happy Theo being welcomed by his reception crew.

SF beautiful view
SF Beautiful view.JPG

Picture by Kathy taken on the Golden Gate Bridge during the swim showing Alcatraz on the left and the dark area in San Francisco on the right where I landed.


I now support the little conceit that I (a one-handed cripple after all) accomplished something that in theory would kill 99% of the population and has actually killed more than a few in the past. I have assuaged somewhat the memory of almost but not completely swimming the English Channel. And I have proved once and for all that I can be insanely happy.

And so I leave you with a final picture:


This picture shows a rather tubby, nearly-naked man and a slim, athletic-looking rubberman. Now notice who is the one behind.

Thursday, October 26, 2006





Saturday, October 14, 2006

Shh! I’ve Escaped…

I'm still alive.

Just before 8:30 this morning I jumped off a ferry boat and swam to shore on Alcatraz Island and then on to the start line. At 8:30 about 1,200 certainly partially insane people started swimming to the mainland. I was one of perhaps fifty of those swimming without a wet suit.

During the swim I had no trouble with the cold. My little red bonnet insulated me perfectly. Several hours after, I'm still cold which is longer than normal but I think that's because I kept my wet bathing suit on through breakfast, because there was no place to change at the beach.

The other thing is that I was not particularly tired after the swim. Ok I could hardly stand but that's because my legs were stiff because I don't kick and so they just mostly sit there. If you had said "OK, You can go back now", I probably would have and could have. Once you get good at some things you can do it in ways that would surely kill normal people.

It is a long swim. There are no markers. There's no way of knowing where you are. During my English Channel swim, my boat blew its fog horn every fifteen minutes. In the Alcatraz swim, it could be half way or maybe just a quarter of the way or maybe it's really still near the start. More than once I thought the thought of the thought of quitting. I was nowhere taking the action but it's rare for such thoughts to even come up.

Lessons learned: It's not the thing to do if you are on a low sodium diet. Swimming bonnets can give you a bright red hickey on your throat. The view is breathtaking during the microseconds you take your breath.

I'm writing this while sitting in Zara and H&M and daughter Cynthia is shopping. So it's back to a normal life. Well, sort of. Tomorrow I fly to Europe for my next Peggy Guggenheim Collection Advisory Board meeting.

Many thanks the Cynthia, Kathy and Monique send-off team and to my incredible reception team (in ABC order) Cynthia, Diana, Fran, Liz, Norman and Renee. Was it the best glass of Champagne ever? In the top ten certainly. Thanks to Becky for introducing me to Coach Laura who sped up my swimming a good 20%. Ditto Dolphin Club. Also thanks for all the messages of encouragement. Once I told you, there was no looking back.

There will be one more message in this thread with photos and results.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Escape From Alcatraz 3

My little swimming adventure starts at 8:30 am on Sunday.

Today I did my final practice swim. 1.5 miles in Aquatic Park (a protected cove in San Francisco Bay) in 56 minutes 10 seconds. The swim was not without incidents. The wind was in my face so the waves breaking in my face made it hard to see. Also half the time I was swimming directly into the setting sun. I crashed into a man swimming the other way. We stopped briefly to confirm that no eyes were lost and continued. Then I swam straight into one of the buoys. My left arm, shoulder and cheek came down hard on the barnacles. A lot of scratches but, thankfully, no blood. While swimming in the bay, we don’t like blood. The swim is about the same distance as Alcatraz to the mainland, so I can feel fairly confident about Sunday.

Here’s what is interesting: I’m in the middle of a complicated life. Many commitments to many things. Clever boy here adds to all these commitments a heavy physical challenge. So yesterday I went to the barber. He asks “How are you?” And I blurted out something like “I’m so happy, it seems unfair…”