Kim Hedges - Round-Trip Angel Island
Counter-clockwise loop around Angel Island from Aquatic Park
16.1 km (10.0 miles)
9 hours, 1 minutes on 22 August 2019
Observed and documented by Conny Bleul
- Name: Kim Hedges
- Gender: female
- Age on swim date: 41
- Nationality: United States
- Resides: San Rafael, California
- Marino Cacciotti (SF Boat Support) - pilot
- Miguel Melendez - crew / kayak
- Bill Wygant - crew
- Cornelia (Conny) Bleul-Gohlke - observer
Escort Vessel: Tango (27 ft Fletcher RHIB) (San Francisco / Hyde St Marina)
- Category: Solo, nonstop, unassisted.
- Rules: MSF Rules of Marathon Swimming, without exception or modification.
- Equipment used: Swimsuit, cap, goggles.
Start @ SERC/Dolphin beach in Aquatic Park, exit through Aquatic Park opening, counter-clockwise around Angel Island, return to SERC/Dolphin beach via Aquatic Park opening.
- Body of Water: San Francisco Bay
- Route Type: island loop
- Start & Finish Location: Beach between SERC & Dolphin Club docks, Aquatic Park, San Francisco (37.808145, -122.421402)
- Minimum Route Distance: 16.1 km (10.0 miles)
LongSwimsDB: Round-Trip Angel Island
- Start: 22 August 2019, 04:13 (America/Los_Angeles, UTC-7).
- Finish: 22 August 2019, 13:14
- Elapsed: 9 hours, 1 minutes.
Summary of Conditions
|Water Temp (F)||59||63|
|Air Temp (F)||59||66|
Trackpoint frequency: 10 minutes. Download raw data (CSV).
Nutrition: CarboPro, electrolyte, occasional Coca-Cola.
by Conny Bleul
by Kim Hedges
I completed my first RTAI in July 2019. The swim and weather were gorgeous and I found the route captivating, and I knew I had won the jackpot in terms of conditions. While I couldn’t exactly be unhappy about a success, I was still left a little baffled about the amazing conditions on a swim that was notorious for being nasty. Also, I had a big, difficult swim scheduled for October 2019, and I had been counting on RTAI living up to its reputation in order to give me one last challenging training swim. But I did not have a nasty time!
So given a combination of factors—a love of the route; knowing that I definitely wanted to do it again sometime; an interest in having one more challenging training swim before my main event (and I figured there was just about no way I could have two nearly pristine-condition RTAIs in a row); and enough time left to do it—I decided to inquire with the boat captain as to whether he was available for another RTAI in August. It turned out he was.
I discovered with the first RTAI that the captain was not keen on middle-of-the-night starts so I chose an early-morning start time again, and the tide timing was extremely similar to what I'd had in July. I basically just changed the start time to 15 minutes earlier than what I'd used in July.
It was a bit of a scramble finding crew on such short notice during peak marathon swimming season and also when both kids and adults are going back to school. Bill and Miguel are longtime and relatively longtime (respectively) club members; Conny is a newer member but very enthusiastic and eager to learn. I did everything I could think of to help get her up to speed about observing and MSF guidelines, including putting her in touch with my previous RTAI observer, Lisa.
In a number of ways the swim was the total opposite of my first RTAI. While my first had clear skies, this time we had very dense, freakishly low fog until we were I think all the way around Angel Island at the northwest corner. Heading towards Angel Island at the beginning, I couldn’t even see the island until we virtually upon it. It was difficult for me to tell exactly where I was in the channels amid such obscuring fog, even with a kayaker next to me; landmarks (including the lights of the East Bay—which were glittering on my first RTAI) were for the most part not visible. As the morning wore on, at one point I commented to Miguel that it somehow seemed like it was getting darker. I’m glad I got to enjoy all the views on my previous RTAI, because there were virtually none on this one, including even of the Golden Gate Bridge during the last stretch.
Also unlike on the first RTAI, on this one I had to wait for some ship traffic on the return route on the south side of Angel Island. This coincided with me being stuck in a current, so I think I was swimming in place for at least 45 minutes there, which of course put us behind schedule.
Conditions were big and very sloppy for the entire trip back across both the channels to Aquatic Park, and I somehow suddenly got very sleepy. Sighting was difficult as not only were both the kayak and the RIB on my left (Miguel later told me he didn't want to be on my right as he thought the waves would just toss the kayak into me) and I usually breathe on my right, but the size of the waves made it hard to quickly pick out something along the skyline to sight on. I eventually settled on the Palace of Fine Arts, and, 20/20 hindsight, I wish I had just kept sighting on that until I reached the shoreline. Eventually a crew person told me that I could just head for the opening, but that seemed questionable. For a bit I sighted on the Fontana Towers, but I'm sure that even that was too far east.
At some point I was on a direct line to the Wedding Cake. And then, I honestly don't know what happened—maybe my last feed, maybe I unconsciously let off the gas a bit because I was near the end, maybe the current really did become dramatically stronger within a matter of a few yards, maybe a combination of all three—but in what felt like a literal blink of an eye I was shot eastward down the breakwater wall. The water was very chaotic and the flood felt much, much stronger than its predicted 1.7 kts (Miguel has said it felt like 4+; I’d say at least 3, and going full steam). I suddenly was not sure whether I’d be able to swim against that current back to the opening, and I was afraid the entire swim would be “lost.” I pretty much saw my heart shoot out of my chest, up into the sky, and shatter into a million pieces.
I had told Bill, Conny, and the boat captain in advance of the swim that I was not “allowed” to return to Aquatic Park via the Creakers, but I may have forgotten to tell Miguel. Nevertheless there was still some confusion and discussion while I was battling along the breakwater as to whether we should return via Creakers. I reiterated to everyone that I had to go back in through the opening.
In order to make progress against a current when swimming along the breakwater wall you need to keep as close to the wall as possible, but the wall was now on my left and I know from much experience that I can't fight anywhere near as hard when breathing on my left as I can when breathing on my right. I was told later by crew that at times when I was still trying to swim against the current freestyle, I was moving backwards. (Some of the crew’s comments to this effect are on video, along with comments about me sometimes swimming in place.) I didn’t have much opportunity to stop and engage with my crew at this point, but I do remember glancing over and seeing a thoroughly bemused look on Miguel’s face as he watched me fight seemingly futilely. I finally decided to try breaststroke as my breaststroke kick is much stronger than my flutter kick, and this way I could also keep tabs, via peripheral vision, on how close I was to the wall. This tack was very effective, and I progressed beam* by beam (eventually Conny started counting them down) back to the opening.
Once on the beach I took a few minutes to collect myself before heading upstairs. Miguel congratulated me and we talked a little, which talk included him shaking his head and saying to me, “I don’t know what kind of batteries you put in that dildo.” (I am including this because it’s hilarious, captures the moment, and actually has the same gist as some things Bill wrote to me after the swim, but in Miguel-ese.)
* Not sure what those things are called
Click to enlarge.