Sunday, September 20, 2009

Shewli's Escape from Alcatraz - 1 hour 9 min 32 sec

Highlights of my event for the SERC Invitational Alcatraz Swim on Sept 12 2009
Distance: 1.25 miles
Start: 7:56 AM
Swim Finish: 1 hour 9 min 32 sec
Water Temp (Fahrenheit): High 50's Low 60's
High Swells, Windy, Rain, Lightning and Thunder
I loved every minute of this experience. Here are some video clips of the event and my thoughts.
Morning of the Swim
12th of September dawned with cold winds, overcast skies, thunder and lightning. I could see drizzle on the car windshield and occasional flashes of lighting in the distance as we drove north in the wee hours of the morning to the San Francisco bay. The drive was through dark windy roads and freeways bathed in misty fog.

The Fisherman’s Warf in the early morning light looked so peaceful with all the regular businesses closed for the night and we had the streets for ourselves.

At SERC, we (my dad and me) stood in the line at the Checkin tents to get our race packages and timing chips. My race number was 197 and later I changed it for 649. I changed into my wetsuit, got body marked and waited for the swim briefing. After this all swimmers walked towards Pier 33 to board the Blue & Gold ferry. This would transport us and let us jump a few yards from the island and start of the swim.

Jumping into the cold, rough waters of the bay
When I was boarding the ferry I felt nervous, uncertain of the swim that was I was about to undertake. I wanted to get a drink of water, because I always have a dry throat while swimming. Funny feeling thirsty being surrounded by water.

Here is a video clip of me and my dad jumping from the ferry into the bay. On this clip, we are first to jump, we pause for a few seconds and then start swimming.

Finishing the Swim
The weather was getting worse by the minute as we jumped into the water. In the water, all that went through my mind was to start swimming. Until I got to the middle. Here we paused to see the island having fallen behind us , the Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay Bridge on either side. In front of us was the inviting San Francisco skyline shrouded in grey clouds and mist with an occassional flash of lightning. It was a beautiful sight.
As we paused, I could feel the cold water seep into my wetsuit and taking away the heat from my body. Then as I looked around and saw the huge swells coming right at me. I started swimming again. I could see the bright Ghirardelli sign. Odd, because I heard another swimmer before we jumped, saying that he was aiming straight for the Ghirardelli lights.

Towards the end I felt tired. I thought about my cause, my supporters and everyone who was waiting for me on shore giving me strength and courage to complete my swim. I started humming “Keep on Swimming, Keep on Swimming” and my favorite song. I aimed for a yellow buoy at the mouth of the breakwater. It seemed I was swimming in place and not getting any nearer. The swells and wind seemed to pick up in intensity and kept pushing back at me.
When I was near shore I could hear the crowd yelling and cheering for me. Then I realized that the excited sea gulls were cheering for me too. A swimmer at the breakwater took the time to encourage me as say “Come On, Good Job, You can do it, You are Shewli, the youngest swimmer today, aren’t you”

I kept swimming until I felt the warm sand on my face as a big wave carried me in as if to help me and introduce me to the crowds.
As I stepped out of the water I felt proud of myself knowing that I had escaped from Alcatraz in rough conditions with rain, lightning and thunder to add to my challenge.

I think my mom hugged me and then I was into the crowd where I was greeted with a big hug from Lynne Cox and SERC volunteers in red parkas and white hoodies.

I got my medal as my family cheered me on, my grandparents, uncle aunties and cousins. A flask of warm sweet milk was handed to me and it tasted good. Yum

In the steam room some one said that my lips were purple. The shower at SERC was very warm and I stayed there for a long time. Just soaking myself in the warmth, humming my favorite song.

I had swam the inescapable, legendary waters of Alcatraz. I stood up to the challenge and helped spread the word on "Prevention is Better than Cure" for breast cancer.

Thank You for following my blog and giving me strength.

Until our next challenge, Rock on.


  1. What way to got Shewli...congrats put your best efforts for a great cause ....

    Nilabh and Anica Dubey(Chicago)



    Tamara, Adi, Nandini & Sriram

  3. WOW Shewli,

    Thanks for sharing your experiences with us. We enjoyed watching the video.
    This is a very big achievement at age 10. Congrats and keep it up!!

    Minal, Devang, Diyaanka & Malaika

  4. Congrats again! Lovely report too. Keep us posted on your next events.

  5. My dearShewli,

    Your name means , I think flower with an etherial fragrance.
    U have proved you are not only soft but also tough & brave .keep it up .
    I saw you last when u were 2.
    I remember your jumps to my lap without warning.

    U were brave , trusting & fearless from the early days .
    Please accept my Congrats for your exceptional.
    It is a good start.
    We feel prowd to have a risktaking & brave little girl in our family .
    Love to U & thanks to your mummy /daddy to encourage & allow u to take part
    Choto dadu

  6. So proud of Shewli... Bravo!
    I have linked you to my latest post on my blog here:
    Big hug to u... :)