Swimming: Valley swimmer completes Bay 10K
June 21, 2012
There’s a lot of hard work and mental discipline one can put in to training for rigorous open water swimming.
For Carson Valley resident Dave Brockhage, though, it came down to showers with an icy garden hose on cool mornings outside the Carson Valley Swim Center.
“You have to do that, in order to prepare your body for the shock,” said Brockhage, who has become somewhat of a swimming adventure hero over the past two years. “It lessens the chance of hypothermia.”
Brockhage, 54, recently completed a 10K swim in the San Francisco Bay from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Bay Bridge. He was the oldest competitor in the field of 20 and he finished in the middle of the pack with a time of 1 hour, 43 minutes.
Last year, he swam the Bay from the coast to Alcatraz Island after losing more than 45 pounds during an eighth-month training routine.
He never really quit the training, though, and came into this year in peak shape.
The hard part, aside from the monotony of indoor laps during the winter, was reacclimating for the ocean water – 54 degrees on race day.
“I just quit warm water all together about three weeks before the swim,” Brockhage said. “No warm showers, nothing. The swim center let me use a garden hose to rinse off and one morning a bunch of ice came out of it. It’s a reality check as to what you are doing.
“You have to lower your core temperature to prepare for it. I wear a wet suit, which helps, but even then, you really have to get ready for the shock.”
In preparation for the 10K, Brockhage swam six days a week, about 3,500-4,500 yards or an hour and a half (whichever came first) per session.
“It does get monotonous,” he said. “You start to feel like a rat in a cage a bit. You’re talking 150-200 laps per workout, so there is a lot of back and forth and a lot of turning and pushing.
“Once the outdoor pool opens up, it’s a bit better. You can look around a bit at the mountains and trees instead of just the inside of the swim center.”
The 10K started at 6:30 a.m. June 9 with all the participants jumping off a boat underneath the Golden Gate.
The swim progressed past Alcatraz, around Fisherman’s Wharf and through the Bay Bridge.
“They kind of tell you what to stay away from and what to aim for,” Brockhage said. “There is an area of eddies (swirling currents) off to your right near the start and you have to stay away from those, or you’re not coming back out on your own.
“You get past that and you start aiming for Alcatraz. I was trying to spot it every fourth breath and stay in line.”
Once past Alcatraz, the shoreline turns in toward the Bay Bridge, leaving an essentially straight shot toward a buoy about 10 feet in diameter underneath the bridge marking the finish.
“Swimming in open water is such a pleasant change,” Brockhage said. “You can really get into a rhythm, put your head down and kind of go at it for a while without turning.
“The wet suit gives you some good buoyancy too, so you don’t really have to kick. You can just let your legs drag a bit and let your arms do the work.”
Once in the water, the swimmers essentially spread into their own areas to work at their own paces.
“You were essentially by yourself,” Brockhage said. “There is a lot of support in the water with boats and canoes, but you had some good distance between swimmers.
“You had to kind of hug the shoreline. Alcatraz looks like a fairly small landmark from the shore, but when you’re out trying to swim past it, you start to get an appreciation of how big it really is. Once I got past that, and Pier 39, the tide was really behind us. It pushed me along pretty well.
“I don’t think my time would have been what it was without the strong tide.”
Upon completing the course, swimmers were pulled along with an innertube attached to a Zodiac raft to a larger boat which eventually carried everyone to shore.
“Your arms are pretty tired by that point, so you’re just trying to hang on until they can get you to ‘the Mothership.’ It was kind of a funny thing.
“I was proud to complete it. It’s the furthest I’ve ever swam in open water. Guys at the start were in their college swim jackets and I was thinking I was out of my league. But I hung in there.”
Brockhage said he is thankful to Carson Valley Swim Center director Kirk Chiapella for his continued support.
“He has the philosophy of always having at least one lane open for lap swimming,” Brockhage said. “It’s a tremendously beneficial resource for this community.”
Joey Crandall can be reached at (775) 782-5121, ext. 212.