Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Alcatraz Challenge

This time, I will try to add some context to my photos!

So, yes, back in January or so, when I found out that I would be in the Bay area last week for work purposes, I started trolling the internet to find out what events would be taking place in and around the city while I was there. Lo and behold, I happened upon the Alcatraz Challenge, a 1.5 mile swim from a ferry docked just off the famous island's shores back to the mainland. I went back and forth over registering many, many times, though I started hitting the pool three times per week so I was definitely interested. Finally, the night before the registration fee was due to increase, I bit the bullet and signed up.
There are three reasons why swimming from Alcatraz was once thought to be impossible. One, the cold. The water was 54 F the day we swam. Two, the current. The Bay fills and empties once every 25 hours and the water runs pretty fast. They time the swim so that it begins just as the fill tide switches to an ebb, and the current does push you in the direction you want to go. But even though we swam at slack tide, the water was still moving at 4.9 knots and you could really feel it trying to tug you out to sea. They say if you jump off the ferry at Alcatraz and do nothing but float you will be swept under the Golden Gate bridge within 45 minutes. I believe it! Three, the sharks. There are sharks in the Bay, and this was the thing that made me hesitate most about signing up for the swim. Despite the fact that great white sharks generally don't come into the Bay (because the water is brackish) and the last time one was sighted in the Bay was in the 1960s, I still hesitated, because it isn't all that far to the open ocean and who wants to be eaten by a shark? In fact, there used to be a rumour at Alcatraz that the prison system had bred a one-finned great white shark named Bruce who swam in circles around the island. There are other shark species in the Bay, though they are bottom dwellers and generally don't bug people too much. Once I finally discovered that great white sharks tend to hang out in Hawaii rather than off the California coast at this time of year, I finally felt OK about the shark thing. Luckily my swim was on Sunday, because on Tuesday there was a great white shark spotted at Ocean Beach, just a couple of miles past the bridge. That might have been enough for me to throw in the towel had it happened a few days earlier!
Anyway, I signed up, and I swam several times a week until I could comfortably swim a mile and a half. Sloooooowly, mind you, but I could do it. I knew I was not about to break any records but was hopeful I would at least not finish last. A couple of weeks before the event I got my trolley assignment. I had to be ready to leave Crissy Field at 5:15 a.m. on the day of the swim.We got into town around 4 p.m. on Saturday afternoon, caught a cab to our hotel, checked in, tried on the rental wetsuit I had shipped to the hotel to make sure it fit, and then headed out to pick up my race kit at a sporting goods store about three miles away from our hotel, close to the swim finish. En route we hit the waterfront and took our first look at Alcatraz. It didn't look too far from shore, though the swim finish was not directly across from the island but rather quite a ways west of it:Anyway, I kept humming the "Just keep swimming" song from Finding Nemo under my breath and was still pretty sure I could do it, guessing my finish time would be around an hour or so.

Sunday morning brought a 4:30 a.m. wakeup call which thankfully wasn't too bad, since we were still on East coast time. We caught a cab to the beach, got checked in, and I was ready to board the trolley to the pier at 5:15. (Trolley assignments were done by lottery and I had the misfortune of getting a very early slot - the ferry didn't leave until 7 a.m.)

At least I was on my way to do something. Poor Chad was then left to sightsee alone in the dark for several hours!We boarded the ferry and had to wait an hour or so until it left. It circled the island, docked, and then the support boats moved into position. When they were ready, at 8 a.m., they threw open the doors to the ferry and attempted to push all 271 of us off within 3 minutes. The current was moving so fast that they had to do this quickly since the kayakers etc. were fighting to stay in position.The water was not as cold as I expected, but it took about 10 minutes before I could put my face in the water. Up until then I was not doing much more than dog paddling. No wonder that one of the kayakers started to tail me to make sure I was not in over my head! I took my time swimming and tried to enjoy myself. It was a pretty scenic swim and I knew I wouldn't get another view from that vantage point again. Just when I started to get lost in my own private moment with San Francisco though, I started thinking of the sea creatures, and that got me moving again. I was originally sighting way to the left when one of the kayakers told me I was being too conservative and to take more of a direct line to the finish. I followed his advice and then totally overshot it. The current was moving too fast and I was in the water too long to have been able to come ashore at the right spot.
Chad waited patiently on shore. The water was starting to clear of swimmers when finally I hit the beach at about 51:30, quite downstream of the finish line but at least on dry land. I had to run a few hundred meters back up to the finish chute and timing mat.
And, there were at least a few people still in the water after I got out. Phew. Trying to get a swimming pool stroke down in the Bay is no easy task.
More running. Who wants to run when they are freaking exhausted? Note the boaters packing it in for the day. Like I said, I was close to the end. However, there are always a few people fished from the water who cannot finish... I was just relieved not to be among them.
When I finished I had some kind of sludge on my face. Chad was like, dude, you swam through some mud. I think it was probably radioactive fallout from Japan, but whatevs.
So there you have it... I swam the Alcatraz Challenge! Definitely one of the crazier things I have done in my life, but totally worth it. It just goes to show that if you put your mind to something, you can pull it off.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

I did it!

I'm not featured in this video per se, but I'm in there somewhere, and I made it back to shore without any shark encounters. More to come...

Saturday, May 21, 2011

I'm off to swim with the fishes.

I hope I mean this literally and not metaphorically.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Season opener

Soccer season already? It's hard to believe. This year Liam is playing on Friday nights. This is what my social life has been reduced to - spending Friday nights on the sidelines of a field behind the courthouse. Yee-haw!

Liam played really, really well tonight. Whereas last year he hardly touched the ball, this year he was on it quite a bit more. He even took a couple of shots at the net, though neither went in.I think this is going to be an exciting season.And because it's soccer season, that means Chad is back at work coaching. His hands were getting mighty itchy to hold that clipboard again.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The day that Mallory decided to quit dancing

(Also known as - there's GOT to be a better way to post than this!)

Last weekend we went up to Toronto for Henry's 5th birthday party, which was held at a gymnastics studio called Kidnasium. Despite bad weather and bad traffic we made it there for (most of) the party and it's a good thing. Liam enjoyed running around the kiddie gym, but Mallory LOVED it. Loved it.

This is significant because it's time to sign up for next year's dance classes. We've been wracking our brains trying to decide on ballet, tap or both, since the ballet/tap combo class she is taking this year is not offered for the next age group up. Do I really want to sign up for/commit to/shuttle her to/pay for multiple classes? How to decide what to do?

(Actually, when we got her report card a few weeks ago, it was suggested that she enroll in Shooting Stars next year. Shooting Stars is a creative movement class and Mal is the only one I know who got this recommendation. Reading between the lines I think this means, "Your daughter goofs off a lot between movements and is a little out of control. Please put her in an environment in which this is welcome.")

But, since even before Mallory even started dancing, Chad has been suggesting that she take gymnastics instead. (I don't think we have the time to do it all.) And seeing her at Kidnasium really made it click for me that this is something she might really enjoy. She may not be dainty and graceful like a ballerina, but I'd bet you she could tumble with the best of them.

So... that's the decision. We asked Mallory what she would like to do and she answered with gymnastics without missing a beat. Despite the fact that she is really looking forward to getting her dance recital costume and is extra excited about the chance to wear stage makeup... she is willing to give it all up in order to take gymnastics next year.

I bet the gymnastics people don't charge $25 a seat to watch your own kid, either.

More photos on the Flickr set.
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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Liam's hockey playoff art

Monday, May 16, 2011

Weekend wrapup

This weekend broke down as follows:

Friday - we took the kids to the movies to see Rio. How this started was that, as part of its centennial celebration, our company rented out the Capitol theatre and was supposed to do a free screening of Wall-E for employees and their families. Except that two days before the show we were notified that there were copyright issues with Wall-E or some such mess, and that the movie was being changed to Back to the Future. Which is on my all-time favourite movies list, but which isn't really appropriate for 4- and 6-year-olds. Rio it was.

On Saturday we went to Henry's birthday party, and I have only got one photo from that so far (it's the old 'too few hours in the day' excuse again). Don't worry though, I am sure more will be showing up later.On Sunday, Jonah came over to have some pictures done. I have not weeded through them all yet but I did get through the first few, including a few 'Cook Cousins' shots. Coordinating 4 kids was a bit chaotic but we done good!(Poor little Jonah. It's a good thing he's so bendy!!)

Tonight, on account of having just finished a big project that has occupied my every waking hour for the past three weeks, I am going to indulge in some photo editing time and go to bed early. And I am really looking forward to it.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Looking like she well remembers her time as a flower girl

Today, as we passed a yarn display in a store, this one asked me if we could buy some so she can learn how to knit. I have not knitted anything since I was pregnant with Liam (a hat that he never did end up wearing) so I asked her where she learned about knitting. She said it was from the PBS cartoon 'Arthur', which Cindy sometimes lets the kids watch while she makes lunch. I let Mallory down gently and told her she is probably too young to learn how to knit right now. What I really wanted to say was, I don't have time. I don't have time to do most of the things I want to do. Right now I have photo shoots with the kid planned but unshot, a sewing project unfinished a year later, half a dozen books and movies to make my way through. Trying to find more time for triathlon with the season almost underway. Gardening that is so far all in my head. Wanting to at least have some time at the end of each day to catch up with Chad.

It's been a tough few weeks at work, the kind of time when you go to work, work, come home from work, think about work, keep getting after-hours emails about work, work some more when the kids go to bed, and then do it all again the next day. I don't think my lack of downtime has been this bad before but the effects are clearly showing.

Thankfully, I only have one more week of work and then I'm out of the office for a bit... still officially 'working', but offsite. I am looking forward to the mental clarity that it will bring. The timing seems perfect.

I know I will have a chance to teach Mallory how to knit someday... and of course, I'm tickled that she asked. Knitting is not so much my thing but it's in the artsy/craftsy vein, and I am plenty happy about that.

(Blogger unpublished and then republished a bunch of posts due to a technical glitch this week... and it erased all the comments. Just an FYI. I didn't zap them myself!)

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Royal wedding similarities

Related content, since we are a family of Disneyphiles:(Though if memory serves me right, I am pretty sure that someone desaturated Anastasia's dress in Photoshop to get it to match!)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Close encounters of the heron kind

I've been working crazy hours lately. Haven't even had a chance to upload my Mother's Day photos yet (I made out well in the gift department, but spent the morning cleaning up vomit as Liam had an upset stomach which required us to cancel brunch reservations and consequently made him cry his eyes out.) Getting by on 6 hours of sleep per night is just not feasible for me for the long haul - so I'm off to bed now, and will save the update for when I can get to it.

Monday, May 09, 2011

I could escape this feeling, with my China girl...

These pictures make me want to sing David Bowie. Sorry about that.

On the weekend, Mallory found a picture of a little Asian girl in her princess magazine. On the Mulan page, of course. She brought it to me and asked me to do her hair the same way the girl in the picture was wearing hers. This was miraculous for two reasons: number one, Mallory hates it when I do her hair - probably because I am not very good at it. And number two, this was an easy enough hairstyle for me to pull off.

Mallory does not think I got it 'high' enough compared to the girl in the picture... but that girl's hair was a lot longer. More material to make the buns with. I think I did OK.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Oh, fer cute!!

Normally I do my own portraits but I am falling for these cheesy little shots hook, line and sinker. How to pick just one? Should it be the double-thumbs-up or the shot with the official kindergarten graduation scroll? Decisions, decisions...

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

The next Don Cherry

"Hey Liam, who's playing tonight?"
"Boston and Philadelphia."
"What's the series at?"
"1-nothing for Boston."
"What's the name of the goalie for Boston?"
"Tim Thomas."
"What's his number?"
"What's the name of the goalie for Philadelphia?"
"Brian Boucher. He's number 33, but last game he let in 5 goals and it was 5-1 for Philadelphia so he went out and number 35 went in and he let in 2 goals and Philadelphia could only score 3 on Tim Thomas so it was 7-3 for Boston and I hope Boston wins again tonight so they will be winning 2-0. These two games are in Philadelphia but the next two will be in Boston and I hope Boston wins them because then they will win the series 4-0 in Boston."

(All said in about one breath.)

Monday, May 02, 2011

A new cousin

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Jonah Lucas Ryan Cook - born on Friday. I don't think big brother Ethan realizes yet that this new kid is not going anywhere... but he also doesn't seem to be the type that will mind.edit 5-1-2 by carriecook

All of the Cook cousins. One day - one day - we will get a picture with everyone looking the same way and not being goofy.
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The shirt says it all.

(I have just about run out of photo upload space on Blogger, so these photos are linked from Flickr. Which is a pain, and also explains why the formatting is all messed up. This could be the beginning of the end of Too Many Cooks.)