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Six from Brookings swim away from Alcatraz Island

Six swimmers from Brookings – Dr. Mark Silver, left, Ron Griswold, Zyan Silver, Sue Calnek, Dan Brattain and John Herzog – completed swim from Alcatraz Island to the mainland in San Francisco. Photo by Lorna Silver
There I was in the cold waters of the San Francisco Bay.

I had just jumped off the Red and White Ferry which had brought us to Alcatraz Island. Was I crazy? Again?

This was the 17th annual Alcatraz Sharkfest Swim Race. On Aug. 15, nearly 900 swimmers leaped off the ferry boats and were swimming first to an imaginary starting line behind a row of accompanying kayakers. I was able to inspire five other swimmers to take the plunge with me this year.

As the horn sounded marking the start of the race, my son Zyan swimming next to me said, “Dad, I’ll see you at the finish line,” and off he went. Before I had a chance to tell him how much I appreciated him being there with me, he was gone.

It would take me closer to one hour (59 minutes and 53 seconds to be exact) to make it to the finish line in the Aquatic Park and the safety of dry land. As I ran up the beach and crossed the finish line, a big smile came over me; it was a great feeling. Seeing the faces of the other Brookings swimmers at the finish line was gratifying and exhilarating. We had all made it!

Later in the day we would all reflects on this incredible journey.

Sue Calnek, at 66 years of age finished first in her division at 45 minutes. She said that accomplishing this swim as a group was inspiring, and if she could she would do it every day of the week. A veteran of the Oregon Master Swim Program, it was her first open water swim. Calnek said achieving our goal as a group was more important than her individual effort.

Ron Griswold, local triathlete in his fourth Alcatraz swim, finished eighth in his age group at 48 minutes. Naming our group the Brookings Coldwater Swim Club, he remarked that the swim was easy and fun. Griswold mostly appreciated the fellowship of the group.

Zyan Silver, my 20 year old son, beat me by 11 minutes finishing with a time of 48 minutes, securing third place in his age group. He described the race as :a good feeling when you get to the finish line.” As for next year Zyan says he will be back (probably to beat his Dad once again).

John Herzog crosses the finish line on San Francisco beach. Photo by Lorna Silver

John Herzog was pleased with his race, finishing in 51 minutes. His wife was there for support. He mentioned to me that my swim last year inspired him to do it. He found the race harder than expected with rougher waters than anticipated.

Dan Brattain finished in 56 minutes. His wife and oldest son were there to see him cross the finish line. He was glad he did it giving himself a real sense of accomplishment. He felt his training paid off; it taught him to keep going and never stop.

As for me, finishing at 59 minutes, the swim was another steppingstone on the path to greater fitness and health. Sure I’ll be back next year and hope to bring more friends. After I wrote about my inaugural swim last year, I’ve spoken to hundreds of patients about the importance of regular exercise as part of an overall wellness program.

I decided that walking the walk was more important then simply talking the talk. Do as I do. There is no trying-just doing. Excuses be gone. I have used my Alcatraz swim as a springboard to encourage others to make a lifestyle change.

Exercise is medicine. Just a few of the benefits include improved cardiovascular health, weight loss, improved blood pressure and blood sugar, and the reduced risk of serious illness. Exercise enhances your mental and physical well-being.

As for the Brookings Six, the Alcatraz swim will always be a cherished memory that we will be able to share for the rest of our lives.

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