Monday, September 22, 2008


Hello, and welcome to way too long story time with Chase.

This weekend my family and I traveled to San Francisco for our second annual trip to Escape From Alcatraz swim, and man did the Ingraham’s make their mark… Again.

Last year:

Last year I placed 5th in the Men’s Overall wet suit division, and my mother got 10th in the women’s overall wetsuit division. My mother was just 9 months removed from her bout with cervical cancer which required her to go through extreme surgery to remove it but was there none the less to swim The Rock. Last year my younger brother Colton won the entire race, and it was no secret to all that we were swimming with that he was back to race again.

The Hype:

We traveled there with 10 members of my Mom’s masters swim team MOST (Masters of South Texas).  Also, just a little shout out, my Mother (Susan) is getting Masters Swim Coach of the Year Award this year. Way to go MOM!!!  Anyway, the race is different every single year, new people, new competitors, new challenges.  All the swimmers that traveled with us constantly came up to Colton, “Hey, you better win again, I was sitting next to two young guys on the flight over here that said they were going to take it all this year.”, or  “Hey, you gotta repeat, we expect nothing less.” All of this, over and over and over, all day even up until we jumped off the boat to race.  By the time we got on the boat Colton was already tired of everyone and didn’t want to swim, and I don’t blame him.  I just wanted to lean over and tell them to just stop already, they were all very very nice people and it was nice to meet all of them, but just leave the guy alone to do his own race. 

The Day Before:

Flying into San Francisco the day before the race I only had one thing on my mind… okay well two things, am I going to swim with a wet suit or no wet suit… and I wonder what the sharks are doing today?  My Mom, brother and I take a walk down to the race prep area after we check into our hotel room and just look at the path we will be taking in 12 hours from now.  We can see Alcatraz out there in the middle of the black water bay, with the wind blowing hard and the evening fog slowly wrapping its cold fingers around the island.  Still wondering what I want to do tomorrow, I decide to just test the water and see how it feels.  I make my way from the side walk, to the warm dry sand, to the cold wet beach, and then a small rush of water goes over my feet and is so cold makes my shoulders hurt, but after about 30 seconds the cold rush went away and it felt doable.  I am not sure if that was just my body adjusting to the temperature change or just my feet going numb, but it was decided…. No wet suit for me.

The March and Ride:

There is always something special about this race, you walk a few blocks to the check in area along the coast and just feel that something big was on the horizon, but for who?  I got zero sleep last night, going over and over in my head how my body was going to react to the water, will I seize up, how long will it take my to catch my breath, what if I panic? After we checked in, all I did was stare at the lonely island waited, and wondered. Colton and I never really talked, we just sat there and pointed out our competition, people who we thought might be players and how we though we would figure during the race. We got our race directions from the race direction and the one piece of information I was looking for, the water temperature, just over 60 degrees this morning, warm to some San Fran natives, but to the normal human, freezing.  The average ice bath temperature is 54 degrees, just to put that in perspective.  One of the more historical parts of the race is the march to the boat, over 600 people marched 5 blocks to the ferry boat led buy a man in full celtic attire playing bag pipes.  We march in the middle of the street while friends and family line the side walks cheering and taking pictures of their loved ones in the race. We make our way onto the boat and with the send off of our bag pipe player we are off to Alcatraz.  As the boat slowly makes its way to the island most people just sit in silence thinking about what was ahead of them.   Colton did not say a word, my Mom was eager to race knowing that she was in better shape than last year and she was going to jump off with her boys for the first time together.  (Last year she was just trying to finish and did not jump off with us)

The Race:

As the boat reaches Alcatraz it slows and turns is side door to face the shore line we are going to racing to.  The captain comes on the PA system and announces that we are about to start, the announcement is received with cheers from everyone on the boat.  The doors open and I am hit with a cold wind and I can feel my body tighten in preparation for what is ahead. The race hort Blows!! All swimmers are instructed to jump out of the boat in groups of 3 as they step on the touch pad and plunge into the dark bay water.  So my brother, mom, and I all join hands and make our way to the doors and when we reach the open doors, the men in the front and then say: Ready. Go. With mother and sons hand in hand, we jump……  No turning back now.  I hit water and immediately all the air purges from my lungs and my arms spin wildly to get myself moving as fast as I can.  I can felt my body tighten up but just on instinct I put my head down and swim.  With short panic breaths I chocked on salt water for about 5 minutes until I finally calmed down and could swim my race and that is exactly what I did.  From stroke one I was all by myself, while some swimmers went right, others went left, I went right down the middle, and was all alone the whole race, exactly where I did NOT want to be, alone in the water, no boats, no people, and no clue what’s underneath or behind me.  There is not a single swimmer in the race that does not think about sharks.  Alcatraz rests in a bay that is only 20 miles from the Triangle of Death, a great white shark feeding ground where every North American Great White Shark video is shot.  Also San Francisco Bay is home of hundreds of sea lions off pier 39 where they love to play and sleep on old boat slips that has now become a large tourist attraction.  So it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that ‘something’ could happen during the race, though this race has had casualties, none were from sharks.  But swimming out there all by yourself in the freezing cold water with just enough visibility beneath you your mind tends to wander and you hear that classic Jaws number begins to play in your head.  My shark panic lasted about a minute and to my amazement my body shivered with fear and then it was over.  To be honest, I closed my eyes most of the time while I was swimming cause when they were open I just found myself looking for the worst thing in the world down there. Midway through the race my shoulders began to tighten up with the cold water and my jaw locked up, fortunately is locked up with it open so breathing was not an issue.  I made it to the harbor and could see I was behind several swimmers, but how many?  I wonder where I brother is?  I put my head down and just swim with everything I have left until my feet touch the bottom and I could run up the beach and finish.  I cross the line, hugged by Summer and my Dad and see my brother smiling and waiting for me… little SOB whooped me again.  I tried to talk about the swim but with my body shaking, and with my jaw not moving I sound more like a drunken coed slurring my words and drooling on myself, think I am joking just ask Summer J  Finally, I warm up a bit to where I could ask Colton how he did, he said he was second out of the water but not sure how close he was to the guy ahead of him, maybe 15 seconds.  We watched the swimmer who was first of the water jump off the boat in front of us, but how far ahead was he, 5 seconds, 10 seconds, 15 seconds?! We had to wait for the results, but my brother stepped up and performed yet again.  I still had my hands on my knees breathing hard and to my surprise, in fact my whole family’s surprise I see my Mom run out of the water and finish!!! Incredible!!  The race is finally over, I am cold, tired, and one happy camper that I did what I set out to do.  I know I could have swam faster in a wet suit but I really just wanted to see if I could do it without one, and I did.


Who got first, who got second? That was the question that was on all of our minds about Colton’s place.  How far ahead did he start, how far behind was Colton when he finished? The results were all messed up when they were posted, peoples names were missing and times weren’t matching up so we had no clue… until the race direction took the stage.  The non-wet suit awards were given out first, and the guy who finished in front of Colton won first place with a time of 25:01… pretty fast.  Then it was the wet suit division, “And the first place finisher for Men’s wet suit division… goes to, Colton Ingraham with a time of 24:46.” HE WON!! He won the whole overall again, with 15 seconds to spare.  With all of our joy we almost missed the rest of the names, cause then the announcer said something we were not ready for, “Second place, women’s wet suit division goes to, Susan Ingraham!” WHAT?! My Mom, shocked, made her way to the podium as she so kindly told the announcer that she was Colton’s older sister, not mother. It was amazing, as hard as it was for Colton to repeat against all odd’s, seeing my Mom finish as the second fastest woman OVERALL, second to a woman who swims in world open water championships for the U.S. at that, seeing her finish second was really the story of the day.

Colton Ingraham: 1st  in wetsuit age group, 1st  in mens wetsuit division, and 1st  overall competition. 

Susan Ingraham: 1st  in wetsuit age group, 2nd in womens wetsuit division, and 13th overall in entire wetsuit division.

Chase “Third Wheel” Ingraham: 1st in non-wetsuit age group, 7th in mens non-wetsuit, and 10th overall competition.

Proud Ingraham:

I just want to say how proud I am of my brother Colton, with all the hype and build up, he stepped up and delivered and proved his studliness.  And my Mom, just incredible, seeing how much she has gone through and how much she sacrifices for her own swimmers leaving little time for herself to improve she just really blew me away, heck she nearly beat my butt!! Thanks to my grandparents, Dad, and my beautiful girlfriend Summer for coming out to cheer us on, it would be a lonely road with out all of you, Thank you I Love you!!

Alright, that’s all folks, until next time!! Thanks for reading.

“It never gets easier, just faster”


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