I awoke with a start, threw off the covers and sat upright. The swimmers! It was almost 6:30 am on Saturday and MA was already up. We had agreed the night before to get up early to go over to the estuary to watch the swimmers. In eight years of living near the estuary, I’d never seen anyone swim in it. This day was the Oakland Triathlon and the swim route began at the Aquatic Center and ended at the Jack London Square dock, familiar to locals as the launch for rentals from California Canoe and Kayak.
Now some call Lake Merritt the jewel of Oakland and it is beautiful, especially at night with the strands of lights reflected in the water like diamonds. But the estuary is the biggest jewel in town. I walk the shores nearly every day. I’ve seen great blue herons, night herons, snowy egrets, Canada geese, tufted ducks along with the terns, pelicans, and the gulls. On shore, hummingbirds flit away in the Mexican Sage.
In the water I’ve seen the adorable head of a harbor seal, a bat ray nibbling on algae and the flashing silver – a reflection of the anchovies as they break the surface of the water.
Best of all is the notion that you could board a boat and with the proper supplies and equipment and agreeable weather, make your way out to San Francisco Bay, under the Golden Gate Bridge, and continue on to Japan, China, or the Philippines. Without stopping.
When the two of us left the building, we had to step back out of the way. The sidewalk was already full of the swimmers – barefooted and wetsuited – some running on their way to the starting line. The air was electric.
Soon we joined the crowd and headed to the estuary but parted ways as they veered off for the starting line and we continued on past Portobello to the water to watch them swim by.
More swimmers were walking along the water’s edge and we saw two who weren’t wearing any wetsuits, just swimsuits – both were women. Soon we heard the splash splash sound of strokes in the water and were watching the race underway. Some did the crawl, some breaststroke and a few, backstroke. Sadly, we noticed two who had already come to shore. Something must have been too much for them. But except for them, hundreds stayed the course. On shore, relatives, friends and family cheered them on. I don’t know if the swimmers could hear them or not. “Go Michael!” “Lookin’ good Siobhan!” The shore was filled with people as excited as the contestants.
It was over too soon and we returned to our apartment. For several more hours, intermittently, I looked out the window and saw competitors running a few blocks away and others running down our street which is customarily fairly empty on a Saturday.
This will be one of my favorite Oakland memories.