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My Annual Alcatraz Pilgrimage

Posted May 22 2013 7:52am
I just completed my 20th Alcatraz swim on Sunday. I had my best time of 34:00 for the 1.5 mile swim from the supposedly unescapable prison island back to San Francisco. Beat my previous PR by a full 2:00. At 56, I’m getting older but faster huh?
Swimming is my main sport. Running with an above knee prosthesis is doable but not very pleasant because the motion to get the foot out and the knee straight and locked before you weight it is very clumsy and over any distance really hard on the spine. But swimming is really easy on the body. Besides, with one lung a sport like swimming where you cannot pant and have to breathe deeply and slowly is ideal. 
A lot of 2-leggers even if they are serious swimmers treat the Alcatraz like a bucket list item. “Yep, did that once, now I can say I did it, and I’ll move on, no way I need to do that twice.” And they ask me why the heck if I have finished it successfully do I keep coming back year after year after year. I liken it to a pilgrimage. You see, for someone with a disability, even if they seem to have “conquered” it, you never forget you have that disability. It might be because you are clumsy at carrying two glasses of wine on crutches when you’ve taken your leg off to relax for the evening. Or it might be that when you get up in the middle of the night, you have to crutch to the toilet or if you are missing both legs you have to crawl. Something every day reminds you. So to have something really hard, mentally and physically, something that two-leggers are intimidated by and most importantly, where those so-called able bodied people respect and fear you because you beat them at it, well, that is worth the pilgrimage. It is what re-charges the batteries. Everyone needs that. Everyone needs to find their own Alcatraz swim. I hope to help every new amputee to find theirs.
P.S. As I used this as a fundraiser, I also am grateful to have raised $5,000 for Boston Healthcare for the Homeless doing this swim.
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