Train for Tri’s with a little fear


Nothing speeds up a work out like a little healthy fear for your life…




“No pictures! No pictures!” says the crew.




This sevengill cowshark is the SF Bay’s biggest shark.





I’ve always been afraid of sharks. It started when I was a kid and was then cemented when I saw a shark in the same ocean I was swimming in and realized that even six foot long reef sharks look huge underwater.


I think being afraid of sharks is a very healthy way to stay alive but I’d never thought of training with them until last fall when I realized that they can be quite helpful.


I had rented a full wetsuit for the Pacific Grove tri and I wanted to try it out before race day. Living in Alameda I took it on my bike and road down to the beach which is on the San Francisco bay.


I pulled it on okay got into the water and swam up and down the beach a bit to warm up and then decided I’d swim over to bayfarm island, which looked to be a little more then a half mile away.


The night before I had been watching a shark week marathon on the discovery channel because I just can’t help it.


It was about the time when I had no idea how deep the water was that I started remembering shark facts. Like when people destroy their feeding or breeding grounds, they will seek out new ones and sometimes become deranged due to the change and lack of food. When they are deranged and hungry and water visibility is low they are more likely to take ‘tester’ bites of things in the water. Did I mention the SF Bay is always really murky?


There are not many types of sharks in the SF bay. The only one big enough to hurt you is the sevengill cowshark. Although it is unlikely to attack a human, the sevengill can reach ten feet in length and if they were to give you a test bite a half mile from shore, you sure could bleed to death before reaching the beach.


How did I know about sevengills? Before going in the water I’d asked the internet about sharks in the SF Bay. And these two sentences were in the internet’s response:


“Sevengills have even been observed attacking mating leopard sharks in narrow, shallow marsh channels. While no attacks on people have been documented in open water, sevengills held in captivity have attacked divers.”


Did I mention that I was swimming by shallow marsh channels?


When I reached the rocky shore of bayfarm, I pulled my feet all the way out of the water.


When I swam back it was amazing how fast and smooth my stroke was.




I have only been afraid on a bike a handful of times. And they were all at night, as a kid with no headlights and there was usually a cemetery involved.


This time, it just sort of came at me. I’d decided to ride to Pleasanton after work to pick up my car via Palomares which is a pretty neat hill that was on the Tour of California in 2005 and is between Pleasanton, Sunol and Hayward. The problem is I left a little late and the sun was down before I got down Redwood Rd from the Oakland hills.


By the time I got to Palomares it was full on dark and I was using AA battery powered lights which meant that by the time I was halfway up Palomares, which has no street lights, visibility was an issue for me and for the people who couldn’t see me. So the first thing I started fearing were cars and then came the hicks and dogs. Or, hick dogs. Palomares is steep enough that you slow down enough for some freaked out dog, which I heard plenty of could catch you and rip you apart.


Boy I summitted quick…




People have asked me if my training runs in Oakland are scary, and in general they aren’t. Although I’m usually running to the airport and back and none of those planes have ever tried to rob me.


The Oakland hills, however, did prove scary. I had rode my bike up to Grizzly peak Rd via Skyline and Butters after passing the Temple. I had planned the running route earlier with the internet and the East Bay Regional Park district maps which are great and even provided information about what to do when you encounter a mountain lion.


So there I was, running in the Oakland hills on a narrow path in completely surrounded by large and small vegetation when I realized I was in mountain lion territory. I started running over the things in my head that I was supposed to do when I see one like put my arms in the air and stand tall to look bigger, when I couldn’t remember one crucial piece, where mountain lions the ones that got nervous if you didn’t maintain eye contact? Or where they the ones that consider eye contact a sign of disrespect and aggression?


I just couldn’t remember.


And with every re-hash of what I could remember of the information I’d read I started running faster and faster and quieter and quieter and very efficient too I might add.


If it wasn’t for the rain and common sense, I might have ran another loop…





dave at calbeers dot com