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by Alex Kostich

December 31, 2010

The Tiburon Mile is a star-studded, exciting event

It has often been said that swimming the English Channel is the Mt. Everest of open water sport, and if that is the case then the RCP Tiburon Mile would be the equivalent to the world’s most prestigious tower climb, The Annual Run Up Empire State Building in New York.

Each year in October, a short, intense, and star-studded open water swim takes place in the picturesque town of Tiburon, Calif., called the RCP Tiburon Mile.

Founded by former USA Swimming National Team member, Masters swimmer and longtime Tiburon resident Robert C. Placak, the RCP Tiburon Mile quickly became an exciting international event drawing talent from around the world, in no small part due to the $10,000 purse awarded to the male and female winners of the race.

From the very beginning, one of the novelties of the event was its inclusive and egalitarian nature. Masters Swimmers literally rub elbows (and often bang limbs) with Olympic champions and world record-holders during the frenetic charge from Angel Island to the coast of downtown Tiburon.

The cold water, shifting currents and unpredictable nature of competition often result in multiple surprises at the finish line. Occasionally a seasoned open-water Masters swimmer will overtake a world-renowned pool competitor who swims off-course or isn’t accustomed to the San Francisco Bay’s chilly waters.

As a result, the RCP Tiburon Mile attracts Masters swimmers and teams from all over the U.S., eager for a chance to race in the (commonly-referred-to-but-never-proven) “shark-infested waters” surrounding the historic Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz rock.

The event has even spawned a registered USMS club, founded and named after the race itself, the RCP Tiburon Milers. The frequently rotating roster of members has included Olympic champions such as Ous Mellouli, Amanda Beard, Erik Vendt, Brooke Bennett, Ryk Neethling, and Klete Keller.

Additionally, Masters swimming stars Randy Eickhoff, Swimming Hall of Famer Suzanne Heim-Bowen, John Flanagan and Dawn Heckman have all joined the RCP Tiburon Milers for venerable masters swims such as the Lake Tahoe and Maui Channel relays held every July and September, respectively.

So what new surprises can be found in a decade-old event that has successfully become an open-water swimming brand name and industry unto itself? Races and meets constantly strive to attract top talent and new competitors each season, however the novelty inevitably wears off and interest wanes as swimmers move on to look for new ways to achieve an adrenaline rush.

This year the RCP Tiburon Mile promises one big surprise to shake things up and entice Masters swimmers and swim fans further.

As an added twist to the weekend activities arranged around Sunday’s mile event, founder Placak has masterminded the inaugural RCP Tiburon Sprint Classic to take place on Saturday, October 16th.

A sprint “stand-off” pitting history’s fastest swimmers in a round robin of elimination heats, the Sprint Classic promises to be the world’s fastest 50 freestyle match--and probably the most stunningly staged swim event ever to be seen.

Taking place at an exclusive private seaside 2-lane 25yd outdoor pool with the San Francisco skyline as a backdrop across the bay, the event will showcase Olympic Gold Medalists such as Ryan Lochte, Cesar Cielo, Nathan Adrian, Garrett Weber-Gale, Ben Wildman-Tobriner, and Matt Grevers. These sprinters and more will face off in parallel one-on-one sprint 50s until there’s only one last man standing to claim the $10,000 prize.

Though Masters swimmers may not participate in the Sprint Classic as they do the Tiburon Mile, they are welcome to purchase VIP and preferred seating tickets to this exclusive inaugural event. Given the Sprint Classic is at a private residence, only 125 tickets are being offered for front-and-center viewing (complete with dinner and premier wineries); the opportunity for Masters swimmers to witness the world’s best in such an unusual and unique set-up is not to be missed.

With the first-ever Sprint Classic event scheduled for Saturday, October 16th and the Tiburon Mile kicking off on Sunday the 17th, the 2nd weekend in October 2010 promises to be an exciting opportunity for USMS members to experience and participate in some of the fastest open water and pool competition in the world, all at once.

>>>Alex Kostich was a member of the U.S. National Swim Team for six years, winning three gold medals in the 1987 and 1991 Pan American Games. Kostich swam four years as an All-American at Stanford University and he has won the Waikiki Roughwater Swim three times and the La Jolla Roughwater Swim four times.


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