Monday, June 11, 2012

My Second Escape

Sunday June 10th I escaped from Alcatraz for the second time.  It was 3 weeks after Iroman Texas so I just wanted to have fun at one of the best races around.  This race is so exciting for many reasons.  It is a must do for any triathlete.  It is not a race that plays to any of my strengths as an athlete.  In fact it is a course that incorporates many areas that I struggle with as a triathlete.  I am a good swimmer in open water but not so great in the cold water.  This water temperature is usually 55 degrees.  I am very fearful on steep descents with lots of turns.  Being in San Francisco this bike course is very technical with lots of curves and descents.  Although I like trail running I am not a strong trail runner nor do I do it a lot.  Some of this course is on trails. Needless to say it is a race that challenges every aspect of my being.  The morning starts by almost 2000 athletes boarding the enormous boat that takes us out to Alcatraz Island.  This swim is unique in that they don’t have any buoys for you to follow on the swim course.  You have land markers such as buildings and trees.  The first time I did the race it was very foggy and you could not see much on shore to sight on.  That was pretty scary and I was hoping I was going in the right direction.  I did and made it perfectly to shore in 2006 and made it perfectly on my recent escape.  This time I did it the weather  was beautiful and clear.  The start of the race is simple.  We jump off the boat 9 at a time.  You don’t have any time to hesitate because as you jump there are 9 others jumping right behind. If you don’t start swimming its likely you will get jumped on.  You don’t have time to react to the freezing water. You just have to start swimming.  It was pretty hectic for the first 10 minutes. People swimming on top of people and the typical craziness you get during the first part of the swim in a triathlon.  Once I settled into my pace I just kept my eyes on my target which was the cell tower.  Stroke, stroke, stroke, stroke, sight and so on.  Even though it was a calm day the water was a still rough.  It always is in the bay. I was swallowing salt water here and there.  They tell you to swim slightly off target and because of the current you will be on target.  So I was aiming just before the cell tower.  You don’t want to swim too far right and miss it because then you have to swim against the current back to the swim exit.  That would not be fun.  I kept my eyes on my target and although I knew I was getting closer it didn’t seem like I was moving.  I really had no concept of time……finally I see the swim exit!  This race is also unique in that you have ½ mile run to your bike from the swim exit.  You are able to put a numbered bag with shoes in it.  You can take your wetsuit off and put shoes on and run to your bike.  Six years ago when I did this race they didn’t have this option and I just ran ½ mile to my bike in my wetsuit without shoes. It really wasn’t that bad.  I decided to put the shoes on and take my wetsuit off right out of the water.  This was not such a great idea in hindsight because my hands and feet were so cold they didn’t work really well. I think if I had run to my bike I might have warmed up a little to be able to remove my wetsuit faster.  As it turns out it cost me about 4 minutes.   My fingers and hands didn’t work really well and it took forever to get my wetsuit off, put it in the bag, and put my shoes on.  Oh well you live and learn each race. 
Here I am running to the finish!
I was off on the bike still freezing but warming up with every pedal stroke.  On this bike course you don’t have much time before you hit the hills.  Short steep climbs and descents are throughout the entire course.  I rode a tri bike the first time I did this race.  This time I took my road bike.  While I felt much more comfortable riding this course on my road I was actually faster on my tri bike 6 years ago. I was about 3 minutes faster in 2006 but I think I am stronger on the bike now.  So I am not sure if it was such a good idea to take my road bike.
My wounds from my escape!
I finished the bike and was off to the run.  I felt really great on this run.  I was hoping to average at least an 8 minute mile.  I ended up with something like 8:27.  As technical as the course is I will take that.  At many times it is a single track trail with almost 2000 people running BOTH directions.  There was no way to pass at times.  There were hills so steep that you were better off walking up them.  Then there is the sand ladder that seems to bring you to a dead stop when you get to it.  I was cruising along and then hit the sand ladder and could barely walk up. It is 300 steps so steep it takes your breathe away.  Your hamstrings suddenly scream at you when you stop running and try going up the steps. They are saying, “wait shouldn’t we be running not climbing stairs, this isn’t what we normally do during a race?” I fell once on the run.  I cut my hand up pretty good.  I didn’t have time to think about it until after the race. I have a nice gash on the tip of my thumb and it is stiff and swollen.  I don’t think it’s broke but it’s a reminder of my great escape!
I finished about 4 minutes slower that 2006.  My swim was a few minutes faster however my transition was slower.  I need to do this again.  I am still not happy with my performance but on this course I am not sure I would ever be happy.  It still is one of my favorite races of all time!  I will be back to tackle my fears again if they will accept me backJ 

Finish from behind

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