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Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon - TriathlonOther

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San Francisco, California
United States
65F / 18C
Total Time = 4h 05m 57s
Overall Rank = 1538/1690
Age Group = F 30-34
Age Group Rank = 80/92
Pre-race routine:

Got up CRAZY early. For a race with an 8am start they sure make you start early! I think I woke up around 0315. Ate my bread w/PB (Thanks, Rene!) and surfed facebook. After that I got up to take a shower and realized that I had forgotten to bring a razor. This is critical! I always shower before a race and I HAVE to shave first too! I had been wearing pants all week so I hadn't noticed. I started to panic a bit and then remembered there was a Walgreens a block away. Praying that it was the 24 hour kind I grabbed my purse and started running down the street in the dark. Saw a creepy dude sitting in his parked truck...ran faster. The Walgreens was open and full of homeless people. I grabbed a cheap razor and got in line behind a homeless dude...who was just babbling to the cashier. And babbling and babbling. Finally I say to the cashier, "Hey, I'm in a hurry, can I check out?" and he checks me out...while homeless guy babbles about how he's in a hurry too and if he doesn't get home soon his wife will be mad. Um, yeah, sure. Right. Okay, dash back to the hotel and some weirdo on the street tells me to hurry up (ahem, Rick).

Back at the room I dash off to the shower and then skedaddle back to finish getting dressed. I am now behind so I grab my banana and my gear and head downstairs to met Rick (AZStateRick), Rene (Catwoman), and Jim (Aikidoman) at 0415. The hotel had set up some muffins so I snatch myself a quarter muffin and eat my banana while I am waiting.

We all coast down to transition--I think it's 0426 when we get there. And NO ONE is there! We are all shocked...we expected the place to be full of bikes already. I get my gear set up and meet up with the rest of the gang to head to the buses. It's a bit cold so we get on the nice warm bus. I thought it wasn't going to leave until 0500, but it left at 0450 which is a bummer because that meant 10' less of nice toasty bus.

Once at the pier we all get body marked and hit the porta potties. Then Rene and I found a slightly warmer place to sit and wait. And wait. And wait. Holy crap there was much waiting involved! Finally some guy comes over and says we can get on the bus. On the way there I decide I have to pee again. Since it's 2 hours before race start I figure I should go. Rene holds my stuff while I hit the porta potty and then she decides to go again too. While she's in there I get sick of carrying my wetsuit and put it on at least to the waist.

We get on the boat and Rene goes upstairs but I have to stay downstairs--the boat was slightly divided by age groups. I stake myself out a place to sit and just...sit. I eventually move to a different place that I suspect will be closer to the front but then...I just sit. I chatted a bit with people around me, but most people had friends.

Just as the boat is leaving the dock I realize I have to go to the bathroom (#2!!!) for the third time. I'm dreading the line for the boat bathroom but it was REALLY short for the chicks! The dude's line was SO long but the chick's line was short! I'm really glad I went because I think this was probably critical given my history of GI issues during races.

So I go back to my spot and sit around some more until around 0730 people start standing up to get ready. I ate a whole packge of clif bloks (I was hungry...I probably ate breakfast too early) and adjusted the bottom of my wetsuit a bit. I slathered aquaphor and vaseline on my neck too. Around 0745 I bit the bullet and put the wetsuit on fully. A few minutes later I put on the swim caps (both of them) and put the goggles on my head. Then they did the national anthem...I felt bad with a swim cap on my head, but it had been so much trouble to put on that I didn't take it off. No one did really...but TRULY we should not have been wearing them! I waited for the goggles on the eyes until they actually started the race. It was SO cool to watch all the pro's hang on the rail (to start at the same time) and dive off the boat. They did NOT sight towards Sutro Tower. I swear they beelined for the finish line!
Event warmup:

A LOT of sitting around. There really is no way to warm up for this race unless you jogged in place on the boat.
  • 47m 28s
  • 2640 yards
  • 01m 48s / 100 yards

Well, this is what I was here for! The famous swim!

So about 15" after the pro's start they start letting everyone else off the boat. You cross over a timing mat right before you go out the door to the balcony. I get out on the balcony and get directed to the RIGHT (not the closet platform but it was just because I came out the right side of the door). My line is moving and suddenly STOPS as a chick balks at the edge of the platform. The entire line starts shouting at her to GO. We had a good 4-5 seconds to shout before she finally jumped. If you aren't going to go right off the edge, don't be off the front!!!! I didn't want to make that mistake so as I approached the edge I didn't even stop to think...I just jumped. It's the same way I got myself off the ten meter platform in water soon as they told me to go I went and by the time I realized what I had done, it was too late!

So while I'm in the air on the way down I remember at the last second to put a hand over my goggles but they still jump a bit when I hit. I don't think they came completely unsealed, but a few drops of water got inside. The person at the platform had just kept saying "Remember to jump in and GO!" meaning, don't just jump and float...get the f*ck out of the way! So that's what I did. As soon as I surfaced I took off. Believe it or not, I didn't even have time to think about the water temp. I think it was 2-3 minutes before I even thought to myself that the water was chilly. Weird how adrenaline takes over, eh?

At first I just swam...I could see Alcatraz to my right (cool). Finally I started to look for the Sutro Tower. During the pre-race meeting they told us to use that to sight. If you were a 30' miler, sight slightly to the right. If you were slower than that, sight left. I will admit that even though I KNOW I am a good swimmer I was absolutely terrified of getting too far right and having to be repositioned. So I kind of tried to sight right AT the tower but I must have been pulling right because often I would look up and I would be pointed more at the dome to the right of the tower. So I would keep correcting back to sight AT the tower. I figured I could always sight more right later...but if I went too right at first I would be screwed.

At least one person stopped in front of me to "sight see". I actually had enough trouble getting around at her that I believe I shouted, "You are in the WAY!" Dammit, if you are going to stop, do it off to the SIDE! I did all of my sight-seeing while breathing. I was breathing to the right almost exclusively because whenever I would breath to my left my ear would hurt. I believe that is probably something to do with the cold/pressure whatever. I didn't care what was causing hurt, so I didn't do it. This was okay though because all the stuff to look at was to the right. I saw Alcatraz (we were a LOT closer than the map makes it look like) and had many many views of the Golden Gate.

I think I first looked at my watch after it felt like I had been swimming forever...but it had only been 12.5 minutes! I guess Alcatraz looks close enough that I really thought the shore would come quickly. Plus because the current carries you for much of the diagonal I didn't actually think we would be swimming a full 1.5 miles. I mean, we would cover 1.5 miles of DISTANCE but the current would be responsible for much of that. Then I slapped myself silly and told myself to expect at least 40 minutes based on my best Oly times. :) That at least kept me from getting impatient again.

I was surprised that after the initial start there really were NOT that many people around me. At one point I saw a kayak not that far off my right and that really scared me because I swear they had said that the kayaks were the outer limits. So I kept sighting AT the tower. I had a few fleeting "sea creature" thoughts as I went through here but really tried to keep them at bay. I hate sea creatures! My swim cap started to slip so I sort of tried to fix it on the fly. This is when I realized that my hands were not really functioning. I was having so much trouble with it that some dude stopped and asked if I was okay. I told him that I was...just fixing the swim cap! After that I tried not to fully stop...just pull down on it with one hand. I THINK the caps were silicon...they were VERY thick. If so, that would explain the slippage. I love silicon caps, but they don't stay on my forehead easily.

The only other significant part from early on that I remember was the boat waves. For the first 15 minutes or so we had some SIGNIFICANT swells that I think came from boats. Those things were pounding us from the right.

After awhile I started to wonder where the finish line was. The idea that I couldn't sight for the tower FOREVER had occurred to me earlier...I mean, if you sighted for the tower the whole time you were going to end up WAY up-current from the finish line! But I guess I dismissed the thought with a "well, it will be obvious eventually when to sight for the finish line instead." Well, it was NOT obvious. After about 30-35 minutes I really started to wonder where the hell we were going. Isn't this swim supposed to go faster than this? I still had people around me, but was just NOT seeing the finish line! About now is when my neck chafing started to HURT. I mean, BADLY. My neck was getting beat to shreds. Mostly the right side since I had chosen to breathe almost exclusively in that direction. I was really antsy to be done. But no finish line in sight and now I'm getting worried. I decided that if they told us to sight for the tower they probably had good reason so that's what I kept on doing. Though at points I often felt like I wasn't making any forward progress. :(

FINALLY in the distance I spot a red arch...and boy am I WAY to the left of it! The current was carrying you to the right so I had obviously sighted off the tower TOO long. It took me awhile to get around this outcrop of land. I think the current was strong there. Once I got past that corner the finish line started getting closer. Now I was beelining right for it. I saw a TON of people already on the if they had come to shore far to the left of the line but then swam straight for shore. I wonder if that was deliberate? I figured it would be faster to just aim right for the finish line, so that's what I did.

Once I felt sand under my hands I stood up...and was probably the most unsteady I've ever been standing up after a swim! I definitely stumbled a few times trying to get out of the water. Got my swim cap and goggles off and moved towards the beach.
What would you do differently?:

Have more confidence in my ability and sight to the "fast side" of what they tell you to sight for.

Lube my neck better???

I have to be happy with the time...smack dab in the middle of the pack for my first Alcatraz swim? I'll take it. The fastest swim time of the day was 30:37 and last year the pro's were all in the mid-20' consensus is that this year was a tough year.
Transition 1
  • 10m 16s

#68 in my AG. So, after a bit of stumbling on the beach I managed to get my footing and ran up towards the first part of this transition. I got my wetsuit around my waist by the time I got to my spot. I found my bag okay and dumped out my shoes. I shoved my cap and goggles into the bag and started to put on my running shoes. Problem...I hadn't completely taken my wetsuit off yet. Pulled the shoe BACK off and proceeded to finish removing my wetsuit. Put the shoes BACK on. While I was tying them the girl next to me went to grab my bag asking if it was hers, I grabbed it quick and said it was mine. She got all huffy with me! Well, it WAS my bag!

After I got the shoes on I stuffed the wetsuit in the bag and grabbed my water bottle. While I was running I tried to get the salt off my neck because my chafed areas were BURNING! I dumped quite a bit of water on there but it wasn't helping. I didn't time how long it took me to run the half mile to transition. I kept up a steady jog. People were passing me but I didn't have a sprint in me.

I found my bike okay and just had to put my shoes, helmet, and glasses on before I could go. So I did and I went. Putting my helmet on darn near killed me because the chafing on my neck was STILL stinging from the salt. I got out to the mount line and found a clear spot to get on my bike. I had no sooner started pedaling than some dumbass with no bike skills grazed me. I yelled at him to watch out...which he didn't like. But if you're a clumsy dope, stay the HECK away from me! Clumsy dope was so pissed he caught up to me and then passed me on the right and cut me off. Whatever. It gave me some motivation for awhile.
What would you do differently?:

Not be a dummy and try to put my shoes on before taking my wetsuit off! I chalk that up to being "out of my element". This whole needing shoes because the run to T1 is THAT long was something new I had never done before. When I get out of my routine I tend to pork things. Should have thought it through more.

Also, not let stupid people run into me while they are trying to clip in.

Otherwise, not sure I could go much faster. Fastest in my AG was about 5' and I saw a lot of 8' times. I would bet that I lost about 30-60 seconds to the premature shoe donning and another minute to the fast runners.
  • 1h 23m 1s
  • 18 miles
  • 13.01 mile/hr

I suck. What can I say.

I felt strong on the flats and even attacked the first hill...then it hit me...I suck. I was able to power up the hills fairly well, but I was just getting passed and passed and passed. :( I even got passed on the downhills. I was a big weenie on the downhills and there were lots of corners at the bottom of hills.

The return leg was a lot harder than the outbound leg. The hills were steeper in that direction. I had the "flat tire feel" on all the hills. What the heck CAUSES that?

Really the only other notable thing was the large number of potholes and cracks in the road. The roads were some of the crappiest I have ever ridden on. AT some points on the downhill I was just hanging on to my handlebars afraid a bump or crack was going to launch me.

I saw a dude walking up a hill at one point and his bike had no chain...that's a bummer. I saw him later on the he must have used the free speed on the downhills to catch up.

The scenery was great. I was working hard on all the hills. I am just too fat to be riding.
What would you do differently?:

Lose 50 pounds before racing.
Transition 2
  • 02m 33s

I forgot to take my shoes out as I was approaching T2. Probably for the best...transition was muddy!

#57 in my AG.

So I ran to my spot in bike shoes and racked my bike. I don't feel like I wasted too much time, the rest of the girls were just faster than me I guess. And I had to put socks on...and I don't have yankz.
What would you do differently?:

Put yankz on my shoes, maybe take the bike shoes off before rolling to the dismount line. It WAS a long run in bike shoes. I had the long run with the bike both to bike out and from bike in...sucky.
  • 1h 42m 39s
  • 8 miles
  • 12m 50s  min/mile

Where to start...where to start.

The first mile or so of this run is flat. I started out at a nice conservative pace. My sock felt like it was all bunched up in my toes in my left shoe and after about a mile I couldn't stand it anymore. So I pulled over and took my shoe off to fix it and then retied the shoe.

After that stop my foot started to hurt worse and worse. It was getting BAD. It felt like an awful burning tendonitis. I went up the first set of wooden stairs and then started on the trail. The uneven terrain made it even WORSE. I was having to mostly walk because it hurt too much. Finally just before the three mile point and near the top of the first hill I decided I should make sure my orthotic was seated properly and that I hadn't tied to the shoe too tightly. I found a nice log to sit on and took off the shoe and pulled out my orthotic.

Under my orthotic I found SEVEN BT temporary tattoos. Holy crap. I had packed them in the shoe for the trip and COMPLETELY forgot. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry at this point. I believe I did both. I took out the tattoos, put the orthotics back in and retied the shoe. It took me another half mile to get my emotions back under control. I couldn't believe my stupidity. I finally started running WAS downhill now. Rene passed me here. :)

More stairs...more trail...finally make it out to the beach. It took about this long for the foot to finally stop hurting (it had to recover after all). By the time I did the outbound part of the beach my shoe was FULL of sand. Really uncomfortable but I didn't want to stop to fix it. Made the beach turnaround and headed for the sand ladder. Saw a dead jelly fish...HUGE jellyfish. REALLY glad I didn't see any of those when I was swimming!

The sand wore me out a bit so I walked the last 20' to the sand ladder. Once I hit the ladder I set a conservative but steady pace up it...I had NO idea how big it was and didn't want to go out too hard! To my surprise, I was PASSING people! I must have passed 10 people! Four months of climbing the stairs to the 5th or 6th floor of my building every day finally paid off! I had the 762nd fastest time up the sand ladder (my best placing all day) and made it up in 6:11. I should have ran faster up the bottom part...oh well, next time.

At the top of the ladder I set a steady jog up the rest of the hill. I was very glad to get to the top. At the top I just set a reasonable pace and tried not to trip on any of the rest of the stairs/trail.

Once it flattened out I was just putting one foot in front of the was all I could do. Finally got to the finish line.
What would you do differently?:

Not win the bonehead in, no tattoos in my shoe.

Run faster up the sand ladder.

Run harder.

Not be so fat.
Post race
Warm down:

Got some food. Was getting cold and couldn't find anyone so I went to get my gear and went back to the hotel.

What limited your ability to perform faster:

I weigh too much.

And those stupid tattoos.

Event comments:

Check that one off the bucket list. It cost me a small fortune, but it was definitely on the life "to do" list. Nothing beats the experience of this race. From jumping off the ferry to realizing I was swimming in San Francisco Bay to the gorgeous views of the Golden Gate Bridge. Just awesome.

I just really wish I wasn't so fat. :(

There were just a few little annoying things that for the price you would not expect (um, BIKE STICKERS???). But I would still come back!

Last updated: 2008-12-16 12:00 AM
00:47:28 | 2640 yards | 01m 48s / 100yards
Age Group: 37/92
Overall: 815/1690
Performance: Average
Suit: Rented 2XU Full Sleeve!
Course: Jump off the boat, find the beach...all while trying not to drown!
Start type: Dive Plus: Shot
Water temp: 59F / 15C Current: Medium
200M Perf. Average Remainder: Average
Breathing: Below average Drafting: Bad
Waves: Below average Navigation: Average
Time: 10:16
Performance: Average
Cap removal: Average Helmet on/
Suit off:
Wetsuit stuck? Run with bike:
Jump on bike:
Getting up to speed:
01:23:01 | 18 miles | 13.01 mile/hr
Age Group: 79/92
Overall: 1521/1690
Performance: Below average
Wind: None
Course: Up and down and up and down!
Road: Potholes Dry Cadence:
Turns: Bad Cornering: Bad
Gear changes: Average Hills: Average
Race pace: Hard Drinks:
Time: 02:33
Overall: Below average
Riding w/ feet on shoes
Jumping off bike
Running with bike Average
Racking bike Average
Shoe and helmet removal Average
01:42:39 | 08 miles | 12m 50s  min/mile
Age Group: 87/92
Overall: 1589/1690
Performance: Bad
Course: This wasn't a was an obstacle course!
Keeping cool Good Drinking Not enough
Post race
Weight change: %
Overall: Average
Mental exertion [1-5] 3
Physical exertion [1-5] 3
Good race? No
Course challenge Just right
Organized? Yes
Events on-time? Yes
Lots of volunteers? Yes
Plenty of drinks? Yes
Post race activities: Below average
Race evaluation [1-5] 4

2009-06-16 9:17 PM

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Evergreen, Colorado
Subject: Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon

2009-06-16 9:50 PM
in reply to: #2222981

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Baton Rouge area
Subject: RE: Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon

LOL, I loved your RR!!  Makes me want to do this some day!  Nice job!

2009-06-16 10:13 PM
in reply to: #2223062

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Victoria, BC
Subject: RE: Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon
This is a great read! And you did awesome ... you did it - you escaped from Alcatraz! And they said they couldn't be done. ;-)
2009-06-16 10:19 PM
in reply to: #2222981

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Chandler, AZ
Subject: RE: Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon
You are quite the storyteller. Your experience on the swim matches mine except for the chick who would not jump. When all is said and done it was a great race experience and weekend. I'm glad I did it and imagine that you are glad you did it too.
2009-06-17 12:02 AM
in reply to: #2222981

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Subject: RE: Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon
Congrats on your ESCAPE!  Great RR!
2009-06-17 6:46 AM
in reply to: #2222981

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Sarasota, FL
Subject: RE: Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon

Congratulations.  Enjoyed reading your race report! 


2009-06-17 7:04 AM
in reply to: #2222981

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Triathlete Nation ~ Texas!
Subject: RE: Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon
Great race report!  I have total race envy!!!  LMAO at your honesty in the RR...the BT tattoos in the shoe ~ classic!  Awesome Race ~ Great Job!!!    
2009-06-17 7:25 AM
in reply to: #2222981

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Subject: RE: Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon

Great job escaping. 
For the first part of your race was like my last race in HK.  Wavy ocean swim with current (although mine was shorter), long run to transition.  GOod for you to be able to do a little sight-seeing during the swim. 
I had to LOL about your tattoos in shoe.  The run must be tough with stairs and sand. 

Well done!

2009-06-17 8:07 AM
in reply to: #2222981


Subject: RE: Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon
Wow! Seriously, great race report!!!  Don't sweat the bike and run performances-  I hear they're just brutal in this race.  The simple fact that you jumped from that ferry- and then swam across San Fran Bay- is amazing!  I'm dying to do this race at some point in my life, but am terrified that I will simply freeze-up (like that woman) just as I'm supposed to jump into the bay.
Kudos, my friend, kudos!
2009-06-17 8:56 AM
in reply to: #2222981

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Conifer, Colorado
Subject: RE: Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon
Thank you for making it perfectly clear why I will not be doing this race... OMG! Better you than me, that's all I can say.
2009-06-17 8:56 AM
in reply to: #2222981

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Subject: RE: Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon
That's good stuff on the tats. 

2009-06-17 9:13 AM
in reply to: #2222981

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Subject: RE: Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon
You did it..escaped!

I've been to Alcatraz few times when I was younger..the idea of swimming to shore wow I wouldn't want to do it.

Great is a tough race but you are tougher! Cool you did well on sand ladder...that seems insane too.
2009-06-17 10:03 AM
in reply to: #2222981

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Extreme Veteran
Columbia, South Carolina
Subject: RE: Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon

Congratulations!  Loved all the detail in the rr.  I don't think I'd ever even WANT to do that race, so you definitely rock in my book, regardless.

2009-06-17 10:06 AM
in reply to: #2222981

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Dallas, TX
Subject: RE: Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon
WOW! Great job! Gosh that sounds like a VERY HARD RACE!

Yeah, can't say I'm sold on ever doing it myself.

2009-06-17 10:28 AM
in reply to: #2223961

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Sin City
Subject: RE: Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon
Good report!!!

It was a real pleasure to hang out and share this experience!
2009-06-17 11:07 AM
in reply to: #2222981

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Extreme Veteran
Subject: RE: Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon
I love your RR because it seems like something I would do (stickers in shoes/putting on bike shoes while still wearing wetsuit). Now you make me want to do the race! Craziness! Great job on a very difficult race!

2009-06-17 12:22 PM
in reply to: #2222981

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Hollidaysburg, PA
Subject: RE: Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon
Congrats! Hope now that it is over you can laugh about it.

I would like to do this race but I would probably be the one that couldn't jump off the boat.
2009-06-17 12:27 PM
in reply to: #2222981

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Shalimar, FL
Subject: RE: Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon

Wow, what an amazing race you had!  A lifetime experience, for sure.  Super job!

2009-06-17 2:41 PM
in reply to: #2222981

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Ankeny, Iowa
Subject: RE: Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon
Great Job Jen - sounds like a fabulous thing to race. You did great. Sorry for the problems but glad you finished and had a good time.
2009-06-17 3:24 PM
in reply to: #2222981

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, North Carolina
Subject: RE: Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon

My daughter and I did this race last year and had a blast.  I don't have prescription goggles and I couldn't see any of the landmarks and completely missed the swim exit.  It cost me 10 minutes fighting the current to get out.  I enjoyed the scenery so much on the bike and run and that I would sometimes forget I was racing.  It's a fun experience!  Congratulations on a great race!

2009-06-18 12:26 PM
in reply to: #2222981

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Longview, TX
Subject: RE: Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon
Heh, I started to read this and I thought, "Man, this is Gina-long".  So I had to set it aside until I found some more time *to waste away at work*.  Glad I came back to it!  The swim sounds incredible!  And BT tattoos - that's classic.


2009-06-18 2:48 PM
in reply to: #2222981

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Extreme Veteran
Subject: RE: Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon
Fantastic fantastic RR!  and the tattoo story...totally crazy! Great job! Congratulations on the finish!

2009-06-18 4:36 PM
in reply to: #2222981

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Williamston, Michigan
Subject: RE: Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon

LOL OMG thats hysterical about the tattoos ALmost as good as the guy who did his IM marathon with a pack of gum inhis shoe   Good job buddy thats a super tough race

2009-06-21 6:55 PM
in reply to: #2222981

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Nevada City with my BABY!
Subject: RE: Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon

WOW Great race!! What an experience!!

2009-09-24 10:44 PM
in reply to: #2222981

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Subject: RE: Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon

Rock on you.  This is great.  Alcatraz RRs are the best epic adventures ever - yours no exception!  Congratulations on the achievement of your race, for conquering the day, and for stopping to check your orthotic!  

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