Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon
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Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon - TriathlonOther
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And away we goooooooooo! Quite seriously, this is the craziest swim start in triathlon! They get nearly 2000 athletes off the boat in 6-9 minutes! Being under the age of 40 I was on the lower deck. I was probably off the boat in the first 30-45". I hesitated on the edge only long enough to make sure I wasn't going to land on anyone then it was one hand over the goggles and the other out to the side and you JUMP! I was surprised how long people were hesitating on the edge. Don't think, people, just JUMP! Think later when it's too late! :D
Anyway, even with the hand over my goggles my left one loosened a bit and I got some water in it. But you have a few thousand other athletes coming behind you so you HAVE to start swimming right away so you get out of the way. NOT kididng. So I ignored the bit of water for the time being and started swimming. The water was SUPER cold. Way colder than 2009. In 2009 I don't even remember feeling cold. This year it took me awhile to keep my face under. I would take a few strokes with my face in the water then a few with my face out of the water...slowly numbing my face to the temperature. After I got out of the way of the boat and while my face was still adjusting I made sure to take a good look at Alcatraz. That was something I forgot to do in 2009. Pretty cool! Oh, and somewhere in here I stopped to reseat my goggles.
So, in 2009 I was pretty spooked about getting swept out to sea and REALLY sighted to the left too much. I was determined not to make that mistake this time. I had studied up and I could very clearly see the landmarks we were supposed to be aiming for...I saw the Fontarra Towers and Fort Mason. Yeah, I ignored those. I kept looking right and saw the big dome building. I *thought* that was roughly in the middle between the Fontarra Towers (what they wanted you to aim for) and Crissy Field (where you are supposed to make landfall). Um, apparently sighting for the dome is like taking a straight shot at the finish line. Oops. :D
Anyway...there was also a boat towing a big orange buoy. They SPECIFICALLY told us this boat and buoy was the lead boat and out there to give you something else to sight on. So my swim went something like this...swim swim swim swim swim...look up....cool, dome...swim swim swim swim swim...loop up...cool, boat buoy....swim swim swim swim swim...look up...hmmm...no other swimmers but dome building and buoy...cool. Rinse repeat. Back to that in a minute.
It was a LOT wavier this year. Maybe 2-3 foot swells and oddly enough, they were slamming us in the face and from the right side. Totally bizarre because it didn't make any sense! The current was supposed to be pushing us left to right so I was a bit weirded out by the waves pushing in the opposite direction. I guess in retrospect the wind was blowing right to left and that must have been kicking up the waves. These were NOT boat wakes. They lasted the entire swim. For some reason my body REALLY wanted to breathe to the right today (unfortunate, but left breathing was bothering my left ear) so about every third breath or so I would get a face full of saltwater. Lovely. I looked up a lot to avoid this. Once I figured out how to breath and avoid it they were not so bad. However, my timing would suck sometimes and I would breath on the crest of a swell and get body slammed face first downward...this unseated my goggles at least two more times. I had to stop and reseat them a bunch because nothing is more annoying than water in your goggles! In hindsight I would have worn a tighter pair. The pair I wore is one I've been using in the pool for a few months so the strap isn't fresh.
Okay, back to my boat buoy. I can tell I am making slow progress towards the shore. At least the things on the shore are looking bigger. I'm still generally aiming for the dome building and the buoy which were lining up nicely so I thought this was probably a swell idea. I didn't see a lot of swimmers which probably should have worried me at the time but I didn't recall seeing a lot of people in 2009 either! Anyway, the buoy starts to look like it's really getting closer...I assumed it had stopped when the leaders reached the finish. BAD assumption. All of a sudden I'm looking around and I can CLEARLY see two yellow triangle buoys and a finish arch probably 45-60 degrees off my left side. But 30-45 degrees off my RIGHT side is the orange buoy. And I'm thoroughly confused. Turns out the idiot driving the buoy boat left the finish area and drove WAY off to the right side of the course!!!! Totally the direction you did NOT want swimmers going!!! That's the direction of the current and a one-way ticket out into the Pacific Ocean! Ack!
Once I figured that out I made a HARD left. The current must not have been too horrible here though because I didn't have to do any crazy crabbing to swim straight into shore. I was really worried that the current was going to overshoot me and I wouldn't be able to swim back upstream. But I was fairly easily able to swim straight to shore. But I definitely overshot "the best line". I think if I'd ignored the orange buoy and had just sighted off the dome all the way to the end I probably would have come in at a better angle. Oddly enough as soon as I made my hard left towards the yellow buoys was suddenly surrounded by swimmers! I must have been hanging out on the far right hand side of the field the whole way. But I never ran into the Armada of boats that was guarding the extreme right side so I couldn't have been too far off!
What would you do differently?:
1. Wear tighter goggles.
2. Ignore the boat buoy.
3. Try to remember my SF shoreline geography.
All in all I am MORE pleased with the line I took this year vs. 2009. In 2009 I nearly came ashore at Ft Mason which confused the shit out of me. Maybe when I do this race again I'll finally get it completely right. :D Oh, beat my 2009 time by almost exactly a minute!
So, you stand up out of the water and nothing that was outside of your wetsuit works. :D I couldn't feel my feet or my hands. I had to wait in line for a wetsuit stripped to pull my zipper down for me but I knew I wouldn't have the hand dexterity to do it myself so I let them. I just had them do the zipper then I got the suit around my waist by myself.
I got up to my shoe bag. I put my shoes on my bare feet and tried to tie them. But my hands weren't working well and my tie-job didn't last very long. I threw a dry shirt on for the run (because all I had under my wetsuit was a sports bra on the top!). I tossed my goggles and caps into the bag and ditched it. Grabbed my arm warmers and took off. I had this plan to work on the arm warmers during the half mile jog. It mostly worked. I got them 75% of the way up my arms before I got to transition.
I felt like I was running decently fast. This is a VERY long run then they make you run all the way to the opposite end of transition and back. You're running forever. And my wetsuit was constricting my calves and my lower legs started to hurt. I think this would come back to bite me later. It's the same reason I hate running in compression socks...it actually hurts my leg muscles.
I finally got to my bike and got my wetsuit off. I wiped off my feet and stuck them in my bike shoes. I had planned to wear socks thinking it would be really cold but I really WASN'T cold. So I ditched my sock idea (and never regretted it!). I switched into a dry bike jersey and stuffed my pockets with my little bit of nutrition. I even stuffed the gloves into a pocket because at this point my hands weren't even cold anymore. But I wasn't sure if I might need them later, so they came along. After that I got my helmet and sunglasses on and headed out. I ran into a log jam at the mount line and had to run around a bunch of people to get on my bike.
989th overall for T1. That's honestly NOT BAD....better than my bike and run!
What would you do differently?:
I think next time I'll take the wetsuit off completely. My legs do NOT like running with any compression on them! A light wind vest might have been nice for the downhills too.
Biking! So...this starts out into a fairly strong wind but flat for about a mile and a half. People are just being nutty and stupid so I tried to avoid the chaos. I rode as far right as I dared but STILL had some A-hole pass me on the right. I also watched a girl deliberately throw a set of hand warmers into a street drain. I don't know why stuff like that bothers me but it DOES. It's total CRAP. I hate watching people blatantly violating rules! Ugh! I also saw about a half dozen gel wrappers in this first mile of the course. Seriously people, QUIT LITTERING!
During this part I discovered that I had apparently cut my wrist during the swim. Not sure if it was my watch or the athlete wristband, but *something* cut my wrist and my hands had been too numb to feel it. I had a lot of blood on my wrist and the watch was REALLY bothering the cut. It was super annoying the whole ride.
After the mile and a half flat warmup you head up the first big hill that takes you up to the underside of the Golden Gate. I had to stand up a few times and that would be a theme on most of the really big hills today. I don't remember having to stand up last time I did the race but I guess that's what an extra 20 pounds (and smaller gearing...I had a 27 last time, only a 25 this time) will do to you. Close to the top of the first hill the pro men came FLYING back at us. That's a bit disheartening...they were going to be done with the race before I ever got off the bike!
So, up and over the first hill and it's really not very cold. I got a bit cold on the first descent, but not bad. I was totally OK anytime we were pedaling or heading uphill. The first descent is just a mini one. You "stay high" with a few smaller ups and downs for a bit after that. Then you go sailing down a nice big hill. Again, got a bit chilly on the downhills. This is an EXCEEDINGLY technical course. A lot of steep hills and sharp curves. I'm a big weenie and I was in NO mood to crash my bike and wreck my deployment this summer so I rode the brakes a lot on downhills.
You go up another big hill right before the Legion of Honor which is the highest point on the course. After that is another HUGE downhill...I mean, STEEP. The whole way down it I just kept realizing that I'd have to climb back UP it. Ugh. Going down that hill and out towards Seal Rock I actually DID get cold. I was too lazy to bother putting on my gloves but my hands were chilly. Part of the problem was that I just am not capable of taking my hands off the handlebars so putting gloves on while in motion is rather difficult for me! Out by Seal Rock there is nothing to block the wind so it was definitely chilly. I began to look forward to the uphills because I was warmer on them!
After the "turn around" (which is really going around a big block) you hit that super steep uphill that eventually (after like a MILE) takes you back to the Legion of Honor. I had to stand several times and I saw a lot of people walking it. I am too stubborn for that so I blitzed myself to get to the top. I stood for the worst sections and tried to recover during the flatter portions. Once up that hill I knew that we only had one more REALLY big one (back by the bridge). Still a few smaller ones but nothing huge. There was a nice downhill section on recently paved road somewhere in here that was a HUGE highlight. I enjoyed that section immensely and got to do a lot of coasting.
Somewhere in here I got passed by a very cheerful dude BLATANTLY listening to his iphone...with bright red headphones he wasn't even trying to hide. F'ing SERIOUSLY???? Where the frick are the course marshals when you need them????
It felt like almost no time at all (despite the fact that my bike split is ridiculously long...like an hour longer than the pro men) before we were back to the last big hill to the bridge. I had to stand up on this one a few times too and AGAIN saw people walking it. I also saw a TON of people with flats. The roads were pretty rough in sections and I think they were probably pinch flats. I'm glad I got to top off my tires in transition! The downhill after the bridge is very twisty and turny so you really don't get to enjoy the downhills. I did a lot of braking to make sure I didn't go flying around a turn I wasn't ready for.
We finally got down onto the last 1.5 miles of flat...with a tailwind so I just cruised it in. I got passed on the right here again. In the lane we were biking in there was only room for two bikes side by side. I think someone was passing me on the left so another jackwipe decides to pass me on the right. I actually heard him coming...I heard him shout "right" or something like that and I thought he wanted me to move another foot over to the right so I tried to and then I heard a "PASSING on the right" and he did...so I yelled at him and told him that wasn't legal and people aren't expecting it and that's how accidents happen. He ignored me. Of course. All in all I was rather disappointed at how much rule breaking I saw during the race. NOT. COOL.
Finally roll back into transition...time to run.
What would you do differently?:
Lose 20 pounds. Those hills are brutal enough without lugging all that extra weight around!
I walked my bike...wasn't in the mood to run in bike shoes. And I kinda took my time. I made sure my feet were cleaned off and put socks/shoes on. Then I threw my race belt on and I switched from a bike jersey to my Team RWB shirt. I left the arm warmers on because honestly I was still kinda chilly from all the downhill riding! Put on my hat and sunglasses and Garmin and headed out. I had to pee (cold temps and still drinking water = over fluiding!) so I figured I might as well pee in the transition porta potties, so I did. Then I headed out.
What would you do differently?:
Meh, nothing really. It felt slow but it wasn't like I was lollygagging! Not sure how I was 4' slower than 2009...even with a bathroom break that's crazy!
Oh come OFF It...what the hell is it with me and this race??? From the GET GO on the run my feet and side muscles on my lower legs hurt...in a tendonitis kind of way. EXACTLY like they felt in 2009!!! When I had temporary tattoos in my shoe! And I was 100% positive I had no tattoos in my shoe!
I was determined to try to run the first 2 flat miles without stopping but my feet/lower legs hurt SO badly I finally had to start doing a 2'run/1'walk...and even THAT I could barely stand. It was the most annoying thing EVER! If I walked slow enough they would feel better but then they would start to hurt again after a minute or so. I was getting really frustrated. It only got worse once we hit the uphill part. I at least had an "excuse" to walk most of the hills and uphill part...darn near everyone else was walking it! But my feet just kept feeling worse. It was SO SO strange. The only thing I could think of was that running in the compressing wetsuit earlier had strained the muscles. My secondary theory was that the uphill was stretching my calves in a weird way. Either way, this is a phenomenon I have NEVER experienced in training...
After I finally crested the first big hill and was heading downhill I decided to try to run again and FINALLY my feet/legs stopped hurting. I was able to run the entire downhill to the beach and I ran MOST of the beach (much better at keeping sand out of my shoes than 2009). I walked a bit near the end of the beach when the sand was soft and we were getting ready to attack the sand ladder.
The early part of the sandladder was easy and I made good time. Towards the top it was just hiking uphill in sand (no ladder) and that slowed me down...partially because I was being very careful not to get too much sand in my shoes! My sandladder time was 4:05 (17 seconds slower than 2009) and good enough for 1228 overall/35th AG. After you top the sandladder you have some more uphill before you get any rest. I will admit I walked most of that uphill...recovering from the sandladder. I was cold here...you're up kind of high and the wind was really blowing. I was so glad I kept the arm warmers! Wished I'd taken the gloves! You finally crest the hill and it's either downhill or flat to the finish. First comes the really steep downhill...and it is steep. My quads were not thrilled about this but I managed to jog a lot of it. I "walked" on stairs and the tunnels...I didn't want to risk tripping and falling.
Once we bottomed out at level ground I was actually able to pick up the pace and really run it in. These were my best two miles. My feet no longer hurt and I had plenty of energy. This was the ONLY time all day I got hot. We had a tailwind and the sun finally came out. I thought about stripping the arm warmers but really, there wasn't a lot of time left so I figured I could suck it up. I really kept a good pace up here. According to the Garmin my last two miles were 11:12 and 8:32 but I think that last mile is short. :D Most of my other miles were in the 14-16' range! So I was definitely hoofing it those last two miles!
What would you do differently?:
Figure out why my feet/legs hurt early in the run. :( I had plenty of energy but they hurt too much to get a good pace going.
Crossed the finish line, got my medal, and saw almost no line at the massage tent so I beelined for it. My left hip has been bothering me and I thought it could benefit from some immediate work after the race. After the massage I went and got some food, retrieved my bags, and went into transition to retrieve my bike/gear. I had forgotten my transition bag so I ended up having to walk home, I just couldn't hold/carry all my gear otherwise. Bummage because it took me a lot longer that way!
What limited your ability to perform faster:
Um, gained too much weight and been too busy to train enough.
This race is just a TON of fun. That's why I've done it more than once! And I'd do it again! I really didn't want to do it THIS year. I was SUPPOSED to do it last year but military training forced me to defer. I didn't have the time/motivation to train this year but since I'm deploying this summer I really couldn't defer again or it would have been 2015 before I could have done the race. So...I came just to finish. And I did. Yet again, my strengths are swimming and the sandladder. And apparently I don't suck at T1 either. Overall I was 25' slower than the last time I did this race. I lost the majority of that on the bike (14'). Swim was faster by about a minute. Lost 1' to T1. Lost a FEW minutes in T2. Lost 6' on the run. Only 17" slower on the sand ladder.
This year's swim was more difficult than the last time...8 degrees colder and the waves were a foot or two higher. And it was definitely colder OUTSIDE than in 2009 too! I'm not used to trying to stay warm during a race so that's always a new experience. The last time I really had to worry about that was IMFL in 2010! I mean, kinda nice to not worry about overheating....and I was never so cold that I couldn't function. I barely got into the "uncomfortable" range of cold....just cold enough to know you're cold. :D
So, mission accomplished on another finish. And I WILL be back...when I'm really in shape and I'm going to go sub 3:45 on this course...for REALS, yo!
Last updated: 2012-10-29 12:00 AM
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55F / 13C
Overall Rank = 1475/1580
Age Group = F30-34
Age Group Rank = 60/65
Woke up early but not as early as 2009! I took a shower and ate a banana. Got my stuff together and was heading out of the hotel by 4:30 (transition opened at 4). Halfway to transition I realized I forgot to top off my tires. I wasn't going to worry about it but more on that later. I got to transition and set up my stuff. I was just about done and I spotted a woman struggling to air up her tires because it was dark and she couldn't see the pump. Got the brainstorm to shed some light on her situation in the hopes she'd let me use her pump. She did. But I felt a bit bad afterwards because someone else asked right after me and she just couldn't keep giving the (borrowed) pump to other people. But hey, topped off my tires so that's good! :D Somewhere in here I ate a Bonk Breaker Bar.
I didn't lollygag around transition...it was warmer on the buses. i took a shuttle to the boat which was already open (in 2009 I had to sit around the freezing cold pier for awhile). I got on early enough to get a good seat with a back to lean against. I didn't put my wetsuit on yet because it would have been way too early. I hit the bathroom on the ferry twice. You're there for awhile. Finally with 45' to go I drank my UCAN. Finally got the wetsuit on (it fit...I was worried...bought it 20 pounds ago and had a bit of a panic wondering if I could squeeze in). I was fully ready probably 15' before what was supposed to be the start but the start got delayed because of some late cruise ship. So I was pretty antsy by the time we got to go.
Um, standing around on a ferry boat with 2000 of your closest friends? :D