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Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon - Triathlon

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San Francisco, California
United States
Total Time = 2h 42m 25s
Overall Rank = 217/1810
Age Group = M40-44
Age Group Rank = 33/266
Pre-race routine:

I've been getting ready for this race for quite some time. While the primary goal was just to do the race and experience it, I also wanted to race it as fast as possible.

We flew into SFO on Friday, arriving mid afternoon after an uneventful (although long) travel day. While waiting for our hotel room to be ready, we happened to meet up with Chris and his wife as they arrived. We had dinner plans that evening with a few of Tab's friends and with the 4 hour timezone difference, this ended up being a late night for us. Awake at 3am, in bed at 2am (home time, 10pm San Francisco time).

Saturday morning I met up with Chris for a quick swim at the Aquatic park to see what the water temperature was going to be like. It wasn't as cold as I expected at all! Really just what we get at home at the beach early in the summer.

Met up with Mark to go to race registration/packet pickup for right when they opened as Chris had mentioned long lines last year later on. Well, the line was still crazy long! If I had one complaint about the race, it was this. I think they could do much better with minimizing the lineups.

This was an interesting waiver to sign...

After finally getting through all of that, Mark and I went over to check out where the swim ended and then back to attend the mandatory race meeting. It was about as useless as any other meeting. Pretty much "watch the videos online".

We got separated from Mark during the meeting while I was buying some CO2 cartridges and then from there we walked up to Union street to check out the market and have some lunch. Did a lot more walking than I probably should have but we got to see lots!
Event warmup:

Awake at 3am (no big deal since we were still on Atlantic time!) hoping to head down to the transition area close to when they opened. We left the hotel room around 4:15 for the 1.5 mile ride down. There were plenty of other people to follow to get there. I don't think I've ever ridden my bike to a race like that before. :)

When we arrived, we were greeted by..... another long line! Seriously, this was a bit silly as they should have been able to get people in much faster than they were. Once I got in, I quickly setup my transition area and took a few landmarks so I could find it easily during the race. Then Tab and I talked for a bit, I figured out what I wanted to take with me on the bus for the ride over to the ferry and I got on the bus sometime around 5:15 telling Tab I'd see her in a few hours.

At the ferry terminal I did a quick bathroom break, walked around a bit and then put my wetsuit on up to my waist, clothes bag into the bins and got onto the ferry at 5:45. Supposedly the 40+ people were supposed to go to the second level but there wasn't anyone directing people, nor were there any signs (that I saw anyway) and I just wandered around the first level and found a spot by the exit.

As there was quite a bit of time before the race start, I just laid down to relax. I'm pretty sure I could have fallen asleep if there wasn't so much noise from all the people talking. :) About 30 mins before the race start, I had a gel. A couple of the guys sitting around me started talking and one of them was on his 4th try and mentioned he had swam 28 mins last year. That got my attention and he started telling us his sighting strategy. His plan was to swim towards the Fort Mason buildings for 12 minutes and then turn right. Sounded good to me (other than I had no way to tell time). He also said he was going to keep doing the race until he won his age group (40th overall last year). I took note of his race number to check later (5th AG, 51 OA).

With 15 mins to go, I started putting my wetsuit on fully - that's always a bit of an ordeal to get it all done. At one point someone asked if anyone wanted to have some bodyglide. I had put some on earlier (quite a bit earlier) so I passed - probably a big mistake based on on the nasty chafing I got on the back of my neck!!
  • 33m 2s
  • 2640 yards
  • 01m 15s / 100 yards

I had my old Garmin 305 in a baggie under my cap to record the swim. I don't normally do this in a race as I don't want to have to worry about losing it if my cap popped off but I figured this race was worth the risk. :)

The horn went off and I was probably about #10 off the boat. First thing I saw when I popped back up out of the water was one of those freaking drones buzzing around!

I immediately started swimming in the general direction of shore. There were lots of boats around so tough to get a specific line right away. Annoyingly my left goggle immediately started filling with water and kept doing so throughout the swim. I had to stop for a couple of seconds about every 5 minutes or so to clear it.

My aim point was the Fort Mason buildings and for quite a while I seemed to just be going straight at them, until suddenly I was straight out opposite of them. At that point I changed my focus more towards the finish area. I didn't know what exactly to aim for as visibility wasn't great. I saw the dome of the palace a few times and knew I was headed more or less in the right direction. There were people to my right and left (more right). As I got closer to the yacht club I seemed to be rather close to shore and my progress seemed to have slowed. One of the kayakers told me to get a bit more to the right but I seemed to have a hard time getting back out there and ended up passing the yacht club fairly close to shore. I think this slowed me quite a bit and it shows up in the speed graph in the Strava link. Higher in the graph is slower.

While further from shore I was doing 50s/100m (yay current) but closer to shore that slowed to 1:20+.

I got onto the beach feeling good and ran towards the steps, starting to remove my wetsuit.
What would you do differently?:

Stay a bit farther out from shore before the beach.
Transition 1
  • 08m 28s

I had put a pair of shoes in a swim exit bag for the long run to T1. In hindsight, I don't think I needed to and would skip it if I do the race again.

The run to T1. Take note of the placement of those goggles....

Felt good during the run to T1 and when I got to my bike I started taking my wetsuit off. It got stuck on my left ankle pretty bad - worse than I've ever had it do. It seemed like it took a full minute to finally get it off. I may have said a bad word or two.

Once that was finally done, I quickly put my glasses, helmet, bib number and shoes on, grabbed my bike and took off for the exit. Half way there, one of the officials said to me "you still have your goggles on...." - WTF??? My initial thought was how the eff is that possible. I put my hand up to my face and sure enough, in between my glasses and my helmet were my goggles. I had managed to put both on without noticing. I had to stop, take off my helmet and then the goggles. The official offered to put them back for me so I handed them off and put my helmet back on and headed out.
What would you do differently?:

Umm, how about all of it????
  • 58m
  • 18 miles
  • 18.62 mile/hr

Finally the T1 fiasco was over and I was on the bike. Power goals for the ride were to do the climbs at 280-290w and to try to stay below 305w unless absolutely forced by the terrain. 275w or even a bit less on the flats and then back off somewhat in the last few KMs. Also anticipating lots of recovery on the descents.

The first 3k are flat on some slightly bumpy roads. I got on my clipon aerobars a few times but at one point I hit a bump that gave me a bit of a jolt and as a result I got off them for most of this section. With the small turns in the road and a bit of other bike traffic around me I wasn't able to get up to full power in this stretch but it was a good warmup for things to come.

The first hill wakes you up in a hurry. It's a sharp left turn and then immediately up. Within about 3 seconds I knew I was going to need to switch to the small ring so I got myself in a good cog on the rear and then shifted in the front and..... my chain dropped to the inside. That has never once happened in training on this bike. A quick moment of panic but I shifted back over to the big ring and fortunately the chain caught so I didn't have to stop to fix it. Of course it also meant I was in the big ring on a steep slope going 5.8 km/hr. Had to stand up and do a quick surge to get back up to speed so I could shift back down, fortunately it didn't drop the chain again and didn't for the rest of the ride either.

The rest of the ride went more or less according to plan. I was ~280w for the climbs, for the longer steady up through Golden Gate park I was steady 270w. There is one short hill that I had to spike the power up to mid 350s for a bit but it was a good controlled effort overall.

On one of the return descents I had a bit of a scare when another rider decided the line I was taking into a turn was better than his and he cut me off. I was probably going about 40-50 km/hr at the time and had a rear wheel lockup that started to skid out on me. Fortunately I kept it upright and made sure to get away from that guy asap! I had been seeing him most of the ride as he liked to stand up and hammer the hills but I caught him on the descents. I estimate his weight to have been about 97 lbs...

Once back on the flats for the return to transition I still felt great and just pushed a steady 260-270w until it was time to get my feet out of my shoes for the dismount. Passed lots of riders in this stretch.

Had a good clean dismount and ran into transition.

AP for the ride was 238w, NP was 258w.
What would you do differently?:

Not much, pretty happy with it. Now that I've done the course I think I could be a bit more aggressive in places but I'm good with how it went.
Transition 2
  • 02m 25s

Ran to my spot and got through everything in what seemed to be quick and smooth transition yet I was there for 2:25 which was ranked 776th. I don't know why or what I was doing in there!
What would you do differently?:

Go faster?
  • 1h 00m 31s
  • 8 miles
  • 07m 34s  min/mile

Coming out of T2 I felt decent but made sure to stay in control. Pace was a bit hot in the first minute or two so I backed off a hair to stick to the plan. First 3k were in the 4:4x/km range and I was feeling great.

The first hill actually starts with some stairs, I was in a bit of a crowd and it seemed that I could power walk up them as fast as the others that were running so I just did that for the most part. Started running again once we hit the pavement. I wasn't going very fast for this but I wanted to keep the RPE in check for now. Once we started going down again, I tried to run smooth and fast but still found myself braking a bit as I'm not used to that steepness. At the bottom of that hill we got out on the beach, I quickly headed towards the shore to get to the firmer sand. It wasn't bad to run on and I was still doing a 4:45 pace there until having to get back on the soft stuff up to the sand ladder.

For the sand ladder, I pretty much walked the entire thing. It was again a bit crowded and again my walking was pretty much the same pace as those that tried to run and I didn't think that the 15 seconds I could save by going faster would be worth all the matches it would cost. Once at the top we kept going up the hill on the road and I passed several people who passed me on the ladder so I think it was a good choice.

When I got to the top of the hill and started going back down I started pushing the effort more as I knew I didn't have any more hills to worry about. I high fived Chris when we went by each other and then I just tried to keep the effort up. Unfortunately I also started getting some side stitches after the first km on the flats. I had been running around a 4:20 pace for a bit so maybe that pushed me over the edge and I had to back off to 4:40 or so while fighting the cramp. I was happy to hit the same pace on the return as I did on the way out, even a bit faster. Held that steady pace right through to the finish and enjoyed the run through the chute with the crowds.
What would you do differently?:

Probably just need to learn how to run hills better - both up and down.
Post race
Warm down:

Tab was waiting for me at the finish so after grabbing some water I went over and talked with her and her friend Margaret for a bit and watched the other finishers come in.

Had to flip the visor around to keep the sun off the nasty wetsuit chaffing on the back of my neck.

We found Chris a bit later on and chatted about the race for a while. Tried to find Mark as well but never did get a chance to meet up again which was too bad.

What limited your ability to perform faster:

I'm really pretty happy with it overall but clearly I could have saved time in both transitions. A minute in each of those (very possible given other's times) plus some time lost in the swim by getting too close to shore would have moved me up ~40-50 places overall and 10 AG.

Last updated: 2014-10-06 12:00 AM
00:33:02 | 2640 yards | 01m 15s / 100yards
Age Group: 18/266
Overall: 123/1810
Performance: Good
Start type: Plus:
Water temp: 60F / 16C Current:
200M Perf. Remainder:
Breathing: Drafting:
Waves: Navigation:
Time: 08:28
Performance: Bad
Cap removal: Helmet on/
Suit off:
Wetsuit stuck? Run with bike:
Jump on bike:
Getting up to speed:
00:58:00 | 18 miles | 18.62 mile/hr
Age Group: 30/266
Overall: 188/1810
Performance: Good
Road:   Cadence:
Turns: Cornering:
Gear changes: Hills:
Race pace: Drinks:
Time: 02:25
Riding w/ feet on shoes
Jumping off bike
Running with bike
Racking bike
Shoe and helmet removal
01:00:31 | 08 miles | 07m 34s  min/mile
Age Group: 371/266
Overall: 56/1810
Keeping cool Drinking
Post race
Weight change: %
Mental exertion [1-5]
Physical exertion [1-5]
Good race?
Course challenge
Events on-time?
Lots of volunteers?
Plenty of drinks?
Post race activities:
Race evaluation [1-5]

2015-06-10 11:22 AM

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PEI, Canada
Subject: Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon

2015-06-10 12:12 PM
in reply to: 0

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Subject: RE: Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon

You did a nice job on the bike.  I was climbing the way I wanted to but on the flats and downhills I wasn't able to hit my power numbers because there were too many people and it felt unsafe.  Sorry I didn't manage to catch you guys again - I don't think you got my email until you were already headed out.

It was a fun event for me but I didn't race very well... except maybe the sand ladder   I haven't done an Olympic distance since 2012.


Btw, speaking of transitions, my T2 got blown up because the pro men were doing their sprint finish when I was racking my bike.  So I stopped to watch

Edited by spudone 2015-06-10 12:14 PM
2015-06-10 12:16 PM
in reply to: #5121684

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Subject: RE: Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon

Great race Arrend! Well done!

OMG the goggles!!! Hahahahaha

2015-06-10 12:21 PM
in reply to: #5121684

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Subject: RE: Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon

Nicely done Arend - even with your "slow" time near the shore, that's a smoking fast swim.  Got to call BS on the backwards visor, think you're just trying to be younger than what your AG says.  Great race overall.

2015-06-10 12:48 PM
in reply to: #5121684

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Englewood, Florida
Subject: RE: Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon

Well done! Congrats on a good day and a race well run (well, maybe not the transitions )

2015-06-10 1:58 PM
in reply to: #5121684

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Subject: RE: Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon

You should have just kept the goggles on and told the offical..."This is how I roll!!!"

2015-06-11 8:59 AM
in reply to: Jason N

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Subject: RE: Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon
Great report, thanks for sharing!
2015-06-11 9:50 AM
in reply to: TXTriRook

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Norton Shores, MI
Subject: RE: Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon

Great race Arend!  Looking at your Strava file of the swim I was quite impressed with your navigation actually.  

Also really solid bike split holding 258NP - strong ride!

2015-06-11 11:34 AM
in reply to: #5121684

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Montague Gold Mines, Nova Scotia
Subject: RE: Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon
Congratulations on a great race!

2015-06-11 11:52 AM
in reply to: #5121684

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Houston, Texas
Subject: RE: Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon

Great race!  Sounds like you're having a killer post-race vacation too

2015-06-11 12:59 PM
in reply to: #5121684

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2000500100100100100 home in The ATL
Subject: RE: Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon

Except for the keystone cops T-1 it sounds like you had a perfectly executed race, Arend. Thanks for writing it up and congratulations! Like most folks this is a bucket list race for me, but after reading your report  it actually sounds like one of those you would want to do several times to try and get it right - lots of logistics and cpvariables for a "short" race - I like that. In my first Ironman I decided to wear cycling gloves on the bike, and realized I still had them on about 4 miles into the run. The only thing that would have been better would have been to also still be wearing my goggles as well. I will remember that for next time.

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2008-01-17 11:40 PM Dr Disaster
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In addition to writing your race number on each upper arm, they also wrote your age on your calf. This allowed me to see who was passing me by in the bike section of this race.
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The boat was being tossed around. Someone noted that there were whitecaps on the waves. Another guy said, “This is going to be challenging.” I began to wonder what he meant by 'challenging'.
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Alcatraz 2005 provided by crusevegas
date : July 30, 2006
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I signed up for a Sprint in July, an Olympic distance in September, and the Alcatraz tri in October. If I'm going to do it, I'm going to do it all the way.
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Alcatraz 2005: Transition triathlon wallpaper provided by crusevegas.
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Alcatraz 2005: Swim triathlon wallpaper provided by crusevegas.