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Escape From Alcatraz Triathlon - TriathlonOther

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San Francisco, California
United States
Tri California Events
60F / 16C
Total Time = 3h 11m 31s
Overall Rank = 910/1600
Age Group = M 35-39
Age Group Rank = 189/255
Pre-race routine:

Eyes spontaneously opened at 3:30 AM. Must've been a little bit of anxiety coarsing through the system. Lay quietly in bed for a bit, trying to visualize all of the components of a strong race. Didn't have a specific goal time in mind for this peculiar and challenging course, but I had a feeling I was looking to capture...something which stradled the line between relaxation and exhilaration.

Hit the kitchen at 4 AM for a Clif bar and some water. Out the door and on my way at 4:20 AM.
Event warmup:

Dropped off my T1 bag and racked my bike. Laid out an assortment of goods for the bike and run. Boarded one of the buses which took us to Pier 3, where a ferry was waiting to transport racers out to Alcatraz. Spent forty-five minutes or thereabouts aboard the boat, looking around at other competitors, gabbing with my race buddy, and making final adjustments to my wetsuit. Took a gel with about twenty minutes to go. Checked my HRM and saw that the excitement was starting to build (85 BPM). A cheer went up when Alcatraz came into full view. As the hordes started to assemble themselves near the exit doors the whole boat started to list, which caused my friend to remark that we might be in the water sooner than anticipated. Goggles, cap, chin strap, race chip. Check. We're going in that water for sure.
  • 34m 20s
  • 2640 yards
  • 01m 18s / 100 yards

I've come a long way since my first cold water swim two years ago when I hyper-ventilated and toyed with the idea of calling for help. The key seems to be going for a practice swim the day before the event. Even a quick dip in the water seems to set my body's thermostat to something do-able. It's like you give your brain a little bit of information on the challenge it's facing, and it just dials in the necessary settings for you, as long as you don't get in the way with irrational fears and rumination on worst-case scenarios.

Edging out onto the boat's deck and watching the swimmers ahead of me take the leap was great. Before I knew it, I was on the lip of the deck waiting for the swimmer below me to clear a path into the water. Heard a race official urging swimmers to keep the line moving. "Gotta go, people!" Big breath in and then I did.

Splashed down and swam out twenty or so meters before popping up to look for my friend. Caught sight of him waving, and he pointed out some of the landmarks on the SF skyline to shoot for. We set off, and I felt unbelievably good. I won't say that I was warm exactly, but I certainly wasn't cold, and I was able to make my arms and legs coordinate their activity in just the way I'd imagined. First look at my watch showed that I had forgotten to start my event timer, so I took a moment to do that. Also noted that my HR was 151. Didn't feel winded or tired, but obviously my body was reacting to the special circumstances of the moment.

My friend and I planned to swim out into the channel, then regroup and spend a few moments contemplating our next move. Out in the bay, I rolled over on my back and felt giddy as hell while taking in the sights. Looked at the island behind us, the Golden Gate capped by fog, the Oakland shoreline off in the distance. So spectacular, it's hard for me to describe. Felt intensely alive and happy to face down a challenge which seemed overwhelmingly scary just a few months ago. It's that exact feeling which makes these races so fulfilling. It was definitely the highlight of my race. Felt so damn good about life at that moment I decided to cap it off by peeing in my wetsuit.

Got myself to shore more quickly than expected. Favorable currents or good sighting or both, I'm not sure which, but it ended sooner than I would have liked. All kinds of hills to contemplate from that point on.
What would you do differently?:

Things went well for me out there. Probably could have shaved a couple minutes off my time if I hadn't been so entranced by the surroundings, but I'm glad I stopped to see the world from that vantage. Anyway, it was good to modertae my energy output.
Transition 1
  • 11m 36s

As others have noted, T1 included a pretty good run from water's edge to the bike racks. I jogged in slowly while sucking a gel pack, then worked calmly and deliberately in the transition area to bring the HR down a bit. Slow as dirt, but again, probably a good idea for me to conserve my energy.
What would you do differently?:

It occurred to me on the boat ride out to Alcatraz that I'd forgotten to attach my cycling computer (had it in my saddle bag for no good reason). Made a mental note to remedy that after the swim, but like so many other mental notes, this one got buried in the stack. Pedaled out onto the course, got up to speed on the first first flat stretch, went down into aero, then checked my speed. Doh.
  • 1h 09m 46s
  • 18 miles
  • 15.48 mile/hr

Had my mantra playing on loop mode: "Gotta climb, LOVE to climb." A couple miles to get situated out of T1, a quick stop to attach my cycling computer (oops), then it was hills, hills, and HILLS, until mile sixteen or so. Granny-geared up some of the bigger inclines, then screamed down while the acid in my quads still sizzled. Cat and moused along most of the course with my friend and an M-dot racer who had the same general approach as me (i.e. slow). On one particular climb, I actually found a way to moonwalk on my bike. LOOKED like I was pedaling forward, while actually rolling backward. My best bike trick yet!

Very nasty crash at the bottom of a steep descent near mile 13. Two riders injured, one seriously. Don't know the details, but the scene (including multiple spinal boards) was very sobering. Eased off a bit after that, especially where the road was bouncing me around a bit.

Let a few people slip by on the last stretch into T2. Final chance for some real nutrition and a good chance to bring the HR down. It's all about setting about the run, right?
What would you do differently?:

I'm pleased with how this went. I'm slow, but plenty were slower, which shows that progress comes with persistence. Made better use of my new aero bars than I thought I would, given the terrain and challenges of this course. Lost a little time to attach my cycling computer, but I'm pretty dependent on it mentally for mileage and speed.
Transition 2
  • 03m 39s

Not too bad. Sat down to re-lace and clean some sand out of my shoes, but I'd rather be sure that things are right from the get-go than risk blisters on the course.
  • 1h 12m 10s
  • 8 miles
  • 09m 01s  min/mile

Went into this one with a simple mission: leave yourself enough for the end so you don't end up walking. I knew it was hilly, a bit technical, and, of course, the legend of the sand ladder was looming in my mind. Figured I ought to make the most of my HRM since running by feel tends to lead me to bad places.

I set myself a 160 HR mark, figuring that that was slow enough not to sap me, but fast enough to log a respectable split. Was surprised at how slow I had to go in the middle portions of the run to keep under that mark. The bigger hills had me up to 165-168. Went up to 170 down on the beach where the soft sand made traction difficult. Don't know exact numbers for the sand ladder, though I presume that's what accounts for my MAX HR (184). Took Clif bloks and a gel along the way, biding my time for the descent back to the water and the flats which lead into the finish.

Felt amazingly good coming up on the mile six mark, and decided I could spend whatever was left in the tank. Started to open things up and pass the people I'd had my eye on for much of the day. Fat guy with billion dollar bike? Passed. Old man with curiously styled hair. Passed. Pink bikini woman. Ciao.

Came up on a guy with Hammer Gel sponsorship gear and started matching strides with him. Good pace for both of us, so we chatted a little and agreed to run in together. He was a big guy from Texas and running with him gave me the lift I needed to get home. We reeled in BUNCHES of runners together. With about a mile to go, he checked his watch and noted that our last mile was 7:09 pace.

Started to burn, but focused on breathing and form. HR up to 171 now. As we came into the marina, I told him I'd follow him in as he'd come farther than me to compete. No way, he said, leave it all out there. I found one more gear when the chute came into sight and picked off two more before "breaking the tape" with the Texan right behind me. Don't think I've ever finished with such intensity. Felt freaking great.
What would you do differently?:

Probably gave up a bit of time by starting off conservatively, but I love the way I came home. Can't see trading that for anything. Perfect run.
Post race
Warm down:

Grabbed water and went back to rendezvous with my one-person cheering squad. Got back to the chute in time to see my friend knock 20 minutes off his PR for the course. Incredible day.

What limited your ability to perform faster:

I was conservative throughout most of the day. Given the challenges of the course, that turns out to have been prudent. Bet I could get close to the 3:00 mark if given another chance, but I'm perfectly happy with how things went.

Event comments:

You won't find many races that compare in terms of spectacular settings and unique challenges. Far and away, the best of my racing expereinces. Would do this one again in a (Zone 4) heartbeat. I wanted to find a line between relaxation and exhilaration, and that's exactly where I raced.

Profile Album

Last updated: 2006-12-21 12:00 AM
00:34:20 | 2640 yards | 01m 18s / 100yards
Age Group: 0/255
Overall: 382/1600
Performance: Good
Suit: De Soto T1 Black Pearl Full
Course: Alcatraz Island to San Fran Yacht Club.
Start type: Dive Plus: Waves
Water temp: 57F / 14C Current: Medium
200M Perf. Average Remainder: Average
Breathing: Average Drafting: Below average
Waves: Navigation: Average
Time: 11:36
Performance: Average
Cap removal: Good Helmet on/
Suit off:
Wetsuit stuck? No Run with bike: No
Jump on bike: No
Getting up to speed: Average
01:09:46 | 18 miles | 15.48 mile/hr
Age Group: 0/255
Overall: 965/1600
Performance: Good
Course: 18 miles. Out through the Presidio, with good views of the ocean. Hilly with some hills thrown in. Plus, there were some hills.
Road: Rough Dry Cadence:
Turns: Good Cornering: Good
Gear changes: Good Hills: Good
Race pace: Comfortable Drinks: Just right
Time: 03:39
Overall: Average
Riding w/ feet on shoes
Jumping off bike
Running with bike Average
Racking bike Good
Shoe and helmet removal Good
01:12:10 | 08 miles | 09m 01s  min/mile
Age Group: 0/255
Overall: 865/1600
Performance: Good
Course: Another challenging course, with hills, narrow dirt-track trail running, and soft sand down at the beach.
Keeping cool Good Drinking Just right
Post race
Weight change: %
Overall: Good
Mental exertion [1-5] 5
Physical exertion [1-5] 4
Good race? Yes
Course challenge Just right
Organized? Yes
Events on-time? Yes
Lots of volunteers? Yes
Plenty of drinks? Yes
Post race activities: Good
Race evaluation [1-5] 5

2007-06-05 3:50 PM

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Central New York
Subject: Escape From Alcatraz Triathlon

2007-06-05 7:30 PM
in reply to: #831109

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, District of Columbia
Subject: RE: Escape From Alcatraz Triathlon
Sounds like you had a great race. How'd you like ducking your head through that stone tunnel during the return run?

Nice race report.
2007-06-05 7:34 PM
in reply to: #831109

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Wellington, North Island
Subject: RE: Escape From Alcatraz Triathlon
Great race. It was such an amazing experience wasn't it!?! I hope to do it again and, like you, think I should be able to knock some time off now that I know what I'm in for throughout.

That run was gorgeous wasn't it. I didn't even wear my HRM. I didn't really want to know how high my HR got on the sand ladder. It probably would have freaked me out to see it that high!
2007-06-05 8:02 PM
in reply to: #831109

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Subject: RE: Escape From Alcatraz Triathlon

Wow what a great race you had...nice times but you enjoyed the race with such enthusiasm and that is why we do this.

Very cool way to finish the race, with a new friend picking up the pace and passing folks and giving it your all.

Congrats and thanks for sharing your great race experience. 

2007-06-05 8:21 PM
in reply to: #831109

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Sherman Oaks, CA
Subject: RE: Escape From Alcatraz Triathlon
Great RR. Seemed like you really enjoyed yourself and the atmosphere. That is what it is all about!
2007-06-06 8:55 PM
in reply to: #831347

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Central New York
Subject: RE: Escape From Alcatraz Triathlon
kmarzano - 2007-06-05 5:34 PM
That run was gorgeous wasn't it. I didn't even wear my HRM. I didn't really want to know how high my HR got on the sand ladder. It probably would have freaked me out to see it that high!

I ran slack-jawed the whole time. Views of the Golden Gate...freaking amazing!

According to my HRM, however, I should be dead. Somewhere along the way (the sand ladder, I reckon), I hit 101% Max HR.

2007-06-06 10:34 PM
in reply to: #831109

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San Mateo, CA
Subject: RE: Escape From Alcatraz Triathlon
Nice RR - way to go!
2007-06-07 12:09 AM
in reply to: #833467

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Subject: RE: Escape From Alcatraz Triathlon
Awesome report! Nothing like keeping the right perspective as an age group racer!

Congrats on the killer finish!
2007-06-07 11:16 AM
in reply to: #831109

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Subject: RE: Escape From Alcatraz Triathlon
Great race report Xan, sounds like you enjoyed it, and the knee isssues didn't give you any trouble?   Way to finish off all those suckas in the run    I'd love to do that race someday

Edited by ChrisM 2007-06-07 11:16 AM
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