This past weekend was the Escape from Alcatraz triathlon. One of the most epic races in the world, and one that for sure should be on every triathlete’s bucket list. What makes the race so amazing course. You begin the race by diving off of a boat and swimming to shore. No buoys, no turns, just get to shore. Then after a long 800 or so meter run to T1 you jump on your bike and rip up and down the hills of the North Beach area in San Francisco, take a roll through, Golden Gate Park, and then double back, again ripping up and down the hills. Then to top it all off you take a nice 8 mile run along the paths, stairs, beach, and sand ladder that occupy the area around Marina Green and the Golden Gate Bridge. Its epic, and thats before you even start to consider the possible weather conditions.
This year the weather was for the most part really nice. Its not often that you wake up to a clear sky in San Fran, and then a sunny morning ride out to Alcatraz on the Hornblower. The only issue was the wind that was whipping up some solid chop in the Bay.
Going into the race I was really excited to be jumping ship with not only the normal suspects in Potts, and Amberger, but also a new crop of young ITU studs that have been doing the USA proud chasing the Olympics this year. Knowing the Ben Kanute, Tommy Zaferes, Eric Lagerstrom, and Joe Maloy were in the field meant one thing, and that was that the race was going to be as competitive as ever, but that the swim was going to be bananas! I think often times I get more credit that I deserve when it comes to swimming because I can lead out a swim at a 70.3. I hate to break it to you but that isn’t as impressive as it might look. Don’t get me wrong, I am a good swimmer and I take full advantage of that fact when I race, but these ITU front pack guys are next level! Luckily for me this is a wetsuit swim, and it is choppy so it is harder for those guys to get up to full speed. I told my wife before the race, I HAD to stay on the feet of those boys in the water or it would be game over before I even got on a bike.
Happily, I had a good start, got in the right position and then held on for dear life as Tommy quickly took control and navigated our way to shore. I was more than happy to blindly follow as I was choking down Bay water, and trying to not get sea sick. If Andy Potts is telling you this was rough water, its for real rough water. Anyway, once we made land, I was in the right group and continued to follow the boys on our 800m run to T1. I tried to stay as relaxed as I could while sprinting with my hair on fire down the street barfoot, but once we got to the racks I made quick work on my super warm Blue Seventy Thermal Helix, and was actually the first one over the mount line. GAME ON!
The next part of the plan I told my wife was to simply ride my bike as fast as I could ride it. Not think about the run, or the daunting sand ladder, but to simply try and put as much time as I could between me and a couple guys you can run damn near sub 30 for a 10k off the bike. I felt good as we heading up the first climb and from there just tried to keep the hammer down. I was doing my best to power up and over the climbs, and then not give away too much on the descents. I know Lagerstrom and some of the boys descend like Evel Knievel, and to put it nicely, I do not, so it was a matter of doing the best I could to get away. The best part about an up and down out and back course is the idea of out of sight, out of mind, and I tried to make the most of that.
The downside of them not seeing me, is that I can’t see them either so when I came into T2 I knew I had ridden well, but didn’t know the actual gaps. That leads to a full gas first couple of km’s to try and keep the pressure on the chasers as well as get my mind right for the stairs and hills ahead.
Aside from some sea water indigestion I was actually feeling pretty good and really tried to keep the pace steady and strong over the ever changing terrain. I do hills much better than flats so I tried to use that strength to my advantage. When I got to the far part of the course I saw that I was holding my own on Ben who was in second, but it was Mr Maloy charging in third that was concerning. I stayed calm, powered up the sand ladder, and tried to make a push once back on the flats at mile six. The thinking was, hopefully he did too much too early, and if I can put in a surge now, he will fade. WRONG. Dude just kept coming and as I did my best to run faster and faster, the people on the course were telling me shorter and shorter distances to my pursuer.
As I hit mile seven, which is basically where swim exit is, I saw Joe make the pass and immediately jumped on his feet. Unfortunately for me, that only lasted about 10 sec and then it was a slow moving train just pulling out of the station leaving me behind. I kept pushing but just couldn’t increase my speed to match his and ended up 11 seconds on the wrong side of the line. I was really happy with my race, as I had executed my plan to a T, but on the day Joe was simply better. Its tough to lead the majority of a race, except for the only mile that really counts, but sometimes thats what happens when you try and win from the front.
Alcatraz was as epic as ever, and the boys put on a killer race. I am already excited to get back next year and battle the course, the guys, and the weather!
After the race my beautiful wife and I actually went and took the tour at Alcatraz and enjoyed the city.
Now its a mid season break to recharge, and then getting ready for the second half of the season that will start off in NYC next month!