So I haven’t really trained since this time last year. I had a good start to last season then life got in the way and the rest of the season was pretty lame although I did race quite a lot. Marathon training over the winter was sabotaged by injury and then abandoned. This was all subsequently compounded by an industrial strength mix of indolence and gluttony.
I was lucky enough to get into Escape from Alcatraz through the first drawing of the lottery and had every intention of getting back into a shape other than round for it. I even made some progress. Then I got injured again from building up the running too fast and we decided to buy a house and I started a new job so training went completely out the window again. The decision was made to do Alcatraz anyway as it might be the only chance I get at it for a while but for the first time ever I would do a race in full on tourist mode, no time goals, no racing anyone and I would carry a disposable waterproof camera for the swim and run.
The drive up from LA was uneventful apart from the sundry oblivious onanists blocking the road by overtaking someone at an extra 0.5mph. Drank far too much at dinner on Friday night, missed the ST get together at Aquatic Park on Saturday morning as I was still sound asleep. Trotted to registration, hung out with Katy and Julian, met BT and CLM, fell asleep during the athlete meeting and got sunburn. Good times.
Dinner on Saturday night with a bunch of STers. Decided that pizza helped get me into my current shape so was an appropriate pre-race meal. Didn’t get drunk though…mustn’t ruin the taper!
We were staying at Fisherman’s Wharf so the ride over to transition on race morning was easy. Set my stuff up, found Katy and Julian again and hopped on the bus over to the ferry. Had to stand around for ages before we boarded, eventually they let us on and Julian took the stairlift up to the old person’s floor of the ferry. Katy got a lot of comments for her lack of wetsuit, most people seemed to think she was nuts for some reason…
The boat ride is a bit crazy because everyone has so much nervous energy. I was trying to have a nap but there were too many people moving around. Most people put their wetsuits on really early, I was pretty warm so left it to the last minute. A trip to the restroom was enlivened by the unwelcome sight of some guy adjusting his wetsuit…doesn’t sound too bad but he wasn’t wearing anything underneath. I do hope he wasn’t a STer.
Eventually the boat circled Alcatraz once and stopped. I wrestled my wetsuit on, tucked the camera into my bibjohn, watched the pro start (pretty impressive) and then joined the throng of people pushing and shoving to jump off a perfectly good boat into the bay.
1..2..3..Go! Splash! Quick, get the hell away from the boat before you get jumped on. Start swimming, notice the water temperature (kinda cold initially but I was fine without a neoprene cap). Stop, pull up wetsuit pullover, pull out camera, take pics, replace camera, adjust wetsuit, swim a bit. Repeat.
Looking back at Alcatraz
Golden Gate bridge
The swim wasn’t bad. I gave up about 5 minutes between taking pictures and stopping once to lie on my back, catch a few rays and take a very enjoyable leak. Followed the sighting advice and had no problems hitting the swim exit.
Off with the wetsuit, on with the first pair of running shoes, off for the mile or so to T1. Took my sweet time in transition, ditched the camera for now and grabbed the bike.
The bike course is pretty tough for only 15 miles, more up and down than a Jenna Jameson movie. A compact would have been nice but I had at least changed my cassette. I was also glad to be on my road bike. It was very crowded most of the way round and as I wasn’t in a hurry I didn’t take any risks or push at all. The pros coming back the other way were really moving and it was nice to be able to take this in and to admire the scenery when the course and traffic conditions allowed. Riders were stopped all over the place with mechanical or tire issues.
Rolled into T2. Stopped to apply sunscreen as I’d forgotten earlier. Had a little picnic, tucked the camera into my trisuit for that sought-after extra lumpen look, stopped to talk to the missus then headed out for the 8 mile “run”. Hmmm…5 miles more than I’d run in total the previous month, this should be fun.
Followed a run a bit, walk a bit strategy initially on the flat part. Didn’t want to use up my finish line sprint just yet! Stopped at the first restroom I spotted (this was pretty easy and much nicer than a portapotty but I can see how you’d completely miss them if actually racing). Then the course started to get interesting.
Alcatraz in the background
We started at sea level…
The infamous sand ladder (not nearly as bad as feared).
I walked all the uphills to save my legs. Most of the second half is either downhill or flat so I was able to run(ish) most of it for a glorious negative split.
The finish chute.
A quick bite to eat, ride back to the hotel, shower and back on the road home. Sorry I missed everyone afterwards.
All in all it's a fantastic, if crowded, race. Great course (if you're in shape anyway), excellent volunteers and a large and vocal crowd. we got good weather this year too.
Forget speedwork. Speedwork is the icing on the cake and you don't have a cake yet. - MattinSF
Basically they have 9 tenants, live life to the fullest, do not turn the cheak, and embrace the 7 deadly since. - TheForge (on satanists)