Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Jail Break! Martin successfully Escapes from Alcatraz

Martin lived out a dream of his this weekend and kicked some major arse in the process at the Alcatraz triathlon. Here's his report:

Escape From Alcatraz has been a race that I have wanted to do for a long time. I remember seeing it on television years ago and thinking "What is that?" It was not until later that I started doing triathlons that I remembered the race, realized it was a triathlon, and signed up. I entered the lottery last season and got selected on the first round. That was when I figured out how much the entry was - $400.

We got into San Francisco on Friday and had a rental car. Hindsight 20/20, I would take a van to and from the hotel next time. We thought that we were going to sightsee a bit but we didn't have the time. Parking was very expensive at all of the hotels. Saturday was the triathlon expo, sign-in, marking, orientation extravaganza. The expo was mainly food and unrelated services - no real gear booths or clothing booths - kind of surprising. We got our goodie bag - for the price of the entry I thought that we would have been given more gear but it was reflective of the expo. No socks or hat or anything like that and no advertisements for other races either - oh well. The day was absolutely beautiful - Chrissy and I actually got a bit sunburnt. A speaker gave us an overview of the course - what to expect and some strategies. The trick with the ocean swim is that there is a strong current out to sea - so you have to travel to cross the current before directly heading to the transition. I was a little upset that during his presentation he kept saying that unless you were a pro that you have no chance and should just not even try in the race. For the amount that I spent to get there and enter the race and whatnot - just keep your mouth shut and perpetuate the fantasy of the race.

We went back to the hotel, prepped my gear and laid low. I had to be at the transition area for 4:30am the next morning. i had two bags to pack and place plus set up transition area. One bag was handed off that contained gear for the transition from swim to bike. Between the swim and bike was a 1/2+ mile run. When you get out of the bay, you take off your wet suit, cap and goggles and place them in the transisiton bag. you then take out the shoes in there and run to the bike transition, leaving behind the swim gear in the bag. From there you take another bag with your wetsuit in it and whatever you want on the ferry and get on a shuttle - when we jump off the boat this second bag is left behind and collected. We were driven down to pier 3 several miles away where the ferry was that would take us to alcatraz and from where we would jump into the bay. We got there about 5:30 and hung out until 6am when we got on the boat. At around 7 we left the dock and started heading to the start. At 8 the pros went off with helicopter over head. We were all divided by age group and were supposed to go off in that order but the second the pros jumped, everyone crushed to the 3 jump spots and it was a mad dash to get into the water. It was a crush of people on the way to the jump spot - with the neoprene cap and goggles and wet suit on it was a quiet sensory-depravation calm. Suddenly the guy in front of me disappeared and there was the water. I jumped and was suddenly confronted with 55 degree salt water. Wet suit + salt water = super-buoyant. It took me a few minutes to get used to the cold water but finally I really put my head in the water and dug in for the swim. For the first 1/3 of the race, the water was glass - totally calm. After that there was a mild but steady chop. You could feel the current taking you as you sighted for shore. I was steadily passing people but it was unclear where the finish for the swim leg was so I was a little timid in my angle of attack to avoid overshooting the finish. They did not have the swim exit marked the previous day and just kind of pointed and said that the exit was "over there" during the orientation. The swim was so amazing. out in the middle of the bay with the golden gate on the right and land coming up in front and to the left. I paused a few times to take it in.

Finally we started funneling and the finish became obvious. I made a final surge for land and stumbled onto shore. Up a set of stairs was the swim-to-bike run transition area with bags. My bag was not in the row that it was supposed to be and it took me a while to locate it. I then stripped my wetsuit and put on my shoes. I was so disoriented and didn't want to waste time stuffing my swim gear into the bag that I just grabbed everything and ran. That was a mistake. It was a 1/2+ mile run and that stuff was heavy in my arms. I got to the bike transition, dropped the gear and put on my bike gear. The sun had come up by now and the day was perfectly clear and very sunny. I took of on the bike and as having a good ride. I was attacking the climbs and battling. The scenery was varied and hilly and stunning. Around the turn around point at mile 9 I suddenly realized that my pedal stroke was feeling shorter and that I wasn't getting power. I discovered that in reassembling my bike, I had not tightened the seatpost bolts sufficiently and the seat had begun slipping - spectacular. With 9 miles remaining and the most substantial section of hills, I gave up in total ~4" of seatpost height. Lots of standing going up hills. Burning quads.

Despite the difficulty, the bike was not terrible and I came into the transition. I had a quick transition and was out on the run. I had my best leg on the run. I had nobody pass me and was able to claw back many places. The run was 8 miles, very hilly and very tough - it wound its way along the shore, in the cliffs and down on the beach - going under the golden gate bridge. There was also a substantial sand section followed by a brutal set of sand stairs. After this was another uphill section and then it was mostly downhill and flat back to the finish.

The race was really amazing. It was an intensely-challenging course. It was a great way to start the season and I think that I have a lot of impovement ahead of me.

Of 1800+ entries, 1492 people finished. I was 75/1492 and 16/208 for my age group with a time of 2:30.32. Here are the full results.

The winner was an animal. He finished in 1:58.21. The top age grouper finished in 2:04.20 - he was in my age group.

1 comment:

Rob R said...

Martin, You are crushing them coast-to-coast. Next time tighten the seatpost!