Saturday, June 9, 2018

Escape From Alcatraz! YES do it

Yes it is this beautiful 
Escape From Alcatraz is definitely a "bucket list" race.  Would I return, yes, but not "have to go back every year"  It was an amazing weekend on so many levels... racing, family, friends and fun.

John and I drove up circa a fun night in Santa Barbara and arrived in the city Friday afternoon for an early dinner with Riley -yeah!   Settled in and we were up early and I did an ez spin checking on transition, getting the lay of the land and then met a teammate and a crew from the Betty Squad for a swim in the oh so chilly bay.  The weather was amazing, sunny and 70, which happens never in San Francisco.
So happy to see this girl!  

My mom flew up on Saturday and Riley picked her up.  Meanwhile I did all the race checking in, meetings and began to slightly freak out about the swim, which happens never.    See there are NO buoys to follow and I was told you cannot count on seeing anyone in the ocean.  The boat tools out to Alcatraz Island, circles it, they give you instructions and then boom off you start jumping like lemmings.  I just could not wrap my head around " swim 10 min toward the white towers, then sight off the red buildings, along the jetty but not too close, and the you see the Palace of Fine Arts and swim to the beach"  What the Fck? Seriously?  And then, if you are a " good swimmer", forget that and swim diagonally  toward the Palace of Fine Arts but don't ever get to the left of it our you will be swept out the the Golden Gate.  Just make sure you don't see any kayaks and you are okay.  "  Supposedly " faster" swimmers can swim at an angle through the river that is sucking out to the GG and slower swimmers need across it and then cut over.   Clear as mud. 

My Mom.... and Riley 
Nice dinner in Fisherman's Wharf, seriously wanted a glass of wine to calm my nerves, but held off.  Early to bed and wide awake freaking out about the swim at 2am, as in not going back to sleep. Sure I get nervous for races but not sure if was ever this freaked.   Up at 4 and out the door 4:45 and riding to transition in the dark, no headlamp "genius" thinking don't hit a pot hole, a speed bump or homeless person.

No issues and onto the buses to the ferry's and the nervousness is mounting.  Found my crew of girls (Nytro + Betty)  who had all done this and assured me "it just works'  Lining up on the Hornblower yacht as people are peeing in their wetsuits on the carpet, for the love of God people get married on this boat,  the gun went off and the pro's dove (yes 6 feet up) dove in and well I peed too.  And that was it in a minute it was my turn, my heart in my throat and I jumped and started swimming.  There were people every where and then no one, how could I not see one person and then I would see 50 people to the right and left as far as I could see- it was crazy.  I was swimming diagonally and swimming through people swimming straight and really hoping I was not going under the bridge.  It was choppy but not too bad and suddenly I saw I big yellow buoy on the bow of a boat, moving in what assuming was the right direction.  I deducted that was the buoy guiding the front pack, WHY did NO ONE mention that.  I followed that until it disappeared and soon I saw the beach- boom swam in and ran down to transition.  Wow, it worked!   Yes the water was cold 52.  I wore 2 caps (regular no neoprene) no booties and was fine.  27 min.  1.5 miles- can you say current?

T1A  wetstuit off and shoes on and I ran the .5 miles to T1 - good move!! passed nearly everyone in bare feet and they still had wetsuits on.   T1 was fast and out onto the roads.   The roads in SF are shit, potholes all over and not marked.  As I am climbing out I hit a big bump and the lid pops off my flat kit along with C02 and the infiltrator, hope I don't flat.  The bike course was treacherous, yes the hills are steep but the road conditions and the people and the sharp turns with little notice.  You could do just fine on a road bike, especially  on the descents.  Beautiful though as you ride through the Presido, along Ocean Beach and it was sunny and not too warm.  18 miles was enough and an 1:01 later I am back to transition (gotta love these short races)

Onto the run and got to see Riley and my Mom again- they were there for swim in/bike out/bike in/run out.  And mt 84 yo mom yells "Julie go get her" pointing to the 23 yo from Stanford in front of me. 

Bike Course - NOT flat 
The run... 8 miles.  1.5 awesome and flat and then climbing 1.5, I was ready for that, yes legs tired but again beautiful views and I was feeling ok, despite redlining for an hour on the bike.  I hit the downhill on trail and I was freaked (PTSD from the wipe out in Dec that resulted in a fracture)  - 1000 people passed me, okay may 100 or at least 20, I was moving into a negative head space. I worked on staying positive as we ran onto the beautiful beach for a mile in soft sand, yes loving this WTF did I do this expensive crappy race look how beautiful it is, oh good the turn around and more soft sand did Satan design this run course and up to the "Sand Ladder"   I thought  I was ready for this.  #1 what ladder, it was windblown and straight uphill of sand #2: the advice of pull yourself up the handrails- what handrails - they were broken or had bushes in front #3- I was not ready for this.  On I went and decided to not let anyone pass me, okay just that one guy,  and a girl who had to be 25, ok NOT letting anyone old(er) pass me.    Ben Kanute did the ladder in 1:53 ( seriously?)   Sarah Haskins 2:19 and there I was pulling my sorry arse up in 3:17.  Wow I have work to do there and then it was more running up hill which was hard but then it was more downhill on steep trails and everyone but me was really happy as they flew by me.  I focused on not falling down on my knee or my face and tried to pretend like I was loving the downhill like everyone who was flying by me was and then the last mile flat and notso fast.  I was ready to turn over  weeee and then crank it up and I had nothing, zero.  I jumped on the heels of the last person who passed me and well I did and even passed HIM in the finishers chute!  (small victories)
Run Course

All in all it was  great day!  Challenging as fck course and always a good day when I am blessed to stand on top of the podium. 

I loved it mostly and would go back!   If you are considering it, throw you name in the lottery.  Its epic and its $$ but its worth it.  The race is very international over 40 countries represented, nearly every podium had someone from out of the US.  There is no detail left unattended and it really is just plain fun most of the time. 

Having my mom and Riley + my #1 fan John there is of course winning for me!  I love my family and I love triathlon so when they come together I am whole.   And I have to say it is good to be scared out our mind and way out of your comfort zone, once in a while.  It is easy to get complacent and if you do Escape From Alcatraz you will NOT be complacent that morning.  

Post race fun!  wine and cards
Nutrition - easy on this course.... 1 bottle of 180 calories of Gatorade on the bike,  2x sleeves of Gatroade Carb Chews on the Run - 380 calories for the race.  Breakfast was applesauce + sweet potato/banana organic baby puree + protein powder + coffee/ almond milk.

Huub wetsuit rocked!  TT Cervelo was fine with Enve 6/7 race wheels.      I ran in the new Altra Duo  5.3 oz- love them!  And the best Onesie (skinsuit) by Betty Designs- I am LOVING the one piece- so comfortable.

My advice
- Sign up for one of the practice swims - $60.  You don't do the entire swim - that one is $240, but you will swim the finish, get all your questions answered and be calmer come race day.
- bring a water/gu for the boat- you get on the boat at 6 but don't start until 7:30
- 2 regular caps are fine unless you get really cold - I dont like my ears covered to dont do neoprene, but I realize I am out of the water a bit faster
- 2nd pair of shoes for the run from swim to T1- fast slip on shoes no socks and take off your wet suit and leave it there, the bag it up and return to you
- Bike- if you are not a good bike handler ride a road bike.  The course it technical.  Tighten down everything on your bike and check your bottles or you will lose them
- Run-  run hills, trails and stairs - not sure how prepared you can be but 3-4 sets of swamis stairs mid run can only help.
- Practice running in soft sand

Have fun! Get out of your comfort zone