US Masters Swimming

Mountain View Masters

Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon

By Ed Stewart: Lane 5, 6am

Yesterday, Sunday June 8th, was the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon.  This was the second time I had done the race, and apparently it has changed.  There are 3 ways to get into the race.  #1) Lottery, #2) Qualify through a qualifier, #3) Know somebody (my choice).  The race cost about $325, and if you figure in the qualifier and travel it will end up costing you over $1000 to do the race.  

After Teddie's last softball game on Saturday, we packed and heading up to San Francisco.  It turned out to be perfect weather.  Sunny, low 70's without a cloud in the sky - that meant no fog.  We checked in at the pre-race registration and listened to the pre-race talk.  I got all the stuff I need for the race, and we checked in a the hotel.  I got everything organized and relaxed in bed while the kids watched Horton Hears a Who.  

Wake up time was 4:45AM.  I did my business, and grabbed my bike.  I rode to the start which was about 8 miles I guess, and build up a nice sweat.  I found my place in the transition area, tried to learn the logistics of the transition area, and then got on the bus to the ferry that takes you to Alcatraz.  I got to the ferry by 6:30 so there was plenty of time to put on the wetsuit (the hardest part of a triathlon), and relax.  The start of this race is not for the faint of heart.  You jump 10 feet into the 56 degree water and start swimming.  

I had bought some stuff for my goggles to try to keep from fogging, but that didn't work so after about 10 minutes I stopped to clean them out.  I continued to sight for the Palace of Fine Arts, but about 20 minutes into the swim a kayaker yelled at me to take a sharp left.  I think he was afraid I would end up under the Golden Gate Bridge.  I did what he said, as he could see better than I could, and I didn't want to end up under the Golden Gate Bridge either.  Combine this with the story I heard on the boat about some one taking the training swim and having to get pulled from the water because they were off course and heading to the Golden Gate Bridge, I was a little nervous.  I did make it to shore in the right spot, after basically swimming straight toward the coast.  Image a triangle and I did the 2 lengths instead of the hypotenuse.  Not the best swim, but still about 2:50 minutes fast than 2 years ago.  However, for all I went faster (really?) in the swim, I was slower on the transition by 2:10.  So I was only 40 seconds ahead of 2 years ago. The bicycle part when really well.  I was passed by only about 3-5 people and spend the whole course passing others.  I felt strong and under control the whole ride.  This bike course is 18 miles and about 1200 verticle feet, with some technical decents.  My perfect course.  You see triathletes can not decend.  That is good and bad.  I pass a ton of them when going downhill without trying, but with a course like this it is hard to manuver amoung all of them so you are constantly yelling "On your LEFT!".  My split was 10 seconds slower than 2 years ago, but that could easily been because the course was way more crowded.

Now the run.  Really this race is about the swim and run.  The swin because you are swimming from Alcatraz and we have all heard about those stories.  The run because it is 8 miles with about 600-700 verticle feet all trail plus .5 miles beach, a sand ladder that is straight up a sand dune for about 150 ft, and lots of stairs.  I felt good about my run although I am not sure if I was slower or fast then 2 years ago.  My finishing time was 1:06 slower than 2 years ago (yes - I am 2 years older), but the race did not get my T2 split or my run split.  Only 1 person passed me on the run, I passed a lot.  I took the beggining of the run (2 miles) out in 162 bpm, and then let the course dictate it from there.  By the end, I had hit 186 bpm some where on the course, and ran the last 2 miles at 174 bpm.  I did have a slight mishaps at about 1/4 mile to go.  I tripped and scrapped up my hands and knee.  Nothing to big although you should have seen the bandages the First Aid tent put on me.  I figure maybe 10 -15 seconds lost there.

Interesting to note that although I slowed by only 1 minute, my place dropped from 13th to 45th.  I don't believe this can be explained by my time so I suspect that the race is way more competitive then it has ever been.  In fact, 24 counties where represented and 46 states. Triathlons are slightly different then bike races.  They are more like a ITT.  You really race against yourself especially when you are an age grouper.  I start in the last pack and spend all day passing people, but have no idea where anybody is in my age group.  I must have passed at least 20 people in my age group through out the race, but I was really just having my own race.

Thanks for reading and thanks for all the support.