When I got this slot in December I was floored. Happy, yes, but mixed emotions. End of Sept I had effectively stopped running and working with Biodude (biomechanical expert Chuck Wolfe and his son Adam) to figure out why the hell I was so freakin slow and why it hurt my shin to run every time. So NOT having a clue, nor any promises what so ever, of being able to run Alcatraz I plunked down my $425 or whatever crazy amount this race costs. I didn’t care. I had SUCH a good freakin time last year and it’s just one of the “destination” type races in my mind – and the idea of being a REPEAT Escapee… strong draw, very strong. And this set in my mind a concrete goal by which I could focus my efforts, desires, and work. Not having a specific deadline just doesn’t work for me and the PT sh!t I had been doing was already boring as hell and slow to show result and once again… no promises from anyone as to WHEN I would be able to run. So this race was somewhat a “line in the sand”. In Feb I almost threw in the towel. 5 months, still could not run. Was not happy. However, in April I was finally able to run with reduced pain – so some progress… and by mid-May I was pain free. But I hadn’t crap for endurance. I embarked on an aggressive rebuild schedule of 20% distance increase per week for 5 weeks leading up to the race. I did and it felt great. As we made improvements which reduced pain, it also reduced recovery time for runs. So about 3 weeks from race date CoachCarole finally gave me her blessing to RUN Alcatraz. 3 weeks? Yup… 3 weeks. Could this have been any closer? Wowzer.
DW and I got to SanFran Thurs and enjoyed this town all day (Fri was Chinatown) was NOT nervous about this race so I just completely enjoyed myself and walked the town. I actually refused to think about the race until I got my bike. Friday I went and picked up my bike and realized I HAD NOT PACKED BIKE SHORTS! FOOOOOK! 40+ races and I’ve NEVER screwed that one up. *Sigh* so out went the visa card and I bought some tri shorts. I’ve never worn tri shorts in my life, being a big guy I always bought my bike shorts mail order and always worn them for all training. So this was new. NEVER DO ANYTHING NEW BEFORE A RACE kept screaming through my head!!! Arg. Not happy. So I rode to the hotel wearing my brand new Zoot Tri bag (HEAVEN), mini foam roller, and all my crap. Weighed at least 50lbs but I love my new bag!! The shorts sucked. The boys was not pleased if you know what I mean. I started being good Sat (drank way too much thurs/fri even with some stomache issues) and did my usually pre-race routine. Went to the expo, bought some new (larger) tri shorts and then rode THOSE back to the hotel – much better. These will do. Still lubing the crap out of my netherbits for race day. Packet pickup was uneventful and insanely fast. Course talk same old same old except water was to be 3.1knotts and 59 degrees. Warmer and less current than last year, so that changed my sighting strategy to point straight AT the radio tower and not putting it at 1 oclock. Check. Can do. Weather forcecast 55!!! Freakin AWESOME.
Stayed close to Chicago time so the 3:45am wake up time was no big deal. That’s 5:45 my time and well after I get up normally. Got all my crap together and headed to transition. Chatted with my Transition neighbors. Since today was NOT about time and ALL about finishing and having a good time, I made sure I was social (when I’m gunning for a “time” I get super serious and quiet and put on the ipod and zone out – not today). Answered lots of questions for first timers and finally got myself over to the bus. Met my new pal “Sethton” from York (England) and we chatted it up. He was quite excited about the race and was over here for 3 weeks doing stuff and checking out the sites. An accomplished athlete and “old man” like me (both 38) we stuck together all the way until the jump. Got through transition, dropped off my “t0” bag (there is a transition right after swim to get your shoes, etc so you can run ¾ miles to T1) and we got on the bus. Quick ride over to the boat, waited around 20min and then onto the boat – I encouraged Sethton to get on the boat right away so we could stake out a good spot – which we did. Lots of chatter and we met our new friend “susan from toledo ohio” who also is quite the runner but she is not so strong on the swim and was quite worried about that part. Sethton wasn’t, so we both reassured her. One problem though is the radio tower we were to use for sighting was covered in fog!!! Crap. The announcer kept talking about it and saying stuff but he was confusing the crap out of me, so I cannot imagine the newbs getting anything from it! Anyway, about 15min before start the fog cleared and we had our tower. The national anthem, the rush for the doors, said goodbye to my new buds, and off we went. 1-2-3-go 1-2-3-go and repeat. Hey look, no timing mats. 1-2-3- go I’m OFF!
I made it out within a couple of minutes of the pros and managed mid pack. I took off like a bat out of hell, it was too crowded and I wanted some open water – so I sprinted like a maniac for maybe 200yds before settling down. Amazingly, I wasn’t winded too badly so I setup my normal race pace and spent the next few minutes continuing to dodge people and get near the front of this large cluster of people when is where I wanted to be. The next 10-15min or so I was just plowing away at race pace. Passing a few, not being passed. Just like I like it. I even flipped over to check out the Bridge and Alcatraz from the water. Too freaking cool. Memories to burn into your mind for safekeeping. I was getting nervous about these 2 boats + 1 jetski which was nearyby. They are supposed to be on the far left and far right but they were right in the middle. I saw people way left and way right. I was trying to stay on target with the tower at 12oclock but these buggers kept getting in the way – I didn’t want to get close, the boats have propellers! So as I got near I split the difference and headed between them. At that point I see these guys yelling so I pop up and they tell me I’m going the wrong way? WTF?!!?!? I look around and there are STILL people way left, way right, and a pack of 30+ on my ass. Whatever, they were pointing Right, so Right I went. I was annoyed. I kept going a while until way WAY ahead I saw a huge pack of swimmer. FOOK!!!! I DID get off course. Dammit. Something wrong. I’ve been sighting correctly all day, or so I thought. Anyway, I just starting swimming like a man on a mission – it was 22min on my watch. They were way the hell ahead of me, but I finally caught the pack right before we went into the final beach area. So I was in the bottom of that group, but at least I caught up. My arms were screaming at me. If I had actually done that effort and stayed on course, I would have kicked some serious arse. Oh well. Anyway, about 5min before the exit my cap was coming off, so I stuffed it in my wetsuit. Kicked like crazy last 2min or so to get the legs ready for things to come. Once I reached shore I popped up, grabbed the cap (there is a penalty is you loose anything – including cap) and made sure to look UP for my picture. No idea if they got me, didn’t see ‘em. Hopped up the steps, started running, went around the chick puking up seawater (ew) and through the throngs. Didn’t mess with my wetsuit, just ran. So 46 is the official time, I don’t know what my watch said. I wasn’t happy. Actually, my heart sank. I really sucked that leg up bigtime is what I thought. Thank God today was not about TIME because I sure the hell wasn’t gonna make it.
I got to my bag, tossed the gum in my mouth and swished water, stripped – had seriously hard time with that, and got my shoes on and ran. Yes, Ran. I was so happy about that. Got passed by tons but I ran without cramps. To me, that cancelled out the crappy swim.
T1 was uneventful except when I sprayed sun screen on my neck I start cursing like a sailor because I was pretty sure someone just sliced my neck open. HOLY SHIT that hurt. Took me a bit to get it together and get out there. I was looking forward to the bike, weirdly enough. Last year the bike took everything for me to just finish. This year I was confident I would finish and improve my time but most importantly, save the legs for some hilly arse running. So I focused on EVEN power distribution and ignored speed. Every time I “felt” like I was slow I would look down and be putting out 300+ watts, which tells me there is something “else” going on (wind, hills, etc). I managed to hold 220 for a lot, but the roads suck SO bad in Sanfran that I just couldn’t pay attention I had to watch the road. The first hill was kind of hard. Legs were rock solid still not ready for biking, even with a 2mile warmup on flats. They were ok, just not happy. The second hill was pretty smooth. Not easy, not fun, just smooth and even. The race pretty much went that way the whole time. Saw first pro-man at mile 2.5 outbound for me. I managed some words of encouragement and strategy to the newbs (rest on this flat, it gets worse coming up – and slow down we have to turn real soon, etc). I got passed by a lot of people, except on the big hill, nobody passed me. I thought that was interesting (or maybe everyone strong enough had already passed me!). Saw the lead women out of the run at mile 16 (so mile 5 of run for her) and went out like a bat out of hell once it got flat. Had no problem holding 25 except for the idiots who would not move right. Sigh. Oh well, the problem with the bike for Alcatraz is 2000 people are too many for only 18 miles. It’s ALWAYS crowded as hell. Freaked myself out at one point –my watch said 1:23 and I was still 2 miles out or something. My heart fell. Damn I’m SLOW today!!! Well, I flipped the display on the PowerTap and it showed 1:12.YEAH! Still time to bring it home under last year’s time.
T2 was uneventful, except I sun screened my neck AGAIN and cursed AGAIN and I just want to apologize to Jesus for saying all those things I did! Out on the run I started with a low pace until I got to the trail and then picked it up. Within a few minutes had some minor cramping in the left leg. CRAP. Wasn’t bad, maybe a 4 of 10 pain scale. Well, I ran for about 15min and then stopped and stretched it. Should have done it sooner, that helped. Stopped to pee at mile 2 (told ya I wasn’t all about “time” today!) and then motored along. It sure seemed hot for 55 (later I found it was upper 60’s). The first set of steps really suck and my legs didn’t like it at all. The trail that followed it was all twisty (but paved) and all uphill. The thing that sucks about this course is the ~2miles of constant increase in elevation. Some so step you can barely walk up, let alone run. So I mostly ran and as the terrain was too bad I walked as well as walking a couple of water stops. The uneven surfaces were certainly not helpful to my shin but overall, the cramps subsided and I was simply dealing with being under-trained for such a rough run course. So I just plodded along as fast as my legs would allow – cardio was SO not a factor for most of it, even most of the hills. It was lack of leg “run” strength and endurance. Around 3.5 we were running near the folks heading home. They looked like they were on a death march so I kept reminded them to SMILE because THEY were on the way home and I was not!! That got some grins! At 3.5 there is a road section which is a descent, I ran that pretty hard. At the turn I told the clyde running next to me that I wished this was a “controlled” descent and made airplane noises and spread my arms like and airplane to help get my body to turn. The vols LOVED it and cracked up. I was taking this “have fun” thing serious people! I chatted up a few folks on the run course as well.
Down on the beach it sucked. Sand sucks. Sand should be illegal if you weigh more than 100lbs. So I made a bee-line to the hardpack. To my surprise, the hardpack was great. I was able to run all the way to the turn around and most of the way back to the dreaded sand ladder. My HR was already out the fookin roof walking from the hard pack to the ladder, so when I started the ladder it was no surprise it stayed there. It was crazy high so I took a couple short breaks on the ladder but generally just kept going. It was hard. It sucked. It’s evil. I loved it.
On top of the ladder I took a break to reduce my HR and remove the sand (yes folks, I did wear socks – glad I did too!) and then took off. There’s a final uphill section here which was rough, I was slow and the HR did go nuts a couple times so I walked a couple of the tighter path sections. Finally I got back into the groove and was reversing everything back. Managed to help a couple folks stay on course, as the Vols had abandoned their posts it seems. Everything was marked, but it was just weird to see no people. Pretty uneventful except my quads really hated me and I brushed my right IT Band at once point and realized that I should not touch again until the race is done. It was pissed. Finally back to the flats (and no shade) and I was trudging along. My longest run during training was 4.8 and that was kind flat compared to this. I was now at 6 and feeling some fatigue (it didn’t help I was 3hrs 45min into it I suppose). But the home stretch was there so I trudged. The heat was starting to bother me at this point, being exposed to sunlight sucked. Along I went. Finally at 1 mile left I tried to pick it up, well, let’s just say that didn’t work out and I trudged along. The crowds were still out and still cheering, so that was fun. This is one of the reasons I love this race is they have great crowds! Once I got to the final stretch I managed to honestly pick up the pace and hold it. It hurt but it was a hurt that would be over soon. The HR rose and stayed up, whereas much of the run it simply wasn’t the limiter. Down the final stretch and I’m DONE!!!! Actually go to see DW in the stands (last year I couldn’t but this year finishing almost 30min later things were pretty cleared out). So, mission accomplished. Have a good time, run the whole run, it’s all good.
However…. Because my time sucked so bad, I’ll have to come back and regain my honor!