Alcatraz is three days away!

Posted by on April 29, 2010 in Training

I’ve been terribly remiss in maintaining this blog.  Lots of reasons out there:  a new (and fabulous) girlfriend, a heavy dose of training, an expansion of territory under my direction at work, and issues with my building (I’m president of the condo association).  None are worth going into here; who really wants to hear about someone else’s laundry list of tasks?!

Roya and I leave tomorrow afternoon for San Francisco.  We’ll get in early evening, get the rental car, then head to the motel I’ve stayed at twice before.  It’s not fancy, but neither am I.  It’s in the Marina District, so I imagine it will be a short drive to the race site Sunday morning.

On Saturday, we’ll head over to the race site to check out the expo, attend the mandatory pre-race athlete briefing, then hopefully drive the bike course.  It’s only 18 miles in distance but is described to be very hilly and with 20 or so turns.  I made a bet with my close buddy Jeff that my time in the bike course would be in the top 10% of all athletes.  It was a silly bet in retrospect (I can’t even remember what the bet was for!), but if I have to blow out my legs on the bike course and suffer on the run, so be it!  I HATE losing bets, especially to him, a friend of 31 years.

After the pre-race stuff, we’ll hopefully find a place with some good pasta bolognese as it’s part of my pre-race ritual.  We’ll hopefully crash early although knowing me, I’ll be up til midnight playing backgammon or scrabble or something.

Sunday morning, we’re supposed to be at the race site dreadfully early and I’m supposed to be in a staging area to board the boat that takes us into the bay by some specific time.  Thereafter, the boat takes us right near Alcatraz Island.  While on the boat, we will be corralled into various groups so that it’ll make the departure off the boat into the water a bit more organized.

Essentially, athletes make a six foot leap from the deck of the boat into the cold SF Bay feet-first.  With close to 2,000 athletes competing, the idea is to hit the water and get the hell away from the boat so that no one lands on you.  I don’t know what the water temp will be, but I’m guessing mid-50s.  I’ve competed in water that was 57 degrees and while the experience was not fun, it was survivable.  My feet were frozen for a while on the bike, but eventually became normal on the run.  I expect that I’ll be suffering a bit early on; typically, hyperventilation occurs, the solution of which is to bob the head into the water and back out over and over until assimilated.

It’s been said that predicting the currents is next to impossible, and there are no buoys in the water to direct us, so I’ve been told to simply choose a few points of reference on land and swim towards them.  It’ll be prudent to “sight,” that is, to pick the head up in mid-stroke, as often as possible to avoid making course corrections which obviously adds time and depletes energy.

Once on land, there will be a transition bag for each athlete that he/she leaves beforehand containing sneakers and maybe other gear.  This is because the location of the bikes is about a half-mile away and the pavement may not be smooth or feature pebbles and bits of glass.  So, after the athletes get changed, they put their wetsuits, goggles, and caps into their transition bags, then run to the transition area.  Once there, it’s off on the bike.

After the bike, the 8 mile run is reportedly very hard.  It features multiple surfaces including tarmac, wood chips, dirt, and sand.  Part of the course takes athletes into deep sand and eventually, we are to climb the infamous “sand ladder” which features 400 steps, in sand and with railroad ties or similar wood planks, to the top of a cliff.  Even the pros have to walk and use the rope along side for help.  Once at the top, it’s about a mile and change to the finish line.

My goal is to break three hours.  I think that it’s feasible if (a BIG if) I can do the swim in 45 minutes, do the bike in 54 minutes, and do the run in 68 minutes (plus the half-mile swim-to-bike run and other transition times).  Who knows though; it’s notoriously a very difficult event and I have no familiarity with the course as yet.  I’ve watched videos on youtube and have gleaned as much information from friends and other athletes as well as various websites, but until a person is out there, making solid predictions can be hard.

It seems as if many of my Terrier Tri teammates will be out there, so it’ll be cool to see them on the course and root for them, and to be cheered on by them.  More importantly, having Roya out there will be HUGE for me.  She’s tremendously supportive and this will be her first real exposure to a marquis triathlon event.  I’m kinda excited for her actually!

After the race, I expect that I’ll revel a bit in thrill of victory at the race site, then head back with Roya to get cleaned up and head out to meet friends.  My good friend Bonnie and her husband live in SF and since I haven’t seen her in a like a decade, it’ll be fantastic to meet up and celebrate.  Bonnie was, as I recall, my first friend when I arrived at college at age 18, and we’ve remained friends ever since.  She holds a very dear place in my heart.

On Monday, Roya and I are planning on visiting Sonoma County.  I’ve been to Napa and really enjoyed it, but Sonoma seems to be calling me.  Thankfully, our rental car is an automatic, so Roya can take control when (not if) the wine consumption sends me roaring past the legal limit to drive.  We then head back to NYC on Tuesday.

I checked my training logs today:  I’ve swum (I have a hard time with the swam/swum grammar) 35 miles this year, cycled over 1,000, and run nearly 300.  My swim has improved, but the SF Bay will be more of a survival leg for me I think.  My bike is very strong and is getting stronger.  I can climb really well at this point and so far, haven’t found any of my friends or peers who can match me; let’s hope that strength transfers to SF’s hills.  And, my run times have been amazing (by my standards).  I’m able to run off the bike easily thanks to many brick training sessions, and I’m able to negative split and find those extra kicks when I need them.  I’m ready for this event.

This marks my 150th multisport event and my 70th triathlon.  I can’t believe those numbers are mine, but I’m very proud.  And to be able to share it with Roya will make it all the more special.  I wonder what I should do when I hit the 100 triathlon mark, most likely in 2013.  Any suggestions?

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