Monday, June 6, 2011

Escape from Alcatraz Race Report

I have raced Alcatraz three times. For those of you who have never raced it - the swim is similar to crossing a very fast moving river. The current helps pull you toward the finish. In the past for fear of being swept into the Pacific Ocean, I always under-shot the swim. I would cross the current section very early, then have to swim parallel to shore until I reached the exit of the swim. Very safe. But also very slow.

This year I was determined to reach the swim exit faster and in the mix of the pro girls. Turns out the current was extremely fast yesterday. And my decision would have been a great one on a less-fast-current-day, but yesterday it was not.

The green line shows the best swimming path. The red line is the path I ended up on. The "X" is where I swam at what felt like an all-out effort without moving forward an inch for what felt like a very long time. I had one moment where I literally did not know if I was ever going to make it to shore the current was so strong, and I wondered if they even had jet skis to save pros. I decided they most likely did NOT in fact have jet skis to rescue pros, and figured I better just hurry up and get myself to shore! On the plus side, my Zoot Prophet wetsuit kept me toasty warm in the 52-degree water.

If anyone needs lessons on how to do the "robot" while exiting the swim, I am here to help you, as shown in the above photo. As a pro, coming out of the water leading a very large pack of age groupers is really NOT where I want to be. This basically means every single girl I am competing with has long since mounted their bicycles. I really thought at this point my race was completely blown as far as being in contention.

I spent what felt like four hours of user error fumbling to remove my wetsuit, threw on my awesome Zoot Speed shoes and was off on the half mile run to T1.

Straight onto the bike and I knew I had a lot of work to do to catch up to the girls who I figured had swum much faster (and more directly to shore) than I had. I took a caffeine ZipVit gel immediately when I got on the bike to help me power up all the hills. I raced on my Profile Altair Carbon 80 wheels and they were perfect - light and fast.

I love the bike. The course is nothing but up and down and around corners, all while providing sprawling views of the ocean while screaming downhill. Golden Gate Park was even beautiful as I urged my legs to keep pushing and climbing. The QR CD 0.1 handled all of it in stride, just another day at the office. I finished the bike feeling like I had biked strong, but still no idea where I stood among the other girls.

At mile two-ish on the run Steven told me I was in 10th. (The money went 10 deep in this race). So at this point I told myself as long as I didn't screw anything up, this was going to end up being a good day. I also know that once the run starts, I am completely in my element and it is time to run my heart out and chase down some girls.

Spectating sheep dog. I don't own a dog, but if I ever do it will be a sheep dog. I have wanted one since I was about seven. Most people probably thought it was weird at the time, but Steven yelled at me at mile two "There's a sheep dog!" which made me smile as I passed it about 1/2 a mile later. 

And the chasing began - I could see three girls ahead of me - up over the presidio I climbed, flying down to Baker Beach, trudging through the deep sand, pulling myself with the cable up the sand ladder. I passed a few girls. But I thought one of them might be age group, or relay, and I really had no idea what place I was in, just that I must be in at least 9th and that no other girls had passed me, so I was still in the money.

And then, flying down the single track trails, about to catch a pro girl, I nailed an age group guy - he was tall and I really just bounced right off him while he stayed upright - and found myself face first into a muddy weed patch. Ahhhhhhhhh I can not catch girls when I'm face first on the ground!! I hopped back up and kept running - now with mud all over me. Seriously - how could you not love this race?! It has a bit of everything!

This is where the real chase began though. I am chasing Jenna Parker (Shoemaker). I didn't know who she was at the time. She had been running strong and I thought I could close the gap, but I wasn't sure. Steven told me she was in 5th place. This completely blew me away, as I had no idea I had moved up this far. And it motivated me even more. 

I chased and chased and ran as hard as I possibly could. And I closed the gap to a mere 5 seconds in the finish chute. I crossed the line very happy. And fell onto the ground to try to catch my breath. I wish I had a picture of this because to me it would be the picture of leaving everything I had on that course and fighting to the finish - something I always want to be able to do.

So close! Notice my awesome muddy hand...

But what a day and what a race! I ended up 6th with a time of 2:25. I am learning I can compete with these "fast girls" and my quest for speed is working. And I have said it before - but it's worth saying again - do not EVER give up!

A huge thanks to Lauren & Matt, who were all over the course giving me splits and cheering, along with Kiet and my super-husband Steven. I am honored to race with the speedy pro girls - and they continue to inspire me. The fact that today I found myself smack in the mix with these girls is a great reward for hours of hard work I've put into training.

Also a huge thank you to my friend Mike who not only takes care of my bike and always makes sure it's in great working condition, but has believed in my racing abilities long before I ever did. I'm glad you got to witness the final meters of "the chase" yesterday!

A HUGE THANK YOU to my sponsors:
Zoot Sports for outfitting me with speedy & comfy shoes, a warm and fast wetsuit, and amazing tri gear. Profile Design for my aero bars, grips, hydration, and some super awesome, light and fast wheels! Quintana Roo for a bike that I love to ride every day, but even more on race day. for not only carrying everything tri-related, but for treating me like family. ZipVit for fueling me along the way in training and especially in racing - love that what I eat during races doesn't contain a lot of extra "crap" in it. SableWater Optics for allowing me to see while I swim. Extreme Endurance for keeping lactic acid at bay. Rudy Project for my rockin glasses and helmets. SCAPE labs for protecting my skin. MicroscopeWorld for working with my crazy training/racing schedule.  My crazy race schedule would not be possible without the support of these companies.

Next up is Boise 70.3 in five days...