Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Not a Bad Result for a Bad Day

This past weekend was the inaugural Tri-Cal SF triathlon at Alcatraz. While most associate a triathlon in San Francisco with Escape from Alcatraz, Tri-Cal was determined to make a statement with their own version of “escaping from Alcatraz”, and that they did!

I along with about 1,000 other competitors, braved a slightly shorter, but equally as tough 1.2 mile swim; a long 40k bike (as opposed to 30); and an agonizing 7 mile run – which included the deepest sand I’ve ever run through.

Race weekend called for incredibly windy conditions, those of which stirred up a 4 – 5 foot swell in the bay the day before the race, 57 degree water temps, and a 7am start (an hour earlier than EFA).

We dove off the side of the Hornblower Yacht and I immediately found myself in a dog fight. Another difference from the original Alcatraz triathlon (EFA), was that as opposed to starting 1 minute before the hoards of age-groupers, they jumped off 15 seconds behind us which meant they were breathing down our necks!

I exited the water just inside the top-30 and headed out onto the bike sopping wet and freezing! I had noticed prior to the race that a lot of competitors were sporting arm warmers. While at the time I deemed that to be completely unnecessary, once out onto the bike, I realized I was dead wrong! The day before the race, I had spent three hours at a local bike shop trying to figure out what was wrong with my bar-end shifters and why while riding my bike, it wouldn’t stay in the gear that I had chosen, particularly while going up a hill! To no avail, we were NOT able to fix the problem so the next best solution was to switch out the Campy shifter with a Shimano fluid one and ride the race without one or two gears available to use. Nonetheless I worked my way through the course and came into T2, around 20th.

For the first 3 miles of the run, my feet might as well have been two frozen blocks of ice, because I couldn’t feel anything! I guess the cold wind exposure during the extra 10k on the bike really had a major impact on whether I could feel/use my extremities at such a vital time like this. I didn’t know if my toes were in the right places, or if I had rocks in my shoes or what, but I soon found myself offering my feet some verbal motivation such as, “come on feet, WAKE UP!” or “let’s get GOIN feet!”

The issues I was having with my frozen feet soon materialized in my upper Achilles tendons as sharp, tightening pains, which made it death defying to run down hill. I thought to myself, “maybe this is how the numbness is working its way out of my system...it can’t go down any further so it might as well go up.” I eventually found that finish line, having passed about 6 guys on the run and finished 13th in a time of 2:24:50.

Despite all the confounding variables, it was NOT a bad result. And despite being the toughest race of my career, I thoroughly enjoyed it! But that makes sense because as triathletes, we are supposed to take on whatever comes our way and some how defeat that obstacle(s). It is simply why we have found a competition that fuses three sports into one!

Up next will be Tri Cal’s Pacific Grove on the 11th of September, the last race of my 2010 season!

Hope everyone is swimming, biking and running! Talk soon.


Race Results: http://raceresults.eternaltiming.com/index.cfm/20100829_San_Francisco_Triathlon_at_Alcatraz.htm?Fuseaction=Results&Class=Long+Course+Professional~MElite


  1. Sounds brutal. Glad I didn't join you on this one. ha Congrats on a solid finish.

  2. Cheering for you on Sunday brought me back to the old days; me a 27 year-old coach, and you a seventh grade running phenom. Good stuff Henry, always fun to race on your home course.