Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Good, the Bad and the Mechanical?

Last weekend I raced the 33rd Annual Escape From Alcatraz Triathlon; my fourth Alcatraz race, 3rd as a Pro.

This year it was the deepest pro field to date and the most extreme conditions. The race is normally held in June but it was pushed up three months to March because of America’s Cup sailing race, held in the bay. A March 3 race date meant water and air temperatures around 50 and 55 degrees respectively.

A blurry swim exit, literally.
If it wasn’t bad enough, as we were pulled out on deck, the organizers told us the swim start would be postponed 10 minutes because a cruise ship, arriving 3 hours ahead of schedule, had to pass in front of us before we could brave the frigid waters. That in turn meant we now had an enormous wake to swim through after the ship had passed. Needless to say, it’s what makes this race so great—the elements. Add a cruise ship’s wake to the equation? Why not!

The horn sounded suddenly and I dove in. My adrenaline was red-lining so I didn’t pay much attention to the water temp. I was more concerned with swimming a good line and finding feet. As the wake started to hit us, it became clear this was going to be a battle of attrition—who would crack due to the elements? Several times, I put in surge after surge to bridge the gap to several pairs of feet that were about 10-15 yards ahead of me. With one final effort, the gap closed. By that time, I noticed my 2 swim caps and goggle straps were slowly creeping up the backside of my head. Just before they came off, I stopped in my tracks, grabbed either side of the caps and jammed them back down onto my head. This motion rushed a significant amount of water into my goggles which meant I needed to stay on those feet or I’d be lost at sea! For the remainder of the race, in the midst of a swim stroke, I would probably “cap-check” 10 more times.

Up, up and away..
Despite those issues, I had the best Alcatraz swim of my career in my Xterra Wetsuit which was motivating because I knew I had put in good work during the off season. I ran the ½ mile to transition barefoot on the newly paved sidewalk. There sure is nothing like thawing out your feet in a sprint on pavement at 8am on a Sunday! Onto the bike and up into the hills I went and that’s exactly where things would fall apart. A complete rookie mistake, I thought my bike’s cables and shifting were dialed-in for race day but I was dead wrong. They bounced all over the place as I ascended. I had two options: (a) ascend in the easiest gear or (b) ascend in a heavy gear that put out <40 cadence.="" nbsp="" p="">

..still going up.
I struggled through the bike, trying to overcompensate where I could and tore apart my legs. I came into T2 a bit demoralized but soon found solace in my coach’s voice in the back of my head, “So you’re having a shitty race. What can you do RIGHT NOW to turn this race around?” I threw on my Skechers GoRun2’s and shot into that wicked headwind. I didn’t quite find the pace I expected but I was nonetheless able to reel in a handful of guys and finish 15th in a field that boasted several Olympians and the current Ironman World Champ.

I always look for the positive in everything and I’m pleased with my early season fitness. Next weekend, I race my 2nd career half-ironman in San Juan, Puerto Rico against an abnormally large field of 50 hungry pros. It’ll be a very different race than Alcatraz and I’m happy to report the whole fam will be in attendance!

Back to Alcatraz, I wanted to thank my wife, family and friends for braving the cold and cheering their loudest. That’s what makes EFA such a fun race-- the enthusiastic crowd. Thank you to all the volunteers who helped put this race on. They are truly the working cogs that make each and every race function. And last but not least, thanks to my amazing sponsors for their unparalleled support! Xterra Wetsuits, Champion System, Skechers Performance, Royal Hawaiian, Rudy Project, DT Swiss and Evolution Physical Therapy.

L to R: K-Shack, Jules, TJ, JLove, HH, NH, Chaz, BRIT.
As I said, off to Puerto Rico on Friday, toeing the line on Sunday. Thanks for checking in, talk soon.


A moment of pause and recognition: We lost one of our own that cold morning in the frigid bay waters. As with any sport, there are highs and lows and in our sport it is the lowest of lows when something like this occurs. My deepest condolences to his friends and family who were waiting to see him cross that finish line. I will think about this all season and hope that in the future, better measures can and will be taken to avoid such catastrophes.

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