Sunday, October 15, 2006
Alcatri XXVI was this morning. That's me sprinting to the finish. It was pretty awesome. It really wasn’t anything like what I expected. My official time, 2:37:58.6, didn’t win me any medals, but was better than I thought I would do, and I'm pretty pleased with myself, especially looking back on how tough the course is. I ended up 9/51 in my age group and 45/271 overall among the men.
Bright and early (way too early) yesterday morning, I got up and went to JFK for my flight. I slept some on the plane, but mostly watched stupid TV shows on the Direct TV on Jet Blue. I got into San Francisco, met up with Elizabeth and checked into the hotel. Then got my gear together and ran 2 or so miles down to the bike shop to meet Matt and pick up the rental bike. We rented Giant OCR2s – I knew it wouldn’t fit me as well as mine does and I was a little cautious on it because I couldn’t know how well it had been maintained, but the bike stage is only 13 miles and renting the bikes was cheaper and so much easier than shipping our own or bringing them on the plane, so renting was a no-brainer. After picking up the bikes, we rode to Aquatic Park to check out the beach were the swim ended and then rode the 2.5 miles to the check-in at Chrissy Field. We racked our bikes and checked in for the race. Check-in was a little anti-climactic; we got t-shirts and swim caps, but there wasn’t a race expo, which is one of my favorite things about doing these races! The transition area was in a big warehouse-type building and was pretty well organized. After we set up our transition areas and scoped out the competition a little, we went back to our respective hotels. I showered and went over to Steve and Ellen’s to meet Jack (and their puppy Max) and catch up with them. Elizabeth came a little later and we had a delicious dinner. By the end of dinner at around 9:00, I was just about falling asleep at the table, so we came back to the hotel and I was out cold by 10:00.
This morning, the alarm went off at 5:00 and I was up and moving quickly and easily. I think the time difference totally helped – my body was thinking I went to bed around 1AM and got up at 8AM, instead of getting up at 5. I got my stuff together and took a taxi to meet Matt for breakfast at a Denny’s near his hotel. Oatmeal, half a banana and hot tea, yummy.
The morning was a bit cold and dark. But it wasn’t as cold as I had feared it might be and there was no wind. As the sky started getting light, it looked like it was going to be a nice, clear morning. The forecast called for a high in the low 60's, so it was going to be pretty cold during race time. Matt and I walked over to Aquatic Park and set up our first transition area for the swim to first run leg. Then, we waited. They finally made the announcement that it was time to walk to the ferries. While walking over, Matt and I met a guy named Jeff who had done this race a bunch of times and had 8 ironmans under his belt and seemed to know what he was talking about. He gave us some good tips about the swim and also served as a nice distraction! We boarded the ferry and rode out to Alcatraz. Most people were wearing full wetsuits and thermal hoods, but there were some people "skin swimming"! I can't understand why anyone would do it without a wetsuit. The warmth is one thing, but the added buoyancy is huge as well. I should have been more impressed with the fact that we were pulling up right next to Alcatraz, but I have to admit that I was too pre-occupied with a bladder that was about to burst and thinking/worrying about the race! The boat stopped and we waited. Then, they announced that it was time to get in the water. We finished suiting up and got in line for the jump. It’s about 6 feet into the water and when we got to the front of the line, off Matt and I went. The water was certainly cold, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as I feared it might be. I heard somewhere that it was 61 degrees. We swam out to the starting line and waited. Then, all of a sudden, the air horn went off and it was time! I started out nice and easy – right from the start I felt it was going to be a comfortable swim. I never panicked, never felt out of breath and just cruised along. I wasn’t swimming that fast, but figured that I was at least keeping up with the second tier of swimmers. The race packet stressed how difficult the swim could be, with strong currents and waves, and everyone we talked to about the race confirmed that, but I really felt like it was fine. Long, but not so technically difficult. I just sighted every so often and made sure the kayaks were on my left and there were other swimmers on both sides of me. It went by a little faster than I thought it might. I felt like I was in a pretty good groove for most of the swim. I got to the end about 44 minutes later and was out of the water like a rocket. I got to my transition area and Matt was there too. I quickly got out of the suit and put the running shoes on, put all my stuff in my labeled garbage bag and was off, quickly.
The run to the bikes is about 2.5 miles. It starts up a pretty big hill and then a downhill, but the bulk of it is nice and flat. According to my watch, I did the run in about 19 minutes (which makes me think it was a bit longer than 2.5 miles, or maybe I didn’t hit the lap button at the right time or maybe it just took me a bit of time to get the legs moving).
At the transition area, I got on the bike pretty quickly and was off. The bike stage is a 3-loop, 13 mile course and was the most shocking part of the race: there is not a single part of the course that is flat. It starts up a big hill, then down a hill, then up a big hill, then down a really big hill, turn around and repeat (and of course the really big down hill becomes a really big up hill!). Then do the 2 more times. It was really tough. I did get to see George and Heather cheering for me each lap, which was fun. (The pictures in this post are thanks to George.) The rental bike held up great. It was a little small and a little looser than my bike, but generally worked perfectly. Also, unlike my bike, the rental had a "granny gear", which came in very handy during the big uphills! I got passed by a few people, but did some passing of my own! I finished the bike in about 48 minutes (about 17 mph), which I didn’t think was that bad.
I racked the bike and got started on the 10K run. The run starts off flat and I took a few minutes to get my legs going. Then, it’s up a long twisty wood and sand staircase/hill, before it flattens out a bit on the way to Baker Beach. I was running at a pretty good clip, passing a few people. To get to Baker Beach, there’s a long windy downhill and then you turn left on the beach and run on the sand (which was tough) and then to get to the turn-around, a run up a slight incline in the sand (which was tougher). When I started on the beach, there were probably 5 or 6 people ahead of me by 50 or fewer yards and I decided that before the end I would pass 6 people (or if anyone passed me, add a corresponding number for me to pass). I passed a few on the sand and then got to the infamous SAND LADDER. The Sand Ladder is a long, steep sandy staircase that goes straight up from the beach to the road. I have no idea how many steps it is (maybe around 400), but it’s a lot. The pictures you see and stories you hear about the Sand Ladder show most people walking up it. Well, f— that. When I got to it, I just kept running – much slower than I had been, but I wasn’t going to walk unless I had to. I was feeling good, but then the first guy I passed said something like "That's the way to do it!" or "Go get 'em" or something, so I kept at it strong. Then, part way up, when I was getting tired, I slipped a bit and caught myself with one of my hands on the ground when I was passing another dude right after he said something encouraging. I felt pretty dumb about tripping, so I had to keep running. About 2/3 of the way up, I stopped to walk a bit, but then I finished running strong. By the top, I’d passed way more than my goal of 6. At the top, there were two race volunteers watching over the Sand Ladder and I asked them "Do you guys know where that Sand Ladder thing is, I hear the run gets tough at some point." One said, "You just came up the Sand Ladder" and then the other guy got it and laughed. It definitely gave me confidence to finish strong.
At that point, which must have been about 4 miles in, I took off. I picked up the pace and took it home. There was another slight uphill, but most of the rest was downhill or flat. When I was going down the last hill, it was twisty and turny and I felt great, so I started singing “She’ll Be Coming Down the Mountain” – don’t ask why. I realized that my energy and singing might anger the people going the other way, up the hill, with 4+ miles of hills still to go, so I stopped and channeled my singing energy into running energy. I finished the run really strong in 42:46, which would be a great 10K time for me without all the hills! Elizabeth was there, as were Steve, Ellen and Jack and George, Heather and James and Amanda and all of Matt’s family. We waited for Matt to cross and then got my stuff together and Elizabeth and I headed back here to the hotel.
The rest of today is something of a blur, a lot of eating, some football watching, some walking around... I’m pretty tired. But, I feel good and that distance was a comfortable workout, instead of a strenuous, day-killing event. My last triathlon of this great season was a huge success.
Race - October 15
Total time: 2:37:58
Average heart rate: 146
AG Place: 9/51
Overall Men's Place: 45/271