The course is a runner's nemesis, however, starting with a chilly 1.5 mile swim from Alcatraz, then a quad-busting bike climb through the Presidio and Golden Gate Park, and concluding with an 8.5 mile mostly-trail run up and over the Golden Gate Bridge, out to Baker Beach, and returning up the dreaded Sand Ladder. There was no cruising in this one - if you swim too slow, you'll be swept out to sea. If you don't get out of the saddle to climb the hills, you'll go backwards (fall off a cliff, and then be swept out to sea). If you walk the run portion, there won't be any beer left by the time you arrive (blasphemy!). Time to push that red line and run like...well, like you've escaped from prison!
The prior day was so windy and rainy that the loudspeakers at packet pick up were constantly telling people to take it easy since "chances for hypothermia and/or bike crashes are much higher than normal". I just love that he threw in "and/or" - nothing worse than crashing with hypothermia! But the Race Gods threw us a bone, and come race morning it was warm, calm, and overcast. About as good as one could ask!
I racked my road bike (too many hills for a TT bike), and joined Mitch from Maryland on the bus ride out to the boats. He was readying for Ironman Kona (lottery winner!), and we chatted with our bus mates from Ireland, Mexico, Canada, Brazil, and Michigan. They came far and wide to get a piece of the San Francisco history captured on this course.
|(Remember, you paid good money for this!)|
The nervousness was palpable (or "smellable", as defending champion Andy Potts would later describe) and the slow rocking of the boat did little to calm the nerves. But every one of my neoprene-clad brethren were game and ready, and the ritual of helping zip and fit the wetsuit of the closest stranger eased the stress, if only to verify that we were only strangers by name. This band of warriors chooses to embrace life in blood, sweat, tears (and sea water!) until the cup of life is spilling down our cheeks. We live a life worthy of great stories!
I was stoked to be with my good friend Jose Caldera who was tackling his first Escape with his long-time friend Victor Brazon, up from Houston, TX. I had seen Jose train like a madman for this one, and could only chuckle to myself as he nervously assured himself if he was ready. He was going to crush this, for sure! We passed around tri essentials like Pam, Vaseline, and lense cleaner, until the slowing of the engine brought us all to silence...then the boat roared with a spontaneous group guttural cheer that could surely be heard back on shore. YEEESSSS!!!
|(Go, go, go!)|
|(Gettin' it done)|
Well, maybe not...as the beach came in view, it was clear that I had picked too aggressive of a line and the current was pulling me into the breaker rocks. Whoops! I doubled-timed it and backtracked 200 yards, easily adding four minutes to my swim time, but avoiding a kayak rescue. Phew! My watch said 35 minutes - dreadfully slow, but still faster than 2002, and I felt comfortable.
I quickly made it to T1, thanks to wisely wearing Injinji socks and Vibram Five Fingers into the water and thus jumping right out and running the half mile to my gear. I had a little trouble getting out of the wetsuit, laughing that even half of a can of Pam on my legs (and smelling buttery good!) still wasn't enough. But before too long, I was on the bike and picking my way through the pack.
Christine Bertram from Canada latched on to my wheel as we cruised past The Cliff House on the climb back, and she proved to be a great pacing partner. We blazed back to T2 (580 riders passed!) in our matching Trek Madones, and she transitioned like a pro, leaving me with some yardage to get back on her heels. But my secret weapon, Inov-8 X-Talon 212's that stood out in this sea of road shoes, were eager to dig into the dirt. Once we got to Crissy Field, I was in my element (at last!) and kicked down to a 5:50 min/mile pace. Andy Potts went blazing by on his way to win (1:59:45), giving high fives to everyone.
|(Only two speeds on this course - climb-this-byotch or oh-God-please-don't-hit-a-squirrel)|
|(Half naked is twice the fun!)|
|(I narrowly miss a snot rocket)|
|(Hitting the single track)|
|(Pro Women winner Nicky Samuels extends her lead, winning in 2:13:13)|
|(What a day!)|
|(Head towards that bridge!)|
|(Like angels they appear in the tunnel)|
|(Climbing up to the Golden Gate)|
|(A little beach running)|
|(Ahem...just a FEW nice views on this course!)|
|(The Sand Ladder)|
|(Andy Potts with the win, photo courtesy of SFGate)|
I cruised into the finish in 2:44:15, good enough for 227th place (results), but not quite enough to outkick 15-year-old Ryan Brady from Chapel Hill, NC, who handily won his age group (his teammate would tell me later, "he's kind of a beast"). Massage, food, and a round of beers with some great folks from Westchester concluded a perfect day. My kick ass parking spot was right on the course, so I had choice but to sip a few brews and relax until the last finisher came in. By the time my beer buzz faded, I think I had committed to meeting the NY gang for the 8-stage SOS Triathlon (doh!), but for now the glow of Alcatraz was more than enough. I successfully escaped, but I can't wait to get back!
|(Steve the masseuse fixes me up)|
|(Shannon Warburg crushes the course and is still smiling!)|
|(Victor, Jose, and Me...successfully escaped!)|
My thanks to IMG and all the great volunteers for putting on an epic race!