ENVE Racing

I escaped, sandy hills suck - An Escape From Alcatraz Story

June 10, 2019 - Great Swim, Great Bike, lost a bit on the run

The Escape From Alcatraz Tri is one of the most iconic San Francisco athletic events. The most glaring challenge in the triathlon is the 1.5 mile swim in 50F water from a ferry moored off the side of Alcatraz Island. In addition to the cold, there were areas of 6 knot currents, where swimmers have to swim diagonnally to swim straight. What athletes may not think about is the challenge of the bike and the run. This is San Francisco. San Francisco is not flat.

The bike course is an out and back style course through the Presidio, Land's End and with a loop in Golden Gate Park. This course features 5 steep climbs, with blitzed descents. Although only 19 miles long, it brings the pain train while offering a prestine view of the beach side of San Francisco. 

The run course is also an out and back from the Presidio, Land's End along the history Bay Defense Battery used in WWII, and the beach. There are two climbs, one from the Presidio to the Battery and the other from the beach to the Battery. The beach stint around mile 5 of the run saps the energy from already tired legs, before delivering athletes to the Sand Ladder. The Sand Ladder is a section delivered straight from Satan's playbook on hill climbs. The climb is short, 0.1 miles (but follows with a road climb) in which athletes gain 150 ft, it is a 26% gradient sandy climb. 

I am a Clydesdale, I am 6'4 and weigh 240lbs (193cm, 109kg for metric heads). I'm not sure if I signed up for this race out of sheer masochism or because it's the raddest race in the Bay (probably both).

Here are my times: 

37min for the 1.5 mile swim 

9min T1 (I really really had to pee) 

1:02 for the 19 mile bike with 1500ft of elevation 

3min T2 (I should have put on socks in T1) 

1:23 for the 8 mile run with 575ft of elevation 

3:15 Total. 

My swim was great for me, pulling 1:24/100yd in a difficult conditions. I am pleased with my swim. 

I didn't think to check if my power meter was charged, spoiler alert: it wasn't. So I had to pace on percieved effort, which is probably a bit skewed when you're in a race like this. I would guess to say I over did the bike. However, I felt pretty strong and came in with a great time of just over an hour! A benefit of being a big boy is having a pretty high FTP of 400W. The W/kg is still pretty crap though. 

The run. Here's were things went a little awry. By a silly misinterpretation of the rules I didn't think I was allowed gels, and didn't pack enough alternative fueling options. Additionally it was an uncharactaristically warm day in SF -- almost 90F. The first climb was fine, I was pulling about a 10min/mile pace on the up hill and a 7min/mile pace on the down. Then came the beach. Turns out 240lbs likes to sink in sand. Think Artax in the swamp of sadness from the Neverending Story. That was my mile 5. Next was the MF sand ladder. It took me 4 minutes to climb the damn thing. At the top of the sand ladder begins the road climb, in which I could have used a gel. With a combination of run/walk I crossed the finish line with a time of 3hrs 15minutes, a cool 1hr slower than Ben Kanute the winner of the day. 

At the finish line I was greeted by a smiling Andy Potts who adorned me with a finisher's medal. Over all it was equal parts beutiful, radical and painful experience. 10/10 would recommend. 

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