Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Escape From Alcatraz...

... Part I.

I have to do this in at LEAST three parts... I'm so damned long-winded I don't want to put you all to sleep. SO... we'll cover a little bit at a time and be done with it by the end of the week.

To begin with, let me just say that this is an INCREDIBLY fun race! If you EVER get the chance PLEASE do this race. Enter the freaking lottery people! Seriously, I got lucky in that there's a qualifying event right in my back yard. But you wouldn't believe the number of people that have consistently gotten their slots year after year just by entering the lottery! Just do it!

OK... so here goes...

I got up at the very unpleasant hour of 3:30 am. Not entirely necessary considering how close I was staying to transition... but then again, I like to get a full meal in my belly, shower, shave, etc. before taking off... helps me relax. I had packed my transition bag the night before and had also gone over my bike so I was all ready to go! I did a final inspection of the bike, got my warm clothes on and started walking down to transition.

It was SO quiet out! I remember walking down in the dark thinking, "Boy, it's never this quiet in the city... this is COOL!" The morning air was crisp and cool... but not cold... and the sky was completely clear! This was a REALLY pleasant surprise. When you think of the Bay Area, the first thing that often comes to mind is fog... and there was none to be seen. As I rounded the corner at the end of the block, I could see the transition in the distance and FEEL the nervous energy. There were people milling about in various states of anxiety, music was blaring, volunteers yelling, etc... it was a completely chaotic scene. This was my first race of this size, 2,000 people, and I basically kept my head down, walk straight in, set up my stuff, and walked right back out... yes... I focused on my breathing. I will say that I took a moment to stop and gawk at the pros getting set up. I got to see Andy Potts, Craig Alexander, Becky Lavelle, and the ever so dreamy Mirinda Carfrae... she didn't even say "Hi"... totally crushed. I dropped my bag containing my shoes for the 1k run from the water to T1 at the truck and boarded the bus for the ferry.
It was a short ride to the pier and by the time we had arrived, we were greeted by a crystal clear, blue sky. I sauntered onto the pier... floating. Looking out onto the water... I wouldn't say that it was glassy... but it's relative right? I mean seriously, no one could have asked for better conditions! You know the oddest thing... and I just realized this as I'm typing... I had absolutely ZERO anxiety. None. Nunca. Nadie. How nice huh? I wasn't even overly excited. I was just there... and I felt really really good. And happy. And content. I got body marked... all OVER the freakin place... and just kinda drifted around and people-watched. By 6:45 am, they had everyone moving onto the San Francisco Belle. Another thing that I will say about this race... everything was really really smooth. To manage the sheer number of people in an orderly and efficient manner is amazing in and of itself... but to do it with a group of people generally considered, "Obsessive, Type A, Narcicists", is a complete miracle!

On the boat I found a comfy spot right next to the timing mat and the door. It was fun to watch everyone deal with the nerves in their own way. The talkers, the yawners, the jokers, the quiet ones. Again, I was in la la land, just happy. The ferry launched right at 7:00 am and we were off. Sitting right by the door I had an amazing view of the bay as well as Alcatraz itself. In short order we had taken one lap around the island and began to get into position for the start. I watched as the pro's came out onto the deck and get into position. I also watched as the armada of boats and kayaks began to organize themselves... it was really impressive... like they were all of one mind... really cool! I'm all suited up, jumping up and down, flailing my arms about trying to get loose and warm without knocking anyone on their fanny. The next thing I know, the national anthem is sung... of course I freakin tear up... and the pros are GONE! Two minutes later... BAM... the gun goes and I'm shuffling over the timing-mat and to the edge of the deck.

The plan had been to dive. No such luck. It was PACKED and everyone was jumping feet first! I launched into the air to what I thought was clear water, only to be greeted by a red cap popping up under me in mid flight. I raised my legs as best I could but I landed right on TOP of the poor sonofagun. Stopping to help would have caused more people more trauma, so despite my instinct to stop and help, I put my head down and took off. That bothered me for roughly the first half of the swim... but there was nothing to be done. I'm sure that person was fine... but I'll probably feel bad about that for a really quite a while. I was expecting to be shocked by the cold of the water... but I didn't even feel it! In addition to the adrenaline, we had been blessed with relatively warm water... I think it topped out at 57 degrees! It was pretty chaotic... LOTS of arms and legs all over the place... but you get that with mass-starts right? I just kept at it till I broke out and was all of a sudden alone. I sighted every 5 strokes for a bit to make sure I was on track... then settled in. I had to keep reminding myself to pull... I mean REALLY pull! Open-water swimming and I are trying to figure each other out... and one of the things I do is that I drastically reduce the power of my pull... I don't know why... I just do. So... every stroke... in my head I was saying, "PULL muther F-er!". Not nice talk but it worked! The current was REALLY pulling us and the chop wasn't bad until I reached the middle of the bay. At that point... I started breathing only on my right side... b/c every time I took a breath... there was the Golden Gate Bridge! That was SO cool! That AND the helicopter was just off to my right as well... I could actually feel the prop-blast at one point. Neato! Sighting wasn't an issue at all due to the clear weather and I took a gamble when I hit the middle of the bay... I aimed right for the water exit. We were supposed to aim way LEFT of it due to the strength of the current... but I figured if I went hard enough... it would pay off... and guess what? It worked. I really don't know what else to say about this swim. It went really well yada yada yada... but really? I wish I could have had all of you out there to experience it with me. I'm fairly sure that this will be the most memorable swim of my life. It was just plain FUN... and I think that is a BIG reason why it was fast-ish.

Here's the stats:
  • Swim Time: 32:08
  • Pace (min/mi): 21:32
  • Overall Rank: 212/1617
  • M35-39 Rank: 41/287
Good swim huh? Keep in mind that the current was running at about 3 mph... so that wasn't ALL me! I will say that I'm REALLY happy with my position coming out of the water in relation to the rest of my AG! I felt like I had just set myself up for a really REALLY solid shot at hitting top 10 in my AG.
I got out of the water... dizzy as HELL! Stumbled to my bag, ripped off my wetsuit, shoved it into the bag, threw on my shoes and was gone... headed for my bike. This was a 1k run and Liz had warned me NOT to redline this run... just get my turn-over high and get ready to ride... so that's what I did.

Tomorrow we'll cover the ride. Just a teaser... Liz specifically said, "I want you to leave your legs on this course. Save nothing for the run." Yeah. Game on...

Breathe...

5 comments:

Mark said...

You've made us wait long enough, now we have to come back for the other parts? COME ON pimp! We need the down low. I feel like I'm watching Moment of Truth...

Oh, good job :)

Drew Holmes said...

you not nervous and anxious??? that is awesome.....waiting for parts 2 and three...OHHHHHH!!!!!

kt said...

Can't wait to read more!! Reading your race report makes me want to sign up for the lottery. My poor husband would freak out if I had to travel halfway across the country for a race but sounds like it would be worth it.

You did a fantastic job. Sorry you jumped on a fellow racer but you didn't do it on purpose and at some point maybe he will jump on someone accidentally and it will all be even. Anywho, you made for a good story for him to tell later, right?

Flatman said...

Dang. You were booking on that swim!!! Can't wait to read more...


*tapping fingers*****

beth said...

by the way, you write a killer race report.
i accidentally read part 2 before part one but who cares becuase its ALL SO FUN!!! i love love love it....and that you use words like "neato-o" in a very manly way..

GO ROBBBBBBB!!!