Escape from Alcatraz - 2012

 So we are going to Tarantino this one by starting with the result and then going back to the beginning and telling the story of how I got there. ESCAPE from Alcatraz went well and I was able to race strong with metrical improvement and much better strength in several areas. I was sixteenth overall and I am really happy with the result considering that there were so many things that went wrong and could have derailed the whole thing. This was a good result and getting it despite all the impediments makes it a great result.

The morning before the race I was going through my usual race prep schedule and while I was in the pool someone walked into my office and stole my cycling shoes. I won't go into details about how angry this made me and how strongly I feel that this is a really messed up thing to do. I had to make an emergency trip to Spokesman and drop some money to try to reproduce my shoe/insole/cleat combination that took me a long time to work out. I was really rushed getting the rest of my stuff together, I forgot my visor and didn't have time to go over my bike setup. I was lucky enough to catch a ride to San Francisco from Bevan Docherty and was able to chat with him about a lot of stuff that has been on my mind lately surrounding this whole crazy thing. One of my teammates Jeremy Devich lives right across the street from where the race was held and was kind enough to let me crash on his couch which was totally awesome.

I didn't sleep all that well the night before but that is pretty standard so I was a little tired race morning. I didn't drink coffee because of the long period of downtime prior to the race start as I didn't want to jitter off all my energy before the start. I got T1 set up just in time to catch the last shuttle to the pier where the ferry launches from and as soon as we pulled away I realized that I had left my timing chip in transition with my bag. I tried to jump off but they said there would be no way to get to the ferry and that I could get a new chip at the dock. I went back and sat next to my teammate John Dahlz shut my eyes and listened to him chat with the guy behind us who I didn't realize until afterwards was Eric Byrnes who used to play baseball for the Oakland Athletics!!

We got down to the dock and I found the guy giving out new chips solving that problem and then got in line to get on the boat. Once aboard I wandered around for a while trying to find where the start area was...I think the lack of coffee had left me a little foggy. I found the elite area and picked out a large area of floor to sprawl out on. It is a long trip out to the start area and I closed my eyes actually nodding off for a little while. When the start was close they let us out on the boat's edge. There was a lot of back and forth about where to start on the boat so I just picked a spot in the middle and waited. They gave us a ten second countdown and then you just let go of the rail and of you go.

Being in the middle I had a pretty good view of the forming packs as they tore off towards shore. I knew that John was in the group to my left and that he was strong in the water so I kept with them and tried to stay in the draft. I am finding that my ability to swim in a group is not all that great so after getting kicked and punched in the face a few times I found myself alone. I tried to pick the best sighting points I could remember from the pre-race meeting and just tried to settle into a rhythm. The currents and periodic waves made orienteering a little tough for me and i definitely felt like I ziggzagged for a while until I got sight of the yacht club. I hit the beach near the east end which is a good indication that my line was alright and was glad to have my feet on solid ground. 

I opted to dump my wetsuit and grab shoes for the run back to transition because I figured all things being equal I would rather my feet be comfortable :)  I felt great on the run back, I saw some old friends  that had showed up and my parents which is always a boost, I even passed a few people including our team leader Ritch Viola, who had a stellar day! I got a look at where the lead guys were here as well and it looked like only a couple of minutes so I was glad that I had not totally hocked it on the swim. T1.5 was a quick in and out and I jumped on the accelerator as quick as possible because I knew there were a lot of people up the road. I think I need to ease into the bike leg more in the future though because I felt like my aerobic system was doing all the work and I couldn't keep my breathing under control. I caught and passed a handful of people in the first five miles of the bike ride including the women's leaders. The bike course is hilly and technical and I spent most of the middle just trying to keep the speed up despite all the obstacles. Around the midway point I reached back and realized that my water was gone AGAIN...some day I am going to figure that out. 

This is a shot from competitor magazine. This is the exact moment that my bike started making a strange noise which I though was a break rubbing but quickly realized that in my rush to get my stuff together the day before I had not done my bike overlook and my rear skewer was loose. My rear wheel had shifted and was rubbing against the frame. I can't afford to replace that wheel but I was inside of four miles and I just stayed vigilant, hoping that it wasn't going bring me to a grinding halt destroying my wheel or frame or worse. I pushed the pace back to transition despite the fact that by the last mile it sounded like I was dragging a string of cans along with me. 

I made it to transition safely and got a peak at the ring of rub marks on my wheel and tire just before I looked down and realized that I forgot my visor as well. I scooted out of transition and got to work on developing a good pace. There was a guy about two hundred meters up the road so I tried to gauge my speed off him because when I feel like I am reeling someone I tend to be stronger. He was pulling away though and around mile two Ken Rakestraw blew by me, that guy is absolutely flying this year! He hit the first set of stairs just ahead of me and I kept him in sight for the climb and felt good pushing myself. At the top of the bluffs was the best part of the entire day, our teammate Ollie Ralph who is in a wheelchair from injuries sustained the weekend before was posted up handing out high-fives and encouragement. It was so awesome to have him out there. I felt good over the bluffs and felt like I was flying on the downhill but when I hit the beach that all changed. The soft-sand run to the turnaround was brutal to me and I felt like I was reduced to a walk. Several guys caught me on the beach and then left me behind when we hit the sand ladder. I walked the whole thing heaving the whole way and was kind of disappointed about that.

Once at the top of the hill though I got another high-five from Ollie and leg my legs loosen up for the descent and the few flat miles back to the finish. I felt good and was able to keep up a great turnover and pace on the way back.

The biggest takeaway for me is that even though a ton of stuff went wrong I still had a really good result. I felt very strong and there are some good indications of improvement in the numbers so I am really happy with how the race went.

My team had an awesome day too with some incredible results and good exposure. I can't even say how much the support of team has helped this year so I send a big thanks to them. If you made it this far you are too kind! Thanks for reading :)


  1. Yeah! You're in for some good Karma now!

  2. That's awesome you made it through such troubling scenarios, way to be mentally strong! Had no idea you were on a tri team!

    Though I am not as seasoned as you are in triathlons, I will be doing one this weekend (June 17, 2012) near Tokyo, competing as a team. Of course I will be doing the swimming leg only. (I really hate running and bikes are damn expensive, always worried some dude will snatch it.)

    - dais