4 time escapee!
After racing in the Escape from Alcatraz for the 6th time this year, you would think writing another race report about the same race would be exactly that: just another race report. But every time I dive off the San Francisco Belle it’s a new experience and I feel the same excitement and anxiety as I did the first time round.
I knew after my last race 3 weeks ago at the Columbia Triathlon I had to step up my game on the bike. Annabel Luxford spanked me that day, putting a 2min lead on me. I knew I had to get myself into a better bike shape coming into this event, especially since I would once again line up against Annabel and I would be biking on the hilliest 18mile course they could possibly find! So the last few weeks have been all about specific cycling in my Tucson catered towards nailing this race. And I would say they have worked.
There is nothing quite as spectacular as taking the San Francisco Belle out to Alcatraz Island from Pier 3 just as the sun comes up showcasing the city in all its glory. We were blessed to have some of the best weather San Francisco has seen all year, with temperatures hitting the 90s, but the water temperature was still VERY cold. The boat ride out is quite a lot of fun. I was hanging out up on the top deck keeping athletes racing in the CEO Challenge from passing out from fear as we moved further and further away from the dock.
One loop around Alcatraz and the boat was positioned ready for us all to start our escape. We climb over the side rails on the lower level before countdown begins. 3…….2…….1 and the horn goes off and we dive into the water. It’s a wetsuit swim, but nothing quite prepares you for the shock of the VERY cold water. There is no warm up and still, after my 6 years experience, I still have no idea where I’m going! My theory behind the swim is to follow the swim cap in front of me (hope that the cap is actually on someone’s head) and just have faith that there are a string of athletes thinking the same thing with the leader out there somewhere following the lead boat!
As it turns out, the swim cap I was following went the right way and I exited the water in 3rd place along with Annabel Luxford, and we were both about a minute behind Lauren Branden and Sara McLarty. Annabel and I also exited the water together in Columbia, so this where I wanted to be. The run between the swim exit and the bike transition is half a mile. I opted to put shoes on and I had a fast transition (for a change I might add!), catching up to Lauren and gaining on McLarty.
I had Sara McClarty in my sights at the start of the bike. I felt like I was being hunted from behind with Luxford chasing from behind, so I was just going as hard as I could and on the first climb (about 2 miles into the bike) I took to the lead. I know this course like the back of my hand because I have raced over it so many times and this was once my training ground when I lived in San Francisco. This is where I think I had the advantage over my competition because I know the nasty descents, which are not only fast but very technical.
I came in to T2 with a 30 second advantage over Luxford . Not a huge lead, but I felt pretty bloody good going into the run. Just like the bike, I knew I was being chased, so I went as hard as I could on the flats to open up a bigger lead going into the stairs. And when I say stairs, I mean stairs! I’m not talking about the famous sand ladder stairs, but the mile of stairs before we even get to that point! By the turnaround point on the run, which comes after running half a mile on the soft sand of Baker Beach, I could see my lead had grown. All I had to do now was get up that bitch of a sand ladder! I think I ran most of it, however, I kind of hurt myself to the point that I actually don’t even remember! By the time all the uphill was over, my lead enabled me to enjoy the last few miles of the run. Unlike other years I have had to kill myself right to the finish. It was definitely a nice relief.
It was a wonderful day. A victory I wanted so badly and I made it happen. It makes me very happy to be back in form and back to a place where I am mentally and physically racing to win. There are a lot of things we sometimes take for granted, but I have discovered that we must enjoy today for it is the reason we keep doing what we do tomorrow.
Escape from Alcatraz is probably my favorite race. I had a great time meeting the CEO Challenge athletes who were a great inspiration. I went to all my favorite museums and art galleries, met up with some of my best friends, I enjoyed great food at the best restaurants in the city and I trained at some of the most beautiful locations in the world. I was getting a coffee at Sausalito on Monday morning and a local recognized me. He said he had met me before asked if I had won Escape from Alcatraz. San Francisco knows me. I love San Francisco.