Monday, March 4, 2013

Escape from Alcatraz 2013 – Race Recap

I have my pops to blame for this one. Dad entered the lottery for Escape from Alcatraz (EFA) back in September and roped me into doing the same – of course I got through in the first round (by virtue of listing my 20 year old hometown of St-Vincent-De-Paul, Quebec as my residence), and my conscientious father squeezed in honestly with the final selection.

Dad has joined me on this triathlon adventure since my early days in late 2011. Our first race together was the 2011 olympic distance at Pacific Grove. I finished in 2:34:25, he in 2:51:56.

At the time, neither one of us was training for triathlon beyond our twice weekly masters swims. We've since raced together a few times, with each involving a more intense commitment on my side. You could say my Dad has become quite the barometer for my fitness.

Dad and I as he crossed the finish.
Since there's just one goal this year, that being a herculean performance at Kona, EFA wasn't meant to be more than a stepping stone in my buildup to the big dance. I'm training purely for distance, and although we tapered a bit, my build certainly wasn't meant for this event. No excuses, just perspective.
Dad had rented a hotel in the city but I convinced him to cancel in favor of the comfort of our own beds. Poor dad started coming up with a cold the day prior and wasn't looking in so good of shape race morning. I had my race proven double-packet of Quaker apple and cinnamon oatmeal, packed the car, and took on chauffeur duties to the SF Marina Green.

gui tip: we arrived in the city at quarter to 5am and there was tons of free parking in the marina lot on buchanan and marina (not even a .25 mile walk from transition)

Transition was straight-forward and I was happy to see a numbered rack system, which means no jockeying for position before the race has even started. The queue's for the toilets in transition were really long, but in my short tri career I've learned there's always an unused porty potty around and we quickly located a dozen unused loo's and I managed my requisite 2nd/3 race morning visits to the John. I slipped into my brand new BlueSeventy Helix (my Dad was equally pleased with my hand-me-down Blue Seventy Reaction) and we boarded the shuttles for Pier 39.

At Pier 39 I remembered that I really hadn't been doing a good job of hydrating the past couple days. Hydration is important leading up to a race (possibly more so with longer distance events) and you need to apply discipline in getting proper fluids for at least 3 days leading into an event. A good rule of thumb for athletes is one ounce of water per day for every lb. body weight (source: Korey Stinger Institute). I grabbed a couple bottles of Cytomax and figured I'd shock my body into adaption.

Dad and I split up going onto the ferry and I spent the trip out to Alcatraz laying on the floor with my eyes closed, visualizing the perfect performance.

gui tip: the majority of people suit up and get amped up way too early for this race. It's a good hour before you jump off the boat so stay off your feet and relax until it's necessary to do otherwise. I like putting the legs of my wetsuit on early (legs only) and would recommend you do the same as it seems to speed up the internal processes and grants you one last trip to the potty. Plus, I've read that it may actually be dangerous to have a full, zipped-up wetsuit on for too long. The studies are mixed, but there are signals that it may increase your risk of sudden cardiac arrest.

Our start was delayed by ~10 minutes due to a cruise ship running late going into the SF harbor. I squeezed my way through the masses and managed an ok position out of the boat. The conditions in the bay were awful (race officials called them the worst they've seen in 5 years) but the swim to shore was aided by a giant orange sighting buoy towed by an officiating boat - a luxury I haven't had when doing the Alcatraz swim in the past. It also gave me a good sense of how far ahead the pros were and I did eventually catch a few pink caps (female pros) going into the marina beach. p.s. Blue Seventy Helix - literally the best wetsuit I've swum in. Full range of motion in the arms and very warm even in 51 degree bay temps!

I got out of the water just shy of 29 minutes and wasn't entirely prepared for the long run to transition. I decided to do the .5 mile run barefoot and managed to step on some glass in the process. My feet were still numb from the water and I would only notice after the race, so no foul. Official swim + .5 mile run time: 33:34

Although I couldn't be more psyched to be sponsored by Quintana Roo and have a shiny new di2 CD0.1 sitting in my pool house, I raced this bike on my roadie since I'd only received the TT a few days prior and it hasn't been fitted yet. I spent the bulk of the bike picking up position. By this point in the race there were probably only 30 or so people on the course so I was very fortunate to have an empty playing field. I saw Javier Gomez and one other male pro coming out of Golden Gate Park so the rest of the field had to be within 3 miles of me. So far so good. Overall, I'd say I biked at my current fitness but was very cautious (at coaches orders) on the descents as they can be quite technical, and a fall this early in the season would crush everything we are working towards. Official bike time: 56:03

Cautious descending.
T2 was slowed a bit by my new shoes which don't have the scrunchee laces, as well as the arduous process of putting socks on numb feet. It also didn't help that the volunteers failed to alert me when I ran the wrong way out of transition (doy!). I caught a guy quickly out the gates but the next 8 miles would be a very sad process of under-performing with no desire to push to potential. Not sure what got into me... those 8 miles were run at an average HR of just 161 (6 beats above Ironman effort) and I didn't even have the heart to out sprint a guy at the finish. Official run time: 55:28

As far as days at the office go, my race was good for 1st in my AG and 42 OA (out of 1671 finishers). While many may consider this a decent showing (and I don't mean to lament but...) you could say I was a bit bummed by my performance. With the fitness I had on race day I am confident I could have finished close to 2:20. Although a TT bike and some more aggressive descending may have shaved a couple mins , I really should have brought that run home in under 52 minutes. A wise man once said "no excuses just results" and I look forward to delivering said results later this month in Oceanside.

As far as race recaps go, Leanda said it best:

Until next time.



  1. Gui, we (just a general "we") have a rule. If you win your AG, you can't complain about your performance or fitness level. :)
    This was a great effort for your yearly goals and the time of year.
    Congratulations on your effort. Don't be too hard on yourself, all of your hopes and desires will come in due time.

    1. Thanks, Sonja. It's certainly easy to get caught up in goals and overlook the underlying accomplishment. This is a tough course and it wasn't the most forgiving day - I'm blessed to have the health to compete and no matter the result will always aim to have a smile on my face. :)