07 March 2013

Escape from Alcatraz

I have wanted to come back to this race for a while and am very happy that I was able to jump back in to the chilly waters of the Bay.  It is one of the iconic triathlons across the world and is a bucket list for any triathlete.  Arriving later than planned Friday night, I got the bike built up on Saturday and took it for a quick spin across the Golden Gate bridge and up the Marin Headland to open up the legs.  A very big thanks to Brian at Pro Cycling for getting the wheels glued up and installing Caffelatex for puncture protection and my girlfriend Bri for going down to the Springs to bring them out with her. I discovered that the cassette I had was worn out when I did the pre-ride and thanks to Joe Santos of Davis Wheelworks for helping swap the cassette and determining what the little click of noise was and then was all set to go.  This may be and individual sport but none of us do it without some incredible support behind us.

The bay is always cold doesn’t matter what time of year it just varies on the degree of cold and this was the coldest yet since the race was moved up three months, we were going to jump in to 51 degree water.  I knew that I wanted to have a feel for it before the race and jumped in for a quick swim later before heading to the pro meeting to catch up with a few friends that I only see on the road, so it had been a while.  After a delicious dinner thanks to Karen Jeffrey at her place, I wrapped up the preparations for the early start on race day.

Road tri’s start entirely to early, up at 4:30 I stomached some oatmeal and started my steady drip of Orange EFS as I prepped my transition, loaded the bus to the ferry ride out to the waters off Alcatraz.  We were prepped and ready for our 7:30 start only to be herded back inside the ferry to wait as a cruise ship entered the bay 3 hours early.  No one wanted to play chicken with the behemoth and our start was delayed a bit before we lined up along the edge of the boat and the horn sounded and we dove in to the chilly bay.

I did not notice the cold really at all from the bay, I think jumping in the day before was a critical prep and I was able to find my stroke and tried to find space and the feet of the faster swimmers.  After a minute or two we hit some good three-foot swells out of nowhere, I floundered a bit though them and lost the front group. The water flattened out and it was immediately apparent that the swells were the wake from the cruise ship when the rather calm water that followed.  It was slightly choppy but really not bad for the majority of the swim back to Marina Green.  I headed up the second main pack though I don’t know if anyone was on my feet for the majority of the swim.  About five minutes from the beach Sara Groff and another girl were coming up to the right of me, and water got rather rough again as we approached shore and hung on to their feet till we got in a more protective area near the beach.  I bee lined it for the shore as the girls kept swimming toward the arch, course knowledge paid off as I was running much sooner.  I elected to go barefoot for the 2/3 mile run from the water to transition with the new pavement that they laid down; in previous years I had donned shoes for the run so my feet wouldn’t get to beat up.
Getting my 2XU V:2 wetsuit half way off before the long run to transition.
After a rather slow, rough transition I strapped in to my Sidi T3.6 and pursued those headed on the bike.  The big challenge was the wind, I was not used to dealing with it and riding deep-dish wheel for the first time in a few years was a bit unnerving on some of the descents and corners.  The wind was pushing me around and I didn’t want to slow the season or have the season come to an end before it barely began so I played it on the conservative end.  I did not do a great job of getting in my 1st Endurance EFS drink and Liquid Shot on the ride, that is one area that I will really have to improve on in the half ironman’s otherwise I will certainly pay the price later for it.   I did build some confidence on the way back in and entered T2 just a bit down from the group I was chasing.

Escape from Alcatraz SRM File
I slipped on my f-lite 195’s and headed out on the run.  Though the run is mainly on dirt paths, trails and beach, the shoes were a bit thin for the demands of the course and for being the first race of the year.  A better choice would have been the F-lite 230 or the Trailroc 245 or 255 for some added cushioning.  The headwind on the flat was brutal; I didn’t feel like I was going anywhere but thankfully no one was really running away from me either.  I kept steady knowing that this course gets harder as it goes along and built my effort.  As I was headed down to Baker Beach it was a bit of a surprise to see Javier Gomez already half way up the hill after the sand steps.  In the 3 other times I had done this race no one has been off the sand steps when I went by, Javier is truly on a different level than everyone else right now, we all have a lot of catching up to do.  I eventually hit the beach and had another surprise in store that we had to run on the soft sand on the way out to the turn around.  After the turn we could run closer to the water on the hard packed sand on the way back to the sand steps.  I stayed conservative on the steps but really charged hard on the uphill after the steps and slowly began to pull time back from the guys ahead.  I bombed the descent, through the tunnel and down the steps flying past a guy and hit the flat again full speed.  With the aid of the tailwind I felt like I was moving well, pushing as hard as I could trying to reel in Matt Reed.  Another racer had a bit more speed and cruised by me with about a mile to go.  I just managed to hold my position across the line, just as the guy I passed on the stairs had a last second sprint to the line.  I finished 14th Pro and 15th overall which was a bit of a shock as the “relay” runner that I thought had passed me early in the run was actually a 17 year old from Mexico.

Overall it was a nice to blow the pipes out as such an amazing event.  The Escape is one of my favorite races and I was very happy to come back and race it.  It is one of the hardest races out there and I am still a bit sore from the effort.  I will do a bit of evaluation with Derick and see how things played out so that come March 30th things will be dialed for the next race, Ironman 70.3 California.

You can view more pictures on my Facebook Page Branden Rakita

Nitty Gritty Details:
Clothing: 2XU Long Distance Tri Suit 

Swim: 2XU V:2 Westsuit, 2XU Neoprene Cap2XU Comp goggles and 2Toms SportsShield.

Bike: Pro Cycling Specialized Venge, 808's with Zipp Tangente Tubulars with Effetto Mariposa Caffelatex sealant, SRM Rotor 3D+ crank 53-39 Q-Rings, Sidi T3.6, Rudy Project Wingspan helmet and Rudy Project Hypermask Performance.
Bike Nutrition: 1-24oz bottle of First Endurance EFS Orange.

Run: Colorado Running Company Inov-8 F-lite 195 with 2Toms BlisterShield

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