Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Escaping The Rock '16

Gear Ready to Roll
Escape from Alcatraz is the race I say each and every year that I will never do again (sorry Mom). Especially after 2013 when it was moved to March due to the America's Cup and the water was about 53* and had (what I thought) were the biggest waves I've ever swum in and I thought I would have to call a rescue kayak.  Somehow, I end up getting roped into doing it again and this year at least, I had friends joining in the madness so I HAD to do race after I roped them in!

The best thing about this year's Escape for me was that I FINALLY WON an amateur title!  I have won my age groups and been a bride's maid overall at many a race over the past few years, but the overall win has been elusive...last year at Texas, I held the lead until about mile 24, and similarly at Ironman Cabo in 2013.  And this past Sunday, at a race distance that is not my specialty, and a week after racing Honu 70.3, I managed to be the passER and not the passEE and took the lead at around mile 7.5 of the 8 mile run and had to HAUL into the finish.  Need more details?  Keep reading...got enough?  Hope to see you here again soon!

Mark prepping the kayak
I got back from the clear blue waters of Hawaii on Thursday of race week and had to mentally turn it around to start thinking the murk and lurk of the Bay versus the clear water and tropical fish of Kona.  Can you see my sad face?  The one good thing about cold water was that I got to try out my new speedy ROKA Maverick X.  First impression was awesome, SO easy to get on and off and so soft and even easier (if that's possible) to move my shoulders and feel natural in the water.  I get nervous every year about jumping off of that boat and into the frigid waters of the SF Bay.  Sightings of sharks in the bay this year did not help to ease my anxiety!  It was great to have Mark in a kayak in the Bay and friends Kayla and Mark to jump off with.

Waving to the Muscle Milk Crew
The swim was really rough this year and I had to adjust on the fly.  The sighting is normally straight forward (pun intended) and you look to Fort Mason and the strong current of the bay flowing out to sea will normally take you "across the river" and into the swim finish without dong anything other than thinking you are swimming straight.  This year, the tide was going out as usual but the wind was whipping from the West (against the current), creating major chop and no assist "across" the river.  After getting so frustrated with the waves in the bay that I stopped, started breaststroking, and yelled STOP! to the waves (seriously...I was at that point), I realized I wasn't moving across and was going to need to start sighting to the right.  I kept looking for swim patrol kayaks and if I had seen one would have grabbed on.  Mark and a friend were out on a kayak and after we jumped in, I never saw them again.  This swim is always like that...you think, oh there's so many of us, we'll just stay together...and then you realize how wide the swim is and you feel like you're all alone...with sharks!  I just kept swimming and finally hit the exit.  I ended up taking a great line and got really lucky, lots of people ended up under or over-shooting the swim exit and once you overshoot the exit, you have to get out and walk to the finish as the current is just too strong. I saw a time of 39 minutes for the 1.5 mile swim and knew it was rough and was hoping that I had an OK for me swim and that everyone was similarly effected and thus I would still be close to the front pack for the women...but it's always hard to tell .

Pic from Jordan Blanco
I ran the half mile to transition and after getting on my bike kept telling myself that I wasn't going hard enough, it's only an hour ride, and that I had to keep going harder if I wanted to do well and make up any time lost in the swim.  I have always wanted to bike under an hour on this hilly course and finally did it this year!   I always ride my road bike at this race and think for how technical it is, this is the best choice...you barely have time to get in aero and for those moments, I had clip on bars that were perfect!

My "i need a minute face...priceless!
This race also gets tough to tell where you are due to the fact that there are relays.  I ended up going by the assumption of dry hair=relay participant.  Just to confirm though I was absolutely that girl that when I passed or got passed by said dry hair ladies, I asked them...relay?! I hit the turn around on Ocean Beach...ahh sand running, so lovely!  I saw that there was one wet hair girl up ahead...oh man, she is NOT in a relay...up the sand ladder I went as fast as possible and then thankfully, it's time to start running downhill towards the finish.  This is where I can jam and I started to push the pace.  I saw Mark in his normal place along the run where he spectates and he told me there was a girl up ahead.  I didn't see her until we hit the gravel path along the marina and i was catching her, but also was running at a 6:30 pace, which, um, is not my normal race pace ;)  I made the pass with about half a mile to go.  Immediately this gal jumped on my heels and then literally stepped on my heel she was so close to me.  I gave her a LOUD "off!" but she kept quite close.  She wouldn't pass me, so I decided that if she wasn't going to pass, I was going to slow down a bit, collect my self and prep for a sprint to the finish.  I recovered for a minute, she still didn't come around, and then as soon as we hit the turn to the pavement along Chrissy Field, I pulled away and had to run a 6:15 last mile in order to pull out the W.  2nd place crossed the line just 7 seconds back.  I had the fastest amateur run of the day which has NEVER happened before!  I was so excited that I treated myself to a grilled cheese sandwich!
mmmm, grilled cheese with my honey!

35-39 podium and Uggs in June! SF for the WIN!
After the race, I kept thinking about the "what-if's"...what if I hadn't pushed as hard on the bike and run, I certainly wouldn't have won, and what if I would have just put my head down and swim...could I have then put myself in an even better position?  My mental state during the swim was abysmal...I wanted to quit, I was a bit freaked out by the big waves and I swore to myself that I would NEVER do this race again.  I tried a few times to think positively and try to enjoy it, but there was just no enjoyment of that swim.  I think the good thing about the "bad" swim, was that I came out of the water hungry to do what I could to make up for any lost time and that made me push harder than I usually feel capable of.

Next up is Vineman 70.3 for the 11th year in a row...and I'm excited to toe the line with so many friends and Coeur team mates!

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