THE ESCAPE FROM ALCATRAZ TRIATHLON 2016
THE RACE AT A GLANCE
THE SWIM: 1.5 Miles in the San Francisco Bay
The 1st Transition: 1/2 Mile running
THE BIKE: 18 Miles of hills
The 2nd Transition
THE RUN: 8 Miles + a sand ladder
The FINISH LINE!
But first a little back story…
It all started after an 18-Mile Warm Up race in NYC (I know, I already sound like a mental person). Makiko, Dave, and I decided to grab some lunch after our rigorous long run. Sitting in the Whole Foods cafeteria, Makiko, expressed her concern about running her first marathon. I asked if she had done any other long races. I myself had finished two NYC marathons at this point in time, and wanted to offer moral support or any advice I could provide that would help her feel more at ease for the race that was coming up. She told me she finished a little race known as the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon. There was running, biking, and swimming in the San Francisco Bay!! Say What?! I told her she would be perfectly fine for the marathon, but thought to myself that maybe my friend was slightly insane!
But lo and behold, Makiko planted a little seed in my brain. I was in awe of her accomplishment. One day, I went to the website for that crazy race. Don’t ask me what compelled me to do it. I’m still trying to figure that one out myself! haha And what did I do when I got online? I signed up for the dang lottery to get in the race!
If you know me, you know I LOVE any type of drawing! Tell me there is a raffle at your party, I will be there! Even the one where the prize is literally hours of torture! 😉
My name was in the hat! A few weeks later, I received an email stating that I had in fact WON a golden ticket to Escape from Alcatraz! I felt like the luckiest person in California on that day! I contemplated signing up. There was a hefty $800 registration fee. I asked family and friends to donate to my entry fee for birthday and Christmas presents, and I paid for the rest. Because when you win a lottery, you have to claim your prize!
Literally, the day after I signed up, someone sent me this link of a great white feeding at Alcatraz. It was too late to get my money back. I was in it to win it…well to finish it at least and hopefully with all my body parts intact!
Even though I knew in October that the race was on June 12th, I didn’t start training until May. Whoops! I tend to wait until the last minute for things. (Come back soon to see a post about what I do to train)
Okay, we are finally to the juicy part…Race Weekend!
To prepare for the 6 hour drive from Los Angeles to San Francisco, I purchased a cool bike rack. It folds up and is easy to install. Although, it is probably safe on its own, I added extra support with jumper chords for peace of mind. You can also rent a great bike at local bike shops in the city you’re racing in if you don’t want to ship your bike or travel with it. It usually costs around $400-$500 to ship your bike based on what I looked up if you’re not driving your bike.
I obviously had to visit the Alcatraz Prison before the race. I highly recommend doing that if you have time. It wasn’t the most exciting place in the world, but it felt like a necessary race stop. It made me feel like a real bandit for competing in the race! haha
We had an extremely early call time for the race. I think our bikes had to be checked from 4:00-6:00am, and we had to be on the shuttle bus to get to the ferry by 6:30am. The ferry left at 6:30am on the dot. Do NOT be late for this ferry if you compete in this race. They will leave yo a$$!
The night before the race I took a bath, shaved my legs (TMI? I find it therapeutic! lol), laid out my race clothes, and went through my checklist of the things I would need for race day. I ended up going to bed around 1:00am and woke up at 4:00am. I repeat 4:00AM.
I wanted to check my bike in early because it was my first time racing, and I didn’t want to be rushing to the start line like I am for every other race I’ve ever competed in. This time, I was prepared and early! My bike was set up by 5:30am! Yay for being on time!
There were a lot of people riding their bikes to the start line, but mine hitched a ride. In an SUV. A warm cozy SUV. I wasn’t trying to bike in the dark in a new city y’all! I wore a pullover and pants over my tri suit. I don’t like to be cold, but I ditched them before I got on the ferry. We were given clear bags we could check at the ferry.
When I got to Marina Green, I found the number spot assigned to me and parked Sally. Then I set up my little towel. I had my hair brush (because have you ever tried to brush your hair after swimming in the ocean then getting blasted by the wind? It hurts!), conditioning spray for my hair (I care about my hair okay?!), sunscreen, Glide (it helps with chaffing), a drying towel, socks, running shoes, bike shoes, running bib, gels, water, helmet, and sunglasses. Did I forget to mention I had my own store at the race? Lol I brought a lot of stuff, but I wanted to be safe instead of sorry for my first triathlon.
At the Sports Basement, the sporting goods store I rented my wetsuit from, the guy helping me (I think his name was Alex) told me to use PAM cooking spray for the wetsuit application. lol Apparently, it is a great lubricant for getting the wetsuit on and off easier and is a cheaper alternative to Glide. I purchased some, but I couldn’t bring myself to greasing up like I was food. lol I used Glide instead all over under my wetsuit.
The PAM I bought has helped me cook some eggs and cupcakes though. Lol I wore swimming socks, a trisuit, two swim caps, wax ear plugs, my Garmin watch, the race timing chip band around my ankle, goggles, and wrapped an extra pair of goggles around my ankle in the event I lost mine along the way.
The bus ride was really short. I recommend using the restroom BEFORE you get on the ferry. They had restrooms on the boat, but it was hard to get out of my wetsuit! Lol
We were on the boat for what seemed like an eternity. I think it was about an hour real time. It was a hurry up and wait situation. I’m use to that in my line of work. So I was relaxed and excited at the same time! I met some fellow Escapees and had a great time chatting away! I’m long winded you know!
There were several people that couldn’t believe I had chosen this race to be my FIRST! You could tell they thought I was cray cray! haha
Before I knew it, people were jumping overboard on purpose! Haha It was time to take the plunge into 62 degree water, with the sharks, sea lions, the current, and two thousand other competitors for the 1.5 mile swim!
WATCH THIS VIDEO from the Escape from Alcatraz website. There is terrifying music, and it gives you a better view of what the swim portion looks like. I could not take pictures from the boat or in the water. I thought about bringing my GoPro, but I decided that would be silly for my first time. Maybe for the next EFA! 😉
The pros dove off the ferry to start the race. The rest of us were required to jumped off feet first. I was totally okay with that. We had one hour to complete the swim. For this particular race, you are not disqualified for not finishing the race within the one hour cutoff. There are other races where you will be disqualified for not meeting the cutoff. Make sure to look for that when you sign up for your next triathlon!
When I initially hit the water, I was surprised by how warm the water was. I thought it was going to feel like ice. The wetsuit and swim socks were life savers!
I swam as hard and as fast as I could! Which by the way, WAS NOT very fast. lol My head was above the water. My body was straight up (Not the position it should have been in). I’m sure I was aggressively flailing my arms looking like I was about to drown! The waves were big and the currents were strong. My heart was beating so fast, and I had a hard time catching my breath. Everything I knew, went out the window! I was panicking. I’ve never panicked in a race before, not even in real life situations where I should have been freaked out.
An idea popped into my head! The same guy that helped me with my wetsuit, told me to lay on my back when I needed to catch my breath and to take in Alcatraz. To enjoy it for a moment.
I did just that for about two seconds before I swallowed about a gallon of nice clean bay water and almost threw up! Some guy rode up in his kayak to ask if I was okay. That’s how bad it was. #epicfail #ihadmymoment
It was much easier to put my head down and attempt to swim like a normal competitive swimmer would. By the way, I did not turn over on my back again.
They had a strict one hour cut off time for the swim. I’m a runner, not a swimmer. Have I mentioned that before? The most swimming I have done was in high school. Also, I had an ear infection for 3 weeks before the race and couldn’t get into a pool. I knew I wouldn’t make the cutoff time.
The pros finished the race 10 minutes slower than what they were expected to. The current was that strong. Heck, if the Olympians were having a slow day, you know you’re in trouble!
It was like I was on a treadmill in the water. I was trying to spot the shore thinking I’d be getting closer, but I’m not sure I moved. They talked about spotting different buildings to locate where you were and to avoid getting stuck in the “river”. Yeah, all that went flying out the window. I was just trying to avoid drowning!
I prayed for a shark to come get me at one point. Then I heard a little voice in my head go off…JUST KEEP SWIMMING…JUST KEEP SWIMMING!!! Shout out to Dory! So I did. (I also, repeated “Just Keep Swimming” in my head for the majority of the swim portion! lol) For 55 minutes to be exact before…
I caught a water taxi aka a volunteer police officer driving his magical jet ski! I told him I only needed to rest for a moment, but he told me to hop on. Thank you Mr. Police Officer for being assertive and for telling me to do that! Oh, and for the ride! haha You were my hero in that moment! He dropped us off closer to the shore, but not close enough. I swam for another 5 minutes before I hailed another taxi begging them to get me closer. I was spent!
Let me tell you, I had no shame. NO. SHAME. I swam for the allotted hour I told myself I would. You should never be ashamed to admit when you need help. I gladly admitted I needed the assistance.
Note to self: get in the pool more than three times before you decide to jump into the ocean full of creatures and currents.
The volunteers were absolutely WONDERFUL!!! They helped me walk up the stairs to the transition area, and one lady helped me take off my wetsuit. We couldn’t get it off for a second because of the goggles I had wrapped around my ankle and forgotten about. She was the sweetest and kindest person for helping me! HUGE shout out!!
The transition is a great time to eat a gel and to warm up your legs after the cold swim.
We had bags we checked the day before with the stuff we would need for the transition. I packed my old running shoes and some socks. I put the wetsuit in my empty bag for pickup after the race. Then I took off!
A lot of people ran with no shoes or socks. No. Just no. I always like to have shoes and socks on, even in my house! I’ve got tender feet! If you can run barefoot, you’re a maniac, and I love you! I will not be joining you though!
When I got to my bike, I brushed my hair and pulled it back into a bun, dried off a little more, applied sunscreen, ate a bar, attached my race bib, then put on my helmet before mounting the bike. You can get in BIG trouble for not having your helmet on! Make sure you put it on ASAP to avoid forgetting it and getting a penalty!
The biking portion was 18 miles of riding up and down hills! It was my second favorite portion behind the swimming. I wore the clip in shoes, and I practiced getting on and off the bike with them as much as I could. I would highly recommend doing that somewhere flat and to take your time!
My biggest fear before the race was about the biking. Crashing was the biggest concern. I had not rode in a group of bikers before. I kept a safe distance from everyone, and I felt very comfortable on the bike throughout.
I was nervous about wearing the tri suit. I bought it the day before the race, which is a big no no! It was sooooo comfortable though! It felt like I was naked! I had to look down a few times to make sure I wasn’t! lol
The tri suits are unique because they are designed for all the components of a triathlon. They dry quickly after your swim and fit comfortably under a wetsuit if you need to wear one. There is a padded part in the seat region called the chamois. I don’t know how to pronounce that. Just know it adds comfort for your Queen and King! hahaha The suit is also comfortable for the run. My suit didn’t have any elastic around the legs, but my shorts did not ride up at any point of the race.
I found it difficult to eat gels during the bike ride. I’m need to figure out a better way to do that for the next race. I think a gel holder near my handle bars would do the trick.
I passed a few people going up the hills. Going to thank my running legs for that! I didn’t get to do very many hill workouts on the bike before the race.
The bike portion went a lot faster than I thought it would at 1:33:41. I was nervous I was going to finish closer to the two hour cut off. It was finally time for the portion I was the most comfortable with: the run! I put on my fanny pack with my gels and lip gloss and grabbed my water bottle to take off on the run!
Little tip: I always run with Victoria’s Secret lip gloss to keep my mouth from getting dry. I’ve tried other lip products, but VS works the best for me.
My phone is always zipped up in my water bottle case, and I took multiple pictures and videos along the way. Snapchat is one of my favorite apps! You can follow me at: bowmanbs. If you have the app, you can hover over my picture and it will add me to your contacts. I post A LOT on there! It’s so much fun to use the filters!
I snapped throughout the running portion. People couldn’t believe it! lol It wasn’t like I was going to win the race, and I wanted some pictures to share with everyone! I enjoy going on other people’s journeys and wanted to take them on mine!
It also makes me feel safer knowing I have a way to communicate if an emergency arises. On that note, I usually pack my photo id, a credit card, a $10 bill, and pepper spray on my runs. Call my paranoid, but I like to come prepared. The $10 comes in handy when you need to buy a drink from a drink stand that doesn’t accept credit cards. Learned the hard way on a very hot day.
The notorious Sand Ladder!! It was fun! I enjoyed it! I liked that we were done with the beach running! Running on sand is not great for my chins.
The finish line is always bitter sweet. All the months of planning and training for one event, and it is all over so fast! After big races, I tend to go into a mild state of depression. Which is when I sign up for another race. lol It is also why I am going to compete in the Ironman 70.3 Austin race October 30th in Texas and the New York City Marathon the weekend after that on November 6th in New York.
An Ironman 70.3 consists of a 1.2 mile swim, a 56 mile bike ride, and a 13.1 half marathon run. A marathon is 26.2 miles. A full Ironman is 2.4 miles swimming, 112 miles biking, and 26.2 miles running.
Look out for more blog posts about those races! My goal is to finish a full Ironman race in 2017! I wish the name was IronPEOPLE though or something that included everyone. Just sayin! I also realize my last name has man in it, but you know what I’m trying to say here right?! 😉
They had awesome post race activities that helped me get over my sadness quickly! haha Like food, massages, and free medal engraving!
There was a medal engraving tent that engraved our medals for FREE! It took about 5 minutes to have it done right there in front of you! So cool! I wish the NYC Marathon had this option! HINT HINT if you are reading NYRR!
MASSAGE HEAVEN!!!!! They offered free 10 minute massages to race participants. Make sure to tip if you ever have this opportunity at a race. People need to be compensated for touching your sweaty stanky body! haha
One tip if you are going to swim in a wetsuit. Make sure to apply Glide or PAM at the base of your swim cap and at the top under your wetsuit to avoid chaffing like I encountered. You live and you learn. This picture was taken the morning after the race. Those red marks are NOT hickeys! They are from skin rubbing against rubber! OUCH!!!
A HUGE THANK YOU TO ALL THE RACE VOLUNTEERS FOR A SAFE AND FUN RACE!! AND TO MY FAMILY AND FRIENDS FOR THE LOVE AND ENCOURAGEMENT ALONG THE WAY!
I did it! I Escaped from Alcatraz! You can too!
The 2nd drawing for 2017’s race is up! Here is the link.
I’ve entered again, because just like my friend Makiko, I’m a little insane in the membrane! 🙂 UPDATE: I received my 2nd Golden Ticket this week for the 2017 race!! Should I sign up for next year’s race?!?
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my small novel. Do you have any races coming up? Do you have any questions about the race, gear, training, etc.? Or would you like to see any posts on particular race topics?
Do you have any advice for me? I’ll gladly take it! haha
Just let me know in the comments! And follow me on social media for more updates about races and other fun stuff! Click on the icons at the bottom of the post! The digital love is always appreciated!
Wanna race together? Let’s make it happen!
Until next time!