I have been wanting to do this race for a while. I signed up in 2012 and got in (its a lottery) but had to turn it down because it ended up being to close to Coeur d’Alene IronMan. Then the race changed its schedule because of the Americas Cup in 2013 so that didn’t work out. I didn’t get in 2014 but now finally got in through the second round of the lottery this year.
I watched the race last year so roughly knew the course. I even ran part of it last year and tried to keep up with winner Andy Potts during the last mile (I ran as fast as I could but didn’t keep up).
Leading up to the race this year I did ride the bike course so I knew what it was like. I also ran the parts of the run course that I wasn’t familiar with. I did not swim the swim course :). It’s not like I would take the tourist ferry out to Alcatraz and then swim back by myself. There are swimming races so there would be opportunities to actually swim from Alcatraz every now and then but haven’t really checked that out.
I set my alarm to 3.20 am on Sunday morning. Had the somewhat usual race day brekkie, bagel with PB and a banana. Coffee obviously. Heated water and mixed some Scratch Labs Cinnamon & Apple in a thermos. I recently read a blog post about this tip to help stay warm during cold water swimming.
No traffic so the drive to Marina Green was a breeze. I was there very early and the reason for that was to get a good spot in the transition area. However when I arrived I realized that transition spots were numbered so I couldn’t choose anyways. This basically means that I could have slept longer.
I did however luck out in some ways. I had a spot all the way at the end of a rack. A bit further to run but the upside is that its really easy to find and I could run in/out on the side of the racks instead of the middle and with that avoid a lot of traffic.
I took my sweet time to set up and tarted sipping some of my hot Scratch Labs drink. The transition area filled up. Lots of people arrived pretty late. I borrowed a pump form a guy sine I forgot mine in the car and also forgot to check my tire pressure. Helped another guy pump his tiers since he couldn’t see what the pressure reader was showing (my thought was “How will this guy see where to swim or bike or run?”).
Got my swimsuit on and an old pair of socks with flamingos on them so I didn’t have to walk barefoot. Brought my 2 swim caps, googles, Picky Bar (Ah, Fudge Nuts) and anti-chafing stick (stuff you put on your neck so that the wetsuit won’t chafe). I made my way out of transition and the line to the shuttle buses was suuper long. I however lucked out and was told by a volunteer that the line for the bus started “here” right when I got out. So instead of having to wait in line for at least 15 min I jumped right on a bus.
The bus took us from Marina Green to Pier 3 where the San Francisco Belle would take us out to the Rock. The ride out doesn’t really take 1 hour but we spent 1 hour on the ferry. It got hot. Very friendly atmosphere all around. I hung out with some people I know from being on team Zoot last year.
when the gun (or horn rather) went off things happened pretty quickly. I was on the bottom level of the ferry so was able to actually get off pretty quickly. For some reason I was way less nervous than I thought I would be. Maybe because it wasn’t my first triathlon, maybe because of the fun conversations on the ferry or maybe because it all went so fast that I just didn’t have time.
I’m jumping at 3:06 in this video. Wearing a dark green swim cap and a wetsuit with some red on it.
Swim: 1.5 (I swam 2.2) 40:10 – 873/1807
I have never been a good swimmer. Leading up to this race I have been swimming a bit more frequently. I am also started to feel very comfortable with bilateral breathing. This should help me swim more straight. However for some reason I wasn’t really able to breath to the left during this swim. The waves came in such a way that breathing to the right was the only way to go for me.
I had no idea where to sight during the swim. Coit tower and Sutro tower had been suggested but the fog was too thick to see them. I had also heard on the boat to aim for Aquatic Park. My problem was I didn’t really know exactly where that was or what that look like from out in the bay. I basically reverted to just following everyone else. After a while I started aiming for what I thought was Ghhirardelli Square and knowing that was basically where Aquatic Park is.
For the most part the swim went well. I didn’t overshoot the exit so was happy about that. After the exit I did a game time decision to not take the wetsuit off immediately (at the swim exit area) and I also did not put on my extra pair of running shoes. I decided to just run the 0.5 miles barefoot and in my wetsuit. I think it as the right decision.
T1 went well. I guess with the exception that I accidentally hit the lap button on my new Garmin XT920 and when I was on the bike I discovered that the watch thought I was in T2. So I hit it again to get it in to the run mode so I at least would have some distance and time information on the display.
Bike: 18 miles – 58:11 – 189/1807
I had decided to bike without socks. Locked the bike shoes into the pedals and started them onto the bike with rubber bands. I’ve done this many times before but never on this bike and never with these shoes. It worked ok. The new shoes were a bit tricker than the old ones to get into while riding but I can probably practice that a bit more to get better.
I started pushing on the bike out of the gate since I knew the first part was really flat. We started climbing and I started passing a lot of people. Most of the bike was really uneventful. The one big problem was that there was a lot of people out there on the course. I think I could have done a better time had there been a bit more room and had people been a bit more spread out. But thats a part of the race and thats a result of me being a slower swimmer.
My QuintanaRoo cd0.1 performed extremely well. I was deciding between that and my road bike but happy with the choice. If nothing else so for the fact that this gave me some race experience on the TT bike.
Run: 8 miles (shortened to 7.3-ish) – 1:00:20 – 333/1807
Back in to T2 and racked the bike. It fell down but I didn’t bother picking it up as it was leaned agains the end of the rack anyways. It felt like T2 went fast even tough I spent time putting on socks since my running shoes has given me blisters before when running without socks. I grabbed my race belt that was loaded up with Gu and headed out. First thing I did was to reset my Garmin so that I would get some accurate running information. Next thing was that I noticed that my number bib was ripped and only attached to my running belt from one corner. This ended up being hugely annoying during the whole run and will probably result in me not fining a single picture of me form the run part of the race or the finish line.
I felt decent during the first part of the run. I had saved some in the tank knowing that the run would be tough. After about 1 mile I met Andy Potts and Eric Lagerstrom running shoulder to shoulder. Eric later won by 2 seconds. I then hit the stairs leading up to the Golden Gate bridge. It got really crowded here. I wanted to run but couldn’t so resorted to just walking fast. When I was going up Merinda “Rinny” Carfrae came running down and she yelled at some people to move out of the way. The volunteers kept telling people going up to stay to the right but for some reason everyone was on the left, not sure why but I just followed.
After the stairs we kept climbing. Got to the top and I still felt pretty good. Got a cheer from Meredith Kessler and then head down the hill and out on the beach. Ran out to the turnaround point but was able to run on the wet packed section so this part wasn’t too bad. Then hit the worst part of the run course, the sand ladder. No one was running here at this point and even if I had some energy left and knew I actually could run it (I tried that already when checking out the course) I decided to walk fast since I figured this would probably help the legs feel a bit more fresh for the remained of the run. When you hit the top of the sand ladder there is a significant amount of climbing to do still. Meredith Kessler again and then down the hill that we ran up earlier. The run course is basically an out-and-back so now we were just running the reversed course back to the finish.
Sand ladder: 2:51 – 201/1807
When I hit the bottom of the stairs that lead up the the Golden Gate I had decided to crank it up a bit. From there its about 2 miles left to the finish. However right at this point is when I stared feeling some pain in my left knee. I know the pain well since its related to some IT-Band (Iliotibial Band) issues I have had in the past. So this prevented me from pushing as hard as I wanted but I think I still was able to hold a bit of a faster pace during this part.
Came in to the finish chute and on to the grass. That was a strange feeling and not in a good way. Powered through and reached the finish in 2:46:20 and place 302/1807 and 56/262 in my age group.
I loved this race. It was really fun and the course is challenging and beautiful. I would definitely recommend it to anyone wanting to do a tough triathlon race. I think I will come back and give it another shot at some point also.