Wednesday, June 4, 2014

My 8th Time at Escape from Alcatraz

I had been looking forward to Escape from Alcatraz 2014 since I failed to make it to the finish line in 2013. Alcatraz is my all time favorite race so having a "blemish" on my record was something that motivated me to return and redeem myself. It may seem like this could add some pressure but it actually kept me calm and allowed me to focus on what was most important--me and MY race. There were definitely plenty of distractions. For example, looking at the start list began to terrify me so I decided to quit looking. No matter how ready I am for a race I usually have a 20-60 minute period sometime during race week when I entertain thoughts of how badly I will be beaten, how I don't belong and just a general feeling of nauseousness and extreme anxiety. However, these feelings pass quickly and I tend to go back to feeling relatively relaxed and ready to execute my plan. I even had notes on the bike course to study since I spent quite a bit of time on the course before the race practicing the descents and other technical aspects of the 18 mile ride. This calmed me down and helped by giving me tasks to complete during the race. That way I did not get too ahead of myself and could stay in the moment.

Race week also included a fun diversion; filming a segment for KPIX 5 in San Francisco about the race. I was filmed riding the bike course, running up the sand ladder and doing some swimming at the Yacht Club. The clip aired for the first time on Friday morning and I think I was more nervous to see how it turned out than I was standing on the boat to start the race.

Taping a segment for KPIX 5 about the race. You can watch it here.
I slept well the night before the race and in fact, when I woke up I don't think I had moved all night. The morning was foggy and cool so I decided to forgo the visor on my new Rudy Project Wing57. I knew it could be even foggier over on the Great Highway and I did not want to risk being blinded with condensation on the visor. It was a bit of a bummer because I think the visor makes the helmet look even more badass!

I got everything set up in T1 and then I boarded the bus to head over to get on the boat. When I was sitting on the bus I got an awful sinking feeling like I had forgotten to do something when I set up my transition. I went over the steps in my head and realized I had put my shoes in transition with the toes facing out instead of the heel so you can just slip them on. I kept reminding myself that I would just have to pick up the shoe and put it on but I was panicked that I would end up putting the right shoe on the left foot so I kept reminding myself "the shoe on the left is for your right foot...DON'T FORGET." 

Swim Start
Photo by Carlos Avila Gonzalez, San Francisco Chronicle
I got on the boat, hit the bathroom, did a short warm up with my stretch cords and pulled my wetsuit on. I decided to use the Roka Maverick Elite (vs. the Pro) for this race because of the cold water. The Elite has a bit of thicker neoprene in a few of the panels so I thought it would help keep me a little warmer without comprising my swimming ability. I also used my Roka neoprene hood with NO chin strap! It is so warm and comfy. 
Diving In
Photo by Carlos Avila Gonzalez, San Francisco Chronicle
We lined up on the boat and I managed NOT to fall in which is my biggest fear when I climb over the railing. We dove off and like usual, the first few hundred yards were a bit frenzied. I got hit, kicked, bumped, dunked and drank an obscene amount of salt water. However, instead of making an escape from the fray by exiting stage right (or left or back) I stayed calm and allowed the storm to pass. Things eventually sorted themselves out and I ended up swimming next to Leanda for the remainder of the swim. I would like to say that I sighted on landmarks on the shore but in reality, I did not look at a thing. I kept the lead boat to the right and followed those around me. It was choppy in the middle and then smoothed back out as we got closer to shore. I took a good line onto the beach and exited the swim just ahead of Leanda.

Making it to the beach.
Photo from
Photo: Rocky Arroyo,
In an effort to build up some body heat I ran from the beach to my bike with my wetsuit pulled up all the way up. I hopped on my bike just behind Leanda and Laura Bennett and went about executing my bike plan. Basically, the plan was all about riding hard, maximizing my effort false flats and rollers and descending strongly.

Mixing it up on the bike.
Photo: Rocky Arroyo,
I felt fairly strong on the bike and rode confidently and most importantly, without giving much thought to the women around me and their previous race results. I always try to remember that we race on the day and not on each other's past results. It would have been easy to get caught up in "well she has done this" chatter in my brain with the list of women on the start line but I ignored those thoughts and just raced. It was definitely fun out there. Surprisingly, I was not too cold either! I taped a plastic bag underneath my top like I did at Oceanside and this helped me stay warm on the descents. I focused on each climb/descent and before I knew it I was making my way down to Crissy Field and into T2. 

I remembered to put my shoes on the correct foot and headed out on the run. The legs were definitely feeling the ride but I felt pretty fairly strong running across Crissy Field. I hit the stairs up to the Golden Gate Bridge and no matter how good you feel these always spike the heart rate and make the legs burn. I steadily made my way up to the highest point on the course and then down to Baker Beach and up the infamous Sand Ladder. Getting to this part of the course is always tough but you know that once you make it to the top it is downhill or flat back to the finish line. Laura passed me just before the sand ladder and when I got onto Crissy Field I could still see her not too far ahead of me. I debated whether or not it was possible to reel her back in and I made a go at it but it became obvious pretty quickly that unless she fell apart (not likely, she is a good runner) I was probably not going to catch her. I kept pushing myself knowing that a best time on the course was a possiblity. I made it to the finish line in 2:25:52 which was a PR for the course and landed me in 7th place. Two years ago I was 4th and while that may look better on paper I think this was one of my strongest results to date. I was in the mix with some very talented women who I probably would not have been able to hang with a few years ago. 

Racing against these ladies is scary but a lot of fun.
Photo: Rocky Arroyo,

My athlete Liz survived her first Escape. Now on to Coeur D'Alene.
Next up is some recovery and then Vineman 70.3. Keeping it fairly local this year---so many good races in my neck of the woods!


  1. Dude, 7th this year is seriously good. You had some crazy competition. Nice job!

  2. Love the combination of skill, endurance, and thought that goes into your race!