Escaping Alcatraz

Escape from Alcatraz is one of the most iconic races out there. There are very few that have more history, or that have been running as long. So when I put this race on my schedule at the beginning of the year, I was honored and excited to be a part of the short list of pros racing. My prep going into it was a little different, as I was just coming off a break after Yokohama, but it fit in really well for the type of training I am currently doing. I am right in the middle of a strength/endurance block, and this race is all about strength!

There were a lot of unknowns in this race for me. I had not raced a non-draft race in a couple years, and basically the entire course was brand new to me. However, I loved that it is always described as epic, and could not wait to jump off the boat. It was also much more laid back than I am used to. I got to experience a dinner cruise, a very chill pre-race briefing, and a much more relaxed time schedule. It was a little weird at first, but I enjoyed not being restricted by a whole bunch of rules, and just got ready to bury myself on Sunday.

The morning of was way different than any race I have done this year. I found myself waking up before 4am and then getting to transition very early. I finished warming up pretty quick (I should not have even bothered because then I sat around for a couple hours), and hopped on a bus to go to the ferry that we would eventually jump off. I am usually early to everything, but I was a bit more nervous about all of the moving parts before getting on the ferry, and I ended up arriving super early. I then just killed time with various people on the boat, but definitely did not need to rush as much as I did.

The start of this race is so unique. The ferry takes everyone out to Alcatraz Island, and then we all hop over the side of the boat, and dive off once the horn sounds. I did not realize how high up the side of the boat was until I got up to the rail, and caught myself thinking “I have to dive off that?” It is one of the higher ledges I have had to dive off in a race, and I apparently do not really like heights. I was able to dive off no problem, but I did hesitate a bit at the start. This ended up working out perfectly because I dove directly onto Tommy Zaferes’s feet. Then Cam Dye, Joe Maloy, and Eric Lagerstrom slotted in behind me. While the sky was clear, there was a nasty wind blowing that was kicking up a lot of surf. The water was some of the roughest I have ever swum in. The currents were also a weird this year. They try to send us off around an hour and a half past high tide so that the current helps us, but I overheard someone after the race saying that they talked with the captain of the boat and their instruments were telling them that there was still water coming into the bay an hour and a half after high tide. This made the “fast” line from last year an unfavorable one, and a few of the guys ended up over shooting the beach. The group I was in ended up being fastest. Tommy did a fantastic job of navigating. I only looked up a handful of times to see if we were getting close. Otherwise, I was just trying to hold his feet and keep from getting man handled by the swells.

After finally reaching the swim exit, I began the long run to transition. It is about half a mile or so, and I chose to do it barefoot. Tommy and Joe put shoes on ,and I took that time to catch my breath a bit. Then Joe came flying by, and I just tried to hold on for the ride. I got through T1 alright and was first onto the bike. Again, I caught my breath and waited until Cam decided it was time to ride.

I held on the best I could through the hilly bike course. It really holds your attention well because you are either grinding up a climb, or you are bombing a decent. The other times, you are just trying to get as aero as possible, drink, and save up for the next nasty climb, or winding descent. This course really has it all, and is super fun to ride. I was able to hang with Cam for a little bit, but slowly he started to pull away. I tried to gauge my effort well and make sure to ride hard, but not so much I would blow up. Cam really threw the hammer down though, and he opened up a sizeable gap before transition.  A few highlights from my ride were an avg power of 320w an NP of 340w and a top speed of 47mph.

I came into T2 with about a 40 second deficit to Cam and around 1:30 to 2 min on Joe. I thought that I had set myself up perfectly. I was right where I wanted to be. I set out onto the run course at a pretty conservative pace, but felt strong and I was looking to build into the run anyway. I did not get a chance to really run any of the challenging parts, and my main goal for the run was to not blow up. To make a long story short, I did build into the run, but started off way too slow and got a bit stuck in that pace. I never really closed on Cam, and Joe caught me soon after the sand ladder (about mile five and probably the worst two minutes in any race…actually this whole course is like someone was trying to figure out what the most torturous route would be). I frankly did not have much juice left. Joe slowly opened the gap over the next couple miles, and I just kept running strong in third.

I am extremely happy with 3rd place for my debut at Escape from Alcatraz, although I am a little frustrated that I gave up a prime opportunity. I feel my run split does not really reflect my fitness or what I am capable of, but sometimes that is racing. I made a decision to race the way I did, and I ended up on the podium. I am hoping next year I can go back and attempt to seal the deal! Joe and Cam were just better than me this past weekend, and I have a lot of respect for how they raced.

Thanks again to all of my sponsors, especially to Trek. The paint job on my speed concept is amazing. I am loving the red white and blue! Check out my Sponsors page for more of the great companies and people that let me travel around jumping into shark infested waters, bomb some descents, and climb ladders of sand. More blogs should be coming soon as I race MLT Sarasota and start my big build toward Rio!