Escape from Alcatraz 08’

Uphill race report




EFA took place just one week after my first podium of the year at the all woman’s See Jane Run ½ marathon because I run for champagne and chocolate.




I’d been excited about EFA for months as I thought the swim would be a blast.






The weekend of the event I found myself having anxiety and I wasn’t sure why until I was on my way to the afternoon race meeting the Saturday before.


My wife had mentioned that she was worried about me doing the race. She even said she thought I might be killed or even worse, lost!


I realized that my anxiety had come from experiences in the pacific ocean I’d had swimming that were life threatening and I was about to jump into the possibility of chaos. (Think Abalone diving, while an incoming storm produced big waves and the straps on my borrowed fins fell apart.)


For the first time in a tri, I was more worried about the swim than the bike or the run.


I knew the bike would be hilly, but I knew I can handle it. I knew the run would be flat, because I stopped paying attention to the race meeting after they discussed the swim. (queue the ominous music)

The Swim


The swim was cake.




I’m the one wearing two green caps.


Perfect conditions. A wide lane. And unlike most tri’s, 80-90% of the athletes were good enough swimmers that I didn’t have to worry about passing many, few had tracking problems and many gave me good drafts.


The only thing weird about the swim was I didn’t know where I was going. The course description and satellite photos gave me a clue, but still, I wasn’t sure, so I just kept swimming toward the Sutro tower.




I’m the one in the middle


Finally I saw the exit beach, set my course and went there.


And almost got knocked over by a wave on the beach that I couldn’t believe would be there.

Run number one


The interim transition and run to real transition is a neat concept. I’d done that at the Tiburon Sprint Tri, but at that one I didn’t have the luxury of a spare set of shoes and a bag for my wetsuit so I wouldn’t have to run in it.

The Bike



“Hey, take my picture!



“How you doin?”



The bike was about what I expected uphill wise.


Downhill wise, not so much. Every time I’d get some speed going I’d come upon a slower group.


After the race I heard some other guys talking about it as well and I think I figured out the root cause, people were using their brakes too much.




Can you say ‘congestion’? Although, not much in this picture.


And then it happened. I was coming up to the top of the last hill and I saw the leaders running around up there. What the *&%$%&^ were they doing up there? This is a flat course…

The Run


The start and finish of the run are two miles of straight, flat, soft running.



“Clydesdales are moving, I repeat Clydesdales are moving”


I felt good going out, but I couldn’t concentrate, all I could think about was how they were going to make us run up that hill and then back down.


I found out soon enough. Highly congested trails that are at times steep enough to warrant wooden steps.


At the top of the hill I was running along wondering where we would turn around and saw Baker beach down below. I’d read something about running to Baker beach in the course description. The turnaround must be close.


Wait, they aren’t going to make us run down to Baker are they?


That’s about then I saw the trail of runners on the beach.


Oh man they are. After a nice clif shot I was running down a nice trail to Baker.


I was thinking, this won’t be bad to run back up like those steps earlier. Hey wait, how come I haven’t seen anyone come back up? Oh, I’m sure it will be a nice trail like this one after a quick turnaround on the beach.


And then I got to the beach and noticed that it wasn’t a quick turnaround, they were going to make us run down the beach and back. And there wasn’t a lot of hard pack on the beach.


Good thing I often run on that man maid sand in Alameda because it’s always hard packed.


After the turnaround and very scenic views I started wondering how they were going to make us climb back up the hill. I got to what I now know is called the “Ladder” at the same time as another Clydesdale.


We exchanged some comments about how we were no longer trusting that the race officials had our best interest in mind. See, the Ladder is actually a ladder made up of logs tied together with thick wire straight up a steep section of the hill.


Near the top a volunteer said “Good job, you’re almost at the top and then it’s downhill to the finish.”


I turned to my fellow Clydesdale and said “I’m not convinced. I think they might find a way to make us run uphill to the finish.”



On the way home?


A few minutes later, as the slope started down I said “Maybe it is going to be downhill…”


Turns out it was.



What happened up there?


I did okay on the last two flat miles back, but I just didn’t have it in me to put in that last kick.


Not even that much for the crowd, all I could do was look not tired or winded, which would make sense for the pace I was running at.



“Hi finish!”



I went right through the finish to transition to get my cash for the beer garden. I was the guy two fisting IPAs in the A’s hat.


The next two days I felt more beat up and sore then I had a few weeks ago after Wildflower long course.


I still can’t explain that one. Maybe it’s because I knew Wildflower wasn’t flat? Maybe because I expected to go fast at EFA while I just wanted to finish Wildflower and have a good time?


Next time will be different and the Berkeley/Oakland hills and their trails are the perfect environment to make that happen.


Thank you Escape Volunteers! Great Race!