Reflections – Escape from Alcatraz

While generally I would write a race report for an event like this. This particular crossing and course gave me so much insights about life that I have decided to share them.

To give everybody the context; Escape from Alcatraz is a very classic race that is also a unique triathlon. A number of people like myself also do the Alcatraz crossing which involves swimming from the island to either Angel Island or Acquatic Park. I ended up doing the crossing more than 4 times last year (twice in each direction) and also did the course once.

Here is what I learned:

  • Nothing is truly impossible – I decided to cross Alcatraz few years ago while showing my mother the view from the shore. She thought that I was joking. She would be rational to say that – I was barely a swimmer. Having little experience in the pool – and generally not comfortable in the water. Ocean swimming would have been far fetched. Why bother?
  • Your enablers and partners are as important as your effort – while I could take credit for all the effort my self; it would have been just impossible to have done it without having great partners and supporters. My first supporter would be my wife. She would let me drive long distance to downtown (could be 2 hour drive each way taking precious weekend time) to the freezing waters of Acquatic Park. Secondly; I found a great group of swimmers at world swim Alcatraz. They swim every Thursday and Sunday; and Coach Pedro makes this difficult swim look like a walk in the park. I don’t think that I would have known what to do without them – it really helped me focus on the core task at hand. While I would have still probably done the crossings without them. It could have easily taken me couple more years.
  • No step is small as long as you are moving forward – you have heard this saying before. I truly say that come to life for me. From my first 5k to the 1000 yards in the pool to my first ironman race. None of these steps were viable when I first started. However, race by race – mile by mile – I did march forward. There were a lot of moments of struggle in the middle but it was important to put that in perspective and keep moving forward.
  • Self awareness is key – there are so many people along the way that decide to live in a parallel universe creating their own sense of reality and success without realizing what is happening to them. The best example in this race for me to watch some swimmers trying to cross the ocean at the very end. They are not necessarily going anywhere since they are not crossing the tide at the right angle. The irony is that they don’t know this. They put their effort and keep working hard. They would run out of energy quickly and would eventually be picked up by a boat. It is critical as you March towards your eventual goal to know where you are going and if you are making progress towards SUCCESS!

Hope that you will put this crossing and course on your bucket list 🙂

Ironman – Race Report – Full Vineman 2010

I had started getting into triathlons this year; and did a sprint (april), 2 olympics (may, june), 1 half ironman (july 10th) and this would be my 5th race (July 31st).

Since I did not plan last year. This was the best (or really the only) option to do a full distance race before November. It was close enough to drive and looked like very well organized.

Objective

I really made a hybrid plan; it was mainly derived from the 13 hours to 13 hour ironman in the end. The objective was to have fun; finish around 13 hours and learn for the next races. My final time was 13 hours 14 minutes. So I kind of met my goal pretty closely.

Lessons

  • It is a mental race too :- Iron distance does test your mental distance as much as physical. My IT Band was stiff in the middle of the bike ride (and I had a lot of pain because of that in the knee). But I never thought for a second to stop and/or give up.
  • What Plan:- Any plan is a decent plan as long as you stick to it J But you should really add other items like strength training and flexibility to it as well …
  • Nutrition:- Nutrition is more complex that I thought. I had fun on the bike (a very nice ride). But I could not eat anything on the run. I did it drinking cola. Not the best thing in the world L
  • Planning:- I was over prepared and planned. The race was well supported so I could get some nutrition from the stops. I had most of my nutrition on the bike and the fuel belt. (unnecessary load as it proved to be). I stopped and helped 2 people on their bikes. First one had his aero bars loose and was looking for an allen ranch so I stopped and gave it to him. The other one did not have a C02. I really think you gotta at least have couple of these things with you J
  • Experience:- Race experience itself is very valuable. I could spend another year planning or preparing but just going out and doing it tells you a let about your-self and your deficiencies.

 

Race before the race

I could not leave before Thursday and drove all day on Thursday from Seattle to SF. Still had to drive on Friday. Something I really should avoid next time J

Swim (2.4 miles – around an hr)

My best swim ever. My new wetsuit actually fit me well. I have dramatically improved my swim over the last few months. The river is not deep enough so I was not afraid at all.

Bike (112 miles – 7 hours)

 

I started the bike well. But my IT Band got stiff towards the middle of the ride. It hurt really bad for the rest of the ride. Although I have done centuries before. It never happened before. I might need more work on flexibility. Stopped for few people on the bike. But I really enjoyed the venue. Chalk Hill is not really all that bad. This could have been much faster…

Run (26.2 miles – a little over 5 hours)

 

So I am done with the bike and about to start the 3 loop run. My IT Band hurts (really the knee is where I feel the pain but cause is IT Band). I cannot run. But I try anyways.  First mile in 7 minutes and remaining 7 miles in the first loop in 2 hours. I was basically dragging my left foot with the right. A fellow runner had some ibouprofin. I took that and did the second loop in about 1.5 hours. And third in about an hour.

The Venue itself (in case you are considering)

This was the most friendly, well supported triathlon  I did this year. Just amazing. I did some poorly organized triathlons like ocean shores this year and this was 1000 times better.

The venue is also close to SF and a reasonable drive to any place in calif. I combined my vacation with it so it was well worth it J

Race Report – Ocean Shores Ironman – 70.3 Distance

Objective

With the first triathlon season; I progressed from running a sprint to two olympics and then this 70.3 distance race. I wanted to finish and finish strong so I can also gauage my fitness for longer distance events.

Getting there

Getting to Ocean Shores was tricky from Seattle; For some reason there was a lot of traffic on the way which made a 2.5 hour drive into a 4.2 hour drive. We wanted to arrive early on Friday but did not get there untill late night. We got Shilo Inn as our hotel with a ocean front room. Pretty nice room overall. Few hours of sleep and next morning was up there.

Venue

Too much wind; It was mostly westerly wind which made for an interesting venue. In retrospect; I would prefered lighter lower profile rims. The temperature was around mid 60’s. However, the water felt much warmer then that.

Pre-Race

Got there a little late; hurried up to the transition area and was setting up things untill the last minute untill the director called for the final meeting.

Swim

Swim was pretty reasonable for me; I managed to drop my time quite a bit. For most people I would still be considered slow finishing around 44 minutes for the 1.2 mile. However, I did 52 minutes for a 1600 yard swim before in the first olympic so it is quite a bit of improvement for me. I felt comfortable and my goggles did not fogg up (Essentially, I did not use any drops; I just warmed up in my goggles and then took them out and left couple drops of water in them – This worked)

– I do need to improve my bilateral breathing and balance. I could tell that I was going towards right most of the time (I normally breath to the right).

– Need to get more open water practice. I generally have gotten few swims in water. I feel very comfortable now but it takes me a while to get into the rhythum.

– My wetsuit is too loose for me now. I might look into something which is a better fit.

Bike

Overall a strong bike; I managed to stay in Z2 for the most part. Wind was challenging at times (When the road was closer to the shore). I had a minor incident on the road which wasted some time.

– My lower back started hurting after 30 miles or so (on the aero position). So my fit was better but still not perfect. Not to improve my flexibility quite a bit as well.

Run

Run was the strongest part of the race. I finished my fastest half marathon in 1:26. I just turned off my watch and ran for it. I finished well below my target in 5:27.

Nutrition

Nutrition worked well for me. However, I need to understand hot weather nutrition and hydration better.

Lessons Learned

– Swim – Improve more speed; swim more balanced; bilateral breathing; Sight and Navigate better

– Bike – Improve Fit

– Run – You can run faster then you think.

Race Report – Bainbridge Island Half Marathon

Last week; I was thinking about doing a half marathon. I looked around a little bit and turns out there was one going on this weekend in Bainbridge Island. It suddenly caught my attention. The course was nice yet challenging with some elevation gain (Rolling hills and some steep climbs). I also wanted to go do it because I missed the bike ride there this year (Chilly Hilly).

Half Marathon – > 13.1 Miles. I have done over 14 miles few times now so I was not worried about the distance. However, I did not have a specific race plan for this day. My days are usually focused around endurance and not speed so I was not sure where to start and what to keep as a constant pace. A good experience overall; and I am glad I did with bunch of good friends and their support. Here are complete details.

Objective

Finish 13.1 miles in a real race. I know I can do the distance; I can actually do more. But gain a valuable race experience and discover the weaknesses that require work.

Getting There

What a beautiful day! It was lovely outside and I don’t think that I could have picked a better day for this 🙂 I got up around 6’ish and picked up 2 of my good friends who were doing the 5k distance. We get to the ferry terminal in Seattle downtown around 7.30 AM. No stress; no pressure – The ferry leaves at 7.55 (on time) and we are at the island around 8.25 after enjoying some of the nice views of Bainbridge Island.

Race

I left my forerunner at home and took the simple nike plus with me. I have really not worked out the pacing and heart rates yet. I stayed in the first line at the start line and started with the blast. First mile under 7 minutes. Not the smartest idea at all. I was running with the top 3 guys. Soon; people started passing me and I settled down somewhere in the middle. The course looks seemingly benign for the first 3 miles. I decided to cruise in a pace zone which did not feel 2 uncomfortable. I ended up staying in 8 minutes for next couple miles. And then the rolling hills started; I did not take that well and the pace dropped quite a bit.

The whole run felt normal and a reasonably good experience. For pacing; I was on a roller coaster going 1 mile 7; the next at 8 and then 10 and then back to 9’ish. This is something I will need to figure out more by testing and experimentation. Forerunner will probably be a good tool to help practice that.

The last two miles; I really pushed myself and crossed 3 people before the finish line. Mentally, I was thinking to break 2 hours and I did it just be tens of seconds (1:59). This was the best race ever since I also won the stay at a hotel at Bainbridge Island after the drawing at the end (for 2 nights):)

Good day -> Nice Race -> Satisfying results -> No some weaknesses around pacing and nutrition = Mission achieved for the day and the race…

Lessons Learned

* Learn Heart rate zones

* Use forerunner even for the race

* Nike+ is highly unreliable (Was generally off in distance by quite a bit actually)

* Learn to pace at a regular pace

*Master nutrition better (Always have 2 much to eat in these races)…

Until next team – > Enjoy your day and workout!!!

Race Report – Elma Triathlon – First of 2010

I have been training on my cycle, swimming in the pool and running for a while. It was finally time to get myself a real course and challenge. Although I have generally been training Ironman 70.3 distance. A sprint is always a good way to start triathlons.

I picked up Elma because of the location, timing and reviews. I had heard that it is a no pressure, fairly straight forward course. The distances were also very reasonable to begin with so I was not expecting any troubles on the course map.

My first and foremost objective – Finish the first tri and not end up in medic camp anywhere.

First One at the Race 

Getting there – I actually getting up there really early. I was in-fact the first one on the course. A friend of mine was visiting from out of town and I also wanted him to participate in the event. It turned out that Elma had foot races in the morning at 10 am so we decided to show up there by 9.30. That meant that I was really early and ready to go for the tri at 10.30 AM which does not really start until 2 PM.

Weather – It was a really nice day. I was expecting it to be a little colder. However, the weather really did improve and we were seeing 60’s by the time we started the race. Could not have asked for better weather. A day before; I went to Lake Sammamish for a swim and was freezing cold in the water. The water here was still cold but definitely much better than what it could have been at this time of the year (April)

All Happy and comfy in the wetsuit Ready to Go WithMyNutritionBag

Swim – I actually did okay on the swim. I was not relaxed in water and really worried about going in the wrong direction. I kept taking my head of the water (more then necessary). I ended up more like a 10 minutes on a 1/4 mile swim. Not my best time by any means. I should actually be finishing it in less then 7 minutes. But oh well! i did not drown or anything 🙂 More practice in open water for next time. Lap swim practices is much different.

Getting out of the lake 

Bike – I felt good at the bike ride. I passed at least 10 people. Only couple of people passed me. I finished this split in around 37 minutes (13.1 miles). I loved the bike part. I can finally get down in the aero position and stay there for the complete ride. That was pretty cool. The people ahead of me were owners of nicer Cervelo’s and cool aero wheels\helmets. I think that I should give some of those gadgets a try next time. They will definitely help shave down few minutes of time.

Run – I actually did better then my run expected time here. I used to think that I can not run faster then 8 minutes a mile. However, I finished little over 3.1 miles in less then 23 minutes.

Transitions – My transitions suck and I need to work on those a lot more. I did not use any tricks and tips about keeping nutrition taped to the bike and/or rubber banding the shoes. This meant that I was actually spending like 5 minutes in transitions in a 1 hr race. Too much time wasted.

AtTheFinishLine with the medal AleemAndMeFinishLine (Aleem with the 10k Run under his belt)

 

Lessons Learned

– Try an aero helmet and reduce drag where possible

– Work on transitions so it is a painless experience instead of a time waste

– Worry less and relax. The next guy is probably as tired or more tired then me 🙂

– I probably have more nutrition then I need and I can push harder…

 

Overall Good start. I will definitely be doing more triathlons this season. I will post my full plan soon. A finish at 1:14 for a 1/4 mile swim; 13.1 mile Bike and 3.1 mile Run definitely feels good in my book.