Friday, June 23, 2017

Escape from Alcatraz -- FAILED ATTEMPT

Spoiler alert:  I did not escape from Alcatraz.  The swim was cancelled -- the sea was angry that day. Race officials delayed their decision until the last possible moment, calling off the swim portion of the race and then scrambling to salvage an antic-climactic duathlon to appease the 2000+ disappointed athletes.  In 37 years of its existence,  the swim has never been called off at this event.  But white caps were forming in the Bay, and there was just no way the support watercraft could safely maintain their positions in the water.  Definitely a hard call for the race directors.  But the show must go on.

To the bike/run.  The truth of the matter is I've done this race.  I "escaped" five years ago, attending the race with my husband, daughter and her then fiance.  I came back to San Fran this year with the crew, plus my newest cheerleader who calls me grandma!  'Cause grandmas can conquer that Alcatraz swim too.

Here's the thing -- Escape from Alcatraz has lost some of it's mystique for me.  I felt the entire weekend was one endless "wait in line".   Wait in line for registration.  Wait in line for the race numbers to be applied as temporary tattoos.  Wait in line for the bike pump on race morning(can't fit that on a plane).  Wait in line for the shuttles to get on the ferry.  Wait in line for the boat. Get on the boat, get off the boat, wait in line for the shuttle to get back to Marina Green.  Then wait and wait and wait for the call to start the duathlon.  The du started about 9:30am, near the time that most of the racers would be finishing the original event.  But the individual send off by race numbers meant I had to wait for 1800 athletes to start the race ahead of me.  Keep in mind the winds are gathering momentum throughout the day, so both spectators and cyclists were getting pushed around by the annoyingly strong gusts of continuous wind.

Whine. Whine. Whine.  Does somebody want to call the "whambulance"?  On a positive side, the bike and run were great.  The course is challenging but oh so scenic and beautiful.  The views of the majestic Golden Gate and the twists and turns into Golden Gate Park made up for the terrible morning fiasco.  This year I was ready, I had prepared. First, I did a lot of hill training which helped on the run and especially on the sand ladder.  Second, I took my road bike and left the tri bike at home.  This decision saved me when it came to the windy conditions on the bike.  I would've been all over the road with my deep dish wheels and aero position.  I ended up in the top third of my age group -- and I'll take that.

Will I be back? Eh, not sure.  The racers were guaranteed priority entry in either 2018 or 2019.  I have time to decide.  In the meantime, I'll mull over these pros and cons and get back to you.

Beautiful course (especially for a ROAD BIKE)
Bragging rights for a bucket list event
Great place to spend time before and after race with friends and family
Amazing food/restaurants  *Salt and Straw
Highlights:  Alcatraz Island Tour, Muir Woods, Golden Gate Park and the roaming buffaloes

Race entry (around $750)
Tri Bike Transport (around $350)
AirBnB (over $1000 for three nights)
Pricey food/restaurants
Rental Car (I liked having a car to shuttle back and forth from AirBnB to event, but parking was hard to find and usually cost $$)
The endless lines and waits

My takeaway is that this race needs some serious organizational improvement.  Having racers stand for hours in the sun on the day before an event is not acceptable.  The line to apply the race numbers by volunteers was totally unnecessary.  We all know how to apply a temporary tattoo.  Move those volunteers in other areas to improve the flow of registration.   You've got a good thing with Escape from Alcatraz, WTC, just strive to make it better.  You've got room for improvement.

Here we come, SFO!

Windy welcome and long waits.  Grateful for patient cheerleaders

I'd say about five knots of wind.  Who am I kidding?  Just lots and lots of wind

Admiring the city from Alcatraz Island

Make your reservations for this tour the minute you know you're going to San Francisco.

Definitely a highlight of our weekend, the Muir Woods is spectacular.  Carve out a half day to discover the beauty of the California redwoods.  

Then hug a tree.  

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Que lindo es sonar despierto.
How lovely it is to dream while you are awake.

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