6 days are what separate me from my biggest race this year and an experience of a lifetime. The swim from Alcatraz Island to land and the bike/run through the San Francisco streets will not be easy, but it's a dream race for me and something I've been looking forward to for almost one year. Many have asked me, "Are you ready?" Read below to find out.
Am I Ready...Mentally?
YES. This race has been on my mind since November 2015, when I took a chance and was one of the lucky 2000 participants chosen in a lottery drawing for the triathlon. Since then, I've trained hard and have done my research. The entire race will be challenging, but the swim is the most daunting for me. It will be the longest distance I've swam in a race, along with the toughest conditions (cold temps and currents). However, with the swim training and few races I've done so far this year, my fear of the unknown has been turning into excitement of the unknown. As long as my mind is in the right place, I know that I can achieve anything.
Am I ready...Physically?
YES. Follow up question: Do I feel that I can be in much better condition for this race? Yes. 2016 has been a pretty busy year for me with work, training, travelling, and just life in general. I wish I could've put in more hill training. I've been to San Francisco a handful of times, and I've seen those steep streets. I raced Haines City 70.3 last year with some steep climbs, but nothing I've cycled so far comes close to the technical and challenging streets of SF. As with training for any triathlon in general, it takes careful time management and planning to equally train for the swim, bike, AND run. What happens, at least for me, is that I train for all three but end up putting extra focus on one part. For this race, that one part is the swim.
The 1.5 Mile Swim
I'm pretty happy with my training for the swim. I started the year off doing some open water practice swims and races and have been consistent in my pool sessions as well. I even jumped into my apartment complex's pool a couple times when the temps dropped to below 60 degrees, just to feel the cold water shock. I would've liked to get in more ocean swims, with preferably strong currents and cold water, but I did what my schedule (and Florida weather) allowed. To start the race, we jump off a boat by Alcatraz Island. I already know the cold water shock is going to be like nothing I've ever experienced. My body is going to freak out but I need to remember to control my breathing, stay calm, and swim like I always do in training. Every time I've been out in the open water, I've gained a bit more experience that has become ingrained into my mind for future usage. That experience is what will get me across the bay.
The 18 Mile Bike
I've placed a lot of emphasis on how challenging the swim will be for me, but I'm in no way discounting the rest of the course. I'm pretty certain that the bike will be, if not as challenging as the swim, even more difficult. I've cycled 56 miles in both half-ironman races that I've completed, so the distance isn't a factor. It's the steep hill climbs, descents, and sharp turns...these are all extremely contrasting conditions to the flat and round cycling loop at Flatwoods Park that I frequent in Tampa. Since I haven't put in as much cycle training as I've wanted to and I'll be on foreign terrain, I'm going to be extra careful throughout the bike course.
The 8 Mile Run
I like to see myself as a runner. I'm not a natural born runner and certainly not the fastest, but I do feel more "in my element" while running than when I'm swimming or cycling, thanks to my background in cross country (shout out to ACND XC)! As I completed my first full marathon back in January (the Disney Marathon!), I don't see the 8 mile distance as a challenge; the challenge will be the hills and "sand ladders" that we'll have to traverse. In my opinion, the run is the toughest part of a triathlon. You've swam and biked hard and then you have to run on legs that feel like jello. The heat comes out and exhaustion starts to settle in. Even if you still have energy, you need to be smart and not expend too much or else you'll "hit a wall" before you even finish. Armed with my extensive running experience, I'll be ready for whatever the run course brings.
Will I Escape?
Triathlons...they're so much more than a race. For starters, they're goals that I set for myself to conquer. They push me to my limits, keep me disciplined, and hungry for continuous improvement not only in racing, but also in life.
This race is a big deal to me. When I was just a kid, maybe 7 years old, I remember staring out at Alcatraz and its mysterious aura. There was something about that dang rock that caught my attention and held it. Fast forward to 2 years ago when I first learned about the race, I dreamed: "Wouldn't that be insanely cool if I did that triathlon one day..."
Well, here we are now. This race is about taking a dream and making it a reality. It's about facing a fear and conquering it. It's about setting a goal...and crushing it. I know that Escape from Alcatraz is going to test me unlike anything before. But this is what I do. I swim, I bike, I run, and I have the most fun doing it. Will I make the escape? We'll see in 6 days.