Leading up to the 2nd Annual San Francisco Triathlon at Alcatraz I had been racing and training fairly strong with some solid times and results. After looking over the start list I was pretty confident that if I raced like I did last weekend I was going to secure a top ten finish at this notable race. Securing a victory or even a podium finish never even crossed my mind.
From the start of the race where everyone dove off the ferry next to Alcatraz Island the race played majorly to my benefit. The swim was choppy with a strong head current and even though my entire athletic background is swimming and I was wearing the best wetsuit in triathlon, the Blueseventy Helix, it was still a very challenging swim. In May, when the swim was a tail current, I swam the same 1.5 mile distance in just over 20 minutes - this time my swim split (which was fastest on the day) was 31:06! I think this particular swim took a lot of energy from most of the competitors because our group of 5 (Dustin Mclarty, John Flannagan, John Kenny, and Brian Fleischmann) that had swam all together the majority of the way, had between 2-3 minutes on the next group of elites (Brian Rhodes, John Dhalz, Kyle Leto, Brian Lavelle, Ethan Brown…) and even more of a gap on some of the strongest runners.
This year the race organizers couldn’t get a permit to build a portable stair set out of the harbor, so we had to exit on the opposite side of the St. Francis Yacht Club and run 1,000 meters (freezing and bare-foot) from the swim exit to transition. The run took about 5 minutes and once I got onto the bike I was hoping to ride strong enough throughout the 25 mile, extremely hilly, technically challenging course that I would not get passed by more than 9 people before the run. I ended up riding stronger than I thought and I was only passed by one person; race favorite Brian Fleischmann, who had a little over a minute lead on me off the bike. Even though I had the 11th fastest bike on the day, I am very happy I rode the way I did. I rode my own race, I didn’t go too hard too early and I didn’t destroy myself over the course. I believe because of my fairly conservative ride I was able to get off the bike and run with the freshest legs out of the 22 racing pros.
I had great transitions at this race, the fastest T1 and T2 on the day, so when I started the run I could see Fleischmann on the straight-away right out of transition. At the top of the first hill (which is about 3 miles into the 7 mile run) he only had 30 seconds on me, so I was definitely cutting into his lead and at this point the race victory was a possibility in my mind. The run course is twisty and hilly with a section of soft sand beach running and a giant “sand ladder” (that goes up the side of a cliff back to the road) that most of the pros walk up. It’s seriously BRUTAL, you just think of a happy place for the 2 minutes it takes you to get back to the road.
Just before the sand ladder, Fleischmann made a wrong turn and lost about 20 seconds and a lot of adrenaline, so now he wasn’t just an imaginary target in front of me, I could actually see him right in front of me. When we got down the final stair set and onto the final 2 mile flat section, Fleischmann had 17 seconds on me. I made up those 17 seconds just when we reached the 1 mile to go mark. I ran just behind him for about 100 meters deciding what to do. I was watching how he was running and listening to how he was breathing and decided to attack early and see if I could drop him before the finish instead of waiting for a sprint finish. I went around him and went strong enough so that I could drop him but not so strong I wouldn’t be able to sprint if he was on my feet. I didn’t look back until the final 100 meters and when I looked back I couldn’t even see him. It worked! I looked forward and saw the finish banner (which before this day I had only seen on TV and in my day dreams) and with the fastest run on the day got to jog through the crowd high-fiving people and enjoy my victory.
Thanks so much to Family Cycling Center, SC Skate and Surf Shop, BlueSeventy, Rudy Project, PowerBar, and Run Revolution for all your support. This victory could not have happened without you!