Sunday, May 2, 2010

Escape From Alcatraz

This was my 5th consecutive successful escape from Alcatraz.  The conditions were perfect today.  The ebbing current facilitated the swim and the bay was relatively free of chop or waves.  The fog and clouds which are normally present were absent, and the wind didn't pick up until the afternoon.  Before I going into my race report, I want to congratulate Thad Ingersoll and Gabby Keller, who both finished their first Escape today.  Both are fellow Gear West triathletes.

Despite not improving on my 2nd place finish from last year, I was pleased with my race today.  I laid it all on the course.  I swam with the lead group for about a third of the swim, loosing someones feet as we same through the choppy section in the middle of the bay.  However, I still might get a bit of TV coverage out of the swim because I lead the group containing the lead women the rest of the way.  As normal, I was about 2 minutes down to Andy Potts exiting the water.

The technical descents and corners of this bike course are my forte.  I managed to move up to 5th on the bike, passing Chris McCormick on the final downhill to transition.  I wasn't able to produce a bike split on par with my previous best 45:14 in 2007.  Today, I could only manage 46:45, which is still descent, but not going to win me the race.  Looking back to 2004, the next fast time to my best is Craig Walton's 45:45 in 2005.  Anyway, I wasn't in a great position starting the run.  In the past, I've been in 2nd place and only down about 30 seconds down on 1st starting the run.

However, I fought hard on the run today.  For context, here is the layout of this difficult run course: flat 2 mile start on crushed rock, 300 ft of stairs up to Golden Gate Bridge, rolling hiking trails, 300 ft descent on asphalt and gravel, 1 mile beach run, 300 ft up the infamous sand ladder, back through the rolling hiking trails, 300 ft descent, flat 2 miles to the finish on crushed rock.  I was 30 seconds down on 4th place starting the run and 10 seconds up on 6th.  Francesco Godoy of Spain was in 4th, and Chris McCormack was in 6th.  The play by play might get confusing, but here it goes.

Chris caught me about 400m into the run and gapped me before mile 1.  I managed to close the gap shortly after mile 1.  Then, I drafted of Chris for the next half mile as we were running into a headwind.  Leading up to the Golden Gate Bridge stairs, I took the lead as we started to work together because we were catching Francesco in 4th.  I lead up the stairs until we were passing under the Golden Gate Bridge when Chris made a move to drop me.  He worked open a 20 yard gap on me and close on Francesco through the rolling hiking trails over to the top of the sand ladder.  On the descent down to Baker Beach, I closed the gap to Chris as we simultaneous caught Francesco in 4th as th run spilled out onto the beach.

Now, 4th, 5th, and 6th were running together with me leading the charge to catch Andy in third.  The beach run leads you away from the sand ladder to a turn around.  At the turn around, Hunter and Bevan's 1st and 2nd place positions looked secure, and Andy's 3rd place looked like a difficult catch but a possibility.  We continued together until the sand ladder where I tried to separate myself from 5th and 6th and did get a gap, but they both manage to fight back as we ran back through the rolling hiking trail.  We all switched back and forth jocking for position.  Chris tried to control the front leading into the final stairs going down.  He suspected I would try and make a move again, and I did.  I took some risks leaping 5 or 6 steps with oncoming runners coming up the stairs.  I could only get a small gap, which the they closed staring the flat 2 miles to the finish.  I wasn't going to wait for a sprint finish and went to front and pushed the pace as much as I could, hoping to drop someone.  With a mile to go we could see Andy Potts in reach, and Francesco made a move.  I could only follow for 50 yards before Chris came around me too.  I managed to stop the bleeding (growing gap) at about 50 yards, but I couldn't produce any more last minute heroics to reel them in.  Andy managed to hold off Chris who dropped Francesco.  Its was a tight finish from 3rd to 6th; everyone was in the finishing shoot together (Andy 2:02:02, Chris 2:02:08, Francesco 2:02:12, DKT 2:02:35).

In closing, I'm happy with my race.  I didn't sit around and wait.  I played to my strengths. When your ears are ringing and you're defecating blood,  you did all you could that day.

Past Escape from Alcatraz Results:  7th 2006, 6th 2007, 4th 2008, 2nd 2009, 6th 2010
Top 2 fastest bike splits:  45:14 DKT 2008, 45:41 DKT 2007, 45:45 Craig Walton 2005, 45:57 Craig Walton 2004  (according available records online)


  1. Great race report David! The results portion on the Escape website made it a little hard to follow. We had a notepad out comparing splits to see who was in what position. It must have been an exciting finish to watch, let alone race. Congrats!

  2. Nice job David. You always make us proud no matter where you place, and it sounds like Escape was stacked this year! I hope Rev 3 goes well for you, excited to hear how their races go this year.

  3. Great recap! That run sounds disgusting / awesome. Congrats on a hard-fought race!