I actually jumped off a perfectly warm and stable boat into the sf bay yesterday. At 7:03am, after the pro’s launched themselves from the lower deck of the paddlewheel, 1800 people followed suit and dropped into the icy cold pacific ocean 100 meters off the shores of Alcatraz island. Needless to say, this was the “swan song” of tri’s. Cant imagine I will do any more after this…but I said that last summer after finishing up a grueling half iron man in Napa.
After waking up at 3:55am and heading down to the marina green to set up my bike in the transition zone…i realized i was now one of those people from SF i used to mock. Who in their right mind would be up at that hour for such a competition. My friends complained when they had to wake at 7am for a round of golf. As if the wake up time wasnt bad enough….we then boarded a bus at 4:30am yesterday morn…and I really wondered why I compete in these events? Seems to be something missing in my personal or professional life or both? Or was it merely an extension of my competitive nature? Or narcissism playing out in a varied format? Not sure…something to ponder this week while in NYC?
As I sat outside in the pitch black with 1,800 participants at 5am waiting for the boat boarding..each of us lost in our own thoughts…wondering if we would have a tire flat in the race, or if we had enough energy (or moxie) to run the sand stairs, or a myriad of other doubts, questions, concerns that plague one’s mind before a big event such as this, I did smile at the exclusive crowd I was amongst. All a bit manic in their own right…a bit competitive, the need to prove something…a bit loco and all my type of people!
So the first challenge was to actually jump off said mentioned boat. I dont know if people get to the go/no-go decision and their brain over-rides and says “uh huh….oh no you dont”. I lack that common sense switch and jumped into the water with the other folks. Maybe I am a sheep?
The downside of swimming in the bay with rollers and occasional rogue 1-2 foot wave is the impact on breathing while trying to swim! I drank alot of seawater on the 1.5m swim to shore. I wont try to glamorize or memorialize the time I was in the water…but I will say it was one of the coolest things I have ever done. Right up there with helicopter skiing in Georgia (former soviet union….not the peach state). I remember swimming, getting punched pretty hard in the face by another swimmer as he went by (i dont think he did it on purpose or maybe it was cosmic retribution for a bad deed earlier in life?)….but I stopped, looked back at the boat bobbing in the foreground, with Alcatraz island looming right behind it while I re arranged my googles and put them back on my face. I probably had a huge shit eating grin on my face knowing I was in 50 degree water, had an oversized wetsuit on…had 1.4m of swimming ahead of me…a very sore jaw…and couldnt be any happier. What is it about competition that makes an individual feel so alive?
After a 37 minute swim…I actually managed to not overshoot the landing and exited the water gracefully. Despite tingly hands and exposed feet…i ran up the stone stairs from the beach and high-fived my parents and friends as I exited the frigid bay. I ran the .5 miles to transition, then jumped on the bike and raced the other participants for 18 miles up and down the rollers of the hills of SF. The hills of the presidio were not as nasty as the one leading up to Land’s End.
After an energy bar and a goo, followed by copious amounts of gatorade, I was ready to round out the race and head for transition. After circling through the Golden Gate Park and the city’s worst roads (i was deathly afraid of blowing a tire so rode a bit defensively), I made my way back to the Marina Green transition zone (after hitting 40 mph on the road down past the GG bridge). After hitting T2, I laced up the Mizunos and went for a quick 8 mile run. The first part of the run was plagued by an incessant need to pee. I finally stopped about 1 mile into the race and emptied the blatter. I made the decision it was better to waste a minute or two off the course for a break than suffer the cramps that were setting in (couldnt tell if they were due to having to pee….or all the saltwater I consumed on the swim to shore)!
Needless to say, the event was very well organized. The crowds fantastic. I had the family up from San Diego, Scott Connors and Christine Leong in attendance as well as Fred Servais and a few others I have trained with in the past. Cousin Eric managed to use his bike to come find me at various points along the route. Coming out of the chute at the top of the sand stairs..he says I muttered something to the effect “I paid money to do this”!
The race results were a pleasant surprise for this amateur athlete! After 2 hours and 56 minutes (yes, I finished in under three hours and Mr. Eric Homan owes me a dinner in SF)…i completed a tri I had long desired to compete in. Out of 163 people in the 30-34 age bracket, I came in at 84. I was 551 overall. Obviously not breaking any land or open water swim records….but I was aglow all day on Sunday with the notion that I had trained hard for 3-4 months and finished in under 3!
I wonder when the sign ups are for that Iron Man next summer?