I love living near San Francisco because it is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Last Sunday I got to see it in a way very few people have the opportunity to. At 6:30 in the morning I found myself on the bleachers in Aquatic Park pounding a Red Bull as I pulled on my oh-so-snug wetsuit. The location provided me with the perfect view of the island of Alcatraz. That’s right, in one hour I would be boarding the boat that I planned to jump off of into the bay and then swim the mile and a half from Alcatraz back to Aquatic Park. Mind you The Escape from the Rock Triathlon is entirely voluntary.
So the hour rolls by, I’m pretty edgy now as the Red Bull has kicked in and I’m not normally a consumer of caffeine. To make matters worse, the ferry is delayed because some assholes are late and the boat captain is kind enough to re-dock so the three stooges can board. To distract myself I’m eyeing my adorable boyfriend in his oh-so-snug wetsuit till we reach our destination. Feeling so cute I could puke, my man and I hold hands as we jump off the boat into the freezing cold bay and swim a bit to where all the other crazy people are lined up, with the safety kayaks. My hands and feet go numb well before the horn blows, and then my mothers voice pops into my head, reminding me not to get eaten by the Great White Sharks that like to feed on anything that looks like a seal.
The swim leg of a triathlon is usually my strongest but this time, I got my ass kicked. That mile and a half was the most mentally grueling swim I have ever done, EVER. I am not much of an open water swimmer and sea sickness is not something I’ve had to deal with previously. Then there was the view. Breathing to my right, away from the sun afforded me a lovely view of the Golden Gate Bridge, which was pleasant. However as not to get lost, I had to keep looking ahead to the target buoy, which I could only see when I was on top of a swell, and looking back to see how much progress I had made. I could not get away from that fucking island and therefore, I am absolutely positive Alcatraz is inescapable without a wetsuit. On top of all that my boyfriend beat me out of the water. Talk about salt in a wound.
I mentioned that this was a triathlon, so when all that swimming was said and done, I still had 13 miles of biking and 8.5 miles of running to go. I managed to get through the 2.5 miles of running from Aquatic Park to Crissy Field and onto my bike pretty smoothly. I pounded some GU and was feeling pretty good. I was out of the water and just simply wanted to finish this crazy thing I had talked myself into. Unfortunately the bike portion was next and I am a terrible biker. I’ve only been riding for 3 months and don’t have my own road bike. This is particularly degrading in the bike transition area where it seems like everyone else is fucking Lance Armstrong.
The Presidio area of San Fran is like the rest of the city, all hills. So me and my wrong size bike got passed left and right on every hill and around every turn. I managed to hold my own going downhill despite the fact that my rear brake is non-existent. As I rounded the last turn back to the transition area I felt an overwhelming sense of pride that I hadn’t slammed into one of the guard rails (which more than one person had done at full down-hill speed). By this point I had to pee really bad knowing full well the only bathrooms were out of TP.
One unpleasant bathroom stop later I was back out on the course for the last leg of the race, the long run. Did I mention that San Francisco is all hills? My legs were on fire for the entirety of the run portion and then the course turned onto the beach. Running in sand is the most painful thing on the planet and coming up was the Sand Ladder. It is exactly what it sounds like, 200 vertical feet of sand for steps. Ironically, I was incredibly relieved to reach this point in the race because the course was literally all downhill from here. To make myself feel better I started singing “I Will Survive” (“at first I was afraid, I was petrified,” you know the words). I wasn’t singing to myself, I was singing out loud and I’m certain I was offending a number of older men who I was passing at the time. I made it up that stupid sand ladder and down the rest of the hill and to the finish line in 3 hours and 20 minutes. As got my finisher medal and hugged my boyfriend, I could barely stand but I couldn’t stop smiling either.
Thank you Brian, I couldn’t have done that without you.