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Posts tagged “sand ladder

Cold Water, Hills, and Stairs

It is Sunday morning. It is 0300. What am I doing up? Right, in a couple of hours I am going to voluntarily jump off a boat and swim across the San Francisco Bay.



I arrived in transition at about 0415 and it was pretty empty. I was lucky enough to be close to the bike in/out and close to the overhead lights so I could kinda see what I was doing. I felt for the guys at the back with nothing but their iPhone lights for company.

I got on the boat around 0500, opting to not leave it to chance as the boat would leave with or without you at 0630 (they actually left on guy on the dock). I chatted with some fellow racers, grabbed a 15 minute nap, and readied for the start.

The swim start can only be described one way; organized chaos. The gates open, and the swimmer start firing off the boat. 1900 swimmers in 6 minutes. Organized chaos.

Some dude hit me as I was coming to the surface, but it must have been his hand or arm as it didn’t hurt much. I swam towards the left for the first bit to get a feel for the current. I wasn’t as bad as anticipated, so I adjusted my aim to the right heading for the beach. Came out of the water in a perfect position.

The mini run to transition is kinda funny; some opt for shoes and some go barefoot. I was in the latter group. The pavement didn’t suck, I run midfoot anyways, but he tall grass in transition didn’t feel good on the top of the toes as my feet came forward.

The first 2 miles of the bike are flat, and that is it. I am glad that I hammered a lot of hills and intervals throughout the winter and spring sessions as I was one of the stronger climbers around me. It was either up or down, some hills steeper than others, and with a couple of hairpin turns at the bottom of the descents, all my momentum was gone for the next climb.

The view on the bike is exceptional. To a flat lander like myself, being able to ride through The Presidio, Lands End, and Golden Gate Park is not only one of the highlights from the race, but my triathlon career.

Coming home there was a rough patch on Lincoln Hwy and some dude was on the pavement. I didn’t see the crash but it didn’t look good. Felt bad for him a little, but we were warned about taking chances on the downhills.

Just like the bike, the first 2 miles of the run is flat, but that is pretty much it apart from a stretch on beach, but that doesn’t count. Everyone always talks about the sand ladder; a steep stair case that takes you up off of Baker Beach. Yeah, well no one mentions that first stair case. I wasn’t prepared for that one.

The run was good, although my stomach by this point was turning bad; remnants of a stomach flu I picked up the week earlier. I pushed as hard as I could despite the stomach and crossed the finish line strong.

Swim – 2400m – 36:34 – 167/1586
Bike – 29km – 1:00:29 – 279/1586
Sand Ladder – 3:52 – 1035/1586
Run – 12.8km – 1:06:19 – 520/1586

Total – 2:52:13 – 276/1586

A volunteer put my finisher medal around my neck, and at that point I noticed that what I thought was a little irritation from my wetsuit was worse than I thought. Man, it hurt for days.


So the race was a crap load of fun. I was able to swim from Alcatraz, something not many people have the opportunity to do, and I raced to the best of my ability. Sure I could have been a little faster if my stomach wasn’t so messed up, hammered on the bike a little more, or put more time into stairs here in Calgary.

But who cares.

I had a great time, enjoyed myself, and raced in the second coolest town I have ever been to. Sorry San Fran, nothing will beat Calgary in my eyes.