By: Brenda Hammans
This will be my fourth time swimming Alcatraz, and I’m afraid my friends really think I’m crazy. “Certifiably crazy”, is how I’ve been described. But once you do it, and do it again, you find yourself wanting to do it again, but better, and faster. This year, my goal is to do just that….the swim is tough. It’s cold! The last couple of times it’s been choppy. But I continually want to improve my swim time. So, my advice to “newbies” is to make sure they spend plenty of time in cold water (I sat in a bathtub of ice water for weeks before the race….it helps you acclimate), and to put earplugs in BOTH ears!
Sounds crazy, I know, but I have heard of several people who experience vertigo from the chill of the water. If you put earplugs in, the water can’t get to your inner ear, and the vertigo will be avoided. Make sure your goggles are underneath your Triathlon cap (hopefully, you also have an insulated cap under that). Hold your goggles to your face to prevent them from coming off from the jump. Never dive. Jump off the boat scissor-style, and then swim like *#$*&#&$ once you hit that water!!
Honestly, although the bike is amazingly beautiful, and the run is challenging and memorable, it’s the swim that brings me back. To say I swam Alcatraz is a real eye-opening, conversation stopper! People are amazed and frankly, so am I especially when I watch those dreaded You-Tube videos. Just swim like you always swim, and remember to site to be sure you don’t get too far off course. And, more important than anything, enjoy the ride! Take the time to flip over on your back to enjoy the view around you, and really absorb what it is you’re doing at that moment! Priceless!
In every race, I take mental pictures of what I see throughout any of the 3 disciplines, since carrying a camera isn’t much of an option. But there are scenes I will never forget in San Francisco. The Golden Gate Bridge on every breath to the right in the swim, the beautiful homes, the terrain, and the shore on the bike, and Baker Beach, Alcatraz, the Golden Gate bridge, and everything in-between on the run.
You see, if I can do it, anyone can do it. I only learned to swim 2 ½ years ago. Well…you put me in a pool and I’d be fine floating around, but I had never taken swimming lessons when I was a child, and certainly never knew how to swim with goggles, a cap, and all that other nonsense like ear plugs! I had to learn how to swim freestyle (elbow up!), how to breathe correctly, etc. It seemed so much harder than I thought it would, and as I was going through it, I would tell friends that I now know why we teach children to swim at a young age. At the time, I was 44, and I felt like I was twisting and turning things that hadn’t twisted or turned in years!
Here’s how it started…When I moved to Michigan a little over 4 years ago, I knew no one. One morning at the gym where I work out, a group was talking about doing a relay in a local duathlon. They asked if I’d like to do the bike portion of the race, but I told them I couldn’t because I didn’t have a bike. WELL! One girl in the class spoke up, and offered her bike to me, if I would do it. I couldn’t refuse.
Problem is….they never did the relay….they all signed up individually, so I did, as well. I did 3-4 duathlons and realized I really didn’t like to run twice…but I couldn’t swim. That was in November. So, in the cold December winter, I took swimming lessons every Friday night (sounds exciting, eh?!). I did that for 3 months, until I joined the local Y to practice my swimming there. I spent most of my time in what I like to call the “tadpole lane”, huffing and puffing after 25 yards. I never thought it would get any easier, but eventually it did. There was a group of “sharks”, as I liked to call them, in lanes 4 & 5. They all swam very fast, and it just seemed like there were arms and water flying all over when they were there. One day the “sharks” asked if I wanted to join them, and I did.
Today, they are my swim friends, and we swim together 2-3 times per week, or as often as my triathlon coach’s schedule allows.
I love doing triathlons out of state. I’ve done only 2 in the state of Michigan, and all others out of state. Last year, I completed 7 triathlons, all Olympic and half ironman distances. This year, I will complete 8 triathlons, including my first full Ironman in Panama City, Florida on November 5th.
So, traveling to triathlons is how I vacation. I love to find races in neat cities, like San Francisco, go a few days early, experience the people and the place, do the race, and then fly home. It’s become a real hobby (although an expensive one!)
But mostly, I love going out into the city, starting to walk, and doing whatever I want to along the way. To go to a new city, and have no plans is actually very relaxing to me. My work schedule is very demanding in terms of time and travel. It keeps me on the road quite a bit, so the challenge is to get in my necessary workouts on the road. That means joining gyms across the country to have access to pools and treadmills for those cold winter mornings! How do I do it? I have no idea…just do it, and everything should fall into place. Weekends, unfortunately, are taken up mostly in training, and then recovering. It doesn’t lend much to a social life, but I do enjoy what I do.
Entries Tagged as 'Alcatraz'
By: Brenda Hammans
By: Yoko Kasai
I ask myself that all the time. I was a dorky little kid. Pretty un-athletic, chosen dead last for all sports teams in PE, failed my swim test when I was 10. I got into riding my road bicycle, my Pepto pink Trek about 5 years ago when I met my husband. He said that if I didn't start riding, we wouldn't be spending much time together. I fell in love with both my bicycle and husband. However, when he asked me if I liked long and gradual or short and steep hills, I replied "I hate hills of all kinds."
Last year, I met some people who were tri-athletes. They said, "you should try the Vineman Showdown! It's in San Rafael and it's short. You can do it!" And so I did. Then signed up for the Tiburon Triathlon, then ended the year with the Tri for Real in Pleasanton. I was of the mindset that the sprint distances were hard enough and that I could never swim nor run any further than those. Meanwhile, my triathlon friends were signing up for Coeur d'Alene and 1/2 Ironmans. So I made a goal this year of signing up for an Olympic distance and then trying to run a 1/2 marathon. Therefore, I signed up for Alcatraz... after all if I am going to do 1 Olympic in my life, it may as well be an epic one.
Training is tough. I'm a wife, mom of a 9 year old, own a real estate company, and have a wicked streak of laziness. I'm completely undisciplined in every way and routine bores me so training is challenging. Besides, I'm still not comfortable in the water nor have I discovered a love for running. In fact, running is painful; my feet are flat, my toenail always falls off, I have a weird 'kick' in my gait and blister the insides of both of my feet if I ran farther than 4 miles. Those thoughts bring me back to the original question; "WHY?" And why Alcatraz? I'm scared of the Bay... it's cold, dark and there are sharks in there. Every time I drive across the Golden Gate Bridge and see the island, my heart starts to palpitate.
But, what I've realized through doing these sprint triathlons and training with my friends is that it's started this competitive streak in me. While I suffer through the race, I feel great afterwards and get a weird thrill at looking over times and identifying room for improvement. Last weekend I finished the 2011 Tiburon Tri and had a respectable Top 10 finish. My goal at Alcatraz is to finish without dying and I'll look forward to seeing how I do. I know that I have to step up my training plan. I now officially have less than 20 days until the race. eek. Shoot, I should have gotten up this morning to go for a run or swim. Instead, I had a bite of ice cream with my cup of tea. I promise to be more focused starting now.
By: Betsy Davis
Adapting to swimming, especially open water swimming can be a challenge.
I swam a bit as a kid but nothing prepared me for the return to the
pool as an adult, let alone my first open water swim experience. My
first real ocean swim was in preparation for the Triathlon at Pacific
Grove. I remember the fear involved in swimming in the ocean…the cold,
the critters, the kelp. My preparation paid off and I participated in
many triathlons, vowing I would never do Alcatraz.
But somehow, I found myself ready to face the Alcatraz challenge. Nothing prepared me for the absolute exhilaration and sense of accomplishment I felt in completing that first Alcatraz swim…..I couldn’t believe it…me a 40 something mother of three little kids! Doing that first Alcatraz swim made me dig very deep, and walk through some strong fears…the good thing is it caused me to really pray and seek God in a way I might not have otherwise. I was really worried about the jump from the boat, but I found that once I was in the water it was game time. No time to freak out, just time to “get her done”. Like childbirth, there’s no going back now!
At the first pre-race swim clinic I went to, the announcer exhorted us to stop mid-swim/mid-bay and take a look at where we were. I am so glad I took his advice…I stopped and looked at the approaching shoreline of the city and thanked God for the courage to step up and work through my fears. I am SO glad I did.
I really feel that open water swimming has made me a complete swimmer…not just one who circles the pool 3 days a week. As hard as it was adapting to the pool and then the open water my first year off swimming, I would not be the athlete I am, learned what I’ve learned, and be the well rounded athlete and person I am thanks to cross training—swimming in particular. Many people (especially runners) dread the idea of having to swim and will only do so if they have to because of injury. They are missing out on so much by not giving the pool, and the ocean a “Tri”.
By: Abra Cranford
When I lace up my Airmax’s, puffs of dust rise into the sunshine. I
double knot them and take off running. I run to the Edgewood Park
trailhead from my house and start up the mountain. A guy passes me while
heading up the trail when I’m pulled over to adjust my ponytail. Not to
be discouraged, I chase him up the hill for a while. I catch him at the
halfway-up point where he is catching his breath. I feel very pleased
with myself as I run past him and continue up toward the summit…that is
until I see him bypassing the switchbacks I’m on and launching himself
straight up the spine of the hill. I make a mental note to try that
sometime. On my way down, I see a high school (or college? They all look
so young to me now) track team take off down a different trail. I know
I’m in the right place to train for a race.
To train for Alcatraz, I decided to focus on cross training and running. There are just not enough hours in the day for me to swim, bike, run plus, cross train. For me, the run portion is the most difficult part of a tri since my legs feel like bricks and I’m tired, so very, very tired. If I can just get those running legs up to par, maybe the last few miles will come a little easier? (Please?) The funny thing is, I’ve been running at Edgewood Park for 2 years now, and I’ve only just recently been able to continuously run the grueling 2 miles of uphill. For this I thank my cross training. Thank you cross-training!!
For the last few weeks my schedule has gone something like this:
Monday: Run or if I raced Sunday, rest. Or maybe still run. Depends on how hard the race was. I should not have admitted that.
Tuesday: Sculpt class. I think I should explain this class. It sounds like a lot of ladies with 1lb weights and yoga mats but be warned, there has been more than one occasion I’ve been close to tears in this class, but I was sweating so hard, no one would have noticed anyway.
Wednesday: TRX Boot Camp. Excellent interval training. It’s a strength set followed by cardio, strength, cardio, strength, cardio. You get the picture.
Friday: Swim then run.
Saturday: Long bike ride (or rest if I have a race)
Sunday: Rest or Race Day
So you can see my swimming/biking is a little lax these days while I
dedicate two days to strength training. I do bike an easy 10 miles to
work sometimes so my legs don’t forget how to ride but thanks to my
cross training, my legs are the strongest they’ve ever been and my
arms/shoulders are not too shabby either. Let’s hope they get me through
the bay, over those hills and up that sand ladder (eek)!
I always used to think it was stupid to skip a run in favor of squats, lunges and push ups. If I wanted to be better at running, the only way to get there is to run more, right? Wrong. Turns out my running strength (and biking too) has drastically improved, even though I only run a couple days a week. Being able to charge up a mountain that I used to have to power hike is proof enough for me!
When I signed up for the Alcatraz triathlon, I knew it was going to require me to be stronger, mentally and physically, than any other race to date. Race Day is approaching fast and if I’m not prepared, it will be my own darn fault. So I lace up my Airmax’s in a puff of dust and take off.
By: David Sinclair
The Triathlon season is full tilt now. Some of us have already completed some "A" races and there is still a load of top-notch races this summer. Tri-Cal still has the meat and potatoes of the race season coming up. If you haven't competed at one of the Alcatraz races, Pacific Grove or Tinley's there is still slots for these great races.
To prepare for these events Tri- Cal will be supporting a free training Clinic in Cayucos CA. on August 14th. This event will be the Inaugural Cayucos-Multisport Olympic Distance training Clinic. This Clinic will entail two swim loops around the Cayucos pier and a 26-mile out and back bike course to Cambria and a 10k run up Cayucos Canyon and finish at the Beach pier. For those training for a sprint distance you can cut the distances in half. There will be added challenges in the transitions and the course will be supported with all the great nutrition and hydration products that are on all the Tri-Cal race courses.
The swim support will be provided by local surf shop GOODCLEANFUNUSA.COM. Go to their web site for the up to date weather and surf reports. If your training for a longer distance, on Saturday the 13th, there will be an open, self-supported 80 mile bike ride up Highway 1 to Ragged Point—one of the most beautiful routes anywhere. Be sure to sign up early as these events will fill up quickly.
You can always count on the best produced and race proven events.