By: Brice Winkler
This year's edition of Tri Cal's Triathlon at Alcatraz proved to be especially difficult due to the increased chop and unfavorable current. The night before the race I was admittedly not too concerned about the water conditions, but my dad gave me some great advice anyway: "If things aren't optimal out there, just chill out and be okay with the fact that it might take you an hour to swim to shore." An hour? I was thinking more like 26 minutes like many of my other 1.2 mile swims.
However, the morning of the race, as I walked down the side of the boat with the other 27 cold pros and looked out at the bay, I knew that remembering to stay calm was going to serve me very well. After diving off, I began my relentless battle through the tossing ocean, and at least half of my sightings to shore were blocked by water in my face. "Am I really making any progress?" Water entered my right goggle, but I repeated over and over in my head that everything was okay, and even though I couldn't see anybody else around me (no boats, no kayaks, no black wetsuits ANYWHERE-Ahhhh!), I was going to keep my stroke rhythm and get to shore. "Chillax, dude you aremore than okay," were the precise words if you were wondering. :-)
And sure enough, I got to shore after 40 minutes, and I told myself as I was running up the beach that that was twice as hard as the 2.4 mile swim I had completed at the Full Vineman a few weeks ago. Hats off to everybody who made the treacherous crossing. It may not seem like it, but it is a tremendous achievement. After this nasty swim, now my race was on!
The bike segment went by very quickly. I just kept my head down and tried to stay as aerodynamic as possible on the flatter sections, and I either was grinding up a hill or spinning up some of the larger climbs. I had been doing a considerable number of workouts on my rollers to increase my bike handling abilities in preparation for this technical bike course, and it seems to have paid off. I caught a few pros who had gapped me on the swim, and I was sitting in around 16-17th position coming off the bike.
This was my first time doing the Triathlon at Alcatraz, so I had no idea what the sand ladder had in store for me. Well, it bit me, and I still have the bright red cherry to prove it. I'm just kidding, there is nocherry; however, there was a pretty intense burning in my legs as my sand ladder ascent became more of a sand ladder crawl. I kept my arm cadence high, and got up that sandy beast without losing all my oxygen. Whewww!! After a few more miniature climbs and descents, I could smell the finish line. I increased my speed, and was very happy to have finished the course in 2:49.
I truly think it's amazing so many people were able to complete this incredibly challenging race. My hat goes off to you! :-) It simply shows how dedicated all of you are, and even in suboptimal times when the big gray ocean is relentlessly tossing you around, and Sharky the Great White is sitting beneath you wondering quite intently whether or not you are a yummy seal. You guys got the job done, and you did the job very well.
To all you first time triathletes, believe me, the swims in other races are not nearly as difficult, so if you are discouraged about how arduous the swim portion will be, DON'T BE! Everything else will be a piece of cake by comparison. Thanks a lot to Tri California for putting on another world class event. I look forward to seeing many of you at the 2011 Triathlon at Pacific Grove.
Entries Tagged as 'Professional Triathlete's'
By: Brice Winkler
By: Erich Wegscheider
When it comes to unique triathlon venues, few, if any, rival Tri California's San Francisco Triathlon at Alcatraz. With that, comes a course where one's finishing time may vary substantially year to year. After all, most races don't have to contend with such a strong current. Or the sand ladder for that matter. However, with the right approach, a personal-best is within grasp.
In preparation for the swim, do your homework and get an idea of what kind of conditions you'll face come race day. Then, set your ego aside. Even if you're a strong swimmer, the current can, and most likely will, be stronger. I've taken the direct approach to the swim exit twice and was wildly unsuccessful in one attempt. Had I sighted further towards the city as the race organizers had recommended, I would have been in a much better position for the remainder of the race. I also wouldn't of been as tired, being I had to fight the current. If you have any reservations about your swimming prowess, just do as the race organizers say and you'll be in great shape. Overall though, be sure to enjoy your surroundings. It's not everyday that you swim in the Bay with Alcatraz to your right, the Bay Bridge to your left, and the city skyline and the Golden Gate just ahead.
Just as doing your homework pays off on the swim, the same can be said for the bike course. Even if you're not able to ride the course prior to the race, I strongly recommend driving it! The course has some very sharp corners and can be technical. Seeing the descents and turns at least once ahead of time will give you a better idea of what line to take through the corners. Volunteers will be stationed before any of the aforementioned corners, so if you can't get out ahead of time, you'll at least know where to apply a bit more pressure on the brakes.
The run course is hands down, one of the more challenging courses you'll find in a triathlon anywhere. It has everything; pavement, sand, gravel, single-track, stairs, and hills. With that, knowing where to push the pace can equal big dividends in your finishing time and place. If hills aren't your terrain of choice, run hard out of T2 until you reach the first set of stairs. Then, use the stairs as active recovery and accelerate again once you find level ground or on the descent to Baker Beach. If hills are right up your alley, settle into a steady rhythm out of T2 and give it all you got on the stairs. Regarding the infamous sand-ladder, steady is the key. If that means walking, as many professional have done, then walk. In the end, you're really not losing much time to those who try to 'run' up. Also, the top of the sand-ladder isn't the end of the climb either, so reserving some energy there will pay off later in the run. Overall, a little truthful introspection about your running abilities ought to have you running top speed into the finishing chute. Hopefully towards a personal-best time and/or finish as well. Again, don't forget to look around and take in the scenery. It's a beautiful course, in a beautiful city.
Here's to a personal-best!
If you're not feeling 100% confident about racing at this weekend San Francisco Triathlon at Alcatraz, listen to these pointers from the Elite's!
"Remove sunglasses through the tunnel on the run and always be aware of downhill traffic on the run. Runners coming back down the switchbacks into Marina Green will be tired but carrying speed, the last combination you want to play chicken with. Stay to the right and avoid cutting in on the corners." - Dan McIntosh
- "The bike course is on the technical side, so if you can make it out to pre-ride one or two times before race day it'd be well worth the effort."- Courtenay Brown
- "I get cold easily, so last year in anticipation of a chilly swim I took a dose of First Endurance PreRace in the hour before the start so that my metabolism would be going pretty strongly. I didn't have problems with the cold water so I'll be doing that again this year!" - Courtenay Brown
- "Hold on to your goggle and spread eagle when you jump - you want to stay at the top of the water!" - Kelly Dunleavy
- "Use the flat sections on the bike and run to drink and eat; remember, there aren't many flat sections." - Kelly Dunleavy
- "Do NOT go crazy trying to get up the sand ladder as fast as possible. There is a reason most of the pros walk." - Kelly Dunleavy
- "The San Francisco Triathlon at Alcatraz offers such a unique experience that it really cannot be compared to your standard international distance triathlon - the cold water and nervous energy on the boat, the hills, and sand ladder, and the satisfaction of completing the challenge. Plus I love San Francisco and the opportunities to explore the city. If you are a first timer, the best advice I can give you is just to stay relaxed and take the day as it comes! Listen to the swim briefing and get an understanding of the currents and best way to sight to shore and KNOW that it is going to be cold! Make sure your bike gears and brakes are all working well for the challenges of the hills and breaking the course up into smaller sections in your mind can help you focus better at the tast at hand. The run, while challenging, is one of the most scenic in the world - take the time to enjoy the view and know that everyone hurts on the san ladder. And most importantly remember to have fun out there." - Pip Taylor
- "My first tip for the San Francisco Triathlon from Alcatraz would be: make sure you are prepared for all kinds of weather. I pack everything from sunscreen to gloves, a rain jacket and over-bike shoe booties. San Francisco is notorious for its "wintery" summers. After living there for 3 years, I know that all too well. My second tip is to use the last flat section of the bike (along Mason Street) to get down a gel. I like to use a 2nd Surge Accel Gel because it has extra caffine. This not only perk me up after an early start to the day, but it gives me the energy to hit the flat section of the Presidio with a little extra speed to drop my competition. Once I hit the downhill to Bakers Beach, I down another gel. Its always good to have extra energy before the beach and the climb up the sand ladder!" - Leanda Cave
By: Brice Winkler
We've almost reached July, and with respect to the triathlon racing season, things may be just heating up for you, things may be in full swing already, or perhaps things may be slowing down. When the middle of the year comes along, I always like to write down in my log what goals I have achieved and what goals I still would like to achieve. Furthermore, I take a step back and try to bring a new approach to my training because I always seem to encounter some form of stagnation during my workouts. The middle of the year calls for novelty. For instance, at the beginning of each season, I make big leaps and bounds in my swimming. My technique gets sharpened and honed, my feel for the water improves tremendously, and week after week, my times per 100yd/meter steadily decrease. However, once I hit June and July, I begin to plateau. I've exhausted all my tricks, and I seemingly swim like a metronome. That is, I hit the same swim times no matter what. As I heard in the gym this morning from an older gentleman after weighing himself, “Well, I never seem to gain weight or lose weight. I'm just staying the same. Very odd.” For me, I would say “ Well, this hundred time just isn't coming down. Maybe I have hit my plateau. Will I get any faster?” This is what I'm referring to as stagnation in training. How do we eliminate it? Of course, stagnation can come in a variety of forms. You may have hit a plateau in your cycling or running. What I hope to provide is some general advice that can help jump up and above your plateau and avoid this dreaded stagnation.
Okay, the first thing I do when I encounter my own issues is grab a pen and paper and draft up a whole bunch of plans. What kind of plans? With respect to swimming, I write down what I know is staying stagnant (let's say my 100m time), and I brainstorm on how I can change that. Maybe try using more pull gear during my swim workouts to develop more strength? Shorter sets with more speed work added? Maybe a small diet change prior to my swim workouts? Do I substitute out a pool swim for an open water swim in Lake Sonoma? Ideas like that. The key is to be willing to experiment and figure out if your plans work or not. Otherwise, you will most certainly remain stagnant. The next thing I do is look at my overall weekly training schedule. Have I become sucked into a grind? What if I cycled on Tuesday instead of Monday, and what if I added my speed work session to a day where I swam as well? Even the slightest change in your weekly routine can give you some mental freedom and save you from saying to yourself “Oh, I guess it's Wednesday, and I have to go for a ride.” One of my ex-English professors emphasized how important it was not to get married to the things that one wrote. That is, people become extremely attached to their thesis statements and how they have structured certain body
paragraphs. They believe that because they wrote the sentence in a certain way that that is the best way the sentence can be written. However, this may not be true. In fact, it probably isn't true.
In the same way, triathletes have a very difficult time breaking out of their routines. Hey, I have a very hard time breaking out of a proven weekly routine; however, if it's starting to become stale, then I know a little bit of change is on the horizon. I have to warn you that changing things up does not always result in positive change. I've tried new things that made me slower, that made me feel ill, that made me never want to change my tried and true routine ever again. But you have to be flexible and willing to experiment to know what works and what doesn't. If there is a great restaurant up the street that you've eaten at for years and have always been impressed by, and then a new restaurant opens up nearby, what do you do? Do you continue to eat where you've always eaten or do you take a risk and try out the new place. The old restaurant will always be there, and you know what you're getting, but what if this new place simply rocks your socks off? I think you know what I'm advocating here.
I have the utmost confidence that if you are experiencing any sort of stagnation in your training that you will be able to overcome it. Write up a plan and see if it works. Always remember to be flexible, flexible, flexible. Best of luck with everything you do. :-)
By: Brice Winkler
First, congratulations to all of the Avia Wildflower Triathlon finishers! All three of these events (the Long Course, Mountain Bike, and Olympic) are brutal in their own unique ways, and especially in this year's long course event, mother nature didn't want to have any cyclists finish the bike segment. What an incredible wind from miles 19-40! Wow! Up next: The San Francisco Triathlon at Treasure Island. There is no need to worry about a long course option here, so your training in the next few months should be focused more on quality, sustained efforts lasting around 2-3 hours on the bike and around 45min-1hr on the run. I would recommend swimming as long as you normally have been.
Having a few extra yards or meters in the bank is not a bad thing. However, please keep in mind that you should throw in some sprint sets to prepare for the shorter swim distances. In my last post about Wildflower, I emphasized the importance of a “dress rehearsal”. That is, knowing quite accurately how your race is going to go before it even begins is essential. Please keep this idea in mind. As Andy Potts
once said in an interview, “Race how you train.”
How many calories are you going to consume in 24.8 miles on a very technical and almost criterium-style bike course? Are the turns and other technical aspects going to stand in the way of your nutrition? Are your bike handling skills good, satisfactory, or do they need improvement? These are a few of the questions I ask myself prior to Treasure Island each year. Considering I've crashed hard twice in a 4-mile span during the sprint distance race, I would definitely take a good solid look at how you handle your bike. I have a set of rollers that I use religiously year round, and they have definitely helped how I handle everything out on the road. Rollers help you be able to make micro-adjustments that could very well keep you upright. I would definitely recommend looking into purchasing a pair.
If rollers are not on your radar, I might recommend a local criterium race just to get a feel for close contact with other riders and technical courses. Wildflower has a whole different flavor than Treasure Island: Big open roads and a cross country style run that weaves through the countryside. If I
were to assign an ice cream flavor to Wildflower, it would definitely be vanilla. Treasure Island, on the other hand, is a good strawberry ice cream with multiple loops on the bike and multiple loops on the run. Unlike Wildflower, it's really hard to get in the aero bars, keep your cadence high, and find a good rhythm. At Treasure Island, keep those hands in the drops, and be ready to brake hard if necessary. The course is tight, and even if you know what you are doing, the athlete right next to you may have trouble with a turn or may brake suddenly to get through a difficult, technical section. See everything. Be careful, and please do not crash like I did. However, it was very fun being invited to so many Tegaderm fashion shows (just kidding)!
To summarize, “technical” is the key word for the Treasure Island Triathlon. To do well in this event, you must have confidence in your ability to handle your bike well, and you must be aware that sharp turns are going to come up quickly and quite frankly, be a bit dangerous. I crashed when I made a left-hand turn much too early near the start of my second loop. I slid across the pavement and lost a lot of skin. Ouch!! Please learn from my mistakes, and keep your eyes open for everything.
All that hard training should definitely not be interrupted by a fall. You are going to do great at Treasure Island! :)
Stay positive, stay focused, and please remember what I emphasized last time: “Race how you train!”