Tuesday, July 21, 2009

FAQ from the July 5, 2009 Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon Post

As a result of my July 5, 2009 Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon posting, I received many emails with additional questions for Jim Graham and Tim Wolf. Their responses to these inquiries are posted below.

Jim and Tim, we learn all the time from fellow outdoor enthusiasts. In fact, this sharing is a major reason for this blog. As such, I have follow-up questions for you to expand a bit on details of your EFA.

Q. You said it was ¾ miles from where you exited the water to the bike transition area. Did you wear your bike shoes in this run from water to bike – or did you wear running shoes?
• Jim: I used an old pair of running shoes. The EFA organizers suggest using a different pair than you are going to run the race in as they get soaked and full of sand. No socks either.
• Tim: There is a transition area just out of the water where you have a bag of stuff. In mine, I had water to wash out the salt, a towel and a pair of old running shoes that I put on for the run to the bike. You could not run that far in bike shoes, nor would it have been smart to try to run it barefoot as a large section of the course was on concrete with lots of little rocks, glass etc

Q. The current/tide factor obviously makes it an entirely different length than an ordinary 1.5 mile swim. Any idea what the current was and how far you might have swam? In other words, how would you describe swimming one direction against the current in order to reach another direction? Does this course mean you can never relax in the swim, because if you might never recover to get back?
• Tim: A lot depends on the weather conditions on the day of the swim. I have seen times that indicate the swim to be more like a mile (in terms of time in the water), up to 2 miles. In this EFA, I was out of the water in 35 minutes. In a normal flat 1.5-mile swim, I would expect to be out of the water in 31 to 33 minutes, so it was not far off.

While it is true that the current is pushing you towards the Golden Gate Bridge, many other factors slow you down, so in this case it worked out that time in the water was about equal to a 1.5-mile swim.

The things that made the swim tough were:
o You had to sight at the top of the wave, otherwise you could not see the point that you were aiming at.
o You had to swim for a point way to the left of where you were planning to exit the water. This was tough mentally because you really "wanted" to swim to the exit. We were warned repeatedly that if we did not swim to the left we would miss the exit point and would not be able to swim against the current to get back.
o When the sun came out it was in your eyes if you took a breath to the left, so sighting your swim marker was often very difficult, if not impossible.
o The wind was from the right and caused you to be hit in the face with water when you breathed to the right. I was forced to drink a little seawater when this happen.
o There were a lot of people that jumped off the boat in front of me and therefore a lot of people that I had to get around
o No Sharks but I saw jelly fish the size of basketball that would scare the hell out of you if you ran into one.
o The cold was not really an issue as you were so worried about the above to be worried about the cold.
o From what I saw there were a number of people pulled out of the water by rescue staff.

Q. Tim, how difficult was the EFA compared to other triathlons you did?
• I was pleased with my effort. Jim's description is accurate, and from my standpoint, it is the toughest race I have ever done both mentally and physically. There was never a point in the race where you could mentally relax and regroup; you had to stay focused the entire time. It was definitely NOT just a run of the mill triathlon.

Q. Steve, do you intend to do the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon?
• Absolutely not! The EFA is way beyond my skill and endurance level. I posted Jim and Tim’s EFA experience on my blog because as a triathlete I knew this extreme event took an exceptional triathlete. Knowing these two men, and hearing their account of the EFA, was a chronicle I wanted to share with other outdoor enthusiasts. To me, hearing their tale was like sitting with Neil Armstrong and hearing him talk to me about what it was like to go to the moon.

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