Escape From Alcatraz

When my good friend, Tyler Robinson, told me he had won an entry to the 2010 Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon, I knew right away that I needed him to provide a guest post about it.  You see, Tyler has an incredible sense of humor in his writing and I had no doubt he would provide one heck of a great read. So here it is, one very humorous view of the cycling portion of his first “big name” triathlon.

It’s all about the swim.  When you tell people you’ve completed the Escape from Alcatraz triathlon, the only thing they want to hear about is the swim.   The run sometimes gets a bit of attention because of the infamous sand ladder, but the focus is always on the long, cold and allegedly shark-infested swim from “the rock.”

Nobody wants to hear about the bike segment – the poor, red-headed stepchild of this infamous race.

Except you, followers of Loving the Bike.  Or at least so I’m told by my buddy Darryl…

With that in mind, I’m going to pick things up as I exited the San Francisco Bay a couple months ago, cold and slightly disoriented from inhaling half my body weight in brackish water and having had my goggles rudely knocked off by a perfectly placed foot to my face.  After spending enough time in the swim-to-run transition to write a short novel (did I mention I was slightly disoriented?), I made the half-mile dash to “Big Red,” my rental road bike for the day.   At this point I should mention that when I rented a bike over the Internet, I had a choice of either a brand new Trek Madone 4.5, or the house special – a perfectly functional Trek, but definitely not a plastic-still-on-the-seat pristine work of art like the Madone.   I chose Big Red because there’s nothing quite like the added excitement of wondering if your handlebars are going to fall off while careening down the streets of San Francisco.

After completing a slightly speedier run-to-bike transition and having finally managed to get clipped in, I bolted along the flat initial segment of the course thinking “pffbbtttt… San Francisco isn’t that hilly – this is going to be a breeze.”  Hmmmmmm…

In all honesty, the hills weren’t that much of an issue; I’m a pretty light guy which is ideal for climbing.  And besides, as we common folk were working our way up the endlessly winding hills there was plenty to focus on as the pros and elite age groupers rocketed past on their way back down.  It was quite an experience – you would hear the telltale “whump, whump, whump” of a disk wheel in the distance and then all of a sudden a flash of carbon and spandex would scream by at a velocity I’m reluctant to travel in my car, let alone on a bike.  How those men and women managed to make some of the turns at the bottom of those hills I will never know.

What I’m not, however, is a particularly seasoned or confident rider, having reintroduced myself to cycling last summer when I started down this mid-life crisis path known as triathlon.   You see, because I live in Canada and am subjected to cold and snow eight months of the year (and that’s in a good year), most of my cycling time is spent securely attached to a trainer in my basement.   And while this is fine for conditioning purposes and for catching up on reruns of Dexter, it doesn’t do much for one’s bike handling skills unless you consider napping while riding a skill.   Add to this the fact that prior to this race I had been out on the road in 2010 exactly once for a grand total of ten minutes, in the snow, to make sure I could still clip in and out of my pedals, and you can probably guess that I wasn’t exactly vying for the Most Nimble Cyclist award.

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