Sunday was another great day for me in San Francisco. We dove off a boat at 7am into the San Francisco Bay, turned our feet to the Alcatraz Prison and swam for shore. I lead for most of the swim, but as we came into the Marina I found myself behind some guys with much better lines. Out of the water fourth, I took off on the bike with some great company. John Kenny, Kyle Leto, Brian Fleischmann, and myself attacked the first hill like it was the deciding factor of the race, but at the top my legs were screaming at me. I looked around and everyone else was in just as much pain, so I pushed over the top and took a lead on the first quick decent by Big Beach. I never looked back, but at the first turn around I was about a minute ahead of Leto, and at the second it was closer to 90 seconds.
When I started the run nobody else was close to transition. I ran for a while before I saw Kyle and Brian come by me still riding, but I wanted to get in a good hard run, so I refused to back off. I pushed it hard enough that I didn’t even notice the Golden Gate Bridge looming in the foreground. It wasn’t until I ran though the small tunnel under the Golden Gate and hit the single track that I started to relax and really enjoy my surroundings. The Pacific ocean was misty with the morning sunlight just shining over the hill making the cliffs light up with glowing dew… It was quite a pleasant run until I dropped down onto Big Beach and realized that the new Tri-California course removed the 1 mile out-and-back section on the beach. With that extra mile in 2008 I had been able to run down to the hard packed sand and let my legs recover some from the hard decent. With the new course, you pop out onto the beach just a short distance from the bottom of the treacherous sand ladder, and there’s no time to run for hard pack. It’s about a minute of slogging through soft sand, which gets your already beaten-up legs to the point of furry, then up the “ladder” which is really just a big sand dune with some buried logs that help with traction. When I did this race in 2008 I had the fastest time up the sand ladder by 12 seconds. This time, I decided to go the slow methodical way – grabbing the ropes on the sides and alternating between walking and skipping my way up the dune. Through all the sand my K-Swiss Kruuz started to get some sand in them through the holes in the bottom (meant to drain water out of the shoes). I was worried, but when left the sand it drained from my shoes as quickly as it had entered. No harm done! At the top I started running again, and was glad for my conservative effort because the “top” of the sand ladder is really only half way up the final hill. As I turned onto the hard pack and continued up my mom was there telling me I had a three minute lead over Leto. At this point, I started smiling. I kept the pace fairly high, but chose to enjoy the last three miles: the Golden Gate, Crissy Field, the single track section and concrete stairs up and over the old bunkers. This is the most scenic and fun race in the world.
I surprised the announcer, who was not yet expecting me when I appeared in the finish chute. I was raising my arms and high five-ing spectators for 100 meters before the loud speaker announced that I was about to finish. So I took my time, smiled, high five-ed more of the crowd, took a bow, and then waited for four minutes to greet Kyle Leto and Steve Sexto (who had a great run) finishing in second and third respectively.
It was a tough race, a beautiful race, and a good indicator of my current fitness. Thanks coaches!!