The Inaugural San Francisco Triathlon at Alcatraz

I have never had the opportunity to race Escape from Alcatraz because of scheduling but have always admired that race from afar.  When I saw that Terry Davis and his Tri California events team was holding another edition as the San Francisco Triathlon at Alcatraz -I was in! Not only did going to San Francisco for the race knock another classic race off the triathlon bucket list for me, it also represented a solid training opportunity as I gear up for two XTERRA National Championships and the Worlds.

I haven’t raced such a short road triathlon race in a long time.  This race was a 1.2 mile swim, a 25 mile bike and a 7 mile run so an extra long swim (which took even longer than what 1.2 miles should take), an Olympic distance bike course and a hilly 12 km run.  Kind of a weird distance and not necessarily suited to me but with a hilly bike and a hilly offroad run course it was going to be a great challenge that would help jam some speed into my legs.  The main contenders proved to be Amanda Stevens, Tenille Hoogland and Kristen Peterson who are all amazing swimmers.   Tenille won the race just in front of Amanda with me chasing hard in third after coming into transition with Kristen, my Specialized teammate who finished fourth.

Ferry photo courtesy of Brightroom

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Winning my first Ironman 70.3 Event at Lake Stevens!!

I won an Ironman 70.3 triathlon event for the first time!

This past weekend I put together a great swim, a solid ride and a steady run to take first place in a field of past World Champions and all around badasses at my fifth half Ironman start ever.  It was a pretty awesome and incredible day.  The 70.3 at Vineman in Sonoma had been exciting as I came off the bike first but to have first place all the way to the finish line was WAY WAY better!!  Yes!  My goals this year were lofty, admittedly and after a day I was not satisfied with in Sonoma I wasn’t sure I was going to achieve my “Win a 70.3 Event” goal this year… but I did.  Phew!  I held off Tyler Stewart, Samantha Warriner, Samantha McGlone and Amanda Stevens on Sunday and wow, look at that firepower.  Good day for me in a huge field of talented athletes that also included famous athletes Joanna Zeiger and Linsey Corbin (Joanna’s race report is hilarious!).

All photos have been stolen from Amanda’s Facebook until I can get some from the race 😉 Time was 4:27 as we started 4 mins back…

I had a pretty crap week before the race after I managed to earn a black eye crashing into someone open water swimming, my car battery ran dead on the ferry to Anacortes on my way to the race on Friday (when I was at the front of the car line, of course) and I managed to slam my thumb in the car door as I spazzed out trying to get my battery jumped.  Friday the 13th lived up to its name.  The race was held in Lake Stevens, a lake just outside of Everett, Washington not far across the border from where I live.  The weekend was shaping up to be a hot one with temperatures up to 36 degrees Celsius which is pretty much unheard of for the Pacific Northwest.

Saturday was the turning point.  Samantha McGlone and I chose to turn it into a BFF weekend as roomies.  I joked that I was planning to bird-dog her EVERY move given she is 2006 Ironman 70.3 World Champion right down to her toothpaste… overkill maybe?  Haha!   Anyway, as soon as I got to the race site everything became much more fun.

So when o-dark-thirty arrived Sunday morning, we were up and on our way. We both independently packed the same breakfast for the race – Justin’s Nut Butter, only hers was in oatmeal and mine was on toast.  She was responsible for me arriving at the start line on time which was likely the reason I finally had a good swim.  So leaving earlier is on the menu for the future, thank you Sam!!

A quick spin on the bike, a tiny little run to check my brand new AVIA Bolt 2s were tied to the optimal tightness with my new Nathan elastic laces and a short warmup in my Profile-Design mako speedsuit (a non-wetsuit swim for pros not age groupers) and we were ready to go.  The water was 72.2 degrees, clear, smooth and had a yellow lane line from the rowers buoys underwater for us to follow.  INcredibly awesome swim conditions.  Amanda Stevens went off like she was shot out of a cannon so I held onto Joanna Zeiger (2007 Ironman 70.3 Champion) for awhile and then I was on my own until Sam Warriner and I became Siamese twins attached at the hip for the rest of the swim.  We ran over a few of the guys which was fun and then I decided just for fun to get out of the water before Sam to see if I could.  Swim done and done… third out of the water and onto the bike with my cool new Specialized shoes and helmet and my pink lens Raptor Sundog glasses.

Out with Sam Warriner….

My Specialized Transition time trial bike and I are becoming better friends.  We like hills together.  We still fight a little in the flat sections because Transition says ride a bigger gear with a lower cadence and you will go faster but I seem to hammer like a maniac, blow up my legs, slightly recover then do it all over again.. not so smooth in the flat sections… which means I am not as fast as I could/should/would like to be.  I need work on that before I take a trip to any flatter races.  I also find I ride away from all the Ironman girls on the hills only to lose some time in the flats which is frustrating but reflects the fact I am a mountain bike climber from Victoria.  I guess I am a product of my home terrain!

Go ahead slowtwitchers… bag on my position 😉

So on the bike I quickly reeled in Joanna but at one point had Sam Warriner ride up beside me.  The drafting rules say that if you are overtaken you need to drop back 10 bike lengths before reattempting the pass.  I was not in any way shape or form going to be passed on a hill.  If I was going too slow, fair enough.  So I stomped it and my Shimano C75s responded… I assaulted the hill, lost Sam and caught two more people.  One of whom I thought was Amanda.  So when “Amanda” then repassed me on the flat section I thought, whoa, she is rocking!  And tried to keep her on a legal tether.. without success.  That was until I caught the real Amanda and spent the rest of the bike wondering, was that another girl, or not?

Why Amanda had this shot of my derriere I dunno?  But this is what I tried to make sure was the only view for my competitors on the bike…

The second lap was difficult to really go fast on.  I encountered three occasions where I had to brake or run into the back of a car.  That is lame, especially when it was abundantly clear it was someones girlfriend following the race in that car.  I also had an incident where a wonderful little age group triathlete was rocking in her race and riding well.  Because the roads were narrow there is a significant amount of drafting in the age group race.  So I caught and passed her only to have her slipstream back beside me after a downhill.  I was afraid she was going to earn me a drafting penalty because she was riding my wheel past the field.  So at one point I was frustrated and told her to stop cheating which was really mean, and I apologize but sweetheart, you are a great cyclist and you might as well play by the pro rules right from the start because you have real potential.  When you are passed, DROP BACK 10 BIKE LENGTHS!!  Don’t jump on.

Before the race I toyed with idea of just killing the bike to try to get the fastest bike split just for that and was completely reined in by the coach.  He said I was to ride “regular”.  So unless you train with me I cannot give you the scientific heart rate and power zone of what regular is in frenchspeak.. haha!  Needless to say it isn’t kill yourself for the bike split.  So when I got off the bike and headed out onto the run I had the lead cyclist with me which indicated I did come off the bike first and was leading the race.  No one had come in before I left so I knew I was still somewhat ahead.  I have been working with a new coach for five weeks so I was excited to see what our hard work over a very short period of time could earn.  Jacky Evereardt owns www.triathlon-hebdo.com and coaches fast french boys in Europe Franky Batelier and Olivier Marceau so he is my new not secret weapon.  He is turning me into a warrior.

So after about a mile the cyclist asked if I wanted splits and I said NO.  I had a solid plan from Jacky which did include eating a lot of GU but did not include adjusting my race strategy for that of the others if they started faster than me.  I knew I would see the girls on the out and back giant hill section.  So on the first lap I calculated under 2 minutes to Sam Warriner and maybe another 30s or so to Tyler Stewart followed by a large gap.  I told myself okay… you DEFINITELY have a top three.  See how long you can cling to your lead cyclist!

Melanie McQuaid runs to the victory at Ironman Lake Stevens
Running to my first Ironman 70.3 win

Go steady!!

The second lap I felt pretty much the same as the first… steady eddy.  I honestly didn’t have some kind of magic legs day.  I actually complained to Jacky later that my legs were tired on the bike and maybe I did too much the week before the race so it isn’t like I peaked to my best ever day… I just pulled out every last ounce of anything I had in there to get the job done.  When I did the second lap turnaround on the run and no one was right behind me I knew I had won.  I saw Tyler Stewart had overtaken Sam Warriner (who apparently came within 25 seconds of me… good thing I did not get splits!) but was still about as far as Sam had been on the first lap.  When I got to the top of the big hill to roll down the last mile and a half to the finish I go the split from the bike:  52 seconds.  Game over.  I had a smile, I was excited and my legs were sore but they were going to get me where I needed to be.  In the finish chute I did a quick check that no one was close and enjoyed some high fives and cheers a the finish line to savour my first winning run across the Ironman finish line as long as possible.  I only needed a second after all… but I didn’t want any kind of sprint so I got my ass across that line.  Then, phew, DONE!!

Ouch.  Yay!

Contrary to Triathlete magazine’s report indicating the entire women’s field was slow in half marathon times:  the race is NEVER flat on that whole course with two significant and long climbs in the race.  So I ran a 1:25.51 and sure that isn’t the fastest out there but take 5 minutes for gnarly hills for sure.  I was within two minutes of the fastest run split which is an Ironman best for me (helps Rinny wasn’t there).  Tyler Stewart had a very impressive race to put together her second place performance and Sam Warriner, who almost caught me, surrendered to third.  Roomie Samantha McGlone put her patented run to work to run herself into fourth in front of super swimmer Amanda Stevens in fifth.  Joe Gambles won the race for the second year in a row in the men’s race in front of Paul Ambrose, Luke Bell, James Cotter and Luke McKenzie.  Also a big congrats to MelRad Racing teammate Tim Holland for taking 2nd in his age group and a spot to Clearwater.  Congratulations all round.

Women’s podium minus Sam who got lost on our way back from the fabulous Central Market… oops!

New kit… looks good huh!  Thanks @bettydesigns!  Sundogeyewear hides black eye….

MOST IMPORTANT:  after the race our BFF weekend hit high gear.  We joined Amanda Balding and Luke McKenzie for a gourmet feast and winefest at Purple Wine Bar in Seattle.  What I love about sport is it introduces to me the kinds of people I want to meet but might never get the chance because they are from farflung regions of the planet.  Amanda is a girl after my own heart:  loves cooking, good wine and wow she has great sophistication in all of the above.  Luke is an absolute sweetheart and was wonderful company for the three ladies that evening.  And Sammy, well come on, she is a riot.  Her and I are what’s known as guy/girls.  So is Amanda.  So full makeup, fancy dress, sky high heels were on the menu for the evening even though we had just spent the afternoon in the trenches sweating our butts off.  Sam and I glammed it up at the Pan Pacific, spent the morning in the shops wandering downtown Seattle and managed to watch some fish get tossed about at Pike Place market before it was time to go.  I jetted north on I-5 while she jetted East through SEA-Tac.  It’s funny, she said that a study on happiness says you should always do weekend getaways because you look forward to it, enjoy it and enjoy getting home more than you would a longer trip.  It’s true.  By 2pm on Monday I was thinking:  I wanna get the drive over with without traffic, I can’t wait to get a hug for my win from RT and I wonder how my watermelons are doing??  Big hugs to Sam who is definitely on the right track for Hawaii both in mindset and in training plan.  She is a smart girl and I really admire her.  I wasn’t kidding when I said I was watching her every move this weekend.  If I want to step up the distance I have a LONG way to go!

Thank you to all my supporters, especially those who understand my new plan for the XTERRA tour and 100% supported my half Ironman ambitions.  Thanks to AVIA, Nathan, Specialized, Shimano, Sundog Eyewear, Profile-Design, GU Sports, Maxxis, Zerod, CycleOps Power, USANA, ESI Grips, Justin’s Nut Butter, Squirt Lube, and Genuine Innovations.  There is more to come!

Oh and this is for you Amanda and Thomas…. my kindred cooking and gardening lovers.  A photo of Mel’s herb garden and my first officially healthy young watermelon.  🙂

 

Just a tiny snippet of Mel’s farm this year..

That is officially a growing mini watermelon….

 

I heart Vancouver Island.