2014 Escape from Alcatraz; missing the boat

Missing the boat feels like…

I woke up as planned, moments before my alarm chimed.  With a jump in my step I made the bed alert and with energy.

Riding my clean and ready to race speed bike like a commuter over to the Escape from Alcatraz race expo is very pleasant on empty San Francisco streets.  The morning is chilly and quiet.  I feel like an early go-getter, up before the masses.  I am calm and relaxed yet feeling animated.   I love riding my bike.

I keep the ride low-key and I’m in no rush, looking at my watch I notice that I should arrive with 20 minutes to tinker.

When I pull up to T1 to drop off my bike, helmet and running shoes I don’t notice that all 2,000 bikes are already racked, save one; mine.  One of the volunteers asks if I am swimming.  “Yes, why?” I ask, slightly concerned.  He says, “The last shuttle left 10 minutes ago.”  I become aware of my mistake, yet I’m still confident I will make it somehow.  My HR shoots up 20 beats a minute and I’m determined to race.

I thought I heard at the race meeting, “The last shuttle leaves at 6:30 and the race starts at 7:30”.  I was wrong.  I must have heard, “The ferry leaves at 6:30 and the race starts at 7:30” because that is the reality.  It’s my fault for not checking or verifying.  I took what I thought I heard as ‘golden’.  This mistake set off a roller coaster of emotions that feels like….

I ask anyone who can hear me for a ride.  There are quite a few people but they all shake their head, no.  It took me seconds to prepare T1 & T2 and I feel the first inkling that my mistake might force me to miss the race.  NO! is the feeling I have.

The traffic is light but I head to the road in the hopes of stopping a car…any car and begging for a ride.  I realize the seconds matter…just like when you are racing.  A taxi appears out of nowhere and actually stops!  Lucky day!  I’m going to make the race.  Several of the volunteers told me that I needed to get to pier 41.  Bless their hearts.

The cab driver is nice and rides with subtle urgency, just enough for me not to ask him to go faster.  But I would have been driving much faster.  We get stopped at several traffic lights with no traffic.  This is almost unbearable and I’m sure had I been driving I would have used a few of them like stop signs.

We finally arrive at pier 41 with under a minute to spare.  Yes, I’m going to race.

I’ve already paid the cab, (while stopped at a traffic light) and as I’m ready to leave I notice that something doesn’t look right?  This is not the right spot.  I ask a guard where the Escape from Alcatraz ferry might be in total desperation.  I have seconds to make the boat.  He says while pointing south that it is at pier 33.  I confirm, “Pier 33?”…

Back in the cab we drive down to pier 33 and this looks right to me.  I open the door before the cab stops and get ready to run across the street to catch the ferry just in time.  As I get closer my heart sinks, as I realize this is not the right spot.  Another guard is there to answer my tormented question, “Where is the Escape from Alcatraz Ferry?”  He points south and quickly says, “Pier 3 about a mile that way.”

I turn to run back to the cab…he’s vanished just like he appeared…out of thin air.  There is little to no traffic as I scan for help.  I am standing there for a moment that feels like eternity holding a back pack with warm gear and all my stuff for race morning with the zipper open in one hand and my wetsuit in the other.  I am barefoot.

Seconds are ticking off at a concentration usually reserved for the race I’m trying to be in.  I start running.

I run with a practiced intensity.

I let the emotions go and run as fast as I can.  The effort is as intense as any race.  I laugh internally and wonder if the race will even be this hard.

After a few minutes of a minimalist’s delight; barefoot running on the sidewalks of Embarcadero, I see the San Francisco Belle still docked.  “Yes! I’m going to make the race!” I feel with a fist pump.  Not for a second slowing down my pace I run up to the ferry and yell something to the effect…’hold the boat!’

As I’m making my attempt to board the boat I notice the ramp’s gate is closed.  No big deal the boat is RIGHT there.  I’m on this thing.  I ask several of the crew standing right there to, “Please open up the gate and let me on the boat…it’ll only take a second.”  But they shake their head, no.  It barely fazes me as I look for other crew or someone with some pull to recognize how easy it will be to just open the gate and let me board the ferry.  I keep hearing something about ‘protocol…we can’t because of protocol’.  I can’t or won’t register this…protocol.  How can I get on the boat that is right in front of me?

The boat seems to be in no rush to be going any moment so I start looking for ways to navy seal my way on the ferry.  Someone from the boat sees me getting ready to make an attempt at jumping, (I had a singular focus to get on that ferry and was going to jump down to a ledge 10 feet below that might have allowed me to scramble closer to the ramp and perhaps jump onto the boat…but it didn’t look too promising) and warns, “If you get on this boat you will be DQ’d and not allowed to race”.  I heard that loud and clear and this pulled me out of my focus…I just want to race!

It gets more painful.  The boat stays docked for another 5 to 7 minutes.  I still haven’t given up as there is some media hanging around.  “Hey, don’t you guys have a media boat I can tag along on?”  They look in my direction but more towards the ground averting my gaze and shake their heads, no.

Then, I feel it.  It sinks in and I’m not so upset for myself but for my family.  There are too many emotions to feel…it’s powerful and they need to be expressed but I just stare in the direction of the ferry as it finally begins to pull away; with it my opportunity to test the mind, body, and spirit with an exciting challenge.  A window into the state of my health is lost.  My favorite race just pulled away in a way I never saw coming.  It is 100% my fault, my mistake.  I begin to process and chew on it.

It is very disappointing and it stings a lot.  I love to play and the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon is one of the best ways to play on the whole planet.  The last time I raced here I had a cold.  Last year I couldn’t get in the race.  This year everything was lining up perfectly until…it wasn’t.  Life is like that, little things and big things that will challenge you to find the lesson.  Let’s face it; as much as this stings…it’s really nothing compared to the big things life can throw at us.  But the lesson is similar.

After sitting in transition freezing my butt off and watching with some astonishment athlete after athlete bike and run through transition…all 1,999 of them I begin to find my center again.  I let go of the mistake and appreciate the energy in the air.  I feel the power of spectating, seeing the efforts and the focuses and most importantly the smiles of the athletes all embarking on unique and varied adventures. I smile and move on with my day.

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