Ironman Lake Tahoe Training · Training

Week 20: Alcatraz Swim, Strawberry Bike Ride, and Injury Update!


Wow, what a week! From conquering fears to overcoming an injury, it was certainly a memorable and incredible seven days. I still can’t believe that I jumped off a boat from Alcatraz and swam to shore, just like the prisoners tried to do so many times. One of the girls in my group, Lisa, made an incredible video of the experience. She actually has me on video jumping off the boat and admitting I was nervous before heading out (look for me with the red chin strap). Check it out!

Injury Update

Last week I wrote about the excruciating pain in my outer left knee and how it forced me to stop my bike ride. I was crushed. The good news is that I didn’t have swelling and the pain was very specific and isolated. As it turns out the injury had nothing to do with my knee, but everything to do with the muscles surrounding my knee, especially my iliotibial (IT) band. My PT/chiropractor did a little A.R.T. which involves painfully digging into the major muscles, and he recommended ice, active isolated stretches, swimming, and buying an R8 roller to recover. I did all of that (except for the R8 roller) and I’m happy to say that I’m pain-free now! Now I have to keep up with very regular foam rolling, active stretching, and massage this summer to avoid any future injuries!

Swim, Swim, Swim

I couldn’t run or bike this week with my knee pain so I took it as an opportunity to focus on my swim. I went to the pool almost every single day and even showed up for my pool’s 6am Masters Swim class on Tuesday. It was a little easier to hop in the pool this week because we had a nice heat wave in the Bay Area but it still takes some solid mental strength for me to swim. I capped off my week of swimming with the ultimate swim, an open water 1.8 mile trek from Alcatraz Island to the beach of St. Francis Yacht Club.

Drills for the swim workout
Drills for the swim workout

Photo May 13, 7 24 56 PM

Saturday: Alcatraz Swim

It’s a little hard to articulate what it meant to even consider swimming in the open Bay from Alcatraz Island to the beach of San Francisco. Maybe it’s like telling someone with a fear of spiders to sit in a spider cage. Or someone with a fear of heights to go stand on the Golden Gate Bridge and look down.  Swimming in open water freaks me out, plain and simple. I get very anxious when I feel like I can’t easily swim back to shore or grab onto a paddleboard (a very common reaction).

It’s not that I have a fear of sharks, or drowning, or cold water, or sea creatures, it’s really just that vulnerable feeling that you’re out there all alone in a seemingly bottomless pit of water. I know the anxious feeling will go away once I gain more confidence (which is why I’m doing these crazy challenges). Now when I think about swimming in calm Lake Tahoe it seems a lot less stressful than swimming in the Bay with all of the unknowns.

Anyway, my alarm went off at 5:00am on Saturday morning and I was out the door to meet the Water World Swim group for the Alcatraz crossing. They do these events about once a month and I highly encourage all of you swimmers out there to sign up for one. It’s an incredible experience.


The reason I chose to do it is because I’m doing the Escape from Alcatraz triathlon in 2 weeks and I’ve been freaking out about the swim ever since I signed up for the race. So I had to preview the course in a calm and controlled environment first, otherwise race day would’ve been terrifying! All 25 of us boarded a boat after a thorough pep talk and headed out to Alcatraz Island.

Brief history: Alcatraz obviously used to be an island prison and it was fairly common for prisoners to try to escape and swim to San Francisco 1.5 miles away. There were 14 attempts made by 36 inmates. Every escape failed due to drowning or re-capture. Interestingly, there were a few prisoners who escaped but were never found. Two were presumed dead and are still #1 and #2 on the FBI Most Wanted List. Then in 1962 three more escaped, they were never found, and the case is still under investigation. Uhh creepy!

Then we all jumped off the boat and started swimming as a group. We had 8 kayakers and a large boat to make sure we were safe and going the right direction. With the currents, if you were to sight towards the actual destination you would actually end up at the Golden Gate Bridge.

That's me jumping from the boat
That’s me jumping from the boat
So cold!!
So cold!!
And we're off!
And we’re off!

I didn’t think too much, and just started putting one arm in front of the other. I counted my strokes and I just tried to enjoy the moment. I looked up at the bridge, at the skyline, and truly reminded myself how unique and powerful this experience is. The swells were large, the wind was fierce, it was hard to find a swimming rhythm and it was almost impossible to not swallow water. But I just relentlessly kept pushing forward.

In the end I didn’t panic, I didn’t freak out, I just stayed calm and enjoyed the experience. Eventually I made it to the beach and I was overjoyed!! Unreal!!! I was so happy that I made it and it gave me really good confidence for Escape coming up in 2 weeks where I’ll have to repeat that same swim course with 2,000 other swimmers. I’m actually looking forward to a little company out there and a few more support boats!

I made it!!
I made it!!
Strava Output with Map
Strava Output with Map

Bottom line? The anticipation is always worse than the event itself. Always.

Saturday: Swim, Run, Brunch

After swimming across the Bay it only seemed appropriate to RUN across it! I put on my running shoes and went out the door to do a 12 mile run through the Marina, across the Golden Gate Bridge and back. It was super windy but a nice sunny day for a long run.

Golden Gate Tri Club on the Golden Gate Bridge
Golden Gate Tri Club on the Golden Gate Bridge

After the run I met some Golden Gate Tri Club friends for brunch at Stock in Trade in the Marina for an amazing and HUGE veggie burrito. I could barely eat half of it! Good times all around and it was fun meeting some new people in the club.

Nom nom nom
Nom nom nom
Happy for brunch!
Happy for brunch!

Sunday: Strawberry Fields Forever Metric Century

I had been registered for the Strawberry Fields Forever Century (100 mile) bike ride in Santa Cruz for many months. I was excited to do my first century of the year but with my knee injury I didn’t really know if I could make it the full distance. So the day before the event I was 50/50 on even going down there at all. “Should I risk it? Will my knee hold up? Is this a waste of time?”

I decided on race morning to just drive down there, start the ride, and see how I felt. I can always stop and call for the SAG vehicle. No problem. And that’s exactly what I did. But first I dropped down to the “Metric” century and sought to finish 62 miles. And that worked out well! My knee was fine the whole way and I finished feeling strong. Mentally it was a bit challenging because it was a windy day and the roads were really rough. But overall a positive experience and I was thrilled that I didn’t have to quit!

The ride had huge rest stops with tons of food and even a guy making espresso drinks. Century rides are much more leisurely (many stops) than the bike portion of a triathlon (no stops). Riders generally take 20 minutes for lunch, stop every 10 miles, and ride with other friends. It’s a very social and casual experience.

Post-ride enjoying the delicious strawberries
Post-ride enjoying the delicious strawberries
Ride fuel! Delish!
Ride fuel! Delish!
Entertainment at mile 45
Entertainment at mile 45

Bike Maintenance at PacBikes

Every month the Golden Gate Tri Club hosts a member meeting and we try to incorporate some expert triathlon knowledge to make it worthwhile. This month we met at PacBikes for a tutorial on bike maintenance. It was so informative! We learned about regular bike care (how to clean your bike? how often to change tires? how do you change a flat? what do you look for in tune-up?) and also dug into some more advanced topics.

I learned a lot and I also need to make a note to go back and update the firmware on my bike (yeah, seriously) sometime soon. And probably get new tires. Thanks PacBikes!!

Photo May 12, 7 10 54 PM

Homemade Almond Milk

Because homemade is always better! I love almond milk for my smoothies but I’m sick of buying the packaged version with additives, carrageenan, and other processed garbage. So I decided to make my own and there were exactly 2 ingredients: almonds and water. Easy and no chemicals!  The recipe is simple and can be found here. You basically put 3 cups of water with 1 cup of almonds into a high powered blender and let ‘er rip for 45 seconds. Then use a strainer cloth to sift away the pulp. And voila! Homemade almond milk! Give it a try and let me know how it goes. In general, I’d like to try and buy as few packaged products as possible and try to make things at home (hummus, salsa, dressings, soup, etc). It tastes better and it doesn’t have all of those preservatives.

How it's made. Easy!
How it’s made. Easy!
Finished product on the left!
Finished product on the left!

This Week’s Training Log

  • 18th. Bike. Strawberry Fields Forever metric century ride in Santa Cruz. 4 hours 10 mins.
  • 17th. Run. 12 mile run along the Marina and across the GG Bridge. 1 hour 50 minutes. 9:23/mi.
  • 17th. Swim. Alcatraz to St Francis Yacht Club!! 1.8 miles.
  • 15th. Swim. Masters Swim class with drills, instruction and kicking
  • 14th. Swim. 1800 yards with drills and hypoxic breathing
  • 13th. Swim. Quick sunset swim for 30 mins at the pool

Thanks everyone. Swim. Bike. Run. Eat Plants.

3 thoughts on “Week 20: Alcatraz Swim, Strawberry Bike Ride, and Injury Update!

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