My Almost Great Escape

by Leica Carpo, Philippines

As I write this with my good right hand it strikes me as ironic that I was racing Escape more as a swim challenge and not as a triathlon because I thought I had the bike and the run in the bag… For me the only leg that really mattered was its’ infamous killer swim. Historically the ‘swim’ is achilles heel of my ‘work in progress’ triathlete skills. The oftentimes vicious swim starts always left me last to finish, gasping for air and with my heart rate skyrocketing off the charts –it was literally my Waterloo. So like your average triathlete i practiced that tried and true ‘kick ass or die trying’ motto. I decided to take on the Escape precisely because it had the one demon that I was constantly trying to overcome or in this case outswim.

The Escape swim is almost 2x as long as any race I had ever done the 1.5 miles is actually more like 2 miles with the circuitous route you need to take to make it to the swim finish in SF’s St. Francis Yacht Club. The swim across the bay is like crossing a river in the beginning as the currents are quite strong and sweep most weaker swimmers off course. So sighting is key in this race (almost every 3 strokes) to make it to the finish within the cut-off time (1 hour) or to avoid getting picked up by the coastguard en route to the golden gate bridge! The SF BAY temperature as, “The race announcer said earlier today as we were boarding the SF BELLE en route to Alcatraz was “VERY COLD” to be precise (11 degrees celsius or 52 degrees fahrenheit).

So I overprepared for it–starting by training with my sister Amanda during her im taper so when race morning came — I knew I was ready for it. I had been swimming in the Bay with my equinox buddies Tony and Conrad and my “waterworld” (coaches jake, rene, anne, edna, george and ,of course, pedro-my open water idol) their relaxed attitude and expertise had me crossing the Bay 3x even before race day in all kinds of chop. When I jumped off the boat ( a minute behind the pros) I took off like bat out of hell. The idea is to jump off the boat fast because not only is the boat drifting further from shore… but the other 2000 athletes were practically jumping on top off you and needlessly added — this was a truly chaotic scene. With adrenalin pumping, freezing cold water — everyone was thrashing around for almost a 3/4 of mile into the swim. People were swimming on top and right over each other. It was like that famous scene from the TITANIC…

But amidst all this I had found my happy place and was swimming so well that when I checked my time when I saw the Yacht club it was only 19:25– I was doing well. I was expecting to finish anywhere from 40-50 mins depending on the current. On my way to the finish I did take a few deep breaths and backstroked once or twice to put some feeling in my legs and check my progress. I saw that I was headed for a beach to the right of the official swim finish and stopped by a kayaker (he was wearing pink sequins! only in SF!) to ask if it was ok to land on this beach and just run back to the other beach. He okayed my choice and I noticed that there was another swimmer hanging onto the other side of his kayak who was hyperventilating and panicking. I swam over to his side and tried to talk him into finishing the race as we were only 300-400 yards from the shore… I knew what he was feeling because I had been there in my last race (where my then ‘pregnant’ sister Chesca had to talk me through practically the entire swim… thanks again sis!!) Unfortunately he just refused to let go of the kayak. I just couldn’t talk him off the ledge… and a jetski came by eventually and took him to shore.

I checked my time and swam quickly to shore to finish the rest of my race– I hit the beach at 45 mins. Here I admit i took my sweet time through transition as I was still defrosting from the icy water. At 1:03 into the race, I was on the bike on a steep climb when my race came to an abrupt end. An out of control biker coming downhill (finishing his bike loop) crossed into my lane and was headed for me on a collision course– he was coming from a blind corner at about 30mph and had turned too wide. I was crawling up the steep hill at 9 mph with bikers all around me. It was an irresistible force meeting an immovable object. We all crashed like bowling pins (4 bikes came down) and I was the hardest hit being the front of a pack of 3 bikers. Bikes, bikers,paramedics, police, firemen –there was a village to witness the end of my Escape…)

I flew off my bike and landed hard on my left side. I would have gotten back on my bike but my left finger/s could not make a fist and sadly my bike was banged up (I later found out– wheels misaligned and brakes bent/compromised) in any other flatter course I would have tried to finish but this course was so hilly with 20 sharp turns that I would have been a danger to other bikers… biking with a busted finger on my tri bike no less. So I cried a bit when they took away my timing chip. I was beaten but unbowed and I vowed to race again next year– Bounty Hunter from Arizona (the guy who took me down and also a kona im qualifier to boot) said he would pay for my race and medical bills… My mom said he should also pay for my post race therapy (the retail type)- ha.

I had the perfect plan to make it through the swim come hell or high water and the rest was gonna be icing. The plan was to swim easy w focus, Spin on the hills with bike and kill it on the run. I guess I forgot that I was in a triathlon after the swim and relaxed my guard. I know that in retrospect that there was nothing much that I could have done to avoid the runaway biker (and jumping the curb on my right was an exterra bike skill I still had to master) but like a true carpo chick- I gracefully bounced off the pavement and managed to not only walk away from what could have been a horrific accident..more or less intact and Being leica i ended up with a cool pair of heels to ease my bruised ribs.

I would conclude that My perfect escape plan from the rock was foiled by the perfect storm– a 50 yo bounty hunter/kona 2008 (10:16 im pb) from Arizona doing the race of his life. I’m sure in his shoes I too would have been careening down that hill.

Thank you all for your time and effort in making this race if not my perfect race a true test of a challenged swimmers ability to overcome all odds– w the proper training:)

Big hugs to Waterworld for my best and longest successful swim ever!!

We’re looking forward to Leica’s comeback story

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One thought on “My Almost Great Escape

  1. Leica sorry to hear you were not able to continue on with your race. Wishing you a speedy recovery and I look forward to have you swim with us again.

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