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Escape From Alcatraz

Date:          June 3, 2007 

Location     San Francisco 

Event        Escape from Alcatraz  

http://www.escapefromalcatraztriathlon.com/  

Type of Race Triathlon 

The Race 

For those that aren’t familiar with the event the swim can be a major challenge, especially if swimming is your weakest disciple, like myself. With wetsuit and hood on I went for a short swim in a small bay by Fisherman’s Warf, close to where the race was. Having waded out in 57F water I dove in and felt that I had just ducked my head into a sink of cold water and ice cubes. I could not keep my face in the water for more than 30 sec. This was going to be a problem. However after 10 minutes the worst was over and either I didn’t know if this was because I was use to it or my face was numb! I got out after about 30 min and in discuss with others I was assured on race day this would be the least of my concerns and not to worry about.The race starts by jumping of a boat, you and 1800 others, anchored just of Alcatraz and swimming 1.5m in a cross current that runs just under 5 mph, a rather lengthy, T1 which included a 1km run, a 18m bike which is hilly, lots of turns and a road in need of repair followed by a run that takes you up to the Golden Gate Bridge via a climbing trail, a section of a beach run then a step sand ladder then back on the trail to the finish. Challenging yes and actually quite fun.

Swim

We got up the morning of the race about 3:30. We had to rack our bikes and gear at T2 starting at 4:30 then catch a bus to the boat starting at 4:45. By 6:00 am we were all loaded on the boat and off we went to Alcatraz. It was a short ride and we circled the Island for about 30 min before becoming stationary. About 15 min before the start everybody finished doing up their wetsuits and headed to the start side of boat. Now this is a race where navigation is critical. From the boat to the swim finish is about a 45 degree angle from Alcatraz to shore, there is a 5mph current, no buoys to site from, just shore line locations to site of. The start of the race was suppose to be in waves. About 5 of them a minute apart. It didn’t quite work that way. Having watched the Pros jump in off the boat I wandered down to the main deck waiting for my time. The first wave seemed to go all right then there came a mixture of caps. By the time I got to the front of the line it was about 5 minutes into the race. Anyways I just walked up to the edge of the decks were the marshals will just yelling at everybody to go, put my hand of my goggles and when the person who jumped in front of me hit the water I jumped. By the time I came to the surface I was moving well away from the boat. I wanted to at least get a swim in before the event. For those that aren’t familiar with the event the swim can be a major challenge, especially if swimming is your weakest disciple, like myself. With wetsuit and hood on I went for a short swim in a small bay by Fisherman’s Warf, close to where the race was. Having waded out in 57F water I dove in and felt that I had just ducked my head into a sink of cold water and ice cubes. I could not keep my face in the water for more than 30 sec. This was going to be a problem. However after 10 minutes the worst was over and either I didn’t know if this was because I was use to it or my face was numb! I got out after about 30 min and in discuss with others I was assured on race day this would be the least of my concerns and not to worry about.The race starts by jumping of a boat, you and 1800 others, anchored just of Alcatraz and swimming 1.5m in a cross current that runs just under 5 mph, a rather lengthy, T1 which included a 1km run, a 18m bike which is hilly, lots of turns and a road in need of repair followed by a run that takes you up to the Golden Gate Bridge via a climbing trail, a section of a beach run then a step sand ladder then back on the trail to the finish. Challenging yes and actually quite fun.Anyways made it out of the water in 32 minutes having played the currents the correct way and off to the first, very long transition. 

Now T1 is a long affair. You get out of the water, grab your transition bag, pack your wetsuit, put on running shows, if you want, and run about 800m to your bike. This was a bit of a drawn out transition but got my bike and off for an interesting ride. 

Bike 

Now I had decided to take my road bike with my race wheels. I was glad I did. The first couple k are flat then you start a twisting climb up under the golden gate bridge. the next 10 k continue to be up and down and with a number of sharp curves. It was a very technical course. You get some flatter sections in the middle of the course then it is back to climbing, descending and turning again for the last third of the race. I did come across one bad accident on a descent with a turn. Three riders were down and we understood one of them with some fairly serious injuries. The last descent onto the final flats I managed to get my speed up as there were no riders in front of me only to come to a 90 degree turn at the bottom and while trying to slow down just had my back wheel starting to skid out, definitely a tricking course. The ride was 30 k but you had little time to relax. Back into to T2 and out on the run. 

Run 

Now the run, like the swim and the bike was a challenge. The first 3k was flat and on a wide path along the beach, about 2k out the pros’ starting to come in. At about the 3k mark (there were no k or mileage markers) the run starts up a set of steps. At the top of about 100 steps there is a narrow trail just wide enough to pass the runners coming the other way. then through a tunnel which even I had to duck going in and back up on a wider trail that eventually goes down on o the beach. The beach was an out and back for about 1.5 km in total. The trick here was to find hard pack sand. going out you are inland and that is difficult. Coming back in from the turnaround you could find hard back sand but then you had to dodge the waves. Once finished this section you hit the infamous sand stairs. These are a 150 plus stairs which consist of a steel cable hand rail and about 15cm in diameter logs suspended from the cables. Now there is suppose to be sand between the stairs but it seemed to have all settled up so you just stepped from log to log. You nor anybody else was going very fast on this. 

 At the top you got back on the narrow path and started a slight downhill run, through the tunnel then down the last steps and back out on the flats. The rest of the run was straight forward, on a wide flat path. Lots of people cheering you in for the last km, hit the finish line having had a pretty good race. 

This was by far the most interesting and fun race I have done, especially the post race meal which consisted of crab and a good California chardonnay!  

  

  

  

  


 
     

Author

Long time runner and tri athlete, currently residing in Moscow

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