Friday, June 15, 2012

Escapee Report - Alcatraz 2012

I was so worried.  Worried about the infamous icy water with it's snarly currents that disorient even the strongest swimmers.  Worried about the ric rac San Francisco landscape that would burn my quads as I rode uphill and possibly force me off my bike to push it over the mountain.  And that sand ladder, wow was I worried about that!

All for naught. 

Escape from Alcatraz was a GREAT race.  I survived!  The race was high on a degree of difficulty, especially for a sprint/olympic hybrid distance.  But it's do-able -- even enjoyable.  There's not much to complain about when you are where you are, running biking and swimming in the City By The Bay.

Race directors thought of everything at EFA (Escape from Alcatraz).  The triple decker boat the swimmers boarded for take off was warm and comfortable.  Two thousand triathletes spread out quite comfortably on the carpeted decks of the mighty Hornblower ship and had a lovely view of Alcatraz when it circled the island.  The foghorn signaled the start of the race and the sight of hundreds of wetsuit clad swimmers with bright swim caps jumping into the ocean was spectacular.  Something I will never forget.  **RACER TIP: Wear two swim caps, it keeps your noggin warm without messing with your equilibrium.

The current pulled us west toward the Golden Gate and we swam in an arched pattern to the beach, sighting the familiar landmarks:  Coit Tower, a huge telephone tower, and the dome of the Exploratorium.  Because of the natural currents in the swim, the racers spread out quickly -- very opposite of an Ironman swim where you are constantly hit and kicked by your opponents.  And after 1.5 miles, it was done.  The escape was not that bad!

On to the bike.  But not after a transition that included a half a mile run to the bikes. **RACER TIP: Bring a second pair of running shoes.  You'll need them for this extra long transition run.  The bike course is hilly but not CRAZY hilly.  My advice again, train on steep hills and you will be fine.  Eighteen miles and you're done. 

And then the run.  After a flat two miles the run/hike/obstacle course begins.  You'll climb some steps up from the beach to the cliffs that line the shore.  The single-track path gets tricky as athletes are passing shoulder to shoulder on the rolling trail.  After a mile or so, it winds downhill to Baker Beach where suddenly everything seems to slow way down as the heavy, deep sand grabs and sucks in your tired legs and feet.  It's tough here.  But again, the scenery is drop dead gorgeous.  The waves are crashing right in front of you and the salt water  spray will cool you as you pass and make your way toward the sand ladder, a 250 foot uphill "ladder' of railroad ties.

The ladder is the most challenging part of the run, but once it's over you can sigh a sigh of relief. It's all downhill from here.  The thought of this seemed to fill my energy depleted tank with joy and I picked up my pace as I crossed the finish line all smiles and happiness.

If EFA intrigues you, DO THIS RACE.  It's a bucket list event and you'll never regret.  Finish times become less important on this one.  EFA is all about accomplishing this feat and soaking it all in.  The race directors have perfected every aspect of the event from swag bags to finish line food --  all first class.  For me, it was a top five race.  I loved it.  And I'll be back to this one, guaranteed.


  1. Sounds Awesome!!! You're amazing.


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