Here is coached athlete Chris's race report from the Escape from Alcatraz triathlon...
It’s never much fun when your alarm goes off at 3am. But that’s one of the things you have to deal with when you do triathlon. My bag was all packed from the night before so all I had to do was sort out my nutrition for the race, have breakfast and go. Needless to say, hotel breakfasts aren’t usually available at 3am so my go-to solution is to have pizza the night before and keep some for breakfast. By sheer fluke the shuttle buses to the event village left from one block away from my hotel so at 4am I was on a bus being whisked away to transition.
The first near disaster of the day happened when I got to my bike and discovered that the front tyre was flat. So there I was at 4:30 am changing the tube by the light of my head torch. But I got that done, set up the rest of my transition area and got on the bus to the ferry. There’s lots of logistics involved in this race! Many thanks to the kind people who lent me a track pump and gave me another tube in case I got another puncture in the race.
I was on the ferry at about 5:45 ahead of the 6:15 sailing and got on with chatting with other excited Escapers. I was amazed how late some people left it getting on the ferry seeing as there are no second chances or refunds if you miss it!
The ferry left exactly on time as advertised, did a lap around Alcatraz Island and then positioned us for the jump. I’d listened to someone who had done the race before and headed to the outside steps to make my jump as this is supposed to be a quick route off. But I discovered that this was false info and by the time I finally made the jump I’d estimate that only about 20% of people were left!
But I made the jump, narrowly avoiding losing my goggles - the second near disaster of the day - and started the swim. My swim was good and I beat my target time of 45 minutes! I found out later that at least 200 and possibly as many as 500 people had failed to hit the exit beach and had been swept past by the current and had needed to walk, wade or swim back.
When I got into transition I was shocked about how many bikes were still there. Having been late off the boat I had expected to be late on the bike too. But it turns out that I was 20th in my age group and 309th overall in the swim so had clearly swum past a load of people!
I got changed and headed out on the bike. I started passing people immediately which didn’t surprise me as the first few kms are flat which is my strength. What did surprise me was that I continued passing people on the hills too! I rode at a good steady pace continuing to pass people and got the bike done in 1:05 which was right on my target time.
I was shocked to discover as I was coming down the last hill that there were still many many people riding up the first hill! Just shows how tough the swim was! Also on the last downhill we went through a tunnel and because of the dark I didn’t see the random man running towards me until the last second. I was going SO FAST - like 65kph - that I would have had no chance of avoiding him. Thank goodness I didn’t hit him. I actually peed myself a bit!
Bike done, I headed out on the run. It was tough getting my legs going and I was initially disheartened about how many people were going past me. But then I realised that because of my fast swim and bike I was at the pointy end of the race with the fast people. And I’ll never be fast on the run! As per the bike, the first few kms are flat gravel paths and I struggled through but then we got to the first set of steps up to the Golden Gate Bridge. That was hard! And so was the remaining kilometre or so of gravel up to the top.
But then we got the tarmac road and there was the chance of a breather before the gnarly gravel descent to the beach. When we got the beach I’d finally got my running legs and I actually enjoyed the 800m to the turnaround. After the turnaround, it was another kilometre of beach to the bottom of the Sand Ladder. It was at this point that I saw my friend coming the other way and we high-fived which gave me a boost!
The Sand Ladder was SO much harder on tired legs than in my recce. I know this was expected but still. Really hard. But I made it to the top and started the jog up the gravel path to the top of the hill. In my mind, I thought that if I could beat my friend to the top of the hill then I might be able to beat her. But no. I’d just started the descent when she came flying past me. She is such a fast runner!
When I got to the flat for the last few kms I was flying. My legs really started working again! I finished in a time of 3:15 a full 15 minutes ahead of my target time. I was 36th out of 197 in my age group, 296 out of 1247 men and 346th out of 1568 finishers overall. There were almost 700 DNFs!
What a major high!
Attention all units. Prisoner #1573 has ESCAPED!!