Escape From Alcatraz

The 32nd Annual Escape from Alcatraz was held in San Francisco with about 2000 competitors.  The race was a 1.5mi swim across the bay, 18 mile bike through the hills of the city, and an 8 mile run along the beach.

Spent Saturday down at the water getting used to the water temperature (55 deg).  The expo was decent but smaller that expected. There were lots of logistics with the race: a bag had to be dropped off for pre-T1 (coming out of the water) and another bag was dropped prior to getting on the boat.

Racked the bikes early on Sunday, got on a bus to the ferry where we changed into wetsuits.  The boat, holding 2000 people, took us out, circled Alcatraz and then got into position.  Once the horn went off, it was bedlam as the boat emptied out in about 10 minutes (timing pads on the deck as you jumped off).  It was tricky making sure you didn’t jump on anyone and that you got out of the way for the next jumper. It took about 5 minutes to find some free water.  The water was cold but you didn’t notice it much since you were jockeying for position and trying to sight. Judging the sighting was where you made time.  The current was flowing out of  the bay (left to right).  If you swam too far to the left, you  would have to swim along the shore where there was not much current.  If you swam too much to the right, you were swept out of the bay (they picked up about 200 folks who were swept out; luckily they bring you back and you can still finish the race).  There was some chop but nothing major. The worst part was approaching shore where the swells bounced off the breakwater creating a mix of swells.

At pre-T1, you had a bag with your running shoes.  You stuffed your wetsuit, etc into the bag and ran about 1/2 mile to T1 (I had about 8 min T1!).


The bike was a series of climbs and descents, short and steep. It brought you around the north end of SF with breathtaking views of the bay and Golden Gate Bridge, eventually ending up at the Golden Gate Park for the turn around. I brought the road bike since you only had about 4 miles of flat.  Pacing was difficult since you don’t have many tri’s with this many hills and it’s hard to know how much to push up the hills knowing you have a hilly 8 mile run coming up.


The run was a wild mix of flats, steps (we’re talking hundreds and it was just has fast walking fast as running), narrow single track where it was difficult to pass oncoming runners, and sandy beach where you sank into the sand.  At the same, time there were gorgeous views of the coastline.


The weather was great.  Sunny, dry with a high in the 70s by the end of the race.

Luckily I had a strong swim so I was able to get ahead of the crowd which slowed a bunch of people down on the bike and especially the run (narrow trails). Overall finished 381/1324 males  and 19/122 in AG (50-54).  Looking back, probably could have gone a little faster on the bike but, like I mentioned, pacing was difficult.

Escape results

Overall, a great race with lots of diversity on the course: tough open water swim, scorching descents (40+ mph) through mist and fog, walking up stairs and great crowds.

Race Notes:

  • Start at the back of the boat, less crowded
  • Neoprene cap with strap in back worked well (did not come off)
  • Sighting the radio tower worked well since I could not see the fontana apts.
  • Probably could have swum harder but seemed to spend a lot of time sighting and trying to get around people (decided not to use contacts)
  • Finishing early on the swim was a huge benefit since I did not have to  deal with the crowds, especially on the run where it was hard to pass at times
  • Nutrition: Gu before swim, gu in T1, gu in T2.  Seemed good.
  • Probably could have ridden a bit harder; the run is always a hang on anyways; no legs left at the end to sprint
  • the bike was not as technical as I had thought though i played it conservative on the descents.

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