A look at some of the key features that make the Escape From Alcatraz Triathlon different from every other triathlon out there. The 2013 Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon will take place this Sunday, March 3.
The Escape From Alcatraz Triathlon is one of those races that you end up talking to your grandchildren about over and over again until they plead for you to stop. “Your granddad once swam 50 miles in 35 degree water,” you’ll say (because guilt-free embellishment is one of the best rewards of age). “All along the same route that thousands of prisoners perished on while trying to escape from prison.”
Here are the top-five things about Alcatraz that make it not just worth doing, but also worth bringing up at every family gathering until they stop inviting you:
1. Hypothermia is cool: There. I said it. Sure, it taxes your heart and other vital organs, but that just makes it that much more badass. With a 1.5 mile swim in roughly 55-degree water, there’s a good chance you’ll at least get a glimpse of the coolness that is “hyping out.”
2. Ever wondered what it’s like to be a sardine? How about a paratrooper?: If so, you will get first hand experience in the hour before the start of the race, when you and a thousand of your not-so-closest friends pile onto a ferry and head out toward the island. Just when you think you can’t stand the wetsuit sauna any longer, the gun goes off and in a matter of minutes everyone on the boat has jumped into the icy waters below.
3. Two runs for the price of one: Who says a triathlon has to be swim, bike, run? Why not: swim, run, bike, run? Upon exiting the water at Marina Green Beach, you will have the joyful opportunity to use your numb fingers to pull running shoes onto your blue (and probably also numb) feet. Watching everyone try to do this quickly is one of the most hilarious things you will see all day.
4. Curves ahead: Much like whether ketchup or mustard is the better hot dog condiment, the dilemma over whether to use a road bike or tri bike on the Alcatraz course usually has triathlon forums blazing months before the event. The course is short (18 miles), but incredibly hilly, including some curves that can be more than problematic if you don’t brake correctly. At the same time, there are a few sections of the course where getting aero is entirely possible, and could help save your legs a little bit for the run. No matter which bike you choose, you’re in for a wild ride with scenery that only San Francisco can offer.
5. Did you like playing Chutes and Ladders as a kid? This is nothing like that: The infamous “Sand Ladder” has broken more than one athlete’s PR on this course over the years. You hit it right after the descent into Baker’s Beach, where you get a little deep-sand running in before heading up the 400 wooden pile-on steps of the ladder. If you are one of those freaks who actually do stair and hill training, then you’ll be a little tired but otherwise fine.
If you are toeing the line this year at Alcatraz, rest assured that you will have an exciting day that you won’t soon want to forget, or let anyone else forget either.
Written by Susan Grant.