Second in our series of iconic triathlon turbo sessions is Escape from Alcatraz This race is often listed as one of the top races to do before you hang up your wetsuit and take up bowls.
The day starts early with competitors boarding the San Francisco Belle. This magnificent paddleboat was originally a floating casino on the Missouri River and is now the largest dining yacht on the West Coast. On race day instead of cocktails, make up and ballgowns its rubber, vaseline and energy gels. The decks are crammed with over 2000 nervous triathletes peering into the mist. The swim briefing consists of ‘try and swim towards the tallest tower on the city skyline’ ( 2 miles away). Followed by ‘Oh you can’t actually see it today as it’s too misty. “Good luck everyone’. Bizarrely all the competitors then place a hand across their heart and do a nervous version of the Star Spangled Banner.
The race prides itself in getting all the competitors of the boat and trashing about in the ocean within 8 minutes. This is achieved by funnelling everyone into a small corridor and creating the sort of crush found only in Walmart on Black Friday. Once you are in the “flow” there is no turning back. Before you know it you are stood on the edge of the Belle with a voice screaming GO-GO-GO-GO like a demented Sergeant Major from Platoon. No turning back now as the safety and comfort of the ship decking underfoot is replaced by….well air! … Once you eventually do hit the water three things instantly fill your brain:
1 its freezing
2 hope no one jumps on my head and breaks my neck
3. where the hell is the shore.
This race is unique in that competitors are encouraged to shout for attention if they find themselves being sucked off course by the strong undercurrents and then allows for the safety canoes to tow competitors back onto the “course” Sighting is actually impossible as the waves are too high to see over. Its a case of waiting till a wave lifts you above the sea giving you a brief glimpse of land to frantically swim toward. Its the only race where I have stopped mid swim to swap expletives with fellow competitors!
Having eventually completed the swim, competitors are then faced with a 800m run from the beach to T1. Some choose to run bare footed other spend some time washing feet, putting on socks and trainers and generally enjoying the surroundings of San Francis Yacht Club.
Out onto the bike course things tend to settle down once your feet have morphed from frozen stumps back into human limbs. The bike is 18 mile out and back with sensational views of both the Golden Gate Bridge and the Pacific coastline to distract your mind from the burning sensation in your lungs as you climb the numerous hills. The final couple of miles are downhill where you depressingly pass competitors already well into their run.
The final jewel in this race is the 8 mile run which is a combination of tarmac and sandy beach. The route takes competitors directly under the Golden Gate Bridge and includes the legendary leg destroying 400 log steps.
There are whole websites dedicated to how best to conquer these nasty little blighters with suggestions ranging from:
walk the steps
skip the steps taking them 2 at a time
crawl using the rope which runs parallel to the step
simply avoid them altogether and take a shortcut
This final suggestion is my favourite and seems the most sensible option even if technically it’s cheating and would lead to disqualification.
Once the steps have been tamed its pretty much downhill all the way back to transition where you will collect your medal and bask in the glory of being able to proclaim I’ve Escaped.
So there you have it, if you do get a chance to race Escape then it will not disappoint your expectations. If not, you can at least experience the bike route by completing our simulation turbo session found
Escape from Alcatraz
Other sessions for you to enjoy can be found here