Race Report – 2016 Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon

I completed the 2015 Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon with one year of training. It was a great experience. Alcatraz is an iconic race – swimming 1.5 miles in frigid waters from Alcatraz to shore; bicycling 18 miles up the steep San Francisco roads, finishing with an 8 mile run, including the infamous Equinox Sand Ladder – 400 stairs climbing up the side of Baker Beach. For the 2016 race I had two primary goals – improve my speed in bicycling and running. I made significant improvements in both and feel I came into the 2016 race in far better cardio condition as compared to 2015. Also, my goal in the swim was to lower my 2015 48 minute swim time by three minutes to 45 minutes. Two days prior to the race (Friday) I did a pre-race swim to practice my open water sighting. The currents were extremely smooth – I am confident I would have completed the swim in 40 minutes had I swam the entire course on Friday. I went into Sunday feeling very good about the swim.

My nutrition Saturday and Sunday morning was probably better than any race I’ve ever had. For Alcatraz you really need to have your nutrition nailed down – it’s not the place to get hungry midway through the race. I jumped off the boat and everything felt great – for about a minute. I immediately noticed how strong the current was – waves were coming over top of me. I fought very hard to swim towards shore before making a right-hand turn but the current was too strong. I was making progress but the waves were pulling me away from shore. I continued swimming wondering when would I finally arrive at St. Francis Yacht Club? About 5 minutes from shore I saw a jet ski pulling another athlete towards shore. I was later informed that over 25 athletes had to be rescued because of the strong currents. I finally made it to the swim exit – 17 minutes slower than my 2015 time.

My slow swim time put me significantly behind my 2015 pace. However, on the bicycle I finished two minutes and 35 seconds quicker than 2015. Onto the last leg – the run. The 2016 run course was one-half mile longer than the 2015 course. My pace was actually 43 seconds per mile quicker than 2015. I completed the race with a time of 04:10. My 2016 time was 10 minutes slower than 2015, however, the overall average time for all athletes was 20 minutes longer as compared with 2015. Race organizers stated the water was the roughest in several years. Overall, I felt good about the event – my bike and run were significantly improved and I completed a very challenging swim. Most importantly, I wasn’t injured!

Thanks to all who helped made it possible!
There are so many people to thank for supporting me on this venture! Joseph and Carolina Lepera, who not only talked me into entering Alcatraz, but housed and fed me. My triathlon coach, Emily Cocks, who developed a customized 2016 training program, answered all of my questions along the way, and frequently checked in to see how my training was progressing. Coach Pedro Ordenes, of Water World Swim, for his expertise in instructing me how to complete the swim from Alcatraz to St. Francis Yacht Club. A special thanks to all the volunteers who made this such a great event!

Attached link is Alcatraz swim. I’m wearing the orange swim cap.

Jon

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