March 2, 2024


Health is wealth

A Grueling Race to Swim-Bike-Run

4 min read

Any race on the professional triathlon circuit can be predicted to test the outer restrictions of human endurance, self-induced punishment, and dietary nutritional supplement sponsorship. But only one particular has a starting line that would’ve created Al Capone and George “Machine Gun” Kelly pee their Speedos. That honor belongs to the Escape From Alcatraz Triathlon (EFAT).



On Aug. 14–15, the yearly Escape From Alcatraz Triathlon turns 40—fully afloat in the wake of 2020’s canceled party, thanks to the pandemic, and still the scariest a few-part race named soon after a previous optimum-safety prison.

Triathlete Ben Kanute finishing swim
Ben Kanute will contend this calendar year for his report fourth consecutive earn. Courtesy Image


















“That initial leap is a fairly shocking jolt each time,” states qualified triathlete Ben Kanute, EFAT’s reigning a few-time winner, about the start off of the race.

That infamous start off has rivals leap into San Francisco Bay from a passenger ferry parked in the vicinity of Alcatraz Island. Which is followed by a breathless 1.five-mile swim to the deceivingly distant Marina District shore of San Francisco by way of dark, choppy, 55- to 60-diploma drinking water with treacherous currents and the odd laughing sea lion. “You genuinely have to mentally prepare oneself for that swim,” states Kanute. “It’s kind of a free of charge-for-all out there at initial. Then things start off to settle down and just go variety of numb—including your hands and face.”

For the duration of the famously “escape-proof” offshore prison’s years of operation (1934–63), numerous Alcatraz inmates graciously pretested this initial leg of the triathlon system during more than a dozen breakout bids from the Rock. All ended up unsuccessful (numerous fatal), besides perhaps for one particular 1962 try by a few inmates who either created it all the way across the bay without having a trace. Or did not.

“We do not advocate this to be a participant’s initial triathlon,” states Jennifer Lau, VP of Action Sporting activities for party-runner IMG, which will also be launching its inaugural Escape Aquathlon race (Aug. 14) that identical weekend, consisting of an abbreviated 750-meter bay swim and 5K operate. “The open up-drinking water swim is like no other in the planet, and one particular of the most difficult in the activity,” states Lau. “It’s like crossing a immediate racing river with thousands and thousands of gallons of drinking water flowing out under the Golden Gate Bridge.”

Runner walking up Sand Ladder with San Francisco Bridge in the background.
Postcard sights are minimal consolation on the distress-inducing Sand Ladder. Courtesy Image

Off the Rock

The remaining two-thirds of the triathlon include touring some of the prettiest corners of San Francisco’s Presidio and Golden Gate National Recreation Area at major velocity on an eighteen-mile bicycle system entire of brutal hills and turns, and managing a punishing eight-mile multiterrain system on pavement, grass, filth, beach front and a nasty established of cliff stairs referred to as the Sand Ladder.

“At the Sand Ladder, you’re fundamentally managing up a steep, large dune,” states Kanute of the two hundred-moreover primitive wood slat actions awaiting wobbly triathletes at Baker Beach. “It’s an additional part of this race where by you just have to take that it’s gonna harm.”

Conceived during the early years of triathlon levels of competition as a shorter, meaner different to Hawaii’s Ironman slog, the initial Escape race was held in 1981 with zero fanfare. A smaller pack of neoprene-fewer initial-era triathletes knocked out a swim from Alcatraz, followed by a previous version of the system that sent cyclists across the Golden Gate Bridge into the grueling hills of Marin County and a operate on the infamous Double Dipsea trail foremost up and down Mount Tamalpais, the region’s optimum peak.

Now entirely dependent in San Francisco, EFAT’s biking and managing courses have modified more than the years. So have the number of contributors, ballooning from an unique two hundred largely regional rivals to 2,000 triathletes from additional than fifty nations around the world. A random attract method was put in place to deal with the triathlon’s ten,000-moreover applicants, who may have as lower as a thirty per cent chance of having in. This year’s inaugural Aquathlon guide-up race is intended to appease some of the overflow.

What hasn’t modified about the triathlon in its historic forty seasons?

“I consider in all probability just the whole truly feel of it—the amazing challenge, the unpredictable circumstances, the awesome setting and vibe, and clearly that swim. It is genuinely one particular of the past classics in the triathlon planet,” states Kanute, a Rio Olympian who’s aiming for a men’s report fourth-consecutive EFAT title in a winner’s circle that consists of numerous of the largest names in the activity more than the previous four a long time.

“Whether you’re likely for initial or five hundredth place,” the major-seeded triathlete provides, “it is still one particular challenging race.”

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