Alcatraz Challenge Swim

Last week was a busy week for me with my ATOC pre-ride on Wednesday and yesterdays Alcatraz swim.  Both events were in preparation for my Hawaii 70.3 in two weeks!  This will be my second half Ironman this year and marks the beginning on a packed June/July race schedule!  That includes Hawaii 70.3, Rev3 Portland Half, Vineman 70.3 relay and Full Vineman Aquabike!

I moved out to San Francisco in the late 90’s and had my first taste of triathlon with the Escape from Alcatraz.  I saw an ad posted on marina green asking for volunteers, while out running.  I thought it would be a fun and signed up!  I was in charge of making sure the athletes t1 bags were in order and then handing them off as they exited the water.  I remember being amazed that these athletes of all sizes and shapes were laying it all out there for the thrill of racing!  Since then, I’ve swum the from Alcatraz swim 10 times and loved most…there was one that I’ll discuss another time 🙂

Whats most interesting about these swims is that there are three race mgmt entities that compete.  Each one has a slightly different course on where you start around Alcatraz and also where you wash up.  The TriCalifornia races, which I raced in yesterday is my favorite.  Mostly due to the fact that you wash up further down the beach and can better navigate the currents.

Alcatraz swim from sky viewpoint

I’ve been feeling good about my swimming and was coming off a 70.3 swim PR down at Oceanside.  This was also a great opportunity to break in my TYR Sport Cat 5 Hurricane wetsuit.  I had rented one down at Oceanside, but there’s something about a brand new wetsuit that’s yours!  The wetsuit also helped, as the water was a balmy 54′!!!  Surprisingly, my feet didn’t get numb like at last years Boise 70.3 with their 59′ water.

Alcatraz Challenge Swim

For this race, they had trolley cars on wheels transport us from the beach finish to the awaiting boat.  We then circled the island a couple of times to wait for the perfect time for the currents.  It’s fun to chat with the peeps on the boat and there were over 300 swimming.  There were even a dozen or so peeps sans wetsuit and looking foolish!  I can’t even imagine trying that swim without a wetsuit, but there’s always those hard-core swimmers out there.

For this race your chip started when you jumped off the boat into the water.  I tried to position myself in the first 20 or so people jumping off.  Once in the water my forehead was chilled for a while, but overall it wasn’t too cold out there.  It took just over 7min or so for me to find my comfort zone.  I felt pushed, but not at max by any means.  I’ve always felt that I was a good sighter in the water and have always found it annoying when some racers have NO CLUE what that means.  I’m there in the Bay with tons of water to spread out and this one guy kept running into me, speeding up and then slowing down.  I started to react more aggressively every time, until the fourth time when I literally stopped him in the water and pushed him away.  I preceded to sprint away and never saw him again.  I had the lead boat in front of me at all times and felt like I was on track.  That is the key to this race, as the leaders know how to use the currents to their advantage.  I stayed to the far right and they even advised me to move left, but I held my ground.   I was shocked when I got home to see my trakking from my Garmin 310xt:

Dam, I'm good at straight line swimming!

I did let a few peeps pass me on the last third of the race and I wish I had jumped in their wake and gone with them.  I felt strong and I just hesitated too long on a couple of occasions.  Overall I felt great about the race and finished in 35:25 for 6th in my age group! This was a pr for me and I was psyched.   The winning time was just under 31 min by an 18yo girl!  I’m psyched about where I’m at with my  swimming and can’t wait to hit the warm waters of Kona in two weeks!

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2 responses to “Alcatraz Challenge Swim

  • Kacie

    Awesome! I love this report. I am envious of your straight line abilities!

  • Kristin

    I’m a straight swimmer too and I hate it when people like the one you talked about are swimming near me. Ugg i end up elbowing them in the head or ribs or grab their feet or arms/shoulder/head. That works too. I’m jealous there are lots of Alcatraz swims, I’d love to do one. Congrats on your time and place!!! And Good luck in Hawaii

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