Everyone calls this race a “bucket list” race. Personally I think that term is ridiculously cliche and can’t stand it. I would prefer just to say “Yeah, it’s definitely one you should try and do if you’re interested”. And there’s currently a solid argument to be made that the 40% increase in cost this year is due to every triathlon writer calling this race “bucket list”.

I had first heard about Escape from friends. And then looked it up online back in 2014 for the 2015 race. I entered the second drawing, but was not selected. However I did get selected to race in the 2016 race in the next drawing that was held.

Reading about the race online was interesting because you see everyone’s underlying panic when they ask questions in forums or discuss it online. I didn’t consider the race distances to be difficult lengths. It was a 1.5 mile ocean swim in the Bay, 18 mile ride through San Francisco, and 8 mile run – including a beach section.
But my background with triathlons includes Ironman Lake Tahoe – so I now compare nearly every race to that one. People were particularly scared about the water, but when I lived in SoCal before recently moving back to the SF Bay Area I would train in the ocean. So waves don’t really bother me, nor does the salt.

And when it came down to the actual race, I knew I would have a fun time racing with minimal struggle throughout the day if I wanted. My goal would be 3hr 30min. And when race day came around I managed a 3:35:06

Check In:


Doing anything in SF is a pain because of parking. Parking is honestly the worst part


Signing my life away… like I do at every race.
“If I die, it’s not your fault guys..”


Noon. Athlete meeting in an hour




Had to check out the store. I wanted a jersey at least…


Sitting and waiting for the athlete meeting. Still have about twenty minutes to go





Meeting is starting. I don’t know who was doing the sound, but after working in AV for years and years I’m super critical. And their sound kept getting overloaded and going out, which was annoying.


The view of Alcatraz from the Marina Green.


The finish chute


Bike racks ready for the next morning


T1 and T2 exit/entrance


I walked down to the beach that we would be coming up out of the next morning. Alcatraz is the island on the far right.


Closer shot of the finish line


Got home and checked out my gear bag.
You get number tattoos – which are awesome because then everyone looks pro! And the swim cap is actually a heavy duty cap. So you can totally wear it at other events and brag about your Escape race!


Good thing I didn’t buy a water bottle at the merch tent because they give you a really nice insulated one in your bag


The backpack they give you for this race is a huge Transition bag! You also get a really nice finisher shirt, and Escape towel/transition ground cloth. And honestly I wish the t-shirts they sold were as well designed with graphics as the finisher workout shirt. I like my finisher shirt but they were out of Medium when I checked in, so I had to take a small even though I reserved a medium :(

Race Day


So I got up at 315am to drive to San Francisco with my Dad. While there I found my friend Tara who was also going to be competing! She was supposed to do the year before but got a medical deferral because she was pregnant with her son! Some of you guys might recognize Tara from when I shot her wedding!

I don’t have any photos of the drive to the ferry, or on the ferry of course. But it was about a 35 minute ride. I spent it catching up with Tara. Once there you see everyone getting suited up who wasn’t already in their wetsuit. They have a last-chance gear bag drop location. And then you board the ferry.

The boat ride was about 40 minutes, just as they said.
when we got on the boat we made our way to the “corrals” that were slit up by age group. I hung out in Tara’s area since it was next to mine and I figured I’d join my age groupers when people started to jump.

There were quite a few people laying on the ground sleeping – which quickly became annoying as the boat filled up and there was less room for people to stand and sit. Honestly guys, don’t be an asshole and sleep on the ground taking up space others could be sitting.

The excitement was fun to watch with everyone. You could tell quite a few people were nervous by the sound of their laughter and just the way they were talking.

But by far the most excited and energetic group that morning was the Mexican Tri team that was there. I’m guessing it was a club or something, but there was maybe 8 or 9? people that were laughing chatting, taking pictures, cheering for the video camera and all around in a very cheery mood. Even seeing them on the course throughout the ride and run they would yell and cheer for their groupmates.


So the swim ended up being longer than they said. And I checked with several others afterward and they recorded 3800/3900 yards on their Garmins.

Overall the swim wasn’t bad. I’d like to do it again during one of the “Swim from Alcatraz” (or whatever they’re called) events just to see if I can improve. There was a LOT of waves. And everyone said this was one of the worst years for waves during the swim.

Jumping in you’re instantly shocked from the cold water. But, like Tahoe, I knew once my face got used to it I would be fine. I also work booties (which I never do) and a neoprene swim cap under my competition cap.
I realized right before jumping in that I honestly didn’t know exactly where to sight. I mean, I KNEW, but I didn’t _know_. You know? There was enough morning haze that you couldn’t really see the points I was told to look for.

I asked some other athletes as we all waddled toward the exit to jump in. (There is NO order to this and your swim group/age group means nothing, they don’t follow that at all).
The other athletes were helpful and said “Swim toward the twin building. Then when you’re close, go right toward the orange-topped building”.

Perfect. That’s all I needed.

Now, swimming and sighting was entirely different.

I thought I’d just stay with the group and sight off the buildings when needed. But as soon as everyone was in the water people scattered.


That was basically the swim. I got run over a couple times. Which, frankly, is really damn annoying. I KNOW you see me. Stop running into me and move over.
But one of those people, after I stopped, adjusted, and moved completely out of their way, started swimming toward the Golden Gate… which is the complete wrong direction. Have fun, dawg.

I kept trying to sight off the twin buildings – at least what I thought were the correct “twin buildings” and at several points questioned if I was going the right direction. Especially when I hit 1800 yards and was still not close to shore.

But as you see above my line was actually quite straight.
Especially compared to other people…


Here are all the available swim lines from people on Strava.
If you look closely, you can see me, right in the lower middle, black circle.

Some people had extremely erratic paths. Others completely missed the beach.

But all that being said, high waves that freaked my mom out watching from shore, and a 2 mile swim when everyone expected 1.5 miles, it was still awesome. Honestly I enjoyed it.

Exiting the water to the huge crowd is always fun. And then it was a short jog over to T1


When I exited the water I accidentally hit pause on my Garmin and not next/advance to switch into T1 mode. So it threw off my entire T1 timing


I ran by my family and waved




Getting in T1 I felt annoying disorganized. No clue why. I think it was simply because my wetsuit was a pain to get off and then immediately after my tri top was a pain to get on. So my T1 was a bit slower than I wanted.


I headed out to start the bike leg, and after crossing the timing mat and mounting my bike I stood there a minute to restart my Garmin in the proper mode. I had to un-pause it which is why there is a checkpoint for my “swim” on dry land on the map above. I immediately advanced it to not screw up my swim time, and then advanced again to Bike after I made sure I had done it properly.

So basically I have 13 second T1 or whatever. Blazing fast. I know.


The rest of the bike ride is really enjoyable if you focus more on the fact that you’re cycling through some beautiful parts of the peninsula. There are some FAST descents around Lands End that you have to be careful on since they’re immediately followed by hairpin turns.

There are also some really steep climbs on the way back. When turn Right onto Seal Rock Drive on the way back, it’s an incredibly steep climb up.


Here’s the Google Maps view. You can’t really tell… but according to Strava it’s a 16% grade. Ha!
I honestly started laughing out loud when I turned the corner and said something like “Shit, this’ll be fun..”

Some people actually had to stop their bikes mid climb.


The remainder of the ride wasn’t bad after that. One more steady climb and then all downhill pretty much. The last two miles I was side by side with a couple other riders tucked in aero doing about 26/27 mph and we few into T2. haha!


Coming in from the bike. Dismount line is over the righthand side there


T2 was reasonably quick. After dismount you cross under the arch, mount, transition, then leave out the _back_ of the paddock. So you jog/run the length of the finish chute before hitting the pavement.
In T2 I realized my HRM wasn’t snapped on one side – immediately annoyed me because I knew that meant I would have zero heart rate data to review from my ride.


Mom was doing a great job of finding me as I arrived/left transition



8 miles to go!


As I was in T2 I also heard the first place finisher cross the finish line. That means his run was around the 1:05 it took me to do the bike because he was coming in off the bike as I was going out


Probably not surprisingly my slowest mile was the one where you do half of it in sand. haha!


This is a bit after the Sand Ladder that everyone panics about.
Ironically as I approached the sand ladder I realized I had actually been up it before – at 430am one morning when I went to do photos and ended up at the wrong beach and it was completely fogged in.


Had to still cheese it up with a thumbs up because I was honestly having a great time


The last two miles were pretty much all downhill. The sun was out on this side of the peninsula and pretty warm. So it was easy to start to feel worn out if you let it get to you.


Parents and niece all waiting in the stands


In the finish chute! Gotta finish strong!






My official time was 3:35:06. I guess I didn’t realize that we crossed a timing mat before jumping off the ferry that morning, but yeah!

I pretty much hit my goal of 3:30. If I hadn’t have struggle so much with my damn tri top in T1 I honestly would have saved a minute or two just trying to change into my kit.
Also, the weeks leading up to the race I had a lot of back pain for some reason (i think I strained it during a workout) and that kept me off my bike and from running missing about half my scheduled workouts.



Escape done! Check this off my list of races I’d like to do…


After getting lunch (which is provided for athletes) I got to sit and catch up with my family and talk about the event. Step dad and Mom on the left were two weeks out from their Half Iron race in Coeur d’Alene – which they’ve since finished.



On the way out I wanted a photo with the sign and my bike!
Logging some great events on my P3 so far. Ironman Lake Tahoe, Iron70.3 Relay in Florida with my buddies, and now Escape all in the last 9 months.


And our Finisher medal!
Last year had bars that opened and closed. This year’s medal has a lighthouse with spinning glass “light” at the top. I think this one is pretty cool.

I didn’t wait in line for the engraving though… who did? was it free?








2 thoughts on “Escape From Alcatraz 2016

  1. Pingback: Ragnar Trail Relay – Lake Tahoe – John Remus III Photography

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