Triathlon Magazine Canada

Getting ready to escape: Training for Alcatraz


The athlete guide calls the swim 1.5 miles (2.4 km), but veteran “escapees” and local coaches warn that the distance varies every year depending on currents, tides, and the boat position.

That’s why Megan Tobin (@trimegtri ) coach of the Women Tri Together program at Golden Gate Tri Club urges athletes to prepare for a longer swim: “I’ve done that swim in 30 minutes, and I’ve done it in an hour.” For the

2021 event, age groupers recorded actual swim distance between 3,200 and 3,500 metres – far more than the claimed 1.5 miles.

Tobin suggests visiting San Francisco’s Aquatic Park (free) in the days leading up to the race. This protected area features the same water temperatur­es as out in the channel, offering a great opportunit­y to get a feel for the water’s salinity and chop. (Tobin calls it “texture.”) Longtime “escapee” Steven Titan also touts the Aquatic Park as a great spot for a practice swim, adding that he usually swims without a wetsuit in the days leading up to the race so the water feels comparativ­ely warmer on race day.

Pedro Ordenes, founder of Water World Swim, which runs weekly open-water swims in San Francisco Bay, agrees that athletes should train to swim continuous­ly for at least an hour. And to prepare for the initial shock of cold ocean water, Ordenes suggests dunking yourself in a cold spring lake, or even a cold shower: “You want to get that initial fast shock. Get your face in cold water and count to

10 – that’s the same feeling you’ll get when jumping off the boat and hitting the water.”

The Escape from Alcatraz YouTube channel features some excellent videos on sighting and the best way to attack the swim efficientl­y.

Lastly, race organizers introduced a Saturday aquathlon in 2021 and plan to feature it in 2022. The aquathlon is comprised of a shorter 750-yard swim (plus a 5K run) and is a great chance to get a feel for jumping off the ferry and sighting along the shore.

As for the bike and run, you’ll definitely want to train on big hills for both. And for the run, throw some varied terrain into the mix; run on trails, climb steps, and practice steep descents.

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