At any given time somewhere in the world, there must be some form of a triathlon taking place and this weekend will be no different. What will be different however, is the fact that 2000 (lucky) athletes will be diving off a ferry into cold, rough and dangerous waters off the world famous island of Alcatraz to compete in a triathlon with a difference. Those of you who live and breathe triathlon will know about this race, some of you may even hold bragging rights as taking part and finishing it, but to the uninitiated amongst you, this is just the sort of spectacle that must make you stop and think. This race is just about as hard to get into as the Kona Ironman, but that’s where the similarity ends!

Since 1980, this legendary course has remained virtually unchanged and has been enticing top professional triathletes from around the globe for a chance to put their marker down into the annals of history. Mary Beth Ellis and Andy Potts, the winners in 2009 both acknowledge the truly unique aspects of this race and for many of the amateur racers that are lucky enough to get a place, finishing is an achievement in itself.

The course is comprised of the following stages:

SWIM – 1.5 miles.
The Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon begins with an 8:00 am plunge from the San Francisco Belle into the icy cold water adjacent to Alcatraz Island. The racers are ‘unloaded’ from the boat in less than 6 minutes and this has been likened to a paratrooper leaping from a plane! Here they have to navigate strong currents, treacherous 55 degree waters and even the occasional 2 tonne sea lion before emerging onto Marina Green Beach. Sounds reasonable……..?

WARM-UP RUN – 1 mile.
Emerging from the water, triathletes proceed to the first transition area where they will switch to running shoes and warm clothing for the 1 mile warm-up run to the to the bike transition area. Warm clothes……….?

BIKE – 18 miles.
Here they begin an out-and-back 18 mile ride, which those of you who know San Francisco will understand that it won’t be flat; far from it. There will be plenty of steep climbs, fast descents and tight turns for the athletes to contend with and not forgetting, some less than hospitable road surfaces. Still interested………?

RUN – 8 miles.
On tired legs, the triathletes will begin the 8 mile run and at the turn around they encounter the deep sand of Baker Beach until they then reach the dreaded Equinox Sand Ladder, which is basically 400 sand covered steps up the cliff (thanks!) This experience will drain the legs of even the best professionals as there is nothing like it anywhere in the sport of triathlon. Holding the rail on the way up is frowned upon from the comfort of the office, but I imagine totally acceptable when there in person! A quick look up at the Golden Gate Bridge and then all out to the finish.

Sound like your thing? If you fancy competing in 2011 and you’re not likely to get an invite from the organisers for being a world champion, then here’s a few ways in.

You can compete in a number of events, such as the Westchester Triathlon, the Triathlon at Pacific Grove, the Gateway to the bay or the Gerardmer in France for example, but the London Triathlon does not qualify you this year (boo!) Your only other option is to put your hat into the ring for random drawing, which is basically a lottery for the remaining places. All in all, this would be a once in a lifetime race, that combined with a trip to one of the greatest cities in North America could be a potential goal for 2011.

If you’re a seasoned pro, or haven’t tried a triathlon yet but are keen to get involved, then we’ve got plenty of kit available to get you on your way. We’ve got some great triathlon specific products across a range of price points to suit,  so you’ll never be short of excuses again.

Click here to see our range of triathlon specific products.

Let us know if you’ve taken part in the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon and how you found it compared to others you’ve taken part in.



A hub of reviews, advice and news from the online road cycling experts at ProBikeKit.