T100 Triathletes Face Alcatraz's Icy Wrath

What started as a small local event has transformed into an iconic triathlon that now sells out in minutes to athletes around the world. The Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon, known for its grueling course beginning with a plunge into the frigid San Francisco Bay alongside the infamous prison, has gained immense popularity over the years.

The event began being televised on NBC in 1989, and the race's fame skyrocketed, making it a bucket list challenge for triathletes. Today, the limit is 2,000 entries, with over 10,000 applicants from over 50 countries vying to participate annually.

The excitement reached new heights earlier this year with the announcement that the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon will be the California stop for the new T100 Triathlon World Tour. As the third race on this global circuit, the legendary event will challenge some of the world's top athletes with an extreme test of mental and physical endurance. The rising popularity has transformed this race into an iconic event that sells out quickly to triathletes worldwide.

A Powerful history

Alcatraz Island is iconic for several reasons that have cemented its place in popular culture and made it a must-visit destination for over a million tourists each year. During its time as a federal prison from 1934 to 1963, it housed some of America's most notorious criminals like Al Capone and Robert Franklin Stroud (the "Birdman of Alcatraz").Perhaps the most famous “Escape from Alcatraz” was that of Frank Lee Morris, who was the brilliant mastermind of one of the most legendary prison escapes in history. Morris and two others escaped from Alcatraz on June 11, 1962, and they were never to be seen again. Its harsh conditions and isolated location in the middle of San Francisco Bay, surrounded by cold waters and strong currents, made it one of the most secure and inescapable prisons of its era. 

After years as a federal prison, There was a 19-month occupation of Alcatraz Island by the Indians of All Tribes group from 1969 to 1971 was a watershed moment for the American Indian Movement and indigenous rights globally. The abandoned federal prison, part of the traditional Ohlone and Coast Miwok homelands, was seized by 89 activists led by Richard Oakes and LaNada Boyer to protest U.S. termination policies and demand a deed to the island. Despite the occupiers establishing a school, clinic, and radio station while facing blockades, the powerful symbol of Red Power and indigenous sovereignty drew worldwide attention. Though ending after a fire in 1971, the occupation prompted the President to abolish termination and pass the Indian Self-Determination Every year since 1975, a powerful annual tradition takes place as Native Americans journey from the mainland to Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay. Their gathering happens every third weekend in November  called “Thanksgiving Sunrise Ceremony” - a celebration that spotlights 500 years of Native resistance against colonization. Held on traditional homelands of the Ohlone people, this ceremony serves as a  call to remember the past while also looking ahead. 

The Icy Nightmare Begins

The race kicks off with a heart-pounding plunge into the icy depths of San Francisco Bay, adjacent to the infamous Alcatraz Island. Competitors don't simply dive into any ordinary body of water – they must gather up the courage to leap off a ferry boat into the bone-chilling waters, where the temperature hovers around a numbing 55°F (12-13°C).  Wetsuits are an absolute must - every single participant must wear a full-body wetsuit. In addition to wetsuits, competitors will receive brightly colored swim caps designated by age group for enhanced visibility. Many also opt for additional neoprene accessories like hoods, socks, and gloves to combat the frigid water. The 2km swim from Alcatraz to the Marina Green Beach is a true test of mental and physical endurance. As athletes battle through the numbing conditions, the cold will inevitably set in, causing their hands and feet to go numb, sapping their energy, and making it difficult to maintain proper form. Elite professionals have been known to complete the swim in around 30 minutes, but most athletes take 35-60 minutes to escape Alcatraz's watery grasp, pushing through fatigue and mental barriers with every stroke.

An Epic Bike Journey

The 80km bike leg through San Francisco promises an epic journey. This challenging course winds through the city's iconic landmarks and neighborhoods, offering breathtaking views of the bay and skyline that will take your breath away - literally. It is known for relentless rolling hills, steep climbs, and hairpin turns that demand precise bike handling skills. A strict 20m no-drafting rule will be stringently enforced, with wave starts spreading competitors across the course.

The Grueling Final Run

The journey continues back at the scenic Marina Green for the start of the 18km run, where competitors pass beneath the iconic Golden Gate Bridge at Fort Point. The real challenges still await ahead. Runners must conquer the unforgiving terrain, ascending and descending treacherous hills alongside historic Coastal Defense Batteries until reaching the dreaded Baker Beach. The energy-sapping sand awaits before athletes encounter the 400 grueling steps carved into the seaside cliff known as the Sand Ladder. After the Sand Ladder, athletes turn left onto the Coast Trail for the final push toward Lincoln Boulevard, passing back under the Golden Gate Bridge and finally reaching the raucous crowds at Marina Green after completing the course with a staggering 1,489ft of elevation gain.

As the California stop on the prestigious T100 circuit, this iconic event will welcome elite professionals and daring amateur triathletes alike to "escape" from the legendary Alcatraz Island and push their limits like never before amidst San Francisco's breathtaking scenery. Mark your calendars for June 8th-9th, 2024, and tune in to bear witness as some of the world's best athletes are challenged like never before, conquering what was once thought unconquerable. Let the battle to conquer the Escape from Alcatraz begin!


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