23 Aug 2016



Being one of most iconic races in the World, I could not pass on the opportunity to race San Francisco Triathlon at Alcatraz after having the qualification to Kona sorted out. Tri California, the same guys that put on races like Pacific Grove and Wildflower, brought this race back to life after a 4 year hiatus, offering 900 athletes the chance to start the day with an “escape” from Alcatraz.

The Race:

By sunrise, I found myself getting ready for this rather unique triathlon start, boarding a boat heading out to the middle of the San Francisco bay where we would all brave the 10 foot jump into the chilly waters right off the shore of the Alcatraz Island. I must say that this was by far the most choppy water I ever swam on but I focused on keeping my eyes on the prize (read: the big dome of the Arts Palace by the Marina) and I steadily made my way to shore. At any point I had a draft out of people around me because we were all zig-zagging and navigating the swell. While I’m not the most at-ease person with any sort of open water swimming, this one ended up pretty “mind-busy” as it was hard to just keep the momentum and actually sight anything on shore after my goggles completely filled with water from the jump off the boat.  I’m a bad example of a open water swimmer as I panic when I’m swimming in the middle of nowhere or when there are fish around me, so I was actually happy that my mind was so locked and focused on swimming straight other than looking around or understanding what I was doing. I was 4th out of the water clocking a little over 27-min for the swim.

After the long swim – it’s a 1.2 mile swim.. if you do it on a straight line, which you don’t – I quickly made my way to the bike and off to face the hills. If the swim is hard, the bike does not get any easier, with the course going through the Golden Gate bridge entrance and the hills of Lands End Park. I did go with a borrowed road bike mostly because this was a very quick trip to San Francisco and wanted to keep it as simple as possible although I was still planning on racing it to my best. Given I was on a road bike, I played my aces on the hills and caught all the swim leaders on the very first hill. I had previewed the course on the day before so I was aware of the challenging descents as well and, above all, made sure I was safe. Once we got over the first set of hills, there was a long stretch, pancake flat, where I lost contact with the then new leader. Being on a road bike didn’t help my case but I was focused on keeping my power steady and high and just “survive” the flat section along Ocean Beach without losing too much time. I could still see the lead moto bike on the way back into town and again on the Lands End hill section so I knew I still had a chance of taking top spot of the podium since my run has been my “safety net” on all my races. I got to T2 after a 315 watts normalized power ride which really shows you how tough the bike course is and how much I was committed not to slack on this “bucket” list adventure.

The run was by far the most scenic course I’ve ever done in a triathlon, going up and down the coastal bluffs, stairs and the characteristic steep hills of San Francisco.  I did end up having a great run, although I also took my time to enjoy the landscape. The uphill stairs section, were a nice opportunity to walk and do just that – take my time – because surely no one can run up those unless you are a steeplechaser. I’m sure they put it on the course on purpose so we have to slow down and enjoy. I came across the line first, after a little over 2 hours of pure joy.

The race offers a one-of-a-kind venue and experience for all athletes that embrace the challenge. I honestly hope I have the chance to come back in the future and wish I could share my visual memory with all on this report. It is certainly a triathlon I won’t forget and one I will recommend to every single person that loves triathlon.