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  • Writer's pictureJason Bankston

Escape from Alcatraz

Every year on the anniversary of the legendary Escape from Alcatraz, which happened on June 11, 1962, triathletes from around the world descend on San Francisco for one chance to attempt the impossible – ESCAPE from Alcatraz. The Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon attracts World Champions, Olympic Medalists, and the best amateur triathletes from 50 states and over 40 countries. They put their endurance to the ultimate test as they take on San Francisco's legendary bay, steep hills, and rugged terrain. Consistently ranked as a favorite event among Triathletes, this event draws thousands each summer to find out who has what it takes to ESCAPE!

The Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon features a 1.5-mile swim from Alcatraz Island to the shores of the St. Francis Yacht Club, a grueling 18-mile bike ride, and a demanding 8-mile run through the trails of the Golden Gate Recreational Area. Set against the natural beauty of San Francisco, this thrilling triathlon is a virtual postcard of the City by the Bay.

This is by far the best race I have done to date.

Escape from Alcatraz taught me many things about life. When I first jumped in the water the expectation was that it was going to be freezing cold. The water temperature is usually a warm 55 degrees! As a matter of fact, it was not as cold as I expected it to be. It was cold, but it was tolerable, especially having the right tools, such as my wet suit and booties for my feet. The current is also very strong when you first jump in and it immediately begins to pull you towards the Golden Gate Bridge. They refer to this as the river. Our goal is to swim across the river towards the Yacht Club, which is 1 ½ miles down the shore.

The cold water to me represents new ideas. When you first give an idea everyone seems to stare at you and give you cold looks. They are not buying in to it right away. Their responses are not what you expect. But having the right tools and continuing to chip away one stroke at a time you begin to warm up and so do the people around you.

The current represents the feedback. The current can be very strong. So strong, as a matter of fact, that they have hundreds of boats lining the path to ensure you do not get swept away under the Golden Gate Bridge. It is 1 1/2 miles down the beach. You should gain feedback but you need to keep it within a specified time frame or your idea will be swept away.

With the combination of the cold water and the strong current it is good to have a team of people guiding you and ensuring your safety. This helps keep your idea (race) from getting off track. It may be years away (1 ½ miles for the race) from taking off but with the right tools and guidance along the path you are off to a trustworthy start. This is only the beginning.

The water is where you are developing relationships. You are fighting to figure out where you belong. Once you exit the water it is a transition to the bike. This is where you move ahead or fall behind.

Let the climbing begin on the bike! For 18 miles you are climbing. You cannot really enjoy the downhills because they end with sharp turns and then begins another climb.

This is representing the beginning of your journey. You must climb and grow to reach your goals. John Maxwell says "Anything worthwhile is uphill." Each climb presents a different challenge. Once you reach the top you can coast and become complacent or you can prepare for the next climb. Those who are prepared continue to pull ahead of everyone else. Those who remain complacent and coast fall further behind. This is what they call downhill habits. These are not good. This is what keeps you from excelling and growing.

Along the way you will have people offering encouragement and nutrition. These are your mentors and people who believe in you. You need these people. They are part of your team. Listen to them. Take the nutrition even if you do not think you need it. You will eventually. Why else would they be giving it to you! Nothing great was ever accomplished alone!

After the bike is the run. This is where your idea is established and now you are on the path of fulfillment. The run started out flat and fast but started to go uphill about 2 miles in and for about the next 2 miles before going back down towards Baker Beach. You run on the deep sand of Baker Beach for about 1 mile before approaching one of the most iconic challenges on the race circuit. It is called the sand ladder. It consists of 400 steps of sand straight up to the cliff. Once you make it to the top you continue on the trail for about 1/2 mile of uphill climbing. This is the peak of the race. After this, it is literally all downhill to the finish line for the last 2 miles.

You see, your idea travels along the same path. Once you have established it, the momentum takes you along quickly. Then come the ups and downs. Then come the slow moving times like running through the deep sand on Baker Beach. Enjoy the view and the time. Who does not enjoy the beach, especially with a view? Now it is time to take it to the next level if you are up for the challenge. This is the sand ladder. You do not have to be the fastest, but you do need to make it up the ladder before the race is over or you are done.

Once you have gotten up the sand ladder you are home free to the finish. This may be the end of this race but it is only the beginning of the next if you want to stay in the game. Enjoy the victory of finishing and being one of the best but do not rest to long. The next best thing is out there waiting for you to take it and run with it.

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