Note: This article originally appeared in Triathlete Magazine Online (Summer '98)
San Francisco summers can be cool. In fact, some days can be down right cold. With malingering fog, and wind that whips up off the bay, you could easily mistake a summer day for a winter day in San Francisco. Alcatraz Penitentiary prisoners were often fond of saying that as the weather got cooler, they knew it was summer.
On August 15, 1998, the conditions were typical San Francisco summer; cool and foggy. But, the 500 plus triathletes who came to compete in the Eighteenth Annual Alcatraz Triathlon didn't seem fazed by the cool conditions.
Competitors boarded the Bay Flyer around 6:45 a.m. and prepared for phase one of the triathlon-- the daunting and infamous 1.5 mile swim from "the Rock". Triathlete's tension and nerves before a normal race can run pretty high. You can usually sense tense vibes before most triathlons. But, when you're aboard a boat destined for Alcatraz, with several hundred folks who are expected to swim the Bay channel, tension and nerves run way off the scale. You can cut through the giddy tension on these boat rides with a butter knife.
The water temperature was in the low-60's, with some chop from the wind. As the boat pulled up on the eastern side of the island, the mass exodus began. Competitors were treated to an extremely good view of the rock as the drop-off was a mere 30 feet or so from the island. As the horn blasted, competitors swam around from behind the relative shelter of the island, into the rough and choppy waters of the open bay.
Stanford distance swimmer, Jonathan Lischke, emerged first out of the water in around 29 minutes, trailed by Todd Walsh, a minute and a half later. Swimmers quickly tranisitioned to the 2.8 mile run over to the bike transition, situated on the Presidio, near the Golden Gate Bridge. Competitors had to make it up and over the hill at Ft. Mason, along the Marina and onto the Presido. A good warm-up indeed for the 18 mile bike.
The bike segment featured a three loop course that climbed up from the Presidio, past the Bridge and to down to Baker Beach and back.
Recent East Coast transplant, and upstart Bay Area triathlete, Eric Bean, surged into the lead on the bike course and never looked back.
The run course, in typical EnviroSports' fashion, was a seven mile out and back that featured, stairs, dirt trails, breath-taking views, beach crossings, hills, and the dreaded "Sand Ladder", which left even the strongest runners staggering and sliding in the soft sand. For a metropolitan triathlon, this is an incredibly scenic and rugged run. Due to massive erosion from El Nino, the run was shortened from 10 miles to 7 miles. Not many competitors were complaining about the abbreviated run leg.
Bean cruised to victory in a time of 2:17.08, and professional triathlete, Lauren Alexander was the top female finisher in a time of 2:40.39- ten minutes up on the next female. With over 500 finishers, this was one of the biggest turnouts yet for the Alcatraz Triathlon.
Top Finishers: Male: Eric Bean 2:17.08 Jonathan Genant: 2:20.25 Greg Taylor 2:22.58 Eric Johnson 2:24.56 Tim Sheeper 2:26.41 Female: Lauren Alexander 2:40.39 Katie Scargos 2:50.4 Liz Spurr 2:52.1 Kimberly Walker 3:00:06 Kate O'connor 3:00:22
For complete results, see:
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