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S an Francisco, Bagdhad by the Bay. Home of famous Cable Cars and steep crooked streets. Fisherman's Wharf, Sourdough Bread and Fog. Golden Gates, Marin Headlands, North Beach coffee houses and Beat Poets. Haight Ashbury and Triathlon. "Triathlon," you ask? Yes, Triathlon. Specifically, the Alcatraz Triathlon, or Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon, or whatever name you call it. For nearly 20 years, this notorious race has attracted triathlets from all over, to swim the bay, bike the hills and run the trails that make up this picturesque course. In recent years (since 1996), there have been two Alcatraz Triathlons. The "Alcatraz Triathlon" in its 18th year (put on by EnviroSports) and its recent off-shoot, The "24 Hour Fitness Escape From Alcatraz Triathlon", in its third year. Last Sunday (May 31) the "Escape..." race went down, and what a great race it was. Attracting top luminaries of the sport such as Mike Pigg, Alec Rukosev, and Greg Welch on the men's side, and Michellie Jones, Barb Linquist, and Paula Newby Frasier, on the women's side, Sunday's race featured some premier racing. Also on hand, were nearly 700 age groupers.
The boat departed Pier 33 at 7:30 a.m. and headed towards Alcatraz Island (San Francisco's Numer 1 tourist attraction). This is the closest the competitors would get to the infamous "rock" all day. After circling the island the boat headed straight back inland and hovered a mere half mile off of Aquatic Park. It seems the "currents" were too strong, so the swim portion would have to be long-shore from East to West ( see Photo here). Not sure if any competitors felt slighted by doing this Bay swim (and nothing of an "escape") but it seems one might've been disappointed not getting to truly "escape" and swim across the bay. The pro field disembarked and the age groupers followed approximately two minutes behind. The starting horn blasted as at least half the triathletes were still making the icy plunge into the bay.
Back at the transition, racers trotted into the transition, fumbling with numb hands and feet and embarked on the 16 mile bike ride.
The top pros came barreling back into the transition zone with near reckless abandon. The first few back into T2 were Greg Welch, Chris McCormack and Wes Hobson. The trio ripped out of T2 running practically elbow to elbow. The crowd responded in kind with loud applause. More top athletes came barreling into T2, and soon the first female athletes came in. It was Barb Lindquist leading the charge for the women. Two minutes later, in came Michellie Jones then Jackie Gallhager and Sian Welch. Leaving T2, Michellie looked determined as she charged off on the run.
While the pro field was hotly contested, this did not seem to be the case in the age group category. Many of the top age groupers that were at the '97 "Escape" were missing in action this year. Nevertheless, there were several "elite" age groupers that were pushing the envelope. Also, an endless stream of hard working age groupers who were clearly excited to be out racing in the splendid race conditions and famouse race course.
The overhead helicopters signaled to the crowd where the lead runners were. One could trace their progress on the second half of the run from the Golden Gate Bridge, along the Presidio grounds and back towards the Marina Green. The announcer informed the crowd that two lead runners were actually conversing on their final mile. The lead runners reached the final stretch-- it was ITU World Champion, Chris McCormack, and last year's winner, and IronMan champion, Greg Welch. As they rounded the corner into the shoot, McCormack surged ahead and outkicked the lithe and nimble Welch to bust the tape. Interviewed right away, Welch commented that it was no disgrace losing to a "world champion" like McCormack.
On the women's side, Michellie Jones had successfully run down Barb Linquist, to secure a first place finish, thereby defending her title from last year's Escape. She finished the race like a true champion, smiling, waving and high-fiving the crowd as she sailed down the finish shoot.(See Photo here) Barb secured second place, followed by Jackie Gallagher and Paula Newby Fraser.
For complete results, see, http://www.tricalifornia.com/alcatraz/98/results.htm
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