Escape from Alcatraz – here, let me help you

Escape from Alcatraz is one of the most iconic triathlon races in the U.S. and definitely is a bucket-list event for many people. I had the opportunity to volunteer at the swim exit with Oakland Triathlon Club for the 2015 race.

Date: June 7, 2015      |      Location: San Francisco, CA

Weather: Cool, overcast, 50-60 degrees

Volunteer Location – Swim Exit / Beach Steps

I know what you’re thinking: “What could have motivated you to wake up so early on a Sunday when you aren’t competing?” Well, quite a few things, actually.

See those feet? Ya, you know the ones. Don't enter the water like that.
See those feet? Ya, you know the ones. Don’t enter the water like that.

  1. Other people volunteer at your race – at some point, you feel the need to give back.

I arrived at the Marina Green to check in and pick up my volunteer shirt, feeling a little frazzled after a (very) early morning bus and bike ride from Oakland. As I was cruising along the Embarcadero, a bus cut me off in front of one of the port buildings. It took me until I started filling water cups at the water our volunteer station to realize the “jerk bus” was actually a coach full of athletes en route to the San Francisco Belle – I wasn’t too upset after my brain put that together.

  1. It’s the closest you can get to the race without, you know, actually racing.

We knew we would need a few volunteers down at the beach, so when I was offered the opportunity, I jumped on it immediately. Having completed one Alcatraz swim, I know just how disorienting it is to land on the beach in the City. I was thrilled to be one of our team to help on the sand.

No actual prisoners escaped in 2015, as far as I know. But, there were a bunch of striped tri kits!
No actual prisoners escaped in 2015, as far as I know. But, there were a bunch of striped tri kits!

After our water was set up, most of our group headed down to the water to “watch” – really, we were doing some traffic control, answering questions, and staring at empty water. The leaders appeared out of nowhere, sending most of our team sprinting up to the aid station, while the rest of us kept spectators out of the way.

  1. Are you looking for inspiration? Because I’ve got it for you.

The leaders came through sprinting on the beach, when out of nowhere I realized I recognized one of the racers – one of my friends was seventh out of the water (and continued to have a great race). As the rest of the field came out of the water, the air lit up with excitement. The rest of the volunteers and I were there to offer support up the stairs. Most people didn’t need us, but their gratitude was tangible.

  1. Many volunteering commitments offer next-race benefits.

I was so excited for all these people coming in from the iconic Alcatraz swim – they made it, and they were so ready for the rest of the race. Escape offers a “volunteer lottery” (due to the event’s popularity, you must enter a lottery prior to registering for the race). I’ve seen other organizers offer significant discounts on future events. And since races must start so early, volunteering must also start early, leaving the rest of the day to train (or sleep).

This isn't real. I promise. I swim in the Bay all the time. Here's hoping to racing in Escape in 2016!
This isn’t real. I promise. I swim in the Bay all the time. Here’s hoping to racing in Escape in 2016!
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