View Full Version : Alcatraz Challenge Aquathlon & Swim - June 19, 2011

November 10th, 2010, 08:56 AM
Registrations for the Alcatraz Challenge Aquathlon & Swim (June 19, 2011) opens December 1, 2010: http://www.tricalifornia.com/index.cfm/ALChal2010-main.htm

1. How quickly does registration fill up?

2. 1st time participant for this event. Exp. swimming up to 3 miles in open water but never worn a wetsuit. Recommendation of where I can begin looking for appropriate swim gear, less than $200?

3. Anyone attending and interested in grouping together for a tour to Napa & San Fran around the event?

Your comments & feedback are appreciated! Thanks!

Kate aka FIh20SH (fish out of water)

November 10th, 2010, 11:31 AM
Registrations for the Alcatraz Challenge Aquathlon & Swim (June 19, 2011) opens December 1, 2010: http://www.tricalifornia.com/index.cfm/ALChal2010-main.htm
I haven't read the details, but are wetsuits allowed on the Aquathlon? I assume they are NOT allowed in the swim.

November 10th, 2010, 12:07 PM
Although I did not see it on their website, wetsuits are surely permitted. I have never seen an Alcatraz swim event that did not allow wetsuits. They use the Hornblower to haul people out to Alcatraz, and there are not enough swimmers in this country that would tackle the swim without one. Of course people on this forum are an exception, but keep in mind this is run by Tri-California.

As for a wetsuit, I would recommend a rental unless you anticipate the need for one in the future. If you want to buy one I would look to Xterra Wetsuits.


Keep an eye out for their specials (get on their mailing list). They currently have their entry level sleeveless on sale for $99.00 - ordinarily $200. Keep in mind with a wetsuit, fit is everything. Xterra has a good return policy, but make sure you read the instruction on how to put on a wetsuit. Swim wetsuits are fragile when compared to surfing and diving suits.

November 10th, 2010, 12:15 PM
I did the aquathon in 09 and wetsuits are DEFINITELY allowed. The water was warmer than usual and was still just 62. I am a major cold water wimp so I wore my wet suit and I was fine. It's a great event. I am a total pool swimmer and sprinter and I had a blast. It was my first open water swim and I would totally do it again. Good luck and have fun!

November 10th, 2010, 12:22 PM
I did the aquathon in 09 and wetsuits are DEFINITELY allowed. The water was warmer than usual and was still just 62.

62? That's downright balmy.

November 10th, 2010, 03:28 PM
Registrations for the Alcatraz Challenge Aquathlon & Swim (June 19, 2011) opens December 1, 2010: http://www.tricalifornia.com/index.cfm/ALChal2010-main.htm

Anyone attending and interested in grouping together for a tour to Napa & San Fran around the event?

I would love to add this swim to my itinerary for next summer. If I'm lucky enough to be able to register (not sure if there is a limit to the number of swimmers), I would be game to do a group tour.

November 10th, 2010, 03:31 PM
I think I registered about 4 weeks prior. I do believe registration closed but I think it wasn't until a week or two out. The earlier you register the later your shuttle to the ferry, the warmer you are.

November 11th, 2010, 05:32 PM
This swim has crossed my mind from time to time, 2011 may be the year I do it !

Ken Classen
November 17th, 2010, 11:04 AM
I did this swim in 2009 in the non-wetsuit division, but as stated there is a wetsuit division and in fact us skins were most certainly in the minority on the ferry out. Several items; this race was sold to Tri California after the 2009 race it was produced by another group prior to them. If you go wetsuit you must put it on prior to the ride to the ferry and your not allowed any other clothing unless your willing to depart with if forever as they will not collect it. However, if your a non wetsuit person you are allowed to some warm clothing for the ferry ride and they will give you a numbered trash bag to put in in for delivery back to staging area.

Make your travel arrangements so you get out there a day or two ahead so you can acclimatize to the water and wetsuit etc. Go to Aquatic Park and pay the small fee to use one of the swim clubs to warm up, shower and change.

Iím a non wetsuit kinda of guy but Iím also a coach, if you intend to wear a wetsuit make sure you have swam in it at least several times before the race so you are used to it. They can feel restrictive in the chest area which can cause breathing issues, itís also good to know where they chafe so you can put on plenty of body glide in those areas, especially when swimming in salt water.

If you havenít done much ocean open water make sure you attend the pre-race meeting especially the navigation aspects. Know yourself and your speed as they give the navigation assistance based on how fast you can swim a mile.

I felt it was a very safe race with Kayaks and support craft everywhere. It was sort of bucket race swim for me just so I could say I did it. 38 minutes later when I finished the race and I was like ďthatís it? But it was good time and well organized swim.

FYI - Unlike English Channel rules most SF bay races allow skins to wear thermal swim caps and still be considered a skin. I highly recommend a thermal cap either way wetsuit or non wetsuit.

November 17th, 2010, 11:12 AM
I did this swim in 2009...Ken, thanks for the great note and advice. I probably won't get out there in 2011 or 2012 due to scheduling constraints already know about, but my wife and I now have the team aquathlon on our respective athletic bucket lists.

I second the recommendation on the thermal cap as I found this B70 skull cap (http://www.swimoutlet.com/ProductDetails.asp?ProductCode=13870&Click=310393) a great help in the low 60 degree water at La Jolla this year.

As for training in Aquatic Park, if you ever get to the Bay Area, it's a must do any time of the year. I was fortunate to sneak in a couple of swims there a few years back when there on business. The folks at the Dolphin Club, despite a reputation for looking down upon us mortals wearing wetsuits, welcomed me warmly ... and I mean warmly with the sauna post swim!

November 17th, 2010, 12:50 PM
Just FYI, this event is not at all your only opportunity. Lots of groups put on Alcatraz swims every summer.

November 17th, 2010, 02:04 PM
Lots of groups put on Alcatraz swims every summer.Yup. I was looking at the Aquathlon since my wife is a runner and I'm a swimmer; we're always short a cyclist to put together a tri-team, so the Aquathlon looks perfect for us.

November 19th, 2010, 08:47 AM
Just FYI, this event is not at all your only opportunity. Lots of groups put on Alcatraz swims every summer.

true that. and there are a few people out there who can put together a guided crossing for a small group (<6).... leslie thomas: swim art, gary emich, pedro ordenes.




November 20th, 2010, 11:01 PM
Hey Everyone,

Thanks for your comments. Just a note the website has changed a date has been corrected. The Alcatraz Aquathlon & Swim (1.5 mi swim & 7 mile run) is July 17, 2011, and the Alcatraz Challenge (1.5 mile swim only) event is May 22, 2011.

I plan to do the Aquathlon & Swim in July 2011.



User Name
April 20th, 2011, 05:08 PM
I just had a panic attack when I saw the June 19 date. Glad to see the clarification on that! It would be just like me register for an event the wrong month.:doh:
I do all my tris here (Massachusetts) without a wetsuit. What % of people wear ws for this? I'm happier to buy a shorty that I might actually use again. I'd be even happier to just be bare.:D

Kate(fih20sh)- did you register? Where are you coming from? This will be my first ocean swim (although, I guess its not really even the ocean.) but I've got good lake experience. I've done no prep work yet! Haven't been in a pool since :dunno:. I'm still figuring out the travel plans for the 8 weeks we are going to be exploring northern Cali while the kids are out of school. I've never been to CA and am also hoping to find a couple half marathons/10M races to do while there also.

Hope other experienced alcatraz folks will give us their take on things.

April 21st, 2011, 07:57 PM
I've done 2 Alcatraz swims. I think the majority of folks wear a wetsuit, although can't recall if it was a large majority

Don't be fooled that it's not open ocean. The only difference between this and an ocean tri swim from the beach is no waves to get out through. The middle of the bay can be quite choppy (although earlier start means less wind) and also have some decent swells. I remember strokes where my arm never left the water, and ones where it never went into water.

As others have said, pay attention to the briefing. Depending on your speed, you'll be instructed to site off certain structures at different points in the swim. You'll start aiming pretty far left and then as you get closer move your target to the right. I've only swam to Aquatic Park, pretty small opening, Chrissy Field is a longer beach I believe, so a bigger target. Best to swim straight on, imho, but if you are going to err, err on the upstream side (when i did it, to the left of the beach, both times I've done it have been an outgoing tide). Once I erred too far right and had to swim upstream like a salmon to make the opening. Once I erred too far left and had to swim along shore. One way is easier than the other :)

Still debating the aquathon

June 20th, 2011, 05:47 PM
Bump. I ended up registering for the swim/run. Anyone else?

A bit nervous, even though I've done two alcatraz swims, still get nervous about it. My other two were to Aquatic Park and several years ago, though, seems like sighting might be a bit easier for this one? I have a friend who swims a bit slower than me and did Escape from Alcatraz tri, which I think ends at or very near the same place? He swam the advertised "1.5 miles" in 32 minutes, so the current clearly helps a lot.

I though I had a ton of time but realized there's only a few weekends left to get out into the OW, so went out yesterday for my first (non race ) OW swim of the year. Water's getting a bit warmer down here in so cal, but it was a bit choppy which is good prep. Probably will only get 2-3 more ocean swims in before the race

June 20th, 2011, 07:25 PM
I've done Escape. It was my first Alcatraz swim. I wore a wetsuit for the first time because it was a tri and it had been years since I swam sub 64į water. It ended in Crissy field. My impressions:
1) the bay had a lot more waves than I expected. I thought the start was early for my liking, but as we headed out and motored to alcatraz I watched the wind pick up and I wished we had started an hour earlier.
2) I was returning to swimming and this was only my second OW swim in 10 years & the other one was 2 years before this. I transition to OW easily but if you don't you should get into some rough water for a training session to relax you on race day.
3) you can't sink in a wetsuit and you bob up and down in the salt water bay
4) I underestimated my swimming ability and aimed much further to the left than everyone else. I couldn't figure why everyone was so far west
5) I made an mid may correction and I was still east of everyone else
6) I ended up too far east, near the finish I headed west and the current swept me right to the finish. However when I went back the next day it looked like my line was significantly better than the one the mass of people
7) I think a lot of people headed to far to the right and were swept west to the beach and had to run back. I ended up 138 out of 1600 and I think my conservative line helped a lot. I also think it kept me clear of the masses which was good because I probably passed over 600 people.
8) you don't swim any further than you would going into Aquatic park. The current makes up the distance.

July 18th, 2011, 04:06 PM
Checking in after yesterday's race, had a great time. Due to fog rolling in, they had to come in a bit from Alcatraz. Thought we were a bit closer but my wife was walking to Crissy Field and saw the ferry depositing the swimmers so took some pics from Fort Mason, we were farther from the island than I thought.

Of course, about 10 minutes into the swim the fog totally cleared, I stopped and looked around. It was amazing, and the GG bridge was lit up by the sunrise. I followed a bareback swimmer figuring he's probably local and could read a good line. At one point he went out from shore a bit, I stayed where I was, sure enough when we met up again he was a couple hundred yards ahead. Steered left to the beach at the St Francis yacht club and ran a good 300 yards on the beach. My swim time was 40:07 but about 37 and change to the beach.

Run across the bridge was incredible with the views. The signs on the bridge "Don't Give up Hope" were sobering. I stopped in the middle to look down. Being somewhat afraid of heights, I couldn't imagine what it would take to go over the edge. The run's pretty tough going out, that bridge doesn't flatten out for a looooong time.

Planning on coming back for a fourth swim in 2012.

Oh yeah, RD Gary Emmich gave the briefings, and noted that the Sat test swim put him at 802 crossings