The Escape From Alcatraz Triathlon is truly iconic and is a bucket list race for many. The weather in San Francisco to greet the athletes this year was extreme: boiling hot temperatures, crystal clear waters, and a beautiful pink sky for sunrise.
After a few days of acclimatisation, race morning came and on the bus from Marina Green to Pier 33 it all began to sink in. Having visited Alcatraz Island the day before to get the pre-race atmosphere, I was completely in the zone and ready to go.
Boarding the paddle steamer with all the history behind it, we set sail for Alcatraz. The atmosphere on board was electric and a mix of all different types of athletes who had been carefully selected and invited to race this series. A race briefing followed and the ship's horn sounded.
The race starts with the athletes diving off the vessel into the shark-infested waters. That should spur you on to get a swim PB! The swim passed really quickly and I remember running up the beach at the boat club sooner than I thought.
A smooth transition followed after the 1km run to get there and the hilly bike course started.
This was technical and fast and to be honest very exciting. My mind was focused on the run and praying the mechanical gods would be kind to me. This event is a challenge as much as a race and the 400 wooden step ladder approached mid-run.
The sun was now belting down and it really made a difference to the course dynamic. I remember turning at the turn point at the run thinking that it was all uphill from here. I ran the beach and started my way back to Marina Green with the iconic Golden Gate Bridge behind me. I could already hear the finish commentary and this really did spur me on. I increased my cadence and felt strong and pulled out all the stops to finish with my head held high and continue to be greeted by my amazing support at the finish chute.
Alcatraz, you didn’t disappoint! It was an incredible experience never to be forgotten. Thank you so much and of course Sundried for your support. Let’s see what comes next. I can’t wait for the next chapter.
About the author: Andrew Jones is a Team GB Age Group triathlete and Sundried ambassador.
After coming second in my Age Group in 2018 at the European Age Group Championships in Tartu, Estonia I got a pre-qualification for the Europeans this year in Weert in the Netherlands. I went into the winter training period with only one focus in mind, to get back on the podium, with the hope of improving on the last result.
All was going well until October, when out on my last training run for The Great South Run, I tripped and broke my ankle. Despite this being a set back for several weeks, once I got the green light to get back into training, it was full gas for the European Championships.
The race was on the 2nd June, and having arrived a few days earlier, I had plenty of time to recce the bike and running route and quite quickly it showed that this was going to be a fast race, time to get excited. Having dropped my running shoes off at T2, it was time to cycle down to T1 (split transition, this was new for me!) to sort out my bike and get ready for the race. Being in the 20-24 age category we were first off with the 18-20 category (a wave of about 30 guys).
We were all called up and taken into the waiting pen, and that’s when the adrenaline really started to pump around the body.
The start itself was a running beach start, so we all lined up and waited for the gun. The next 5ish minutes was chaos, with 30 guys all trying to swim in the same bit of water aiming at the same buoy, but I kept my ground and stayed within the lead group. About 750m into the swim it was time to try and break away from the main group and have a bit of clear water, something I have been focusing on in my training. After a push for about 200m, I found myself on my own chasing down the lead group of 3 guys. I came out of the water in 4th place and kept this position through T1 which I was happy with.
Then onto the bike, a fast flat course of 2 and a half loops on some very straight roads. I knew that I was at a slight disadvantage to the guys on the TT bikes but I didn’t let that bother me, and I held my own pushing it hard on the bike (even though I was almost taken out by a Frenchman on a roundabout!) Despite losing two places on the bike I was happy to come into T2 in 6th place, with the guy in 5th just in front, I was able to get my shoes on and get out on the run quicker, sending me into 5th place.
Now onto the run, my favourite part of the race. 4 laps around the town, time to go hunting! After the initial excitement of starting the run, I soon settled into my pace and could see that I was already catching the guy in front. I had to tell myself not to get too excited and just to let it happen as I could see I had a faster pace than him. After the first lap I was now in 4th place and coming alongside the guy in 3rd, another British guy. I said to him as I passed to stay on me and we will catch the guys together. I continued at my pace and caught the guys in front, with 1 and ½ laps to go I knew I was in first position and still putting some time onto the other guys.
As I came round the last lap onto the final part of the loop I heard over the speaker them announce my name. Then it was time to take it all in and enjoy every second of running down that blue carpet. I didn’t actually realise my lead until the next guy came in 1 minute and 40 seconds later.
Overall it was an absolutely cracking weekend and I came away extremely happy with my result. A joint family decision was made to stay around for the medal ceremony despite us missing our Eurotunnel crossing (luckily we got one only an hour or so later).
Now it's time to enjoy the remainder of the race season and begin preparations for next year, as I am out to Edmonton in Canada for the International Age Group Championships and back to Tartu, Estonia for the Europeans. Cannot wait!
About the author: Will Grace is a Team GB Age Group triathlete and Sundried ambassador.
On Sunday 19th May 2019 I took on the 100 mile Vélo sportive ride from Birmingham City Centre. The route took over 17,000 cyclists from Birmingham through Warwickshire to Coventry before heading back to the city centre.
To say I was a little apprehensive about completing this ride would be an understatement. Having only been out on my bike twice since October last year and completing all my bike training in my cellar on the turbo, I wasn’t sure how I would fare or even whether I’d make the full distance.
To my surprise, I found the majority of the ride relatively easy going and it was a great opportunity to practise my drafting skills and to meet fellow cyclists. The only point at which I experienced real discomfort and pain was at the 86-mile mark. This was at a stage of the race when the main section of the climbing took place and my back and feet started to really hurt.
A brief stop at one of the feed stations to take some ibuprofen and take my shoes off for a few minutes eased the pain and I pushed through the final miles before hitting the home straight and proudly crossing the finish line. Throughout the ride there was a fantastic atmosphere and the support en route was tremendous with families cheering us on and locals handing out drinks, sweets and biscuits which I politely declined as I had packed enough endurance snacks to sink a ship. I was aware that the feed stations would be busy so I made sure I had my energy bars and jam bagel to keep me going. Not including stops I completed the ride in just over 6 hours which I was very pleased with all things considered.
During the days following the ride I experienced very little aching or muscle fatigue, however I found myself needing to be in bed by 8pm and sleeping for anything up to 11 hours in a night! The ride had clearly taken its toll on my body so I listened to it and only did light training before I felt my energy levels were back to normal.
About the author: Kate Miller is a Team GB Age Group triathlete and Sundried ambassador.
About 10 years ago I remember sitting in the lounge at the gym with a friend watching the London Marathon on TV. He joked and said, "why don’t you do a marathon?" I laughed and called him crazy. Back then, I was strictly gym and said "I can’t understand why anyone would want to run for that long". That thought stayed with me until early last year.
A friend and I decided to enter Beachy Head Marathon... just because. This was a marathon with a difference – described as “one of the biggest off-road marathons in the UK” and “a challenging event”. We knew it would be more of a hike than a run so we didn’t feel under pressure. I had also ruptured a bursa in my knee 2 weeks before so it was more of a fun day out than a serious race.
Once I had completed Beachy Head Marathon, I wondered whether I would actually be able to complete a road marathon. I now knew I had the distance in my legs, it was just whether I could run it, after all I am still very new to running (only been running just over 2 years). I looked up marathons for 2019 and “the UK's flattest major marathon with huge support on route” sounded like the best one to start with – Manchester Marathon.
One of my friends is a triathlon coach so I contacted him to ask if he could coach me for running. All of a sudden, my Training Peaks was filled with four runs a week, Wattbike training, swimming, strength and conditioning, and stretching. Of course, as soon as I saw it I thought ‘no way am I fit enough to train two or three times a day’ but of course I got on with it.
I had already entered 5 half marathons for the start of 2019 so they were incorporated into my training. These were meant to be training runs but with all my training I was able to set new personal bests for my 5k, 10k and half marathon times.
It was during one of these half marathons I noticed a ‘niggle’ on the inside of my left thigh. As most people do, I got on with it and thought it would go away – it didn’t. Possible tendonitis! During London Landmarks Half Marathon I could hardly run and I decided I wouldn’t be able to run Manchester Marathon – how could I if I couldn’t run 2 miles without stopping to walk?
I had a chat with my sports therapist and asked him honestly if I could still run and he believed I could still do it. My coach agreed.
So at 9am on Sunday 7th April I was on the start line. To say I was nervous was an understatement. Although I knew I had completed the distance before on an injury, this was different. I wanted to run as much as possible and to enjoy it not just complete it (if I could complete it that is).
The weather was perfect – around 14 degrees Celsius and clear skies. I had my gels in my race belt and felt ready to go. I had met up with some friends from the running club that meets at my work. We decided to run together – to take it slowly and just enjoy it.
We were off!! 20,000 people running the streets of Manchester all with the same goal in mind – to complete 26.2 miles. We admired some of the costumes around us, a giant strawberry, Bert & Ernie, dinosaurs, rhinos, and Spiderman. Massive kudos to anyone who can run any distance in a costume – I overheat in just shorts and vest!
The support of the crowds is amazing, I didn’t have headphones on so was able to take in the atmosphere and hear the cheering and encouragement. They really do get you round the course! The course is marked out with mile markers. You always hear the same comments from runners when you get to a marker. At mile 1 “only 25 to go” – yeah thanks for that mate!
I was running comfortably with Louise and Clive, we were chatting away and Louise was keeping an eye on pace to make sure we weren’t speeding off to quickly. At mile 12 I had lost them, I think I just got caught up with my own pace. At this point I’m usually nearly finished so the thought then come into my mind ‘I’m not even half way there’
Luckily, I then saw Alison on the side of the road. “Come on, I'll run with you,” she said. Alison is a lot quicker than me, so all of a sudden we're sprinting past the 13 mile halfway point. We stayed together for around 4 miles, then she dropped back into a walk. I’m normally always ready to walk with someone, but I knew if I stopped my leg would start hurting so I carried on running.
I let the crowds carry me round and continued to just enjoy my run. 19 miles in I was getting close to that 20 mile mark! But all of a sudden I felt nauseous. It would pass, I’m sure it would pass, but it wasn’t going away. I didn’t know what to do – this hasn’t happened to me during training and I was now at the point where this is the longest run I had done without walking. I slowed into a walk, my head went fuzzy and my legs turned to jelly. I started to walk it off. “Well done Vinny you’re looking good” said a supporter as she handed me a jelly baby. I’m a pescatarian so I don’t eat jelly sweets but I needed something. So now I just had to make sure the gelatin didn’t affect the last 7 miles!
I continued walking half a mile and Alison caught up with me. She told me how she really wasn’t feeling the race and said that if she had seen a tram stop she would have just got on and dropped out. I told her my leg was hurting so I would probably run/walk the last 7 miles and she said she would join me.
At mile 22, someone put their arms round the back of us ‘am I glad to see you both’ – it was Clive. His calves had seized up so he had ran/walked up behind us.
We were nearly there – none of us cared about a time we just wanted to complete it.
Mile 23 ‘just a Parkrun to go’ – again thanks for that.
Mile 25 – we're nearly there – it’s nearly over. “I can see the finish line” it was one straight road down to the end – this road was never ending. I even commented that it looked like it was getting further away. But all of a sudden there we were – hands in the air, smiles on our faces, relief!
I DID IT! I completed Manchester Marathon in a time of 5:07. I was over the moon!
We walked over to grab our medals, finishers t-shirts, Soreen loaf (one of the best things ever) and headed to bag drop. It was all over, how did I feel? So so happy. I had managed to run for 19 miles straight without stopping, I had managed to complete the course with an injury, I had made some great memories and I had a new medal for my medal rack.
The trainers come off – the blisters were impressive – where did this extra toe come from? The flip flops went on and I was shuffling towards the tram station back to my hotel for a soak in the bath.
The smile still hasn’t left my face and I still can’t believe ‘I’ve run a marathon’.
So to answer my question earlier – why would someone want to run for that long? – well why not! The training gave me something to focus on, to keep me active and got me fitter, the race itself was fun, it was something not everyone can or will do, I made great memories with great people and I now have a massive sense of achievement! The main thing for me was to not get caught up on times – I’ll get over the finish line when I get there I just want to enjoy it – and I did!
About the author: Emma Vincent is a personal trainer and Sundried ambassador.
I’m beyond excited that my duathlon season has FINALLY started after a long winter of training! My season kicked off last weekend at Oulton Park Duathlon which was great to blow away the racing cobwebs and identify areas that need work ahead of my target races.
It was a stressful start to the race to say the least… I arrived at the venue with less than 15 minutes to register, rack, and get to the mandatory briefing. A great test of my ability to stay calm and not lose my head!
The first run leg was interesting to say the least as my legs didn’t want to move very quickly which was unsurprising given the lack of warm up. Around 2km into the first run, my legs started to play ball and the final part of the run was a far better reflection of my current form. I ran into T1 in first place and got on the bike ready for a very lonely ride around the race circuit.
Despite it being a draft legal race, I spent the entire bike alone which is never fun! I always love the drafting races because of the interaction you get with other riders and the chance to get tactical in a race. Coming into T2, I had extended my lead and just needed to keep my cool and push on the final run.
The last leg of a duathlon is always the most challenging… Your legs are heavy from the first run and bike, your pace has slowed, and every stride forward is pure pain. It’s often at this point, I really have to dig deep and focus on getting to the finish.
Very pleased to have taken the win at Oulton Park Spring Duathlon and I have definitely identified some key areas that need work… my transitions weren’t as fluid as I would have liked, and my run-bike and bike-run legs still need some attention. But all in all, a pretty successful first race!
Next up for me is the British Duathlon Championships where I hope to equal or better my bronze medal from last year! Wish me luck!
About the author: Laura Smith is a Team GB Triathlete and Sundried ambassador.