Triathletes geared up for long grind

The water is freezing, the swim is long and the threat of sharks occupies a tiny fragment of everyone’s mind.

And that’s before the participants in the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon even shed their wetsuits and embark on the technical 18-mile bike ride and hilly eight-mile run. But while the challenges facing those entered may be great, the top competitors wouldn’t have it any other way.

“The harder the course the better,” said Matty Reed, the defending men’s champion. “This is a really unique and demanding one and it’s my favorite race of the year. When I’m training, this is the one I think about.”

Reed, 31, will be one of more than 1,800 to participate in this year’s race, with both the male and female winner earning $7,000. It begins Sunday at 7 a.m. when the competitors plunge into the 55-degree water from a boat near Alcatraz and swim the 1.5 miles to the shore at Marina Green. Next is the cycling course, which loops through Crissy Field, the Presidio and Golden Gate Park before returning to Marina Green. The run goes from there to Baker Beach and back and includes a 400-step sand ladder.

It’s a familiar route for Reed, who had finished in the top 11 four times before completing the course in 2 hours, 3 minutes, 6 seconds to win in 2006. The New Zealand native has since moved from Boulder, Colo., to Colorado Springs and is now training with the goal of representing the United States in the triathlon in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

He should be challenged by Andy Potts (last year’s runner-up), Brian Fleishman and Bevan Docherty, although Reed is only thinking about breaking the tape.

“First place is sort of the only option for me — everything else is a loss and a step backwards,” Reed said. “I’ve been working hard and am feeling pretty confident I can do well.”

Becky Lavelle — who won the women’s title last year in 2:21:05 — is also entering the race full of confidence after being crowned the USA Long Course national champion at the Wildflower Half Ironman in Monterey on May 5. The Los Gatos resident was battling a bout with the flu early in the week but should still be considered the favorite along with Joana Lawn and Alexis Waddel. Lavelle, 35, will also be buoyed by support not only from the sidelines but on the actual course as well. Her father-in-law, Tim, and aunt Peggy will join her as competitors in the race.

“It’s a pretty relentless race, but it’s also my favorite,” Lavelle said. “It’s really different from a lot of the other triathlons and the course is spectacular.”

ESCAPE FROM ALCATRAZ

WHEN: Sunday, 7 a.m.

COURSE: Swimming is the first leg, beginning from Alcatraz Island and going 1.5 miles to shore at Marina Green Beach. Next up is 18 miles on a bike, followed by an eight-mile run through San Francisco.

WHO: More than 1,800 triathletes ranging in age from 12 to 74. Included in the field are top triathletes Matty Reed and Becky Lavelle, Andy Potts, Brian Fleishman, Joana Lawn and Alexis Waddel.

DEFENDING CHAMPS: Men’s—Matty Reed; women’s—Becky Lavelle.

MORE INFO: www.escapefromalcatraztriathlon.com

melliser@examiner.com


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