Completing a regular triathlon is no easy feat—even for the fittest among us. And winning one is an accomplishment of a whole different magnitude—yet former Olympic triathlete Ben Kanute has managed to clinch victory in the men’s pro division 2021 Escape From Alcatraz Triathlon for the fourth consecutive year in a row (a feat we spoke to him about going into the race). The event, which is regarded as one of the toughest on the planet, also saw highly decorated competitor Emma Pallant-Browne conquering the treacherous waters of San Francisco Bay and the infamous Sand Ladder to win the women’s division.
On Sunday, August 15, around 1,600 athletes competed in the 40th-anniversary Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon.
“That first jump is a pretty shocking jolt every time,” Kanute told Men’s Journal about the abrupt start of the race off a passenger ferry. “You really have to mentally prepare yourself for that swim. It’s sort of a free-for-all out there at first, then things start to settle down and just go kind of numb—including your hands and face.”
The race isn’t your typical Olympic-distance tri. It comprises a 1.5-mile swim from Alcatraz Island to the Marina District shore, an 18-mile bike ride, and an 8-mile run through the hilly streets of San Francisco.
“High winds, a strong current and choppy water made for an especially challenging swim today,” Kanute said. “It was difficult to track Greg Harper as he was in the lead during the swim, but I was able to make up some time and catch him on the first hill of the bike course. I love this race, I love its 40-year history and the picturesque course, it is unlike any other race.”
British triathletes dominated the women’s race, with Holly Lawrence completing the swim portion first and leading the run until fellow Brit Pallant-Browne edged her out at the start of the heart-pounding, 200-step Baker Beach Sand Ladder. “This was my first time competing in this race and it was my first time visiting San Francisco, I absolutely loved it,” said Pallant-Browne after her victory.
Other top finishers included Jason West from Boulder, CO, with a time of 2:12:16; Holly Lawrence of Great Britain at 2:23:04; Bradley Weiss of South Africa with 2:12:41; and Jackie Hering from Cottage Grove, WI, at 2:27:44.