Tuesday, April 27, 2010


(photos: R - DKT transitions at Apple. Lower R - Laura riding like a banshee.)

ALCATRAZ ACCOMPLICES: DKT & Laura Sampsell Hoffman

* Part III of Escape From Alcatraz

By Darin Wieneke

Over the 29 years that Alcatraz was operated as a federal penitentiary, 36 men were involved in 14 separate unsuccessful escape attempts. One unsuccessful escape attempt was made by John Bayless while on garbage duty on September 14, 1941. While hedid make it into San Francisco Bay on that day, he gave up shortly thereafter due to the cold water.

As MTN does not want any of the brave Minnesotans competing at the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon to be unsuccessful or give up, MTN has enlisted the assistance of Escape From Alcatraz veterans David Thompson (2nd Overall in 2009) and Laura Sampsell Hoffman to answer some questions from first-time Escape artists Gabbe Keller, Jen Martone, David Swanson and myself.

Darin Wieneke (tie guy): Any advice on sighting and dealing with the current when swimming?

DKT: Go to the pre-race meeting. They normally give the forecasted current and advice from a local swimmer who's done the swim hundreds of times. They will also point out the various landmarks to sight off: Fort Mason warehouses, Twin Peaks, Exploratorium's Golden Dome, and the Marina.

Laura: Listen to Mr. Oakes at the pre race briefing on the sighting if you do this you will have no problem. The day before the race I went down to the waterfront and jumped in for a quick swim just to get a taste for what the bay had to offer. It's cold but if you have a good wetsuit, a silicone swim cap, a skull cap, ear plugs and then the race swim cap you will be good to go after the initial shock. (One more piece of advice when you jump off the ferry boat, hold your hands on your goggles so they don't get ripped of your face when everyone jumps on you!)

Gabby Keller (transition girl): Do you have any advice in regard to the long transition run between the swim and bike?

DKT: The run for the swim exit to transition is about 600 meters on rough
asphalt. Usually, I usually run the distance bare foot. My feet are usually numb from the cold water, and I have callused feet. There is an option to put a pair of shoes at the swim exit. You can also take your wetsuit off at the swim exit and put it in the same bag if you like. Bags are laid out according to race number. From what I can recall, most of the male pros run bare foot with the wetsuit on, and most of the female pros take the wetsuit off and put shoes on.

Laura: I highly suggest using running shoe instead of bare feet. When you come out of the water look left and you will see all the bags. When I raced this course three years ago, I had no problems locating my shoes. Write your name and phone on the inside of your wetsuit if you haven't already just in case your transition bag rips when you are putting your wetsuit and swim gear in the bag.

David Swanson (sun glasses guy): Would you recommend riding a road or triathlon bike based upon the hills and other road conditions at Escape?

DKT: You should ride the bike you feel most comfortable with. For me, I am comfortable handling my triathlon bike on the terrain, so that is what I use as it is my fastest option.

Jen Martone (blond lady): Any advice on the San Francisco down hills and hairpin turns? I don’t want to end up in the emergency room.

DKT: If you haven't done the course, I would preview the course by bike or car. Weather condition can be very different between the ocean side and the bay side of San Francisco. The ocean side can be slick from fog, so it's best to not over inflate your tires. I use a tire pressure from 100 to 120 psi.

Also, remember there is two way race traffic on the course, so keep you head up when you climbing. You don't what to weave into on coming traffic when you start to get tired.

Laura: I had the same fear of the downhill’s but getting out and riding a little on Friday afternoon really helped me to get more confident with the handling of the bike on the hills. I just asked some guys in my hotel lobby if I could ride with them for a little practice and it was the best thing I did all weekend. My fears really diminished after the practice ride and a little post ride happy hour (you got to have a little fun and it helped me get a good night's sleep). In the race, I just remembered to pump by breaks so they wouldn’t lock up and I really just took it easy down the hills. In my opinion, I just wanted to have a good race and finish and I knew if I fell that goal would not be accomplished.

Bonus Question: What is your advice in regard to climbing the sand stairs?

DKT: Find a rhythm. The sand stairs are exhausting and an odd distance between steps. I start off taking three steps at a time and then change to one step rhythm that's manageable the rest of the way. If you can find a rhythm you probably will make it without stopping or falling.

Laura: Just take it one step at a time. They make it out to be worst than it is and your guys are all in great shape so no worries!