Potts, Collington atop Alcatraz Podium
Personally, I am deathly afraid of sharks and applaud every triathlete that chooses a race with an ocean swim. However, for many triathletes, the Escape from Alcatraz triathlon is epic, a “bucket list” race and brings out the best of the best competitors, regardless of their fear of Jaws.
This weekend marked the 35th anniversary of this historic and difficult race that features a 1.5 mile swim, 18 mile bike, and 8 mile run. At a race with a long history, this year brought a significant change as two first-time racers grabbed the win from some extremely tough competition, making their mark on an extraordinary race.
The men’s side included favorite, and six-time champion, Andy Potts along with other Coloradans Kevin Collington, Cam Dye, Ben Hoffman, Brian Fleischmann, and Drew Scott. I imagine just seeing this group dive into the water off the starting boat must have been quite a sight. Although, on this day, San Diego’s Eric Lagerstrom would stun them all with his speed and determination to gut out the win by just seconds.
Coming out of the water in the lead was Josh Amberger, followed by Potts, Lagerstrom, Dye, and Fleischmann. From there it was solid biking, specifically by Collington who had the second fastest bike split of the day with a time of 46 minutes 45 seconds, only one second behind Amberger. With such a monster effort, Collington set himself up for the run where he put on the jets and turned in a 42:47, helping him to an almost one minute lead to claim third place on the day.
Duking it out in the front were Lagerstom and Potts, who would bike within seconds of each other and bust out the same, speedy run time of 42:26. In the end, Lagerstrom managed to keep his turnover going down the finisher’s shoot and edge Potts out by a mere 2 seconds.
Lagerstrom told a San Francisco news reporter that “This is a dream come true to win the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon my first time competing. This course with the swim from Alcatraz Island and the deep sand run with sand steps was like nothing I have ever experienced before.”
Finishing out a strong day on a tough course was Dye in fifth, Hoffman in seventh, Fleischmann in ninth, and Scott in tenth.
Goss, Carfrae, Cave Finish Fast
The women’s side also saw a first time Alcatraz champ in Ashleigh Gentle, who edged out Boulderites Lauren Goss, second place, and three-time IRONMAN World Champion Mirinda Carfrae for third place. Not a bad first win here for Gentle, who has to have known her day would not be easy with our Colorado ladies nipping at her heels.
Missing the podium by a spot, was our part-time Colorado resident, and former IRONMAN World Champion, Leanda Cave, who finished fourth overall. Cave came out of the water in third in a zippy time of 29:46 and added the fastest bike split of the day to her performance with a time of 51:51. However, the running strength of Gentle, Goss, and Carfrae was too much as the trio caught Cave and battled it out for the podium spots.
Goss, who led the women out of the water in 28:56, said she actually felt a little anxious on the swim because she was swimming alone.
“I saw one AG Elite male a few meters ahead but I could never reel him in. With 300 meters to go, I saw one pink cap ahead and I knew it was Sara McLarty because of her swim stroke. I was very happy to be so close to her. I fumbled a little getting out of the water because it was cold but I had a good T1 run and was on the bike first.”
From there, Goss turned on her biking legs and powered away with a split of 53:11, looking to catch Cave. Goss claimed that she rode the climbs very hard since she is not confident on descending—something she’s working on in training. Being such a short race, she knew she had to go full blast from the sound of the gun.
“I did this race in 2013 and came in fifth place after going off course. I wanted to come back and have another go at it more prepared. The race is really inspiring because it is on TV, there are a ton of people cheering, and it has been around for 35 years. I also miss short course racing so I needed to seize the opportunity.”
Coming into T2 only 15 seconds back from Cave, Goss turned her focus to getting to the front of the race and going as hard as she could, for as long as she could.
Goss added, “I knew Ashleigh would be there at some point as she is one of the top 10K runners on the ITU circuit. I passed Leanda before mile 1 and Ashleigh caught me at mile 2. Ashleigh and I ran together until mile 6 where I surged and tried to gap her. She was still there, but I used up all of the energy I had (rookie mistake) and went too soon. She surged at mile 7 with 1 mile to go and the race was over unfortunately. That was the first time I have ever run with someone the entire run course so it was pretty exciting for me and an experience I learned a lot from.”
Less than two minutes behind Goss in third was Carfrae who had a solid performance in all three disciplines as she gears up for the second half of her season. Our Colorado women did us proud in a historic race that enjoyed its 35th showing.
IM Boulder 70.3 Preview
Of course I love covering all of the triathlon races, but this column focuses on our Colorado pros and there is not another race in town that brings out the big dogs like IRONMAN 70.3 Boulder. Not only do I live on the bike course, but I see many of the pros training around town, watch their results, and see how hard they truly work as I am cruising in my Honda around town. Man, do I feel lazy when I see these folks, but that’s why they are in this profession. They love, on most days, pushing their bodies and minds and competing against the best in the world to see where they stand.
Even though I admire and respect all these athletes, I am not in the mindset of “everyone gets a trophy,” so, with that, I have decided to give my picks on both the men and women’s sides of the race. Although my racing background and knowledge is not extensive (I have done one half-IRONMAN…ever!), I can say that being married to a pro makes me feel like I live and breathe triathlon just as much as the next person. I hear the conversations, watch the results, and can see the strengths that many pros possess. Point blank, these are simply a triathlon enthusiast’s picks for an exciting 70.3. Don’t get your panties in a bunch!
I am coming right out and saying that I believe Ms. Jodie Swallow will reign supreme again this year. She swims and bikes with pure strength that’s hard to beat and can follow it up with a run that’s hard to unravel. She trains at altitude every day and had a huge IRONMAN South Africa win, so her results speak for themselves. The girl can fly!
My probable podiums are going to be Laura Bennett, Danielle Mack, and Kelly Williamson. Lauren Goss just got second at the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon, so if she’s still planning on this race, I would add her to the mix as well. Bennett is strong in all three events, trains here, and is as tough as they come. Mack has had some solid 70.3 finishes this year and proves to do well in tough fields. Then there is the speedy Williamson. We all know Kelly can run, so I am not counting her out if she’s in the mix off the bike.
My dark horses are Lesley Smith and Katy Blakemore. When she is on, Smith can compete with the best. She also trains in Boulder and has the altitude training that can really help her shine out on the Boulder course. We know Blakemore can perform at the IRONMAN distance, but I think her toughness will probably accompany her on the 70.3 course as she’s proven solid results in both distances.
At the end of the day, I wish all of these ladies the best on race day and know that it’s anyone’s game if they throw down their A-game.
He may be a friend, but there is no favoritism in this article as the elusive Tim Don has proved that he is pure speed and a champion through and through. Winning his last three 70.3 races, Don continues to show he can swim, bike, and outrun the field, hair flying and all! Boulder 70.3 is Don’s backyard and I am sure he’s not going to back down to a home field challenge.
My probable podiums are going to be Richie Cunningham, Paul Ambrose, Justin Daerr, and Ben Hoffman. Cunningham is tough as nails and digs like nobody else around. He trains here all year and will be looking to challenge anyone who comes near him. Ambrose, IRONMAN Australia’s champ, has been in town a while and is as talented as they come.
Hoffman, well, he’s Ben Hoffman. He can ride like nobody’s business and is gearing up for Kona, so he’s probably ready to hammer out a fast race. I like Daerr because he unfortunately missed IM Texas due to pneumonia. I think he’s going to be fired up and looking to put all of his fitness to the test.
My dark horses (yes, I have three) are Davide Giardini, Callum Millward, and Robbie Wade. Giardini has put up some serious bike splits this year, proving he can bike in the front of the pack. Millward debuted in the IRONMAN scene earlier this year, placing sixth at IRONMAN Melbourne, so I am putting the Cupcake King as one to watch. Finally, the Irishman, Wade made the move to Boulder to ramp up his training and I think he might just sneak up on this tough field and make his mark.
Let’s be honest, the pool of talent is insanely deep and I am excited to see how the race unfolds. Good luck, guys!