• kathytritips

Alcatraz Triathlon Success Tips: Last Minute Advice that Makes the Difference

The countdown is on to the San Francisco Triathlon at Alcatraz, hosted by Tri-California! This Sunday, 900 triathletes will make the escape from the famous island prison. Water World Swim Coach Kathy Winkler, who is a former member of the USA World Team and two-time Kona champion, not to mention her numerous first-place finishes at the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon, shares her hard-earned first-hand knowledge to get you ready for race day.

The most important thing is to stay organized. When I get to race week, I double check all the information from the race organizers: start time, course details or changes, etc. Also be sure to do an equipment check. Here’s my checklist for each event:



Have you anti fogged them? Need a new strap? Did you pack an extra set? (Bring them on the boat. Even if you don’t need them, someone else’s will break or get lost and coming to the rescue is great karma to have going into the race!)


Do you have your official race cap yet? Are you bringing a second one or a thermal cap for warmth?


If you want them. We recommend Mack's Ear plugs


Does it still fit, no tears? If you haven’t practiced in it yet, try to do a short workout this week. What are you wearing under the wetsuit? Does it chafe? Do you have enough glide? Rent wetsuits from Sports Basement


Remember you have two transitions. Walk through each one mentally and think about what you need and where you need it. Should you pack extra run shoes? Food for each leg? What about an inhaler if needed? You may also consider a towel for your feet.



Check your gears (you will be using all of them) and brakes early in the week in case you need to make adjustments.


Is yours in good shape?


If you want them.


It can be cold, especially coming out of the equally cold water, so be prepared. I like to have arm warmers and a vest available in case it is foggy. You may want socks or a beanie.



If you want it.


Do you need new laces? Do you want an extra set of shoes?


To secure your bib number.


I take the time to drive or walk the bike and run course to familiarize myself with potential hazards on the route. Some of the things I look for:

  • Road surface (rough? Uneven? Sand? Shoulder conditions/lack thereof?)
  • Surprise hills?
  • Other anomalies?

For a San Francisco Bay swim, I would certainly be sure I have checked my cold water swim ability as well. Make the time to walk through the transition when you go to registration or that morning so you have your surroundings set. It is crazy when you come through during the race, and knowing where you are going so you can be safe and find your things quickly will calm your mind in the intensity of the moment.


This is not the time to begin your training. The work is done. At this point, it is better to go in well rested than to try to fit it all in at the last minute. Even on taper, I like to workout everyday to keep my mind and body fluid and calm, but only do a few pickups for speed, then shut it down. Save it for race day.


This is also not the time to try new foods. You don’t want stomach issues race day. I like to eat clean the week of a race. Shop around the perimeter of the grocery store or market: think lots of fresh fruits and veggie along with some basic easy to digest foods, such as potatoes, pasta, bananas, rice, apples. Hydration becomes almost more important than anything else on the day before so take in lots of fluid.

The morning of the race you need something to fuel you and hydrate again. Remember even when it is cold you may not be thirsty but your body is using liquids up, so you need to stay hydrated. Using the restroom prior to the race and at least once during the race lets me know I have been drinking enough.

Above all on race day: Enjoy it! Remember that you are doing an incredible event; do take time to soak in the scenery around you. Look ahead at the bridge and back at Alcatraz from the water; soak in the view along the great highway and also when running through the Presidio; there is much to see! Congratulations and good luck!

One comment

  1. Jerry Castro

    Thanks for the tips Coach Kathy!
    Super excited about this Sunday’s race and my first Alcatraz crossing.
    Thanks to you, Coach Pedro and all the fine folks at WWS for getting me ready!

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