Triathlete Ben Kanute on Chasing History at Escape From Alcatraz

Profitable any skilled triathlon 3 moments in a row is outstanding, but Escape From Alcatraz isn’t just any triathlon. Participants choose a chilly plunge into San Francisco Bay’s choppy water for a 1.5-mile swim, then haul 18 miles up twisting hills by bicycle, and end with an eight-mile run. The pièce de résistance: a brutal set of cliff stairs named the Sand Ladder. Two thousand amateur and professional athletes from more than 50 nations will check their limitations on Aug. 15—when the venerated race celebrates its 40th anniversary—but the male to observe is Ben Kanute. 



The 28-calendar year-old American athlete will attempt to swim-bicycle-run down record as the initially guy to get Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon for 4 consecutive several years. Just after successful this race from 2017 to 2019, Kanute has been waiting two decades for his opportunity at the document following 2020’s race was canceled due to COVID-19. We caught up with the 2016 Olympian to understand more about this legendary race, his focused coaching plan, and the mentality it usually takes to get a triathlon. 

Men’s Journal: How do you put together your self to keep in the second throughout a race that’s so prolonged and grueling?

Ben Kanute: The mental aspect of the sport is a little something that receives taken for granted. I go into every single workout with purpose to stay centered and test to achieve goals––whether it is in the rep, established, or the full exercise. Even though I’m coaching, I go by means of my checklist and make positive my form is superior, I’m hitting my tempo, acquiring the rhythm, and seeking to discover that circulation condition the place every little thing is working. At the time you get to the race, you can strike your cues, go as a result of your checklist, and get the most out of you. 

Daniel Brienza

What sort of cross teaching do you do throughout the year?

In the course of the time I check out not to branch out as well much. My mentor lives in San Diego, so I go out there really a bit. I do love the ocean and enjoy skiing, but a ton of these sports get put on the back burner even though you are training as a experienced athlete. It is risk management. Those sporting activities work fully unique muscle tissues, so the damage hazard goes up. I perform with strength mentor Matt Pendola, who’s pretty good at specific forms of cross teaching and strength instruction that boost the swim, bike, and operate. A large amount of it is mobility-based plyometrics and power teaching cycles to go alongside with my ordinary instruction. It is been a awesome complement. It is created me a lot less susceptible to personal injury and enhanced my variety in all 3 sports activities. 

Inspite of remaining a shorter distance than other triathlons, Escape From Alcatraz characteristics an extraordinary swim leg. How do you defeat San Francisco Bay’s notoriously robust current and frigid water? 

I love the Alcatraz swim. I consider it’s a great problem. It is as much a actual physical problem as it is a psychological and tactical challenge with the way the wind, waves, and currents are. It unquestionably variations your stroke. You can’t just place your head down and go. Escape from Alcatraz is about looking through the drinking water and figuring out the place to swim. Of program it’s complicated to do that—you have to alter as you are in the water, seeking to offer with the latest, which is pushing you out of the Bay. Though the present-day will help you more than, if you do not get shut enough or cross that “river,” it could finish up pushing you past the swim exit. I like to rely a whole lot on the local understanding and just check with queries about what the ailments are like that working day.

Ben Kanute
Daniel Brienza

What is the changeover like to the bike leg? What are the most important challenges?

Even coming out of the h2o, there’s another problem to operate about a thousand meters to changeover. Your toes are numb and you’re hoping to get to your bicycle. But you’ve received to shake the cold to drive. The very first few miles of using to the 1st hill is very flat, then from that position, there is really no flat section. It’s all fairly steep and, at the significantly stop of the training course, there is one extensive, grinding climb. In overall, I believe there are about 7 important climbs and the relaxation is downhill, which can be technical.

Overall, when we’re conversing about the Alcatraz course––whether it’s swim, bike or run––there’s no settling in. It is a great deal of higher-conclude endeavours for limited periods of time. You get a small little bit of recovery on the downhills or sections main to the upcoming demanding part, then you are fairly significantly hitting it again. But about the earlier handful of years of racing, I have identified my rhythm.

It ends up getting a relatively extensive race, even though some of the distances are diverse. It is an all-out hard work, but you have received to preserve oneself in test for the reason that you can set on your own in excess of that crimson line if you’re not very careful.

Ben Kanute
Daniel Brienza


What is the key to keeping your competition at the rear of you in the ultimate stretch—and that notorious Sand Ladder stair climb?

There are a pair miles of flat on the entrance close and again end, but the relaxation is either uphill, downhill, or in the sand. I believe this is the most rhythm-breaking portion of the whole program, for the reason that you’re managing straight up stairs. The Sand Ladder (400 steps up a cliff) coming off the seashore is often tough. You definitely want to gauge your energy and maintain you in check out for that very first 50 percent of the run, then depart a minor a little something for the Sand Ladder, and the very last dash residence.

People past pair miles can alter a large amount relying on how fatigued you are—especially with the men I’m racing. It is all about leg turnover. You just want to believe in that you will get your legs back, you’ll get up and above the hill, then use people downhills as totally free velocity and time to recuperate. 

You have said you ‘Hate dropping much more than you like profitable.’ When you get to the close of a race, how a great deal do you rely on that way of thinking to cross the complete line initial?

It’s all about brain games––using the experience of not successful to generate you. But besides consequence objectives, this kind of as successful, I generally check out to have procedure objectives. If I execute my race as very well as doable, I can even now wander away delighted even if I get 2nd or third. Frequently outcomes are the only issue looked at through the season, but it is also crucial to have method objectives and make certain you are executing items the right way. I sense like when I execute all of my processes, I’m hard to beat.

What about Escape from Alcatraz fits your race design and style?

Escape from Alcatraz is just one of the traditional triathlons. It’s been close to for 40 decades, so it was there fundamentally from the start out of the activity. It is an odd distance, and goes again to the roots the place they did not treatment what was in the way. It’s nearly like they made the class to be as hard as possible, and I like that. Racing as a result of the city is scenic, and it is one of the most exclusive begins: jumping off a boat in the middle of the San Francisco Bay. I imagine if you go back and look at a whole lot of the winners of Escape from Alcatraz, you are going to see people today who’ve been extremely effective in the activity. My aim is to win the race, but I also want to go out there and just sense strong and have fun. If any individual else is going to beat me, I want to make them bury on their own to do it.

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