On August 3, 2014, Las Vegas criminal defense attorney Gabriel L. Grasso participated in the Alcatraz Challenge in San Francisco.
To begin his race, Grasso swam through cold water and strong currents from Alcatraz Island to Crissy Field Beach near the Presidio.
After leaving the water, he laced up his running shoes and ran seven miles over the Golden Gate Bridge and back, successfully finishing San Francisco’s Alcatraz Challenge.
About the Race:
The annual Orca Alcatraz Challenge Aquathlon and Swim in San Francisco, California consists of a 1.5 mile swim from Alcatraz Island followed by an out-and-back run along the Presidio and across the Golden Gate Bridge. The swim portion of the challenge is a 1.5-mile assisted swim. In reality, the distance is about two miles, but with the tides and currents it is akin to swimming 1.5 miles. The currents, winds, waves, and tides ultimately determine the start location, but it begins somewhere near Alcatraz and finishes at the East beach of Crissy Field in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area’s Presidio Park. Water temperatures can be as chilly as 55 degrees, so wetsuits and hoods are strongly encouraged. Every year, several swimmers are forced to forfeit at this stage of the race because they are unable to withstand the strong currents and cold water temperature.
The 7-mile run begins when the runners leave the transition area, and it ends in a back-and-forth run across the Golden Gate Bridge. The run course follows the Golden Gate Promenade, a dirt trail that winds along the San Francisco Bay. After about 1.25 miles, after passing the Warming Hut and the Torpedo Wharf, runners make a sharp left, veering away from the water, up wooden steps, along a dirt trail, through a brick tunnel, and up onto the east span of the Golden Gate Bridge. This is approximately a 200-foot elevation gain in less than a half-mile. After crossing to Vista Point at the north end of the bridge, runners turn around and retrace their steps to the finish line.
The Alcatraz race was not always an aquathlon. In fact, for years it was a triathlon, originally named the Escape From Alcatraz Triathlon. The idea for an Alcatraz Triathlon came from Joe Oakes, who conceived of it in 1979 after finishing the Ironman in Hawaii. In July 1981, the race first came into being. About twenty members of the Dolphin Club swam 1.5 miles from Alcatraz, bicycled 15 miles across the Golden Gate Bridge, and then ran 14 miles, doubling the legendary 7-mile Dipsea Run. The following year the Escape From Alcatraz Triathlon was opened to the public. However, the Dolphin Club voted to close the fourth race to the public, citing that the event had grown too unwieldy for them. Oakes decided he would stage his own race, the Alcatraz Challenge Triathlon, first held in 1983. Since then, the event has inspired several other similar races. Oakes’ challenge itself has evolved, dropping the cycling portion to become the aquathlon it is today.