Triathlete Ben Kanute on Chasing History at Escape From Alcatraz

Successful any experienced triathlon 3 situations in a row is remarkable, but Escape From Alcatraz isn’t just any triathlon. Individuals consider a chilly plunge into San Francisco Bay’s choppy h2o for a 1.five-mile swim, then haul eighteen miles up twisting hills by bike, and end with an 8-mile operate. The pièce de résistance: a brutal set of cliff stairs named the Sand Ladder. Two thousand amateur and experienced athletes from around 50 countries will test their limitations on Aug. 15—when the venerated race celebrates its 40th anniversary—but the guy to view is Ben Kanute. 



The 28-12 months-outdated American athlete will endeavor to swim-bike-operate down historical past as the initially guy to gain Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon for four consecutive a long time. Immediately after winning this race from 2017 to 2019, Kanute has been waiting around two a long time for his opportunity at the document right after 2020’s race was canceled owing to COVID-19. We caught up with the 2016 Olympian to discover a lot more about this legendary race, his committed teaching timetable, and the mentality it usually takes to gain a triathlon. 

Men’s Journal: How do you prepare by yourself to keep in the instant through a race that is so extensive and grueling?

Ben Kanute: The psychological side of the activity is one thing that gets taken for granted. I go into each and every exercise routine with goal to keep targeted and try out to achieve goals––whether it’s within just the rep, set, or the full exercise routine. While I’m teaching, I go through my checklist and make confident my form is excellent, I’m hitting my pace, discovering the rhythm, and seeking to obtain that move state the place every thing is doing work. Once you get to the race, you can hit your cues, go through your checklist, and get the most out of by yourself. 

Ben Kanute
Daniel Brienza

What form of cross teaching do you do during the 12 months?

For the duration of the period I try out not to branch out as well much. My coach lives in San Diego, so I go out there pretty a bit. I do get pleasure from the ocean and appreciate skiing, but a good deal of these sports get set on the back burner though you’re teaching as a experienced athlete. It is hazard administration. All those sports operate totally distinct muscular tissues, so the personal injury hazard goes up. I operate with strength coach Matt Pendola, who’s very excellent at specific kinds of cross teaching and strength teaching that fortify the swim, bike, and operate. A good deal of it’s mobility-centered plyometrics and strength teaching cycles to go together with my standard teaching. It is been a good enhance. It is created me a lot less susceptible to personal injury and improved my form in all 3 sports. 

Inspite of remaining a shorter distance than other triathlons, Escape From Alcatraz functions an intense swim leg. How do you overcome San Francisco Bay’s notoriously solid current and frigid h2o? 

I appreciate the Alcatraz swim. I think it’s a excellent obstacle. It is as a great deal a actual physical obstacle as it is a psychological and tactical obstacle with the way the wind, waves, and currents are. It surely changes your stroke. You cannot just set your head down and go. Escape from Alcatraz is about looking at the h2o and figuring out the place to swim. Of study course it’s tricky to do that—you have to change as you’re in the h2o, seeking to offer with the current, which is pushing you out of the Bay. While the current allows you around, if you really don’t get near adequate or cross that “river,” it could finish up pushing you past the swim exit. I like to count a good deal on the area information and just request concerns about what the ailments are like that working day.

Ben Kanute
Daniel Brienza

What’s the transition like to the bike leg? What are the largest problems?

Even coming out of the h2o, there is an additional obstacle to operate about a thousand meters to transition. Your feet are numb and you’re seeking to get to your bike. But you have acquired to shake the cold to thrust. The initially couple miles of using to the initially hill is really flat, then from that stage, there is seriously no flat section. It is all really steep and, at the much finish of the study course, there is a single extensive, grinding climb. In whole, I think there are about seven big climbs and the relaxation is downhill, which can be technical.

Overall, when we’re chatting about the Alcatraz course––whether it’s swim, bike or run––there’s no settling in. It is a good deal of superior-finish initiatives for small periods of time. You get a little bit of recovery on the downhills or sections major to the subsequent complicated section, then you’re really a great deal hitting it once more. But around the past couple a long time of racing, I have identified my rhythm.

It ends up remaining a comparatively extensive race, even even though some of the distances are distinct. It is an all-out energy, but you have acquired to maintain by yourself in verify due to the fact you can set by yourself around that pink line if you’re not very careful.

Ben Kanute
Daniel Brienza


What’s the important to trying to keep your competition driving you in the last stretch—and that infamous Sand Ladder stair climb?

There are a couple miles of flat on the entrance finish and back finish, but the relaxation is either uphill, downhill, or in the sand. I think this is the most rhythm-breaking section of the full study course, due to the fact you’re jogging straight up stairs. The Sand Ladder (400 actions up a cliff) coming off the seashore is generally difficult. You seriously need to have to gauge your energy and maintain by yourself in verify for that initially 50 percent of the operate, then depart a little one thing for the Sand Ladder, and the past sprint home.

All those past couple miles can change a good deal relying on how fatigued you are—especially with the men I’m racing. It is all about leg turnover. You just need to have to have faith in that you are going to get your legs back, you are going to get up and around the hill, then use those downhills as absolutely free pace and time to recuperate. 

You have mentioned you ‘Hate getting rid of a lot more than you like winning.’ When you get to the finish of a race, how a great deal do you count on that attitude to cross the end line initially?

It is all about mind games––using the sensation of not winning to generate you. But other than final result targets, these types of as winning, I generally try out to have system targets. If I execute my race as perfectly as possible, I can nonetheless walk away satisfied even if I get next or third. Quite often results are the only detail seemed at during the period, but it’s also significant to have system targets and make confident you’re executing things properly. I come to feel like when I execute all of my procedures, I’m tough to defeat.

What about Escape from Alcatraz fits your race type?

Escape from Alcatraz is a single of the typical triathlons. It is been all around for forty a long time, so it was there fundamentally from the commence of the activity. It is an odd distance, and goes back to the roots the place they did not treatment what was in the way. It is just about like they created the study course to be as tough as possible, and I appreciate that. Racing through the metropolis is scenic, and it’s a single of the most unique starts off: leaping off a boat in the middle of the San Francisco Bay. I think if you go back and glimpse at a good deal of the winners of Escape from Alcatraz, you are going to see persons who’ve been very profitable in the activity. My objective is to gain the race, but I also want to go out there and just come to feel solid and have enjoyable. If someone else is heading to defeat me, I want to make them bury on their own to do it.

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