With his newborn still in the hospital as the 39th annual Escape from Alcatraz approached, Greg Lambert found a creative way to train for what ranks as one of the most daunting triathlons on the planet.
“I ran the stairs at Stanford Hospital,” the Mountain View resident said. “There are four flights of stairs, so you can beat yourself up, if you want to.”
Lambert’s commitment to training surely helped him beat most of the nearly 2,000 Escapees to the finish line June 9. He placed 123rd overall and 20th in the men’s 30-34 age division, comprising 151 competitors.
“I felt like I had a pretty good race for the first time on the course, which is rare,” said Lambert, who completed the Escape in 2 hours, 42 minutes and 46 seconds. “I was happy to have a chance to try it out, and I’d like to do it again.”
There’s no guarantee that will happen, however. It seems almost as hard to secure a spot in the triathlon – featuring a 1.5-mile swim to shore, an 18-mile bicycle ride and an 8-mile run through San Francisco – as it is to finish it. Nearly 9,000 people applied for this year’s race, according to event publicist DeeDee Taft of Spin Communications. There are two random drawings held in the fall, and Lambert – who applied twice before – said he was lucky enough to have his name chosen this time.
But it’s a good bet not all the participants felt particularly lucky as they jumped off the jam-packed ferry near Alcatraz Island and plunged into the chilly San Francisco Bay.
“It was plenty cold, which is what I expected,” Lambert said. “I was thankful I spent the extra money for (wetsuit) booties.”
Once he got acclimated and oriented – helped by the approximately 50 kayakers employed to keep the swimmers on course – Lambert savored the moment.
“It was fun to able to be in the water and look back to see Alcatraz,” he said. “I didn’t have much time for that, but I took one glance for perspective.”
Lambert finished the swim in 36:25, a time he was satisfied with under the circumstances.
“I was most concerned about (the swim), but I didn’t do much about it,” said Lambert, who biked and ran most days and sometimes did both the same day to prepare for the race. “I didn’t do much training for it because of logistics; I had to go somewhere to swim.”
Once he reached the San Francisco shore, Lambert ran a half-mile transition to Crissy Field, where his bike awaited. He pedaled the 18 miles through the city in 56:20.
“The bike was great,” said Lambert, who took up triathlons 10 years ago. “I was one of the faster riders, based on the position I was in and looking at my numbers afterward.”
The race got tougher from there. Before embarking on the 8-mile run, Lambert had to face the dreaded sand stairs.
“They’re steep,” he said of the 400 steps. “You really have to step on the wooden ties to make much progress on them – it makes it easier. I read that little tip in one of the (Escape) emails.”
Once at the top, Lambert ran the 8 miles to the finish line in 1:01:43.
“That was a challenge,” he said. “Getting to that (leg) last, I came into it with a bit of fatigue and it was a bit warm out there.”
Lambert’s next challenge doesn’t figure to be easy, either. He just left his teaching job at Keys Middle School to be a stay-at-home dad. Lambert said he also hopes to find time to do more triathlons.
Lund leads other locals who make their Escape
Among the 10 other local residents who competed individually in the Escape, only Ryan Lund of Los Altos finished ahead of Lambert. Lund – who was not available for an interview until after the Town Crier’s deadline – placed 11th overall and second in the men’s 20-24 division with a time of 2:15:22.
Here’s how the other local individuals did in the race:
• John Cummins of Los Altos came in 422nd overall and 24th in the men’s 55-59 division with a 3:02:05.
• Harry Higgins of Mountain View took 454th overall and 75th in the men’s 40-44 division with a 3:03:27.
• Jean-Francois St-Amour of Mountain View finished 695th overall and 116th in the men’s 40-44 division with a 3:15:39.
• Ralf Horstkemper of Los Altos Hills was 698th overall and 117th in the men’s 40-44 division with a 3:15:43.
• Eric Dwight-Gilroy of Mountain View placed 826th overall and 135th in the men’s 40-44 division with a 3:23:15.
• Tianyu Ying of Mountain View came in 917th overall and 138th in the men’s 45-49 division with a 3:28:13.
• Karl Townsend of Los Altos took 1,266th overall and 148th in the men’s 50-54 division with a 3:50:04.
• Theodore Chen of Los Altos finished 1,308th overall and 153rd in the men’s 50-54 division with a 3:53:59.
• JC Lewis of Los Altos was 1,554th overall and 236th in the men’s 45-49 division with a 4:20:23. SPORTSEmbracing the Escape MV resident Lambert enjoys & excels in triathlon that’s almost as tough to get into as it is to finishFinisher Pix/Special to the Town Crier Greg Lambert of Mountain View competes in his first Escape from Alcatraz triathlon earlier this month in San Francisco.