How to Escape From Alcatraz With Dignity

The author triumphant at the finish line.

Four years ago I signed up to do a triathlon with Team Challenge. At the time I had NO idea what a triathlon was. I did one intermediate-distance race before getting hooked and progressing to longer distances and other types of endurance races.

At the time I said I would never do a marathon, never do an Ironman and most definitely I would never do the Alcatraz triathlon. Those things seemed unnecessarily crazy.

Over the years, however, I did a few marathons, eventually a couple Ironman 70.3s, and finally a full-distance Ironman—all things I said I never would do because I didn't think I could.

More: Should You Do an Ironman Triathlon?

When my boyfriend Scott and I crossed the finish line at Ironman I thought I would feel different; I thought I would have an overwhelming feeling of emotion, falling to my knees crying, jumping up and down like a madwoman, something. None of those things happened. Either I was completely out of it that day or I simply knew that I had earned the finish through my training, and in the end realized Ironman wasn't as hard as I thought.

There was only one thing left to do: I had to sign up for Escape from Alcatraz.

My biggest issue was the swim. For one thing, coming from a running and cycling background, swimming is a huge challenge for me. On my first day as a triathlete I tried to avoid putting my head in the water at all.

Sharks and seals don't scare me. It's the cold, and the San Francisco Bay water is nothing if not cold. I'm the girl who gave up ice skating as a child because I was always in the bathroom using the hand dryer to stay warm.

More: The Science Behind How Your Body Reacts to Cold Water

But when I found out I made the lottery for Escape from Alcatraz I knew that it was meant to be and now was the time to face my fears.

The countdown to Alcatraz on my phone stared at me every day, telling me to get in the pool; go to open-water practice. But I couldn't seem to do it. I would often skip the Team Challenge open-water swimming practices on weekends, coming up with pretty lame excuses for why I couldn't go. I swam all of three times leading up to this race while running over 200 miles and biking over 1200. Not a very balanced training schedule.

Race weekend finally came. At the expo I met Pete Jacobs while buying t-shirts and snapped a few shots with my future husband Andy Potts. It was great! Then came the mandatory athlete meeting. My nerves and anxiety suddenly started to kick in. I have NEVER had so much anxiety before a race. The race director made it so much worse when he asked if everyone had watched the informational videos and everyone raised their hands, except me. Way to prepare Kat.

More: A Mental Mindset for Multisport

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