SureSet Fundraising leads to American Penitentiary

Category: Charity, Staff, Sureset Blog

Posted 6th July 2018 by Duncan Andrews


SureSet’s resident triathlete Duncan found himself in deep water on a recent trip to San Francisco, but strangely enough he paid for the privilege.

The event in question was the ‘Escape from Alcatraz’ triathlon, one of the most sought after ‘Bucket List’ races in the world triathlon calendar. The iconic race takes on what is widely regarded as the toughest swim in the sport where the 2000 participants are taken out into the cold and choppy San Francisco Bay on the large classic ferry called the San Francisco Belle.

The atmosphere on the boat was electric” recalls Duncan.  “It was an early start with a 4am alarm but as soon as I realised it was the big day I was up and buzzing about doing my final preparations and eating breakfast. The taxi was booked for 4.45 to get to the transition area and set up before getting on the coach and heading to the ferry terminal. The mood on the coach and on the ferry was buzzing with excitement as everyone chatted to each other and warmed up. With such an early start we were all treated to an amazing sunrise over the bay as we headed for the notorious Alcatraz Island.”

The race started at 7.30am with the obligatory American National Anthem, and after the claxon sounded it was everyone for themselves as they made the jump off the ferry into the 12 degree waters near Alcatraz. Once in the water the athletes were told to head directly for shore and the strong currents would help them drift to the landing beach.


“I managed to escape the carnage at the ferry jump pretty quickly and settled into my swimming, one eye looking ahead at the landmarks we were told to head towards and one eye looking down *just in case* a shark was lining me up for breakfast. I finished the 1.5 mile swim in 30 minutes and once out of the water made my way to the first transition and grabbed my bike.”


The bike course was hilly and tough as you would expect for San Francisco but the views more than made up for the burning legs, with the 18 mile bike course taking athletes passed the famous Golden Gate Bridge and through the Golden Gate National Park.


“With cycling being my strongest discipline I pushed on and completed the course in 1 hour flat, hung up my bike, put on my trainers and headed out to run.”

The run took athletes back along the Marina and headed uphill directly under the Golden Gate Bridge. Thankfully for Duncan the next section was downhill onto a beach. However, the famous ‘Sand Ladder’ section then followed, a gruelling set of 400 railway sleeper/sand steps leading from the sea back up towards the bridge. Once at the top it was a nice downhill run to the finish at the Marina.


“Once at the top of the Sand Ladder I took a couple of deep breaths, took an energy gel and strode out towards the finish. It was a huge relief to get to the finish and once I had recovered I realised I had finished a very respectable 260th out of 1500 finishers, with a time of 2:54.36.”


The final part of Duncan’s fundraising this year is a trip to the Pyrenees Mountains in September to complete a cycling event called Raid D’Pyrenees, a 450 mile cycling challenge from the Atlantic Coast to the Mediterranean Coast….in 4 ½ days! I think the best phrase for that is ‘On yerrr bike son….’!

If you would like to support Duncan and his chosen charity Dorothy House you can donate to his JustGiving Page:

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