Cebuano triathlete Richel Sale, the lone Filipino participant of the 2019 Escape from Alcatraz, is all smiles while holding the Philippine flag after finishing the grueling triathlon race last June 9 at the San Francisco Bay area in California, United States.
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Cebuano airline pilot conquers ‘Escape from Alcatraz’ triathlon
Gloreitta T. Lariosa (The Freeman) - June 14, 2019 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines — A Cebuano airline pilot successfully conquered the 2019 Escape from Alcatraz, considered as one of the most challenging triathlons in the world held annually at the San Francisco Bay area in California, United States.

Last June 9, nearly 2,000 amateur and professional triathletes across the globe took part in the 39th Escape from Alcatraz.

One of them was Captain Richel Sale, the lone Filipino participant. And the pride of Basak, Lapu-Lapu City completed the punishing race with flying colors, clocking in three hours, 21 minutes and 57 seconds to his delight.

Sale has finished several Ironman races in the past but the airline pilot of Air Asia unequivocally admitted that his most recent experience in Alcatraz is by far the toughest he ever had.

“The distance was shorter than an Ironman distance, however, this is one of the toughest that I have been,” said Captain Sale. “I finished a full Ironman, numerous Ironman 70.3 and some short distance triathlon races both here and abroad but this is definitely one of the toughest.”

The Escape from Alcatraz course consists of a 2.4km swim starting near Alcatraz Island, a 29km bike ride, and 13km run.

The race

The grueling race is famous for its notorious water swim course because the participants have to plunge into and endure the ice-cold 59.5-degree water temperature.

“They brand it as the most difficult swim course in international sport and it is so true,” said Sale.

To kick off the swim, Sale and the rest had to jump on a boat in Alcatraz all the way to the mainland San Francisco through the Old St. Francis Beach.

“First, we have to deal with the freezing water temperature at the bay. My hand and face feels numb on the first two minutes, but then again, that would be the last thing on my mind because I have to deal with the ever fast and notorious current at the bay and the choppy waves. Additional variable was the sea creatures swimming with us on the bay,” Sale shared.

After successfully hurdling the freezing and rough waters, Sale, a Philippine Military Academy (PMA) graduate in 1998,  smoothly completed the tough bike course.

“On the bike course, it was short but it feels like more than 90K because of the steep climbs and it is very technical that a considerable number of triathletes got an accident and wasn’t able to do it,” Sale further narrated.“The run was like a mountain climbing specially if you pass through the “sand ladder”, many call it as the “stairway to hell.”

Fulfilling moment

Despite all the pain, Sale said the whole experience was fun and enjoyable.

“You got to jump through Alcatraz, bike and run beside the Golden Gate Bridge, it was a very fulfilling moment for me,” said Sale. “I am happy to represent the Philippines and Air Asia.”  (FREEMAN)

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