Escaping Alcatraz | Anthony Esquivel

Anthony Esquivel IV recently completed the Escape from Alcatraz Triathalon.
Anthony Esquivel IV recently completed the Escape from Alcatraz Triathalon.

San Francisco Bay touches all of our lives, but how many people spend time swimming in the Bay? Meet Anthony Esquivel IV, a triathlete who recently completed the Escape from Alcatraz Triathalon. 

The chill in the air, the low clouds covering the tops of buildings and the top of the Golden Gate Bridge, the mist and the smell of the San Francisco Bay.  My stomach a little tied in knots thinking about my first attempt at the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon. The event consists of 1.5 miles of swimming in the ice cold waters of the Bay, cycling a grueling 18 miles of San Francisco hills, running 8 miles of trails to Baker Beach and crossing the finish line at Marina Green Park. It is considered to be one of the most difficult and most memorable triathlons, and now I know why.

At 6:30 a.m., the San Francisco Belle departs Pier 3 heading toward Alcatraz.  It stops a few hundred yards away from the island, and as 7:30 approaches, the triathletes slowly stand and walk toward the edge of the boat ready to begin. The national anthem ends, a horn blows, and the pros jump from the railings of the boat. Immediately afterward almost 2,000 triathletes swarm to the edge of the boat, and we all jump feet-first into the icy waters to begin our 1.5-mile swim to shore located near the St. Francis Yacht Club. Swimming toward the shore, as I turn to breathe I see the Bay Bridge on the left of me, the Golden Gate Bridge to the right of me, and ahead of me a glimpse of the shore mostly covered by low clouds. Some parts of the swim are very choppy, and there are pockets of especially freezing water. I’m focusing on swimming, but realize I’m swimming in such a beautiful and memorable scene.

How many individuals really get a chance to do what we are doing?  How many people can say, “I swam from Alcatraz Island to the shore San Francisco?” The experience is everything I could’ve imagined and more.

I’ve been a triathlete for 5 years and I have loved every second of it. In 2006, at the age of 19, I was diagnosed with liver disease. My liver was almost twice the normal size and was compared to the liver of a 100-year-old man. Doctors told me I had 5 to 10 years until I would either require a liver transplant or die. I weighed 275 and was living an unhealthy lifestyle. The doctor said losing weight, exercising and changing my diet might help me, but there were no guarantees. After about a year of pain, feeling sorry for myself, and being angry at the world, I decided to stop drinking completely, I became vegetarian and started working out.

By August of 2009 I had come to terms with my fate and accepted that I would most likely not see my 25th birthday. But that month I had a blood test and the results showed that I no longer had liver disease. My liver had completely regenerated itself and its size was back to normal. Doctors say as long as I keep up my healthy lifestyle there is no chance of a relapse.

Today I’ve raced in over 25 triathlons, and this month I completed the Escape from Alcatraz in San Francisco Bay. The swim in the bay was tough, but it’s an experience I will never forget. I’m happy to have crossed that finish line, and I hope to return to the bay to conquer Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon once more.  Experiences like these are why I race.

Anthony Esquivel IV is a 28-year-old liver disease survivor, vegan and triathlete. He plans to complete his first full Ironman Triathlon in Arizona this November.