What is pushing two,000-additionally athletes from around 50 nations around the world to San Francisco for the fortieth once-a-year Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon (EFAT) on Aug. 15—one of the most distinctive and grueling swim-bike-run races on the pro triathlon tour?



The common balanced combine of spirit, grit, and willpower with a dollop of straight-up masochism.

But only just one competitor in the group (that we know of) has also been curiously drawn to this event—which starts with a cold, recent-churned, 1.five-mile swim throughout San Francisco Bay from the renowned former offshore prison—to end what his suspected Alcatraz inmate ancestor begun.

“According to my mother and my grandmother, I’m a direct descendant of Arthur Barker, a convicted felony who attempted to escape from Alcatraz back in the 1930s,” states triathlete Ronnie Troyn, who felt a faint familial tug when to start with hearing about the race on Instagram. “It just straight away struck me as this remarkable challenge—but also a extremely interesting prospect to get back into household stuff that I’d read about and actually did not pay back a great deal awareness to when I was youthful. As a kid enjoying h2o polo, I experienced no concept who Arthur Barker was—or even who his mother was.”

Arthur Barker’s mother was infamous, Despair-era criminal offense determine Ma Barker, usually explained as the ruthless matriarch of the Barker-Karpis gang (which incorporated two of her sons) and just one of the most notorious community enemies of her time.

Ronnie Troyn triathlete

Not absolutely everyone in the Troyn household was so eager to revisit this Barker link—which the triathlete admits receives a tiny fuzzy in a household tree gnarled into a collection of cryptic title changes. Curiously, correct at the major of Troyn’s tree sits Captain James Ketchum, a renowned 19th-century Indigenous American chief from the Delaware tribe.

“I assume my grandma was constantly embarrassed about the Barker stop of the household title and all those motion pictures out there about her, like Bloody Mama,” states the forty six-12 months-old, Southern California-centered retired army veteran, who explains the relationship to us this way: “According to household papers handed down to me, my grandmother Elizabeth’s mother Neva Farrington was Arthur Barker’s daughter…and therefore Ma Barker’s granddaughter.”

Troyn did not be expecting to be talking to Men’s Journal about his suspected ties to Ma Barker (killed in a hail of FBI bullets at an Ocklawaha, Florida, hideout in 1935) or Arthur Barker (killed by Alcatraz guards while attempting to escape the jail in 1939) when he happened to point out this genealogical tidbit nevertheless in the system of staying fleshed out to race organizers.

“I’ve just designed my to start with payment for $sixteen.50 to Ancestry.com,” he laughs. “Now I guess it is time to do a lot more digging and fill in some details. These household strains that go back to the mid-1800s…they can spin you in circles.”

Troyn pushed himself to complete a few qualifying gatherings main up to EFAT—including Ironman Arizona 70.three, which he phone calls both equally therapeutic and the 2nd-most exhausting experience of his existence.

“Iraq was the to start with. That is the most drained I have at any time been—and the hottest” states Troyn, whose twenty-12 months military job consists of 5 deployments after nine/eleven, including time spent in Kuwait and Iraq, Guantanamo Bay, and Afghanistan. “But I would say a extremely, extremely, extremely shut 2nd was undertaking a 50 %-Ironman.”

How’s Troyn experience about Sunday’s race in San Francisco—the Alcatraz-to-Marina dip in unique?

“Honestly, man, I’m hunting forward to that swim,” states Troyn, who’s slimmed down from a beefy 230 pounds to a lean, muscled one hundred eighty due to the fact entering the triathlon planet, and is open about staying in “a extremely darkish place” after some traumatic and heartbreaking army experiences abroad. “A ton of my good friends are like, ‘Dude, are not you worried about the sharks and currents that shift at the pace of Michael Phelps?’ I’m like, well I volunteered to go to Iraq and Afghanistan, so not that a great deal.”

Troyn’s race intention is to crack four several hours. His authentic intention nevertheless is just to just take it all in—even if it prices him a number of valuable seconds.

“The authentic point is, man—I’m alive. So throughout my swim, I’m gonna stop in the center of the bay. I’m just gonna eggbeater and tread h2o for a tiny bit. I’m gonna look all-around in the center of San Francisco Bay. Who in the planet receives the opportunity to do that? I’m gonna honor that. With any luck , I won’t get in anyone’s way.”

Will Arthur Barker cross his brain when Ronnie Troyn would make his possess historic crossing.

“Maybe,” he laughs. “I’m considering about him a ton a lot more than I was all of a unexpected. I guess we’ll see.”

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