Everyone’s heard stories of inmates trying to escape from Alcatraz, one of the toughest Federal prisons in America, but a Canadian prison warden breaking out? That’s unheard of.
On June 12, 2016, Paul Bailey, Warden at Grande Cache Institution, did just that after completing the Escape from Alcatraz triathlon. While CSC employees work hard every day to protect public safety by ensuring offenders don’t escape, Paul, along with his wife Carol – a programs officer at Grande Cache - decided to test his limits by attempting one of the most legendary prison escape experiences.
The triathlon’s course had athletes running, biking and ultimately swimming across the same channel from Alcatraz to mainland that inmates in the prison would have swum in attempts to escape.
“It’s an unbelievable, beautiful course, it’s just steeped in tradition,” says Paul.
Paul has completed numerous races in his life, but the Escape from Alcatraz triathlon had been on his radar for some time now. “This is the 36th year that they’ve been running the race and I’m a warden and I just thought it’d be really neat to have a warden escape from Alcatraz,” he explains.
The highlight of the race for Paul, and likely every athlete, was swimming the channel from Alcatraz to land. Athlete’s faced currents, waves, whitecaps and even sharks during this mile and a half portion of the triathlon.
“It was the most difficult swim I’ve ever done and I’ve done swims 10 kilometers across lakes for some events,” he says. “If you’re not a swimmer, you would drown.”
The difficulty of the swim answered one of Paul’s burning questions going into the race: Could an inmate ever swim the channel and survive?
“Hands down the answer is no way, and I got to experience that firsthand,” he explains. “I’ve done the swim, I know how hard it is, and I have it to compare it to all of the swims I’ve done and it’s certainly the most difficult, most dangerous, most treacherous swim I’ve done in any triathlon that’s out there.”
Paul finished Escape from Alcatraz with a time just under 4 hours and 30 minutes, but that wasn’t his only accomplishment of the day.
“I can pretty much guarantee that I’m the only warden in Canada that’s done it. So is it a big accomplishment? Yeah, it’s huge! I have a wall in my office full of my athletic resumes on all sorts of special races that I’ve done that I find are really neat and unusual, and this race is going to find a special place on my bragging wall.”