Escaping From Alcatraz Is an Unresolved Family Endeavor for Triathlete Ronnie Troyn

What is pushing 2,000-additionally athletes from about 50 nations to San Francisco for the 40th annual Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon (EFAT) on Aug. 15—one of the most exclusive and grueling swim-bike-run races on the professional triathlon tour?



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

But only one particular competitor in the crowd (that we know of) has also been curiously drawn to this event—which commences with a cold, present-day-churned, 1.5-mile swim across San Francisco Bay from the renowned former offshore prison—to finish what his suspected Alcatraz inmate ancestor began.

“According to my mom and my grandmother, I’m a direct descendant of Arthur Barker, a convicted prison who tried using to escape from Alcatraz back in the nineteen thirties,” says triathlete Ronnie Troyn, who felt a faint familial tug when initially hearing about the race on Instagram. “It just immediately struck me as this outstanding challenge—but also a really interesting opportunity to get back into family members stuff that I’d heard about and definitely didn’t pay back a lot consideration to when I was more youthful. As a kid enjoying water polo, I experienced no thought who Arthur Barker was—or even who his mother was.”

Arthur Barker’s mother was notorious, Depression-era criminal offense figure Ma Barker, normally described as the ruthless matriarch of the Barker-Karpis gang (which integrated two of her sons) and one particular of the most notorious public enemies of her time.

Ronnie Troyn triathlete

Not everyone in the Troyn family members was so eager to revisit this Barker link—which the triathlete admits gets a minimal fuzzy in a family members tree gnarled into a sequence of cryptic title improvements. Curiously, ideal at the top rated of Troyn’s tree sits Captain James Ketchum, a renowned 19th-century Native American chief from the Delaware tribe.

“I assume my grandma was always embarrassed about the Barker conclusion of the family members title and all those films out there about her, like Bloody Mama,” says the forty six-calendar year-aged, Southern California-based retired military veteran, who explains the link to us this way: “According to family members papers handed down to me, my grandmother Elizabeth’s mother Neva Farrington was Arthur Barker’s daughter…and for that reason Ma Barker’s granddaughter.”

Troyn didn’t expect to be chatting 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 even though attempting to escape the prison in 1939) when he occurred to mention this genealogical tidbit nonetheless in the method of getting fleshed out to race organizers.

“I’ve just produced my initially payment for $16.50 to,” he laughs. “Now I guess it’s time to do far more digging and fill in some information. These family members traces that go back to the mid-1800s…they can spin you in circles.”

Troyn pushed himself to finish 3 qualifying gatherings major up to EFAT—including Ironman Arizona 70.three, which he calls both of those therapeutic and the 2nd-most exhausting practical experience of his daily life.

“Iraq was the initially. That’s the most fatigued I have at any time been—and the hottest” says Troyn, whose twenty-calendar year military job incorporates five deployments immediately after 9/11, together with time spent in Kuwait and Iraq, Guantanamo Bay, and Afghanistan. “But I would say a really, really, really shut 2nd was executing a fifty percent-Ironman.”

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

“Honestly, guy, I’m searching forward to that swim,” says Troyn, who’s slimmed down from a beefy 230 kilos to a lean, muscled 180 given that entering the triathlon environment, and is open up about getting in “a really darkish place” immediately after some traumatic and heartbreaking military encounters overseas. “A whole lot of my close friends are like, ‘Dude, aren’t you nervous about the sharks and currents that transfer at the pace of Michael Phelps?’ I’m like, nicely I volunteered to go to Iraq and Afghanistan, so not that a lot.”

Troyn’s race purpose is to crack 4 several hours. His true purpose although is just to just take it all in—even if it costs him a couple of precious seconds.

“The true detail is, man—I’m alive. So throughout my swim, I’m gonna prevent in the center of the bay. I’m just gonna eggbeater and tread water for a minimal bit. I’m gonna glance around in the center of San Francisco Bay. Who in the environment gets the chance to do that? I’m gonna honor that. Hopefully I will not get in anyone’s way.”

Will Arthur Barker cross his head when Ronnie Troyn will make his personal historic crossing.

“Maybe,” he laughs. “I’m thinking about him a whole lot far more than I was all of a sudden. I guess we’ll see.”

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