I did Alcatraz this year and it is an epic race. It didn’t hurt that we had beautiful weather. Briefly, here is some information and I am happy to provide deeper detail, especially if you decide to race it.
Swim – the temperature was a non-issue by race day, which was my 3rd time in the water. I jumped in briefly on the day we arrived (it was cold). Swam a little longer on Saturday and found it more manageable. And didn’t even notice it on race day. Currents and wave swells were a challenge. Disclaimer – I am a swimmer and comfortable in the water.
Bike – was a sh!t show. The course was crowded, very hilly and roads were in horrible condition for the most part. Water bottles were flying everywhere. Because I am a swimmer, I was in the first 3rd of the racers on the course. The debris was so much worse as I came back in the out/back course. Normally I am a fearless downhiller/racer, but I had fear on this course. As hill prep, I did some training around Deep Creek lake and Mt. Weather and found the course “relatively” easier (ie the steep sections were shorter). It was beautiful when I was brave enough to glance around.
Run – beautiful vistas every time you turn a corner. All on crushed gravel except the beach section (ie quicksand) and sand ladder. There were several areas of stairs, which were all manageable except for inability to pass.
I can’t speak to cost since I won a free entry via Nations Tri. We stayed near the race venue so we didn’t have to deal with the buses on race morning. There are not any really nice hotels, just some motels in the area and I would stay there again. Also very convenient to the Presido (shake out ride) and beach (practice swims) and easily walkable to Ghiradelli Square (did post race).
If you decide to race it, I can give some more specific information to help you on race day.