10 Things You Need to Know About Alaskaman Extreme Triathlon

 

On July 15, our Mary Knott became one of the 157 people (and just 26 women) who finished the inaugural Alaskaman—taking the overall female masters title in the process. Here she tells us what the one-of-a-kind extreme race is all about.


  1. Alaskaman is a triathlon comprised of a 2.7-mile swim, a 111-mile bike ride over some of the most scenic terrain you'll ever ride, and a 20-mile run and an over 7-mile hike to the top of Mt. Alyeska (twice). The race is run point-to-point from Seward to Girdwood in the gorgeous Kenai Fjord region of southern Alaska. It is, quite simply, spectacular.  
  1. X-Tri is not Ironman. Alaskaman is part of the X-Tri World Tour, a group that also includes Norseman, Swissman, and Celtman. Sure, the distances are similar. But that's where similarities end. X-Tri is about as close to Ironman as a 50k trail race is to a marathonnot close. Distant cousins? Maybe. Siblings? Definitely not. But the good news is this is exactly the reason you should jump on the X-Tri bandwagon! The experience becomes the goal, rather than the podium.  
  2. The best way to see a place is on foot. Have you ever traveled to a new city and left feeling like you didn't get to really experience it? You saw all the "touristy" things, but still missed out? Well, powering yourself over 142 miles will allow you to take in everything there is to see in this area of Alaska. As you're going along make sure you stop to smell the roses and appreciate everything you're experiencing!  

  1. Alaskaman is self-supported. Or rather, you're required to provide your own crew. Your crew will help you out of the water and into T1. They'll get you dressed and out on your bike before your hands have had a chance to thaw out. They'll feed you, water you, and make sure you have everything you need on the bike course. And on the run, they'll patiently wait for you to arrive at mile 20 where their final job of the day begins...they'll hike with you the final 7-plus miles to the top of Mt. Alyeska to make sure that in your depleted state you don't actually fall off the mountain.    

  1. The swim makes it Extreme. The water temperature starts around 53 degrees (in July temperatures average between 50-55 degrees), and then drop into the 40s as you pass the glacial waterfall about halfway through the swim. Wetsuits are required. Full wetsuits. With sleeves. A vast majority of athletes also wore a thermal cap and booties. Gloves were optional, but encouraged. And I can tell you from experience, having a thermal base layer under the wetsuit makes a huge difference in keeping body temp up.  

  1. The bike makes it Extreme. Being self-supported is harder than you think. Your crew is not allowed in the first 30 miles, or the last 30.  So that means in the middle miles you need to be so on top of things that you're actually coherent enough at mile 80 to know exactly how many calories you need to carry for the final 30 miles. Keep in mind that after the freezing cold swim, and chilly early bike temps, you've actually burned through calories in excess of "normal" for this distance. Add in hills. Wind. And traffic. The course is not closed to traffic. Caught behind a train? Too bad. Bear on the road? Better wait for it to cross. Embrace the extreme.

  1. The run/hike make it Extreme. The first 20 miles are hard enough. Lots of climbing. Self-supported, with no crew access until mile 14.5, which means you're basically carrying water on your back along with your fuel of choice. And, oh yeah, you're really in bear country now, so you've got a bell attached to your pack ringing in your ear for 27 miles, and are quite possibly carrying bear spray. And once you hit mile 20, you just go ahead and start up that 25% grade. For three miles. Then descend for two (same grade!) before you climb the final two miles to the finish. Tough. As. F*&k. And I promise you will love every second!

  1. Finisher's medal? No thanks. Engraved ulu knife? Hell yes! And, on the chance you land on the podium in the top three overall or as the first overall masters finisher, how about a mining pan? That's a trophy with a story!

  1. In case you're worried about laid-back" organization to go along with this laid-back triathlon scene...don't be. Alaskaman was by far one of the most organized events I've ever participated in. Communication along the way was near daily. Details were shared time after time after time. If you didn't know what the heck was expected of you on race day, you clearly didn't read. Because the race director did a phenomenal job of spelling it all out and keeping everyone safe and in the know.  

  1. Race day 2018: July 21. Go ahead and start making plans. You won't regret it.





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