2019 AKXTRI Race Report : Andy Myers

RACE REPORT DISCLAIMER: Race reports are provided by athletes and are not edited for content.

 

How do you put something as epic as Alaska Man in to words? Writing ‘epically amazing’ 2000 times still wouldn’t do it justice. What drove each of us to register? To commit to months of torture (training) and early mornings?

I suppose I need to go back to the start to understand my motivation. I completed my first full distance Ironman race in November last year; it was supposed to mark the culmination of months of hard graft and training. I had an image of crossing the line to fireworks, unicorns and all other kinds of weird stuff. What I actually felt after the feeling of euphoria had worn off was a feeling of unfulfillment, the journey didn’t feel complete. There was something missing, it had been hard, but it hadn’t pushed me to my limits. I knew that if I made the start line, I’d finish. I had more left to give and I knew it.

As a world champion procastranator I can find any reason not to do work, this is how I came across Extreme Triathlon and Alaska man on Google. Long story short, this looked like it had everything I was looking for, and more. With the wife’s blessing, my application was submitted. All I had to do now was wait.

 

Training

Training for this was always going to be difficult, the course has a cold-water swim, a hilly rolling bike section followed by a hilly run and culminating in sending up Mt Alyeska; twice. So living in a desert environment, that has the elevation profile of a pancake flat, with a summer temps up in the 40’s and sea temps around 30deg’s C, meant that training was going to throw up some interesting challenges. Not to mention that Alaska is on the opposite side of the planet and 12hrs behind us time wise. As we got closer to summer and race day, weekday runs had to start before 5am. Any long rides were conducted on an evening starting around 7pm and finishing well after midnight. Add in a brick, and it’s a guaranteed 3am finish. The temperature, humidity and early mornings began to take a toll on my motivation and sanity. At times on the bike I’d find my mind wandering to what the course had in store, and then hours later I’d end up resenting the fact I was still on the bike cranking out the distance and watts all in the name of some misguided journey to punish myself. The only glimmer was that somewhere out there in the dark, on the track was my wife cranking out the Km’s training for her race a week after mine. If she was still going, then I had no excuse but to suck it up and keep the legs pumping. The old adage of Ironman, that if you’re still married on race day then you haven’t trained hard enough is something I don’t think I’ll ever have to face! Being able to have my wife train alongside me, with similar plans eased a lot of the training tension, and having her as my support Captain and runner kept us focused.

I’d have to think very carefully about racing in summer again, the effect on our bodies wasn’t pleasant. The relative effort I felt in summer was far harder than at any other time of year, running a 5:30 per Km pace felt like I was running a sub 4:30pace. My 5km times went from sub 20mins in winter, to anything up to 27mins in summer with the resulting feeling of a sub 20min pace. There is no feeling of progression, only a feeling of running in syrup. Mentally this is draining, which compounds the feeling of doubt about the race.

Went Well

  • Had enough time to train and prepare.

  • Was fully supported by family during training.

  • The informative webinars by the race director.

Went Less Well

  • Weather was a limiting factor to the volume of training.

  • No hills in the local area to train on.

  • No cold water swimming available.

  • No step sessions included in the training plan.

Reflections

  • Would avoid summer races from now on due to debilitating effect of training in summer.

  • Will input more step sessions as I have access to high rise apartment complexes.

  • Add step sessions at the end of long runs or rides instead of brick session.

 

Travel

We had to travel a loooong way to get to Alaska; we flew from Dubai to Hong Kong. Hong Kong to Vancouver, where we stayed for a few days to let our bodies rest from the grueling flight and adjust to the time difference before flying onwards to Anchorage and Alaska. We’d pre-arranged with Chain Reaction cycles to have both mine and Kim’s bikes built and serviced prior to the race. This was a good idea as it elevated some of the stress I feel after transporting the bikes such a long way, always thinking have they been smashed about. Is anything majorly broken? With the bikes in, we settled into a hotel in Anchorage for a few days before planning to move south to Seward. We’d arranged to meet up with the Anchorage Tri club to do a lake swim in little Campbell Lake that afternoon to try and acclimatize to the Alaskan water. What we didn’t realize was that Anchorage and the surrounding area was going through a heat wave, so the water was warm. We joined in on a 3km speed session in the lake which was good for me to mentally to get my head back in the game. This wasn’t a holiday, yet. We had hired a big Dodge Caravan vehicle, which is the smallest I would have gone as we had travelled with a lot of equipment and space was at a premium.

The trip down to Seward was ok up until Beluga point, after that the landscape really opened up and we got to see Alaska in all her beauty. We had given the whole day to drive down as suggested in the webinars’, and I’m glad we did as we had time to stop off in Girdwood and recce a large portion of the race area. We checked out T2, and got our first view of Mt Alyaska. My first thoughts were ‘f**k that’s steep’ and ‘we’ve got to run up that twice’! (Notice the ‘we’ part; that’s because my wife is also my support runner). Having seen the mountain, I was able to lose the nagging doubts of not knowing what was to come, and I felt better for seeing her. We checked out Crow Creek Road (miles 3-7), I now knew they were all uphill and would be slow going, as well as the location of the aid station at mile 7 prior to the hand tram. The only unknowns now were what lay in store in the wood, and something called the Nordic loop….

The journey from Girdwood to Seward allowed me to do the bike course in reverse, with the wife driving, navigation duties fell to me. We were able to reverse engineer the course and work out our primary aid station stops, and secondary aid stops with the aid of the map and layby locations. This also enabled me to visually pin point certain parts of the course, such as the bridge at the half way point and Summit Lake at around the 45km point.

On arrival into Seward we went straight to the swim exit point to get a feel for the area and get the hands in to the water to get it over and done with (I’d be lying if I said it hadn’t given me sleepless nights wondering how cold it would be). I’ve trained in the Arctic circle in the depths of winter. I’ve done ice breaking drills requiring me to actually go fully submerged in the water, but I don’t ever remember the water being that cold! For the first time I had a feeling of doubt. It wasn’t the swim distance; I know I can do the distance. It was how would my body physiologically cope being in water this cold for an extended period of time? The only time I would be able to answer this would be on the practice swim in two day’s time. The practice swim now would be a litmus test to see how I would cope in water this cold, and if I’m honest. I was dreading it.

Went Well

  • Travelled with just enough time for my body to adjust to the time difference.

  • Used any opportunity to train while travelling to the race venue.

  • Had a vehicle big enough for the amount of baggage and random ‘sh*t’ we ended up having.

  • All the bikes and bags turned up!

Went Less Well

  • Jet lag was always going to factor; 12 hours time difference was hard on the body.

  • Flight fatigue, even wearing compression tights I still suffered from ‘Frodo feet’ syndrome.

Reflections

  • If travelling a long distance to race I would aim to get there at least 1 day for every hour of time difference.

  • Even with a 4:30am start my body was roughly set at 1630, so it was ready to race it only proved disadvantageous later in the race. But there is nothing I could do about it.

  • The added cost of transporting two bikes with various airlines, we flew with Cathy Pacific (free), Air Canada from Vancouver to Anchorage the Seattle to Toronto ($30 each per leg). Alaska Airline (should have been $30 or $50 each but was waved by the lovely lady at check in due to paying for excess baggage). Return flight on Etihad ($30 each).

 

Accommodation

We had booked into the Best Western Seward for the duration of our stay, which turned out to be a good place to stay. It is slightly expensive, but its location almost opposite to the Sealife Centre and 200m from T1 made it a logistically sound place to stay. They also have breakfast on from 0630 until 1030, which meant that Kim could go get food after I’d left T1 on the day of the race.

Went Well

  • Hotel was very close to the sea life center and T1.

  • Room was big enough for all our equipment x 2.

  • The hotel had free breakfast that was all you can eat.

Went Less Well

Reflections

  • Hotel is costly, so a balance between location and cost would drive future decision.

 

Practice Swim

The practice swim at Millers Landing is an absolute must to get to grips with the cold water, I can’t remember ever getting ice (s)cream head like that before. I knew the best way to adjust the body is to splash the face and get water on to the back of your neck to start the acclimatization process, but it didn’t make it any easier. When you finally get to submerge the cold really hits you! I cracked the neck seal and got the water in as soon as I could, there was no real reason to mess about as I knew we only had 10mins to get in prior to the race starting, the sooner I got it in the sooner I’d get used to it. The worst part is getting your head in the water, I found starting with breast stroke and then just dipping the face in allowed me to vary the time I could stay submerged with the aim of extending each breath. This didn’t really work. My heart rate went up considerably and my lungs reduced in size to that of an asthmatic ant causing me to gasp for air. Then the face pain kicked in. There’s no way to describe it, it just sucks! If you can grin and bear it, it does go away after your face freezes and it becomes bearable…just. Once my face went numb I found that I could swim normally between the two buoys that were set out at Millers Landing, I swam for around 20mins, and the only things that were really cold were my feet and face. The water is really cloudy (almost grey) giving you minimal visibility, and strangely didn’t taste salty.

Went Well

  • Managed to get in to the water.

  • Didn’t die.

  • Gained confidence that my equipment worked.

    • Blue seventy thermal helix

    • Orca Hood

    • Zone 3 thermal gloves

    • Zone3 split toe thermal boots

  • Mentally felt better having swum at the location.

Went Less Well

  • Both big toes went numb in short order.

  • Had doubts about cold feet.

  • Found out the swim was going to be tougher that first thought!

  • Having swam only for 20mins and 750m, the realization of having to spend 50m to an hour in the water started to worry me.

  • Started to doubt my sanity.

Reflections

  • Would try and gain more cold water experience.

  • Only swam twice before in the wetsuit and once before in the full get up.

  • Would possible get the wet suit one size bigger so I could fit a thermal vest underneath.

  • Didn’t apply Vasoline on my face, wouldn’t do that again.

  • Believe what the race director and race safety say.

    • Get in

    • Take the discomfort

    • Get feral

    • Get swimming

 

Race Day

The alarm went off around 3am so I had enough time to get up and have my pre prepared breakfast of oats, and have enough time to walk the 200m over to T1. My wife went over to T1 early to set up my kit for when I get out of the swim, I made it over with enough time to set the bike up and get my wet suit on. There was a definite nervous tension in the air as people went about setting up their kit, made more noticeable by the constant banging of the portaloo doors. I shake the feeling not unlike I was waiting to go see the dentist for a root canal, wishing for time to stand still so the time didn’t arrive for me to get in that frigid water. But also wanting to just get on with it, so I could get it over and done with! The busses down to Millers Landing leave early enough to get you down there in good time; I kissed the wife bye and got on the bus to start to get my head in the game. Every time I’ve stood on the start line of any race I ever done, be it an ultra-marathon or triathlon, I’ve never had a doubt in my mind that I would finish it. This was different. My body’s physiological ability to withstand being in cold water for an extended period of time would be the crux of making the swim, for once it wasn’t going to be purely mental strength (although 12hrs later it would be). The atmosphere at the start is one of apprehension, people either just stand staring in to space or make idle chit chat to pass the time or alleviate the nerves. The singing of the national anthem signifies the start of the race, after the anthem finishes its time to finish messing around and get in to the water. You’re allowed in to the water 10mins before the start to get acclimatized; this is where attending the practice swim pays dividends. I knew what to expect, so no messing around this time. Get in, get water down the front of the wetsuit and get my face in the water. Any hope that the water had warmed up miraculously was soon dispelled; Shit it was even colder!

 

Swim

The swim starts with the firing of a flare gun; I managed to get my foot on a rock that gave me some stability to be able to start my watch without drowning. As it’s an in water start, I could position myself where ever I liked. I set myself up with a line that would take me pretty close to the headland about 400m away before going for the straight line route to the exit point 3km away. Even though it was misty, the bright lights of transition were easily visible. It was nice to get swimming to get warm, the initial pack surge soon dissipated as people found their rhythms. The surface conditions were like glass, I struggle to bilateral breath so being able to breathe on my dominant right side only was fortunate. I got on someone’s feet early and stayed there for a long time. On reflection it was not long in to the race when my mind started to wonder, I felt like I’d been swimming for a long time when I got my first buzz from my watch. My watch is set to vibrate every 500m, but this couldn’t be the first one? I must have missed one. I felt like I’d been swimming for over 30mins, that can’t be 500m it must be the 1km buzz… After what felt like a long time I got the 2 nd buzz, yes I’m at 2km! That’s right my watch somehow changed settings from 500m to 1000m over night and I’m now 2/3 the way through this! I did something I’d never done in a swim; I had to stop and have a look at my watch to find out. The numbers flashed a big 2 with the time underneath, bloody hell I’m flying. Then it went back to the normal screen and displayed 1000m and change, sh*t I’m only 1/3 rd the way through the swim. This hit hard, my feet were numb, my mind was wondering and I still had a long way to go. Right, breathe and relax. Get back on his feet and concentrate. Stroke, stroke, and breathe. Stroke, stroke, and breathe. Stroke, stroke, and what was that shadow below me? Nothing, shut up, stop being a dick. Sh*t, I’ve lost his feet again. And so it went, until I managed to relax in to the swim. When I did, I was able to break the draft and move on to the next person I could see in front of us. We swam through various pockets of cold water, where my face had to reacclimatize to the new temp. Then we’d hit warmer water and my face would feel slightly warmer. This happened until we neared the exit point when the smell and taste of the water turned fishy and cold. The really cold water from the waterfall drops the water temp by a good few degrees C, it’s really noticeable. Around this time the tide starts to turn and you begin to battle the outgoing current, thankfully I don’t remember having to fight it for too long before I started to see the rocky bottom of Resurrection Bay, the exit point and salvation. I got out of the water after 1hr, nowhere near my expected time of 50mins, but I honestly didn’t care. My feet had been frozen for so long they were refusing to work, I’m so glad my wife was there to grab me and steer me towards the 400m run to T1.

Went Well

  • Nutrition wise, my breakfast was backed by Stealth Energy gel 25mins before the start of the race.

  • Managed to get in early and quickly got my face in the water, acclimatizing quickly.

  • The placebo effect of having Vasoline on my face worked, my face didn’t feel as numb.

  • Wet suit and gloves worked perfectly.

  • Sighting was easy.

  • Got on someone’s feet and stayed there.

  • I survived!

Went Less Well

  • Both big toes went seriously numb in short order and became a painful distraction.

  • Allowed my mind to wonder, causing directional issues and loss of technique.

  • Became fixated on my Garmin watch vibrating every 500m.

Reflections

  • Go to the toilet before going to Millers Landing as the toilets were pretty minging.

  • Would use Vasoline again.

  • Would experiment more with different types of thermal boots.

  • Don’t be nervous to drop the draft if you think it’s too slow.

  • Must maintain mental focus on swim technique, I got caught up in the extraneous thoughts which resulted in a longer time in the water.

  • Only I can change the amount of time in the water, wanting to kill the race director for putting you through this DOES NOT HELP YOU!

 

Transition 1

I’d decided not to do the swim with my trisuit underneath my wetsuit as I wanted to get into something dry after the swim. On the run to T1 I managed to get my gloves off, wet suit down to waste level and ready to get stripped and dressed again. I had coffee and some oatmeal to try and get some warmth back in to me, overall I felt good apart from the numb feet. I left T1 12mins after leaving the water, which is my slowest ever transition.

 

Bike

I’d ridden the first 12km out of Seward a couple of days before the race, so I knew the first part was all up hill. I left wearing a long sleeve top over a tri suit as it was still chilly and I had a long way to go. My first nutrition stop was planned to take place at the first layby outside the mandatory no help zone, I’m not sure other people were sticking to this as there were cars pulling off the road everywhere. What they ended up doing with their rider I don’t know? Also what nearly led to an issue for me were people pulling up alongside their athletes to shout encouragement causing a back log of slow moving traffic where my support car only made it to the layby with minutes to spare. I grabbed some food and took this time to address some rubs with liberal dosses of Vaseline. I’d never practiced applying lube while wearing a tri suit and cycling top, I’m just not bendy enough to contort myself in to the required positions, I had to take off my top, take down my tri suit and then put all the stuff back on again. This took way too much time, and people were way too interested in what I was doing for my liking! I hope the lady that caught an eyeful has recovered ok?

The bike course is rolling, with no really steep climbs only long gentle ones, but it’s continuous. There are sections of long downhills where I was able to tuck in and go for it. This was good, apart from as the day went on and the level of traffic on the road increased, so did the big trucks. When I was in the aero position the air displaced by a passing truck would push me right towards the barriers. Id then over correct left to get back into the middle of the shoulder, then the truck would pass and I’d get a sucking motion left pulling me more towards the road leading to a high speed shimmy trying to correct. This I didn’t like at all, and at 60kmh it was brown trousers time! The shoulders were generally in an ok condition, it’s definitely not a race where you can just put your head down and go for it. You have to be ready to swerve out of the way of anything that has found its way on to the hard shoulder such as – fish holder from a BBQ, life jacket, shoes, gloves, bottles, glass, abandoned cars, cars pulled up at the side of the road, other athletes, road signs and my favorite, piles of gravel that just want to stop you dead.

That said the course is stunning! The bonus off having to have your head up all the time is you get to take in the views; my favorites were around Summit Lake and descending towards the bridge around the half way point.

The worst part of the bike course is when you arrive at Girdwood, you have to continue along the highway to the 100.5 mile marker before doubling back on yourself along the ‘Bird to Gird’ cycle path, putting the extra 20miles to make the distance.. this is just torture! I didn’t see any wildlife on this section of the course, and to be honest I didn’t want to either. The final few miles takes you uphill towards T2 and salvation, I won’t lie I was happy to see the back of the bike course and get on to my favorite leg of a race, the run.

Went Well

  • My nutrition plan of being able to eat proper food regularly worked well. I had decided to have homemade chicken sandwiches, and mashed potato burritos which were easy to eat on the go.

  • Having the bike serviced pre-race making sure everything is tight.

  • Putting tire sealant in the inner tubes to seal any little holes.

  • Holding back on the bike to save myself for the run.

Went Less Well

  • Both feet did not warm up until well past the halfway point causing me to expend mental energy on complaining about them.

  • Fast access to critical bodily lube points.

  • The vehicle needs to be organized with everything within easy reach.

  • I lost a full bottle going over a road bridge just after my last aid station, it was too dangerous to stop and retrieve it so I had to leave it leaving me down on fluids.

Reflections

  • A support team of 2 to 3 people is ideal.

  • Try and position the car close to where your support is going to stand at the aid stations.

  • Have action plans in place for any and all eventualities.

  • You are going to get a bike tech problem, get some instruction on how to deal with likely issues.

 

Run

I left T2 and headed back downhill the way I’d cycled in, this gave my legs time to shake out the lactic acid accumulated during the bike course. I know I always go out far too fast from T2, it proved my downfall during Ironman Florida and having decided to do the first part of the run solo I was well aware to keep a lid on my over exuberance. I was out of T2, legs ticking over and feeling good. I checked my pace on my watch and I was doing a 4:30 pace, way over what I had planned so I had to dial it back to my planned gentle 5:30pace. The out and back route allows you to see the other athletes completing their bike course, and even though it was hot, it didn’t feel too bad. As this section of the course was flat, it was easy to let the pace get away from me. I constantly had to slow myself down, in the back of my mind I knew that I had to go up Mt Alyeska; twice. Any stupid rush of adrenaline and pushing the pace was going to come back and bite me later on in the day. As I hit Crow Creek Road I knew the smooth tarmac would give way to a dry dusty track, and with that the last bit of level ground for the next 6hrs (I didn’t know then). I found I could run up the road, but I knew I was robbing Peter to pay Paul and burning my matches doing it. I had to force myself to go from a road running mentality to my trail running one. It was now a game of walking the hills, and running any flat and down hills.

The sun now was high in the sky, and the temps were picking up. I decided to run on the right side of the road to use whatever shade I could find. I kept to a walk, run methodology picking a point to run to when I could. I got to the 7mile aid station in good time; I’d decided to only run with my bladder filled until this point to save weight and effort. I made sure to fill my bladder and two smaller drinks bladders that fit down the front of my running vest as the next aid station was over 10miles away back at T2b. The route from the aid station to the hand tram is pretty straight forward; however I did have a little flap on after passing through two four way track junctions with no direction markers. I have previous for getting lost on some ultra-marathons when I switch off and my mind wonders, which has cost me dearly. Eventually I saw a small rectangular sign in the trees pointing to the hand tram; I was a tad relieved to see this as I didn’t fancy back tracking to the aid station and starting again. I ran in to the hand tram behind another athlete, and we were ushered to the front of the cue and didn’t lose anytime at all. A light hearted moment came when we swung out over the gorge and she let out a squeal and clamped her hands firmly over her eyes and found god shouting ‘oh god’ over and over. The run from the hand tram is undulating, with scenery that would be at home on Planet of the Apes. It was an absolute joy to run through, and I decided to tag onto my partner from the hand tram as she was going at a really nice pace which kept me from going too fast. Unfortunately all good things must come to an end, and this did with the infamous Nordic loop.

The loop is used for cross country skiing, and it is a 5km loop cut into the forest and extremely undulating. Keeping to my walk up hill, run downhill plan, I was able to make good time around the first part of the loop. Looking back, I love the psychological mind games of seeing people come back the other way panting and looking tired. And you know that’s going to be you soon, and you know that big knarly hill you just ran down will shortly become an instrument of torture as you make your way back up it. As the afternoon wore on, the temperature continued to rise. The loop is devoid of any shade, you have to just get through it as best you can to get out of the sun. The welcomed arrival of the turnaround point (directly opposite where you enter the loop IIRC), is over shadowed by the knowledge of having to go back around the bloody loop. I was trying to conserve water on the loop; I had pre-loaded a hydration and energy mix in my two smaller bottles to stave off cramps and give me a pick up when needed and plain water in my large bladder. By the time I exited the loop I was down to a ¼ of a bladder and dregs in my two small ones. I hit the tarmac road that takes you back past the Alyeska hotel, and its uphill..again. Going from the nice peaceful forest to a tarmac road is a bit of a letdown, but it only lasts a few Km’s before you see the signs for T2 which marks the end of the first phase of the marathon. But the start of the mountain leg…

Went Well

  • I choose to run in my trail running shoes, “On Cloud venture” instead of my road running shoes.

  • Water and feeding strategy, a Stealth energy gel or Stealth isotonic energy gel rotated with a Stealth energy fruit bar every 30mins.

  • The decision to run it solo, awesome “me” time. Peace and

    quiet.

  • I didn’t go out too fast and burn my matches. I really had no idea what the Mt leg had in store for me.

  • My trisuit was comfy and didn’t rub.

Went Less Well

  • Could have taken proper food on this leg of the race.

  • I didn’t really train hill running as much as I should have.

  • The aid station was stocked with coke, but it was sugar free orange flavored Coke. I was looking forward to a good cup of Coke and the sugar rush. Sadly, not to be.

  • Ripping open a gel and having squirt all over my hands making me a bear magnet.

Reflections

  • I’d aimed for a 5:30 pace for the first 30km, it came apparent that pacing on the hills and loop is not possible. Just run on a plan and feeling.

  • Happy with a 4hrs 15mins time for the first part.

  • Could have taken poles for the loop, but tbh, the hills aren’t longer than 100m so no real need.

  • A fantastic first part of the course, I could have run in the forest for hours.

 

Mountain Leg

In T2b, I met up with my support runner (aka the wife/Kim) for the most challenging part of the race. The race really starts now; the rest is just a filler to get you to this point. I had decided long ago that I would use poles on this portion of the race; they keep my body more upright and stop me bending over and constricting the amount of air I can get in to my lungs. I’d refueled in transition, Coke, Gatorade and a mashed potato burrito saw me powering off and out of T2b. This lasted all of about 300m, which coincidentally is also the bottom of a very long climb to the cable car station. I knew the mountain would be steep, but I hadn’t quite planned on it being this steep, and lacking in any form of shade. This hill is a gift that just kept on giving. The secret to this is just keep moving, a simple idea but absolutely ball breakingly hard in actuality. The incessant heat and the constant uphill started to play with my stomach. I was finding it hard to feed as I had to overcome the urge to vomit at the thought of eating anything, I’ve been here many times before and it’s a horrible feeling entering the hurt locker.

Being able to see the cable car station and the top of the hill plays a constant mental battle with you. You can see the top, but you never seem to be getting any closer! As you near the top you cross the snow line and I came across sections of the track covered in snow, I took this opportunity to cool down and pack snow under my hat and snow angel on the cool snow in an attempt to bring my core temp down. The temp by midafternoon was hot, I live and train in the desert and I was starting to struggle (I can’t’ imagine how people who didn’t train in the heat were coping). When you reach the top of the mountain you are met with awesome views across the valley, it really did make all the pain worthwhile. The cable car station marks the start of the decent and also the last feed station before the end. The path back down the hill, is technical in places but runnable (if your legs will let you) in large parts. The second trip up the mountain is via the ‘North Face’, the initial climb is nowhere near as steep as the first leg, but don’t be fooled after a few Km’s it soon steepens up as you enter the grassy slopes and almost savannah type environment. There is more shade here so it feels cooler as you climb higher, the poles were working nicely and we had a nice pace going up this section. In retrospect it worked best for Kim to be in front pushing the pace and me trying to keep with her, as when she went behind, my pace slowed as I had no one to chase. The mountain leg is full of mental battles, as you climb through the trees you can see the cable car station and you know you are going to be passing close to it before you descend again. The station looks close to you horizontally, but vertically it is high above you, so you know you have some really steep terrain to climb before you reach it. This did play on my mind, but there is no point thinking about it as it doesn’t change anything. I had to cover the distance regardless. This section contains a lovely gift of big steep steps, this wasn’t what my legs wanted at this stage. The steps obviously hit a few others hard as well as we came across a few other athletes resting here. When I eventually broke out of the trees you can see the switch backs going onwards and upwards to the cable car station, for some reason these are numbered? And counting the numbered turns became a new type of torture! Just before the cable station you take a turn off the switch backs and you join the initial path you descended on your first trip down the mountain. The urge to run and get this leg finished is over whelming, I was reined in by Kim to slow it down and watch my footing as by now my legs were getting tired and starting to cramp, and the risk of rolling an ankle was high. As I was heading down the mountain I caught up with people finishing their first loop, I got to say hi and wish them well as they dealt with their own demons and pain knowing they have to go back up again. This is the beauty of having a smaller race; it feels more personal and exclusive. Eventually you can hear the music at the finish line, and you know it’s nearly over. As you pass around the buildings you can see the finish line and salvation. Kim had carried a Union Jack flag with her for when we finished; finally it was now time to let it fly. As we neared the line she hung back sending me forward to cross the line on my own, we’d never discussed what to do for this part of the race? But in that moment it didn’t seem right to cross the line without her by my side. From inception to completion, we’d taken this journey together. We started it together all those months before with long nights and early mornings, and now it was as much her race as mine. We crossed the line together 15hrs and 55mins after what seemed a life time ago since the starting flare went off in the cold and misty Resurrection Bay.

Went Well

  • Prior experience of endurance events with my support runner (AKA Kim/Wife) on how we would deal with problems.

  • Being force fed juice bars like a child to get me feeding again.

  • Once the nutrition hit the feeling of nausea passed my energy levels increased.

  • Walking poles are a must in my opinion.

  • Staying at the Alyeska Hotel meant I was in the hotel 5mins after leaving the finish location.

Went Less Well

  • My feeding plan fell apart when I started to become nauseous.

  • The lack of stair sessions started to become apparent towards the end of the mountain leg.

  • The incessant heat and lack of shade ensures your hot and stay that way.

Reflections

  • I could have used some proper food, Stealth gels and fruit bars are good. But nothing beats real food.

  • The crowed at the finish line were awesome, cheering and supporting everyone.

  • Having Kim run in front of me was better than her letting me dictate the pace as I eventually allowed my pace to slow.

  • Staying at the Alyeska hotel is really convenient.

  • This is a bucket list race, I’m so glad that I’ve had the chance to enter it.

 

Post Race

After crossing the line, I was spent. I was able to watch other athletes finish, and what was great was these were the people I’d spent the last few hours passing at various parts of the course and in various states of exhaustion. To see them finish and being able to high five them as they cross the line without being ushered out the way is what makes this race and extreme triathlons different to an Ironman event, it feels more like a family event. I wish I could have spent more time at the finish line, but to be honest my body was starting to crash. The urge to vomit had come back, my legs were seizing up and I had a date with a large double bed and sleep!

As a last kick in the nuts in true Alskaman style, the hotel had put us in the furthest room in the hotel just to add that little bit more distance to my day... I was almost tempted to start my watch and put it on Strava. It’s safe to say Extreme Triathlon put on one hell of a race, from organisaiton, course selection and support; It was flawless. Thanks guys... you rocked!


ABOUT ANDY: I've been a keen runner all my life, and i enjoy being active. I got in to triathlons by doing the run leg of my wife's races while so was injured, I thought if i'm hanging around for a few hours to just run I might as well be racing the whole thing. So at 39 I branched out from running ultra marathons and started triathlons, and I haven't looked back.

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