Events, Featured, Outdoors, Sports

Alaskaman: Extreme Triathlon Brings Hundreds to Seward

Tyler & Carly Guggemos participants in the Alaskaman Triathlon, with Lowell Point, the race’s starting point, visible in the background.

This coming weekend the small town of Seward will once again fill with hundreds of out-of-towners, who will participate in an extreme endurance race event known as the Alaskaman Triathlon. Seward was chosen to be the host town and start of the event by Race Director, Aaron Palaian, who lives in Houston, Texas. The race begins at Lowell Point, with a 2.5 mile swim from Miller’s Landing, just off shore from Lowell Point Road. Swimmers will come ashore at the Waterfront park in downtown Seward, via the old railroad wooden ramp, amidst the playground and skate park area. The race will continue with a 113.5 mile bike ride out of Seward, along the Seward highway, past Girdwood and finishing at Bird Creek. At Bird Creek, another transition zone will switch racers from bikes to running. They will then run 27.5 miles back from Bird Creek and along Turnagain Arm, ascending Mount Alyeska twice before finishing at the bowl.

On a training run on Mount Marathon last month, I happened upon a couple from Michigan who have come to Seward for the Alaskaman event. Tyler and Carly Guggemos are Triathlon coaches by profession, and thus their work allows them to work from Alaska while they train for the course and spend time in Alaska, a dream of Tyler’s since he was a kid. Tyler found out about the event through his triathlon contacts, and it’s a good thing that he knew of it ahead of time, because the registration period opened and closed quickly. In only a few minutes, the 300 spots sold out via online registration. The two had been up on Mount Marathon for their afternoon training. They usually do two training sessions per day, one in the early morning and another before lunch. They are both morning people, and thus like to get their workouts in while they have their highest level of motivation for the day.

Alaskaman will commence at Miller’s Landing with the swim back into Seward.

Carly & Tyler agreed to meet with me at local coffee shop to talk about their upcoming race. They’ve been in Seward for a few weeks now, and their comfort with the town was apparent, as was their enthusiasm for getting to spend the summer in one of the most beautiful places in Alaska. The couple drove to Seward from their home state of Michigan, in their Sprinter van. The van had been a winter project for them, converting it from empty shell into a liveable and workable space. They bought plywood, paint, plus kitchen and bath appliances and began researching how to build the interior of the vehicle. The result is a lovely, liveable space, complete with full, tiny kitchen, shower, full size bed and a built in storage locker for their bikes and other gear. They’ve spent the past few weeks living in different Seward campgrounds, exploring the area, including coffee shops and restaurants and training hard.

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Alaskaman swim route. Photo courtesy of Alaskaman website.

The Alaskaman Triathlon is considered to be an extreme race, both based on its overall length and intensity, and also because it is mostly an unsupported race. According to Tyler, triathlons generally offer aid stations with water and nutrition every 15 bike miles and every mile for the running miles. Alaskaman is different in that the event requires each participant to supply their own support person. Carly will be Tyler’s support person, and will help with each of his transition zones, as well as physically accompanying him, carrying the backpack, for the final 7 miles of the course, running alongside and pacing him up Mount Alyeska. The bike section uses the Seward Highway, and support persons are only allowed to offer assistance at limited locations, due to highway safety concerns. Part of training for this race has involved developing a plan for where and when to offer race support, something Carly & Tyler have done over the past couple of weeks, by biking the miles between Seward and Moose Pass and on towards Turnagain Arm. The two are excited and optimistic about the event, saying “Seward is a really awesome place.” They had planned to split their time between Seward and Homer, but found Seward so beautiful and captivating that they returned from Homer after only spending a few days there. They drove back into town on July 3rd, in order to watch the Mount Marathon Race. “The lack of parking and wifi confirmed that Seward was the place to be.”

Among the sponsors of this inaugural event are Miller’s Landing, the City of Seward and the Seward Chamber of Commerce. Miller’s Landing Office Manager Elijah said of the event “it’s going to be a big day. We don’t know what to expect.” Miller’s Landing confirmed that they will be hosting quite a few of the race participants in their various lodging options. In previous interviews with race director Aaron Palaian, he expressed his gratitude to the local municipalities who helped with the permitting process. The event is expected to bring over 300 racers to town, along with 300 of their support persons as well as spectators, volunteers and family members. The City of Seward will host the Tri Harder Thon the following weekend, and still has space available for those seeking a last minute challenge: https://www.trisignup.com/Race/AK/Seward/TriHarderTriathlon

Alaskaman Triathlon will take place on Saturday, July 15th. Swimmers begin at Miller’s Landing at Lowell Point at 4:30am. They will be accompanied by kayaks and wearing bright swim caps. Racers will transition to bikes at Waterfront Park, near the playground. For more information, visit http://www.akxtri.com.

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