Alaska’s first Ironman triathlon is held in Juneau

Ironman athlete Daniel Chamberlain’s bike undergoes repairs mid-race on Aug. 7, 2022 in Juneau. (Paige Sparks/KTOO)

Sunday’s race in Juneau was the first Ironman triathlon in Alaska. More than 700 athletes finished the race.

The first across the finish line was Alex Whetman of Riverton, Utah. It took him 9 hours, 11 minutes, 17 seconds to swim 1.2 miles in Auke Lake, bike 112 miles on Glacier Highway and run a full 26-mile marathon through the Mendenhall Valley.

Liz Cullen of Gibson, British Columbia, was the top female finisher with a time of 10 hours, 23 minutes, 3 seconds.

The first person from Juneau to finish was Will Coleman, who was 14th overall. Beth Gollin was Juneau’s first female finisher and 13th female overall.

Ironman athlete Zsuzsanna Marjai Griffin from the U.S. pushes through hills and turns in Auke Bay on the 112 mile bike race portion of the triathlon. (Paige Sparks/KTOO)

John Bursell was Juneau’s second finisher. He has completed several Ironman races in the past, and met his goal this time to qualify for the Ironman World Championship event in Hawaii in October.

“It was a great experience overall,” he said. “I think Ironman did a great job. I was super-impressed and proud of Juneau. You know, the way people turned out — the support was incredible, the volunteers were incredible. And we heard that over and over again from people who came from out of town to compete. This was basically the most supportive community they’ve ever raced in.”

Bursell said locals volunteered, loaned out their own personal bikes, opened up their homes to house athletes and even offered free car rides around town. According to a press release from Ironman, more than 1,400 people volunteered.

Maisy Morly from the Juneau-Douglas High School track team passes out snacks to Ironman Athlete contestants on the Glacier Highway. (Paige Sparks/KTOO)

The event had a lot of challenges. Race officials cut the swim portion in half, due to the cold water temperatures in Auke Lake.

Before the race even began, logistics issues drove down turnout. In a press release, Ironman said “approximately 1,000” athletes came to Juneau for the event. An official list dated from April had identified more than 1,300 participants.

Juneau’s destination marketing organization, Travel Juneau, worked closely with race organizers. Executive Director Liz Perry said there will be a full debrief to work on making the second Ironman Alaska event go smoother. Perry said there’s a three-year contract, meaning Ironman Alaska will be back in Juneau in 2023 and 2024.

First place racer Alex Whetman from Utah crosses the finish line from the 112 mile bike race. (Paige Sparks/KTOO)

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Jeremy Hsieh is the deputy managing editor of the KTOO newsroom in Juneau. He’s a podcast fiend who’s worked in journalism since high school as a reporter, editor and television producer. He ran Gavel Alaska for 360 North from 2011 to 2016, and is big on experimenting with novel tools and mediums (including the occasional animated gif) to tell stories and demystify the news. Jeremy’s an East Coast transplant who moved to Juneau in 2008.

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