Ironman Alaska Logistics
Ironman Alaska Logistics Notes
See the full race report here: [LINK]
Most people wore several layers during the race. We had about two hours of rain on the bike and at least that much on the run (with some significant downpours during the run). Even when it wasn’t raining, it was misting or was otherwise super humid.
My recommendation is to do full changes in T1 and T2.
For the swim, I wore a full suit and two caps. That worked well for me, but many people wore thermal caps and neoprene booties. Remember that you cannot wear gloves per the rules. I opted against booties because the drag slows me down more than I would have benefitted from the comfort. The double cap was plenty for me. Wear clear/indoor goggles for this one–assuming the overcast conditions are what you’ll see every year here.
On the bike, I wore bibs with a base layer, jersey, and vest plus arm/knee warmers and wool socks. That combo was enough for me. I did see a lot of racers in full rain jackets.
For the run, I wore running shorts and shirt plus a vest for warmth and arm warmers plus fresh wool socks. A hat with a brim was key in the rain. I also wore a hydration vest with storage–in which I stashed a rain jacket which I put on or took off depending on conditions through the day.
I strongly recommend having body glide in each of your transition bags and taking time in each transition to apply liberally. I was amazed that I did not chafe or blister at all despite racing wet pretty much the whole time!
From Colorado, it’s about a 2.5 hour flight to Seattle, then another 2.5 to Juneau. We opted to fly one leg in the evening and the second flight the next morning (Tues/Wed going up and Mon/Tues coming back). This adds cost and a little bit of hassle (hotel and dinner in Seattle each way) but felt way easier than a single 8+-hour travel day (by the time you figure in ground transportation and layover). I felt fresh when we arrived in Juneau on Wednesday morning.
Plan to carry on everything you need to race. My checked bag just had all of my hanging around clothes. My carry-on included my race day clothing, bike and run shoes, helmet, pedals, etc. If the checked bag had been lost or gotten delayed, I was still set to race. Only Alaska Air and, on a more limited basis, Delta fly into Juneau. They fly 737s, but relatively smaller ones and there’s limited baggage capacity. On the Friday of the week before we traveled (9 days before race day), Alaska Air sent out an email recommending that athletes make other arrangements for getting bikes up there because they couldn’t guarantee they would all fit on their planes. I had opted for Tri Bike Transport, which had picked up more than a week prior. People scrambled a bit in the ensuing panic and some shipped via UPS/FedEx while a few others apparently went as far as canceling their trips!
Ultimately, it’s probably best to go with TBT despite the very high fees to this race ($625 for the bike). Juneau is effectively an island–there are no roads in or out. So your only way in is by plane or boat (or birth canal). Regardless, you have to plan way ahead for travel.
Juneau doesn’t have tons of lodging but there seemed to be enough this year. Note, it’s unusual for Ironman to list local campsites in their recommended lodging section… Most of the tourists come to Juneau on cruise ships–they arrive in the morning and leave in the evening so people don’t stay in hotels (of which, there are not a lot of).
There are two main areas with hotels–downtown and by the airport. We opted for the airport area because it’s less crowded and also is much closer to the race site. I recommend this choice with the following understandings. First, there was no Ironman shuttle service to the airport area. The shuttles ran from downtown to the high school (Ironman Village) to the college (start/transition/finish) and then back downtown. From the airport area, it was a little under 1.5 miles to the high school and about 2.5 miles to the college. You have to be willing to do a little walking/riding to make a stay by the airport work out.
For us, it was perfect. We rented e-bikes which made getting around easy. On race morning, I e-biked to the race and locked the bike up just steps from transition.
As noted above, I opted for TBT despite the high fee. Having been through the race now, I would 100 percent make the same call. I never worried about my bike getting there and they set up just steps away from transition. It was super simple to pick up, and especially drop off the bike. Given the TBT location right next to transition and the finish line, I didn’t (and wouldn’t recommend) opt for the valet service.
The TBT dropoff for Boulder was two and a half weeks prior to the race (and then another two and a half weeks to get it back after the race). It’s a long time to be without the bike, but I managed my taper on my road bike and sending the bike ahead made my travel very low stress.
Summer in Juneau is not like summer elsewhere in the lower 48. Temperatures are generally in the 50s and 60s with plenty of moisture. We had one gorgeous blue-sky afternoon with temps in the mid-60s while we were there but the rest of the time was damp/raining and overcast with temperatures in the 50s. With the high humidity, it never felt cold, but we were mostly dressed in layers the whole time.
Note that waterproof outer layers were key. Jacket, pants, shoes. And wool socks all the time. Especially riding around on the bike/e-bike, it’s nice not to have wet clothes touching your body all day.
There are a lot of opportunities for sightseeing! We did a Segway tour on Douglas Island, a private whale-watching tour, explored on our own on e-bikes, and my family did an awesome kayak/hike tour up to Mendenhall Glacier. Plus there’s shopping and restaurants and museums and my kids found the local rock climbing gym. There are also pricier options for helicopter and airplane tours. Plenty to do for a week up there!
This is an expensive venue and there are pretty limited options for going on the cheap. We found that basic restaurant meals (not fast food) were $30+ per person, our airport Super 8 was about $200 a night per room, and the sightseeing options were generally a couple of hundred dollars per person (and went up from there). Cabs/Lyft are good to get around and we tipped everywhere as well. We were in Juneau for six full days/five nights and I’d estimate the cost around $2,000 per person with shared hotel rooms. (This does not include race entry, bike transport, etc.–just our travel expenses.)
The community was unbelievable! I heard that locals showed up at the airport in the days when everyone was arriving to see if anyone needed a ride. The Facebook group included lots of people who were not racing–just part of the community who wanted to offer help and advice. During the race, it seemed like there were people out on every driveway with block parties at many intersections. Fire pits, tents, music. It was like the Bolder Boulder of triathlons! After the race, someone who had taken photos at the start of the bike course sent me a really professional shot of me (see main article). Perhaps this was the curiosity of a first-year race, but if this level of interest continues, it is not to be missed!
Odds and Ends
A few additional thoughts:
- Throw out your time goals for this race – The swim is cold so there’s a little time lost to orientation and controlling your breathing at the start; the run to T1 is long and uphill; both transitions should include complete changes for most people; the bike course is hilly–constant up and down–and there’s about 40 miles of rough chip seal surface.
- Be flexible and have an open mind. Juneau is not San Diego or Boulder or Kona. There are plenty of cyclists and triathletes up there, but you may need to be flexible with food, equipment, etc. Assume that if you don’t bring it, you can’t get it. (Though there was a lot of support from the local bike shops for people in a pinch.)
- Juneau is essentially an island. There are no roads in or out. Plan way ahead for shipping your bike and know that the grocery stores, while well-stocked, may not have your brands.
- Use proven/tested checklists for packing. If you forget to bring something, you’ll have limited options.