Juneau resident Katie Kowalchuk let her mask express her excitement before competing in the Aukeman Triathlon on Saturday, August 7. Organizers adopted COVID mitigations, including pre-race masking and distancing, as part of the event. (Dana Zigmund/Juneau Empire)

Juneau resident Katie Kowalchuk let her mask express her excitement before competing in the Aukeman Triathlon on Saturday, August 7. Organizers adopted COVID mitigations, including pre-race masking and distancing, as part of the event. (Dana Zigmund/Juneau Empire)

Get ready, get set, go: Athletes compete in Aukeman Triathlon

“Race day, yay!”

This story has been updated to include race results.

Nervous energy filled the air Saturday morning as almost 70 masked athletes awaited the Aukeman Triathlon’s starting gun.

Gray skies, a light mist and cool but humid air greeted the athletes as they embarked on a sprint distance course that included a 750-meter swim, a 19-kilometer bike ride and a 5-kilometer run. A handful of fans gathered to cheer them along the way.

Swimmers entered Auke Lake from the university’s dock to start the first leg of the race. Timing officials sent swimmers off one at a time to ensure staggered starts and distance between swimmers. Guides in kayaks and bright buoys helped keep them on the route.

After a quick transition to land and a run up a short stretch of trail, the athletes jumped on bikes waiting outside the Mourant building and began the cycling portion out and back to the Mendenhall Glacier.

After completing the swim in Auke Lake, a triathlete runs to the bike staging area near the Mourant building to begin the cycling portion of the Aukeman Triathlon, which consisted of an out and back to the Mendenhall Glacier. (Dana Zigmund/Juneau Empire)

After completing the swim in Auke Lake, a triathlete runs to the bike staging area near the Mourant building to begin the cycling portion of the Aukeman Triathlon, which consisted of an out and back to the Mendenhall Glacier. (Dana Zigmund/Juneau Empire)

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Then, athletes completed a run that covered mixed terrain that included trail and pavement portions.

First-time triathlete Ericka Lee said she was nervous before the race, adding that she had trained for the event to get back into shape after the COVID-related lockdowns.

Clay Edwards, who was also a first-time triathlete, said the placid waters of Auke Lake were a welcome sight. He said that he is visiting from Chicago and had trained in the choppy waters of Lake Michigan.

“Some of the waves were really big this summer,” he said, reflecting on his training as he waited for the race to start.

A swimmer emerges from Auke Lake as part of the Aukeman Triathlon on Saturday, August 7. (Dana Zigmund/Juneau Empire)

A swimmer emerges from Auke Lake as part of the Aukeman Triathlon on Saturday, August 7. (Dana Zigmund/Juneau Empire)

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The race must go on

In a phone interview Thursday, Race Director Liz Smith said that participation was limited this year to allow greater distancing on the course as part of COVID mitigations. In addition, organizers reduced the participation fee, and participants received a swag bag that included swim caps and T-shirts leftover from prior years.

The approach proved popular. Smith said the race was sold out in July and that most of the people on the waiting list had been added to the roster as others have dropped out.

“We had to make decisions about the race months ago,” Smith said, reflecting on the COVID-related changes. She said that earlier this summer, it looked like the mitigation strategies might not be needed. But, with the recent emergence of new infections, she was glad that they had planned accordingly.

“It all came back around,” she said.

Race results

Scott Gende was the top finisher Saturday, completing the race in one hour, 11 minutes and 52 seconds.

Jodie Totten was the top female competitor, finishing the race in one hour, 12 minutes and 3 seconds.

A complete list of finishers and times is available at aukemantri.com/results/

Contact reporter Dana Zigmund at dana.zigmund@gmail.com or 907-308-4891.

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