While it was a largely gray race day, Ironman Alaska participants, spectators and volunteers all had colorful stories.
Here are a few that stood out to Juneau Empire staff over the course of the day.
Willpower meets horsepower
Mr. Higgins, a large pony, spent the morning eating grass along Glacier Highway as bikers smiled at the brown and tan steed.
Mr. Higgins and another horse named Clover were brought down by the highway for racers to view from Ridge Stables LLC owned by Chava Lee. Along with the animals, the handlers painted a motivational sign in support of Ironman Alaska.
Keegan Carroll, a wellness coach for JAMHI Health and Wellness, said she wanted to bring the animals out to bring a sense of calmness and maybe a much-needed smile to the racers.
“We wanted to create a healing experience for the racers, and show support,” she said.
Thirty races, six continents
When Lloyd Henry of Washington, D.C., rode away from the University of Alaska Southeast campus, cheers ringing out and a bell ringing made it clear where his family was setup.
His father, Dr. Lloyd Henry, and mother, Carolyn Henry, of the U.S. Virgin Islands and his wife, Marsha Henry, cheered and took photos as he rode past. Carolyn Henry also rang a cowbell with extra enthusiasm, although she consistently gave it a rattle to spur on other cyclists, too.
The energy wasn’t first-time enthusiasm, Ironman Alaska will be Lloyd Henry’s 30th Ironman event, according to Marsha Henry. Dr. Lloyd Henry noted his son has competed on six continents—yes, Antarctica is the odd one out, “can’t swim there,” Dr. Lloyd Henry noted.
“Every place he’s gone in the world, we’ve gone,” Carolyn Henry said.
The Henrys said over the years some participants and their families have become familiar, friendly faces. However, some in Sunday’s event were extra-familiar.
Lloyd Henry trains people for triathlons through OnPoint Fitness, a Washington-based fitness company that he runs.
At least one athlete Henry personally trained and a few others trained by others through OnPoint competed in the Ironman Alaska, the Henrys said.
Staying on track
Johnny Byrne, a racer who traveled from Southern California, took a stop to drink some Gatorade and eat food near the turnaround point of the bike ride. He said this is his first time competing in an Ironman and said he was feeling good so far.
“It’s a beautiful day,” he said, smiling as the rain drizzled.
The aid station he stopped at was staffed by the Juneau-Douglas Yadaa.at Kalé High School track team who was volunteering at the race to raise funds for their coming season.
Louis Tagaban, one of the team’s head coaches, said the Ironman Association agreed to donate a portion of money to the team, which will then be divided between each student who participated. He said it costs around $1,200 each season for students to travel for their races and he said this volunteering effort is a great way for them to build funds. He said 10-15 students of the around 50 students expected to join the team this coming season volunteered.
Edgar Vera, a junior on the track team, was in charge of handing out pre-peeled bananas to bikers as they passed by. He said he was having a great time and was proud to be “the banana guy.”
“It’s pretty special, I love being the banana guy,” he said.
10 years, almost $4,000
By 9 a.m. most participants had pedaled away from the University of Alaska Southeast campus for two loops totalling 112 miles along Glacier Highway.
Among those who biked past were Jeff Zillmer, Ryan Switzer, Eddie Kenney and Todd Savard, who were all in Juneau from North Carolina for the event. The quartet of friends have all completed multiple Ironman events in the past, according to Amy Switzer, who watched and cheered from the sidelines alongside others from the Tar Heel State.
For Ryan Switzer, Ironman Alaska doubled as a fundraiser for the Holt Brothers Foundation, a North Carolina-based organization named for former North Carolina State University stars Torry and Terrence Holt that supports children whose parents have been diagnosed with cancer.
Ryan Switzer, who is a 10-year cancer survivor, serves on the foundation’s board. As of 4:50 p.m. Monday his fundraising effort had raised $4,131, 41% of its $10,000 goal.
On Monday, the donations included a comment from a donor identified as Kristen Brooks.
“Thank you for visiting Juneau and traveling all the way to Alaska,” they wrote. “We loved watching the bike portion of the race from our home… You all are an inspiration and I appreciate you paying in forward. Congratulations on 10 years.”
No champagne no gain
Emily Northrop had been preparing for this race for a long time, having participated in several different marathons while growing up, and she’d had her sights set on Ironman for a while. So, it comes as no surprise that she would have such a large and enthusiastic fanbase waiting for her at the finish line. Her mother, Anita Northrop; her older sister Laura; along with all of her best friends from kindergarten through high school came all the way from Miami, Florida, to watch her compete in her first Ironman competition. They celebrated in style by popping a bottle of bubbly shortly after she crossed the finish line.
“It’s her first time and we’re all just so proud of her. She’s racing for Asheville, North Carolina, but we all came up from Miami,” said Laura Northrop. “These are all of her friends from 20+ years, they all went to the same elementary and high school together in Miami. ”
Fe is the symbol for iron on the periodic table, which gave Emily’s mother Anita the idea to update the Ironman name with a poster of her own, while also making a feminist statement on the name Iron’man’, as well.
“Fe is iron for Ironman, but it also makes FEmale. I thought we’d update this, right?” said Anita Northrop
Emily finished at 8:01 p.m. and her finish time was 13:29:25.
Food banking on them
The Southeast Alaska Food Bank sponsored the runners Aid Station No. 2 for the marathon portion of the Ironman race. They worked in three shifts with 75 volunteers for a 13-hour day from 10:30 a.m. until the very last runner. Their station was on Back Loop Road, and despite sporadic rain Southeast Food Bank manager Chris Schapp said in general it all went well.
“I was contacted by Kara (Tetley) at Travel Juneau, she was kind of a volunteer coordinator for all of this. She had reached out to the food bank and she asked if we wanted to sponsor a booth or an aid station. I said absolutely, we’d love to,” Schapp said. “It was all kind of last minute, too, though, we didn’t know for sure if we were going to do one. We had to try and organize 75 volunteers in a short amount of time, and we did, which was nice.”
Their station provided water, Gatorade and chicken broth to the athletes, as well as fresh fruit, energy bars and plenty of other snacks, Schapp said. There were some runners who weren’t able to complete the race and were provided for at Southeast’s station until Ironman personnel could pick them up.
“We had all these different tents and tables set up, and all these volunteers trying to give all the athletes what they needed,” Schapp said. “It was a long day but a lot of fun; we saw a lot of cool things go on as far as all the athletes go by, and the first-place man and woman that went by, with a lot of people cheering them on.
The Southeast aid station was so helpful, in fact, Schapp said one of the participants made it a point of finding them the following morning at the food bank to give a donation simply because of the help she received from them during the race.
“She was from Hershey, Pennsylvania, and she wanted to make a donation to us because she saw our banner at the station and one of my volunteers actually gave her a piece of the volunteer’s pizza to help get her through the race,” Schapp said. “So, she made sure to come in and tell us thanks and that she had a lot of fun, and it was a great experience. It was really cool because I kind of connected with her, too, because Hershey’s not too far from where I used to live outside of Philly, so it was kind of a Pennsylvania connection going on, which was nice.”