Bikes sit in a line waiting for racers at the 2021 Aukeman Triathalon. (Courtesy /Jean Butler)

Bikes sit in a line waiting for racers at the 2021 Aukeman Triathalon. (Courtesy /Jean Butler)

Friendly competitions: Ironman and Aukeman organizers lend each other a helping hand

Two competitions not in competition.

Though the Ironman and Aukeman triathlons may be two grueling competitions — they aren’t competing with each other.

As Juneau’s local triathlon, the Aukeman, prepares for its annual race set to take place on Sunday, July 31, at its namesake lake, so does the nationally known Ironman triathlon just a week later starting at the same location for the first of the first race of its three-year stint in Juneau. Preparation for both races is underway and already requires a lot of work and many volunteers to pull them together. Organizers for both events are working together to lend a hand where it’s needed, said Liz Smith, organizer of the Aukeman and a four-time Ironman finisher.

Smith has been in contact with the Ironman organization since before the decision was made that the race would come to Juneau. Since then, both organizations have worked together to make sure each goes smoothly. Smith said it’s exciting to have a big-name race like the Ironman come to Juneau and to have both organizations come together to elevate both races’ experiences.

[Juneau picked to be 1st Ironman host city in Alaska]

“They have been really nice and supportive, I think Ironman really wants to support the communities they’re coming into,” she said.

The Ironman association has offered to use its race timing system to time the Aukeman, something Smith said is a tremendous help. In the past, the Aukeman would have multiple volunteers working manual hand timers to get each racer’s time, which required a lot of volunteers and was difficult to do. The Ironman association also agreed to lend its bike racks to the local race as well.

Bikes sit in a line waiting for racers at the 2021 Aukeman Triathalon. (Courtesy /Jean Butler)

Bikes sit in a line waiting for racers at the 2021 Aukeman Triathalon. (Courtesy /Jean Butler)

In exchange for the help, the Aukeman group, which is 100% volunteer-run, plans to gather as many of its volunteers as possible to also help out at the Ironman as well, though finding enough volunteers has been a struggle for both races.

“I think it’s really exciting for Juneau to have the Ironman, but both races really need volunteers and are looking for support,” she said. Community members can sign up to volunteer by visiting each race’s respective website.

Smith said besides the Ironman race taking the typical Aukeman Triathlon date, the Aukeman race hasn’t seen too many unexpected hurdles to overcome with the other major triathlon happening a week after.

“The help with timing means we need fewer volunteers and we’ll be able to have results faster, and also serves as a test run implementing a similar timing system for future races,” said April Rezendes, a board member on the Aukeman and race participant.

Rezendes said the new timing system allowed the Aukeman to open their race to a much longer pool than normal, but it hasn’t pulled in more than its typical 80-100 participants.

“We thought we might have a lot more people because of Ironman and we don’t,” Smith said, noting that the lack of getting the word out could attribute to the absence of an increase in racers. Of the around 85 people already signed up for the Aukeman, many are locals that are a part of the triathlon community in Juneau, and a good portion of them plan to do both races.

“There’s a lot of Juneau people that are doing the Aukeman and the Ironman too,” she said. “we’re all super excited and I think it will be great.”

• Contact reporter Clarise Larson at clarise.larson@juneauempire.com or (651)-528-1807. Follow her on Twitter at @clariselarson.

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