This article has been updated to clarify Sunday, Aug. 7 is race day.
Slow and steady wins the race, and after more than a year of waiting and preparing, athletes are set to enter the chilly waters of Auke Lake to mark the start of Juneau’s first year hosting Ironman Alaska on Sunday, Aug. 7.
The race is slated to take place from the early hours of Sunday morning and into midnight Monday. But, the festivities surrounding the race will begin days before starting on Thursday morning and running until Monday morning. The race is expected to bring thousands of spectators and racers to partake in the events and witness the colossal challenge that is an Ironman race.
“It’s a really exciting event and is a huge opportunity for Juneau to show some hospitality and make things better for racers and their families,” said Liz Perry, the President & CEO of Travel Juneau which has a webpage dedicated to the event. But, along with the excitement, people in Juneau can expect some traffic delays and increased activity near the race as people try to partake in or watch the race. Perry said that might cause a bit of a change up to residents’ typical weekend routine. Here is what you need to know to be race ready.
Starting on Thursday, Thunder Mountain High School will host the Ironman Village which will serve as the “home base” where athletes can check in and where most events surrounding the race will be held. At the village, there will be opportunities open for the public to experience race day, learn more about the Ironman group and its future events and meet sponsors and vendors at the official store and expo happening each day.
The IronKids Alaska Fun Run will take place on Saturday at the high school starting at 9 a.m and is a chance for local and visiting kids to show off their running skills.
The event includes three separate “age-appropriate” races which are open to the public and each racer will receive a racing bib, a medal and goodie bag. The races include the “toddler trot” which is “about 80 feet” said Perry, laughing, and is for children between 1-3. There will also be a ½ mile which is open to children ages 4-7 and a third, 1-mile race for the ages between 8 and 17. The registration fee for each is $20.
As for the actual race, the racers are set to enter the cold waters of Auke Lake in a rolling start at 6 a.m. and running until the cutoff around 9:30 a.m. From there the 112-mile bike portion that goes out the road will follow and then conclude with a 26.2-mile sprint to the finish.
The race, which has a 17-hour cap, expects to welcome its first racers to cross the finish line at the University of Southeast Alask around 1:30-2 p.m., Perry said, and the final racers to cross the finish line around midnight. The large time gap, multiple locations and hundreds of miles leave ample opportunity for spectators to watch the athletes as they tenaciously trudge through the scenic course. But where to choose?
Perry suggests Thunder Mountain high school as “a great place” to watch the event. At the high school, spectators will be able to catch runners coming off the Kaxdigoowu Héen Dei (Brotherhood Bridge) Ttrail and circling back to the high school during the running portion and will run past the area twice throughout the 26.2 miles.
She said another place would be the intersection of Montana Creek Road and Back Loop where people can catch athletes running to and from that area to get to River Road. She suggested the best idea would be to try and catch a glimpse of the race during the biking and running portion because there is a better chance of seeing more athletes and having to deal with less traffic and parking issues that will likely arise during the swim at Auke Lake.
“By the time athletes start the running portion and are heading to the biking portion, they’re gonna be spread out,” she said. “the swim portion will only go until 9:30 am so it’s a tight window.”
However, the Auke Lake trail will be open for public use if people are looking for an opportunity to watch the swim portion there, and there may possibly be places to park along Glacier Highway to watch the race.
Perry said people can expect some traffic delays, but emphasized that delays will only be on the actual race day, and there will still be opportunities for people to get to the places they need to despite the race going on.
“The biggest thing to be aware of is there will be delays from Auke Lake, to Out the Road, especially in the morning hours and into early afternoon,” she said. The 2.4-mile swimming portion at Auke Lake will transition into the 112-mile bike portion on Glacier Highway.
Perry asked that people be aware of the bikers and be cautious, especially around racers and consider carpooling if traveling by car for spectating or when driving near the race locations. She said people can expect traffic and people holding flags at major intersections to control the flow of traffic, and there will still be plenty of opportunities to get around in a car and for boats to get in and out at Don D. Statter Harbor and Fisherman’s Bend as well. The only road closure will be at Mendenhall and Back Loop Road from Auke Lake Way to the Auke Bay roundabout and will be closed from 6 a.m. until around 9:30 a.m., along with no parking available at the University of Alaska Southeast.
“We’re asking folks to be simply aware of that extra traffic, especially race day,” Perry said. “This is a one-day event, there will be some minor delays, but we hope people can enjoy the race and enjoy that an international crew of athletes is coming into town.”
There will be shuttles moving back and forth every 15 minutes from locations downtown, Thunder Mountain High school and UAS, but they are primarily for athletes and their families and are not open to the public. The shuttle service was set up as a way to eliminate athletes’ need to rent cars and put fewer vehicles on the road and parking on race day she said.
Delays/closures are expected for the following
— Mendenhall/Back Loop Road from Auke Lake Way to the Auke Bay Roundabout, Closed 6-9:30 a.m.
— Mendenhall/Back Loop Road from Auke Lake Way to the Auke Bay Roundabout, 9:30 a.m.- 5:30 p.m.
— Glacier Highway from Traffic Circle to North of Echo Cove, 6 a.m.- 5:30 p.m.
— Ferry Terminal on Glacier Highway, 6 a.m.- 5:30 p.m.
— Mendenhall/Back Loop Road from Auke Lake Way to Montana Creek Road, 10:30 a.m.- 10:30 p.m.
— Montana Creek Road from Mendenhall Loop Road to the Trailhead (including Skaters Cabin), 10:30 a.m.- 10:30 p.m.
— River Road from Mendenhall Loop Road to Kaxdigoowi Heen Dei, 10:30 a.m.- 11 p.m.
— Kaxdigoowi Heen Dei, 11:30 a.m.- 11:30 p.m
— Glacier Highway from Wildmeadow Lane to the Auke Lake Boat Launch, 11:30 a.m.- 12 a.m. (Monday)
— No access to Auke Lake Boat Launch on Saturday, Aug. 6 and Sunday, Aug. 7
Perry said there is ample opportunity to get involved in the race as a volunteer, and right now she said the race needs volunteers that are able to be on the water at Auke Lake on either canoes, kayaks or paddleboards to assist in ensuring the safety of the swimmers. Along with that, the race is also looking for volunteers who own motorcycles to ride alongside the racers with race officials and Ironman group’s media.
• Contact reporter Clarise Larson at email@example.com or (651)-528-1807. Follow her on Twitter at @clariselarson.