The stars aligned in 2019, for the first time ever both North American Xtreme triathlons were lining up on back to back weekends. Alaskaman June 29th and Canadaman July 7th. Coincidentally this was the same time we had planned a family holiday for my wife and kids to visit her family in Southern California. Then I found San Diego County’s 50k run “Run the Peak” too.
There it was, 3 epic races, 3 consecutive weekends scattered throughout North America! What a way to explore, each race somewhere extremely unique, in regions geographically polar opposite completely extreme in their own rights. I jumped at the chance.
In the words of BJ Palmer “you may never know, just how far reaching, something you think, say or do can affect the lives of millions of people tomorrow.” I wanted this to effect more than just me. I paired with the Australian Spinal Research Foundation to raise awareness and funds for Chiropractic research.
Touching down in Alaska, June 26th after 32 hours of travel, 3 days before Alaskaman, I dove in deep. Thanks to some amazing local support we made our way to Seward to begin the race back towards the ski resort of Alyeska. This race was clouded in fire smoke as a 50000 sq foot fire rampaged out of control at the same time Alaska had its biggest ever heat wave.
Race day started at 4:30 am off the small fishing village of Seward with a 3100m point to point swim in 12 degree water before exiting T1. The 182km bike takes place on “the deadliest highway of North America,” yet still some of the most pristine country I’ve ever ridden through. As a bonus, the final 25k is a beautiful bike path through the forest. The catch is carrying your own bear spray…
Arriving at Alyeska ski resort for T2 the daunting nature of the day ahead looms. A 44km run with approximately 2400m of climbing and 2 alpine ascents in the last 15km. The scenery and being “mountain high” unfortunately don’t eliminate hours of fatigue, but wow! From the mountains, the snow, even a female moose and her calf. This was one incredible way to kick off my epic 3 of the Xtreme Tri Challenge.
Getting to Lac Mégantic Friday, July 5th, involved 2 over night flights, catching up with old friends and about 8 hours of road tripping from Boston through New England, across the border into Quebec.
The generosity again of volunteers was amazing. Race organisers had teed up a support athlete. Kindly enough he opened his heart and home to me. Immediately embraced by the beauty of the small town of Lac Mégantic, I was excited for this race.
A 4:30 am point to point 3800m swim across Lac Mégantic gave us the best chance of “reaching the stars by midnight.” Greeted by almost toasty 19 degree water it was a nice jaunt across to T1. From here the real action kicked off.
A beautiful yet brutal 180km bike course of rolling hills and farmlands unleashed almost 3000m of climbing. At one stage It felt like a yo-yo, stuck in a never ending up-down spin. Good roads, great scenery and brilliant volunteers certainly helped the suffering. I had to loosen my helmet as my head couldn’t take the pressure any more. The final pitch to T2 was the nail in the coffin, guaranteeing cement legs for the run.
The first 28k of the run was relatively “easy” with a mix of road and trail. But with the tank running on empty it was tough. The wilderness really entered the fray for the remaining 14k with a 4K section affectionately known as little wild Canada, two mountain passes and a treacherous descent.
The left foot, right foot battle continued and eventually with the aid of my support crew we stumbled our way towards the Mont Mégantic observatory and one of the most magestic finish lines ever. I loved this race! For me it was all about the challenge and the chance to explore. Both races truly opened my eyes to beauty of Alaska and Quebec, Canada.
Onto the final of the 3 epic adventures. Run the Peak 50k in Southern California. This was the perfect location for an event as it was only a 90’ drive from my wife’s parents house. The summer desert heat was cooking though and it was shaping up to be a hot day.
At 6am, on a narly single track opposite Lake Cuyamaca lodge we took off. A race neatly divided into 5 parts, the first was a 10k climb with 2200ft of climbing, into a 11k 2800ft gradual descent another 8k lumpy loop before reversing the first two sections. Each section interspersed with an aid station and they were all absolutely needed!
Almost all of the run was on very exposed single track. With the heat and sections of very loose footing underfoot the real battle was just keeping up the relentless forward progress. Heat stroke kicked in during the long climb from 30-40k, wobbling and walking was the only option. The final aid station provided some respite and with 10k to go I could see the end of not just this 50k but of my 504km journey.
From the first flight it was a wild ride, a remarkable experience and an incredible opportunity to explore. To have raised over $3500 for the Australian Spinal Research Foundation provides additional satisfaction too. Each race was incredible, challenging and unique. Each event came with incredible support and volunteers. Now racing 3 weekends in a row- was it my best racing performance? No, but it was a great life experience! Life wins!!!