Taking the challenge of representing Alaska in a world championship is no simple task, but a Juneau triathlete has accomplished that four times now after competing in what has been described as the ultimate test of mind, body, and spirit on one of the toughest triathlon courses in the world.
Participating in a field of the world’s best professional and amateur triathletes, local physician, John Bursell, completed his fourth Ironman world championship race on Saturday in Kona, Hawaii. Bursell finished in a Hawaii personal record time of ten hours and eleven minutes, placing 28th in his age group (45-49).
Professional Peter Jacobs of Australia took the men’s crown in a star-studded field including former three time champions Craig Alexander and Chris McCormack. Jacobs came from behind in the run to win in 8 hrs and 18 minutes. German Andreas Raelert and Belgian Frederik Van Lierde took second and third places to reach the podium.
On the women’s side, American Leanda Cave also posted a strong run to overtake the leader, Caroline Steffens from Switzerland in a close race that was decided by just over one minute (9 hours 19 minutes). Australian Miranda Carfrae finished third.
Conditions were grueling as is standard for this race, particularly on the 112-mile bike course from Kailua to Hawi and back where 35mph cross winds and head winds take their toll on the riders. The heat blowing over the barren lava fields adds to the stress of the bike and run.
Bursell attributed his strong finish to good hydration by drinking at least three bottles of sports drinks and water per hour while on the bike. He completed the swim in one hour and nine minutes, the bike in five hours and 15 minutes, and the run in three hours and 37 minutes. He was the only Alaskan participating in this year’s Ironman and was spurred on by the energy of the masses of spectators and the huge billowing Alaska flag his supporters waved on several portions of the run course.