The second annual Aukeman Triathlon is back to test the fortitude and endurance of Juneau residents willing to prove their mettle, and the race's popularity has grown significantly since last year's inaugural event.
Sixty-six racers turned out last August for the city's first-ever open-water triathlon, and the race's co-director Tracy Rivera said numbers are expected to be even higher this time around.
"We're going to limit the field to 120, and we're hoping for 70-100 people. There's been a lot of interest so far," he said. "From last year's race to this year, there's been a huge group of folks swimming at (Auke Lake). There are two or three groups daily swimming out there, whereas last year there was just a handful of people."
The race begins at 9 a.m. on Saturday and is open to anyone 15 or older, and registration for the event ends today at midnight. Athletes must pay a $50 entry fee and there will be no race day registration. There also is a mandatory bib pick-up Friday from 4:30 to 6 p.m. at the University of Alaska Southeast pavilion.
Competitors will start the race with a 750-meter swim in Auke Lake, followed by a 19k bike ride and 5k run to the finish. Rivera said recent weather conditions have been great for the lake temperature, but athletes are still required to wear a wetsuit. He also mentioned there will be a change in the transition to the bicycle stage.
"Right now the lake temperature is about 65 degrees, so with this warm weather it's really gotten nice. Wetsuits are still mandatory, though," Rivera said. "We're going to have a new transition area this year which will be up in one of the parking lots at (UAS), which is a bigger area than we had last year."
Riders will race out to the Mendenhall Glacier and back, and then run the new Auke Lake Trail around the lake to Back Loop Road, and finally to the race finish.
"Right now we've got all age groups lined up. We've got 15- and 16-year-olds all the way up to age 62 or 63," Rivera said. "The largest age group is women age 50-55."
Rivera said last year's race generated more interest and involvement in triathlon training around Juneau.
"I put on a triathlon camp in the winter time and I've gone from one class to two, and both classes were full," he said. "All these folks that I coach are doing the race, and that's over 30 people. The number of people I coach has doubled since the race started last year."
Rivera also said there will be competitors of all ability levels in the triathlon, and cyclists will use everything from mountain bikes to $10,000 triathlon time trial bikes.
"There are folks that have done half-Ironman races and there are folks that will be in their first triathlon," he said. "There's a group that I've coached that are pretty serious about this and have been practicing their transitions. They've actually done this triathlon numerous times on their own as practice.
"And you know, there are folks that'll just sign up on a whim and do it and have a great time," Rivera continued. "It's a good starter triathlon and that's the beauty of this distance."
Visit the race website at www.aukeman.weebly.com to register.