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Ironman Alaska 2022 Race Report

by Cindy Dallow, PhD, RD

Cindy Dallow finishing the Alaska Ironman 2022

On August 7th at approximately 11:30 pm ADT (Alaska Daylight Time, GMT-8), I crossed the finish line of the inaugural Alaska Ironman event. I have never been more tired or more elated than I was at that moment. It was my 6th Ironman finish and also my last Ironman race. Read on to learn more.


I have always wanted to go to Alaska. My entire family has heard me say this for YEARS. When I was in my 20’s and 30’s, I had a fascination with the Arctic and would read books about people who lived there. My favorite was Arctic Dreams by Barry Lopez, that won the National Book Award for nonfiction in 1986, which I devoured and then re-read a year later because it was THAT GOOD.


Anyway, I’ve always been fascinated by that part of the world so when Ironman announced in 2021 that there would be an Ironman in Alaska, I knew I had to sign up.


Training officially started in January of 2022. My last Ironman (IM) was in 2018 and since then, I’ve been swimming, biking, and running so I wasn’t starting from scratch. During the winter, Kurt and I swim twice a week at our local Rec Center pool so we kept that up throughout the spring until it was warm enough to swim at a local lake.


Riding was mostly done indoors although I was able to get out for a few rides in the winter and early spring. As for running, I run all year long so just needed to increase my mileage.


The one thing that I added to my training was strength-training. I started doing upper body strength exercises twice a week and could tell that I REALLY needed to do that. Like most 60+ year old women, I had lost a lot of strength since menopause and it showed!


Another new thing was being coached by my husband, Kurt. I had been coached by other people in the past but decided this time I would actually hire my husband. Some might think that’s not a good idea but it worked great - I happen to think he’s an excellent coach!


Before we talk about the race, I want to share a few things that occurred leading up to the race. First, the infamous email from Alaska Airlines!


Eight days prior to leaving for Alaska, Alaska Airlines sent out the following email to all IM Alaska athletes:


We are expecting heavy travel volumes to Juneau in the week prior to the IRONMAN Alaska event taking place on August 7, 2022. 


If you are an athlete traveling to the event, we strongly encourage you to find alternative shipping options for your bicycle. 


Our baggage capacity is limited and we cannot guarantee that your bicycle will arrive in time for the event if checked as baggage or sent via Alaska Air Cargo. 


Please reach out to the IRONMAN organization for more information about alternative shipping options.


Great. We had purposefully decided not to use TriBike Transport because Alaska Airlines would ship the bike for free and had a good reputation for shipping bikes. Now it was too late to go with TBT so we were stuck finding “alternative shipping options”.


We quickly went online to see how we could ship my bike to Juneau, which isn’t an easy feat given there are no actual roads that go to Juneau - you have to fly or take a ferry to get there.


Long story short, we decided to use Bike Flights to ship it to Juneau but we needed to get the bike packed up and shipped out the next day to ensure it would get there before August 6th, the day all bikes have to be in transition. This was no easy feat but Kurt managed to get it done. Phew!


Race Week


Me after my first practice swim in Auke Lake, Juneau, AK.

We arrived in Juneau on August 3rd and were tired but excited to be there. My bike had not arrived yet but I wasn’t too worried (yet). We stayed the first night in the Aspen Suites and then moved to our Airbnb the next day.


Thursday - As expected, the weather was cloudy and in the mid-50’s F. I needed to get into the lake to test the water to see how I did in the cold temps. We had read that it was 58 degrees that week so I knew it was going to be cold and it was!


Kurt and I went to Auke Lake and there were lots of triathletes there already. We put our wetsuits, thermal caps, and booties on and entered the water. Holy cow it was COLD! It was hard to put my face in that cold, dark water under cloudy rainy skies but I finally did and started swimming.


The cold took my breath away. For the first few minutes, I wondered if I would be able to do the race in such cold water. But experience has taught me to “just keep swimming” and my body will adjust, which it did. Before long, I was swimming just fine and even enjoyed it. Funny how that works!


That afternoon, I checked in at the Athlete Village and got to meet the infamous Mike Reilly. He’s the announcer at the finish line who gets to call out people’s names and say “you are an Ironman!”. He’s pretty famous in the triathlon world so it was fun to actually meet him.




Dr. Pam Coleman and I before getting in Auke Lake. Brrrrr!

Friday - one of our athletes, Pam, flew in Thursday night so we swam with her on Friday morning. She was just as afraid to get into the cold, dark water as I was and even though I wasn’t crazy about getting in again, I didn’t want her to swim alone so I went with her while Kurt put my bike together (it arrived Thursday afternoon - yay!).

We spent the rest of the day inside because it was raining very hard and the wind was blowing hard as well. I wanted to get out on my bike after Kurt put it together but the rain and wind were just a bit too much so we decided to have me test ride the bike on Saturday morning. My bike had to be racked between 1:00 and 2:00 pm so we thought that would be plenty of time.


Saturday - I got all layered up to test ride my bike, thinking it would be just fine, but I was wrong. I couldn’t pedal the bike. The back roter was bent! Although Kurt assured me it was an easy fix, I panicked. We only had a few hours to get all my bags and bike turned in (the bag-packing is a whole other story!) and Kurt didn’t have the tools we needed to fix the roter.


I frantically messaged Ken Hill, owner of The Bike Doctor, who I had “met” in the IM AK Facebook group. He had graciously offered to receive any bikes being shipped to the race. Fortunately, he answered my message and said he was going into the shop at 9:00 (instead of 10:00 when it normally opened) and that he would look at it. How lucky was that??


We got there promptly at 9:00 and Ken got my bike up on a stand and looked at the roter. There were other athletes there wanting his help so he was very busy. He put a new roter on and everything seemed fine, until I went for a test ride: the roter was fine but the front brake wasn’t working AT ALL.


Ken quickly checked it out and said all of the brake fluid was gone, which was odd, so he added more but it still didn’t work. There must be a leak inside the frame, he said. I would just need to ride with one brake for 112 miles….in the rain…OK!


There wasn’t anything he could do so we left. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous about riding that far on wet streets with one brake. But I didn’t have a choice so I had to move on.


Race Day


Me before the race with my bags.

We were up at 3:00 am so that I could eat breakfast and get ready. Transition opened at 4:30 and I needed to be dropped off at the high school to catch a bus. Everything went smoothly so I made it to the high school just in time to get the first bus and that helped quell some anxiety!


First thing I did when I got to transition was drop off my personal needs bags and then I went to put my nutrition in the bike and run bags since we weren’t able to do that on Saturday. I filled up my water bottles and put them on my bike. Did a quick check on air pressure in my tires and noticed the back tire was low, which was concerning because I’ve had trouble with that tire before. I got in line for the pump and pumped it up, then headed down to the swim start thinking the tire would be fine.


Me before the swim - feeling good!

Swim - Got down there around 5:15’ish so had plenty of time before the race start, which was 6:00 AM. I was so glad that I had done two practice swims because otherwise I would have been REALLY nervous to get in that cold water. My prior IM swim times were between 1:18 - 1:20 so I put myself in the line for 1:20 - 1:30 to give myself some room.


Before long, Mike Reilly made the announcement that the water was 56 degrees which, by IM rules, means that the swim needed to be shortened to 1.2 miles. I was disappointed at first but after thinking about it, realized it was probably best for everyone given the number of first-timers and the length of time they (and all of us) would be in the water. Good call, Ironman.


They also changed the start time to 6:30 which was frustrating because I was ready to go!


The swim went well. It was bitter cold, as expected, but I was mentally and physically ready for it. I planned to swim relaxed to start with and then gradually increase my pace, which I did. I didn’t have any problems with crowding or getting pummeled by other athletes. My swim time was 41 minutes and some change (3rd in my AG) which I was happy with!


The first thing I saw when I exited the water was Kurt and Kat who had signed up to be wetsuit strippers. Even though I hadn’t planned to use them, Kat pulled me over and started pulling off my suit so I just went with it and glad I did. She did a great job!


Running to T1!

Next stop: T1 transition tent, which was a ways up a hill. I felt great so I ran up the hill. I noticed a lot of people were walking and I thought “come on, people, let’s go!”. I was excited to get on the bike!


The changing tent was a busy place! Because of the weather conditions, almost everyone was changing into dry clothes for the bike and it was hard to find a place to sit. I had to make a quick decision about what layers I wanted to wear knowing that it was going to rain. I had planned to swim in a different top and shorts so that I could start the bike with warm, dry clothes and was glad I did. I put on a short-

sleeved bike jersey over my sleeveless tri top (so that I would have pockets to put stuff in) and then my rain jacket over that. I put a ball cap on under my helmet and plastic bags over my feet before slipping them into my shoes. Off I went to get my bike.


I grabbed my bike and started to head out onto the course but remembered to check my back tire first and dang it, IT WAS FLAT! Shoot!!! I had tubeless tires and Kurt had put in extra sealant to lessen the chances of having a flat. What am I going to do? I don’t have a pump and I don’t know how to fix it. For a second my heart sunk. I thought I was going to have to end the race.


Then I remembered that I had a tube in my bike frame so I ran over to the bike support area and saw that there was ONE man working on bikes. There were some helpers but I quickly realized that the helpers knew even less than I did about changing flat tubeless tires.


Normally I would have hung back and waited for the bike mechanic to be ready but I blurted out “can you please put this tube in my back tire?” He started working on it and got sealant all over him, which I felt bad about. He had a hard time getting the tube in the tire. He was interrupted several times by other athletes so it took a good 30 minutes before he was done. Since I took 10 minutes in the changing tent, I lost a total of 40 minutes in T1. Ugh. But at least my tire was fixed and I was ready to go!


Bike - It was raining by the time I started on the course and rained steadily for the first 70 or so miles. This is what the locals were calling “an atmospheric river”! Riding in the rain on a course you’re not familiar with does not lead to fast bike times! It stopped raining and the sun came out for a bit somewhere around mile 80 but then started raining heavily again for the last 20 miles.


I’ve learned that if you go too hard on the bike, you’ll do poorly on the run so I consciously went slower on the bike. I stopped many times at aid stations to use the porta-potties and eat, thinking that would help me on the run. I think that it did but I ended up with a really long bike time!


The other thing that made the bike slow was the chip-seal on a six-mile stretch near the turn-around point, which meant we rode over a total of 24 miles of chip-sealed road, which really slowed all of us down. Between that, the rain, and then a headwind when we turned around, we had some pretty slow bike times!

By the time I got back to T2, I was soaked and tired. I worried that I wouldn’t be able to run. My legs were hurting and I had some chafing that was very uncomfortable. Not how I was hoping to feel at this point.


Run - I changed into my tri shorts that matched my top (a new kit that I got from PlayTRi in Westminster that I love!) and put on dry socks (which felt so good!) and my hydration vest, which I had planned to wear so that I could carry a jacket, vest, nutrition, gloves, etc.


As soon as I exited the tent, it was raining again! Dang it! I took off my vest to get my jacket and while doing that, became immediately soaked and cold. I put on my jacket and then the hydration vest again, which I wore throughout the entire run.


One reason I brought my hydration vest is because I trained with it and really liked having water when I wanted it. I thought I’d be able to fill up the bladder at aid stations but they handed out small cups of water so I ended up just grabbing water that way. The vest wasn’t a problem because it was light and I could carry my jacket (if needed), gloves, nutrition, and a few other items I wanted with me so it was ok.


I was able to run/walk but could tell it was going to be a long run time. My legs were shot from the ride, despite my efforts to go easy on the bike. I ran/walked the entire 26.2 miles but walked a lot more in the last half of the run.


This was the hardest part of the race, mentally. I wanted to run so badly but my body just couldn’t do it. The first half was easier because there were a lot of people on the course and I didn’t feel alone. Unfortunately, most of them were doing their 2nd loop so after I started my 2nd loop, they were all done and I was walking alone for most of it. Plus, I had to run near the finish line to start my 2nd loop and I could hear Mike Reilly calling out their names as they finished the race. That was tough!


I started my 2nd loop feeling disappointed (in my inability to keep running) and frustrated. We had been told at the start of the race that we needed to finish in less than 15 hours and 50 minutes because they had shortened the swim. I knew already that I wouldn’t make it in that time, which meant I would receive a DNF - did not finish. That compounded my frustration and feelings of self-doubt and made for a miserable run/walk for the next 10 miles.


It started to rain again and it was getting dark. The section where we ran out to the gun range was a bit eerie with some low-lying fog and mist. I passed a few other people walking and a few people passed me but mostly I was by myself.


My feet and legs were hurting and oddly, I had to pee frequently which took more time to stop at the porta-potties. I felt fairly good energy-wise because of what I ate and drank on the bike (more on that in a separate blog) so I wasn’t hungry or thirsty, but just couldn’t get my legs to run for more than a minute at a time.


The volunteers at the aid stations were AMAZING! Even that late at night, after most of the athletes had finished, they were cheering like crazy when I passed through their aid stations. Words cannot describe how good that made me feel!


One section of the run course took us through a rainforest for about two miles. They told us before entering this area that there wouldn’t be another aid station for two miles so plan accordingly. The first time through this section was just magical. The trees and foliage were beautiful. The second time through it was pitch black and although I had a head lamp, I couldn’t see what was beside me in the trees and that was a bit scary! I also couldn’t see below me and because the path wasn’t even, I kept tripping and stumbling and that made me laugh a few times, but then got frustrating. I sang out loud to keep all the monsters away but was a bit freaked out when I heard rustling in the leaves several times. I couldn’t wait to see the lights of the high school and see other people.


As I crossed the bridge at the end of the forest, before getting to the high school where we ran one loop of the track and around a parking lot, I heard some familiar voices yelling my name. Finally, I could see Kat, Kurt, and Pam standing at the end of the bridge waiting for me! I have never been so glad to see people in my life and to see people I know was just fantastic!


Seeing them gave me a boost of energy so I pushed as hard as I could to get around the track and through the parking area (my least favorite part of the course) and that was felt good. They were able to see me three more times in that area before I had to head back out into the dark abyss by myself.


At this point, I had only a few miles to go to the finish line. An athlete that passed me said she heard that they changed the cutoff time to midnight, which means I wouldn’t get a DNF! I wasn’t sure if she was right or not but it gave me a little boost to continue!


The last few miles were the hardest (of course, right?) and it didn’t help that mile 25 was one long, steep hill that would never end. My legs and feet were killing me but I kept telling myself that I was almost done. I was near a busy road and people driving by could see my headlamp and would roll down their windows and cheer for me as I trudged up that hill, which was pretty cool!


Crossing the finish line in Ironman Alaska!

Finally, I could hear the music and cheering sounds of the finish line. Yay! I hit the top of the hill and turned right into the parking lot and before long I was at the infamous red carpet leading to the finish line. I told myself to take it all in because this was definitely my LAST Ironman! I ran down the carpet with several dozen people cheering loudly and crossed the finish line after hearing Mike Reilly say the magical words “Cindy Dallow, you ARE an Ironman!”. I fell into the arms of a volunteer who gave me a huge hug that lasted several seconds. She got me my medal and t-shirt and I might have cried a little bit. :-)


Although I didn’t get the finish time that I wanted, I’m just glad that I finished. There were quite a few people that didn’t even start the race, due to logistical issues, and quite a few didn’t finish the race, probably due to the rain and/or cold water in the swim. Either way, I’ll take my slow time and be proud of the huge effort it took to finish.


If you have any questions about this race or Ironman training in general, please feel free to send me an email: cindy@2doctricoaching.com.


If you would like to learn more about triathlon training and/or hiring us to coach you, click here to set up a time to chat on the phone or below to check out our services. We coach people of all levels, all body sizes and shapes, and all ages, so we’d love to help YOU cross that finish line!






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