Alaskaman racers clambered out of 54-degree water around 5:30 a.m. on Saturday. Although it is the shortest leg of the race, the grueling swim is the most challenging portion for some racers, said assistant race director Tony Sapp.

Two hundred athletes from over twenty countries assembled in Seward this weekend for the second Alaskaman extreme triathlon, an intense test of personal endurance that combines the three traditional triathlon events – swimming, cycling, and running – into a punishing course of over a hundred miles.

The race began just before daybreak on Saturday morning with a 2.6-mile swim from Miller’s Landing to the Seward waterfront, where competitors took off on bicycle for Girdwood. The final leg took them on a marathon-length foot race in the vicinity of Mt. Alyeska, including climbs on the mountain’s north and south faces.

The water temperature in Resurrection Bay was 54 degrees that morning, according to data gathered by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

One of a growing number of hardcore endurance races, Alaskaman resembles the popular Ironman Triathlon but adds environmental challenges that races of that model generally lack.

“This takes the long-course triathlon concept that Ironman pioneered and takes it to the next level,” said Assistant Race Director Tony Sapp.

Alaskaman is now part of a ten-race triathlon series called the Xtri World Tour, which includes similar courses in Norway, Scotland, and elsewhere. Race Director Aaron Palaian resolved to bring an extreme triathlon to the United States after completing two of those races – Norseman and Celtman – according to Sapp. 

The winning racer, Will Ross, 29, of Anchorage, completed the course in 11 hours and 30 minutes.

“It was very different, definitely the most physically challenging thing I’ve ever done,” Ross said in a press release from Alaskaman organizers. “It’s just incredible that this event is in my backyard. I couldn’t miss it.”

Organizers chose Seward as the starting point to show off the Alaska landscape. 

“When we were looking for a homebase, we really wanted people to see Alaska. Not Anchorage. Not Fairbanks,” Sapp said. “We wanted it to be an event that brought the community around the event.”

Seward also had a certain metaphorical appeal because of its history as an entry point for the country’s largest state, and thus a great gateway for the race, Sapp added.

“This is the place you go to start your journey in Alaska.”