A Need for the Extreme

As with most things in my life, my interest in triathlons waxes and wanes — it’s a symptom of my ADHD. I find it extremely hard to keep myself going for more than a year of training without having some length of hiatus. Technically, my hiatus in 2018 was forced upon me by a careless driver and gave me a traumatic brain injury and my 2020 hiatus has been due to COVID-19 running roughshod across the United States, but I’ve itching for something different to get me going again.

I love to fantasize about all the races I’d love to do and places I’d like to go. I’m always thinking about the future. About nine months ago I was exploring trifind.com for different halves and fulls across North America when I came across something different, Alaskaman Extreme Triathlon.

I started to really dive into what this race was all about over the next couple of months. It certainly was extreme, so extreme that I couldn’t even wrap my brain around how anyone could do one of these. Then last month I came across someone who had done the race (and a handful of other Xtreme tris), so naturally I had all sorts of questions.

His name is James Verbracken, and he was an extreme endurance junkie. We started my journey down the rabbit hole with his experience at Alaskaman, which was also his first extreme triathlon. He said the water is freezing, and it’s even colder in the estuary of the glacial river that empties into the bay. James said the only part of his body that was exposed was his mouth, nose and eyes, and it felt like he was being stabbed with thousands of needles. I shivered at the thought of it. I’m a little bit of a bitch when it comes to cold water, even with a wetsuit. I did have the stones to do a Polar Plunge into a frozen Lake Erie on New Years in a speedo in 2015, and it can’t get any colder than that, right?

James told me the ride is beautiful and not all that bad, it’s not a ton of climbing. I’d love to take my GoPro to document it all. You need to have your own race support for extreme races. They’re your moto man, they take care of your bike and transition area, and they even have to run with you the last 10 miles of the trail marathon through the Alaskan Wilderness. James said he’d gladly be my Sherpa for this if I didn’t have anyone.

He said the run is something special. Crazy weather can happen at any moment, the possibility of grizzlies, and of course spectacular views. Hell there’s one part of the run course called “Stairway to Heaven”. I was edging closer to the idea of doing this. However, Alaskaman isn’t the only extreme triathlon out there. There’s a whole series of about a dozen races, and there are just as many that aren’t part of the Xtri World Tour too!

Naturally I had to hear more about the other Xtreme triathlons he did. Alohaman sounded like a good time, but harsh — you can experience about 10 different climates on the race course alone. Island Extreme Triathlon in Iceland sounded beautiful. Of course we talked about Norseman, the crown jewel of the Xtri World Tour. James said he’s trying to do two or three a year, the next race he was signed up for was HimalayaXtri…yeah that’s all the way in Nepal. The race website looks awesome, but there’s like 18,000 feet of elevation gain on the bike…you’re required to do it on a road bike too. It even has a night swim, and it’s not the only Xtreme triathlon that does that either.

I thought maybe this is the itch I’d need to scratch in the next couple of years to breathe new life into my triathlon obsession. After adding these races to my map on Google Drive, a pattern emerged. It appears to be that about 75% of these races are held in Europe. I think my first would likely be Alaskaman, Alohaman or Canadaman (which geographically is the closest Xtreme Triathlon to my home in Atlanta).

3 thoughts on “A Need for the Extreme

  1. That Alaskaman sounds like a beautiful experience, probably hard AF though. I can’t imagine what water that cold feels like.

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  2. I’ve wanted to do Patagonman since I came across it two years ago. From everything I’ve ever heard or read about Patagonia it’s one of the most majestic places on the planet.

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