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Triathletes arriving from as far away as the Lower 48’s east coast will descend on Haines July 15 for the first installment of the Chilkat Challenge Triathlon, a race that organizers hope becomes an annual event.
Chilkat Challenge Triathlon to launch in Haines 062117 AE 1 Thomas Kellar, For the Capital City Weekly Triathletes arriving from as far away as the Lower 48’s east coast will descend on Haines July 15 for the first installment of the Chilkat Challenge Triathlon, a race that organizers hope becomes an annual event.

Part of the CCT course. Courtesy image.


Part of the CCT course. Courtesy image.


Chilkat Valley. Courtesy image.

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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Story last updated at 6/21/2017 - 2:53 pm

Chilkat Challenge Triathlon to launch in Haines

Triathletes arriving from as far away as the Lower 48’s east coast will descend on Haines July 15 for the first installment of the Chilkat Challenge Triathlon, a race that organizers hope becomes an annual event. Billed as a “35-mile paddle/cycle/run along Southeast Alaska’s Chilkat River," the CCT will offer contestants the chance to quench their desire for competition while at the same time raising awareness of the importance of protecting the Chilkat River, the wildlife and the inhabitants of Chilkat Valley who depend on the river’s wild salmon runs each summer.

And who better to address the significance of the Chilkat, than event organizer and longtime Haines resident Gershon Cohen, who came to Southeast Alaska in 1983 and moved to Haines the following year. While serving as race director, Cohen is also the project director for Alaska Clean Water Advocacy, a non-profit project that works at protecting water quality throughout Alaska.

“The Chilkat River is the mainstay of our community. It provides Haines with jobs, with food, with literally our culture,” Cohen said. “We believe that celebrating that fact helps reinforce the importance of having a healthy river system here in our community.”

It can seem when people are surrounded by the majesty of nature over an extended period of time, they can lose the awareness of the beauty their eyes routinely take in every day. Cohen wants to make sure Southeast Alaskans never forget how fortunate they are to live in an area as beautiful as Haines.

“When you live here, it’s easy to become complacent about it,” Cohen said. “When in most places in the country, let alone the world, to have a river with the qualities of the Chilkat and everything it provides is an extremely rare thing.”

The CCT will appeal to the serious athlete as well as the novice. The course is relatively flat, staying to the river with no leg so arduous that the casual contestant will be in danger of not finishing. Winners will receive cash prizes with contestants also receiving donated gifts generated by local and national sponsors. Racers can tackle the event solo or as part of two or three-person teams.

The race will begin 30 miles north of Haines at Mosquito Lake, with paddlers taking to the water in what promises to be a wild kickoff. Cohen said that the first leg of the CCT will have a “Le Mans start,” meaning watercraft will be lined up next to the lake, with the starting gun signalling competitors to run for their canoes or kayaks.The water portion of the CCT will take racers from the lake to a narrow slough connecting them to the Chilkat River. The course then cruises past the Tlingit village of Klukwan and through the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve, ending at the eight-mile mark, when athletes swap their boats for cycles, pedaling the slightly descending 20-mile bike course along the river via the Haines Highway. The final leg is a seven-mile run from Haines to the finish line at Letnikof Cove, traversing “snow-capped mountains, glaciers and giant forests of spruce, hemlock, and cottonwood trees.”

When the race ends, the party begins with contestants and spectators mingling on the beach at Letnikof Cove for an awards ceremony quickly followed by food, beer, music and no doubt swapping of post-race “war stories.”

Cohen is quick to point out the CCT is not one man’s brainchild, rather the result of lots of folks lending their experience.

“We put together a steering committee of local folks with a very diverse set of talents,” Cohen said. “Some are runners, some are bikers and some are professional guides familiar with the water. There was a lot of experience that was brought to the table in terms of how to put a race on.”

And while putting the focus of the CCT on the beauty of the area and its river, locals will also benefit in other ways from the influx of visitors.

“By having this race, we will be showing that the river can contribute economically to the well-being of the town,” Cohen said. “The race is going to bring people in from all over Southeast and beyond. We have people coming in from White Horse, we’ve got a guy coming in from South Carolina. These people are going to come to town, stay in hotels … eat in restaurants, shop in stores… It’s important that we recognize what we have and it’s important to keep it healthy.”

The race is still accepting applications and has a fee of $50 for solo entries and $150 per team. Registration and additiona information can be found online at www.chilkatchallengetriathlon.com.