Mount Airy’s Kriska takes it to the Xtreme

First Posted: 8/15/2009

Jan Kriska completed the most difficult Ironman in the world and all he got was a lousy t-shirt.
The Mount Airy cardiologist finished 42nd out of 216 finishers at Norways Norseman Xtreme triathlon Aug. 8. The event is considered by many and now by Kriska to be the most challenging Ironman in the world. Why? Because it consists of a swim through a 1,200-foot deep fjord, followed by a grueling 140-kilometer bike ride through mountains and glaciers and, finally, a full marathon that ends with a treacherous, steep and rocky mountain. Then top it off with the fact that the event begins at the same latitude as Anchorage, Alaska.
A total of 229 entrants began the race, but only 216 finished. For their efforts, those brave souls left with a badge of honor in the black finishers t-shirt. Kriska finished in a time of 13 hours, 59 minutes and eight seconds, breaking the 14-hour barrier reserved for tough dudes. He swam the fjord in 1:11:20, cycled in 7:18:37, and completed the marathon in 5:18:44. His finishing time also included small rest stops to change gear for each portion.
Kriska was quick to point out that his support team of son Matus and wife Maria were instrumental in his competing in the race. Matus, a junior-to-be at Mount Airy and two-time state champion runner, ran with his father for 16 miles and was waiting at roadside points to give him food and drinks.
The Ironman began at 2:30 a.m. with registration. The athletes were then herded onto a ferry and taken out to the starting point for the swim. Compounding the difficulty of a 3.8-kilometer swim were waves, the tide and two currents pulling against the swimmers. Once Kriska put his wetsuit on, he realized there were two holes in the right sleeve, which let in the 58-degree water.
After the swim, the cycling portion immediately took riders up a 4,000-foot glaciated plateau and into temperatures in the low 40s. Difficult points emerged when Kriska tired while waiting for his food to kick in and at one point when the winds were so strong he had to pedal while going down a hill. Kriska likened the hill to Orchard Gap and other spots around Mount Airy.
What clinched a good finish for Kriska was a great run. He took chances by running up hills and passing the competition all the while staying strong enough to keep the pace and hold them off.
Guarded by a steep hill of loose chunks of rock, the coveted finishing line is the most difficult part of the Norseman. While nearly everyone else chose to walk to the finish, Kriska burned up the rest of his energy and ran portions of the climb. The temperature on top of the mountain was 35 degrees and raining.

Contact Ed Phillipps at [email protected] or 719-1921.

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