Gold Nugget Triathlon 2022 Volunteer Report

Gold Nugget Triathlon 2022

Sunday, May 15, 2022

The Race Committee started monthly meetings in October for the May race.

The week before the event was concerning. On Tuesday, May 10th, Staff Sgt. Seth Michael Plant was attacked and killed by a brown bear sow on JBER, just West of the Muni landfill. The attack occurred within two miles of the bicycle portion of the Gold Nugget Triathlon.

Lots of people in a race doesn’t necessarily mean that a trail is safe. In June of 2017, a black bear fatally mauled an Anchorage 16-year-old who was was participating in the Robert Spurr Memorial Hill Climb at Bird Ridge, which was being run for the 29th year straight. Everyone thought that it would be the safest day of the year to run the ridge, due to all the traffic and noise.

Everyone associated with the race was concerned about the safety of the runners, including the military. The last text message I got was at 11:08 PM, the night before the race, confirming where we would have safety people patrolling the race course on bikes. People would be showing up at Bartlett High School before 6:30 AM.

I was at my far corner of the Bartlett parking lot around 7 AM. It was just above freezing when I left my house. As I was getting set up, I saw the smiling faces of Eric Cannon KL4VA and Elizabeth Bluemink KL4TU.

During the planning for the triathlon, one of our hams said: “Wouldn’t it be great if we had some e-bikes to run safety on the run course?”. We all agreed that it would be wonderful to have e-bikes. The Trek Bicycle Store of Anchorage is one of the sponsors of the Gold Nugget Triathlon. Bill Fleming is the owner of the Trek Bicycle Store, and was on the race committee.

So at the next race committee meeting, I asked Bill Fleming if we could borrow a couple of e-bikes to run safety for the run course. He smiled and said that we could use a couple of e-bikes that he had in his rental fleet at Trek Bike Rentals Anchorage. The tricky part was the logistics of getting the bikes to the triathlon. The rental kiosk was opening for the season about an hour after we wanted the bikes. They charged and delivered the e-bikes to Bartlett for us. We returned them the next day.

Eric and Elizabeth picked up the e-bikes and headed out.

Ebiker, Elizabeth Bluemink – KL4TU by Mark Sabel
Ebiker, Eric Canon – KL4VA by Mark Sabel

I was Net Control for the morning. I had my mobile two meter Kenwood which is normally at my desk, wired up to a car battery sized 12 volt battery and a mag mount antenna on the top of my car. The race committee had business handhelds supplied by Arcticom. I had on of those. I also had an HT set up for simplex to the announcer liason.

I had heard that the fun part of being Net Control was when the announcers on the PA system, the repeater, and the Arcticom radio all go off at once, and you can’t decipher anything. Oh, add in a cell phone too.

I had to announce that I had to answer a call of nature, and stretch my legs to the whole net. Hey everyone, get your stopwatches out. I gotta go pee!

I was about 400 feet from the Volunteer Tent and the exit arch of the first transition area. In the first four hours I made it out there twice. Team One provides medics for the Gold Nugget Triathlon and the Runfest in August. One of the medics, who is also a ham, was at Westchester Lagoon last year. On my second break, I was talking to the medic and the Arcticom radio went off. “Can someone find the medic somewhere in the Bartlett infield. We think we have a dislocated shoulder in the pool.” The medic heard it, and was jogging to the pool with his bag of stuff before I could answer the radio. Proud of our response time on that one!

It’s one thing to look at 1,220 racers registered, but it’s another thing to see 1,100 bicycles in the corral.

It would get quiet for a while, and then I would hear “Net Control” come over one of the three radios. “Hey, that’s me”. I wonder which radio it was.

I found out that you can use the belt clip on an HT to clip your radio to the sun visor on the passenger side of the car. I also found out that if you have a Signal Stick antenna. You can see it coming can’t you? If you have a Signal Stick antenna and slam the door closed because the PA system is too loud, nothing bad happens.

Since there was so much concern about bears and moose, I started asking our safety people on the run course if they had seen any large animals. Part of our job is to be the eyes of the Race Committee out on the course.

Keith Clark – KL7MM and the MTV on the Run Course – Photo by Eric Canon

They were glad to hear that everything was running smoothly and we had not seen any large animals on the course.

Mark Sable – WB6BMJ
Finish area – by Mark Sable – WB6BMJ

The racers dropped off their bikes at the T2 transition area. As the race went on, FedEx shuttled the bikes and gear bags from T2 back to Bartlett. It warmed up to the point where I was wearing a t-shirt and a high viz mesh vest.

There was a minor hiccup with a bike rider approaching the T2 transition area. We got a second hand report that a bike had thrown a chain, and the rider was unable to pedal the bike. We figured out later that the bike was close enough to push to T2. At that point, they were now a runner and it wasn’t necessary to immediately fix the bike. A little bit of searching for a racer who had already moved on.

Craig Bledsoe KL7H took over as Net Control for the afternoon. I was reminded about how good tactical call signs are. Craig called in on the net as he was driving in. He used his call sign, just like you normally do, but my brain wasn’t calibrated to handle call signs out of the ether like that. I was confused for a bit until I figured out that it was Craig calling.

As the afternoon progressed, the clouds rolled in, and the bicycles rolled out (no riding in the corral).

At the end of the day, TJ Sheffield – KL7TS loaded up the bicycles.

On the drive out from T2, TJ used his truck to shield a non race biker on Arctic Valley Road from this black bear.

Our Anchorage Amateur Radio Club volunteers did great. We had some minor problems which were quickly solved. I know that I handed off an Arcticom radio without checking that it was on the proper channel.

On behalf of the Gold Nugget Triathlon 2022 Race Committee, a big thank you to all the volunteers. I know we were safe, I hope you had fun!

73 – Walter Yankauskas – KL7WY

Subject: GNT 2022 ebike summary

by Eric Canon KL4VA

Trek had two fully charged Townie bikes at Bartlett that we picked up around 7:15 am. The bikes were comfy beach cruiser style, 7 speed bikes with a grip shift on the right handle bar, adjustable seat. I couldn’t find a label on the battery to indicate voltage or Ah. The bikes had sturdy bike racks to hold the battery (about 3/8 to 1/2 inch diameter metal tubes). After a few practice laps and a few minutes around the parking lot getting use to the control panel, we were off.

I was able to get about 31 miles out of the battery before the battery died on the final stretch at the end of the event. The control panel is on the left handlebar. A fully charged battery gives you 5 blue lights (in the photo you can see I only have one blue light left of battery). I purposely tried to use a lot of the battery during the event to max the battery out – I was out a little over 8 hrs on the bike. The 31 miles included 6.8 miles riding pavement from Bartlett to the Fort Rich overpass to T2; then about 24.1 miles riding back and forth between T2, the MTV, and the finish.

There are three levels of “assist”. I am not sure the official term but one red light is “low” assist, two red lights equal “medium” assist, and three red lights equal “high” assist. You select the levels of assistant by pushing up arrow and down arrow buttons on the control panel. When you select assist, the motor in the rear hub must somehow turn to give you extra rotation in the rear wheel beyond your pedaling effort. I was able to get to a max speed of about 23-24 mph on the pavement between the Fort Rich overpass and the 90 degree sharp left turn to Arctic Valley Road. There are no clutches, just start pedaling and push the up arrow button to get more and more assist. You don’t have to use the assist, you can just pedal like a normal bicycle.

Positive Notes:

  • The bikes were great, I definitely felt less tired riding 31 miles on an ebike
  • Top drop tube and comfy adjustable seat means the bike is perhaps a “one size fits all” bike that can be ridden by many volunteers
  • I think you could still have battery life left at the end of GNT if you primarily used the first two levels of assist, and rarely used the “high” assist
  • The bike rack that holds the battery is very handy, you could strap down a small duffel, potentially attach an antenna. We strapped down bear spray and air horns to keep them relatively close to us

Some things to be aware of:

  • The bike is heavier (perhaps 50% heavier) than a normal bike. Two people can comfortable lift it, but it is a bit of a challenge for one person to lift the bike
  • With the top curved tube, the bike is a challenge to place on some types of bike racks since there is no horizontal top tube. At the end of the event, ideally the bike would be returned to Trek back at Bartlett; or transported in a pickup truck or large van, or placed on a bike rack that has a wheel tray
  • I didn’t notice RFI during the day until the battery was low, then I would get some humm when pushing the assist button

If AARC is interested in purchasing ebikes at some point:

  • I am not sure how fast ebike technology changes, so if ebikes are used infrequently each year at AARC events, renting or having ebikes provided at events may be a good idea
  • If AARC would like to get ebikes, “rent before you buy” could be helpful to check out any RFI, look at potential antenna installation, try out the controls (see next)
  • Some control panels have bigger buttons (could be easier to use with gloves) and more features (e.g., speedometer, odometer) that may be beneficial
  • Understand the voltage and Ah capacity of the battery – I don’t know if an ebike model has different battery capacity options, but for public service events perhaps we would want the high Ah battery
  • Dave Webb commented about the potential to have solar panels set up for ebike charging; can an HT be plugged into the ebike battery? Lots of interesting potential!

If you have any follow up questions on these observations, please let me know.

Thanks, Eric KL4VA