Skye Posey
Contestants in the men’s solo division of the Chilkat Challenge Triathlon start out on the first leg of their journey: paddling. Front is Liam, the winner.

Wildfire smoke and record-breaking heat did not slow down the Chilkat Challenge Triathlon.

In the third annual Chilkat Challenge, racers braved a rushing Chilkat River, sweltering asphalt and steep gravel hills to smash last year’s winning times.

Liam Greven won the solo male adult division with the fastest overall time of three hours, 10 minutes and 22 seconds. Greven’s finish time was a full 19 minutes, 41 seconds faster than last year’s winning time of 3:30:03 by team A’s Ablaze.

Mixed adult team Gunalsheesh!, comprised of Heather Lende, Lende’s daughter Sarah Elliott and Burl Sheldon topped the mixed division with an overall time of 3:12:07 minutes, the second-fastest overall time in the race.

Alissa Henry took first place in the solo female event, clocking in at 3:38:44 minutes.

Haines was well-represented in the top finishers. The top three finishers in the male and female solo categories were locals, as was the winning mixed team.

Elliott, who won the women’s division of the Mount Ripinsky Run on July 4, said she was undaunted by the triathlon’s steep gravel road sections in Chilkat State Park. “If I can run straight down a mountain, I can run straight down a road,” she said.

But the day after, she said, “I was incredibly sore.”

The high water and a tailwind helped in the kayaking and cycling sections, said Alissa Henry, but the run “kind of seemed to last forever.”

“It just was so hot,” she said. “There was no shade.”

Liam Greven said it was his first organized race and his first time kayaking on a river. Greven said he enjoyed the race, but “I think everyone would’ve had an easier time, myself included, if it hadn’t been 90 degrees.”

Next year’s triathlon is scheduled for July 11, 2020. Changes are in store for the running route, said race marshal Gershon Cohen. Next year, runners will begin at the parade grounds, run to the Mount Riley trailhead, and then return to the parade grounds for a total distance of 10 kilometers, or 6.2 miles. The new route will stay on paved roads, making it easier for runners. “It’s going to make for a much more exciting and publicly viewable finish,” he said.

The race is ultimately “about celebrating the (Chilkat) River,” Cohen said.

“We often talk about the fishing aspects of the river. We talk about the tourism importance of the river,” he said. “But recreationally, the river is also really important to the community.”