Amber Stull owes her victory in Saturday's Hammerman Triathlon to ibuprofen and BodyGlide.
Will Ross owes his to a somewhat frantic last-minute tire change.
And the team of Kikk'n Jetsy owes its to a 54-year-old who agreed to jump into Little Campbell Lake for the first time in her life.
The Hammerman, Anchorage's only off-road triathlon, celebrated its 15th anniversary by drawing a record crowd of 147 participants to Kincaid Park.
The race featured a half-mile open-water swim, a 13-mile mountain bike ride, a four-mile trail run and a moose that hung out near an aid station on the running trail.
Stull, one of the city's top triathletes, enjoyed one of her most treasured triumphs. She finished in 1 hour, 54 minutes, 46 seconds, beating runner-up Megan Chelf by 33 seconds.
Stull, 37, injured her back when she slipped on ice in January, and in recent months pain has been a frequent companion and her training has been curtailed.
"I'm thrilled," she said. "I've been struggling with a bit of a back injury all season and it was sort of a question of whether I would be able to do this. This is the longest race I've done in two months. I haven't been able to swim a lot and running really hurts.
"… I loaded up on ibuprofen."
The women's champion in four of the last five Hammermans, Stull said she approached the race cautiously, riding less aggressively than usual on the technical bike course and taking care when running over roots made slippery by the previous night's rain.
She was less cautious in her decision to run sockless in a pair of shoes she bought the night before, defying conventional wisdom that says you don't race in brand-new shoes.
Stull finished blister-free, something she credited to the BodyGlide she sprayed on her feet and shoes before the race.
Ross' prerace preparations included an unplanned trip to Chain Reaction Cycles, where he works.
The night before, as rain poured down, he put mud tires on his bike.
"But they didn't hold air, so I had to race to Chain Reaction to get new tires," he said. "It made things a little hectic."
Ross used a dominating bike effort to come from behind for his sixth Hammerman win -- a race record. His time of 1:33:45 seconds put him exactly two minutes in front of runner-up Reese Hanneman. Third place went to Jason Lamoreaux in 1:37:11.
Jakub Jiracek was the first person out of the water, but Ross, Hanneman and Lamoreaux passed him on their bikes.
"Reese was right on my wheel for the first two or three miles before we hit the single tracks," Ross said, "and then I was able to use a lot of my mountain biking (experience) to get a lead."
Ross is 6 for 8 in the Hammerman. The 26-year-old has entered the race every year but one since he turned 18, and he has triumphed in all but two of his attempts.
Hanneman, 25, was in the race for the first time since his debut as an 18-year-old.
"Nothing's changed," he said. "I'm still battling Will and Jason."
Hanneman is one of the top skiers in the Alaska Pacific University program, so for him, triathlons provide a diversion from his normal pursuits.
"I've ridden two times in the last three weeks because I've been on Eagle Glacier," he said. "My goals are big for the winter, so I was not willing to take big risks on those trails."
Also just back from Eagle Glacier was APU's most famous skier, four-time Olympian and three-time World Cup sprint champion Kikkan Randall.
Randall teamed up with husband Jeff Ellis -- the 2013 Hammerman champion -- and aunt Betsy Haines to form a relay team called Kikk'n Jetsy. The trio topped the team division in 1:44.22.
Randall was the runner, Ellis was the biker and Haines -- who skied in the 1980 Winter Olympics at Lake Placid -- was the swimmer.
Haines, 54, said the last time she swam in open water was 2004. And although she was a member of an active family while growing up in Anchorage, until Saturday she never waded into Little Campbell Lake, a popular spot also known as Beer Can Lake.
Haines remembers watching the national cross-country ski championships at the lake around 1974, when her brother Chris Haines was making a successful bid for a spot on the 1976 Olympic ski team.
"They skied on the lake," she said.
The water was pleasant Saturday, Haines said. But don't expect to see her back in the lake anytime soon.
"I'm done for another 10 years or so," she said.
Reach Beth Bragg at 257-4335 or email@example.com.