It seems like year after year I end up doing a lot of the same races. Around here you've got your Human Race, Get in Gear, Hennepin Lakes, Victory, etc. Well so far this year I've completed 3 races and they've all been new to me.
This morning I became a triathlete (again) when I participated in the Pole Pedal Pant winter triathlon. While this was the 20th annual race, it's been held in 3 different locations. Today's event was held at the fabulous Elm Creek Park Reserve and was made up of a 10K x-c ski, 7K bike and 7K run. The bike and run were along the same "packed" snow trail. At least it was packed before a bunch of bikers and runners went over it. Just look at this transition area. Does it get any better? Seriously, replacing wetsuits with skis may be the best idea in the history of triathlons.
Overall, I had a great time racing. One of the things I love about skiing and these kinds of events is that I don't have any preconceived notions about how fast I should be going or who I should be in front of or behind. It's a race and I just listen to my body and go as hard as I can.
I continue to be amazed by how fast people are on skis. We skied four 2.5K loops and I was only about 8K in when the leaders were mounting their bikes. I'm not sure what place I was after the ski leg, but it sure felt like I was at the back of the pack - or at least in the middle of it.
The bike was really interesting due to the combination of rutted snow and stretches of ice. I couldn't take my eyes off the trail in front of me for fear of wiping out. Even though we were really spread out by now, it was still a little difficult getting around people at times because they were swerving all over due to the terrain. Somehow I managed to pass probably 10-15 people during the bike.
Coming out of T2 I was a little worried because the guy who was about 30 seconds in front of me didn't really look like a runner, but he was hauling ass. I finally caught him after about a half mile and then when we got to the first hill, he started to walk. Go figure. After that I settled in and focused on finding the best footing around. Before the race I wasn't sure if wearing my Yaktrax was legal or not. Then I saw some guy with medal studs in his bike tires and I figured anything goes. Besides it's no different than applying top of the line wax to your skis. I'm not sure how much they helped - definitely not as much as the 30 years of training - but I was able to pass another 10-15 people during the run.
After finishing in around 1:44 I walked out onto the course a little ways so I could talk with one of my all-time favorite runners, Dick Beardsley. I'm not sure if any of the skier and biker-types even knew who he was. That was great for me because I was able to speak with him for probably 15-20 minutes. He's super nice and super easy to talk to. He travels to races all over the place. If you ever get a chance to talk to him, I highly recommend it. And I recommend listening to his speeches at marathon expos. He's an awesome motivational speaker.
Looking at this photo, you can tell this was a pretty small race, but not as small as the results would have you believe. When I returned to the chalet I was SHOCKED to see that I finished 2nd overall (less than a minute out of first) and that only 2 relay teams beat me. To be honest, I don't believe the results. Given that they didn't use chip timing and that everything was being written down by hand, also makes me a little suspicious. Plus they only had like 23 individuals listed along with 9 relays. I'm telling you, there are more than 32 bikes in that photo. I know that I'm a decent runner, but I rarely ride a bike - and never on snow packed trails. I find it hard to believe that I caught up to the people that skied probably 6-8 minutes faster than me. It'll be interesting to see what gets posted online.
Finally, I have to give a shout out to my neighbor, Jason, for tuning my bike. If you like anything about bikes, especially mt. bikes, stop by and check out his blog. And if you happen to be in the market for a new bike, check out the bikes he makes at Salsa Cycles.