It's good for skiers to have other sports to fill the seasons when there isn't snow. I have trouble choosing just one, and I guess many other skiers do too, because there were a lot of familiar faces from the ski trails for the Chippewa Triathlon up in Cass Lake last Saturday. This is a very fun race with a beautiful course, I highly recommend it for anyone looking for a new and exciting event to try out.
The Chippewa Triathlon is a true outdoor adventure that begins with a 15 mile canoe that includes two miles of portaging while navigating a number of lakes and rivers. The next leg is a 30 mile bike ride that covers gravel roads, single track trails, logging roads, and paved bike trails as it weaves back to the final exchange where the canoe leg began. The final leg is a 6 mile run that is mostly on campground roads and finishes running along a sandy beach. Despite chilly weather at the start and a chance of rain in the forecast it turned out to be an ideal day for racing.
I paddled with Allie Rykken in my 18' Jensen for the canoe leg of the race. We were only able to get out and practice paddling together once this spring, which put my total number of days in a canoe before the race this year at only two. Luckily the Vakava practices so far this year have been pretty double pole heavy, so my core was in good enough shape to handle the 3 hours of paddling. Allie and I paddled together for this race last year as well, so we had a decent handle on the logistical parts of racing and portaging as well as navigating some of the trickier sections of the canoe course. We got off to a good start and were one of the first non-pro boats out into Pike Bay, about the 15th boat overall. In general we tended to lose some ground on the racers around us in the water and make the ground back up on the portages. We were right beside Phil and Kelly Rogers for much of the race, but we made a wrong turn in some reeds just before the end of the canoe leg and lost a bit of ground on them.
I was quick through the transition on to the bike this year, taking just enough time to get my bike shoes, gloves, and helmet on and grab half of a peanut butter sandwich from the aid station. I didn't have much chance to eat or drink in the canoe because to do so means stopping paddling. My plan for this race is always to make up the calories and fluids when I get on the bike, so I went through my two water bottles, a granola bar, and a hammer gel as quickly as my stomach would let me, and whenever the course allowed. There are a lot of sandy gravel roads, bumpy logging roads and single track, and this year several water hazards on the bike course, so it is important to always be scanning the trail ready to react to what is coming up. I got a cyclocross bike last fall and raced on that instead of the hybrid bike I had used for this race in years previous. I felt like this bike was much faster on the gravel and paved trails, but maybe a bit slower and less maneuverable in the singletrack and bumpy logging road areas. My time was within a few seconds of last years, but I had much more energy left to ride to that same time, just over 1 1/2 hours, so I felt like I had a lot more energy coming into the run transition.
I had been keeping track of the other mixed double (male and female) boats throughout the canoe leg and figured that the only racers in my category still ahead of me were Ryan Peterson and Grant and Elaine Nelson. The end of the bike leg goes along the opposite side of the road from where the run leg begins, so I could see how far ahead of me the others were. I figured Ryan was too far ahead to catch, but if I ran hard I could catch Grant and Elaine who were running together. I always take the first mile of the run leg pretty easy to make sure the legs have time to adjust to the different motion then I pick up the pace from there. I passed several runners from men's boats and relay teams but could not catch sight of Grant and Elaine ahead of me. Finally I saw them with about 1.5 miles to go. The last 3/4 mile of the race runs through the sand right along a beach, and the sand is the most firm right at the water line, so it was great fun running hard and trying to stay as close to the water as I could while still keeping my feet dry. My finishing time was just under 5 hours and 10 minutes, good for second place in the mixed doubles category, about 3 minutes back from the winner.