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2003 Chippewa Triathlon Report

By Marsh Jones
June 9, 2003

Rain. Thursday's forecast for Saturday was OK - a 30% chance of showers in the 'Cities, with clear and moderate temps in the Bemidji-Walker area. Friday morning brought rain, and showers (and downpours) driving up to Cass Lake. Who knew what to expect from Saturday. Rumors were of huge mudpuddles coming out of Lake 13 and spots that would degrade quickly as the later riders went through.

I spent Friday afternoon checking out the portages and some of the mountain bike sections, hoping to gain some new insight into the course. Jack Gustafson and his crew had made a few minor changes, extending the biking route to about 28 miles, up from 25 last year, and due to low water levels, had to change the canoe route as well. The new canoe route dropped the first two smaller lakes, and added a much longer portage (7/10 mile vs. 10 yards) instead.

Once again, the registration/spaghetti feed was a chance to renew friendships and chat about the day to come (and pass out some BreatheRight strips for my sponsor). As in years past, the crowd has been a very mixed bag of paddlers, bikers, runners and weekend warriors of all stripes. This year, I realized I was sitting at a table with seven elite skiers. The level of competition is heading up. Before long, they'll have registration limits and an elite wave start. Hmmm.

Race morning 'dawned' with clouds, a northeast breeze and NO RAIN!!! Peter Hanson and I dropped off bikes, set up the boat and went through all the last minute prep stuff and then with about 10 minutes to go, put the boat in the water. Lots of carbon boats out there this year. Not as many aluminum and royalex boats as before either. We lined up near Dave and Josie Nelson, Jan Gunther and Kate Ellis, John Filander and his ringer protege Sean Callahan, and the hardcore paddlers. The starter finally got everyone lined up and started the countdown "5, 4, 3..." He probably finished, but I didn't hear the rest of it. Off to the races. We got a great start with the Nelsons, Jason Larsen/Brad Anez, and the 'big 3 paddlers' (Al Rudquist/Aron Alto, Joe Manns/Dan Hassel, and Kjell Peterson/Todd Ellison). We got passed by two boats on the way down Pike Bay (Brett Arenz/Devon Arenz, and Mark Morrissey/Mark Walters), but stayed away from the pack. In fact, the canoe race was decided at the bridge -- only room for two at a time, shallow water, and a long narrow channel after that. Once out on the lake, the shallow sand bottom broke the pack up and limited the amount of passing.

We found all of the portages, a beaver dam, and the narrow little creek, although the dock full of spectators near one of the portages made for a little detour (part of the challenge of the race). One portage in particular had about 30' of "loon droppings" to negotiate assuming you stepped on the right tussock of grass. If you missed the grass, you were knee deep (or deeper) in the ooze. The toughest part of the canoe leg was definitely the "snakepit" as Peter named it. A weedy creek through the rice beds, often little wider than the boat, with many 90 degree or better corners. Our conversation went something like 'hut, me hut, crossdraw, backrudder, back, hut, me hut' (and repeat - a lot). I won't say we flew thru there, but I don't think we gave away anything.

The bike leg started out pretty much the same as last year. The sandy roads were fairly tough to ride, with the bike trying to go where it wanted, and the damp sand sapping strength from my legs. Pushing on the flats was OK, but I watched the speed bleed rapidly on uphill grades. Sections of paved road, logging roads, forest tracks, and single track followed each other until we got back to the new Mi-Ge-Zi bike trail, and got a 'rest' for a bit. Then back to the mix of road and trail, the infamous dips and beautiful view on Lake 13, and a mile of ugly ruts and mud on the only real climb of the race. Keep pushing stupid. Somewhere along there, I know I got passed by Sean Callahan and a couple of others, Sean in particular making it look easy. Finally, sand and trail gave way to the last miles of the Mi-Ge-Zi trail and it was time to crank it up to the finish.

The run was tough. Actually, the run is nice - mostly forest trail and bike trail - I suspect it's very pretty if you aren't running in a daze. I realized about 2 miles into the bike that I didn't put bars in my jersey before the start, and so was running on Gookinaid and the banana sections from the feed zones. I grabbed part of a bar and some energy drink at the transition, and one of the feeders had some ibuprofen - a really good thing. At that point, I was just trying to limit the damage. I got passed by Roseanne Joa at the last water stop, and lumbered in to the finish. A little fuel, and some clothes and life was good again. Time to eat, cheer on the rest of the finishers, and commiserate about the tough spots.

My thanks to Peter for providing the power to get us across the first lake and the portages in such good shape. It definitely made the difference.


About the author...

Marsh Jones is a 'forty-something, multi-sport, weekend warrior' to use his description. His best finish last year was 25th at the Chippewa Triathlon. In addition to skiing and canoeing, Marsh generally gets involved in whatever sports his 11&13 year olds are doing (currently lacrosse). Marsh races for Ketter Canoeing and ActiveElite.

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