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
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.