As the season winds down, the races tend to go more low-key.
One particular end-of-season favorite among many skiers is
the Pole, Pedal and Pant winter triathlon at Giants Ridge
in Biwabik, MN. The event combines a 10K freestyle ski, a
10K mountain bike, and a 5K run. A number of the Skinnyski.com
Race teammates competed this year, including Grant, Dave and
Josie Nelson, Per Nelson and Margie Tilman. Temperatures were
well above freezing, making the ski race a slow tromp. Josie
was second women and Grant Nelson finished third for the men.
Most of all, everyone had a great time celebrating on a warm
The Pole-Pedal-Pant (PPP) triathlon at Giants
Ridge is by far my favorite triathlon of the year! (To be
honest its the only triathlon Ive ever done,
but every year I have a great time) It consists of a 10km
skate ski on the fabulous silver trail, followed by a 10km
mountain bike and then a 5km run.
Ive competed in the PPP for the last four years
and every year each event has a unique challenge and excitement
of its own. I would be remiss if I didnt also mention
the fact that the PPP is also a costume contest. I have
to admit that I rarely fully participate in the costume
part of the race, but it sure makes for fun spectating.
My first PPP I competed in, we had a challenge just
getting to the race. It snowed about 6 the night before.
It wasnt that big of a deal until the University of
Minnesota Suburban my friends were driving got stuck in
our driveway at our cabin. We all piled into my pickup truck
and made it with time to spare.(The people that got stuck
in the back had a cold drive to Giants Ridge.) Even
though we had 6 of new snow, the ski leg was actually
on the downhill run because of a poor base. I had a great
ski leg until I hopped on my mountain bike. I had just built
up a sweet new lightweight mountain bike and was excited
to try it out. The mountain bike section was on the snowmobile
trail for most of the way. The new snow made for some technically
difficult biking. My new narrow front tire and my poor snow
biking skills made for a long tough bike leg. In a matter
of a few kilometers I went from the lead to the middle of
the pack! Because I ran so much on the bike leg, I figured
it was more like a 10km ski, 5km bike and 10km run.
My second PPP we actually were able to ski on the silver
trail. A large pack of 8 or 9 guys finished the ski together.
Rod Raymond gave us all a demonstration of fast biking and
running by dropping the whole field. Last year was a very
memorable year as 6-7 of snow fell during the race
and combined with a whipping wind. I still remember how
cold my elbows got and how exhausted I was as I finished
up the last few kilometers of the run.
Grant Nelson competing at Giants Ridge
the Ridgenator earlier this season
When I saw the weather predictions this last weekend
for 50+F, I knew it would be another unique and exciting
PPP. On Friday afternoon I started getting everything ready.
One thing nice about extreme temperatures is that the wax
decision is really easy, or so I thought. I got worried
when my warmest waxes Fastwax Flite and bronze had a maximum
temp of 42F and 50F respectively and didnt even reach
the projected high temp. I rationalized that it hopefully
wouldnt be that warm at 10:00AM. I was happy my bike
checked out fine after a long winter of sitting in the basement.
It is generally faster to avoid clipless pedals and bike
with running shoes, but I have rationalized over the past
few years that the added enjoyment and minor speed that
I gain through using the clipless pedals more than makes
up for the added time in switching to running shoes. . My
final dilemma was whether to wear a costume or not. I brought
some possible costume materials and headed up to our cabin.
As we drove to Giants Ridge the temperatures were
already in the mid 30s and it was obvious it would be a
sizzler. My sister-in-law Josie was dressed as Wonder Woman,
my friend Katie was a pirate and my brother Dave looked
something like a retro bodyshop mechanic with poor fashion
sense vacationing in Florida. I was all prepared to wear
my fathers styling wool orange and black plaid shirt and
a red bandanna when I realized that I would likely overheat
before hitting the triple threat. I ended up wearing my
matching bike shorts and short sleeve bike shirt which actually
turned out to work perfectly. There were a few other great
costumes and a couple of bear chested guys as we started
Grooming on the silver trail was superb, but the warm
temperatures had already made the sunny areas quite slow.
From what I could tell, a pack never developed as Tim Trudeau
and Peter Hanson gapped the field. For most of the race
I skied on my own pretty comfortably 30-50 ft behind Tim
and Peter. At the exchange, I was on my own, about a minute
behind the leaders. As I started the bike section two relay
guys caught me. I naturally hopped behind their back wheel
in search of a free draft. Instead of making things easier,
I was greeted by a rooster tail of muddy water from there
back tires. The three of us ended up biking together side
by side pretty much the whole way. Even though the constant
stream of mud and water seemed to get everywhere, including
my mouth, it was actually rather refreshing. I managed to
hammer up the final hill of the bike and drop both of the
relay guys before the exchange area. As I switched on my
running shoes and took off, my legs were feeling pretty
sluggish. The two relay guys caught up to me and I was quite
thankful that I was actually able to draft behind one of
them as we headed into the wind. The nice part about the
run is that it is an out and back so it is possible to see
where everyone is. I felt I was in a pretty solid third
place position until with 400 yards to go I saw a guy behind
me closing fast. I did some calculations, quickened my tempo
and managed to hold him off by three seconds!
As I wiped some of the dry mud off my body, cheered
for the other finishers, and basked in the unseasonably
hot late winter sun, I knew this was another memorable PPP