Story and photos by Adam Hodges
January 31, 2009 (Ski Cooper, CO) – A hardy group of all-season multisport athletes gathered at the Tennessee Pass Nordic Center at Ski Cooper on Saturday for the Second Annual Winter Triathlon organized by the Pedal Power bike shop in Vail. Roughly fifty athletes gathered around the staging area—located at an elevation of 10,424 feet—for last minute instructions before the 10:00 am start. The course—all on snow—consisted of a 5k snowshoe, 10k snow bike, and 8k skate ski. If you thought summer triathlon was equipment intensive, try adding snowshoes and skate skiing gear into the mix!
When the gun went off, I was cruelly reminded of the strategy in snowshoe races that feature single track through deep snow. Sprint for the first 200 meters until the groomed trail gives way to single track. If you win the sprint, you get the prize of plunging first through the snowpack. The rest must wait their turn as the mass of sprinting athletes slows to a standstill and shuffles single file into the trees.
The start of the race sent my heart rate as high as Tennessee Pass. I can’t say I was too disappointed at the brief respite gained while slowing to enter the single track. It allowed my heart rate to lower back to a more aerobic pace. A good thing given the fact there was nearly three more miles of slogging through deep snow until we saw the transition area again.
Deep snow—especially deep snow that’s been trod through by trampling snowshoers—never fails to offer its fair share of footwork challenges. A few face plants here and there kept me covered in an accessory of white dust until we reached the groomed trails again and closed in on the transition area.
After a short test during the pre-race warm up, I had decided to try a time-saving strategy. I wore my mountain bike shoes with my snowshoes. Truth be told, it was as much a warmth-saving strategy as anything. This way I could put on my booties over my shoes before the race started and wear the same garb through the end of the bike leg. I may have been more comfortable in running shoes for the snowshoe, but when we reached T1 I was ready to jump on my mountain bike and clip in.
Biking on snow is rarely easy. Despite the groomed trails and deflated tires, certain sections were pure frustration. Like biking on sand, I searched for traction where there was none. As the race progressed, though, I began to master the learning curve.
Careening around the snow packed corners of the Nordic trails was a thrill that grew on me. All the same, the downhill portions offered as much of a challenge in keeping the bike upright as they provided a chance to catch one’s breath. You never knew when you’d hit a sink hole that tried to pull the bike one way while momentum took you another. After a crash that sent me into a snow bank (softer than hay bales!), I began to get the hang of things. By the second circuit of Fritz’s Freeway, I became more confident in anticipating the problem spots and seeking out the line with the most traction.
After the snow bike, I entered T2 for a bit of a snow picnic. I had the excuse of needing to sit down to take off my mountain bike shoes and put on my skate ski boots. Sitting never felt so good. I noticed before the race that another competitor had brought along a foldable chair that he set up at his transition spot. I guarantee, though, the towel I had laid out on the snow was as welcoming as any recliner. I pulled off my booties and bike shoes, which were frozen together into one giant ice cube. I sucked down a gel, gulped some water, and…well, I eventually had to stand up and head out for the skate ski portion of the race.
Skiing. At last an activity made for the snow! Once on my skate skis, I finally felt like I belonged on these Nordic trails. Whereas snowshoeing through trampled single track left me dreaming for the dirt roads around Boulder Reservoir, and biking on ski trails left me yearning for a stretch of smooth highway, I entered the trails on my skate skis knowing there was no better terrain for the activity at hand.
Of course, the fun factor increased significantly for the first part of the ski course due to a substantial downhill section. Before the race began, we were told we were going down a trail called ‘Lung Burn.’ “Be careful,” noted the announcer. “We don’t want any big crashes.”
I greeted Lung Burn (obviously named from the perspective of ascending it) with a whoop as the hill went by in a blur. As soon as I got to the bottom—smile still on my face—I realized that what goes down from the race staging area must eventually go back up. No chair lifts here. All in due time, though—after a circuit of the valley.
Nothing is more powerful than alpine sunshine on a winter day in the mountains. The ski course took us down to the sun drenched Fish Flats before we climbed out of the valley via the switchbacks of Larry’s Loop. We didn’t have to go straight up Lung Burn after all. No complaints from me as I arrived at the finish line more than ready for food and a long nap. Playing in the snow could never be more fun than a winter triathlon like this one.
Kloser, Isom Best Field at Tennessee Pass Winter Triathlon
January 31, 2009 – Tennessee Pass Nordic Center, Colorado
In the men’s race, Mike Kloser of Vail engaged in a hard fought battle with Travis Macy of Golden. Kloser, with no signs of slowing down at age 49, used his mountain biking and skate skiing skills to overcome the 25-year old Macy’s lead off the snowshoe. Kloser claimed victory in 1:24:24. Less than a minute later, Macy arrived to claim second in a time of 1:25:18.
The women were led by Lisa Isom of nearby Vail, who placed sixth overall in a time of 1:33:56. Sari Anderson of Glenwood Springs finished less than three minutes later to claim the women’s runner-up spot and seventh place overall in 1:36:43.
|PLACE||NAME||CITY||AGE||DIV||DIV PLC||OVRL TIME||SNOW SHOE||T1||BIKE||T2||SKI|
|PLACE||NAME||CITY||AGE||DIV||DIV PLC||OVRL TIME||SNOW SHOE||T1||BIKE TIME||T2||SKI TIME|
|14||MARTIN APPENZELLER||PUEBLO WEST||46||M4049||9||1:50:41||28:46:00||1:29||36:44:00||2:11||41:33:00|
|29||ED POREMBA||CO. SPRINGS||52||M5059||4||2:47:25||36:48:00||1:57||49:23:00||5:07||1:14:12|
|PLACE||TEAM||TIME||SNOWSHOE||T1||BIKE TIME||T2||SKI TIME||CITY|
|1||CYCLES OF LIFE||1:27:19||23:03||0:31||30:38:00||0:15||32:53:00||LEADVILLE|
|4||BECKR & BAYARD||2:05:56||34:04:00||0:42||40:41:00||2:44||47:48:00||EVERGREEN|