Whitefish P3athlon race report

(I’m inventing the above appellation because Pole-Pedal-Paddle Triathlon is both ungainly and in the wrong order for this event.)

The weather this morning and early afternoon was good for doing a race on a fairly innocuous course, which is to say it was 85% crap.  The other 15% were left out because it wasn’t raining especially hard, and it could have gotten a fair bit colder without crossing the line into snowing.  So, when I woke up in the dark this morning I wasn’t very excited about my plan of riding to the start.  But what else was I going to do?  The only other reasonable thing to do in such weather was stay home and drink coffee.  So I split the difference, and had two cups of coffee and rode the fastest way to the start, on the shoulder of the highway.  Which really wasn’t bad at all.  It was raining and I got wet, but looked all gnarly at sign-in with my face already covered in mud.

The gawking at my rolling circus setup started immediately, and I tried to share the gospel of packrafting as much as possible.  Watching the inflation process usually does that for people.  I placed my inflated boat in the line up of sea kayaks, racing kayaks, a hand made (and dead gorgeous) rowboat, and a solo outrigger racing canoe.  I went and got a coffee to stay warm and confirmed what I had previously suspected: I would be waay DFL right from the start.

There was one other guy in a creekboat who came off the paddle a few minutes ahead of me.  Everyone else was 20+ minutes in the lead.  It’s pretty pointless to try and make a packraft go fast.  They come up to 2.5ish mph pretty easy, can be pushed to 3, but much beyond requires a 50% increase in effort for a 5% increase in speed.  I thus saw no reason to hurry as I deflated and rolled up the boat, lashed my shit back together, and pedaled off as the start gate and props were packed away.  The guy in the creekboat, who had earlier announced his intention to complete with me for DFL, was I thought already up the road, but I didn’t pass anyone as I ground my way very slowly up to the ski hill.  Hauling 30 extra pounds of crap makes going up a lot slower, and I never found a rhythm of anything close to it and just suffered and fought up the whole fucking climb.  A good reminder: the reason we train is to not do that.

I once again confused the checkpoint staff by refusing the bike handoff and rolling over to the bike corral, yard saleing gear all over the place, and leisurely transitioning into the tele boots I pulled out of my pack.  I stuffed the boat and my soaked bike shoes, seal skinz, and shoe covers into the pack, and left my PFD with my bike as it wouldn’t easily fit.  Off I went.

There were quite a few really fast guys out today, all of whom had road bikes and orchestrated and supported transitions, and some of whom were done with the race before I started skinning up the mountain.  I’ve never been fast, it seems to be in neither my physical or psychological makeup, but I have had moments where I’ve been pretty damn strong.  This attribute displays itself best when a course is long and hard, and the P3athlon was neither.  Moreover, I was having a high-gravity day, and had nothing to do about it but stare at the snow and shuffle upwards, slow, steady, with lots of effort expended.

The snow was refreshingly soft, in spite of having climbed from rain into snow squalls on the bike.  I had my super light boots along because they skin well and take up less space in the pack, and was contemplating just how extensively my ass would be kicked if I had to ski ice and crappy snow on boots with almost no forward or rearward support.  As it turns out I, after another casual transition, had a few hundred feet of heavy cutup snow to flail through before the lower 3/4 of the course, which was uniformly and predictably soft and all-around a total blast to ski.  My legs got pretty shot doing it, but I rolled in next-to-last place.  Collected high-fives, and went inside to dry out.

Ben encouraged me to not ride home, as doing so seemed a good way to invite in a cold.  I had already made my mind 90% up on that question, and called in the M rescue force.  It wasn’t an inspiring day, nor was it a good day as far as my performance went.  (It was actually quite bad.)  But it was a good use of shitty weather, a fun challenge, and as excellent workout (legs hurt, lots).  I even collected a prize for my creativity/stubbornness, as winner/inventor/sole entrant in the self-contained category.  All in all, not a bad way to spend the day.

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2 thoughts on “Whitefish P3athlon race report

  1. Awesome race report Dave. I was laughing out loud at the image of you furiously paddling your packraft off the back and re-arranging your junk show for each of the transitions. Great stuff. You should have gone up to Alaska for the Ski Classic this weekend.

  2. Great photo of your traveling rig in the last post. And excellent news that they awarded/recognized you for the self-contained category.

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