Last weekend I joined four other Deschutes Multisport Club athletes in competing in the Pole Pedal Paddle, an iconic Bend race that just celebrated its 40th anniversary. The race includes downhill and cross-country skiing, road biking, kayaking, and running. Some people do it as a team; some crazy folks do it as individuals.
While I was not that crazy, I was insane enough to volunteer to do the alpine ski leg, which should be more aptly named ski cross. More on that in a moment.
When we arrived at the Mount Bachelor parking lot, the car thermometer read 29 degrees, and it was snowing and blowing so much that I had to cower on the leeward side of the car to put my ski boots on. I thought back on the fact that I had just laughed with my sister about the fact I would be skiing at the end of May: It's Spring! I can wear shorts! It will be a walk in the park! Not so much ....
Before the race, I hadn't skied in weeks. Despite being in heavy Pacific Crest Triathlon training mode, my ski muscles were out of shape. I took my one practice run and wondered what I'd gotten myself into; my quads were screaming, and I had to stop in the blowing snow every 30 seconds or so. The surface was a combination of sheets of ice and several inches of heavy powder. A nightmare for this groomer girl.
But, because I had 3 others depending on me, including a former Olympic Trials participant in skate skiing, I resisted the temptation to duck into the lodge for some hot coffee. I took the lift to the top of the Red Chair, where I was met with dozens of other "open category" skiers. We were lined up by waves and, when given the go-ahead (not the official "start"), we dropped our skis and walked down the mountain to start the race.
(Wait, why would you drop your skis and walk away from them before starting a ski race, only to run back uphill to them in ski boots? Well, the answer is obvious: to torture us. [But seriously: it's probably an effort to spread out the field, so it's not a skimassacre on the slopes.])
When they yelled at us to start, I was ready to sprint uphill, but my boots had other ideas. It turned into a slow jog, and then a fast hike by the time I reached my skis. My heartrate through the roof, I clicked into my bindings with no effort (yay!), and took off down Leeway.
And here is where the skicross came in. I spent the entire run dodging falling skiers, skiers who had no business on a blue run, and faster skiers who probably thought I had no business there, either. However, the gates were comfortably spread out, both width-wise and lengthwise, so I had little trouble negotiating the course, despite its human obstacles, albeit much slower than I'd have liked.
I skied into the transition chute to the XC skier, who was waving his arms so I wouldn't miss him. A quick pass of the timing chip, and he was off.
I can't speak to how to rest of the race went, as I missed most of it, but I know my team pushed hard on every leg of the race. (We are multisport athletes, after all!) In fact, they pushed so hard that we managed to get 4th out of 51 teams in the Open category, despite the cruddy weather. We missed out on the mugs this year, but that just made us hungrier for a podium spot next year.
Let's just hope Bend looks at the calendar next year and realizes what season it is.