Thursday, May 24, 2012

Pole, Pedal, Paddle: The Olympics of Bend


Photo credit: Mike Albright
The PPP is the race I love to hate. Each time I race I swear I will never do it again, but somehow I am drawn to it. For those unfamiliar, this is a great description: The Pole Pedal Paddle is HARDCORE!
The race itself is not the hard part- the difficulty is figuring out all the logistics and dealing with the stress leading up to the race. This year was particularly difficult since I wasn't in Bend to line up gear to borrow or to train for obscure sports (like sprinting up an alpine hill in rear-entry alpine boots with nordic boots inside). There were some nice things about being in Corvallis before the race, such as avoiding all the crazies and dealing with everyone and their brother asking if I'm racing and if I'm going to win (no pressure). These are just some of the challenges of racing the PPP.

Photo credit: Otmar Borchard
My preparation leading up to the race was not ideal. I was not thinking about gear or racing while I was at school- my brain was consumed with other things occupying space. In fact it wasn't until 2 days before the race that I got a tt bike to use! I have to thank Mary Ramos for letting me borrow her bike despite not have met me until after the race! 

Awesomsely fast wheels

I didn't actually try the bike until late Thursday night, and it was terrifying. I didn't feel comfortable at all and was not able to get in the aerobars and pedal hard downhill. Not good for less than 48 hours before race time. I think a lot of it had to do with my lack of time in the saddle this spring and not feeling comfortable on a bike in general. Still, not a good feeling. On Friday, the day before the race, I took the bike out again and just made myself just do it. If anyone was driving up Century on Friday, they probably saw me pedaling as hard as I could with a look of terror on my face. But, turns out by the time I got back into town I was fine and felt good about the bike. Sigh of relief.

I also did a bit of panic training on Friday, consisting of alpine skiing, nordic skiing, paddling, running, and cycling down Century Dr. twice. Not my best move- my legs were pretty fried afterwards. Awesome.

Finishing up the run leg
Photo credit: Otmar Borchard
The day of the race I was nervous, but ready to go! The start was pretty awesome- I think the starter was new and hadn't thought about what he was going to say. He did the usual countdown: 10 sec to start….and we all remained motionless on the start line. Then all of a sudden he yells out "Race!" which actually meant "Go!" No one really knew what to do until The Number 3 in a Tacate aero helmet (also known to some as Zach Violett) took off. I think we all started the race off smiling, or I did at least.

Once I got into 'race mode' things went pretty smoothly. Well, most things anyway. I did have a pretty great crash on the nordic leg about 2k into the race. I was going down a steep hill that still had some pretty icy corduroy. My skis got stuck in the grooves and started widening. It's pretty common knowledge that I can't touch my toes, let alone do the middle splits….so I face planted and power slid on the ice about 20 feet down the hill. It was actually pretty awesome and I don't think I lost much time. I was kind of laughing because I'm sure it was hilarious. There was a guy behind me that probably had a great view of the whole thing.

Besides eating shit on the nordic leg the only other issues I had were in the transitions. I just wasn't thinking very well. At the ski to bike I forgot to take my ski boots off and put on my bike shoes. At the bike to run I switched into my running shoes pretty quick, but forgot to take off my tights so I had to take off my shoes, take off my tights, and put my shoes back on again. Minor details.

Take two!

Really though, I couldn't have asked for a better day. I lead from start to finish and never looked back. I was pretty happy to cross the finish line in 1st again, adding a little flair (see KTVZ video below) And to make it even better Zach also had an awesome race, finishing on the podium as well :) 

XC Oregon’s Howe Wins Third Straight Pole Pedal Paddle; U.S. Ski Team Has Fastest Women’s Teams

Finishing stretch