On May 15, competitors stood at the start line of the The 34th U.S. Bank Pole, Pedal, and Paddle in Bend, Oregon. After a cold and wet spring, the weather cooperated with 76 degrees and an overcast sky.
The race started at Mt. Bachelor, with a moderate Grand Slalom alpine run, followed by a five mile cross country skate race, a 23 mile road ride down into the town of Bend, OR, a 5 mile trail run by the river, a mile and a half paddle, and finished with a half mile sprint.
The MBSEF fundraiser event brought in 985 entries with 3,005 racers competing as teams, pairs and individuals. According to Race Director, Molly Kelley, 50 per cent of participants come from out of town.
“It was the largest we’d ever seen,” Molly Kelley, Race Director, who, before she was involved with the race, used to leave town because it would fill with people coming in to compete and to watch.
This year’s winner, and five-time champion, was Marshall Greene. He found it to be exciting but also a relief because he worried about XC Oregon teammate, Andrew Boone. “I was racing scared,” Greene admitted.
Greene accidentally flipped his boat while getting in at the paddle transition, something that could have cost him the race. “It was time for a snap decision,” he said. “Take it back to shore to dump or race with a bit of extra weight.”
He decided to race with the extra weight and won.
His favourite part though, was the support of spectators, “Having won before, lots of people have learned my name and having them all cheer for me by name was pretty awesome.”
Boone switched up his training this past winter, from base miles on the bike to skiing and racing as an associate for XC Oregon. “I was amazed at how quickly I was able to train at a high level on the bike [after finishing the ski season].”
Boone expected to make a move in the cycling leg – his primary sport – but had flat legs after the ski and couldn’t get his heart rate up. He ended up second, three seconds behind Greene. However, it didn’t keep him from enjoying the experience. “I love the crowds and the enthusiasm the whole town of Bend has during the event. It seems like everyone in town all of a sudden has a kayak on the roof of their car.”
On the women’s side, Stephanie Howe was the overall winner of the elite women.
“My goal this year was to podium – I had no idea I was going to win. It didn’t actually hit me that I could win until I was finishing the kayak leg of the race.”
She was fourth going into the running leg, three minutes behind eventual second place, Sarah Max. “I was hammering pretty hard but it felt good. The run to the finish was awesome – I was smiling the whole time.”
Max had issues of her own, tipping her boat twice during the paddle leg. “Going around the first buoy, the wind, my exhaustion and the pressure got the best of me and I went over… I almost caught Stephanie going into the second buoy but tipped again.”
When asked whether they’ll race again next year, the competitors were of mixed feelings.
“Going into the race, I had made up my mind to not race as an individual next year because it really does consume a lot of time,” said Max, “[but] I’m not sure how I feel about being the reigning champion of the Pole, Pedal, Paddle, Swim, Paddle, Swim, Paddle.”
Boone, who raced the PPP as a kid, plans to make it an annual tradition as long as he continues to live “in this great town.”