Why race two or three events in one day when you can race a Pentathlon! Roberta is our veteran at off the wall sports – like a biathlon state champ and trail runner extraordinaire! Read more about her Pentathlon experience!
I have always been wanting to try the Steamboat Pentathlon. Although it seems like in past years I have always had an excuse- no mountain bike- not in Steamboat race weekend, etc. Well this year I had no excuses. I bought a mountain bike in the Fall and I had all the gear necessary and no trips planned. The stars were aligning so I am sure it was after a few glasses of wine that registering for the event actually sounded like a good idea.
So what is involved in the Pentathlon you ask, well the first of the events entailed running 500 meters up Howelson Hill in Steamboat and then alpine/telemark ski down. This involved placing my telemark gear at the top of the hill prior to the race. I got to walk down the steep hill I was going to eventually run up. Yikes.
The next four events were snowshoeing, Nordic skiing, mountain biking, and running.
In theory I had all of the sports down and had been “training” all winter. When I was getting my gear together the day before the race, I realized I had 5 different pieces of footwear that I was going to have to get quickly in and out of, two sets of skis and bike gear. Sheesh. I thought triathlons were gear intensive.
I laid out all of my gear in the transition area and looking at everyone else’s spot we were all remarking that it just looked like a gear swap. Several of the ladies I was racing against had never done the race before so we were all wondering what compelled us.
First Event- Alpine Ski
The run up Howelson was humbling. I wore an old pair of running shoes and my yax trax. When the gun went off I started running up the mountain and then I felt like I was in heart rate overload. Straight uphill- probably a 45 degree angle and many of us happy runners were forced to a grueling march to our gear that awaited us at the top of the hill. Once there, I strapped on my tele boots and headed downhill. So with this race, helmets were necessary, so to help reduce the gear load, I skiied in my bike helmet. Yes, I was one of those people that I make fun of on the skil hill.
Luckily no collisions happened and we were all safe.. now on to transition…
Second event snoweshoe (2.5 miles)
The snowshoe event was probaby my weakest link. Yes I have been runnig but not on snowshoes. That is a totally different story. Especially when you borrow them from your friend the week before and try on the day before the race! All was fine in the snowshoe with the exception of a few trips going uphill. Many of the ladies I was racing against were walking the uphills so when it was particullary steep I followed suit. The run/ walk pace went on and I would pass someone, they would pass me back. The best racer outfit award went to the racer wearing a lumberjack shirt, Carharts, and running in snowshoes that I am pretty certain were hanging on the wall in the cabin he was renting just the night before. I felt great that he was not beating me.
Third Event – (5.6 miles skate ski)
This is the event I felt the strongest in. I have been racing biathlon all season and I was racing strong this year. I knew I could take the girls that were ahead of me. Sure enough, I had better technique and a better glide to pass every gal, except one that was ahead of me. I was basking in my glory when all the sudden, when going downhill, I hit a snowmobile track and went tumbling (cue Wide Wide World of Sports montage). I hit the snow hard and seriously thought I was going to tumble down the side of Howelson. I picked myself up, and moved ahead. It was on the second lap of the nordic ski that I thought I was hitting myself in my calf with my poles. Then I realized I was cramping up. It dawned on me that I hadn’t really been eating or drinking during my transitions times. Oops. I tried to squeeze a gel into my mouth but it was hard logistically when your hands are attached to your poles. Without water, I was tempted to eat some snow but knew I would loose my lead. My thoughts went immediately to the bike. The bike portion seemed like a luxury awaiting were I could freely eat and drink and hopefully take care of this nagging calf cramp.
Fourth event- (12 mile MTN bike on River Road)
So I can’t say I have really ridden my MTN bike on the road. Oh wait, the Friday before the race, I commuted to work on my MTN bike. Appropriate training- check! River Road is the classsic “flat” road in Steamboat. I have ridden it several times and even Time Trialed it in the Steamboat Stage race. Trying to TT on a MTN bike is a different story. Some racers put aero bars on their MTN bikes but I just went with my set up. I was able to stay ahead of all of the women I passed in the Nordic portion except for the last 2 miles when I was passed by a very serious woman racer. I gave her a ring with my bell, cheered her on, and proceeded to pass her in the transition area.
Final Event (running 3.2 miles)
By the time I got to the run, I was hoping that my legs would not give out on me in cramps. I think I drank enough on the bike that all signs of cramping went away. I forgot that when you transition from the bike to run, your legs feel like rubber. When I came into transition, my husband Paul let me know that I was in second place overall. I couldn’t believe it! My goal on the run was to just hold everyone off the best that I could. Feeling a bit like Gumby I plodded away. Days before the race I couldn’t imagine finishing in less than 3 hours. With the clunky transitions, the same muscle groups being used, MTN biking on dry roads, how do people do it? I was running in disbelief that I was on the final event. At the turn around the race officials validated my current second place. I just had to keep up my plodding pace and I would do it.
I got to the finish line in 2 hours and 39 minutes. I was so excited. I was second female overall and got 1st in my age group. Now granted there were only 10 of us registered to do the full Pentathlon event but I was so excited. Racing in Steamboat on a beautiful day, who could complain. It was fun to challenge myself, get my mind ready for the road cycling season, and race with some really fun ladies. I can now cross this event off the event bucket list. Will I do it again? Maybe. The town of Steamboat directs this event and it was so well organized that that reason alone may bring me back.
Now I sit back, relax and drink from my race beer kozy that states “Keep Calm and Pentathl-on”