Gettin' Dirty at the Tri-Loppet
A bunch of us got together on Saturday morning to run the 4th Annual City of Lakes Tri-loppet. It's a summer event hosted by the local nordic ski club, and is run like a off-road triathlon, with paddling replacing swimming.
View 2009 Tri-Loppet Course in a larger map
We started out in the water off Thomas Beach, at the south end of Lake Calhoun. I was the only one of our group to paddle solo; everyone else had arranged for a tandem canoe, mostly Kevlar. The water was a little choppy as a couple hundred boats got under way, and as I feel towards mid-pack, I regretted not putting my rudder down. I had to expend more energy than I'd like controlling the boat- it wasn't difficult, just a subtle drain on my forward speed. Within a few minutes we were across the lake and under the bridges into Lake of the Isles, and I had settled in with a group I'd stay with the rest of the way.
As I came up to the turnaround buoy at the north end of Isles, I could see Justin and Molly close up to the front, paddling hard. Jerritt and Molly were shortly after that, and Steven and Tom were also doing well. All the canoers picked up the pace across Isles and through the channel into Cedar Lake, and I lost sight of them coming around the south side of Cedar. I passed a few people approaching the tunnel to Brownie, slipped into line and paddled hard across the tiny lake to the takeout, where a kind volunteer helped me portage my boat past the line. I took off my PFD as we walked, and was ready to run across the mat as soon as we dropped the kayak. My total time, 52:30, was fairly slow compared to the 17-19 foot boats, and ranked 19th in the solo division.
But now, it was a trail run through the south part of Wirth Park, and I felt good about that. I kept a reasonable pace up across 394 and onto the ski trail, passing a couple people right there. When we cut off to go up the hill, I shortened my stride to stay in control, and after I made the top of the hill, I knew the run was going to go well. As I dropped off the back side of the hill, I first heard, then saw, a fellow in a blue shirt pushing the pace. He ran past me, and I took the opportunity to open up on the downhill. It turns out I would be back and forth with him the rest of the way. Sometimes, you just have to pick a random person to help challenge you, and keep you from slacking off.
We wound around back by the floating bog, and crossed Wirth Pkwy right near Glenwood. I passed Stephen as we headed towards the picnic area, and had to slow down to a walk up the hill near the building just across from the bike corral. Blue shirt guy was running the hill (albeit slowly) and we reached the top about the same time, then headed downhill and past the tennis courts before diving into the woods. The two of us, plus another younger runner, were momentarily confused in a little clearing, but got back on track and popped out onto the residential roads. There was a good downhill here, and I managed to pass blue shirt guy and stay ahead (how far, who knows) along Bassett Creek, under the bridge, past the community garden, and into the back side of the bike corral. A total time of 25:48 managed to rank me 5th fastest in the solo divison (although it was only 20th overall).
I didn't rush in the transition, just stayed calm, ditched my wet shoes, changed, and grabbed a small slug of water. Onto the bike and across the mat, then down Glenwood onto the bumpy trail on the west side of the lake. The whole bike section was interesting - first, a road/pavement ride to a particular section. Second, a grass or gravel trail, sometimes with a steep hill, and third, a cut off onto a singletrack section anywhere from 50 to 250 meters long. Usually there would be several singletrack sections connected by grass trails, then we'd pop out onto pavement and ride to the next section.
I was feeling good now - I hadn't worn out my legs on the run and was sustaining 22 mph on the flats without much effort. Some of the hills were tough, and I had to go into granny gear, and saw many people walking their bikes. The singletrack was definitely a challenge. The trails were muddy because of the heavy overnight rain, and there was plenty of opportunity to skid out around the corners, exacerbated by the occasional wet, slippery tree root. I ended up going very carefully through some sections, and even with the full knobby tires I skidded quite a bit. But I didn't want to fall over and waste time getting up, checking the bike (and myself), then regaining forward momentum. It worked out well as I kept a steady pace and fell into a gap between bikers where I was pretty much alone. I did go back and forth with a guy on a cyclocross bike for a while in the far north area.
The bike was definitely the most fun section. After I saw the 6 mile sign, I knew it was almost over, but didn't want it to be. Heading into the finish area, there was one more uphill loop in an open area lightly scattered with trees, then a 180 turn and downhill across the finish line. My total bike time was 30:55, 6th in division. Justin and Tom both posted faster bike times, averaging over 20 mph. Overall it was a great event. I just have to improve the paddling time, probably with a combination of a longer boat and some technique lessons.