The Pole, Pedal, Paddle (May 17, 2014)

A Race and a Beer (or Three), and Something Else

The Pole, Pedal, Paddle is a one-of-a-kind race.  There’s a certain je ne sais quoi that leaves racers feeling both exhausted and rejuvenated afterwards, and of course looking forward to the same race the next year.  This being said, I think it deserves special attention.  I’d like to highlight some of the details of the event in an attempt to explain the enigmatic feeling of contentment that manifests itself in the shape of a wide grin across my face every time I compete in this incredible race.

The Pole, Pedal, Paddle is a race in Bend, Oregon, that caters to multiple ability levels, ranging from elite athletes to novices wanting to participate in their first competitive event. What makes this versatility possible is the range of athletic options included in the race. There are six legs in the Pole, Pedal, Paddle: an alpine skiing event at the top of Mt. Bachelor’s Pine Marten chair lift,

The first three legs - the alpine downhill ski leg, the cross-country ski leg, and the bike leg - all start at Mt. Bachelor, so John Glick (left), Jon Hillerich (middle), and I all made the trek to the top of the mountain together... and yes, our team dressed up as superheroes, some easier to categorize than others.
The first three legs – the alpine downhill ski leg, the cross-country ski leg, and the bike leg – all start at Mt. Bachelor, so John Glick (left), Jon Hillerich (middle), and I all made the trek to the top of the mountain together… and yes, our team dressed up as superheroes, some easier to categorize than others.
Here was Robin (Jon) finishing up the alpine ski leg of the race.
Here was Robin (Jon) finishing up the alpine ski leg of the race.

followed by an 8 kilometer cross-country ski route,

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Jon and John have to make contact before the transition from one leg to another can begin. Here is John starting the cross-country ski leg.

a 22 mile bike route,

A shot of the bike transition area.
A shot of the bike transition area.
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Everyone waiting for their cross-country ski team mates to arrive.

a 5 mile run,

Our runner, Nathan Yoder, was dressed up as Quailman, on obscure superhero from the old cartoon tv show, "Doug."
Our runner, Nathan Yoder, was dressed up as Quailman, on obscure superhero from the old cartoon tv show, “Doug.”

a 1 ½ mile canoe/kayak leg,

Our team-mates, James Robinson (front) and Nathan Litke (back) paddling towards the finish line.
Our team-mates, James Robinson (front) and Nathan Litke (back) paddling towards the finish line.
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The canoe/kayaking section can get a bit chaotic, with people accidentally running into each other due to inexperience or the challenging current.

and finally a ½ mile sprint to finish the race.

Jon did the sprint section so fast I was hardly able to get my camera out and take a quick picture before he sprinted through the finish line.
Jon did the sprint section so fast I was hardly able to get my camera out and take a quick picture before he sprinted through the finish line.

If desired, an individual can complete all six of these legs, but this is quite challenging. The majority of people participating in this race do so in pairs or teams, which gives it a much more recreational feel.

One of the things that make this race so unique is the spirit of the event itself. What I love about it is the laid-back, almost humorous event culture. For instance, one of the biggest competitions in the race is the ‘team-costume’ competition. Many teams participating in the race dress up in costumes, and during the awards ceremony at the end of the race, there is a best team costume award based on crowd favorites.

Here is a shot of all the superheroes that made up our team.
Here is a shot of all the superheroes that made up our team.

And it’s not just the costumes that give the race such a friendly, inviting nature, it the general post-race camaraderie as well. Once completed, the event has an array of food booths, sponsor-booths with prizes, and a live band performing on the front stage. While walking around enjoying an excellent 10 barrel IPA, I heard chattering kids playing with Frisbees they won; I saw teams nostalgically reliving exciting moments during the race; I listened to dogs playfully barking at each other; and this year, I even saw a guy walking his pet lizard on a leash! What a unique experience.

It is these kinds of races that remind me how important health and exercise are for a balanced, happy mindset. There are few places where one can find such a large group of people with smiles on their faces. Are the smiles manifested through an experience that was easy? Of course not; events like this challenge both the body and mind. But the feeling of accomplishment after having finished a leg of the race is both singularly unique and commonly shared. There is a sense of individual accomplishment and unspoken unity among race participants, and many racers with no connection other than this communal experience can be found reliving a shared moment they had out on the course.

It is this authentic interaction among like-minded individuals that keeps me coming back to events like the Pole, Pedal, Paddle. Perhaps the enigmatic smile I wore as I raced down Mt. Bachelor on my bike was because unconsciously I knew I would be sharing this taxing experience with like-minded athletes at the bottom of the mountain. Whatever it was, I can’t wait to participate in the event again next year.

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