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Jackson's Pole Pedal Paddle
Even though this year represents the 32nd annual PPP in Bend, ours is not the original. As the story goes, the Pole Pedal Paddle in Jackson, Wyoming inspired Bendite Jenny Sheldon to create a similar race here. The 34th annual Pole Pedal Paddle, to be held April 4, 2009, is a tradition in Jackson Hole, held each year on the last Saturday of skiing at the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.
The relay race consists of only four legs, compared to our six, but each is tougher. The race starts with an alpine ski leg involving 3,500 vertical feet over three miles, following the Women's World Cup Downhill course. That's no leeway! The cross-country ski leg is 10 kilometers of rolling terrain, while the bicycle leg is a 19.8-mile course that is not all downhill. The critical difference, however, is the paddling leg which consists of 9 miles of Class I/II whitewater on the Snake River. That's no float on the Deschutes!
Winning times are nearly an hour longer than ours. To sign up, go to www.polepedalpaddle.com.
Wenatchee's Ridge to River
Two weeks after Jackson's PPP, you can drive up to Wenatchee, Wash. for the 29th annual Ridge to River on April 19, 2009. R2R is a six-leg relay race that is also about an hour longer than our PPP.
The race starts with a rolling 3-mile cross-country ski at the top of Mission Ridge, followed by a 2-mile alpine ski down to the Lodge, so the ski transition is reversed compared to ours. Without a doubt, the hardest leg of R2R is the run. It's only 4.5 miles but it's all downhill and it's on asphalt and it's steep, i.e. it's brutal on the quads! I trained for R2R one year by doing downhill repeats on Pilot Butte. After completely trashing your quads, you hop on your bicycle for a surprisingly pleasant 19-mile road ride through apple orchards in blossom. At Wenatchee River Park, you put-in for a 9-mile paddle to Walla Walla Point Park. The paddle is challenging: the first 3 miles are whitewater with three exciting rapids and then the last 6 miles are in wind and waves on the Columbia. The final leg is similar to ours, a half-mile "sprint" to the finish line. I like the final twist to R2R, however. If you have a team, you must portage your boat to the finish line as well, a fitting finale that requires exquisite teamwork. Thankfully, individuals just have to carry their paddle.
To sign up, go to www.r2r.org.
Bellingham's Ski to Sea
Once you've done PPP, why stop there? The following weekend is Ski to Sea in Bellingham, Washington on May 24, 2009. It's an 89-mile relay race that consists of seven legs: 4-mile cross country ski, 2.5-mile downhill ski, 8-mile run, 36-mile road bike, 18-mile canoe on the Nooksack River, 9-mile mountain bike, and finally a 5-mile sea kayak leg in Bellingham Bay. This epic race takes teams six hours or longer to complete. There is no individual division for Ski to Sea, but if you have a finely honed team, why not go for it!
To sign up, go to www.skitosea.com.
Yakima's Gap to Gap
My favorite race is the Gap 2 Gap in Yakima, Wash, which comes two weeks after PPP on May 30, 2009.
The race starts with something called a "fjeld run," which is really just a 3-mile cross-country run that spreads out the field before a killer mountain bike climb over the Gap on a 12-mile leg. I love the paddle leg of this race, 8-miles on Class I/II water down the Yakima River. There are many bends, forks and little rapids to keep it interesting. Afterwards, you hop on your road bike for a rolling 20-mile ride. The race ends with a 10K out-and-back run along the paved Greenway Path, allowing you to eyeball your competition and psych them out.
This year marks the 25th annual G2G. To sign up, visit www.yakimagreenway.org/g2g.