Sunday, April 1, 2012

Sea to Ski Triathalon

Gutsy girls did the ironwoman section of the Sea to Ski Triathalon--5k run, 7k bike, 5k ski. Looks like they had fun from finish line smiles!

Once more my daughter surprised me. The Kachemak Ski Marathon wasn't enough--she wanted to do the Sea to Ski Triathlon. Aurora was going to get a team together and do the run, her friend Ziza was going to do the ski, and they tried to find someone to do the bike leg but were unsuccessful. Days before the race they decided they would both do the entire race together. Two days before the race it occurred to me that Aurora doesn't even own a bike anymore, and ours are too big for her so I would need to find a bike for her. A willing friend who is the same height as Aurora fixed that problem with a very nice mountain bike. Saturday I took the girls out to the spit for a bike ride; neither of them has ridden a bike more than 5 times in the past 2 years so they wanted to make sure they knew how to do it! After the bike ride I drove the course so they could see where they were supposed to go.

The course starts at Mariner Park near the base of the spit (the 'sea' in Sea to Ski!). A 5k run of flat or gradual uphill follows the Sterling Highway up to West Homer Elementary. There the racers grab their bikes (or if they are part of a team, tag off their team member) and head up West Hill Road (up, up, up the ridge in Homer--ALL uphill!) to Highland Road, a dirt back road that meanders along over to Roger's Loop Road. The Highland half of the road was in good shape, hard packed dirt and not too wet. As it made its way up in elevation to the Sprucewood side, the road was covered with inches of slush with 2 ruts where cars had driven, with rivers of water running down the ruts. Yikes! This was the point I told the girls they could ditch now if they didn't want to do it, but they both agreed that it looked like FUN! Coming out to Roger's Loop, a right takes them 1/4 mile to the skiing portion (for a total of 7k of biking) where they ditch their bike and helmet and don their ski boots, grab their poles and ski away for the final 5 kilometers. The ski portion is mostly flat and a very fast, fun section--a breeze after that bike ride.

The girls were convinced they wanted to do it, and were just going to have fun and not be competitive (ha!)....just finish. As their pit crew, I was making sure they had the gear for each leg of the race, which felt crazy--run (running shoes and clothes), bike (helmet, bike, gloves, jacket) and ski (skis, poles, boots, dry clothes, dry gloves), and drink and food at each stop. And of course I had to have a camera.

This year right around 40 people signed up for this, down from over 120 last year. I suspect that slushy, snowy road scared many people away! Few kids were doing it, and fewer (if any!) were doing the whole thing, so the girls were a bit nervous that maybe it was too much. The parking lot at Mariner Park was a slushy mess when we arrived at 11:30, and by 12:30 for the pre-race meeting it was under 5 inches of icy slush water. The temperature was right around 40 degrees, which everyone agreed was delightfully warm (it's all relative!). People were hopping from ice berm to ice berm to avoid soaked feet. The start was moved from the beach to the entrance to the park so the runners wouldn't have to soak themselves crossing the parking lot.

The girls had a good run. When they arrived at West Homer, we had bikes, clothes, food and drink ready. They eschewed food and drink, and didn't want much more clothes (Ziza did the whole thing in shorts and a t-shirt, no gloves or hat!). Off onto the bike! The really nice bike loaned to us served Aurora well and she passed a lot of people on the uphill. After cheering on the girls at one point on the way up West Hill, I rushed up to Roger's Loop to unload all the ski gear.

When I arrived at Roger's Loop, it was snowing. I was shaking my head, thinking about Ziza in shorts and a t-shirt, soaking wet and probably freezing. It was really fun watching the bikers come zooming in, dropping their bikes and running over to their skis, boots and poles standing ready in the snow. The organized pit crew who had done this before had milk crates for the athletes to sit on while they changed into boots. I dumped out one bag of clothes and had the girls sit on that. Aurora came through looking strong. The first words out of her mouth were, "That bike was SO FUN!" She was bubbling over with enthusiasm. I helped her get her shoes and socks off, got fresh gloves on her hands and off she went. Soon Ziza came through and the first words out of her mouth were "That was SO FUN!" referring to the bike ride. I offered her a jacket, but she said she was hot so she skied off through the falling snow in her soaked t-shirt and shorts. I was shaking my head thinking her mom would kill me!

After grabbing bikes and loading up, I dashed off to the finish line at the DOT parking lot on the Sterling Highway, the same place we'd finished the Kachemak Ski Marathon a few weeks ago. Not long after I arrived Aurora skied into view, smile on her face. She looked very muddy...and very happy. Shortly after Ziza arrived, zooming in at a super race pace with great technique, smile on her face. The girls were full of giggles and stories, and had fun raiding the snack table (Reese's peanut butter cups even!). A plethora of door prizes allowed every competitor and volunteer to get not one but two prizes in the raffle.

I have always wanted to do the Sea to Ski but never gotten a team together. Now that I've gotten an intimate view of how the race works as pit crew for Aurora and her friend, I think I may be ready to do this! Like Aurora said, the bike uses different muscles than the run, than the ski, so they were complementary. Both the girls are jazzed and looking forward to doing this again next year. They both came in right around 1 1/2 hours, so I'm sure they'll want to do better next year, though the course route and conditions vary from year to year making cross-year comparisons iffy at best!
A daring competitor just got his skin dirty instead of his clothes in the muddy bike leg of the triathlon!


rocking R rustics said...

short sleaves and shorts???????? is that an april fools day photo

Michelle Waclawski said...

No joke--for real!

Audrey Welborn said...

I have been following your blog for over a year now. To celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary, we are planning a trip there in late June, which has been a goal of mine for at least 20 years. We are flying into Anchorage, renting a car, want to see Denali, and the Kenai Peninsula, and only have a week. Would like to do some hiking, and biking in Anchorage,have admired your hikes, but I am terrified of running into bears and moose. Do you ever encounter them in your hikes. Do you have any tips for us?

Michelle Waclawski said...

Yes, we do run into moose quite often, and bear not so much. With moose we read them....if they are inclined to move then I'll yell or clap my hands to encourage them to skedaddle. The bears we've met while hiking have been running full bore away from us so we have not had a confrontation. We just make sure to talk loudly or sing or make some noise to avoid startling either moose or bear. Be more aware if it is near dawn or dusk, but really, just keep a lookout as scaring them is the worst thing you can do. It took me a few years of lots of hikes and etc to get over the constant vigilance and discomfort of worrying about bear and moose.

You are going to be on the ultra quickie tour if you go north to Denali and back down to the Penisula in a week. Eek! Be sure to account for lots of traffic on roads and construction delays. Is it all planned out? Wil tou make it as far south as Homer? Enjoy your time!

Audrey Welborn said...

Michelle, Thanks for your comments. We have booked our flight, staying 9 days. After your comments about traffic and construction delays, we decided to take a train thru Princess Cruise lines to Denali to their Lodge. First though, we are booked in the Princess Lodge in Cooper Landing, we were supposed to stay in these lodges for our 30th anniversary trip, which we had to cancel abruptly for health reasons 10 years ago. The Kenai Lodge offers many side trips, but I wondered if you had any suggestions for the Kenai area. I have heard Homer is a definite place we should come, any suggestions there?
Thanks, AW

Michelle Waclawski said...

The train to Denali is a great idea.
If you're at the Princess Lodge on the Kenai, you're close to the Russian River Falls trail, a pretty easy 4 mile or so hike on a nice trail. There are lots of hiking trails on the Kenai Wildlife Refuge (all I've been on are in my blog), which is also within 30 minutes of the Lodge. I'm always uncertain as to what people do for sightseeing in Kenai itself. I just recommend you stay at the Diamond M Ranch as they have a very nice honeymoon suite, activities on and off site, and they offer good service. Homer...there are hikes, bike on the spit trail, shop, beach walks, go across the bay...lots of possibilities. It will depend on the weather when you're here too.

Hope this helps a little. I'm biased to the outdoor non-fishing activities but you have to pick and choose!

Audrey Welborn said...

Thanks again Michelle for the tips. We love to be outdoors and love to bike and hike, but as I mentioned before, I am terrified of running into bears. We may just sign up for guided hikes thru our Lodge which they do have. Are there many hikers who do run into bears there, it never makes our news, but I just wondered if it happens very often. I saw your last post about the snow, I would imagine by late June, that won't be a problem, but do you think the mosquitos will be worse this year because of all the snow melt? I also love snow, so I wouldn't mind seeing some as well. We only had 2 snows this winter, 2-3" each. We are also thinking of taking a plane or helicopter from Denali to McKinley thru our Lodge, do you know anyone who has done either?
Thanks again, Audrey

Michelle Waclawski said...

If bears are a huge issue for you and you will only be here a few days, go with the guided hikes so you can totally enjoy yourself. It has taken me years to get to the point of being knowledgeable and comfortable enough to not worry about the bears--still aware, just not so nervous. Honestly, there has hardly been a hike I've been on that there was NOT signs of bear--tracks or scat. They're around. For all the signs, the bad encounters are very low, and involve human stupidity like leaving smelly trash/fish around or trying to get too close for pictures.
There will be snow still when you come...just depends on whether you'll get high enough to get to it!
Mosquitoes? Not on my radar since we have so few in Homer. That's not going to keep you from coming, so just adjust to the conditions when you get here!
I highly recommend a plane or heli ride. That is on my bucket list...didn't get to it last summer cause I ran out of time for trips!

Audrey Welborn said...

Thanks again Michelle for your thoughts. Believe me, I hope this time nothing will keep us from coming. I just asked about the mosquitos as all the guidebooks keep talking about them. We have a lot here in Virginia. I have to spray myself in the summer every time I am out working in the yard, also for the ticks, which the deer bring onto our property.
Keep up the great work on your web site, I have really enjoyed it. It sounds like you really enjoy living there, as well as your children. Do you intend to stay indefinitely? I imagine it would be hard to leave. We have a couple in our church from Anchorage, who moved back here for medical help for one of their children, but you can tell they really miss living there, but have purchased some property for a small farm.

Michelle Waclawski said...

I always say that right now Homer is the only place on earth I would want to live. I can't say for the future, but for now that's where we are at!
Happy travels and drop me an email at if you have more questions.