One of Bend’s most noteworthy races and events during the year is Pole Pedal Paddle, which starts at the top of Red Chair on Mt. Bachelor and ends in the Old Mill District near downtown Bend. People travel from all over to partake in or spectate at this most eclectic event. Although many racers participate in pairs or as a team, there are also several people who complete the multiple legs as a solo athlete. The race consists of alpine skiing, cross country skiing, biking, running, canoe/kayaking, and sprinting.
The race starts in waves, as each individual does a short uphill sprint to gather their gear and put on their skis or snowboard for the alpine leg. Then, down the mountain they go. Once they reach the bottom, there is a transition to cross country skiing where individuals have the option of skate or classic skiing for 8 km around the Nordic loop. Once they have completed the loop, there is a quick transition to the bike, where athletes get to soar downhill for 22 miles making the descent into Bend. Can you imagine a bike leg that is 95% downhill? So fun and FAST!
Justin and I made it to multiple transition areas in town and were able to see the elite athletes come off the bike and start the run. We had propped ourselves up on a couple of large rocks to get a great view of the action and watch the first male and female come through. I thought it was really cute that Sarah’s daughter was running behind her cheering her on. I see a future elite athlete!
After dismounting the bike, athletes then proceed on to a 5-mile run along the Deschutes River. The run is mostly downhill and flat, with a few quick inclines, and finishes in a sea of colorful kayaks and canoes!
At this point athletes grab their canoe or kayak and make their way down to the shore of the Deschutes River where they put in and begin paddling upstream. Once they reach the turnaround point, they make their way downstream, past the put-in point, and then back upstream, for a total of 1.5 miles.
After completing the loop in the water, athletes transition onto the final leg – the sprint! The sprint is about ½ mile and finishes among a large crowd and number of vendors spread about in the Les Schwab Amphitheater.
We had a bite to eat while watching a number of athletes come in, including the first elite male and female, and enjoyed the sunshine and festivities before heading home (photo bomb).
PPP is definitely an event that brings a lot of energy to the town. It offers something for everyone, whether racing solo, as a couple, or team. Some people take it more seriously, while others choose to wear costumes and provide some additional entertainment for spectators. I have never participated in the race myself, primarily because it seems like we are always gone during the same weekend of the event (or I have an upcoming race soon thereafter), but hope to someday get a team together – or just go it solo!
Are there any races where you live that are different from the norm?
Would you consider doing the PPP? What would be your favorite leg?