USAT Winter Triathlon National Championships

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USAT Winter Triathlon National Championships – February 28, 2015

Race Report : Sheila Cotter

What is a Winter Triathlon?  Run on snow (2.4 mi) – bike on snow (7.2 mi) – xcountry ski (4 mi)!

I will say that this was the most adventuresome triathlon I have ever done.  I suspect few people will add it to their future race list, so I hope you enjoy reading about this, and maybe you will be inspired to tackle something that is new to you!

The idea to do this race is credited to Tracy Disabato-Aust via Elaine Morison – both terrific sprint distance triathletes looking for a new adventure. Sounded good to me!

Here we are before the start – Elaine, Tracy and me


My goal was to have fun and, as my husband said, come back with the same body parts I left with!  I grew up skiing in the mountains of Northern New Mexico and had some experience with x-country skiing (classic style) but had to learn to skate ski for this race.  I took lessons and practiced at Royal Gorge near Truckee.


The race was held at Bogus Basin Ski Area, about 35 minute drive from Boise, Idaho, up to about 6000’ elevation.  A beautiful location, although they are also suffering from the lack of snow this year. 

As a result, they reconfigured the race course 3 days before the event, most dramatically affecting the bike – it changed from the expected mellow rolling course with about 370’ of climbing in 14K to a winding, rocky, snowy, icy, muddy course with 900’ of climbing (and descending) in 12K.  The winning female from last year, pro triathlete Erin Green, crashed on one of the steep downhills and was out with a separated shoulder.  Ouch.

I got there a day early and was able to ski the course and tag along with the race directors as they marked the new bike course.

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This is part of the bike that goes over a stream so you go from snow to ice to mud and try to find a line through it!

I rented a Surly Mukluk3 fatbike from Meridian Cycles near Boise.  With 4” tires, an aluminum frame and no suspension (beyond the tires!) it weighed in at 32 lbs.  Then I crammed it into the “mid-size” suv I rented along with my ski bag.

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Although it was slow going cranking that weight up the hills, the fat tires saved me on the rutted snow, dirt, mud and ice that made up this course.  It was fun to ride although I got bounced around a lot compared to my full suspension mtn bike.

This race is complicated!  I set up my transition equipment and my race clothes in my hotel room to make sure I had everything.

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It was 28 degrees at the start.  With every good intention of wearing my FoMo bike jersey over a long sleeve underlayer, I put on more – 4 layers.  My FoMo jersey is layer #2!! So I have my challenge series shirt and a cycling vest over everything.  My Rudy Project racing red sunglasses were perfect in the overcast light.  Before the start I added yet a few more layers. Yes, I am cold.

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Transition was “interesting.”  The run was first – I wore Salomon Speedcross shoes from Sunrise Mountain Sports and Yaktraks (like chains for your shoes!)  I also wore my full finger mountain bike gloves with the hope that my fingers would thaw enough on the run that I could brake and shift on the bike.  T2 was transition from bike to ski boots!

Elaine and I are there at the back of the pack – with an uphill start.

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Next, to the bike…

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And then the ski… this is a pic from training, and a great pic of Elaine from the race…  The weather settled in during the ski.

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I am always so inspired by the athletes…

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I was humbled to be AG 3rd to EJ Harpham, a cross country ski world champion, and Tracy Disabato-Aust, a sprint triathlon world champion and 3X national sprint age group triathlon champion.  What a delight to get to race with these women.  The swag was a nice hat and a bottle opener!  And thank you to Elaine, for inspiring me to do this event!

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