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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Winter Triathlon National Championship

Race Ready for Winter Triathlon National Championship St. Paul

"The same boiling water that softens the potato hardens the egg. It's about what you are made of , not the circumstances." - unknown

I've had my eye on the Winter Triathlon National Championship for three years. The race is a 5 K run, 12 K fat tire bike and 7 k Nordic ski race.

 I even signed up two years ago when the race was in Boise. I didn't go because I felt I had not trained enough. I wasn't ready for the Nordic ski part of the race.

Months ago when planning my 2017 race schedule I decided this was the year I would finally tackle the challenge of the Winter Triathlon.  I had set the goal of having a podium finish as an age group athlete at a USAT National Championship. With the race being held in St. Paul, it seemed like a good choice. Since this race was in January I would use it to keep me motivated during my off season. I thought it would be a nice change of pace and a great way to keep up my fitness.

I decided to give up volunteering for Ski Patrol this year so that I could focus on my Nordic skiing. I took my roller skis to Dallas over Christmas and practiced almost every day. I took a roller ski lesson to work on my technique.  I thought it would be a good base to improve my fitness and my skills.

When winter set in, I started working on my skiing. I am great on the level and going uphill on Nordic skis, but have never done well on even the smallest hills. So I practiced and took another lesson. My awesome instructor Dan LaBlanc has me doing hills without fear.  I was ready for the ski course. The only skiing available here in Wisconsin has been a loop with man made snow at a local state park.  I practiced there throughout January.  When I traveled to Wausau on business I practiced at Nine Mile Forest State Park.

The bike portion would be on a fat tire bike. It is sort of a mountain bike on steroids. The tires are about 4 inches wide. I do not own one, but would rent one for the race. The best I could do was to get out on my mountain bike to get used to biking in the cold.  It was pretty warm in Milwaukee in January. The coldest day I practiced was the mid 30's. I had really no practice on snow.

Pre- Race

There was very little snow on the ground in St. Paul, so the Nordic ski portion was cancelled. It was replaced by a 2nd run. Just my luck since I had run very little since November.  It was part of my rest and recovery program.  I've done a number of duathlons and would just do the best I could.

I picked up my rental fat tire bike and headed to the race venue. The race director was taking people out on rides to review the course. A ride was just assembling as I unloaded my bike. Because I had never even been on a fat tire bike or rode in the snow I did not want to go out with a group and embarrass myself.  So I rode around on  part of the course and the golf course for 45 minutes. It was fun and not too tough. It is quite a bit like riding a mountain bike.  I was ready for the race.  My test layering of clothes also seemed just about right.

Race Day- Run 1

Of course I got there really early and was one of the first athletes setting up in transition. I wandered up to the golf course club house to stay warm.  I almost forgot to pick up my timing chip. The race day temperature was 24 F with wind chill in the single digits.

Dressing right is a challenge in a race like this. It is easy to get too hot on the run, get sweaty and then be too cold on the bike.  On the bike you don't move much so can get cold very easy. I also could not wear gloves that were too thick because I needed to be able to shift the gears on my bike.  I opted for hand warmers in a thin pair of gloves with reflective liner. They worked well in the practice ride.

I had on a wool base layer on the bottom, Lycra Nordic ski pants and a pair of bike wind pants. On top I had a silk base layer, a Nordic Team CMT top and a Team CMT wind jacket. I wore a thin Lycra cap for the run and under my bike helmet.  My only mistake was my socks, I thought they were wool, but later realized they were not.

I lined up in the 2nd slower wave that started 1 minute behind the first wave. I did not want to get in any one's way. I knew the winner of the women's race last year came from my age group. About a 100 racers lined up. The first run went well and I easily out paced the women in the 2nd wave. It was a little tough to run by myself in the wind. I think the course was long because my time was 37 minutes. I did a 5K just two weeks ago and ran for me a very slow 32 min race.


I knew the bike would be the most challenging part. The course was lengthened to 12 miles because the ski portion was cancelled.  It would be partly on bike paths and partly through the woods and park of Lake Phalen park. Some would be single track where the faster racers would have to pass.

I had forgotten how slow these bikes are and how much energy they take to move compared to a racing bike. They are fun, but when you are riding on trials it is much slower.  The cold seemed to sap the energy out of me. I wanted to drink but I could not get any fluid out of my water bottle. When I stopped and opened it up, there was mostly ice. I quit trying to drink.

Faster riders passed within inches of me. Some did not even tell me they were approaching. Some gave words of encouragement.  The single track was rutted and bumpy. I really had to pay attention to my steering and bike handling. I saw one of the men fall right in front of me and then I fell because the snow was soft. I had a couple of close calls. I later leaned the winner of the women's race also fell.

Each lap was 4 miles. I had trouble getting up one hill on every lap. My legs were just not strong enough or my technique good enough. I talked to a couple of other women after the race that had the same problem.  After two laps I was tired and ready to be done. I had one more lap. I had lost all feeling in my feet from the cold. Still I dug deep and got that lap done.  The bike handling was getting dicey due to fatigue, but I finished.

Run #2
It was into transition and off for the 2 mile run to finish the race. I could not feel my feet and I was tired. I think I was a little under trained for the bike. The course was out and back on the golf course. It was icy. The athlete in front of me fell and I fell in about the same spot.  The course was just all white. The way was marked by an occasional red solo plastic cup. A few more would have been nice. I was worried about making a wrong turn. I was one of the last athletes to finish so there was no one really to follow. I could hear the music at the finish. I did a little running and a little walking and soon I was at the finish line.

There were only two women in my age group. Me and the winner of the entire women's race. That is quite an accomplishment for her. She beat me by an hour.  Still I had made my goal of an age group podium finish at a National Championship. I felt like earned it.

This race was one of the most physically challenging I've ever done. I am glad I took on the challenge and happy I made my goal for a podium finish. My skiing has improved so much I will be doing a Nordic race this weekend. Plus I hung in there under really trying conditions. It was a character building experience. If I do it again I will be much better prepared.


Chris Wodke
Founder & Manager Team CMT

Chris is a triathlete and long distance runner. She is a three time participant of the Boston Marathon.  In 2012 she finished 2nd at Boston in the Mobility Impaired Division. She was on the course in 2013 when the bombs exploded.

She has appeared three times at the Paratriathlon National Triathlon Sprint Championship. She was the 2012 and 2014 National Champion Paratriathlon Open Division Champion.

In 2014 she was the PC Open Champion at the Duathlon National Championship and at the Aqua bike National Championship in 2016. She represented Team USA at the Aquathon ITU World Championship in Chicago in 2015 and at the World championship in Cozumel in 2016.

 In 2014 she represented the U.S. as a paratriathlete at the Pan-American Triathlon Championship in Dallas, Texas.  She has won state championships in cycling and triathlon as a senior Olympian.

She travels around the country raising awareness of CMT.

She is the author of the book, “Running for My Life” that details her experience as a CMT affected athlete.

You may visit her author page at:

Team CMT is a group of athletes and supporters working to raise awareness and to find a cure for CMT. We have 208 members in 38 states. We also have members in Australia, England, Scotland, Canada, Vietnam, Turkey, Finland, Scotland, France, Poland, Iran, Norway and Sweden. If you wish to join us visit our web site; or

CMT or Charcot-Marie-Tooth is the most commonly inherited peripheral neuropathy. It affects over 155,000 Americans (as many as MS).  It is a disease of the nerves that control the muscles. It is slowly progressive, causing loss of normal function and or sensation in the lower legs/feet and arms/hands.

Symptoms include; muscle wasting in the lower legs and feet leading to foot drop, poor balance and gait problems Atrophy in the hands causes difficulty with manual dexterity.

Structural foot deformities such as high arches and hammer toes are common.

Poor tolerance for cool or cold temperatures and many people have chronically cold hands and feet.

Additional symptoms may include fatigue, sleep apnea, breathing difficulties and hearing loss.

Additional Link
Follow CMT affected Paratriathlete Timmy Dixon

Follow CMT Author Chris Steinke

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