Monday, September 25, 2023

Dirty Mitten Shorty Aqua Bike-Final Piece of the Puzzle


"Be so good they cannot ignore you."- Steve Martin

I always do best when I have a goal. At the beginning of the season, I set the goal to qualify for the USA Triathlon (USAT) Multi-sport Athlete of the Year.

An athlete is selected every year to complete two events in three of these four disciplines; Off-road triathlon, aqua bike, aquathlon, and duathlon.

I completed the last requirement by competing in the sprint aqua bike at The Dirty Mitten gravel event in Middleville, Michigan.

I had thought on the Thursday before the race, I was not going to make it to the event. I had planned on combining the race with a few days of camping. I was looking forward to some off-road riding and hiking.

After the 5-hour drive to Michigan from Wisconsin I arrived at the campground. I had thought I had booked a site in a State park. It turned out to be a private RV campground.   The sites were full of huge RVs just a few feet apart. I have nothing against RVs. It was how close they were together. I did not see any tent sites.  The map when I booked made it look like the campground was on a lake. There was a lake, but no access from the campground. All of the access was private property. I went to the office and no one was going to be there for 2 hours.  I decided I could not stay there.

I guessed a hotel room would be about $150 a night. I did not want to have to pay for 3 nights. So I decided to drive back home.  I thought that meant I would just give up on the race. It was a long day of driving. 

When I got home I checked the USAT site to see if there were any other aqua bike races close to home I could do before the end of the season. There really were not any.  I decided to see if I could just get a room for the night before the race. Most were in the $185 range.  There were few hotels near the race site and they were booked. I found a Wyndham Hotel for $88 near the Grand Rapids airport. It was just a 30-minute drive. Since I am always up early on race morning this would be fine.

The second drive had a couple of challenges. My GPS kept insisting I drive to the ferry terminal here in Milwaukee.  It took a call to OnStar to fix the issue. Then in Michigan, the GPS completely stopped working.  It kept telling me I was off-route. It took another call to the provider to straighten that out. I also hit really bad traffic in Chicago. The drive normally takes five hours and it took seven hours. I was really tired by the time I got to the hotel.

I know September weather can be cold, especially in the morning. Because of that, I have been closely watching the weather.  The prediction was for a morning low of 68F with an afternoon high of 76F.

Well, race morning it was 50 F.  I did not have clothes for cold weather. I arrived at the race site at 6 a.m. and the transition area did not close until 8 a.m. My race started at 9 a.m.  So I spent several hours trying to stay warm. I hid out in my car with blankets I kept in the car.

Just before the pre-race meeting, I put on my wet suit, and even that did not keep me warm. I did the pre-race swim warm-up. The water temperature was 64 F but it felt warm compared to the air. I was even colder when I got out of the water and my feet were getting numb. Everyone around me was cold.

I was so glad when the race started. I felt too buoyant in my full wet suit. I had not worn one since April. The sun was really strong as well. I am glad I can breathe on either side so I can look away from the sun.  Swimming on the last leg toward shore was right into the sun. I had trouble seeing the course markers and the swim exit.

The next part was the bike. It was on gravel roads. They were very smooth with little gravel. There were a few gradual hills. I drafted off one of the other riders for a bit. It was a beautiful ride in the woods.  I also like that gravel races are closed courses. They are smaller races, so there are not fast riders constantly passing me.

I had so much fun on this ride. The volunteers on the course were great. I had a goal to finish in 2 hours and finish in 1 hour. 36 minutes and 49 seconds. I raced as a physically challenged athlete.  My finishing time was good enough 2nd overall among women.

So now the rest is up to USAT. I am not sure how they select the award winner among the athletes that qualify. I hope my performances all of my performances will make me hard to ignore. Time will tell.

While I wait, it will be time for me to take a bit of a break before starting to focus on my winter season. I will again be competing at the Winter Triathlon World Championship. The dates and times have not been announced yet.



Chris Wodke

Founder & Manager Team CMT


Chris is a triathlete Nordic skier and long-distance runner. She is a three-time participant in 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 Para Triathlon National Triathlon Sprint Championship. She was the 2012 and 2014 National Champion Para triathlon Open Division Champion.

She has won national championships as a physically challenged athlete in Aqualon, Duathlon, Aqua Bike, and Winter Triathlon. She was the national champion in her age group in 2023 for gravel duathlon.


 In 2014 she represented the U.S. as a Para triathlete at the Pan-American Triathlon Championship in Dallas, Texas.  


She was the 2023 Gravel Duathlon National Champion in the 65-69 age group.


She has won state championships as an age-group athlete in cycling and triathlon. She has represented America as an age group athlete at world championships in Chicago, Denmark, Cozumel, and Norway. She earned a bronze medal at the Winter Duathlon World Championship in 2023 in Norway.


In 2020 she was named a National Ski Patrol Subaru Ambassador and a USA Triathlon Foundation Ambassador.


She travels around the country raising awareness of CMT.


She is the author of the book, “Running for My Life” which details her experience as a CMT-affected athlete, and the book “Soup Sundays, A Journey Toward Healthy Eating”.


You may visit her author page at:


Team CMT is a group of athletes and supporters working to raise awareness and find a cure for CMT. We currently have 257 athletes in 43 states. We also have members in Australia, Canada, England, Finland, Vietnam, Iran, Scotland, France, Turkey, Poland, Norway, Mexico, Wales, Ireland, and Sweden! If you wish to join us visit our website; 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.


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