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Saturday, January 29, 2011

South Pole Triathlon

We walk on water here at the South Pole: a 2-mile thick layer of water molecule, and we don't even make a big deal out of it.  We can also ride a bicycle on water.  But we cannot swim in it.  This water has been frozen for thousands of years and it is likely to stay frozen for thousands more.  So, for us to have a triathlon at the South Pole, we substituted skiing for swimming.
I have already mentioned our triathlon in a previous blog on the polympics, but I wanted to add a little detail here to serve as a historical record, and to help future generations of polies who might be interested in organizing another one. 
So, let's start with the course.  We chose the skiway because it provides the best surface for all three events.  The start, finish, and transition areas were located in the pax (short for passenger) terminal, which has a small heater.  In the pax terminal we also set up an aid station with hot chocolate, cookies, hand warmers, and foot warmers.  We used an orange bag stuffed with bubble wrap to designate the point where we would turn right from the apron towards the skiway proper.  All the other corners were already well marked with existing flags.

I measured the course at 1.26 miles using the odometer feature on a Garmin GPS.  We went around the loop three times, first by bicycle, then running, and finally on skis, for a total distance of 3.78 miles.
Here Jamie is making the right turn at the orange bag.

There is only one bicycle on station, and there were four of us, so we could not start all at the same time.  So, when the first person was finished with the bicycle, the second person would start, and so on.  The winner would be determined by the clock.  At some point there were three of us on the course, each doing a different sport.  Here I am riding the bicycle on the skiway, with Jamie running in the background.

Linda was our timekeeper.  She could watch the start/finish line from the window.  When Jamie finished the race Linda started and Jamie timed her.

The bike-to-run transition only took a few seconds, as we all ran with the same shoes that we used for the bicycle.  For the run-to-ski transition we would go into the pax terminal to change our shoes.  I put some footwarmers in the ski boots before the start of the race, and it was nice to find them warm to start the last leg of the race.  It took us about 3 or 4 minutes to transition from running to skiing.

Here is Jamie finishing the race,with Sarah about to complete the run portion.

And now, for the course historical records, the temperature was -12 F (-24 C), the wind was 9 knots (~10 mph), and here are our times:
I want to thank Reinhart Piuk for documenting this event with his camera (all the photos in this blog are his), and all the participants who made it possible.  Jamie and Sarah are both experienced triathletes, but neither had skied before (they checked out their skis the night before), and neither had ridden a bicycle on the ice before.  Linda came out as a judge, but decided to participate and completed her first ever triathlon.  Congratulations!

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