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Pole Pedal Party: Gearing up for the annual spring celebration and Smith Rock routes 


click to enlarge Katy Van Dis Riding the Lightning
  • Katy Van Dis Riding the Lightning
Katy Van Dis Riding the LightningIt is about time to start (if you haven't already) thinking about, talking about, and gearing up for the Pole Pedal Paddle, Bend's famous multi-sport race. The first time I came to Bend in 1998 was to compete in the PPP. With the exception of the run, most of the events were new to me. I was just learning how to skate ski, had ridden a road bike just a handful of times, and had never been in a kayak. I spent the week before the race rounding up gear from my wife Molly's garage. I was able to get her family's 1967 Peugot road bike to fit my lanky frame and spent a couple days before the race attempting to learn how to paddle a white water kayak. I will never forget the excitement of that first race when the gun fired and I raced up the hill to click into some borrowed alpine skis.

Since then, I have raced many more PPP's with fond memories of them all. Everyone has PPP stories that endure from year to year. I have heard countless tales of teammates missing each other at the exchange from one leg to another, individuals missing the support crew holding their shoes for the run leg, and people crashing on the frozen slopes during the alpine leg wearing only bike shorts and a t-shirt.

Usually the PPPs that don't go quite as planned make for the best stories. While driving up to the mountain one year, snow and sleet pelted the car and my bike, which was locked on top to keep the rack skewer from opening. At the parking lot, I attempted to unlock my bike only to have the key break off. In an instant the Pole Pedal Paddle became the Pole, as I called it quits after completing the downhill and nordic legs.

In another memorable year, I was competing as an individual and was well into the kayak portion of the race when a canoe broadsided me. My ability to maintain an upright position in my tippy, downriver racing kayak was suspect enough without extra help from the canoe. I went over and attempted to right myself to no avail. The Deschutes frigid sno-melt water took my breath away as I swam to the nearest shore. I climbed out of the water and tried to empty my waterlogged boat when a nearby, apparently nesting, swan let me know that I was not welcome. Talking in a scared, soft, voice, I tried telling the swan that I would need its shoreline for only a brief moment before getting back in the water. Fortunately, the swan obliged without a full-on attack. After losing precious time, and many places, I made my way to the finish line in a water-logged state. Some races have little to do with luck, but I have to say, the PPP is not one of them.

To learn more about Bend's signature race check out a newly established website They have created a site with complete race information including forums for finding team members, gear, places to upload photos or videos, blogs, and much more. They will also be doing live uploads of photos, interviews, and day of race reports during the race.

Smith Rocks

Spring is a great time to climb Smith Rock's world-class welded tuff. Climbers from across the globe travel to Smith to sample the athletic, nubbin pinching, classic routes. This past week alone, climbing celebrities including Fred Beckey, Sonny Trotter, and Liv Sansov were pulling down at Smith. On Saturday, Molly and I headed out to Smith with local celebrities "Utah" Dave McRae and Katy Van Dis. Dave is the outdoor adventure writer for Cascades East magazine and recently had a feature story published in Climbing magazine. Dave impressively on-sighted (climbed clean on his first try) a burly roof crack called "I Almost Died." Despite the name, the physical crack that Dave sent in style was well protected. Katy, meanwhile, danced her way up and on-sighted a thin face climb called "Ride the Lightning." As an aside, Katy makes an organic hand moisturizer called Katy's Hand Jam. Later in the day, while teaching Katy how to crack climb, Dave joked about the irony of the maker of Katy's Hand Jam not knowing to "hand jam" a crack climb. She is a heck of a sport climber, though, and will be jamming cracks like a pro in no time.

Remember to help out in the Smith Rock Spring Thing work party this Saturday. Show up from 8-10am for trail work and more.


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