A ragtag group of competitors toed the starting line Saturday morning at the Tsalteshi Trails Wolverine trailhead for the Choose Your Weapon 10-kilometer race, uncertain of what lay ahead.
One thing that was certain was that it was going to be unusual, since it was being organized by Mike Crawford.
The Choose Your Weapon made use of the trails at quite possibly the worst time of the year, when lingering snow combined with the dirt path to create a quagmire of a course. Racers had the option of using any mode of transportation — as long as it was human-powered.
As it was, there were two groups of racers — cyclists and runners.
Crawford, who has a knack for creating interesting and varying race courses on the Tsalteshi Trails, manned the area around the trailhead that served as the start and finish line.
Cyclist Scott Summers of Kenai took the overall victory in a time of 37 minutes, 19 seconds, leading the pack on his oversized tires that no doubt helped him to overcome mud pits and puddles hidden away with ice.
“I thought it was going to be pretty sloppy and hard to ride, but it was actually pretty fun to ride,” Summers said.
The Kenai resident joined in with the accounts of many of the large meltwater puddles throughout the course, which made for a number of interesting traverses. One particular water hazard that racers had to contend with on the Wolverine loop saw runners dashing around the edges and bikers plowing straight through.
“I took a swim over the handlebars over one puddle,” Summers said. “I thought I’d go the same way (on the second lap) I went the first time. That was a mistake.”
He wasn’t the only racer to make that error. Apparently, the puddle increased in size the second time through due to the volume of competitors splashing through.
Fortunately for Summers, he sported fat trail-riding tires that allowed him to get through the muck, while others had to struggle with thinner tires.
“The studs (on the tire) worked well,” he said. “There were still some icy spots though, but I made it through.”
James Tangaro, a 48-year-old Kenai resident, finished first among those on foot. His time of 46:46 bettered the 51:32 that Kenai’s Sean Goff put up.
“It works your legs as much as your lungs,” Tangaro said after the race. “There was at least five puddles on each lap, and the second time around they’re deeper. But what a blast.”
Most racers in the field slowed down as the race wore on, evidenced by the split times.
Summers completed the first lap of the Porcupine loop right about six minutes flat, and ran the Wolverine loop at about ten and a half minutes. On the second lap around, it took Summers nearly nine minutes for the Porcupine and almost 12 minutes for the Wolverine.
The runners seemed to have an easier time of keeping pace compared to the cyclists. Tangaro ran his first lap of Porcupine at nine minutes and the first lap of Wolverine at 14 minutes, then backed it up with a second lap of Porcupine at nine and a half minutes and a finishing lap of Wolverine at just over 14 minutes.
“But this race is not so serious, you can have some fun,” Tangaro said. “Usually I run right with Sean, and he was a little behind me today.”
After seeing a few of the bikers go through the deep puddles, Goff knew he better stay clear of the hazards.
“I saw a biker go through them and I thought, oh man!” Goff added.
The 41-year-old said he owns a street bike that he trains with, but knew better than to try it out on the muddy trails.
“It’s not meant for this race,” he said. “I don’t know … my feet are a little numb, maybe I should’ve.”
The top female cyclist, Kaitlin Vadla, won with a time of 45:41, and only seconds after finishing exclaimed, “That was so fun! My feet are so cold!”
Vadla, a sprite 27-year-old from Soldotna, decked out with a rainbow of colors for the race, didn’t let cold feet ruin her fun.
“Carly what was it like out there?” she joked to third-place racer Carly Reimer, the top female on foot. “I just had my sneakers on, and I fell off both times in the giant lake of ice water.
“It was the funnest bike race I’ve ever done.”
Choose Your Weapon, 10 kilometers
1. Scott Summers, 37 minutes, 19 seconds; 2. Jeremy Robida, 38:00; 3. Doug Armstrong, 40:46; 4. Tony Eskelin, 42:11; 5. Anthony Murray, 44:02; 6. Kaitlyn Vadla (top female biker), 45:41; 7. James Tangaro (top male runner), 46:46; 8. Wally Hufford, 50:22; 9. Sean Goff, 51:32; 10. Will Morrow, 51:57; 11. Scott Huff, 54:20; 12. Elizabeth Bella, 55:07; 13. Mark Dixson, 55:24; 14. Tyson Mann, 56:33; 15. Carly Reimer (top female runner), 1:02:17; 16. Jeff Helminiak, 1:02:18; 17. Doug Hogue, 1:05:15; 18. Jim, 1:10:00; 19. Maria Sweppy, 1:21:48; 20. Shelby Dykstra, 1:28:18; 21. Joni Dykstra, 1:28:24; 22. Amy Milburn, 1:42:20; 23. Johna Beech, DNF; 24. Kristin Morrow, DNF.