‘Pole, pedal, paddle’ coming in March

‘Saranac Lake 3P’ race to combine five methods of movement in one event; registration expected open around NYE

SARANAC LAKE — The Tri-Lakes is known for its races. Foot races, bike races, paddling races and ski races. The “Saranac Lake 3P” on March 4 will combine all these races into one six-leg, multi-sport race during “mud season.”

March is a time when people start to not recreate outdoors as often, but the race organizers say it is the perfect time to celebrate the skiing, biking, kayaking, canoeing and running trails in town.

“It is shaping up to be a really cool event that brags on Saranac Lake and all it has to offer,” race co-organizer Joe Williams wrote in an email. “We think this is a great way to remind the world how freaking cool Saranac Lake is.”

The eponymous three “P”s stand for “Pole, Pedal, Paddle.” Not only is this fun to say, race co-organizer Scott McKim says, it’s fun to do, too. He has participated in these 3P races out west. He said the races combine several unique disciplines. He also does Ironman races, which are more “petal to the metal,” while 3P races take a nuanced skill-set.

“It’s not all cardio — it’s more technical skill,” he said.

Last year, after one in Salida, Colorado, he said he felt it was time to hold one in Saranac Lake, using the mountains, rivers and trails here.

After a 9 a.m. start, racers will skin or snowshoe up to the top of Mount Pisgah; ski or snowboard down the bottom, where bikes will be waiting for them; bike to Dewey Mountain; cross-country ski the trails at Dewey; bike down to Beaver Park to put canoes or kayaks in on the Saranac River; paddle downstream to the Saranac Lake Fish and Game Club; and run two miles back to the finish line Mount Pisgah.

Using five methods of transportation, racers will travel around the length of a half-marathon, McKim said.

McKim said he’s a big supporter of “human propelled travel.” His group of friends and family are “big outdoors people” and they want to celebrate where they live.

“A lot is made of the backcountry around here,” McKim said. He said that’s great, “But this is a way to shine a light on the frontcountry attributes of living here.”

McKim said they want to avoid an “elitism mentality.” The hard-core racers will enjoy the competition, he said, but he also wants the community-minded relay team to enjoy the challenge. People can register to race as an individual or a team of up to six relay-racers.

“As much as it’s a race, we’re also calling it an event,” he said.

“The date for the event — March 4 — was specifically selected considering the odds of both snow cover and a thawed Saranac River,” Williams wrote. “(It) leverages the spring shoulder season as participants follow the spring snowmelt from the area’s mountains to the river all under their own power on skis, bikes and in boats.”

McKim is a meteorologist by trade, so he’s always got an eye on the weather. This weekend in March has typically been the “sweet spot” for the weather needed for this kind of event in the past few years, he said.

The weather is the “X factor” in the race, McKim said. Until March, there will be a lot of questions: Will there be enough snow on the trails? Will the ice be gone from the river? Will it be 60 degrees and sunny or 0 and a blizzard? It could be any of these things, he said.

So the race will be flexible. He said they may cut or rearrange parts of the race if the weather doesn’t cooperate. The final details of the race will be shared at a mandatory safety meeting the night before the race.

Williams said similar races have been held in the area in the past, including a 3P event run out of the Cascade Ski Center near Lake Placid and another in North Creek that used Gore Mountain and the Hudson River.

Registration costs $70 for an individual racer and $60 per person for a relay team. This means, the more on a team, the higher the total cost. McKim said this incentivizes smaller teams.

Registration fees cover the costs of tickets at both Mount Pisgah and Dewey Mountain. Profits from the event will go to Saranac Lake Innovative Cycling Kids, a group of local youth biking enthusiasts who fundraised to build bike trails and a pump track on John Munn Road last year. McKim said he’s been impressed with what SLICK has been able to do.

McKim said organizers plan to have race registrations live by New Year’s Day on their website saranaclake3p.org.

McKim said it is a different culture at 3P races out west, one of “rugged individualism.”

“The websites for those races are so bare-bones, basically, you have to figure out all the logistics,” he said.

But here in the east, with many “overlapping bureaucracies,” there are more requirements to set things up ahead of time. McKim said this also comes with a spirit of volunteerism, one the race will need to tap into to pull off.

There is currently a call for volunteers on the Saranac Lake 3P website.

McKim said they are looking for three things at this point — people to register, businesses to donate and volunteers to step up. He said they’ll need an “army of volunteers” to oversee transition areas, run aid stations, time races, stuff swag bags and organize the after-race party at Pisgah Lodge.

“We’ve kind of all roped our significant others into volunteering,” McKim said.

Setting this up has taken a lot of work, he said. Organizers have worked with the village of Saranac Lake to get permits for Mount Pisgah, the town of Harrietstown for Dewey Mountain, the state Department of Transportation for the road biking portion, the Village Improvement Society for the boat launch at Beaver Park and the Saranac Lake Fish and Game Club for the boat take-out.

He said the permits allowing the event to happen are all on hand and organizers got insurance last week. They’re still waiting for a few more permits, that are more for jumping through hoops.

McKim said the 3P race has around six corporate sponsors. Race registrations will not come close to covering the cost of putting it on, he said, so they rely on community.

“(The race) seeks to draw on the uptick in recreation-based tourism in the North Country,” Williams wrote.

He said Matt Cook, a former manager at Mount Pisgah, had been encouraging the race. Cook said he loves the concept of the race.

“It’s super unique and it’s so Saranac Lake at the same time,” he said.

“We are excited about the opportunity to showcase just a few of the exciting outdoor recreational opportunities that Saranac Lake has to offer while launching a new tradition for the area,” McKim said in a statement.

Williams said the race is intended to be an annual event.

For more race information, to register, volunteer or donate, go to saranaclake3p.org.


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