LITCHFIELD — Dozens of athletes from as far away as California flocked to the Meadows Golf Club to spend their sunny Sunday morning competing in a unique, winter-sports triathlon.

The first annual Moose on the Loose Winter Triathlon seemed meticulously planned with marked and groomed trails but was actually put together relatively quickly. Jenna Ginsberg, who owns Rumford-based planning group All Sports Events, said her organization usually spends a year planning a triathlon, but prep for Moose on the Loose only started in January.

“They wanted to do something for the winter,” she said. “I know it wasn’t going to be large, but … I think it’ll grow.”

Competitors participated in a 7.5 or 9.5 mile race, depending on their choice of fat-tire biking or skiing. The first leg was a mile-and-a-half run on snowshoes, the second leg was a 3-mile ski or 5-mile bike ride around loops of the golf course and the final leg was a 5K run. All of the legs finished on a steep incline that exhausted competitors as they transitioned from running shoes to ski boots and back again.

First place overall and in the bike category was Stephen Judice, of Dayton, who crossed the line in 59 minutes 37 seconds. Judice said he chose to bike the course because he didn’t want to ruin his skis, but conditions were equally compatible for both disciplines.

“You could have gone either way and been fine,” he said. “It was fantastic conditions.”

Judice said he’s participated in similar events, but fat-tire biking and a casual atmosphere set Moose on the Loose apart from others.

“(Winter triathlons) are just fun,” he said. “This is a local event, easy to get to, and it’s just … laid back.”

Snowshoers set out Sunday from the start of the triathlon held at the Meadows Golf Club in Litchfield. Competitors from several states and across Maine skied, shoed, ran and biked for several miles. Kennebec Journal photo by Andy Molloy

A number of competitors showed different strategies while transitioning, some opting for the quick change to a bike over changing footwear and clipping into skis.

At the end of the snowshoe leg, Jackson Donahue, 19, of Princeton, New Jersey, held a commanding lead. But he fell behind his competition as he struggled to get into his ski bindings. Donahue finished his first ski loop, but pleaded with organizers to allow him run to the second ski loop because of issues with his skis. Organizers said his time would only count if he held his skiing equipment as he ran the loop, a similar precedent used in bike races if there is a mechanical problem. He ran his final ski loop carrying one ski in each hand and ended up finishing fourth with a time of 1:13.34.

First place in the ski triathlon and second overall finisher was 18-year-old Kyle Gunnells, of Monmouth, with a time of 1:04.47. Loren Andrews, 19, of Wellesley, Massachusetts, finished first overall for women and in the ski triathlon with a time of 1:07. Casandra Beaudoin, 42, of Kents Hill, was the top finisher in the women’s bike triathlon with a time of 1:36.23.

The youngest competitor was 13-year-old Annika Oberg, of Eliot, and the oldest was 61-year-old Gerry Gelinas, of Lewiston.

Meadows Golf Club owner Randall Anderson said the triathlon is part of an overarching plan to bring more activities to the club. He said events like this, and maybe a fall concert, could spur visitation to the club in the future.

“We wanted to have (the club) as an activity place all year,” he said, citing the success of Doolin’s Pub at the club. “We want this to be a place for fun, friends and food.”

Anderson said he heard from competitors that they will come back for the second iteration next year.

“I hope to triple (participation) next year,” he said. “The course is looking great, and it’s perfect for this type of events.”

The trails were groomed by members of the Litchfield Snowmobile Club, and all participants in the race were entered into a raffle for a bike provided by Colorado-based New Belgium Brewing, known for their aptly-named Fat Tire Belgian Style Ale.

 

Sam Shepherd — 621-5666
[email protected]
Twitter: @SamShepME

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