By: Kathy Braginton
Are you a triathlete looking to spice up your triathlon race? Or, maybe you are a cyclist with a gravel/mountain bike thinking about trying a triathlon? With their latest event that made its debut this past weekend, the race directors of GR Tri and MiTi have found the solution: The Dirty Mitten. It was composed of a swim, gravel bike and trail run that spanned over the grounds of the YMCA’s Camp Manitou-Lin in Middleville, Michigan. The Dirty Mitten featured both sprint and olympic distances, also known as the Shorty and the Long One. You don’t like to swim or run? No problem! This race also offered Duathlon (run/bike/run), Aquabike (swim/bike), and Relay options!
The swim distances were advertised as a 750m swim for the Shorty and a 1500m swim for the Long One. The placement of buoys for these race directors at their events this year has turned into a amusing comedy of mishaps, so why would The Dirty Mitten be any different? That being said, the Shorty swim was anywhere from 600 – 700 yards. (There is some question as to how straight the author of this blog really swam.) The Long One was 2 loops of the Shorty course. I’ve heard reports that it was approximately 1100 yards. With the water temp at 68 degrees and the air temp in the 50’s, there were no complaints on the swim distances being a tad short for both races. As with most triathlons now, the swim start was a “time-trial start” with athletes entering the water 2 at a time every 5 seconds.
The bike course for the Shorty was a 14 mile route out and back with about 4 miles of paved roads and the rest gravel. The gravel portion was hard packed and rolling with 450 ft of elevation according to my Garmin. The bike course for the Long One was another story. If you are familiar with Barry Roubaix, all I have to say is “The Wall”, “Graveyard Climb”, and “Sager” and you’ve got the idea. It was 32 miles and 1900 feet of climbing. I’m told it even included an added feature that required you to climb off your bike and hop over a tree.
As a competitor in the Shorty distance, I found the run to be the most challenging leg of the race. It was a mix of trail, gravel and field with a 170ish feet of elevation gain. The field consisted of tall grass that had been driven enough to create a path. The trail portion was partial horse trail which meant some uneven terrain and the occasional “road apple”. I ran in my regular running shoes, but I wished I’d owned a pair of trail shoes for this event. The Shorty duathletes and the Long Ones ran 2 laps of the Shorty course. If you were doing the Long One duathlon, that made 3 laps total! Yikes! The distances were approximate, but again, there were no complaints with it being a tad short.
With the laid back atmosphere of this race, it was especially fun to participate. Transition never truly “closed”. This was especially appreciated by those doing the Shorty with an hour wait from the start of the Long One until the start of the Shorty. It allowed us to keep our warmer clothes on for as long as possible. Plus, we could cheer from transition for all the Long Ones during their T1. As a seasoned triathlete, I found the wide array of bikes in transition rather amusing. There truly were all shapes and sizes of bikes in attendance and suitable for this race. This was a USAT sanctioned race, but there were no officials (that I saw) at the race site or out on the course. There was some question as to whether or not drafting was allowed on the bike. Nowhere in the athlete guide could I find anything that said this was NOT a draft legal race. I have to admit I may have taken advantage of a wheel or 2.
With this race being a sell out in its inagural year, you won’t want to delay when registration opens for 2022! It was a great opportunity to conclude the multisport season on a high note!
*Photo credits to Team Stellafly and Terry Hutchins