Bend is full of world-class athletes, but how many of them can perform while wearing a wig? While many competitors at today's multisport Pole Pedal Paddle event will don traditional athletic apparel, a strong minority will opt to make a bolder statement with their attire.
“It's fun when you can dress up in a cape or goofy glasses and have a lighter side to all the athleticism,” said Bend resident Lori Fletcher, who has competed as a member of team Tutu-licious for four years. All members of the six-person team wear tutus, wigs and flowers during the race. She says her favorite part of the PPP is checking out all of the costumes and planning what her team would wear.
“I have zero athletic ability, but I am an awesome costumer,” Fletcher said.
From the starting downhill leg at Mt. Bachelor to the final sprint at the Old Mill District, many PPP participants compete decked out in all manner of wigs, masks and accessories. Part of the fun for spectators is getting to watch the costume-clad competitors — from a unicorn to Elvis — stream across the finish line.
Portland resident Kate Grenadier is participating in the PPP for the first time, along with five teammates. This group of friends is diving full force into the wacky costume spirit. Calling themselves Party in Your Pantsuit, the members plan to do just that. Each woman plans to compete while wearing a pantsuit. Grenadier's pantsuit is a 1970s-era disco-style one, but other members of the group are wearing more of the 1980s, “big hair business” type of pantsuits. There's also a velveteen one. In all, Grenadier says they have about 10 pantsuits from which to choose. She says not all of the members were gung-ho about dressing up, as some felt a little shy about it, but she jokes the other members' passion for pantsuits won out in the end.
Drew Oldfield loves the costume aspect of the PPP.
“There's the serious part of the race and then there's the fun part of the race,” he said. Over the past seven years, he has served as a safety boater during the race, which means he stays on the water and helps people who flip over in their boats. He will spend his four- or five-hour stint dressed as a Viking. Oldfield likes cheering the competitors on and tries to “get 'em paddling hard.”
He sports a costume every year, although he keeps it pretty minimal so it doesn't interfere with his mission. “I can't get super crazy,” said Oldfield, who wore a mullet wig last year. As for how many people wear costumes, Oldfield thinks “it's not enough, that's for sure!”
Competing in costume
Performing in costume can add certain obstacles.
Grenadier is going to do the cross-country skiing leg for her team and knows the pantsuit may get in the way. It's also sleeveless, so if the weather is chilly she may don some long underwear under the stylish getup. She thinks the team member doing the cycling could also face some pantsuit-related challenges and feels a little bad for the kayaker, only because the pantsuit won't be properly shown off during that segment.
One year Fletcher ran the sprint leg of the race while wearing a wig, a tutu and holding a basket filled with rose petals. Fletcher said she felt nauseated, but she overheard a little girl watching her run say, “Look, Mommy, it's the Tooth Fairy!”
Fletcher didn't want to tarnish the girl's impression: “I couldn't throw up in front of her.”
Grant Carson experienced some pros and cons while sporting his last costume. The Bend physical therapist dressed as a Mexican wrestler and took on the moniker the Mobilizer (get it? physical therapy? Mobilizer? ha!). While the costume looked awesome, it made breathing difficult, which can be a problem during an athletic competition. On the upside, “you want the costume as an excuse for your lame performance,” said Carson.
He also enjoyed the anonymity the mask provided. “When you are unrecognizable, it's 10 times more fun.”
Bend resident Kelsey Kelley believes wearing a costume is beneficial in terms of performance. One year she dressed up as Wonder Woman as part of the Linda Carter Proteges team.
“The best part of dressing up is the encouragement you get from the spectators. It gives you the extra push and makes you go a little faster.”
DeeDee Johnson, of Bend, agrees, saying wearing a costume “adds an element of camaraderie” and helps competitors get more cheers. Costumes also make “you laugh at yourself a bit more.”
Johnson, who has sported a full rhinestone Elvis getup as well as a Wonder Woman suit, said skate skiing during the nordic leg is probably the toughest leg to do in costume because of the aerobic intensity. Cycling also proved a challenge: “My cape was not something that fared really well in the wind.”
And while boating should have been an easy costume leg, Johnson made the mistake of leaving her boat facing up, and the black seat got very hot in the sun. “I burned my rear in the Wonder Woman suit from the heat of the seat,” Johnson said with a laugh.
While Fletcher's tutu team is taking a year off, she says it will be back next year, but with a twist. The competitors plan to transform into Tutu-vicious, with black tutus.
“I think costumes are really important!” Fletcher said. “I kind of think it should be a requirement. You've got to compete in all your ridiculousness.”
— Reporter: 541-617-7860, email@example.com