Busy with a young family and a full-time job, Marshall Greene had to find a quick and easy way to train for the U.S. Bank Pole Pedal Paddle.

Running was the answer.

That might have made the difference Saturday, as Greene used a strong effort in the 5-mile run stage to win his sixth men’s elite title in the PPP.

“The first half of the run I felt good,” said the 33-year-old Greene. “I think I ran a couple pretty fast miles, then definitely slowed down.”

Greene, of Bend, finished with a time of 1 hour, 46 minutes, 58 seconds, high-fiving spectators as he crossed the finish line at Bend’s Les Schwab Amphitheater on a warm, comfortable morning. Andrew Boone, also of Bend, finished second in 1:47:30, just 32 seconds behind Greene. Bend’s Matt Briggs was third with a time of 1:49:46.

Greene won five straight PPPs from 2006 to 2010, and after a two-year hiatus he finished second last year. His sixth win ties him with Bend’s Ben Husaby (winner from 1999 to 2004) for No. 2 on the all-time PPP victories list. (Bend’s Justin Wadsworth won the race eight straight years from 1989 to 1996.)

Briggs, a PPP rookie, was in first place coming out of the 8-kilometer nordic ski leg at Mt. Bachelor ski area. Greene passed him a few miles into the 22-mile bike stage along Century Drive, then Briggs regained the lead at the climb near the Sunriver cutoff.

But on the next descent, Greene blew by Briggs again.

“I have no idea how he was going that fast,” Briggs said.

Boone then passed Briggs to move into second place, and by the time Boone reached the bike-run transition at the Athletic Club of Bend, he was only 20 seconds behind Greene.

“Coming off the bike I thought I had it,” Boone said. “I just couldn’t get a rhythm going (on the run). Once we got to the pavement I found my legs again, but at that point he (Greene) had pulled too far away.”

Greene had nearly a one-minute lead on Boone at the run-paddle transition at Bend’s Riverbend Park. By then he pretty much had the win secured. But Greene said he was wary of Boone passing him during the 5-mile run.

“When I heard he was only 20 seconds behind me in the bike, I was literally running scared,” Greene said. “I knew he was going to be strong. Boone had a great day, too.”

Boone managed to close the gap by about 30 seconds during the paddle and sprint stages.

Bend’s Jason Adams finished fourth in 1:52:57, and Dakota Blackhorse-von Jess, also of Bend and a PPP first-timer, was fifth in 1:54:31.

Greene and Boone, who is also 33, agree that PPP experience usually trumps youth. Briggs is 26, and Blackhorse-von Jess is 28.

“I look forward to Matt Briggs and Dakota putting together the pieces and giving us old guys a run for our money in years to come,” Boone says.

Briggs plans on it, and he had a challenge for Greene after Saturday’s race.

“It was lot harder than I thought, but I’ve got to come back and beat the old guys,” Briggs said, smiling. “I’ll beat him (Greene) before he retires.”

To win the PPP, experience is crucial — including dialing in the transitions and gear logistics — but the bike stage might be just as important as race savvy, according to Greene. While the PPP winner is typically a talented nordic skier, the cycling leg is what creates separation among those skiers.

“If you haven’t biked at a pretty serious level, the bike is where people are going to lose time,” Greene said.

Boone said he plans to return to race next year, but Greene was a little undecided after his sixth PPP win on Saturday.

“We’ll see,” Greene said. “I may not do it every year, just alternate years. But that being said, I’m afraid if I take one year off I’ll never get in good enough shape again.”

He was certainly fit enough this time around.

— Reporter: 541-383-0318, mmorical@bendbulletin.com