43rd annual SELCO Pole Pedal Paddle

What: More than 2,000 racers compete as individuals or teams on a 34-mile course from Mount Bachelor to Bend that includes alpine skiing, a 6.2-kilometer nordic ski, a 22-mile road bike ride, a 5-mile run, a 1 1⁄2-mile paddle and a half-mile sprint.

When: Saturday, start times ranging from 9:15 to 11:25 a.m. First finishers are expected just before 11 a.m.

Where: Starts at Mt. Bachelor ski area’s West Village Lodge and finishes at the Les Schwab Amphitheater in Bend.

Information: www.pppbend.com

Busy with work, parenting his two kids and remodeling his family’s house in Bend, Marshall Greene is admittedly somewhat behind in his training for the Pole Pedal Paddle.

But this Saturday might still be his best chance for a record-tying victory in Central Oregon’s signature multisport race. Last year’s champion, Jesse Thomas, is out with an injured foot, perhaps opening the door for Greene to tie Justin Wadsworth’s record of eight PPP wins.

Thomas, a professional triathlete from Bend, won his second PPP in 2018 in 1 hour and 43 minutes flat, 3:37 ahead of second-place Greene.

“It’s a bummer that he’s not racing, but I do think because of how much he beat me by last year, I think that realistically it’s unlikely that I’m going to beat him in the near term,” Greene said of Thomas. “So if I am ever going to match Justin in terms of number of wins it’d be my last good opportunity.”

Despite the reigning champion’s absence, Greene, 37, will face some stiff competition in Bend’s Andrew Boone, 38, who finished third last year, just 40 seconds behind Greene.

“I think that Andrew has a very good chance of beating me,” Greene said.

A three-time Olympian in cross-country skiing, Wadsworth won eight straight PPPs from 1989 to 1996. Greene won each year from 2006 to 2010, then again in 2014 and 2017.

Boone is shooting for his third PPP win, but his victories in 2011 and 2016 were against elite men’s fields that did not include Greene. Without Thomas in the race, Boone — also juggling family and career while trying to find time to train — said he views this as possibly his last chance to win the race and beat Greene.

“This is a window that I didn’t think would be open,” Boone said. “This may be one of my last opportunities to beat Marshall while we’re both still fit dads. With (Thomas) out of the race, it could go any number of ways. Whereas if he was here, we’d probably be racing for second.”

Greene, director of value improvement for Mosaic Medical in Bend, said that Chris Jones, a former professional cyclist from Bend, could also be a threat to win in his first PPP. Greene said he did not decide to race this year until he heard that Jones would be in the field.

“I was pretty on the fence this spring, with remodeling the house, and I got the flu relatively late in the season,” Greene said. “I was on the verge of not racing, and ultimately, when I heard that Chris was going to jump in, I thought that would be something new and fun.”

Greene said he does not feel quite as motivated this year compared with previous years, and he wondered allowed if that means his years as a serious elite individual racer in the PPP might be numbered.

“But it’s still fun and I could imagine myself taking a year off and then being motivated again the following year, so. … Almost certainly I’ll keep doing the race for a long time, whether it’s as a pair or solo.”

Boone, who works in pharmaceutical sales, said he still has a strong motivation to defeat Greene and earn his third PPP victory. He noted his disappointment in his race last year, adding that he might have overtrained. This spring, he said, he has maintained a more relaxed training schedule, rather than forcing himself into three intense workouts per day as he did last year.

“Hopefully I feel a bit fresher on Saturday,” Boone said this week.

In previous PPPs, Greene has often built a substantial lead on the third stage of the race, a 22-mile bike ride from Mt. Bachelor ski area to Bend. Last year, Thomas passed him on the fourth stage, a 5-mile run along the Deschutes River Trail. Boone said he hopes to stay close to Greene on the cycling leg in what could be a slick ride with rain in the forecast.

“I’d love to actually start the (5-mile) run with Marshall,” Boone said. “It seems like every year he surprises us with his biking downhill ability. Chris Jones could be right in the mix, too. He’s got one of the most impressive fitness pedigrees of anybody in town. It may come down to a pretty tight race on the water (the penultimate stage, a 1 1⁄2-mile paddle on the Deschutes River).”

Despite the more than 2,000 racers who converge on Central Oregon each May for the PPP, the event remains largely a community race, especially among the elite competitors, most of whom are friends in Bend.

“I do like that I’m friends with most of the people who have been on the podium with me and the people who have beaten me,” Greene said. “We often end up at the same after-parties together. A lot of times the whole men’s podium is together just hanging out.”

—Reporter: 541-383-0318,

mmorical@bendbulletin.com

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