Marshall Greene had won the Pole Pedal Paddle plenty of times before, but never like this.
Greene held a slight lead in the six-leg multisport race when he climbed out of his boat after the paddle stage and started the final 800-meter sprint, but he was soon overtaken by Paul Schommer.
“At first I thought, that’s the end. I’m beat,” Greene said after the race. “But Paul went by me a little slowly, and I thought, he’s just as tired as I am. His legs are just as beat as mine. So if I can just stay right behind him and hang on for a little while, maybe in the last 50 meters I’ll have a chance.”
Greene, 36 and of Bend, stuck on Schommer’s tail and the pair turned onto the final straightaway together in an all-out dash to the finish. Greene pulled ahead while Schommer faded to win his seventh Pole Pedal Paddle title in 1 hour, 48 minutes, 4 seconds. Schommer, 24 and of Appleton, Wisconsin, finished four seconds behind, the narrowest margin of victory in the PPP since the current course was introduced in 2004.
“I’ve historically never been a fast runner sprinting, and so I figured there was no way I was going to be able to put in a strong sprint,” Schommer said. “And so when he started coming back to me, I figured I might as well push, see if he’s dead, and if he’s not dead he’s going to sprint past me anyway. He played it smart. I think he knew that he had a decently strong sprint finish. And in the paddle, too, I was giving it all I had in the boat.
By the time Schommer got out of the boat, he said his legs “were right on the edge of cramping.”
Matt Briggs, 29 and of Bend, stayed with Schommer for much of the 5-mile run leg but fell behind during the paddle. Briggs finished third overall in 1:50:05.
Greene won the PPP each year from 2006 to 2010, but this was his first win since 2014. He finished second behind Bend triathlete Jesse Thomas in 2015 and did not compete as an individual last year due to a broken foot.
“I think there was a little extra fitness that I had to get back,” Greene said. “I really didn’t end up training as hard last spring, never got in as good shape so I was just a little bit behind where I often am.”
Schommer, on the other hand, might have suffered from a bit overexertion. He is a member of the U.S. biathlon team, which finished a two-week training camp on Thursday. (Biathlon combines nordic skiing and target shooting.)
“I had two teammates in college who were from Bend, and they always talked about the PPP,” said Schommer, who attended The College of St. Scholastica in Minnesota. “When I heard I was coming to Bend for a training camp — it would have been right at the beginning of April was when I found out — I looked and I saw the PPP was two days after the camp. And I was like well, I’m going to try to make it work.”
Greene’s seventh PPP win puts him just one short of record holder Justin Wadsworth, who won eight straight titles from 1989 to 1996. But for right now, at least, Greene said he does not have his heart set on matching the feat.
“I’m not really that set on tying the record,” Greene said. “It’s mostly just how long can I stay in shape and keep beating the younger guys. Seems like the time is coming when I’m not going to have enough fitness to stay in front of these guys.”
And besides, all-time record or not, he can still brag about coming out ahead in one of the most exciting Pole Pedal Paddle finishes ever.
“This is definitely memorable in terms of the finish,” Greene said. “I’ve had days that have been hotter, days where I’ve had time to celebrate at the finishing stretch, but this is awesome because it was sort of competitive. I’ve sort of always wanted to have a race that was that tight at the finish, but it’s not necessarily the most pleasant way to finish a long race.”
— Reporter: 541-383-0305, firstname.lastname@example.org